Archive for July, 2013

This month’s Spotlight Week features the THE LUNAR CHRONICLES SERIES by YA Author Marissa Meyer.

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 Cinder by marissa meyer

 

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles)
(The Lunar Chronicles Book 1)

400 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA, Ages 12 and up

Published on January 3, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends

ISBN-10: 0312641893

ISBN-13: 978-0312641894

 

 

First Line:

The screw through cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.

 Synopsis:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

 

 Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2)
(The Lunar Chronicles Book 2)

464 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA, Ages 12 and up

Published on February 5, 2013 by Feiwel & Friends

ISBN-10: 0312642962

ISBN-13: 978-0312642969

 

 

 First Line:

Scarlet was descending toward the alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: “Comm received for Mademoiselle Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons.”

 

Synopsis:

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling 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 and 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 has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

 

 

My Review

CINDER  is a retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella, so it has all the usual elements of the original—two stepsisters, a mean stepmother and a dashing prince.  But that’s really where the similarities end. Author Marissa Meyer completely reinvents the Cinderella archetype in this version, turning her from a wimpy maid into a kick-ass mechanic. Oh, and did I mention this Cinderella is a cyborg?

Cinder is not only a likeable character, she is a lovable one. She has many traits one can expect of a protagonist: she’s smart, brave, reliable and compassionate. Although she has  a strained relationship with her stepmother Adri and stepsister Pearl, she would do anything for her younger stepsister Peony; and that includes risking life and limb to find a cure that would save Peony from a horrible plague that has suddenly struck their city of New Beijing.

And as with any YA story, Cinder also has to deal with a complicated love life on top of her already teetering pile of problems. The romance in this book is well done, and the connection between Cinder and Prince Kai grows organically from their minimal, but memorable encounters.

Aside from having a main character you’d love to root for, this novel has other things that make it a cut above the rest. The world-building in this book is stellar, and the plotting is incredible. Author Marissa Meyer has managed to weave intriguing storylines into a world that by itself is fascinating. Her setting descriptions make it easy for readers to imagine New Beijing and the moon colony of Luna.

The addition of the Lunars and their strange abilities, and the introduction of the evil Queen Levana, certainly ups the thrill factor of the story.

The second book in the series is SCARLET, which is a retelling of Red Riding Hood’s fairytale. Set halfway across the world, and far from Cinder’s Eastern Commonwealth, this book stars Scarlet, a feisty French lass who is on a mission to find her missing grandmother.

I was a bit worried that the second book would have the “sagging middle syndrome”, but my fears were all thrown out the window as soon as I finished the first chapter of the book. Like CINDER, SCARLET is a character readers would love to root for.

Author Marissa Meyer proves her skills as a master storyteller when she weaves Scarlet’s story along with Cinder’s. And like the first book, SCARLET delivers the same thrilling action sequences and exciting plot twist and turns.

CINDER and SCARLET are books that are hard to put down. I had to read each of these all in one sitting because I had to find out what happened next. And even when I was finished, the storyline still reverberated in my head. The Lunar Chronicles is definitely one of my favorite YA series. I can’t wait for the next two fairytales master plotter Marissa Meyer retells, and I’m eager to see how all four storylines come together in the end.

 

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Tune in again on Wednesday for an interview with the awesome Marissa Meyer.

 

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Independence Day & BBQ Grilling Tips

Independence-Day

Happy Independence Day! Yesterday was the 4th of July, and like most Americans, I spent part of it outside, enjoying the weather and grilling.

I usually talk about writing, books, or writing events here, but today I thought I’d do something different. Today I’m going to give some BBQ tips.

So here’s how to do really good BBQ in a five easy steps:

Step 1: Make your own marinade. Or do it like I do and buy some really good marinade.

It’ll save you a lot of time and you’ll be sure to have some really good flavor on your meat.

