Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Goals and 2012 Review

This year was big, no, it was HUGE! My husband applied for a job in San Diego in January, and at the end of March, we were out of North Dakota. It was a major game changer since I'm now able to stay home to work on my writing full time and we get to live in this amazing city. I've attended many author events, played to my heart's content in Disneyland (well, it is a start), geeked out at San Diego Comic-Con (Firefly!), kicked NaNoWriMo's butt, and have fallen for the peaceful ocean. I miss my family and friends, but we really feel like we're living in a dream.

So, that brings me to my simple goals for the year. I didn't want to overdo it and it is a bit strange to re-read them now. 


2012 Goals
1) Finish revisions on KIN and submit. I've done three different revisions on KIN this year. I have it currently sent off for a critique, and I'll go through the process again when it is returned. I would have loved to have it sent off, but it just didn't work out.

2) Write another novel.Now this is where I excelled I wrote not just one, but TWO novels this year. I wrote BRIGHT WORLD from March -May and MIRRORSPEAK for NaNoWriMo. I'm currently revising BRIGHT WORLD.

3) Submit a short story for publication.I wrote a short story that is now ending up in a book. I've focused more on novels this year, but I think that might change. 
I used to be really good about keeping up without my goals when I have them out of sight and out of mind. I'm thinking of changing that this year.

2013 Goals

1) Organize writings. Make a Scrivener document with ideas and clean out my Google Docs. Let's see what kind of treasures I can find!

2) Write more short stories. Once a month I'm going to open a Scrivener document to write a short story and they will be collected in this file, along with first liners and ideas. The Merry Fates book, The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories persuaded me to try something different now that I'm writing full time. It'll also keep me writing even when I'm revising. 

3) Submit! I feel I'm very close to having something ready for submission and this is the biggest (and scariest goal) I want to see happen this year.

4) Climb a mountain. I grew up on the prairie and surrounded by hills. Fargo was flat. It's strange living somewhere with mountains and I would like to go hiking. It will also help me continue to get my health on. 

5) Rewrite my life list.I found my old one and was surprised by how much I crossed off since getting married seven years ago. It's time to look at the bigger picture. 

6) Attend a writer's conference. Now that I'm on the West Coast, there are more to choose from. I would love to go to the summer SCBWI since I'm less than two hours away. Let's see where I'm at in eight months! 

7) Get involved in a writer community like AbsoluteWrite. I'm finding YAHighway as a wonderful resource in the meantime, but would love to get in more discussions and ask/give help.

Seven seems like a good number for this year, especially since I'll be married for seven years to my favorite person ever. 

Our holiday card

There are other things I would love to write goals about (like selling our home in North Dakota), but sometimes you can't control life. I've had my share of bad days this year, but I'm trying to see the positive as much as I can. I've spent too much time worrying about things out of my control. I still do, yes, but not as much as I used to. I feel I've come a long way in that regard. It's one of the reasons why I love writing and books so much. It transports me somewhere else for a while, and sometimes, gives me perspective on what is bothering me. Some problems are bigger than others, but it doesn't always means they don't matter. I'm reminded things can get better and to not waste the time I have. It is a big challenge I've never posted on a goal list, but it exists. 

2012 blessed me in so many ways and looking at this list for 2013, there is much more to look forward to in the new year. Let's see what I can do!

What is your most challenging goal for 2013?

Natasha

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Heroine's Favorite Books of 2012 and onto 2013!

I used some of the categories from YA Highway and created a few of my own of books I loved in 2012. I read 75-ish books this year and there are so many to talk about! The choices weren't easy. I'm also including a list of books for 2013. 

And don't forget to look below for the GIVEAWAY (closed) details and how you can win a copy of Marie Lu's LEGEND (which just hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Definitely a series you don't want to miss. Her second book, Prodigy, comes out January 29th, 2013.

Now onto the books!

Most Unexpectedly Delightful Book Of The Year
I'm not one to read a lot of contemporary and I'm so glad I went out of my comfort zone. This took me back to being eighteen years old and trying to figure out where to plunge into in the world. 

Book I Can't Get Out Of My Mind
This book... this book there are no words on the pacing, the action, and the truth of what would transpire if this really happened in our world. The writing reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games since at the end of each chapter all I could do was start the next one. I stayed up late reading this one. 

