Almost There: June 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lovely and Lethal Blog Tour: Addi's Mayhem Martini

Everyone knows we already love us some Elegantly Wasted by C. Elizabeth Vescio. Heck, I've already talked about it a few times.

Want to know why you should read this book? Go here.
Want to read a hilarious interview with C. Elizabeth Vescio about EW? Go here.
Want to know why Frankie is one of my Top 5 Favorite Protagonists? Go here.

I'm re-quoting myself here by saying that Elegantly Wasted is a wild, drunk, medicated, murderous, fun ride and I can't wait for the second one. But, heck, it's just so true. Frankie is one of my all time favorite protagonists and I just can't get enough of her frustrating, yet funny as hell cousins. 

That's why I'm really psyched to announce that the Lovely and Lethal blog tour is stopping by with a very fun post from C. Elizabeth Vescio revolving around Addison Fairholm, one of my favorite EW characters! 

Enjoy and don't forget to keep up with Lovely and Lethal's blog tour schedule over and Pen & Muse! Also make sure you like The Wasted Series Facebook page! Every Wednesday is Wasted Winesday!


Addi, the oldest cousin, likes her beer... but when she's feeling a little more classy, she prefers a fruit flavored martini.

Addi's Mayhem Martini
  • Ketel One Vodka (One to Two shots depending on the size of your glass)
  • Shot of Watermelon Pucker
  • Splash of Orange Juice (to fill it up)
  • Straws are classy

This drink seems to taste like cantaloupe to me. My sister has also taken to adding a splash of red bull when she's really trying to kick it up. I'm a big advocate for top shelf vodka- don't be cheap... you won't even have a big hangover in the morning if you stick to the good stuff.

- C. Elizabeth Vescio



Jack of all trades and stereotypical black sheep, C. Elizabeth has been writing somewhat dark and morbid since that teen angst hit in the early 90's- probably because her dad was a mortician. After pursuing a degree in English, she changed gears to photography and design in 2006... although she kept penning stories for fun while reading the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde and Hemingway (whom she adores even though he was a huge douche canoe). In 2009, her life shifted considerably and she found herself writing Elegantly Wasted- helping her sort out a bunch of stupid feelings and other lame stuff. 

Want more of Cara and Elegantly Wasted?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Inspiration: 2 Creative Blogs You SHOULD Be Following

I know, I've been doing a lot of Writer Talk, Reader Talk, and Interviews lately as opposed to the creative design/DIY/inspiration posts I used to do all of the time. It's not that I've given up on that side of things, I've just found that the writer and reader side of posts to be more relevant in my life right now.

Holli and I are writing books that we hope to will finish in July. (Largely in part to Camp NaNoWriMo we plan to participate in.) This means my brain has been a little more inclined to think about things like writing resources, Dos & Donts, POVshumorous writer musings, and, of course, book things.

So, to show you that I still very much love everything design + inspiration, I wanted to share with you two of my favorite creative blogs that you SHOULD already be following.


Honestly, ABM is one of the sites I visit during my daily online routine. I can't put my finger on the exact way I came to know about this lovely blog, but I've been glued to it for more than a year.

ABM is lifestyle blog run by sisters Elsie and Emma. Their topics include Crafts, Photography, Recipes, Decor, Fashion, and Beauty. While I appreciate all of those creatively fueled categories, their crafty DIYs and Decor (specifically the At Home With series) posts are my bread and butter.

I love this site because, despite their obvious popularity, both sisters and the people that work with them seem to be humble and absolutely love what they do. If you ever need an inspirational boost or some creative juice, I suggest you roll on over to their site and spend some time enjoying everything they have to offer!

Their Home page's mini About: A beautiful mess is all about creative a beautiful life. We share daily inspirations, DIY projects and recipes. We believe that the best things in life are homemade.

Amen, sisters!

Oh, how I love me some Design Love Fest. Different in vibe from ABM, Design Love Fest still has all the goodness of a creative and inspirational design blog. 

Bri Emery, founder and editor of DLF, has a knack for style, a flair for life, and is just adorable in general. In the past year the evolution of Blogshop has made DLF even more fun to follow as well as the my favorite reoccurring topics of Make It, Design, Interiors, and Advice.

The graphic designer part of me (as well as the freelancer side of me) is what loves Design Love Fest the most. If you work from home, are a designer, or just love pretty things in general I suggest you put Design Love Fest in your bookmarks!

DLF's tagline: Where type & images totally make out.

*Drool*

Do you have any blogs that you just love?

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reader Talk: Tyler's Top 5 Protagonists

My Top 5 Protagonists
I just got through beta reading C. Elizabeth Vescio's Uncontrollably Wasted, book two in The Wasted Series. (If you even slightly look through my posts you'll see that I am a big fan of this new adult, gritty, murderous, hilarious, and sexy series.) It, without a doubt, was everything I wanted plus more. Reading it only solidified my appreciation for C. Elizabeth Vescio's writing style as well as my love for Frankie Fairholm, the flawed leading lady.

One I finished the book and started the crappy reading withdrawal stages, I really started to think about Frankie and why I loved her. That made me think about what other protagonists I loved. So, since I'm a fan of Top 5 lists, I decided to peg my Top 5 Protagonist down!

