Writing

First Week of Writing

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Writing 2019

I’m not going to number this by days any more because I’m not entirely sure I need to check in daily.  So, starting Monday, I really applied myself to making room in my schedule every day for some kind of writing. This week I wrote about 6000 words for Mad World, finishing Chapter 28 and getting halfway through Chapter 29 as well as working on the outlines and discovery drafts of For the Broken Girl, the next project.

One of the reasons I decided to work on Broken Girl is just a matter of convenience. Last week, I started going back to work as a substitute an extra day or two week. Throughout the semester, I only did maybe one or two days a week and since the beginning of May, I’ve been going 2-3 days. Last week, I decided to make sure it’s at least three days if possible.

But working more over the next few weeks before the school year lets out means I have to manage my expectations. Book 2 is really demanding on my energy and it’s just not something I can write a lot of during my work day, even on breaks and or lunch. So I decided to do some peripheral writing — working on plot breakdowns, cleaning up my files and sorting through all the mess my documents fell into during graduate school, and then working on Book 2 either at night or on my days off.

So far this week, that worked out pretty well and I feel good about this new approach. My goal is really to set good expectations for myself, and there are only about 2-3 weeks left in which I can get decent sub jobs.

Hoping to get to a flash fiction post tonight!

Writing

Day 1: Short Delay

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Writing 2019

So a lot of things kept me from writing every day last week.  I got sick and then my computer decided it would literally not open any programs. I could click on the shortcut as much as I wanted to and nada. I spent three days backing up and resetting my entire computer. Oy. Now I have to reinstall everything. It’s a giant pain.

But today, I’m mostly feeling better and my computer is back on its way to decent health. It’s almost six years old, and I really need it to last at least another year before I can invest in a new one. I’ve been working on a few things. I’m working on the basic outline for Kismet, the chapter breakdown of Mad World, Book 2, and the timeline for For The Broken Girl.

There’s a few minor details I’m still working out for Book 2, mostly because I’m taking on a couple of more stories. I know some readers were probably a little worried when I said Book 2 would be more of an ensemble but there’s actually nothing that’s happening in Book 2 that I didn’t already introduce in Book 1. The PCPD, the Quartermaines, and the teens were all in there. I even introduced the serial rapist storyline in that book.

What makes Book 2 more of an ensemble than Book 1 is the central narrative. In Book 1, it’s Carly’s kidnapping. I showed how that effected the people in Port Charles: the police, her family, and those on the periphery. Because Jason and Elizabeth were so crucial to the search and resolution, and it was Elizabeth’s story, she and Jason seemed like the central narrative.  Book 2 still has a lot to do with them. They’re in every chapter. They’re just not going to drive the story the way they did in Book 1. It’s going to be fine, I promise 😛

I’ve written Chapters 20-27 already and my goal this week is to get through Chapter 30, which will get me 30% of the way through the planned chapters. If everything goes the way I want it to, I’m hoping to be finished Book 2 by the end of June.  I feel like giving myself six weeks to write 20 chapters is a realistic deadline. If I get into a groove, writing a chapter a day, I could be done in three weeks but I think it’s better if I give myself more time.

I’ll check back in tomorrow, hopefully with some good news 🙂

 

Writing

Day 0: Back To Writing

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Writing 2019

On Monday, May 13, I officially completed the course work for my graduate degree, which means for the first time since I started writing again 2014, I’m not studying for anything. I started writing again while in London, studying for my masters. Then I was studying math for my Praxis, and then I was studying for my teaching certification and second master’s degree. I’m free.

I also don’t have a job lined up for next year so far, so it looks like I’ll be substituting. For the next three and a half months, I have nothing pulling on my time. I still work as a substitute now but I’m not trying to study during the day and rushing to a second job at night. I’m just…completely free.

So I’m going back to writing full-time basically which makes me incredibly happy. I have so many projects I want to work on, and a few I know my readers are looking forward to.  I’m going to blog about it the way I did NaNoWriMo last November because I felt like that really helped to keep me focused.

I haven’t quite decided what project I want to start first. I have a few that I’m looking at — Counting Stars, For the Broken Girl, and of course the next installment of Mad World. I was looking back at Counting Stars and while there’s material in there I really like, I think I’m going to end up sticking with my conclusion then: I like the plot but it needs to be more than a simple Liason story. I need to open up the world to make the character motivations work. It’s still on my list of things I want to tackle, but there’s just a lot that needs to happen first.

I finished the breakdown for Mad World Book 2, so that’s probably going to happen first, but I’m concerned with the fact that the two projects I’ve picked to focus on first are extremely emotionally draining and I wonder if maybe I want to have a back up project to play with in my spare time that’s less than demanding. That’s kind of how I got through The Best Thing — I worked on All We Are in the background, which took less emotional labor if that makes sense.

