Saturday, September 11, 2010

Series Review: Lords of the Underworld

The next review I'd like to write is on a favored series, The Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter. Gena Showalter has quite a few series and stand alone novels, some of which I've read and some I haven't yet had the pleasure. I've enjoyed everything she's written, but the Lords are a personal favorite. (And there's no vampires!! *smiley face*). I'm sure her other series will make it to a review in this blog in the future (even the ones with vampires...).

Series Overview: There's a lot to like about this series and little to dislike. Although the actual dynamic of the series general plot is a very old, tried and true, how the details and old ideas are put together are original.

The series starts outside Budapest with a castle full of dark, brooding, muscle bound men who keep to themselves. One day a woman stumbles on to their grounds and one of these brooding males takes a shine to her and protects her, in his own gruff way, from the wrath of the rest of his brothers. So far, not so original. Quite a few paranormal romance series starts out as such, but this one was well written and intriguing so I continued to read (and they weren't vampires, which is always a plus).

Here's the interesting part. Gena Showalter has weaved together Greek mythology with more modern day religious icons to create the Lords. Whereas Zeus and the other gods are real in this world, so are Lucifer and a whole host of demons. The titans and a few angels are even thrown in there for good measure.

A very long time ago, a group of demons escaped from hell and ran rampant on earth. As a punishment, the Greek gods put together an inescapable box. The demons were rounded up and placed in the box. A race of men and women were created for the sole purpose of guarding this box. When Pandora was put in charge of the box's safekeeping, there were those who were jealous. Pandora was killed and the box was opened, releasing the evil on the earth again.

Once more the demons were rounded up, but instead of being placed back in the box, they were placed inside each of the warriors that had a hand in their release from Pandora's box. This was a punishment for both the demon and the warrior. Being immortals, they would suffer together forever, the demon once again contained and the warrior driven insane from the demon's torments.

So, of course, after a thousand years or so, each of them start to find females and falls head over heals for them. Funny how that always seems to happen at the same time in each and every series. And also, they are waging war with some big bad human contingent set on their extermination.

Here is a listing of the current books and a few future books (note there are also two short stories not listed below):

  • The Darkest Night - Maddox, the keeper of Violence
  • The Darkest Kiss - Lucien, the keeper of Death
  • The Darkest Pleasure - Reyes, the keeper of Pain
  • The Darkest Whisper - Sabin, the keeper of Doubt
  • The Darkest Passion - Aeron, the keeper of Wrath
  • The Darkest Lie - Gideon, the keeper of Lies
  • The Darkest Secret (May 2011) - Amun, keeper of Secrets
  • The Darkest Surrender (July 2011) - Strider, keeper of Defeat 

Conclusion: I'm a huge Gena Showalter fan. She hasn't disappointed yet. I love her writing style and have long wished to better my own skill so I can write in a similar style. This is one of the best series I've read and I highly recommend it to any paranormal romance fans out there. There's a little of everything, action, adventure, love, romance, betrayal, and everything else (except vampires! no vampires!). There's some hint at a crossover to her other series and even a mention of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. It's a world filled with life like characters that you immediately sympathize with and only want to see them happy, even if they are demons.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm Not Really Gone

It's been a little while since I posted, but wanted to reassure everyone that I'm not really gone. I've been around, stewing on ideas, lurking on various writing websites. Never fear, I haven't given up or lost the writing bug. With a lot going on personally, I needed a break.

So, what's been going on you ask? Well, only because you asked, I did manage to finish three short stories (one suspense, one horror and one teaser to a paranormal romance series I've been thinking quite a lot about) and work out the rest of the plots of my urban fantasy novel and my paranormal romance novella.

I submitted one short story to a flash fiction contest. It was my very first submission and was very exciting to see the process. According to the publisher, there were 20 spots and 60 submissions. They were looking for fantasy and my story borderlined on romance. So, with all that in mind, I wasnt surprised that I got my first rejection letter.

Otherwise, I've only been toying with writing. That is, until the last couple days. I started a new project. It was meant for a particular purpose, but as most projects do, it took on a life of it's own. Now it is something very different, but very special and dear to me. It is a memoir of sorts and is so personal that I doubt I would ever share it or dare publish it. Perhaps after I am a successful writer and someone goes through my things once I've died. Or then, maybe not.

Friday, May 14, 2010

You're so progressive

My last post was about verb tense. Exciting stuff I know. As a follow up, I’d like to discuss the progressive form of each tense.

So what’s progressive form? Well, it means that the action of the verb is continuing or progressing. It will contain some version of the verb to be and a present participle (an ‘ing verb).


