Camp NaNoWriMo April 2015: Day 5 & 6

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Word counts first.

Day 5: 3,358 words

Day 6: 6,643 words

As you might have guessed from my day 5 word count, very little got written, about a sentence or two so I didn’t post yesterday. Instead I focused on trying to catch up a bit and ended up discovering a lot about my story, including the nature of the organisation which owns the dragon archipelago. It actually also helped figure out one or two details from earlier in the story that I thought I would need to rewrite in its entirety.

I also had two characters admit they really liked each other. Something I did not expect considering a very lightly planned romance sub plot was going to be for emergency word count only. I do not think I am at that point but either way, it’s happened and not anywhere near what had been planned.

See, this is why I don’t plan stories too much. My characters like running off with their own ideas and I kind of just have to follow to keep up. As long as the main points and main events happen, that’s okay, right?

Know when you have those moments when things just click into place, either for the story, character(s) or both? Yesterday was one of those and it definitely helps as it leads into stuff that potentially could just write itself. Surely a good thing right when I am fairly behind at the moment!

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30 days of writing prompts.

Need a writing challenge? Looking for a sexy prompt? Get writing with these very NSFW ones!

Kira Dawson Writer

Leaving this a bit late to start, due to NaNoWriMo being right round the corner, but I have decided to try and do 30 days of writing to prompts, starting today.  They may not be in any particular order, or every single day, but I am willing to try.

With these prompts (that I shall list under a cut so that others can actually have a go too), they will be anywhere from a drabble of 100 words, to flash fiction. I’m not entirely sure what will come out of my fingers (and mind, when it’s feeling sleep deprived).

Feeling motivated,
Kira.

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 5 and 6

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Sorry for the lack of updates. Personal and family issues have prevented me from writing as much as I would like and from posting updates here.

So word counts:

Day 5: 3,730 words

Day 6: 4,505 words

Yes, I am behind, badly. Lack of writing, time to write and a bit more planning would definitely have pushed me forward more to be working towards the daily word counts but I am just struggling to do what I need to. At least now the story is beginning to kick in and the intrigue is beginning and that should make me be able to write more. Having a funeral certainly kicked the word count up. An inkling of a romantic sub plot is starting to come into effect so that could give me words.

As you probably can tell, there’s not much going on at the moment in the novel and my word counts probably show it big time. My current target is to hit 5k soon then maybe I need to reassess my full target for the month. Come what may I guess, come what may.

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Why They Write

This caught my eye a few days ago but I am only just getting round to reblogging it now because I’ve been thinking about my own reasons for writing.

I agree with those that say that the reason changes day-to-day. For me, I write because my mind keeps coming up with stories, even before I realised what I was doing when I was younger. I suppose when I was younger, it was just my imagination coming up with games to play but as I got older, it continued and I started writing down the stories (a lot of fan fiction) because one of my school teachers pointed out that I had a gift for it.

It is also partly because I had just found my genre, the type of books and stories I liked to read and write, around the same time. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series inspired millions of children around the world and I am one of those. Even now, I go back to the premise of the Harry Potter series and Enid Blyton’s school stories, especially the Malory Towers series occasionally.

I love fantasy stories, I enjoy school stories and over the years, I have also come to enjoy romance, crime, drama and some comedy and sci-fi stories. As I have read them, I have incorporated that in my writing. My writing can become dark in places but it can also be light.

What is it about them? It’s the escapism. It’s the discovering a world different to our own, sometimes right on our doorsteps. It’s the common premise of school that most people will be able to relate to. It’s the rooting for the characters to be together, the solving of a puzzle, the everyday dilemmas that we experience in our lives and the fabulous funny moments that we think of later which makes you smile and laugh out loud.

Even in the stories set in a place different from our own, there is the baseline of common themes and occurrences in our lives. That’s what attracts me to those sorts of stories and probably attracts many, many others to them too.

Reading and writing are inextricably interlinked I feel. You can’t do one without the other.

I also write because it is a type of therapy and escapism. When the life is getting stressful and tough, it is a nice way to escape for a while and to get out all those feelings through characters on to the physical (or virtual!) page. If I didn’t have an outlet for those sorts of feelings, and others, I don’t know where I would be.

I would love to get paid to write and maybe that will happen in the future but for now, it’s therapy, escapism and an outlet for all the stories clamouring in my head.

Is my answer clichéd? Perhaps but that’s how I feel today. Who knows? Tomorrow, I might have a completely different answer.