Have you ever had Korean BBQ? If you have, then you know the flavors are just downright amazing: sweet, tangy and spicy. You can get this amazing kalbi flavor from any nearby Korean/ Asian supermarket.

korean bbq marinade

Korean BBQ Kalbi Marinade

Marinade the meat for at least an hour, longer if possible.

Step 2: Marinade your meat. 

The kalbi marinade is made to go well with short ribs, but you can use whatever meat you want.

marinade meat

Marinating some short ribs (these are actually bones, the rest were already on the grill)

Step 3: Shred some paper. 

Or grab whatever old newspapers you can find. During the summer, I keep some of the paper I shred in the home office. The shredded paper makes for great kindling when starting the fire for my bbq.

shreded paper

Millie making sure I use the right amount of shredded paper

Step 4: Get your fire started with the help of a charcoal chimney.

One of the greatest barbecuing tool ever invented has to be the charcoal chimney. You can get your bbq going in 15-20 minutes with the help of this thing.

charcoal chimney

Charcoal Chimney

The charcoal chimney has saved me loads of time and trouble with barbecuing. Before I learned about this tool, I used to spend at least an hour trying to get the fire in the grill started. This included lots of false starts, copious amounts of lighter fluid and smoke in my lungs.

It’s easy to use the charcoal chimney. First, you upend the chimney so that the bottom part is facing up. Then you stuff it with shredded paper or newspaper or any other kind of kindling you can find.

shredded paper in charcoal chimney

Bottom of charcoal chimney filled with shredded paper

Once you’ve filled the bottom part with paper, you can put the charcoal chimney right side up, right on top of the grill.

Then you fill the top part (the actual chimney) with as much charcoal as you want. I usually like to fill it up to at least an inch below the topmost part of the chimney.

charcoal in chimney

Fill the charcoal chimney with charcoal

Light the kindling at the bottom of the chimney on fire. Once you see smoking rising up, you can leave the charcoal chimney for about 15-20 minutes. It’ll do the rest of the work for you.

When you return, you’ll see that most of the charcoal has turned a good shade whiter–just the right temperature for grilling.

You can then tip over the white hot charcoal into the grill.

Step 5: Start grilling.

With the charcoal burning hot and your grill cleaned and prepped, you can start grilling the meat.

grilling meat

Grilling some kalbi-flavored short ribs

And that’s it. Make sure you watch the meat and cook each side equally.

Hope you enjoyed my simple BBQ tips.

How about you? Do you have any BBQ tips? How did you spend the 4th of July?

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kamy Chetty

TWN WWW 300

 

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Kamy Chetty, author of the romance novel BREATHE AGAIN.

Breathe_Again modified

 

After a tour at war and countless shifts in the hospital emergency room, Nick knows that no matter how hard he tries to change things, people are the same. So when his estranged wife Skylar reveals that she stopped taking birth control and is pregnant, he shouldn’t be shocked. Betrayal burns and panic sets in as memories of his shattered home life remind him that he can’t play happy families.

Skylar knows one thing—she’s head over nurse’s shoes in love with the stubborn and unemotional Nick. She loves him enough to believe in the man he is, even though he can’t see it for himself and hides behind a mask. As he calls their child “hers” and tries to live apart from her, Skylar’s heart breaks, but she refuses to give up hope that he’ll do the right thing.

When disaster strikes, Skylar realizes Nick might never change, so she risks everything and sets him free, hoping he’ll come back, for her and their baby. Is heat, passion and a vow enough to seal this marriage and make them a family?

 

Welcome Kamy!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Romance Author Kamy Chetty

 

I am a hopeless romantic who has been writing all my life. I am South African born, now living in Auckland New Zealand with two teenagers and my very own prince. I do have a day job, which gets really busy, I work as a nurse manager. My bosses are really good and they let me work part time so I can be a romance writer.

I love walking, reading and listening to music.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I have an office. It keeps me disciplined and on track.