Best "New To Me" YA Author
I finally sat down and read the Nightshade series in one week, and I was very happy I did! I also picked up the ARC for the prequel Rift at Comic-Con where I met the author. I'm very excited to pick up the sequel, Rise, in January. I don't think there isn't anything I wouldn't want to read from this fellow Buffy and Firefly fan (I met her after the Firefly 10th Anniversary panel at SDCC). 

Best Sequel
I would love to read more science fiction, and this series helped reignite my interest in the genre. Also, nothing is more terrifying to me than being stuck in a ship in space. This reminds me about that fear, but at the same time, sparks my curiosity of space.

Middle Grade Worth Reading
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
The sequel to The Princess Academy was not only just as good as the first book, I think it was better! Hale is one of my favorite authors and I'm was so happy to snag an ARC of this book. I actually clutched it to my chest like a little kid when I got my hands on it. Great book for kids and adults!

Best Debut
A Russian inspired fantasy series with magic and a character named Mal... yes, please! This book is seriously #2 on my list behind Favorite Book of 2012. I created a Pinterest board with ideas for Alina's costume.Seems like my name is popular this year with The Avengers and this Russian book. Both The Avengers and Leigh made io9's list of "The Power List: 22 People Who Supercharged Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2012". 

Series You Don't Want to Miss 
Legend by Marie Lu (GIVEAWAY BELOW-- closed)
My love for dystopian wasn't apparent to me until I met my husband and he told me his favorite book was 1984. I owned a copy, but hadn't read it yet. After I did, it became something we both enjoy together. The Hunger Games really brought back the resurgence of dystopian, and it makes me so happy to see books like it and Legend on the shelves. And the New York Times agrees! I love the flip between the two sides of society. It helps break open the difference between the rich and the poor, the government and the people. 

Best Guilty Pleasure Book
Perkins is so great at writing romance it is simply ridiculous. I think if I ever have a bad day, I just need to sit in a corner with this book and lose myself. Plus, it is based in Paris. That place is as romantic as they say. My husband even admitted that to me after we visited. If I give a romance book as a gift, Perkins is my go-to girl. 

Best Indie 
Surrender by Rhiannon Paille
This is the first in The Ferryman and the Flame series. Haven't heard of a Flame before? Read this series to find out more! Filled with beauty, romance, and a big bad you won't want to mess with. And check out that cover art! Check it out on Amazon, and if you order the print copy, there is beautiful art inside!

Author Who Never Fails Me
Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
I've been reading this author since 2001 when her first book in the Sevenwaters saga came out. Daughter of the Forest is one of my favorite books to this every day and each book afterward hasn't failed me. If you want some great fantasy, I totally recommend Juliet Marillier. 

Book Not Normally In My Wheelhouse That I Still Enjoyed
I'm saying it again, the adventures of a kid leaving high school was something that struck a cord with me this year. This is from a perspective of a guy and how he feels about the world around him. A playlist is almost necessary when reading this. 

Book about Writing
DWJ wrote Howl's Moving Castle, one of my favorite books ever. This is a collection of her essays and speeches she compiled before her death. In a few of them she addresses the differences of writing for adults and children. I find those conversations are still going on even though she wrote her opinion in the 1980's and 1990's. Definitely worth checking out. Includes a forward from Neil Gaiman. 

Collection of Short Stories
The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff
This book alone deserves a blog post all of its own (and it will be mentioned again, at least). I was so incredibly inspired by not just the short stories, but the notes inserted by the critique partners. There are illustrations that accompany the stories and add insight into what they've learned about their writing. I borrowed this book from the library, and halfway through I convinced my husband that I needed to own this. It has inspired me to reevaluate my own writing goals for next year. 

Favorite Novellas for a Series
Sarah J. Maas's four Throne of Glass novellas
I read these before the release of Throne of Glass and I was happy I did! Sarah has been writing in this world for quite some time and it was a great introduction to the series for me. These aren't necessary to read before the first book, but I recommend checking them out  if you love the book. I did! Can't wait to read more!

Best Book Cover
My #3 three favorite book of the year. I mean, it is a cyborg Cinderalla story! The minute I caught sight of the cover with her foot with a look "inside", I knew there was no way I couldn't read this book. Meyer also does a different approach to Cinderalla that isn't just the science fiction aspect with a Sailor Moon feel--- she takes the Chinese version of the fairy tale. You would think all these different elements would create disaster, but from the very first page, I believed every single word. 