Legends of Windemere

Kenshin Himura (How I feel) Kenshin Himura

Sorry!  I totally forgot that I was going to list people’s answers and reasons to Monday’s question.  Please check out the blogs and published works of everyone:

“I’m on board with most of that but I write poetry and know there is no money in that.” The Mirror Obscura

“I love writing because I’m totally addicted to it since the day when I started reading “anything” so seriously” Insight

“For me as a total readerholic and mental escape artist all my life, the writing came late, but now that particular joy of creating worlds, people, dragons, scenarios – whatever – can’t be matched by anything else that I’ve ever done.” Jo Robinson

“I think the reason evolves over time. I began writing as a way to express myself in a healing way. But then I began writing poetry. Poetry is a great self-expression for me and I…

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Book Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I want to preface this review now with my opinion is purely that: my opinion!

Farfield is a town divided between the North and the South.

On North side is the American Ellis family. Daughter Brittany appears for all the world the perfect all-American girl. Blonde hair, designer clothes, head cheerleader and dating a footballer. But it is all a façade. At home, things are not perfect with a often absent father, a mother on the edge and an older disabled sister who uses a wheelchair.

On the South side is the Mexican Fuentes family. Alex lives with his hard-working mother and brothers Carlos and Luis. To the outside world, Alex is THE bad boy, playing up his Latino Blood gang membership however this is Alex’s own mask. He is intelligent and could go far, if he was able to get out of the gang and still protect his family.

When Brittany and Alex are put together for a Chemistry project, sparks fly and the appearances that each of them put on begin to slip…

I will say it now. This book is so bad it’s good. Before I go on to why it’s so bad, I want to point out the good elements that actually made me read this cover to cover.

Elkeles uses the first person narration of each character to give both sides of the story and show the world of Farfield through the characters eyes very vividly. She shows the extreme differences in the fictional town as well as the big differences in the  characters worlds. But within that is also the juxtaposition that actually the characters are very similar. They have their family troubles whether caused by internal or external forces and each character must put on an act.

Because of the first person perspective, the readers gain a real insight on the characters instead of having their views on characters heavily influenced by others. This book definitely would not have worked as well if the story had been told from the third person.

On the subject of worlds, Elkeles  has really shown a strong and colourful understanding of Mexican culture, the protective nature of families and the close-knit community, minus the gang part. The research she put into the book really shows and something to be praised. (I don’t know if all the Spanish is correct as my own is very limited so I can’t really say if it is right).

The book also shows a real, positive representation of a person with disability. The sisterly bond between Brittany and Shelley, her sister, is touching and lovingly portrayed. The book also shows the struggles of a modern family with a disabled child. The act put on by Brittany’s parents to hide Shelley as well as the pressure they place on Brittany to do the same is very interesting and really makes the reader invest in this characters, wanting to see the sisters triumph against their parents’ act and no longer have to hide from the world.

Elkeles could have portrayed the character in a very dim light, showing the character as stupid and being completely unable to understand anything but instead it is a bright light that is put on Shelley, showing her as intelligent and perfectly able to make her own informed choices on matters about her.  The only other positive representation of disability I have seen lately, that also shows these traits in such characters, has been in Episode 5 of Call the Midwife.

Sadly, these are the only real positives I have found in the book.

The good writing and character portrayals is seriously hampered by the seriously clichéd characters and story.

Let’s start with the characters.

Of course the boy is in a minority group (Mexican) and is a gangbanger. He is also mixed up with the rougher people in society and gets into trouble with drugs and the police. He’s only dating her for a bet but oh, he really loves her so changes himself enough to be with her.

Of course the girl is the typical blonde, smart cheerleader who’s dating the football star. She breaks up with him for the boy from across the tracks who she must hide from her family, friends and society. Eventually, when he changes, she is able to go out with him freely in public!

I also have an issue with Brittany’s name. Why is the stereotypical blonde, cheerleading captain called Brittany? Why? It just feels so overused that the character has become almost the symbol of the American school system and must be used when a writer writes a story set in the classic American high school setting.

Plus, why do they meet in a Chemistry class? Why do the characters have to meet like that? I was having serious Twilight flashbacks at that point.

Really? Does the world really need this story AGAIN?! I realise that it is said there are only 7 stories in the world and it is how we dress them up that we create a new twist on that story but it feels like Elkeles tried in some areas of the book but not in others. Unfortunately, it is in arguably the two most important areas of a book that got neglected badly: the story and the characters.

I feel she had a real chance to do a great twist on the genre, challenging the stereotypes and the traditional codes and conventions that have come to epitomise the teen romance genre.

The only way the story could have been improved is if she had scrapped it completely and done something else by allowing the characters to lead. Why not have the girl as the Mexican or another minority and the boy as maybe an invisible geek who sits in the back of the class? What would happen when these two came together?

Having spoken to a friend of mine in the USA about the chemistry class plot point, they told me that joint assignments take place in other classes, like English. Providing it wasn’t a clichéd romance book or even Shakespeare play, maybe the characters could have met there or another class or maybe even outside of school! Do American teenagers lives really completely revolve around high school?

