Monday, July 27, 2015

RSW Check-in: July 26, 2015

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

My goals for the summer:

  1. WRITE ALL THE WORDS!
    Finish my current WIP, which is Beauty and the Beast meets Edgar Allen Poe. Set in 1800's Savannah, Ga.
  2. READ ALL THE WORDS! I currently have several books on hold at the library as e-books. Should I get to the top of the list for all of them this summer, I'd like to finish them. These include Code Name Verity, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, Between Shades of Gray, The Wrath and the Dawn, Things We Know By Heart, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and Saint Anything.
  3. DO ALL THE MOVES!
    Now that I'm in a much less stressful work environment, I'm finally making time for me again. By the end of the summer I'd like to be up to 4 days of working out each week!
How I did on last week’s goals:

Read: Finished Between Shades of Gray. I posted that review instead of Saint Anything.
Write: Just around 5,000 words for the week. Made a lot of progress this week adding some scenes to keep my draft from going off the rails. I have a lot of dark stuff to write this week.
Move: Worked out three days! Almost to my goal.

My goal(s) for this week:
Read: P.S. I Still Love You is on the list for this week!
Write: 4,750 words added to my WIP
Move: Exercise 4 days. 

A favorite line from my story:
This is super spoilery, so I've removed the names.

"What…what are you?” [redacted] stammered. His heart pounded in his chest, and he wondered what went through [redacted]’s mind when he faced the shadow, if he’d been trapped in this very room, felt this very fear.

“I’m the thing of nightmares. The stories your mother told you to keep you in the house at night.” [redacted] stalked closer to [redacted], hovered near enough that the boy could feel the shadow’s hot breath on the back of his neck. “And tonight, I am the vindicator of all the men like [redacted], men you’ve brought to their knees because your white skin gave you the ‘right’ to beat them, the ‘right’ for your ancestors to own them. I am the last voice you will hear before the spirits carry you off to hell.”

“Please,” [redacted] whimpered, his body shaking with terror so cold his limbs had gone numb. “I can pay you. I can give you whatever you want.”

“No one faces the Beast-Man and lives,” the shadow said.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:
This was actually a pretty good week for me! 

Something I love about my WIP:
I love my monster.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Badass Books: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septeys has been on my list for a long, long time. This summer I finally moved it up the TBR pile and read it. I'm glad I did, but having just finished it 20 minutes ago, my heart hurts. Normally a book takes me a day or two to read. It took me more than a week to get through Between Shades of Gray. It was beautifully written, but it was so, so hard.


Summary (from Goodreads):

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.



I won’t be writing this review in my typical format, because it’s hard to use those categories here. Instead, I’m just going to give you my thoughts as they come to me (and with some proofreading afterward). I could give you your typical review elements—the character development was phenomenal, the added love story very believable, the prose breathtaking—but I don’t think that’s the point.

I studied European history in high school. We spent a good bit of time on World War II and time on Russia and Communism, but somehow any bit of the deportation of the Baltic States that we touched on was minor, glossed over, thrown in with the rest.

The focus of our studies was on Hitler and the atrocities he committed (which were many and horrifying). But Russia was an Ally. The U.S. fought with them, so their war crimes weren’t the focus of my American education.

What they did to these people was horrifying. I know that Between Shades of Gray is fiction, but it is well-researched fiction. And you should read it. You should read it because you need to know what happened to the people living in the countries that Russia steamrolled. It’s earth shattering and heartbreaking and I hate that I didn't know.

Like I said: I knew somewhere in the back of my memory that Russia did horrible things. But I didn’t equate it with the things that Germany did. 

Read this book because the writing is wonderful. Read this book because the story is haunting. But really, read this book because you need to know what happened. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the countless lives that were destroyed by Communist Russia.

Monday, July 20, 2015

RSW Check-in: July 20, 2015

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

My goals for the summer:

  1. WRITE ALL THE WORDS!
    Finish my current WIP, which is Beauty and the Beast meets Edgar Allen Poe. Set in 1800's Savannah, Ga.
  2. READ ALL THE WORDS! I currently have several books on hold at the library as e-books. Should I get to the top of the list for all of them this summer, I'd like to finish them. These include Code Name Verity, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, Between Shades of Gray, The Wrath and the Dawn, Things We Know By Heart, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and Saint Anything.
  3. DO ALL THE MOVES!
    Now that I'm in a much less stressful work environment, I'm finally making time for me again. By the end of the summer I'd like to be up to 4 days of working out each week!
How I did on last week’s goals:

Read: Still working my way through Between Shades of Gray. It's so well written, but it's a hard read.
Write: I -think- I met my word count goal, but on Sunday I ended up realizing I needed to rework some scenes, so I did a lot of copy/paste of old scenes so I didn't lose them in case I wanted those words later. Regardless, I should hit 50k this week.
Move: Yoga twice. It's been so hot this week that when I walked out of the studio it was like I hadn't even left. Ugh.