Best Book Of The Year
This book took me longer than usual to read since I was savoring every little bit of it. It truly focused on the aftermath of a terrible king and brought the three books in this series together. There were so many great books that came out this year, but this is one deserves the crown.

2013 Books I Already Read and Love
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
A girl that doesn't know she is a robot (well, technically an android) with memories that aren't her own. Lots of action and a few twists I didn't expect. Pick it up in March!
Prodigy by Marie Lu (second book in the Legend series)
Is there anything more I can say about this author? She is awesome.


Most Anticipated Debut 2013

2013 Series I'm Not Ready to End

2013 Sequels I'm Dying to Read
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

2013 Books from Favorite Long Time Authors
Written in my Heart's Old Blood by Diana Gabaldon (I've been reading this since I was 15---- she is always on my list)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman



CLOSED GIVEAWAY TIME! (US AND CANADA ONLY)
Enter for a chance to win a SIGNED Special Edition copy of Legend from San Diego Comic-Con or a SIGNED copy of the audio CD. I might throw in some randomly signed bookmarks in there too.  

To Enter
Respond to this blog post with your favorite books of 2012 or what you're looking forward to reading in 2013 with your e-mail address to contact you if you win.

I'll announce a winner on Friday, January 4th, 2013!

Feel free to add me on Twitter @natashamheck and thanks for stopping by The Heroine's Domain!

Here's to a great year of books in 2013!

Natasha

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NaNoWriMo, Writing Sprints, and Goals

I joined the NaNoWriMo website on October 5th, 2005. Wow. Seven years ago! I graduated from college and was three months from getting married at the time. I was starting on my writing journey and learning about the publishing industry (which was much different back then). I've participated several times in this program, sometimes with my own goals, and only completed the 50,000 words goal twice (including this year). I'm fine with not winning since NaNoWriMo isn't just about reaching the goal. It is about learning more about my writing process, the writing project, and the incredible writer people.

This year I discovered writing sprints where I write for a half hour and then take a break in between (usually 15 minutes). Authors Sarah J. Maas and Susan Dennard hosted them under NaNoWriMoBattle on Twitter. It was fun to see everyone's numbers and comments after each sprint. My word count was usually around 1,000 per sprint. Most days there would be 3-4 sprints so the sprints helped my word count climb fast! That is a lot of wordage for me in a day, but it worked wonders! If I was behind, it would helped me stay on track. I don't think I was behind more 1500 words (about a day's worth) the whole month, and at the end, the word sprints pumped up the numbers. I really have to thank Sarah and Susan for keeping me on track. I don't think NaNoWriMo would have been as big of a success for me without them! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We kicked butt on our writing counts!

Also, I want to thank the kindest of authors, Cindy Pon, for checking in with me while doing her own writing in November. It was fun being included with her and her friends in their own writing success and challenges. It was also fun talking with Sarah and Marie Lu about NaNoWriMo at the YA in the Sun event Cindy helped put together here in San Diego. Marie also participated in both the writing sprints and Cindy's updates. Marie also kicked NaNoWriMo's butt!

I finished my 50,000 words on November 27th and finished the novel completed on November 29th. It is funny whenever I finish the first draft, I feel a bit lost. My brain cries out, "What do I do now?" Usually it means Joey needs to take me out for ice cream because I'm awesome.

Where am I at with my writing now?

My NaNoWriMo project, MIRRORSPEAK, is sitting for a while so I can work on my other two projects. I like to let things rest so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I'll probably tear apart the first draft in a few months.

My longtime book, KIN, is being critique by someone other than myself. I'm waiting to hear back and I'll do a heavy revision on it and send it off to Beta readers. Or, I hope that is how it will go. We'll see.

I'm doing the first read through of BRIGHT WORLD since I wrote it earlier this year. There are lot of marks on the pages, but in a good way. I've learned a lot about revision this year so I'm putting my refined skills to good use on it.

I do have a writing project in mind for next year, but for now, three books seems like a good number for revision! I might try my hand at short stories to keep my writing skills all shiny.

I'm proud of the work I've done this year. It is so different having so much time to write and revise, and I'm not really sure what the next step is for me quite yet.

