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All posts for the month July, 2014

Writing Hurdles

Published July 27, 2014 by Shannon

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of nudges from the universe poking me and demanding to know why I’m not writing. It started when I read a book recently with such awful characterization (there were not only one but two self-insert Mary Sue characters) and literally thought, “I am a much better writer than that.” I’ve also come to learn that Seattle is a font of awesome writers. I just have to, you know, find them.

But there have been things that I keep stumbling over, excuses that I know are just that… excuses. They range from the ones even I know are lame, (“Where is the tiiiiiiiime?”) to the spazzy (OMG someone else wrote about a chupacabra shapeshifter, that means I can’t write my chupacabra shapeshifter romance anymore!) But the one I find myself struggling with is the fact that I’ve taught myself bad habits about the kind of feedback I like to get.

For the better part of the last 15 years, i’ve been role playing online, in freeform collaborative storytelling ventures. It’s through the gaming that I’ve learned a lot about characterization and plotting. But the downside is that I’ve learned to expect almost immediate feedback in response to my writing, in the form of people taking my ideas and putting their own spins and characters onto them. As I try to write more by myself, without that more immediate feedback, I find myself flailing. I want to talk over every minute aspect of the story I’m writing with someone… anyone… to try to figure out if I’m on the right track.

I’m trying to figure out how I can make myself write more consistently and still get some of that feedback as the process goes along. I am also having frequent conversations in which I reassure myself that everyone’s process is different, and this is mine, and if my friends are tired of hearing about the foibles of my characters, they’ll tell me. i know a lot of writers don’t talk at all about their projects until they’re done, and I’m not sure I’d, say, post my thorny plotting issues on my blog, but I can’t be the only one for whom this is a thing.

I’ve considered that I might find it a useful exercise to write fan fiction (although honestly… I don’t know what fandoms I’d even write for), or else try to serialize some fiction on a site like Wotpad. I’m a little hesitant about that because I’d want to make sure I was far enough along in a project that I wouldn’t end up abandoning it when life got busy.

I don’t have any solutions. I suspect this is an ongoing thing that I’ll struggle with until I figure out what works for me. In the meantime, I guess I have no excuses. Back to writing!

Obligation reading

Published July 23, 2014 by Shannon

I’ve been having an issue lately. Though I don’t have many books I’m obligated to read, there are certainly some. And I’m not reading them. This even includes voluntary obligations, like the Rifter.

I took on running a book club this year for an organization I’m passionate about. I should not have done this, for a variety of reasons that aren’t related to anything except my personality.

So I’m feeling really rebellious. There are books I should be reading, even books I have promised to read, and I just don’t want to. At all.

I will get a Rifter post up soon. But it falls under the category of obligation for me. Luckily, it is the shortest of my latest batch of obligation books, so I’ll probably finish reading it first.

I think what makes this batch of books harder to get through is that many of them I’m anticipating to be horrible. The book club I shouldn’t have volunteered to lead is reading something that is marked as religious fiction, which I do feel somewhat obligated to at least attempt. The one I go to for work next month is reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which, if it is secretly awesome, I would love to know that, but basically it looks like a giant pile of things that annoy me. And our Book Hoarders book, though it was my suggestion, has not grabbed me yet.

In the meantime, I plan to keep with the strategy I’ve used before-mix in pleasure reading with the obligation stuff and hope the “I don’t wannas” go away.

Review: Grabbed by Vicious by Lolita Lopez

Published July 17, 2014 by Shannon

Grabbed by Vicious (Grabbed, #1)

There’s something that captivates me about alien captive romances. They appeal to me in a visceral way that I know is extremely problematic. Nine times out of ten, I will read a book with this premise, and either give up in disgust (Hello, Sharon Green, with your book that had an exchange like, “[Warrior dude] rolled me over and raped me. Then we ate breakfast.”) or I read to the bitter end and deeply, deeply regret doing so.
So when I learned that one of my trusted reader friends read and loved all of the Grabbed series by Lolita Lopez, I was cautiously optimistic. My friend and I had a Twitter exchange that went something like:

Me: “Should I read these?

Her: “Totally. The first book is as nonconsensual as it gets. And there are female friendships.”

So, because I am nothing if not a sucker for cracky ebooks, I bought the first one, Grabbed by Vicious and started it with some misgivings.

Here’s the blurb:

Hallie has never run so fast in her life. One of the frightening sky warriors from the warship Valiant is hot on her heels and intent on capturing her as his bride. He takes her down, places his collar around her neck. With one word, he claims her.

Mine.

Born and bred for the military, Vicious has spent years rising through the ranks. Hallie is his reward, the beautiful sprite ensnaring him with a glance.

Despite her fear of Vicious, Hallie surrenders under his skillful hands and mouth. If she’ll submit, he promises pleasure and comfort. After a lifetime of hardship, his offer tempts her greatly.

One night with Hallie and Vicious feels his protective instincts flaring. He’ll do anything to make her happy and keep her safe, even if that means surrendering his heart. Though he intended to master her, Vicious realizes it may be his sweet Hallie who masters him.

Inside Scoop: Our heroine endures trials and violence with strength equal to that of her warrior mate. (She also witnesses F/F play, and endures a collar and light BDSM. Fortunately she likes that part.)

After that huge setup, it will not surprise you if I tell you that I loved this book. It’s not perfect (the pace slows down a lot and I’m not sure it needed to be quite so long), but I feel like it was meant for a reader like me.