Margaret "Meg" Murry - The Time Quartet/Quintet Series (A Wrinkle in Time; A Wind in the Door; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; Many Waters; An Acceptable Time)  by Madeline L'Engle
The Time Quartet series is my favorite series of all time. While other kids were reading about ponies and dragons, I was back and forth to the library reading this series like it was the Jewel of the freaking Nile. The reason I love it so much? Meg. She is awkward, odd, and unpopular. She's also defensive, self conscious, and thinks she's a monster in comparison to her mother. Yet, she mathematically brilliant and fiercely loyal. She cares for Charles Wallace (her even more odd little brother) arguably more than her parents. She doesn't let obstacles throw her and, again, she'd do anything for that brother of hers.
The first book goes by quick but it's enough to show you all the best qualities.

As the series progressed I also fell in love with her relationship with Calvin O'Keefe. He comes from a broken, abusive, dysfunctional family and Meg helps him see that love doesn't always have to be that way. They, as a couple, made me want to have a large family of my own one day. Their love was just contagious.

The series has five books in it and I love them all so much.
Book Two (A Wind in the Door) follows Meg when she is still in school. Book Three (A Swiftly Tilting Planet) follows Meg (pregnant and married) and Charles Wallace. Book Four (Many Waters) follows Meg's younger twin brothers. Book Five (An Acceptable Time) follows Meg and Calvin's oldest daughter, Polly O'Keefe.

One fun fact about Madeline L'Engle is she connects various series off of Meg and Calvin's family. Even though Meg herself isn't the star of those books, you can't help but see some of her in her children.

Goodness, I'm going to go read that series again after this post.


Matt Cruse - Matt Cruse series (Airborn; Skybreaker; Starclimber) by Kenneth Oppel
First of all, go visit Kenneth Oppel's site. It's so much fun!

I normally read books with a strong female lead but after I started Airborn, I fell in love with Matt Cruse and his series. The first book starts him out as a 15-year-old cabin boy aboard the Aurora, a luxury airship. He is so passionate about flying and must work hard to achieve his dream of piloting one some day. Even though he's 15/16, he isn't mentally an adolescent. I read this series for a second time in college and didn't for one moment stop and think about his young age. Matt is also loyal, a trait I just can't help but love in a character.

The story, of course, starts getting crazy. Especially when Kate de Vries, a very wealthy, very stubborn, very curious girl shows up. She spends the book (and the series) getting under poor Matt's skin. She aggravates him to no end which makes for some funny moments. She also gets him to loosen up a bit and that just makes him more endearing as they both get older.

I really don't want to give anything away but if you haven't read this series you really should. I've read it three times and still love Matt as one of my favorite protagonists. (And, OF COURSE, Kate is a bundle of fun!)

All three books follow Matt as the main character.


Myfanwy Thomas -  The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
If you've ever asked me to suggest a book for you, I've most likely said to read The Rook. It is probably one of the best books I've ever read. Its characters, story, and writing style blew my mind and kept me glued to its pages.

This book goes between Myfanwy Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas. Wait, what? Exactly.
The two main characters in this book are, in fact, the same person yet... not. Myfanwy Thomas knew she was going to lose her memory permanently so she left a series of letters for when it happened. You start the book with the no memories Thomas and a lot of confusion. Throughout the book you go between the letters written by the old Thomas to the new Thomas while also following the new Thomas. It may seem confusing but it's brilliant and well executed.

The original Myfanwy is passive, shy, but brilliant and powerful. However, she was kind of a mouse. She got stepped on and undervalued. The new Thomas, in a mission to figure out who wiped her memories, is supposed to mimic her old self but she ends up changing a few things about herself.

What I loved so much about this character is that even though you are reading about one woman, you really have two completely different characters. I found myself loving the original Thomas just as much as I loved the new one.

I really want you all to read it and realize that it is a brilliant book. Both Myfanwys made the book fun, deep, hilarious, exciting, and intriguing.

Book Two is in the works! Woot, woot!

Francesca "Frankie" Fairholm -  Elegantly Wasted by C. Elizabeth Vescio
It's crazy how easy it is for me to relate to Frankie, the sociopath contract killer of The Wasted Series. But, I totally get her. She's in her 20s, flawed, annoyed, with a dysfunctional family and emotional issues she gets pissed at. However, she isn't a whiney little girl. She's sarcastic and doesn't take shit from anyone, even though her cousins send a lot her way.

Her job demands her to be strong and, for the most part she is, but there's the whole human mental and emotional baggage that comes with normal life issues like romantic relationships, family relationships, and work as well as the not so normal issues of killing people. Even though she literally kills people for a living, I found myself rooting for her from page one. 

Frankie's voice is one of the most enjoyable ones I've followed in a series. She's a deeply flawed individual who knows it but keeps on with determination. 

You can read more about my love for Frankie and the series here and here.


Aurora "Roe" Teagarden -  Aurora Teagarden Series (Real Murders; A Bone to Pick; Three Bedrooms, One Corpse; The Julius House; Dead Over Heels; A Fool and His Honey; Last Scene Alive; Poppy Done to Death) by Charlaine Harris
I'm not going to lie, this chick snuck up on me. I was in a lull between series when I decided to give this Harris mystery series a chance. By the way, there is nothing supernatural about this series, which was a big jump for me. However, before I knew it, I was devouring each book.

Protagonist Aurora Teagarden (and yes, she knows it's a wild name) starts off the series as a 28-year-old librarian who is a part of a Real Murders club where 12 members meet up every month to study famous unsolved crimes. She is short (4'11"), not as beautiful as her mother, and really into baffling crimes. 

What I love about this series is that you actually follow her as she grows as a person and, quite honestly, as she goes through a lot of shit. Each book presents new problems, some that last, some that end with the last page of that book. One of the reasons I'm so fond of Roe is because she takes everything thrown at her and deals with them. She's a practical protagonist with emotional hiccups, dysfunctional family/relationship issues, and has relatable fight or flight responses. 

