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