So I think I want to pick two projects — one longer novel and then one shorter, more fun story. I’m looking at my development list. Kismet or These Small Hours are probably good candidates, but neither of them are outlined or developed enough. I don’t know. I’m still playing with this idea and maybe the second story is something I haven’t really thought through yet. I’m excited to get back into writing though.

Days of Our Lives

Immigration Story on #Days Fails At Everything

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Days Commentary

Believe it or not, I’m actually not a difficult soap viewer to please. As long as the show is watchable and I have the time, I’ll watch any story even if my favorite couple or character aren’t at the center. I’ve always been a fan of the ensemble nature of these shows and I like to think I’ve been flexible on my couples.

I usually use three measures to decide what makes a soap story watchable. Does the story make sense? Does it serve the characters? Is it entertaining? The best stories hit all three marks, but they’re rare. They’re the Metro Court Hostage story on GH in 2007 or the hospital quarantine of 2006. In my short time as a Days viewer,  I thought Kristin’s return hit all three but I didn’t really know to measure it in terms of character because I didn’t know those characters yet.

This immigration story is a bust on every single question.

Does the story make sense? 

No. And it’s not that I’m mad that the show is attempting to take on a hot social topic. I’ve always thought my other soap, GH, was at its best tackling stories like breast cancer, AIDs, sexual assault, and the death or illness of a child. Those have been some of my favorite and most lasting memories.

My problem with the actual structure of this story is that they’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too. You cannot tackle the MAGA immigration angle at the same time you’re writing a traditional Green Card marriage. This isn’t Robert and Holly on 1980s GH. Hailey is not a European immigrant, she’s a Chinese immigrant and that has always meant something different in this country, going back to 1882 and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first piece of legislation this country ever passed limiting immigration due to race.

I think Hailey’s story needs to be told, and I would have respected it if they’d gone with the Dreamer angle. She’s young enough to have qualified for the program. That program is in constant peril and that might have been more compelling.

There is no way on this planet that a young Chinese illegal immigrant would have a deportation order issued, marry an American citizen, and then have her deportation waived. It’s simply not believable.

And that’s before we even discuss the INSANITY of Jack running for mayor after five minutes of being back with amnesia. The optics of a supremely unqualified white man coming back from the dead with amnesia to run against a black man and an Asian woman who both have more experience without once ACKNOWLEDGING the racial implications of that vision is irresponsible storytelling. You don’t get to take on a racist topic and then be completely racist while doing it.

Does the story serve the characters?

The only person that has escaped this story without looking like complete trash thus far is JJ. He made an obviously horrible mistake in trusting his father, but that felt right and believable. But this story has literally destroyed nearly everyone in its path. We’ll work our way up.

Hailey was the most sympathetic, and I was with her until she married Tripp.  I can forgive her slightly because she’s obviously desperate and that might be way she’s not reading Claire’s obviously crazy eyes. I understood why she thought marrying JJ would bring more scrutiny on her from Jack, but marrying a man who has a girlfriend and then YOU’RE the one who tells her she has to move? It’s not a good look, and as a new character, she doesn’t have a lot of leeway with the audience. We forgive so much less when we don’t know you.

Tripp is complete trash for suggesting this plan, for making Claire go through this publicly, and then not even offering to move out. The worst thing about it is that this story was making me warm up to Tripp finally but it’s a complete nosedive.

Claire is probably not meant to be the hero of this story, but damn if I’m not rooting for her to blow everyone up. Olivia Rose Keegan is killing this material, but I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be dreading whatever she’s planning. I’m just not a fan of Claire going after Hailey alone. Light them all up, girl.

Smaller casualties are probably Jen and Adrienne, and that’s mostly because they’re not given a lot to do other than wag their finger at Jack in moral outrage. It’s not interesting. There was a moment when I thought Adrienne was going to pretend to marry Jack and Eve and that would have been fun. Instead, she made a complete fool of herself which is sad because A — she’s not on enough for me to have built any opinion of her since August and B – I KNOW she’s part of a hugely popular 80s supercouple. I want more for her based on all of that.

Which brings me to Jack and Eve. They’re destroyed utterly by this. Completely. And irretrievably. I don’t know if I can EVER look past those rallies and want them anywhere near these other characters I’ve grown to love.

Jack’s return had me super excited. I know how popular he was, and I’ve always loved Matthew Ashford since I saw him on 90s GH as Tom Hardy.  That promo announcing his return was incredible — and MA has been turning in a killer performance.