As you can see, November was a very writer-esque month for me. We're now well into December, but I think all of this is worth mentioning. Thanks to all of those who have given such encouragement (Susan, Sarah, Cindy, Marie, Kris, Paul, Michelle, the husband Joey, and the kitties!) and I'm looking forward to participating in some shape or form next year.

Natasha

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Heroine's November 2012 Reads

November was National Novel Writing Month. This year I was determined to complete the 50,000 words, and after that, a novel. Reading sometimes takes a hit when it comes to revising and writing. It wasn't hard to pick what books to help inspire me through the times when my brain needs a break. And, if you need a break from the mundane of everyday, these are definitely ones to pick up.

Prodigy by Marie Lu
Prodigy is the second book in the Legend dystopian series. The books flip back and forth between the perspectives of Day, the country's most wanted criminal, and June, who is the prodigy of the Republic. Their worlds end up colliding and they are at the head of the fate of their country. I'm already dying to read Book 3!

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Another second book in a series. The first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is one of my new favorite books ever. Days of Blood and Starlight is completely different from the first book since Karou has changed for the first book from her discoveries, and she takes responsibility for the people in her past. This is why Karou is such a great heroine worth following.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
This is a first in a trilogy. I finally know why people love the main character Evie so much. She is fun and full of personality as she finds herself in sticky situations. I love the new take on paranormal creatures of an agency who tries to keep them under control with the help of Evie's ability to recognize them even underneath their fake skin. If you want a fun read, this series is definitely for you.

Be sure to watch out for my NaNoWriMo and YA in the Sun posts coming up in the next week. I'm a little behind on posting, but hope to pick them up again in January.

Natasha

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Heroine's October 2012 Reads

What books have taken you by surprise lately?

I couldn't asked for four books so different from one another. It was quite refreshing to have such different settings and characters. I have to say, I recommend each and every one of the reads this month. Read a bit more below to find out why.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
I've been waiting since forever to buy and read this book. I'm a huge fan of the author's Killer Unicorn series and I can't recommend it enough (especially to Buffy fans). This book is nothing like that series, but that is fine by me. This is a different interpretation of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I've been meaning to read this book, but for years. My best friend had it in on her bookshelf and the title stuck with me. When the movie was announced, and I watched the trailer, I knew I couldn't put it off much longer. It was much different than I expected coming from a very smart freshman boy who is befriended by seniors. It is written as letters to a friend so the voice is totally the protagonist and how he interprets the world. The very last part of the book brought out an emotional response in me that I didn't expect and it stayed with me throughout the day. I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
I loved Carson's first book "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" (the title!) and this book is not just as good, it is better. It is not very often where I'm completely blown away from a second book compared to the first. This books has such a different feel now that Eliza has come a bit into her own. If you're looking for a great fantasy, this is the book for you.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
 I received this book as an ARC and I decided to wait closer to the date to read it. This is so much different than the fantasy of Bracken's first book. This is a dystopian written in the not so distant future where children start to develop abilities. The book follows one of those children as they filter them into camps, and what happens when she is broken out. The writing is almost written like a movie where one thing after another happens, much like The Hunger Games. It was hard to put it down!

As you can see, I'm a little late on posting this October post due to NaNoWriMo. Keep an eye out for the November reads later this week!

Natasha

Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo Agenda

What is something you've done to prepare for NaNoWriMo this year?


Did you  gather frozen food, stuff chocolate in desk drawers, warn the people in your life, or make sure your laundry is done?

My big thing is getting ready to focus. I've only won once before and I want to make sure I don't let things get in the way this time around. I don't have a full time job to get in the way so I have the time. My biggest problem I have right now is I somehow bleed my writing time into my every day life in the evenings. The evenings I would like to reserve for my husband. I think one of the challenges of NaNoWriMo this time is trying to keep that from happening. November is going to be a way to exercise handling writing full time and finding time to do those other things--- laundry, exercising, cooking, and maybe reading. It sounds easy, but as any writer knows, there are distractions. And sometimes distractions are too welcome.

Over the past few months, I've started to utilize the white board pictured above that sits right in front of me as I write this. I updated the writing section so it is ready for next month. Things to do this week is a little more chaotic than usual, but it is expected. The new section I added in red is Today's Goals. I think it is a good way to help me keep focused on the smaller picture than the big one. As a kid, they would give us agenda books to keep track of all our assignments. I think this has become a new version for me.