   Present                I am walking / He is walking

   Present perfect    I have been walking / He has been walking

   Past                    I was walking

   Past perfect        I had been walking

   Future                I will/shall be walking

   Future perfect    I will/shall have been walking

“Mary is counting the money.”
“While John was walking to the store, he tripped over a stone.”
Now, tie it in with perfect tense and it gets all sorts of confusing:

“Jane will have been camping for three days come this Tuesday.”
“By the time John got to the store, Mary had been counting all the money.”
So, if progressive means the action is continuing and perfect means the action has completed, then which is it?

Trust me. I know how confusing it is. It took me a little while and a lot of thinking to wrap my little brain around this concept. It’s all about timing.

Let’s take the first example:

“Jane will have been camping for three days come this Tuesday.”
This is the progressive form of future perfect tense. What this says is that Jane is currently camping (the continuing “progressive” part). On Tuesday, three days of camping will be completed (the completed “perfect” part).

Right now the action is ongoing, but it has a definitive end.

Let’s take the second example:

“By the time John got to the store, Mary had been counting all the money.”
This is the progressive form of past perfect tense. The past perfect tense means that something happened in the “past” past and is complete. However, throw the progressive form in there and it changes everything. This example says that Mary had already been counting the money before John got to the store (the past perfect part), but she is still counting all the money (the continuing “progressive” part).

So why is it so complex? Because now, you can say almost anything happened at any time and is either completed or still going on at any other point in time in one compact sentence instead of a whole paragraph.

Instead of saying:

“Mary started to count the money. John got to the store. She continued to count.”
You can condense all three into our example:

“By the time John got to the store, Mary had been counting all the money.”
Now, don’t get all excited and start condensing all your sentences into the progressive form. There is a time and a place for everything and if you start using the progressive form to emphasize timing throughout your work, the other events start to take a backseat. Then, when you do have an important scene, where timing is crucial, the reader won’t notice.

Even in our example, Mary and John are not the important elements. The fact that Mary is counting the money as John got to the store is the part that has emphasis. Perhaps that’s what we wanted to accomplish and perhaps it’s not.

Only use it when timing is important and that’s what you’re trying to emphasize. This is where a lot of writers get caught. They think they can condense their writing, but end up changing the focus of the sentence. Is it important that John went to the store, or that Mary hadn’t finished counting by the time he got there?

It’s your story. You decide what’s important.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why are you so tense?

Verb tense. Wow. Am I really going to talk about verb tense? As a matter of fact, I am. Besides the basic present and past (and sometimes future), I really don’t give tense much thought on a day to day basis. It just comes out of my mouth when I speak and if it sounds right, I use it. Now that I’m writing, I sound it out in my head to see if it “sounds” right, but it would be much better if I wrote it correctly to begin with.

So, I started to re-educate myself on basic grammar and even if I knew the rule, I wanted to learn what everything was technically called. For whatever reason, I latched onto tense first. Here’s what I scrounged up.

There are six tenses.

   Simple past               I walked

   Simple present          I walk

   Simple future            I will/shall walk

   Past perfect              I had walked

   Present perfect         I have walked

   Future perfect          I will/shall have walked

Okay, simple tense I understand quite well. I grasp all three simple tenses and use them correctly and effectively every day. Perfect tense, however, is a different story.

First of all, what does “perfect” mean? Why call it past “perfect” tense? Because perfect means completed. When I say, “I had walked,” it means that I walked at some point in the past and I completed my walking. Here are a few examples:

“I walked to the store.” – This is open ended. You could still be walking or at the store.
“I had walked to the store.” – Implies you walked to the store, did you what you needed to do and you are no longer there.
What about future and future perfect?

“When I’m done with dinner, I will walk to the store”. – this says that you are going to finish your dinner and then you are going to walk to the store.
“When I’m done with dinner, I will have walked to the store.” – This says, by the time you are finished with dinner, you will be at the store.
The examples aren’t exactly how we would naturally word something when we speak or write, but do you see the difference in the meaning by changing from future to future perfect?

Recently, I have been running into the past perfect tense a lot. Many writers will if they use past tense, which is the norm (although, not necessarily a standard). What happens when someone in the past is talking about something further in the past, like a flashback (sometimes jokingly referred to as the “past” past tense)?

“John wanted me to take a shower, but I had taken a bath already.”

“Although Mary had eaten earlier, her stomach growled.”

“By the time Jane reached her house, she had worked up a sweat.”

Since the writing is already in the past, to point out something that happened further in the past, we used past perfect.