She's just so addicting to read and the series has become one of my favorites because of her. You want a strong protagonist? Roe Teagarden is your woman.

Those are my Top 5 Protagonists!
Who is in YOUR Top 5?

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Currently Digging: Ruche Picks

 shopruche.com
Something about a season change makes us really want to shop. That, plus Ruche's Win Clothes for a Year contest (yes, really!) brought us to their site this evening. The idea of free clothes for a year is something to truly dig, are we right?! Plus, all their stuff is amazing all the time. Clothes and these books are on our summer wishlists for sure!

Holli Anne's Picks



I'll keep this short and simple. I adore this dress. I've been wanting some new shorts that aren't for running, and I'm super picky about shorts, so these are adorable and perfect. And this shirt I obviously need to wear with my new shorts! Ah, pick me to win, Ruche!

Tyler Anne's Picks


I pretty much just am head over heels for books in general. Add Ruche to the mix and I come away with the three books above that I'm goo goo over. The 5 Book is all about where you will be in five years. It is a guide of sorts to help you live your life to the fullest with inspiration, questions, and examples of well-lived lives. Creative Walls smiles at the designer in me as an interior decor book with stunning pictures and unique and inspiring ideas for decorating your walls. The last book I found on Ruche is called Missed Connections and, honestly, I want it the most. It's all about love and what ifs with wonderful artwork to adore throughout. I highly suggest you check out its page here. It has an example page that says, "Throat Tattoo on the L Train. Hey, guy that got on at 1st Ave dressed in black with the throat tattoo. Thanx for existing." It reminds me of Post Secret, without all of the depressing stuff. 

I want all three of these books with a fiery passion! Thank you Ruche for existing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reader Talk: The Thief by Aine Crabtree

A few months ago I (Tyler Anne) had the pleasure of meeting a young woman named Aine Crabtree. She was in the edits stage of her debut novel called The Thief.

I have been lucky enough to be able to read the book and fall in love with its story and characters. This post is a spotlight on the upcoming book and its wonderful author!

The Thief will be available as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and other platforms on June 30, 2013.

Genre 
YA urban fantasy

Approx. page length 
400 

Blurb 
Once upon a time, two girls from opposite corners of the globe collide in a deceptively sleepy town in the deep south. Their unlikely friendship becomes the catalyst that unravels Havenwood's most closely guarded secrets, and will change their lives forever.

Jul Graham doesn't know what to expect when she's sent to live with her grandmother after her father's abrupt disappearance, but it certainly isn't a private school full of foreign students and a magic mirror in her backyard. Her new best friend is a blonde girl who speaks Japanese, and all of the adults - including her grandmother - treat Jul like she's some sort of time bomb. On top of that, she's a subject of interest to her new classmates, who don't seem entirely normal themselves. What is Havenwood hiding?

Reviews
In Aine Crabtree's "The Thief", three students from three different worlds come together in an elaborate private school in the rural Southern United States. Jul is a beautiful, timid girl from New York, Camille is a mysterious orphan from Tokyo, raised by an even more mysterious guardian, and Mac is a mischievously outgoing but charmingly naive boy living in the town he grew up in.
 When mysterious circumstances begin occurring, these students' worlds begin to collide. What begins as an attempt to solve the disappearances of some trivial items soon leads to the teens' unraveling of secrets within the school, and its history that connect them to each other and to centuries-old conflicts spanning across the world - and perhaps even beyond. 
Crabtree's multiple-narrator perspective allows the reader to sympathize with all of her characters, and the exciting nature will keep you turning the pages voraciously.
--Sam Neely

The debut novel in Aine Crabtree’s Archetype series is an exciting beginning to what will surely be an epic adventure! The more you read, the more intrigued you will become, and you will thoroughly enjoy this story as it unfolds layers of legend that continue to cause stirrings in the modern world. Despite some of their more supernatural tendencies, these characters feel real and you will cheer for them, laugh with them, and cry for them as the world they thought they knew begins to reveal itself and they are pushed ever closer to the truth.
--Meg Lawson

My Review
Throughout the past ten years or so I have read countless YA series. Ones that follow only one main character to series like Crabtree’s that follow multiple. I have to say, normally I shy away from more than one narrator in a story but “The Thief” threw me for a loop. Each of her characters had a special something that hooked me. I was intrigued from the get-go by Jul’s quiet nature, Camille’s rebellious tendencies, and, of course, Mac’s good heart and humor. Not to mention my crush over Rhys and sweet love for quiet Destin kept me happily reading. The story could have been worthless and I’d still read it—I’d follow Crabtree’s characters anywhere. They are just that relatable and likeable. Luckily, however, the story was a grand adventure that I had a blast reading. I can’t wait until the second book in the series comes out! And the third, and the fourth, and so on!

A Mini Interview with Aine Crabtree
What was the biggest inspiration for writing The Thief? 
This didn’t consciously hit me for a long time, but the more I put the series together the more I realize the X-Men have been a major source of inspiration. I was a huge fan of the cartoon that ran in the 90s, and I’ve noticed a lot of similar themes cropping up. It was probably the first thing I came in contact with as a kid that embedded the idea of ensemble casts in my head. Bleach, The Venture Brothers, A Song of Ice and Fire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Last Airbender (the animated series) are also high up on the list of things that have lent me their strength. I could go on ad nauseum, probably.