 

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

I didn’t get my desk custom made, it’s store bought but I did have help arranging my work space. I used to have my desk facing the window and was told I am too much of a dreamer and it needed to be changed, so I turned the desk and now find it works better for me.

desk modified

Author Kamy Chetty’s Workspace

 

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I have a salt lamp. Next to my desk I have candles. It helps with the ambience of the room. I also have a whiteboard that I use to outline my story. I am a very visual person so I like to be able to see things

 candles modified Candles for inspiration

 

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I like having my own space. It makes my writing a job instead of a hobby and I can be considered a serious writer. When you spend years trying for recognition as a writer, that becomes important.

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Coffee, coffee and more coffee. I have a nespresso machine and I just got some new flavors in, like caramel and vanilla. :)

saltlamp modified

Kamy’s salt lamp

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

I have been reading for so long and I am such an eclectic reader, I am not sure I have a favorite. I know what I like, it’s a book with a good plot, great characterization and a connection with the reader. I started writing at such an early age, it was a natural progression more than being inspired.

 

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I work part time so if I am writing that day, I will come home, have a shower, light my candles and prepare my room and then choose my soundtrack and then write. I often write for up to three hours.

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I would like to write every day but I have a demanding career with demanding teenagers with rugby training and fencing practice that makes me taxi mum. So if I am not writing then I am promoting, editing or reading other authors. It is very important as a writer to keep in touch with what is being published out there so I have to use my time well. I love my IPAD.

 

4. Why do you write?

If I don’t write I will go nuts. It’s my stress reliever and my savior. I have all these stories and ideas, why would I not write?

 

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

Write what you know and what you love. Write from the heart and even if the characters lead you astray, just as long as you can fix it in edits.

Thank you for hosting me, it’s been a real pleasure being here. I would love to hear what you do to make your workspace special.

 

 

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Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Kamy!

Kamy’s Author Bio:

There hasn’t been a time in her life that Kamy hasn’t been writing, or dreaming up some magical love story in her head. As an avid reader, it wasn’t long before she realised her talent for turning a phrase, and add to that a profession of nursing, it’s only natural that her stories have a medical theme with that happily ever after ending.

Recently she’s discovered that all those years she’s been fascinated with TV shows like CSI and Bones, has just been foreplay for her dark side and she now enjoys writing suspense with a dash of medical and a dollop of romance.

Originally from South Africa, Kamy now lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her very own hero and two children who keep her busy. She has two dogs who keep her out of trouble and shelves overflowing with books that she loves reading when she isn’t chasing deadlines.

To learn more about Kamy, check out her Website, as well as her    Facebook   Twitter  and  Author Page.

 

Read Reviews of Breathe Again, and click on the following sites if you wish to purchase a copy. 

Red Sage

Amazon

Amazon UK

B&N

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Often, the only kind of writing we do is related to the book, short story, or article we’re working on. Sometimes we need a break from our work. We need to have moments when we write just for fun, or for the purpose of learning how to write itself. This is when creative writing exercises come in handy.

In an effort to encourage its members to constantly work on their craft, CBWLA held its first ever Writing Day Anthology Workshop last June 22nd, 2013. The whole day was dedicated to practicing various writing exercises designed to help attendees improve their writing skills.

Our main goal for creating this workshop, however, was to give our members the opportunity to gain publishing experience. I specifically designed the creative writing exercises so that at the end of day, each participant would have two pieces ready for publication in our first CBWLA Anthology. In September 2013, we plan to release the anthology through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, as well as through its Create Space program.

Since we only had one day, we focused on four short literary forms: essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book.

I. FREEWRITING

The workshop began with a freewriting exercise to warm up everyone’s writing muscles. Shutting out their internal editors and forgetting all rules of grammar and punctuation, attendees wrote nonstop for 5 minutes.

 

CBWLA Anthology Workshop attendees 2

CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Doing Freewriting Exercises

 

Their writing muscles loosened, we proceeded to a guided freewriting activity in which everyone used the question “How do you feel about writing?” as a guide for the second freewriting exercise.

Author Melissa Donovan said this about freewrites:

Freewrites can also be used to bring creative, colorful language into prose. Strong images and rich language generates work that is more literary in nature and if done well, it’s a lot more fun to read. It will help you generate words that show rather than tell and make your story or essay come alive more easily in a reader’s mind.