Google Calendar is where I keep track of the goals I want to refer back to later on. I'll record my word count there and it is my solid place for upcoming events. The board is what I can wipe clean at the end of the week, or the day, with a smile. Tomorrow is always fresh and that is the way I want to treat it.

If you're participated, be sure to add me!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Natasha

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

RTW: Writing Challenges and NaNoWriMo


Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:
Are you doing NaNoWriMo, or have you ever? Does having a deadline inspire you?

I've participated in NaNoWriMo several times since 2005. I completed my 50,000 words once during the month, and that project will never see the light of day. And that's okay.  
My first NaNoWriMo was the year I graduated from college. No more papers, assigned reading, or limited views. For five months, I worked on my wedding planning while writing a novel and reading whatever books caught my eye. When November arrived, I knew I needed to build up the word count of my novel so I did the 50,000 word challenge. I didn't reach it that year, but it is a way for me to push myself. NaNoWriMo was the first time I realized how my writing works, and how I work with it. I don't outline very often, and have few ideas when rushing in. Sometimes I can push out a huge word count in a short period of time, but I'm more of a three-month increments kind of writer. 

This led me to participate in the Inkygirl Wordcount Challenge. I decided on 500 words a day and ended up with 20,000 words at the end of the month. What is great about this challenge is it is something that I can use throughout the year and it fits more with how I write.  

This year I do intend on finishing a second novel this year. I've been revising KIN for three months and I think it is time to do a little writing again. I intend to sit down and go over some research for what I'm thinking for my next project. There is a great post over at Writer Unboxed about ways to prepare for the challenge and don't forget to sign up for YA Highway's inspiring e-mails! It feels great to have people reaching out to help each other and to inspire each other in the writing community. It is one of the main reasons why I keep coming back.


So feel free to add me and let's encourage each other to reach our goals! 

Are there any other writing challenges you like to participate in?


Natasha

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Words to My 15 Year Old Self

What words would you share with your younger self?

It is International Day of the Girl, and CNN gathered quotes from various woman about advice they would give to their 15 year old self. My favorite of these was from Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, "People do things differently, and that's ok! Learn from those who walked the road before you, but carve your own path. So be different, explore the twists and turns on your own way." Maybe her words don't seem like the others since they seem more general and open than the others.

I've read lots of advice people would say to their younger selves, and I never wanted to do it. It was too hard reflecting on my past. My husband and I joke about giving our younger selves high fives because of how amazing our life has become. What would I have done differently if I knew what life had in store for me? Would I have worried or cared less about the things in my life? It wasn't until this weekend, when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower where I thought to myself, "What would my life have been like if I read this book in high school?" It wasn't until the very end, when I read the words below, where I thought of my pile of journals filled with words from someone who doesn't feel like me any longer. The girl left behind.

“It's like when my doctor told me the story of these two brothers whose dad was a bad alcoholic. One brother grew up to be a successful carpenter and never drank. The other brother ended up being a drinker as bad as his dad was. When they asked the first brother why he didn't drink, he said that after he saw what it did to his father, he could never bring himself to even try it. When they asked the other brother, he said that he guessed he learned how to drink on his father's knee. So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” 
 Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

And I asked myself,  "Am I okay with them? Or does it matter?" My life is the way it is because I decided not to drink, smoke, or do drugs. I dived into geeky pursuits and it took me on adventures. I chose my path, and I don't regret it. So what would I tell my younger self? I decided to keep it open and general.

Keep walking down your own path. Rocky or smooth, blizzards or rainbows close or far away, it is yours.

Natasha

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Heroine's September 2012 Reads

I didn't read a lot in September. I'm in the revision process with KIN and family came to visit us so we had a week of "staycation" mixed in there. So here are my reads! I'm hoping there will be a nice pile of additions next months. Once I'm finished with my revision, my reward is taking a few days to catch up on fun reading before hopping into my next project. Not sure if it will involve getting ready for NaNoWriMo or jumping into another project revision.

September Reads! 
The Diviners by Libba Bray
One of the reasons I didn't read that many books is the thickness of this book! And it isn't a bad thing. You know how you don't want a book to end? This is one of them since it filled with so many details of a different time mixed creepiness and a mystery. I couldn't have asked for a better fall book and totally recommend it as a read for October. I was able to snag an ARC at ALA from the author and took a look at the hardcover at a convention and bookstore this weekend. I weighed it in my hands, and when I opened it, it was more fabulous with the chapter illustrations and "newspaper clipping" from an event featured in the book. I'm thinking I might have to pass along my signed ARC to a school and buy the book in hardcover--- that is how much I enjoyed it!