What was your favorite part of The Thief?
Probably the scene in the cafeteria where Jul is trying to avoid Rhys and inadvertently assembles all three narrators at one lunch table. There’s just so much going on in that one little section. All three of them have completely different things going on, and as the reader you’re aware of what Jul and Mac are probably thinking even though the scene is from Camille’s perspective. I’m just very pleased with the way that particular bit turned out.

Who is your favorite character and why?
I’m a little split here. Mac is made of magic writer fuel. Many times when I’ve been stuck, I’ve been able to switch to a Mac chapter and still forge forward. No matter how dire things get, Mac is always there to put things in perspective and make me laugh. If writers were witches, Mac would be my familiar.

Now if we’re talking about who I’d love the most if I were reading this series…that would have to be Kei. I really love Kei. He has this wonderful capacity for pissing off every other character in some way or other.

In three words describe your book.
Mirrored, woven, broken.

Links
Prologue
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Blog - Twitter - Book Site

Aine Crabtree is the creator / earth mother goddess of an alternate universe, where the good are sacrificed upon the Altar of Cliffhangers and the wicked flourish to prolong the dramatic tension. She lives in Huntsville, AL with Spike, the world’s cutest kitten, plotting her escape to somewhere less humid. She is still waiting to be recruited by the X-Men. 

The Thief is her first novel. 



Monday, June 17, 2013

Parks and Recreation Series: Getting Out of the Pit

























TV Inspiration is a Summer blogging series that the Annes came up with to help spread inspiring content based on two popular TV series. Holli Anne's series is Parks and Recreation. Her Intro post can be found here. Tyler Anne's series is Lost. Her Intro post can be found here and first post can be found here.
This post is Holli Anne's Tv Inspiration. 


Season 1 is definitely not the best when it comes to Parks and Recreation, but honestly, what show's first season is its prime?

I will say, though, that going back and watching Season 1 after having seen them all is pretty fun. They're so young!

If you decide to give the show a chance, just plug your way through Season 1's six episode run because man, oh, man, the show gets so funny!

While it's not comedic gold, per se, this season obviously introduces most of the show's base characters, not least among them by any means: Leslie Knope.

As I was rewatching this season, letting it inspire me, there was one strong element that stood out to me time and time again: Knope's sheer determination. 

Sure, one of the things that makes Leslie such a strong character throughout the whole show is her ability to follow through on what she sets out to do in relentless fashion. But going back and watching Leslie work to turn the infamous pit into a park scenario is a beautiful display of blind determination.

From the Pilot episode, in fact, comes this scene that really does paint a big picture for just what Leslie will be trying to do in the whole show: follow her passions, work for change, stop at nothing. 

This scene is between the city planner Mark Brendanawicz and Leslie, talking about building a park. 

Mark: "When I think about the logistics, the various hoops you're gonna have to jump through, I would say…is it likely? Nah, it's not likely. But, is it possible? No, it's not possible. I would give up on that."

Leslie: "Why?"

Mark: "There's like a million reasons why: homeowners associations, anti-government nuts, bureaucrats, miles of red tape."

Leslie: "It sounds like your telling me to go for it!" 

Parks and Recreation fan or not, there is definitely advice here for any of us with a desire to accomplish something to heed. 

For me, I've been really struggling with carving out time in the day to write my book. It's one of my monthly resolutions to wake up in the morning and write before I start my day. Spoiler for half way through the month: I'm failing. 

I know Leslie Knope's a fictional character, but that doesn't mean her willingness to put so much energy into the things she's passionate about doesn't inspire me. I compare that to the way I so easily put off my daily writing if I'm tired, busy, or distracted…and well, I'm put to shame in a second. 

As I was mulling over all this today, I came across a post on making a living pursuing your passion by one of my favorite inspirational bloggers Jeff Goins


The gist of it? You have to be faithful, show up to your time to (write for me but could be whatever), and you have to let your success be defined in your own completion. (I left a lot out, so read the post if the topic interests you).

I'm using this post part as a way to tell you how awesome Leslie Knope is and how it would definitely behoove you all to follow your desires with the insanity she does, but also, and selfishly, to kick myself in the butt for not being even half as driven as she is. So, for any of you out there, who may have fallen in the pit, it's time to rent a bulldozer, fill that bad boy up, and build that darn park already!

—Holli Anne

Writer Talk: Two Great Writing Resources

This Writer Talk post is all about some awesome posts I found that helped me plan out my work in progress. I'm sure there are tons of blogs and sites out there for writers that are fantastic but this post is all about Janice Hardy's blog. Why? Because I'm a little obsessed with it! 

I'm a creature of habit, especially when I write. When I get an idea for a story 9 times out of 10 I will write the first scene out then jump to the middle or end of the story and start writing there. 

Why? Well, I hate the first part of stories. Sure, I have it mapped out in my head. I know who the bad guy is, I know what conflicts will arise and how to deal with them, and I even know what the last scene of the book will entail. There's just something about writing the very first part that throws me. This has been my Achilles heal. You can't finish a book if you don't have a beginning.

My current work in progress deserves better than that, though. It deserves a first half so, I've been slowly conquering my habit of running ahead and never looking back while I write.

I can proudly say that I'm almost done with the first half of my book!

There are two resources that have helped me with this that I think can help a lot more people too. Writers, check them out!

This blog is so well written and insightful that, not only did I find a great post about plotting with layers, I found so many more posts that helped me along.