I get that maybe we want to explore who Jack is without Jen. I know from reading his profiles that he was not a great guy even before he raped Kayla. I know that he was “redeemed” by Jen’s love for him. (Another trope I’ll set on fire at some point). But why did we need to turn him into a racist asshole to do it? The minute he stood up and outed Hailey and JJ — I wrote him off. I don’t know if we can come back from this. And if that’s how I feel as a new viewer, my heart breaks for the Jack fans who wanted him back for so long.

And Eve.  My God what they’ve done to Eve.

I grew up watching Kassie dePaiva on and off as Blair Cramer. I was never as devoted to OLTL as I was to GH, but it’s probably the soap I watched the second most — and I always loved Blair. I was ready to love Eve because I LOVE Kassie. Last fall, everything about Eve made me happy. And when she left town, walked out on Brady after learning he’d slept with Kristen, I was so excited she’d left on a high note. I was excited for her to come back.

And this is the Eve we have. The worst thing is that there are flashes of the Eve I liked last year still there — the scenes with Claire are lovely, and bring back memories of Blair and Starr. Kassie has a wonderful way of playing mama bear and if Claire’s parents or family can’t be bothered, I’m happy Eve is there.

But Eve is trash. Her only redeemable value is Kassie is playing her and I am predisposed to loving her so when they clean Eve up, I guess I’ll let them. But this story screws her completely.

Is it entertaining?

When a story makes no sense and trashes everyone involved, it makes it hard to get to this question. I can’t think of a single story I’ve ever liked that didn’t do the first two things. The only thing I like about this story is that JJ hasn’t been trashed yet. That’s a low bar to clear.

The Days immigration story is the kind of material that you get through because you love these characters and you love the actors. But the material makes me cringe and I actively dread days when it’s on. I hate that the writers wrote the story this way, but I hate even more that the show tapes so far into the future that there is no course correction to look forward to.

We’re all in this until the bitter end, and I’m pretty sure we’re just going to wave a magic wand and somehow Hailey won’t be illegal anymore. Which means we’ll have destroyed characters for NO REASON AT ALL.

Silver Thaw (Catherine Anderson)

Overall

The first time I read this book, I rated it as three stars. This is mostly because I've been kind of held by back by being annoyed by two Anderson tropes that pretty much appear in every single book she's released in the last decade or so. During my reread of the Keegan-Paxton series as well as re-reading Stephanie Laurens, I'm not going to take those aspects into account anymore. This is who she is as a writer, and since I keep buying her books, I don't think it's fair to make that part of my analysis.

Those two tropes are heroines with incredibly melodramatic and tragic backstories as well as her slightly unrealistic dialogue, both of which are present here. Since I like everything else about this book, we're taking them off the table.

Amanda Banning is a young single mother on the run from an abusive husband, trying to care for her young daughter. Jeb Sterling is a typical Anderson hero who comes from a large family of mostly boys with pretty much the perfect parents and a lot of money. It's set in central Oregon in a new setting for Anderson: Mystic Creek. Previously, her contemporary books were set in Crystal Falls. It's sort of a shared universe because Mystic is near Crystal Falls, and I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some sort of overlap at some point.

Jeb and Amanda meet because of a really  bad winter storm that destroys her rental home, but Jeb already knows a lot about Amanda because she's been writing things on strips of paper and letting them fly off into the wind.

This is a really sweet romance with a great dog, some interesting twists and turns, and a lot of family around the holidays which is nice to read these days. While in the past I might not have really liked just how insane they made Amanda's husband, I'm fully cognizant of the fact that men like Mark do exist and women like Amanda are often left completely powerless, so that's another thing we're not judging for.

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The Duke I Once Knew (Olivia Drake)

Overall

This is one of the books that you like while you're reading it, but that you can't entirely remember all that much a week or so later. In fact, I was trying to remember the lead characters' names and I simply couldn't. It's been like two weeks since I read this and I had to flip through it to remember the details.

I mean, I liked this book. I always like these stories where the leads fell in love as teenagers and are separated by circumstances to find each other as adults. This is probably my second favorite trope after marriage of convenience. I liked Max and Abby and most of the supporting characters -- I definitely hope this isn't the last we've seen of Max's sister and Abby's cousin.

I'm not entirely sure why this book isn't going to stay with me. I guess maybe I'm just tired of daddy issues being the only thing that drives male protagonists. Max is a horrible rake who doesn't ever come home to see his sister because of his father? Eh. It's just over done.