My goal(s) for this week:
Read: Finish Between Shades of Gray. Post my review for Saint Anything.
Write: 4,750 words added to my WIP
Move: Exercise 4 days. Already completed Monday with Hot 26! 3 days to go.

A favorite line from my story:
[Redacted] released her hold over the darkness dwelling in her heart. She opened herself to the shadow like a white lily in the moonlight.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:
My boss was on vacation this week, so I had more on my plate than usual, which was draining. But I still did pretty good!

Something I love about my WIP:
I'm still not bored with it, so that means it must be a keeper. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

RSW Check-in: July 13, 2015

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

My goals for the summer:

  1. WRITE ALL THE WORDS!
    Finish my current WIP, which is Beauty and the Beast meets Edgar Allen Poe. Set in 1800's Savannah, Ga.
  2. READ ALL THE WORDS! I currently have several books on hold at the library as e-books. Should I get to the top of the list for all of them this summer, I'd like to finish them. These include Code Name Verity, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, Between Shades of Gray, The Wrath and the Dawn, Things We Know By Heart, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and Saint Anything.
  3. DO ALL THE MOVES!
    Now that I'm in a much less stressful work environment, I'm finally making time for me again. By the end of the summer I'd like to be up to 4 days of working out each week!

How I did on last week’s goals:

Read: Finished Saint Anything. Downloaded Between Shades of Grey from the library. 
Write: I did not at all meet my goal. This was a rough week for me. I only managed 1600 words.
Move: Yoga twice.



My goal(s) for this week:
Read: Finish Between Shades of Gray
Write: I need to average 4,750 words per week for the rest of RSW if I want to meet my goal. So there you have it!
Move: Exercise 4 days.

A favorite line from my story:
“You’re mine, bitch,” [redacted] hissed, his voice all at once one man and many, dark like the night sky and fluid like the rain.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:
I'm guessing this is tied to grief and related stress, but I had my first migraine ever this week, complete with an aura and olfactory hallucinations. My post-migraine hangover (is that what you call it?) lasted two days. So I was basically worthless the end of the week. Hence not meeting my goal.

Something I love about my WIP:
I'm still really enjoying this story and am excited to see how it turns out.

Monday, July 6, 2015

RSW Check-in: July 6, 2015

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

My goals for the summer:

  1. WRITE ALL THE WORDS!
    Finish my current WIP, which is Beauty and the Beast meets Edgar Allen Poe. Set in 1800's Savannah, Ga.
  2. READ ALL THE WORDS! I currently have several books on hold at the library as e-books. Should I get to the top of the list for all of them this summer, I'd like to finish them. These include Code Name Verity, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, Between Shades of Gray, The Wrath and the Dawn, Things We Know By Heart, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and Saint Anything.
  3. DO ALL THE MOVES!
    Now that I'm in a much less stressful work environment, I'm finally making time for me again. By the end of the summer I'd like to be up to 4 days of working out each week!

How I did on last week’s goals:

Read: I'm about halfway through Saint Anything.

Write: I clocked in at 3,500 words for the week, which puts me over 40,000 for this WIP! Halfway if I manage to reach my goal word count on this first draft.

Move: I only did yoga once. The grief hit me harder than I expected it to, so I didn't really get out of the house much. Doing a lot better now so hopefully this week will be better!

My goal(s) for this week:
Read: Finish Saint Anything and start Between Shades of Gray
Write: I want to bump this up to 5k. Go big or go home, right?
Move: Yoga four days. Hot hot hot.

A favorite line from my story:

It was [redacted]'s anger with death, with the spirits she’d so long trusted, that had led her to call upon those she should never have listened to.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:
Grief again. Also started having dreams other people were dying. So there's that. Ugh. But here's to healing and growing and remembering.

Something I love about my WIP:
This totally unexpected change in plot.



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Badass Books: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Note: Review written last Wednesday on my flight to my grandmother's funeral.

I’ve been working my way through my summer reading list thanks to a far more manageably stress level, and this week unexpected travel. Today’s review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.



Why I read it: In selecting the next book for one of my book clubs, this book was thrown out there. While we didn’t select it, the fact that more than one person mentioned it told me I needed to read it.

ZOMG Yes! I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book. I actually expected it to be a contemporary, because it was thrown out there with a bunch of other contemporaries. Clearly, I was wrong. I’m so glad I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found this new love for contemporaries, but magical realism is like a sort of Kryptonite for me. The books that have stuck with me the longest fall into this category for sure.

I loved so much about this story. The way three different generations’ stories were woven together. The seemingly effortless inclusion of the supernatural. The love. Oh, the love.

But guys, this book broke my heart. I won’t tell you why if you haven’t read it. But I will say that the scene that did it (the one with Ava, the scene with her mother also broke my heart) was one any reader saw coming. Still it cut pretty deep.

I read this book on my way to my grandmother’s funeral and I think that the wonder of it was just what I needed as I was dealing with my own grief. So for that, Leslye Walton, I thank you.

kthxbai I very much recommend this book. It’s beautifully and thoughtfully written, and it will easily sweep you away.