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
This author is one of my favorites and I was looking forward to her latest YA series. I loved Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret so very much, especially the artwork. This book is much quieter than her others, but it is the first in a trilogy. Marillier writes relationships in such a subtle and beautiful way by building them slowly after a strong connection. She doesn't fail doing it again in this book. It is the start of a journey, and I'm looking forward to more action in the next installments. Her next book is the sixth installment of her first adult Sevenwaters series, Flame of Sevenwaters, comes out in November.

Currently Reading:
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
I love her unicorn killer series and I finally bought this book. So very excited to read this!

What books are you planning on reading this fall?

Natasha

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RTW: Seasonal Writing


Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:
How does your writing (place, time, inspiration) change with the seasons?

I lived in North Dakota for the first thirty years of my life and the seasons there are quite entertaining. They say if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. The temperature are quite extreme going as far as 40 below zero in the winter and up to 100 degrees in the summer. Blizzards in the winter, floods in the spring, tornadoes in the summer and fall. It isn't all weather (the number one conversation piece in the region). There is also the fluffy pieces of snow on winter days, the smell of fall during the turning of leaves, rainbows after a spring rain, and summer days by the lake. Those are the things that inspire my writing when I need details.

Summer was the busy time and harder to write since we don't get a lot of time outside. It was also a time that I would love taking a notebook to rest in my lap while sitting in the grass or while on walks. On the days that weren't scorching or freezing, of course.

Winter I would snuggle on the couch with the view of the snow and the lamplight outside our window to do the same thing. Winter was the time to keep me inside and brought me closer to my characters.

We moved to San Diego six months ago, and the season hasn't changed. People tend to complain about it, or that it is too hot or cold (in which I laugh). It hasn't rained very much and lots of sun. I find myself inspired in the different plants, the beach, the color of the sky, the city lights. I'm able to work full time at my writing so I'm more dedicated. I'm not sure how this weather and different seasonal changes will affect me, but I know there is beauty, extremes, and the in-between. Very much like writing.

Natasha

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RTW: Fairy Tale Re-tellings


Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:
In honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's CINDER, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

Four years ago I read a lot of books based on fairy tale re-tellings (the best of them Ella Enchanted). There were quite a few based on Cinderella fairy, but I decided I wanted something different. I didn't want to go with the basics, or the ones Disney retold. I already wrote a book in that setting, and it was time for something new and exciting.

Right now I'm revising my Japanese inspired fantasy tale after reading The Bamboo Cutter's Daughter. A childless couple finds a child in the bamboo, and raise her before she must return to the Moon. Many variations of the story exist, including those with many suitors pursuing the Moon Princess, including the Emperor.

In my version, a childless couple is given a child from the moon. On the moongirl's seventeenth birthday, they discover she must return to her home in a year's time. Her adopted sister, Kin, lost her uncle weeks before and can't come to terms with losing her older sister. With the help of her uncle's scrolls, Kin decides to climb Mount Eien to convince the moon for her sister to have a choice about her future. 

It is a book of my heart, and I journeyed to Japan to experience the culture in person. Some of the experiences Kin went through happened on that journey. I'm hoping that I'm able to convey the details in my novel. 

Now, I need to jump back into revision, and hopefully one day it will sit on bookshelves!

Natasha

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RTW: My Writing Word Processor

Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:
What word processing program do you use to write you manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you've learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

For years I used Microsoft Word for my writing. The frustrating part about it was I e-mailed what I wrote while working back and forth. I would copy and paste it into my main manuscript in Word to find myself working on formatting it correctly. Not exactly what I wanted to do when I could write.

I moved over to Google Docs (name is switching to Google Drive) since I'm able to access my work on the Cloud and offline if I'm using my computer with no Internet. I loved it since it was easier for me to share documents and I could access it from anywhere. Now that I live thousands of miles from my critique group, we use it to share our edits with each other. I actually have learned to love using word processors for revision (though paper is the way to go to catch the edits). It is also useful as a back-up source for all my documents on my computer so I never have to worry about losing my writing.