First of all, this is a heroine-centric story. In many ways, Vicious is less interesting than Hallie. He’s got a typical romance-hero past, and is basically a giant teddy bear. He is a walking male fantasy, a care-giving alpha who protects Hallie and wants to make sure she’s always happy. A few side characters remark that he’s awfully whipped, and he kind of is. But he’s the kind of female fantasy that works for me, even with the J. R. Ward-esque name.

Hallie, though? She reacts the way heroines usually don’t in this kind of book. Oh, she tries to avoid being captured, but once it happens, she tries to make the best of it. She’s on a giant space ship. It’s not like she can go anywhere, and after Vicious seduces her, she quickly learns he won’t harm her. There were no ham-handed attempts to escape, nor were there shrieking hysterics. Also, her reaction mirrored mine when she learns Vicious’s name. She actually has the “… huh? WTF,dude?” reaction that I experience every time I read a speculative romance with silly names.

Hallie’s a sweet, domestic goddess sort of woman. She also has a past that is much more colorful than Vicious’s. And she’s interested in social justice. She wants to make life better for the women that have also been captured by Vicious’s people. I love that the times she actually gets herself into trouble were because she did something for other people.

There is BDSM play in this book, although not much of it. The first few scenes do flirt a little with dubious consent, but by the time Hallie has her first orgasm, it’s made explicit in the text that she wants everything to happen. I never got hit with the whiplash of wondering where the hell her enjoyment was coming from. I was never made uncomfortable by the text, and I thought Lopez explored some interesting dynamics in the bedroom.

This is the kind of story where the heroine may be submissive in the bedroom, but outside of it she has her own agency. She and Vicious are also fairly vanilla, with a little kinkier play thrown in to spice things up every now and then. The next book plays with more explicit BDSM themes, and as I’m reading it now I’m appreciating that Lopez is writing about very different people with very different kinks. At least this way I know the formula won’t be dull or repetitive.

As I said, the book isn’t perfect. The writing feels very contemporary, and some of the phrasing is repetitive, and Lopez loves to make sure lots of verbs have their little adverb friends to play with. There’s also a big misunderstanding that occurs toward the end of the book that made me sigh and roll my eyes. Mostly, I thought the romantic conflict was over too quickly as well, though I don’t really know what I’d have wanted instead.

For all that, though, this is some delicious book crack. It worked extremely well for me, and I was sad to see the book ending. I’ve begun reading the second book in the series, and it’s started out very well. If things continue, Lolita Lopez is definitely going to be an author to watch.

Final Grade: B

Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Published July 8, 2014 by Shannon

Oh, look, I remembered to look at the Top Ten Tuesday prompt on actual Tuesday. This meme comes courtesy of Broke and Bookish

Blogging Confessions

1. I really hate that gifs have become the way we express ourselves on the textual Internet. Finding and posting book covers is a good 40% of why I don’t review everything I read. Just getting past coding in the URL for a picture I can’t even see is sometimes more than I want to deal with.

2. I wish I were better at reading challenges. I can never remember due dates, or even what I signed up for. Every time I think about Wendy’s TBR Challenge I sigh wistfully and promise myself I’ll participate, but the date always slips my mind.

3. I’m so glad my regular commenters aren’t authors. It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome author voices, but even though I follow a bunch of authors on social media, the fact that they wrote books I love still intimidates me. I don’t consider myself a fangirl, but sometimes i worry that the authors who know how much I fangirl them don’t think I’m capable of having real conversations.

4. I do not always believe authors when they say they want honest reviews. When I google you and I see that you have reviewed your books on Goodreads, (sometimes modestly only giving them 4 stars like that’s supposed to prove your humility) I immediately don’t trust you not to come back with a scathing comment if I dare to give your book less than an A.
5. While I don’t consider myself one of the cult of nice shiny happy reviewers who never have a mean thing to say about anyone, there are some reviews I just don’t want to write. If I have had coffee with an author, I immediately feel uncomfortable writing about them. I worry that, if I go to romance conventions and actually do this more than twice, I will soon be left not reviewing anybody, because see also 4.

6. I am an aspiring writer. I don’t know if I’ve ever brought that up here. But I am working on edits for a paranormal romance I co-wrote with one of my BFFs. We are likely to self-publish it, and I will fail to market it effectively because I will be instantly afraid all my blogging friends will hate it.

7. I don’t use an RSS reader. All the blogs I follow are on live journal feeds, and I have an LJ for the specific purpose of reading my blogs. Even then, I often forget to actually check it, and end up going to people’s sites regularly.

8. Sometimes I miss group blogging. I would love for people to write guest posts for me, or to take on other reviewers. But more, I like the freedom to post as much or as little as I like without having to manage someone else’s posting schedule, too.

9. Sometimes a book will strike me as so amazing and spectacular that I can’t bring myself to finish because then it will be over. This is something I have to fight in myself. (Most recently, Victoria Dahl’s Close Enough to Touch has hit me that way. I love the heroine and her snarky thought processes so much, but even though I know there are other books in the series, leaving Grace is something I’m reluctant to do.)

10. According to my Goodreads shelves, my most read genre is contemporary romance. I mock contemporary romance all the time, but it does seem that I reach for contemps when I want a light, comforting and fluffy read. Maybe I just need a lot of those lately.