The ten minute guided freewriting exercise was a treasure trove of inspiration and ideas. I asked participants to unearth the gems in their pieces by underlining or highlighting the words, phrases and sentences that called out to them; words they found meaningful or beautiful.

I gave  a short talk on the literary forms we would use that day (essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book), along with tips and techniques to help them in the next activity. Choosing one of these four forms, participants used the gems they harvested in their freewriting exercise to write their first anthology piece.

Handouts were also provided so they could refer to them as they wrote their “On Writing” pieces.

 

CBWLA Anthology Workshop lecture

CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees

The 50 minute writing time was filled with the sounds of scribbling pens and clacking keyboards. While attendees focused on creating their first anthology piece, I quietly went about preparing for the next part of the workshop: Lunch!

Snacks were provided throughout the day, but lunch was still a welcome event for the attendees. They got to eat a hearty meal and make new friends with other writers.

CBWLA Anthology Workshop snacks

Breakfast and snacks provided throughout the day

 

Although lunch only lasted for 30 minutes,  attendees returned to their workstations and ready for the next round of activities.

 

II. STORY SPARKERS

Story ideas are generated by our experiences, and emotions, but their mostly generated by our five senses, particularly by things we might see. We might get story ideas from things we read in the newspaper, a photograph or painting , or an event we witness live or see in the news.

In the next exercise called “Shopping for Ideas”, I asked attendees to pick several pictures from a box. These were pictures of shops they might encounter as they travel.

Using the shop pictures, participants came up with several story ideas.

 

shopping for ideas box

Shopping for Ideas Setting Box

 

And to help them out further, I distributed two other types of story sparkers: the Conflict Cards and the Character Archetype Cards.

conflict archetype cards

Conflict Cards & Character Archetype Cards

 

Since they already had the setting based on the shop cards they got earlier, participants now had the option to pick characters they could put into that setting, using the Character Archetype Cards. They could also use the Conflict Cards to come up with problems their characters might encounter in their stories.

Ideas beget ideas. So after 15 minutes of jotting down story ideas, I asked participants to share one with the rest of the class.  Everyone came up with intriguing and fascinating story concepts.

I asked them to pick one story idea which they really liked, and to choose the literary form (flash fiction, poetry, picture book) they’d like to use for their next piece. Using their handouts as a guide, the attendees were given an hour to write their second piece for the anthology.

In order to make sure that the writers have chosen the best form possible for their anthology piece, I gave them two final exercises.

 

CBWLA Anthology Workshop attendees3

CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Writing Away

The Point of View exercise required them to pick an alternate point of view for their second anthology piece. If they wrote their stories using the third person POV, they would have to rewrite it to first person, or second person and so on.

The attendees re-read the two versions and picked which POV worked best for their anthology piece. Afterward, they moved on to the final writing exercise on Voice.

The Voice exercise was designed to make sure their anthology piece had the right voice or tone. I challenged the attendees to rewrite their piece using a different tone. For example, they could rewrite their piece as if everything about the story infuriated them, or broke their heart or scared the hell out of them.

Once the attendees had picked the voice that best suited their stories, they immediately set to revising and editing their two anthology pieces.

The minutes flew by really quickly and soon it was time for the writers to submit their works. While co-officer Tiffani went about collecting the anthology pieces on a flashdrive, I collected the works of those who used pen and paper instead of their laptops.

With their pieces all in, the attendees could finally breathe a sigh of relief.And to end the wonderful writing day on a high note, we all posed for a class picture.

CBWLA Anthology Workshop Class pix formal

CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Formal picture)

The day certainly went by so fast. Attendees barely noticed the hours fly by because they were so busy doing what they loved best: writing.  They left the room, already looking forward to the next big anthology workshop–and asking us to organize a launch party for the anthology in September.

CBWLA Anthology Workshop class pix informal

CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Informal picture)

 

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