Writing the first part of your book is made so much easier when you have everything with the plot all straightened out in your head. I thought I did until I read If You Build it, They Will Read: Plotting With Layers. It not only made me hone in on my main conflicts but it also helped me tackle my subplots. The post talks about the four layers of plotting and how to put them together. 

Getting all of those layers straight made it easier to see what I needed to have in the first part of the book to help further the main plots as well as subplots.

Another post I really enjoyed was Send up the (Red) Flag: Telling Words That Often Send Trouble. In college we went over this issue but it was nice to see a condensed version of the lesson. It reminded me not to get lazy with my words!

Currently, I'm stuck on the post Does Your Novel Have Too Many Characters? It has a fun exercise about mapping out all of your important characters, starting with your protagonist and antagonist. I got out the sticky notes (because I LOVE STICKY NOTES) and did my own little map of characters. It forced me to create everyone, get their stories straight as well as what purpose they serve in the story. I highly suggest doing the same exercise.

There are more posts from Hardy's site that are great. She tackles topics from coming up with book ideas to publishing. You should definitely go check out her site.

2. Character Q&As
I'm not going to go into detail about how AWESOME character Q&As are because Holli has one up her sleeve for a later date. However, I will say that doing the Q&A she sent me helped me SO much in character development, backstory, AND plot. Check it out!

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Currently Reading: Brightest Kind of Darkness

One of my monthly resolutions is to read all the unread books currently on my Nook. That's eight books.

And that's okay.

I love talking about the books I read with others, I've decided to give a sneak peek of one of the books I'm currently reading. I'm hoping that it will make you want to read it too!

Brightest Kind of Darkness
by P.T. Michelle

Genre
Dark Paranormal YA


Synopsis
Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.

After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.

Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

Currently On
Page 340

The Characters
Oh, sweet goodness, I'm crushing on Ethan Harris. Wait, who?

He's the quiet guy that makes our main girl, Nara, feel all types of emotions. Don't worry though, Nara isn't a Bella Swan and has no foundation without him. She's a strong main character with a relatable personality and a fun paranormal twist. Her feelings for Ethan are sensible and yet unexplainable. She isn't defined by him. He's more of a very fun and sexy addition. Not to mention, I just like the guy. He's quiet, clever, and hey, he loves dogs.

The First Sentence
"For me, being surprised was like wearing my best friend's favorite shirt; cherished for its borrowed uniqueness." 

I'm a stickler for first sentences. I harp about them in The Dark Side of Writing. If they tank I'll still read on but give me an interesting first sentence and I'll read on with new vigor. I'm happy to say that this first sentence piqued my interest. 

It makes me want to know what the surprise is, especially considering that she sees the entire next day before it happens. How did she get surprised? What could do that?

The First Chapter
So, finding interest in the first sentence, I read through the first chapter. I wasn't disappointed.

The First 100 Pages
I'm going to be all sorts of honest here, I was afraid that I was walking into another Bella Swan/Edward Cullen deal. Although I am one of the few who confess to liking Twilight (the books, NOT the movies), I didn't want to read another story about a girl clearly obsessed with a "bad boy" who is all quiet and hot.

Thankfully, the first 100 pages of Brightest Kind of Darkness showed me that its story and characters were much different from sparkly vampires and clingy girls.

During the first 100 pages you get to really understand Nara and respect her as a person. Sure, she's only 16 but her experiences make her more mature and therefore, a lot more interesting to read. Ethan, although appearing to have some Edward Cullen tendencies at the very beginning, quickly becomes a solid character with issues you, as the reader, want to solve.

The plot picks up, along with suspense, and the ever-present questions regarding Nara's "predicament" and what that means, not only to her, but to all of her loved ones.

I read from the second chapter to page 340 in one sitting...and I really meant to stop at chapter three.

The Rest
Once done reading, I will put up the entire review and link here!

The Links

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Laundromat Fiction: Jett's Dream



Yesterday was laundry day! So that means more laundromat fiction, written from the actual laundromat. This one was really quick, so the story was also really quick, maybe a little weird. Oh well. I'd love some feedback if you have any thoughts. As always this series is very off-the-cuff fiction, with minimal editing. Here are other posts from the series. 

No one intrigued me more than Jett Donovan. He was honestly one of the hottest guys I’d ever seen, with that dark chocolate hair that swooped across his face like a frat boy. Only he countered it with the ruggedness of an actual man. He was so kind to everyone but he also seemed to care about one thing and one thing only: farming.

Perhaps it was his ambition to do something that not many young people, let alone a young person who didn’t have a farmer in the family, wanted to do. Maybe it was his blasé attitude about making actual friendships. Probably it was the fact that he didn’t pay that much attention to me that led to know with all my being that Jett was the guy for me. 

He was a man who knew about a lot of things, but the only way to get his attention was to ask him about the farm. A lot of girls did that, though, so I tried to come up with something a lot more flawless than my predecessors.

One day, I walked right up to Jett, wearing denim jeans cutoff mid-calf. They were tight as hell and made my otherwise small ass look awesome. I accompanied it with a red and black checkered flannel to pull off the most earthly vibe I could come up with, and then I led with this: “Jett, I got this project for my class, where we have to try something new and well, I was wondering if I could come live on your farm for a while?”

His facial expression didn’t do much. He just tilted his head so slightly I hardly would’ve noticed if I wasn’t waiting on such an important response that just flowed out of him as a simple, “OK.”

It wasn’t much of an answer, but his nonchalant tone somehow gave me the impression he meant it.