Whilst I had Twilight flashbacks during the chemistry class scenes, throughout much of the book, I also couldn’t help thinking of the Bring It On: All Or Nothing film. The film and this book were almost identical in the main staples of the story and characters.

I also feel that the epilogue was completely unnecessary. There was enough closure in the ending of the previous chapter but open-ended enough that it left the readers able to make up their own ideas of what happened next. The epilogue robs the readers of that and seems to be restarting the story again unneeded.

Problem is, Elkeles is a good writer. She chose the right point of view for the book, creates a town that feels so real, the reader could go there, gives an excellent portrayal of the Mexican people, culture and community and represents disability in such a brilliant way and positive light. It’s with these elements of the book that she manages to hook her audience, makes the readers become emotionally invested in the characters so that, despite all the horrible clichés, the reader keeps on reading to the last page.

It’s because of this that I feel the book is annoyingly addictive and I hope vindicates my view that the book is so bad, it’s good! I’m not sure I would recommend this book necessarily to someone who is experienced with the genre but as a starting point, I think it is a good introduction for new readers to the genre. It has all the stereotypes, the codes and conventions and every last little thing someone would expect from a Young Adult Romance book. For a writer, I think it’s a good book to look at to learn those very same things and to get a grounding in the genre before they start writing their own stories.

Film Review: Keeping Mum

I’ve been looking forward to being finally able to review this film. It’s one of those film that I always seem to miss the first bit of when ever it is on Film4.

The little village of Little Wallop is your typical English village but Gloria Goodfellow (Kristin Scott Thomas) is going crazy.

Her vicar husband, Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson), is so obsessed with writing the perfect sermon, he is completely ignoring his wife, who is having an affair with her American golf instructor Lance (Patrick Swayze). His seventeen year old nymphomaniac daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton) has a different boyfriend every week and his son Petey (Toby Parkes) is the victim of school bullies.

Gloria is praying for a miracle when a new housekeeper arrives. Sweet old lady Grace (Maggie Smith) is the answer to all Gloria’s prayers. She has a unique way of keeping house and even more unique way of dealing with problems.

This is a great British comedy with an all-star cast with some brilliant laugh out loud moments. The film shows off the best in British talent from the actors in front of the camera and the people behind it. The script is a great example of British wit and humour whilst the film locations, in Cornwall and on the Isle of Wight, shows just how beautiful the English countryside can be, away from the city streets that seem to be the norm. It draws the audience in right from the start and keeps them entertained from start to finish.

This is a comedy film but Atkinson shows he is capable of carrying off a very serious role away from his iconic bumbling Mr Bean character whilst Smith, who is normally seen in rather staid roles such as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise, is perfect as the fun and very British Grace who seems to always be looking for a good cup of tea.

The film features a lot of sexual references, nudity and some strong language and whilst overt, it does not detract from the film. It is however a good reason why the BBFC rated this film as a 15. I would not recommend watching this film with young kids around as this is not a Jacqueline Wilson type of story, who has a book by the same name. It is slow in places but it does succeed in keeping its audience even then with other elements.

This is a great film to enjoy for a night in, whether alone or with friends and will leave you giggling, laughing and at least smiling through out. Whilst it won’t have you holding your sides or anything like that, it is great fun, with a wonderfully British feel to it.

Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance

Now, this isn’t something I have thought too deeply about but perhaps I should as a (primarily) fantasy writer who is looking to get published. Especially in recent years, my work has gone from high fantasy to urban to low and, inevitably with me, all them will include a romantic story somewhere along the way. So is my work paranormal romance or is it a fantasy story with a romantic storyline? I don’t know to be honest.

Whilst reading this, it got me thinking about the Mills & Boon/Harlequin Nocturne books. These seem to straddle the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre line (if there is one) but somehow, I think maybe the two genre’s just go so far hand in hand that they should be classed as one and the same when appropriate naturally. In some case’s it is appropriate to delineate between the two, especially in Michele Hauf’s Moon Kissed and After The Kiss in my opinion, since she seems to focus more on the romance than any real story, whilst I think the Mills & Boon Nocturne novel that really holds the two genre’s in balance is Vivi Anna’s The Vampire’s Kiss novel.

 

Where Landsquid Fear to Tread

You know, despite all the subgenre studies we’ve done here, I still have a hard time differentiating between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I mean, logically, I can spout off definitions but I have a hard time with actual books because a lot of times they read very similar to each other.

Urban fantasy is fantasy that takes place in a city. It isn’t necessarily contemporary. And paranormal romance is just a romance with paranormal elements. There’s a lot of variables on both–time period, setting, types of fantastical/paranormal elements, etc.

But from what I’ve seen, both tend to be modern-day in urban environments. And both tend to have a romance plot/subplot and a non-romance plot/subplot, and often times they seem to be of almost equal importance.

I’ve run into this in other places as well, particularly between cozy mysteries and romance. A lot of it seems to come down…

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