There’s a catch in there. Sometimes, you can use “had” and past perfect too much. In today’s written world, if the meaning is there and there is no implication otherwise, you don’t have to get all fancy. To take a previous example:

“Mary asked me where I got the milk. I told her that I walked to the store this morning.”

“Mary asked me where I got the milk. I told her that I had walked to the store this morning.”

Technically, the reader will pick up the same meaning from both examples because of the context. If you are writing a long flashback and “had” is all over the place and becoming annoying, it’s okay to drop it if the meaning remains the same or if the reader knows from the context that it’s happening in the “past” past, but be very careful, because it’s very easy to change meaning unintentionally.

“When I got to the house, my ice cream melted” – I got to the house, THEN my ice cream melted. Messy house.
“When I got to the house, my ice cream had melted” – My ice cream melted by the time I got to the house. Messy car ride to the house.
As always, everything in moderation and check for meaning. We writers sometimes know what we are trying to say, but don’t get it down on paper the way we think we do. This is especially true when working with the perfect tense.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I feel so weak (Part I)

In my quest to improve my grammar and overall writing style, I stumbled on a reference to weak words. Not realizing that words could be strong or weak, I slogged forward into the unknown.
As it turns out, words that are vague or frequently used, so that they lose their forcefulness, are considered weak. Who knew? Well, a lot of people, apparently, but I had missed the memo. I had found yet more words that were grammatically correct, but were frowned upon by the writing community.

Determined to find a listing of these words to strike them out of my vocabulary, I found quite a lot of differing answers as to what a weak word actually was. Sure there are standard words, but sometimes it just comes down to what you use often and how you use it. I know one phrase I tend to write when limited on my point of view is, “seemed to” or “seemed as if”.

“Mary seemed to agree”

“Jane seemed as if her heart were breaking.”

I’m not in Mary or April’s point of view, so we can’t really know what they are thinking. Seems like a good alternative, right? Well, let’s see if we can make it stronger.

“Mary nodded her head in agreement.”

“Jane’s heart breaking cries echoed down the street.”

I had to reword a bit, but it’s stronger and more descriptive. You can now picture Mary agreeing or Jane’s tears.

A recent story I wrote needed to be edited. “Perfect time to test out my weak words!” I thought. My plan of attack consisted of me going through the story once for plot holes, once for grammar, then once again for style. When I thought I had everything edited to perfection, I did a search for the following words.

  • Walked
  • Looked
  • Was
  • Seemed
  • As if
  • Silent (I knew I used this word at a lot)
  • Quiet (this one too)
What I found really opened my eyes. Here I had a story that, in my mind, was polished and done. I did a search and realized how many weak words I still had left in there. I edited several sentences and now feel even better about my story.

Notice that silent and quiet are not necessarily weak words, but I knew I had used both several times in a 7,900 word story. Just by virtue of being repeatedly hit over the head with the words, the reader is going to get sick of hearing how quiet/silent it is and the words will lose their strength. What I had done was make a strong word into a weak one by overuse. (Not to mention that it’s annoying when writers use the same word over and over…and over.)

Okay, so we covered overuse, but what about vague words? Words like seemed, looked, walked, turned, etc. are vague. What sounds better?

“He walked down the street.”
“He sauntered down the street.”

Which gives you a better mental image of the man? How about..

“He flew down the street like the fires of hell were licking at his toes.”

Much better than just…

“He ran down the street.”

Of course you don’t have to get so flowery, but my point is that if you aren’t so vague, you’ll paint a clearer picture of what’s going on in the scene.

Yeah, you could use adverbs, but I’ve already discussed their evils. It’s much better to use a strong action verb instead.

This might mean you have to get a little creative in your wording, but isn’t that the point? You don’t want your writing to be boring do you? Get creative. Have fun with it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Series Review: The Nightwalkers

Today’s series has a large and very loyal fan base. It’s The Nightwalkers, a paranormal romance series by Jaquelyn Frank ( Although there are vampires, they don’t take a predominant role, which appealed to me greatly in this paranormal romance market flooded with angsty teenage girls and the vampires that love their whininess.

There are several species of Nightwalkers. It’s a generic term used for all of the creatures out there that aren’t human. Nearly all of the Nightwalkers can’t go out in the daylight for one reason or another, hence the name, but this series primarily focuses on demons. It does side track to shapeshifters, vampires and a few others, but the main story line throughout the series is demon.

Series Overview: This series has a lot of plusses, but it also has a lot of minuses. I don’t want to offend any of the hardcore fans out there, but I had to put down the second book (and the third) several times just to take a break. I could have skipped the first third of the book and been fine because the author took that long to explain what happened in the first book. I know why she did it, to make each book stand alone in case someone picked up the second one first, but for those of us who had read the first one, it was incredibly boring. It does get better as the series progresses, and the author uses other methods to explain what’s happened so far in the story.