The next week, I was unloading a small bag of things in Jett’s guest bedroom. He lived in a really simple, pleasant home. It was pretty old, I guess. Hardwood floors, white on the outside with red shutters. Sort of a cookie-cutter, fresh from the farm kind of house. The inside was pretty bachelor—no art, limited furniture—but it was clean.

I was Jett’s sidekick day in, day out that summer. We started our days collecting new chicken eggs, passed the time watering, planting, harvesting summer squash and tomatoes and ended the nights eating simple meals with whatever it was we gathered that day.

It took a few weeks, but I had Jett talking to me, even enjoying my company. About a month later I found myself sleeping in his room at night. Then, I just stayed.


Jett had always wanted to be a farmer. I guess the only thing I really wanted was Jett.


Photo from flickr.


—Holli Anne

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recipe: Zucchini Lasagna



My husband's been on the gluten-free diet for health reasons, so I've been trying to come up with some fun ways for him to not miss out on his favorite foods. That, plus my love for summer vegetables led me to make this zucchini lasagna last week. Holy moly! It's awesome!

Not only is this lasagna, which is awesome in itself, but it's so much more guilt-free when the noodles are replaced with vegetables. Squash is such a wonderful plant, am I right?!

Gluten free or not, this is the way I'm making lasagna from here on out.

I largely used this recipe from food.com and adapted the meat and spices a little and I have a feeling the recipe will evolve the next time I make it. Nonetheless, this is delicious, so here's how to make it.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 zucchini, sliced long like lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbs. garlic
  • 1 tbs. oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 c. water 
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella

Cooking instructions:

1. Boil zucchini noodles until tender, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cook meat and onions until brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, seasonings and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for around 10 minutes. 

3. In a separate bowl, beat egg and add ricotta cheese and half of mozzarella (shredded). 

4. In a baking dish, make one layer of meat, top with zucchini, add all of the cheese mixture, remaining meat and top with zucchini.

5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and bake 10 more minutes.

This is great the first day but even better the second! My husband and I got three meals out of this dish. Good stuff!


—Holli Anne

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tv Inspiration + Lost: Multiple POVs


TV Inspiration is a Summer blogging series that the Annes came up with to help spread inspiring content based on two popular TV series. Holli Anne's series is Parks and Recreation. Her Intro post can be found here. Tyler Anne's series is Lost. Her Intro post can be found here
This post is Tyler Anne's Tv Inspiration. 

When I think of multiple POVs in writing or reading, I think of Lost and its use of a very large ensemble cast. Sure, Jack is arguably the main main character but you also bounce around to more than a handful of other characters. This was a big reason why I was hooked by the first few of episodes.

You have a plane crash and multiple survivors. The hope of rescue is pretty slim to none. Then during the pilot you start to meet these random individuals aside from Jack. I have to admit the first two episodes (technically the Pilot) I started stereotyping everyone.

Kate was just another pretty face.
Sawyer was just another dumb redneck.
Charlie was a just another musician with a drug problem.
Jin was just another overbearing jackass of a husband.
Sun was just another passive and abused wife.
Shannon was just another stuck up rich girl.
Michael was just another struggling dad trying to connect with his son.
Locke was just another creepy old man with a lot of knives.
Jack was just another hero.

These are some of the characters you follow throughout the show--whether following them around the Island or watching some of their flashbacks. The stereotypes you put the characters in start crumbling as you progress through each one of their stories. Some fall away quickly, others take time to undo. For example, by episode two you get to see some of Kate's backstory and realize that she's not your average Jane. However, you definitely don't have her pegged down completely either.

What is the point I'm trying to make?
One of the wonderful reasons I love Lost is because I get to experience it through multiple POVs. By following these different narrators I'm able to appreciate their development and the story more.

Now, let's talk about...

Multiple Points of View in Writing & Books
I have to admit that up until a few years ago I was a one-character type of girl. Whether it was first person or third, I was content with only following one person around the story. Sure, I had read a few books that had more than one person that told the story but the authors had lost my interest with some very common multiple POV snafus. Now, I'm more open to the tactic and even have become fond of certain books because of it.

Common Multiple POV Mistakes
One book I read a while back was written in two parts--one was from the POV of a boy, the other from a girl. The author chose to have two POVs because the characters were on the opposing sides of a political and religious battle. Having two different perspectives throughout the book was a smart choice because it helped enrich the overall story. However, when the narrators were in the same scene the author showed us each perspective every single time. I understand that this technique can work to further the character's development but sometimes readers don't necessarily have to be in the same room twice to understand what happened and what was seen and felt.

Another reason I have disliked the multiple POV style is lousy transitions from one person to the next. I've read books that break POV shifts into different chapters or marked off sections and I've read books that simply pick up during the next paragraph. This is the easiest way to lose me as a reader. You've chosen to have multiple narrators and that's fine but please make sure your transitions are clear and keep the readers from mass confusion. If we are reading Becky's thoughts about Jeff in one paragraph and then suddenly we're in Michael's head thinking about how he wishes he could still play football, chances are we will get annoyed as readers.

The last multiple POV ick that I've come across is switching to a narrator for no reason at all. Sure, I'm a fan of Becky but don't take me out of Michael's intense fight aftermath to only plop me down into her life while she does her mundane routines. Make sure you put me there for a reason and not just because you wanted some filler. I didn't buy your book for filler. I bought it for a good story. If you aren't furthering the character or overall plot, then don't make me read about Becky brushing her teeth.

I've recently found a writing blog that's extremely helpful and well-written. It's called The Other Side of the Story and it's by Janice Hardy. If you're an established author, an aspiring writer, or somewhere in between I suggest you check it out. She has many posts about POVs that can be found here.

