My Top Five Books

Wuthering Heights by  Emily Brontë- This Gothic, wildly disturbing romance wouldn’t normally be my pick. After all, the characters are not very likable at all (normally a big no-no for me). But this is the ultimate love story. The story of a love so strong it defied even death. It reminds me a little of when Spike, the vilest vampire in Sunnydale (yes, I’m talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer) volunteers to basically lose his mind (as he acquires a conscience) for the chance at being loved. It’s unrealistic, heart wrenching, and oh-so romantic.

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Persuasion by Jane Austen- Now if you follow me on Facebook or other social media you know I am a Jane Austen groupie. But unlike most people I count Persuasion as my favorite of all her books. I think it’s because I like the fact that this young woman, this wall-flower, who has been used by everyone and misled by a trusted friend gets her second chance at love.

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling- What’s not to like about Harry? The storytelling is amazing, the characters fantastic, the messages outstanding. What can you say about a woman who started a whole new craze about weird-tasting jelly beans? No matter how old I get (and I was already a mom when it was first released) I will always love Harry.

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Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – Okay technically, just like Harry Potter, this is not one book but a series. So let’s just pretend this a giant novel, okay?  I don’t know Cassandra Clare even though I am well aware of the ugly stories circulating about her, but her writing is amazing. Her stories are heartfelt, the characters so relatable and likable (just finished reading Lady Midnight and already in love with a bunch of the characters, especially Mark), and the undercurrent of death-defying love stories…enough said!

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The Book Thief by Mark Zusak- Yes, a Middle Grade book is one of my all-time favorites. This is a brilliant book and if you never read it, stop reading this blog right now and order it. The writing is spectacular. To have a story narrated by death seems a bit grim at first but becomes so human, so unbiased. Mark Zusak was able to make us see the two sides of the war and understand why some very decent people did not fight back the horrors of the Nazi Germany. Poetic, tragic, and still so full of hope.

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I just realized that three out of my five top favorite books are written for people who are a lot younger than me. So congrats Young Adult writers. You guys are doing an amazing job. You’re creating great literature that is unaffected and very attractive to all ages.

Either that or I haven’t quite reached maturity yet.

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One Day in the Life

What does a day in my life look like? Total madness. If I was to put a face to it it would be that of the Mad Hatter, crazy clothes and all. I’m a writer but like most of us I have a day job. For most of my day I teach elementary school kids (thus the crazy clothes) and I write afterwards and in between.

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I normally get up (should say drag myself out of bed) at six in the morning, brew a cup of coffee, do my toiletries, and sit at  the computer trying to catch up on some  of the emails, marketing , etc (the not-so-fun-part of writing) before leaving for school. By the time I get there (normally around eight) I get into teacher mode for the next eight hours or so. If I can I will write a little during lunch hour (misnomer of course.  We only get a half an hour), but normally is noise and chaos all the way through.

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At the end of the school day, unless I have something that absolutely needs to be done (and trust me there always is), I am out of there like a bat out of hell. Except for my yoga days (which have been neglected slightly lately) I go straight to my favorite booth at Panera or home to my laptop. What do I do? I write.

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Lately the writing bug has bitten me so hard I don’t even watch TV—and I do enjoy quite a few TV shows. I have a pile of movies and series I have missed for the past few months that I am hoping to get to this summer once school is out. The same goes for books. If I could pile all the books on my TBR list (including the e-books)  I would possibly have a tower just slightly shorter that the Space Needle.

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My glamorous life of a writer is full of hours and hours in front of the laptop in my lounge clothes (which is a slightly more sophisticated word for pj’s) with my reading glasses hanging precariously over the tip of my nose and my husband pissed off at me because I’m not paying any attention to him. Meanwhile, the dirty dishes pile up in the sink and the laundry room looks like I’ve been hoarding clothes for years.

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I always try to go to bed at around ten, but by the time I write the last minute posts on Facebook and Twitter, put that special touch on a blog, or just go over that pesky last chapter one more time, it’s already past eleven. Because currently Lady Midnight (by Cassandra Clare) is waiting for me on my nightstand, I end up falling asleep after midnight and get five hours sleep if I’m lucky.

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Credit: Meme Binge

Character Inspiration

Today’s blog challenge’s theme is character inspiration.

I’ve mentioned before (once or a million times) that I am a pantser. That goes for pretty much everything when it comes to writing. And it certainly applies to the creation of characters. I normally start with a vague idea of what my MCs are going to look and be like, and then allow them to tell me who they really are. I admire writers who will sit down and complete character profiles before writing a single word down. I really do. I have tried to do that and it was not pretty. Not only the characters all end up being a lot like me, but as I write the story the list always ends up forgotten and neglected.