On the other hand, the world that the author has created is rich and unique. One of my requirements of a good series is that I can lose myself in the world, and I found myself getting lost in these books quite often (in a good way). I liked the characters and even though the writing style of the author annoyed me, I felt connected enough to those characters to continue with the rest of the series. However, I will not be picking up her other two series.

Jacob – This book drew me into the series immediately. Jacob is an enforcer for the demon race. He’s kinda like their police force. Most of his job is keeping demons away from humans. When he becomes uncontrollably drawn to one human in particular, who will enforce him?

Jacob was my favorite book in the series. It introduces the world and there’s just so much potential.

Gideon – This one had the potential of being my favorite if it wasn’t a retelling of the first book and then Gideon’s story. The plot of this one was right up my alley and could have really been fabulous. However, the author likes to use a lot of the telling style. Normally, I don’t mind some telling, but the first third of this book is almost all telling and it got really boring, really quickly. What kept me reading were the characters.

We’re also introduced to the shapeshifters and yet more of this wonderful world is revealed.

Elijah – If you wanted to know more about the shapeshifters, this is the book. There is quite a bit less telling in this book and the style in general is much better. However, these particular characters weren’t my personal favorite. So it remains a good book in the series, but not my favorite.

Damien – We’ve gotten hints about Damien up to this point in the series and we finally get his story. This book deviates from demons and focuses on vampires and shapeshifters almost exclusively. Again, it is better written, but the characters were not my favorite. This one does get more into the ongoing plot and moves the whole series forward. I have to admit that I enjoyed that part.

Noah – I had been looking forward to this book. Noah was one of my favorite characters and I really wanted to see him with a happy ending. That said, I literally put the book down and started yelling because I was so disappointed at his actions. It totally ruined my view of this very beloved character. He does make up for it and everything comes together in the end, but the beginning left a very bad taste in my mouth.

Otherwise, it was a decent book in the series. However, the ongoing plots were barely touched. I don’t know if she plans more in this series, but there are several loose ends that need to be tied up.

Conclusion: Some people rave about this series and how great it is. I think it had potential (I think I’ve used that word very liberally in this post so far), but it ended up fizzling or at least not being as great as it could have been. The plots themselves, the world, and the characters are wonderful. It’s the writing style and the constant rehashing of previous books that turned me off the most (not to mention my disillusionment of Noah in the last book).

If I knew then, what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this series. Now that I’ve been immersed in the world, I’d continue reading if more books were put out just to see what happens.

She does have two other series going, but I will not be reading them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Technology, It's Here to Stay

To the left is an actual picture of my keyboard. Well, one on my keyboards. Yes, it's quite dusty. I am known to be rough of keyboards and mice. I've done a lot of writing on that particular keyboard. However, I'm finding that, in the last couple months, I've been branching out leaving my trusty keyboard to sit and collect dust.

As posted about previously, I've purchased several nifty gadgets recently. Most of them were acquired under the guise of helping my writing. And they have. I've never been so productive.

If I have an idea, I jot it down immediately so I don't forget. Don't have pencil and paper? That's okay, let me pull out my netbook and/or smartphone. In fact, I started this post on my smartphone and am now finishing it on a netbook.

So, with technology so prevalent and easy to use, I wondered if there were writers who still used the reliable old pen and paper. Even a huge techno-geek like myself has used pen and paper at times, but, admittedly, I haven't in several months. I have too many alternatives and I can type faster than I can hand write.

Which brings me to another point. When I hand write, I can't keep up with the thoughts in my head and I end up missing quite a lot and only writing the highlights. If I type out my thoughts, I get more recorded. True, not every thought I have is a good one and perhaps it's a good thing that they don't all get recorded, but how am I going to know unless I get everything down so I can look at it later?

With technology, also comes distraction. I can check websites, forums, chats, ebooks, blogs, etc. all day long and not get a thing done, if I'm not careful. A whole new set of organizational skills and self-control are needed. At this very moment, I have a netbook, a phone, an mp3 player and a television in front of me and most of them running at the same time, all individually capable of distracting me for several hours. With all of them in front of me at the same time, there's a whole new level of distraction. There's distractions from my distractions.

So maybe pen, paper and a quiet room isn't so bad after all? Or maybe it's just up to every individual's tastes and preferences.

I tend to work better with technology, even with all the distractions. That doesn't mean that others won't work better with the old non-computerized standbys.

How do you work best?