Thoughts on Multiple POVs
I decided to ask the members of our Writer Talk group on Facebook (if you want to join go here) about their thoughts on one narrator per story versus multiple narrators. Here's some good points they made on the subject.

Aine Crabtree, a soon-to-be published author of The Thief, praised multiple POVs.
"As someone whose book is from multiple POVs...very much prefer it that way. I tend to get tired of one voice over a long enough time, and I get curious about what's going on in the heads of other characters. Inevitably I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of levels of the story if I'm restricted to one character's head."

Eli Carnley, another writer from the group, agreed.
"I'm starting to prefer or at least enjoy stories with multiple perspectives. My current project is first person from one character's perspective and I'm finding the constraints to be more than I'd originally bargained for."

My personal thoughts on the matter have started to change recently. I love following the one person through a journey and, just like real life, never knowing everything that goes on with the other characters and some parts of the story. However, reading stories like The Thief (you'll be able to read it soon too!) has made me reevaluate my earlier nose-wrinkling at them. I guess, to me, it all boils down to the quality of the characters you have. If they are good then I won't mind being passed around between them.

Pros & Cons
I feel like I'm almost bashing the idea of having multiple narrators in this post but I really am not. This is, as a writer, one of the first things you have to figure out before starting to write your book. Will you have just one POV or multiple? I've wrestled with the idea many times and created the following pros and con list to help.

Pro
  • You can add more interest, story, and character development by having more than one narrator.
  • You avoid being monotonous if you aren't stuck with the same person for the duration of the story.
  • You can explore and control larger settings and situations.
  • When the story starts to lag, switching to another narrator can keep the readers entertained.
Con
  • You can lose reader interest if you have too many narrators with weak transitions.
  • You have to make sure each character is solid so the reader will follow them.
  • You may lose a more involved intimacy with your characters that you might have if there was only one. Typically, readers invest a lot in one character. With multiple POVs this could be harder for them.
  • You can lose the tension you've spent building up by switching to another narrator. 

Now, there are more of both, but for brevity's sake (because this is already a pretty big post!) I only listed the pros and cons that stick out in my mind. I guess, for me, it all just depends on the story and what I want to accomplish with it on whether or not I break out multiple POVs.

Which do you prefer?

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interview: Author C. Elizabeth Vescio talks Elegantly Wasted


Over here at Almost There we are huge fans of C. Elizabeth Vescio and Elegantly Wasted. If you want to see how much Tyler liked it you can read her review here. If you don't know what EW is, then go read it (see the links at the bottom of the post)! 

The book is incredibly fun and dangerous and alcohol-infused. We were lucky enough to get an interview with C. Elizabeth Vescio and couldn't be happier with it!

Hope you enjoy!

How did you come up with the title “Elegantly Wasted”?
I’m an 80s kid... one of my favorite bands is INXS and their tenth album goes by the same title. It was the final album recorded by Michael Hutchence before his death. People often forget about the song and the album because it was kind of buried underneath all that scandal. The story progressed as this girl who kills people and is also a teacher at an etiquette school... it fit. Very contradictory terms lol

What made you decide to write about the world of contract killers?
Up until 2009 I had been writing this big science fiction book that never went anywhere. I was frustrated with it and I needed something completely different. I thought maybe I could do a family drama. I have some pretty colorful family members who don’t mind having some of their stories exploited... I started jotting down some ideas and then one day I just remember randomly thinking ‘you know what would make these stories better? A gun.’

Rumor has it that the family in EW is based on your own. True or false?
Ha. True- kind of. It’s very embellished. Like I said, when I needed that change of pace it was totally aimed at a family type story... and my family’s structure is pretty amazing. I’m a bastard child, the different side of my family don’t like each other, my mom and her sisters would go years without talking to over minor issues... my grandmother wasn’t a very nice person... the list goes on.

I thought if I could just write a coming of age story about a black sheep in a chaotic family- that was my angle. I know a lot about that stuff.

If true, how do THEY feel about it?
My family has been overwhelmingly supportive- the members who speak to me anyway.

Kat and Addi are hugely inspired by my cousins, Amanda and Amie. They love it. In the very beginning stages, Amanda was there giving me ideas while she drank wine on her back porch. My mother and her two sisters love it. They aren’t huge characters but they add so much to the story. I’m relieved they love them. I’m relieved they can just stand back and laugh at themselves, imagining this big contract killing ring in the background.

Don’t worry... 75% of the book is just my imagination.

Why do you think readers love Frankie so much?
I have no fucking clue, but I can’t describe how awesome it is.... or I’m terrified, I’m not sure which. I wanted this main character who was flawed... heavily flawed with a major mental imbalance. Killing people isn’t a good thing. Who is this Judah guy and why does he insist she’s a killer? So I gave her this sarcastic outlook on everything. Don’t get me wrong, people who don’t enjoy cynicism absolutely hate Frankie and I’m perfectly okay with that. I think there should be a portion of the population who just wants her to die. However, I’ll be hanging out with her fan club because I fit in much better with those people.

Was there a particular subject you researched the most in writing EW?
Mental illness, drug cartels and guns... a nice broad research group. Needless to say if the government has my Google history, I’m probably on a no-fly list. I grew up around psychologists. Both my aunt Norma and cousin Amie are in the mental health field so I always have them to reference. Amie helps me with types of meds to prescribe my fictional characters too- which is fun.