I've moved on yet again to Scrivener. For  years I've heard of this writing tool from many authors on Twitter. However, it was only available for Mac users.  I'm a PC girl and not even something sworn up and down by my favorite authors could change this particular preference. Now they have a PC version and I decided to trial Scrivener and a few other writer programs. It was a completely different mindset in organization that I almost gave up on.  Then, one day, it clicked after I spent some time with the manual and playing with the settings.

I understand why writers love Scrivener since it is awesome. Before I would have all my notes and documents in a folder in Google Drive. In Scrivener, I keep them all on the side of the screen so I can access them at any time without hitting back and waiting for it to load. 

How is that better? 

Instead of jumping back and forth I can use a horizontal split, or two panes, to keep me on task. In one pane I have the chapter that I'm working on, and in the second I have the notes I want to see while writing. It is excellent for revision! Everything used to be in one document for me, and now I split items into parts so I can focus on the task at hand.

Another great thing about it is the Compile feature. My husband and I use it so he can read what I've written in epub format or whatever else I need. It is a feature that I enjoy quite a bit.

If you're a writer, go out and download the free trial. If you love it, it isn't too expensive to buy. Also, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, they sometimes give discounts to participants and winners. 

What are some of your favorite writing tools?

Natasha

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Heroine's Geeky Faves: Board and Card Game Edition

When we moved to San Diego, I knew we would have to wait to attend science fiction and fantasy conventions to meet people. The season had passed, and Comic-Con is filled with people from all over. I decided to go to Meetup.com to see what groups were out there. I went through the lists that related to the things that I loved the most like games, writing, books, and movies.

We found a very active boardgame group that has meetups all over the city, and one in our neighborhood! We went and met some nice people (one of who we hang out with outside the group) and discovered new games and gained a new love for some we've played over and over before. I thought I would share my new loves with you.

Games that I Love

Munchkin
If you know me, or follow me on Twitter, you have probably read a tweet or two about Munchkin. There are many versions of it from the original fantasy themed to space, ninjas, zombies, westerns and even Cthulhu. It is a bit of a strategy game where you try to reach Level 10 before everyone else by playing your cards right. That includes going against your other players when they face their foes. However, anything can happen. I've won games with no cards in my hands, and Joey won a game last night where he built himself back up from Level 4 after losing five levels. I can't say enough about it, and if you want to learn how to play, check out this fun Tabletop Episode from Geek and Sundry's YouTube Channel.


DiscWorld: Ankh-Morpork
This game is based off the fabulous Terry Prachett DiscWorld book series. You don't need to know the characters to love this game. It is only for 2-4 players and your objective can be different each time that you play, and you have to guess what the other players objectives to make sure they don't accomplish it before you reach yours. I definitely recommend this game!!! We've played with several different groups and they were very taken by it.


Apples to Apples
I kept hearing people talk about this game so you probably have know about it too. It is a simple party game that is a ton of fun. One person picks a card with a word on it, and the other players try to match, find something funny, or serious that matches that card. Or, you can go the complete opposite directions (I find Bigfoot is usually a guaranteed win card). You never know sometimes what the person will pick. It all depends on their (or your) mood. Great for parties!


Fluxx
A card game that two people can play, or more if you like. The game can last up to a half hour, or even a minute. You never know what is going to happen since the objective to win can change every turn if desired. Right now we own the Monty Python edition and trying to decide which one to pick up next.


What is your favorite game or game-related story?

Natasha

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

RTW: Required Reading


Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:
Back to school time! What's your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

In the fourth grade, we were partnered up to create a Link Way project of a book of our choosing. My partner and I picked Happy Birthday, Samantha! I loved the American Girl series at that age (in the early 90s), and in college, I bought the book before they changed the look of them all. It is the only American Girl book that I own since I borrowed the rest from the library.

This is the first book that I really remember reading for a class rather than it being read to us. I'm an English major so I've had to read a lot of books outside of my K-12 education. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite (I have a special edition copy that my husband bought for me) and I see my other classmates post that book as their favorite book to this day. However, it is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas that sticks out to me. I thought it would bore me to death when our teacher assigned it to us in our Fiction class. After a few pages, I couldn't stop reading it! It pulled me in unlike other books. It was in a foreign place, set in a prison, with high stakes. It surprised me how the book flowed and kept me engaged. I love to recommend it to people, especially those looking for a good book for their e-reader.