I'll probably reread this book, but only because I like rereading books that I don't remember that well. They always feel new again 😛

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Bella and the Beast (Olivia Drake)

Overall

Of all the books in this series, this is the one that closely aligns to a specific fairy tale and features references from the Disney 1992 movie, down to being forbidden to go into the west wing. That 1992 movie is one of my favorite movies of all time so I was already predisposed to like this story.

The characters and the romance make up for a little bit of a lukewarm plot. I love the heroine--Bella is incredibly self-sufficient and her own person. I liked Miles a lot -- there are few things I did not love him about him, but they're more about the plot. I liked the way they worked together, I liked watching them get to know one another.  They just worked.

I think my main problem with the plot of the story is that there are a few extraneous characters who don't serve a purpose and the murder of Miles' father happened more than two decades before the book opens, so it feels a little dusty as a motivation. When you find out who the villain is, it's hard to believe it could have stayed hidden for so long.

But all the pieces line up and I like the romance so much that this is one of my personal favorites to reread.

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Abducted by the Prince (Olivia Drake)

Overall

Objectively, this is not a stellar book. It's fine and everything works for the most part, but there's nothing here that should blow me away or that's special. Yet, for some reason, I love rereading the second half of this book from time to time. I don't know. I can't explain it.

Ellie is a spinster poor relation who has spent her whole life tending to her younger cousins because of her gambling father. Damien is an illegitimate gambling club owner who has a childhood connection to Ellie's cousin, Walter, who stole something that relates to Damien's murky past. To get it back, Damien decides to kidnap Beatrice, Walter's cousin, but ends up with Ellie. They don't know that until they're up in an isolated Scottish island.

There are a lot of readers, particularly these days, that would be turned off by the kidnapping trope. It's not really a deal breaker for me--it usually depends on the context and the way it's written. It's not great, but it's not as bad as others I've read.

The romance is actually pretty good -- I buy the slow build and the reasons these two come together, their bumps in the road. I like both the characters, but I think the overall plot is pretty weak and the supporting characters are cardboard and one-dimensional.

I think it's a good book that's worth reading once, maybe twice. With a tighter plot and better supporting cast, it would have been much better.

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Stroke of Midnight (Olivia Drake)

Overall

There's something about this book that I just don't connect with. All of the elements should be there, but something is missing -- I think it's in the characters and the romance after a certain point. This is one of the books that does the setup just right but misses the dismount.

Laura Faulkner returns after ten years abroad--she and her father were once the toast of the ton but forced to flee when he was accused of stealing one of the most valuable diamonds from a leading hostess. Until then, Laura had been courted by Alex, the Earl of Copley. It was Alex that found a set of earrings and publicly accused her father. Laura cut his cheek, scarring him, as she and her father left. She returns after her father is killed in London, and wants to clear his name. Through Lady Milford, Laura becomes the companion to Alex's aunt and that's how they run into each other.

I think maybe I wanted more from Alex and from the romance after the middle of the book. Alex is supposed to have a tragic backstory, but I never quite felt that. I like this book, but it just left me meh and I usually skip over it when I reread the series.

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If the Slipper Fits (Olivia Drake)

Overall

I really like this book, and it serves as a really good introduction to the series (which lasts another five books).  I think it was my first Olivia Drake book and I've been relatively happy with her all along.

There's a bit of a fairy tale element with this series and with this book specifically. Annabelle is an illegitimate orphan left to rot in a boarding school where she now teaches.  She's given a position as a governess to an orphaned duke by a slightly mysterious benefactor, Lady Milford, who also gives her a pair of elegant shoes. It's the shoes and Lady Milford that ties all six books together rather than the characters. She's sent to Cornwall where the duke, Nicholas, is living with his guardian, his uncle Simon. It's very much a Cinderella story.

I really like Annabelle and Simon for the first 80% of the book. Simon is a bit of a bitter soul--Nicholas's mother was a woman Simon had courted but married George, the duke. He didn't speak to his brother again before George and his wife died. He went into the army, had plans for his life--but now he's guardian to a little boy that he resents.

And Simon is unlikeable for the first third of the book. He really resents his nephew. I applaud Olivia Drake for actually writing a guardian who doesn't like his ward rather than paying lip service.  It gives Annabelle something to do when she shows up.

My main problem is that Simon's POV disappears in the last part of the book, leading up to the climax. He does an about face that we don't get to see, only experience when Annabelle does. I expect my main leads to do equal heavy lifting in my romance novels, and Simon's epiphany happens off screen. There are a couple of things that happen this way towards the end. The background plot with attempted killing and whatnot -- it happens in a bit of a hurry, and I think that's why it feels rushed at the end.

It's an overall satisfying read, but if Simon had just showed up at the end of the book, it could have been one of my top favorites.

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