I will give you a few examples of my process (all very scientific). When I was writing the novel I just finished, “Loved You Always“, I started with the two main characters, Em and Jem. Jem had a boyish charm, blue eyes, and dark-ish curly hair (I was basing it off the picture below) and Em was in love with him. Nothing else. But as I started writing the first chapter their personalities began talking to me.  Em was an always-think-twice kind of girl, Jem was the impulsive one. Em loved gourmet food, Jem loved junk food. Eventually even their physical attributes changed. Em became an Asian-American and Jem…well he remained the boyish charmer. Another surprising thing that happened was their sidekicks, Em’s sister and her witch friend. These were totally unplanned and I have to say, I love them. I may even write a whole novel about them.

In “Desert Jewel” I wanted characters that were almost a total opposite of each other both in terms of their physical appearance and also their background and experiences. Jaali was based (physically) on a comic character I found online, but ended up having an actual human form. Milenda was based on another picture I saw online which I found intriguing.  He is white with platinum hair and blue eyes, Milenda is black with bright green eyes and unusual skin markings alongside her neck and shoulder. Jaali is an ex-slave, Milenda is an heiress to the throne.

My current WIP, “Predators” also started with sketchy character profiles. I actually started with a headless picture of a girl (no, the girl was not headless, the picture was) and the objects she had in her hands; a gas mask, a gun and bloody knees. Jia (the girl) crosses path with Cees, a young man from another social caste. They are both running from (you guessed) the Predators. Just a couple days ago they started talking to me and they now have a complex past history, and an equally complex sidekick.

I love creating characters and watching them grow, sometimes in spite of myself. Having traveled and lived in many different parts of the world, I love creating multicultural characters that challenge my view of the world and force me into looking at things through a different lens. More than anything else in the creative process–more than the plot, the action, the setting–the characters keep me excited about the story, keeping me guessing and keeping me on my toes.

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Six Book-Marketing Tips

Being a new published writer, I don’t feel I am qualified to give anyone advice in the marketing field. I am still learning. However, I will share with you the small pearls of wisdom I have acquired in the last year or so, since my adventure into publication began.

 

  • Build your platform (this takes time). Expect this to take over a big chunk of your life and cost some money.

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  • In order to build your platform (see above) one of the most successful things I have done so far was participating in a FB Hop. But participate in online parties, create a blog (if you have time to keep up with it), make yourself visible any way you can.
  • In social networks such as Twitter make sure you use the right hashtags and reach out into other groups of people that may not be necessarily writing-reading related. A lot of my followers, for example, came from the art world since I like to include the arts in my stories.
  • Be “social”. I’m an introvert but I find that the beauty of virtual social mediums is that they don’t exhaust me half as much as the face-to-face thing and they are also a lot less anxiety-producing.

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  • Network with other writers. Most of the many writers I have networked with so far are very supportive. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
  • Conferences and workshops. This is one I have not done much because of my day job. However, I am planning several for the summer and next year. Not only you learn, but you also network and get pumped up and validated as a writer. If you feel your inspiration run dry, go to a writing and/or reading conference or workshop. Instant inspiration.

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My Bookshelf

My bookshelf. That’s a joke, right? I don’t have a bookshelf, I have many throughout the house, all of which are overstuffed with books I have been collecting since I was a kid. A lot of people claim to hate e-books, but I couldn’t be more thankful someone came up with a way of allowing me to carry tons of books without actually needing the physical space to store them. Otherwise, I probably would have to buy another house just to shelter my books.

 

I’m a very eclectic reader even though I do not like every genre out there. I do not enjoy nonfiction (even though I am currently writing one. Don’t ask) and I just cannot stomach erotica. My shelves are covered in children’s picture books, middle grade chapter books, fantasies, romances, humor, dystopic novels, classics, mysteries and historical fiction.

My bookshelf is a map of my voyage as a reader since I was a child. You can follow it just as surely as you would a real map from my tender years when I was reading the adventures of Anita, to my teens when I fell in love with the Gaelic cartoon characters of Asterix and Obelix, shortly followed by Quino’s Mafalda and many others of the genre.

 

My fascination with the intricacies of crime solving is well represented from Agatha Christie’s books to Father Cadfael Mysteries.  Then, I went for a few years only reading fantasy. David Eddings’s books still grace my shelves alongside Sheri Tepper, and Guy Gavriel Kay. When I became a teacher I found that I absolutely adored picture books with all their amazing art and to the point fiction. I also came to find out that some of the best authors were hiding in middle grade fiction; Sharon Creech, Nancy Farmer, the great J.K. Rowling. More recently I discovered the love for young adult fiction and you will find a myriad of authors from John Green to Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and indie author Megan Whitmer.

 

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At the moment I am reading The Princess Bride, Lady Midnight, and Heart of Betrayal. Yes, all at the same time. Loving all three so far.

Do you wonder now why I get so upset when someone asks me to pick a favorite book? What does your book shelf look like?

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