That was almost half my life ago, but The Count of Monte Cristo sticks with me as the book that surprised me. 

What book has stuck with you from your required reading?

Natasha

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Heroine's August 2012 Reads

I've been working hard on revisions and writing more than ever. I'm taking advantage of the time that I have now that I'm at home with the dream to write fueling me. Hope you enjoy the books that have helped me in the moments I needed away from my own words!

August Releases
There were some great releases this August. I read three different type of books that I definitely recommend if you're in the mood for witches, fantasy, and... a boy that changes bodies every day?

The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton
 I grew up in North Dakota so I love the imagery that Tessa Gratton uses of her character living in Kansas. It is a fresh and lovely landscape that adds to the magic throughout the book. It isn't just a love story mixed with magic, but also has a deep meaning of family, traditional and not. Be sure to check out Blood Magic, too. It isn't necessary to read it before this, but you won't want to miss it.

Every Day by David Levithan
Yes, a boy that finds himself in a different body every day. This premise alone is worth reading about to find out what it means to maybe find a life of your own when you're living in someone else's. This is the first book I've read by Levithan and I need to read more.

Rift by Andrea Cremer
I finished reading Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, which includes the last book Bloodrose. The ending of the series was a huge shock to the system to me, and I knew I had to read Rift to learn more about the world Cremer created. It is a fun fantasy that has me whimpering that the second book isn't out yet!

Something Different
Night's Master by Tanith Lee
A friend recommended that I read some of Tanith Lee since she love the books years ago. I read the first one, and wow! What a writing style! It is the kind of writing I wish I would have checked out years ago.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
If you want to something different, maybe in the lines of a steampunk Japanese fantasy, put this on your list for October when it comes out.

Japanese Inspired Fantasy
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
I've had this book on my to-read list for ages and finally picked it up at the library. I don't have enough words to describe this Japanese fantasy. There is a perfect balance between fairy tale, lush culture, and an ever-changing heroine. I'm looking forward to checking out her other books in the future.

Currently Reading
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Book I'm Excited For in September
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

What book are you looking forward to reading this month?

Natasha

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RTW: Novel's Love-List

Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:

What is your novel's "Love List"?

I think it is a great idea by following author Stephanie Perkin's lead by writing a "Love List" about my book. I'm working on a revision project right now for my Japanese-inspired fantasy KIN for almost four years. It is the hardest book I've ever written since it takes me out of my comfort zone. I wanted a challenge, and I sure got it! 

Re-reading it brought out so many things that I love about the story, and also, the things that I could improve so I can love it even more. So I'm happy to share my list here with you guys.

My Love List for KIN

Uncle mentor
Moon Festival 
Stories by the river
Scrolls 
Secret maps
Frightful forest
Sharing stories
The old well
Mountain views
Shells
Teatime
Siblings
Moonlight paths
Kimono designs
Koi pond
Shrines
Rain
Saved by a moon child
Hilt of katana
Unusual creatures
Dragon eyes
Kitsune 
The alcove 

The Moon Festival is something I'm very fond of in the story. It appears three times in the novel and shows the progression of what is happening in the character's lives. 

I could keep going, except, now I want to go and keep working on this story. Thanks to all those who stopped by.

Is there anything that makes your WIP special to your heart? 

Natasha

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

RTW: My Summer Soundtrack

Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:

What music has been your summer soundtrack?


I listen to music mostly when I'm on the computer working on my projects or catching up with friends "back home". While writing, I sometimes have a particular feel of music in mind. For KIN, which is a Japanese-folklore based story, I went to the music of Joe Hisaishi. He composed the music for the majority of the Ghibli movies and they capture the right emotions for my story.

This summer, I worked on my sci-fi project Bright World. It was so different from anything that I've ever worked on before. I relied heavily on the magic of Pandora to find me the right tunes. I played with the stations and found the Weezer (90s) rock helped get the words out. However, the music station of Florence and the Machine is what really inspired me as I sometimes sat working through a scene unfolding in my mind. 

Here are the three songs that stick out the most to me this summer:

Mumford and Sons- Awake my Soul



Shake it Off- Florence and the Machine



I Won't Give Up- Jason Mraz



Bonus: Katy Perry-Wide Awake 
This one is not as dark and I love how this video uses Facebook. I believe this is an impressive fan video.


Feel free to share your summer songs in the comments below and thanks for stopping by!

Natasha

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