The entire book is narrated by Frankie (which we LOVE). Was it hard to write the book in her language/tone?
Not at all! She’s a pretty big manifestation of myself. Although, as cynical as I am, she started to wear me out. She’s way intense, and I would imagine she’d be the kind of girl I could only take in small doses. I look at my sister, Dannielle- who is around Frankie’s age- and see what kind of issues she’s dealing with and try to figure out how Frankie would handle the situations. My sister tends to have a short fuse but she’s hysterical- she’s the perfect person to look at and be like- ‘yeah, that’s something Frankie would do.’

We have to ask, on a scale of Kat to Addi, how “into” fashion are you?
Haha... um, probably Addi. Katharine is the one who keeps both Addi and Frankie in the fashion world. Everyone in the Fairholm family was kind of bred to have this elaborate taste in material possessions but Katharine took it and ran with it. She’s the socialite. Addi’s priorities aren’t in how she looks. I honestly don’t think she’d care if Katharine wasn’t shopping with her. So, I’d have to say I’m more of a fashion spectator. I like it... I like brand names- that’s my mother’s influence. However, I like saving money too.

What was the hardest part about writing EW?
Creating an underworld. I don’t want it to be so cliche but at this point in time it’s hard not to to... so I have to make it relatable on the same page. Add a little humor to the dark and you have something that might have been done before, but at least it’s amusing.

What was the easiest?
Creating Frankie. I worked her out in one day, started to write her style of thought and the rest was downhill. Frankie built Elegantly Wasted. Love her or hate her, she’s the reason you’re reading this.

Give us three words that you would use to describe Elegantly Wasted?
classy, gritty, mayhem

What are you working on now?
Book 2 in the series! It’s called Uncontrollably Wasted and it’s due to be released in late August of 2013. I’m excited to actually have a series because now Frankie has a solid foundation and her adventures can be endless... but they won’t be. She’s in the wrong profession to live forever.


Jack of all trades and stereotypical black sheep, C. Elizabeth has been writing somewhat dark and morbid since that teen angst hit in the early 90's- probably because her dad was a mortician. After pursuing a degree in English, she changed gears to photography and design in 2006... although she kept penning stories for fun while reading the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde and Hemingway (whom she adores even though he was a huge douche canoe). In 2009, her life shifted considerably and she found herself writing Elegantly Wasted- helping her sort out a bunch of stupid feelings and other lame stuff. 

Want more of Cara and Elegantly Wasted?

Monday, June 3, 2013

June Resolutions





































We updated you on our May report card earlier today, so it seemed like a good time to go ahead and spell out our goals for June. Once again, we're joining She Learns as She Goes in awesome monthly goal-setting (see her monthly goals here)!

Tyler Anne's Resolutions:

1. Have a successful first part of TV Inspiration: Lost! (What? Go here.)
If you didn't check this post then you need to get on that! Every week I should have a post up that has some kind of Lost-related content, whether that be a fun DIY that I tie in with the show or a post just about the show's writing. Either way, I want to make sure I do it every week and not get distracted!

2. Keep true to my "diet"
Lately I've been doing the whole counting calories business and trying to cut down my sugar intake. So far, doing both of those things has helped me to lose almost 10 pounds in the past month and a half. I feel great and I hope I keep it up until I hit my goal weight. (Which should be by the end of the month!)

3. Write 8 pages (or more!) everyday 
I've been chugging along with writing and I don't want to lose steam! Eight pages EVERYDAY is my goal! Holli mentioned that someone told her that Stephen King writes at least eight everyday. That may or may not be true but I figure it's a good a goal as any.

4. Read all the unread books currently on my Nook
I'll have to check later for the exact number but I'm pretty sure I have eight books on my Nookina that I have yet to read or finish. Now is the time! I hope to have them done-zo by the end of the month! A very fun goal, in my opinion.

Holli Anne's Resolutions:

1. Write every morning!
I go back and forth on the whole needing a consistent writing schedule to actually write. Maybe not everyone does, but for now, I do. I am committing to at least an hour every morning before I begin the day. It's not nearly enough time, but it's a reasonable goal to start with for now!

2. Keep up my running schedule
I made it to my 5K status, but now my goal is to improve at them. That means at minimum running three miles at least three times a week (and hopefully some extra on the "off" days). I also have been supplementing my off days with yoga, Pilates or some Insanity workouts to strengthen my legs, so I'll put keeping that up here.

3. Continue down the healthy eating track
My husband's doctor told him to quit eating gluten, so we've been pretty health conscious around here as a result. Lots of fruits and veggies and lean meat and less and less carbs and crap food. Our energy levels are definitely up! I've also been counting calories and hoping to keep those at my daily goals. It's mostly just a way to have some accountablity for what I am eating. 

4. Read my heart out!
This is sorta copying Tyler, but her goal reminded me—I, too, have a lot of unfinished books to read! I think I've started about four…maybe five…so I'm going to wrap those up this month.

5. Paint my house!
I'll give myself one more chance to accomplish this in June. I mean, it's HALF of one room. So ridiculous! 

Almost There Resolutions:

1. Be more active on our Facebook page
We love Facebook, but sometimes while we are managing other people's we neglect our own. This month we will get back in the groove of being Facebook awesome! Wanna join us? (here)

2. Stick to our blogging schedule
We're attempting this being organized thing again this month. We have our own personal blogging schedules we set every week and this month we want to meet that EVERYDAY. This includes our summer TV-inspired series on Lost and Parks and Recreation.

-The Annes

Monthly Report Card: May Resolutions


For our May Resolutions post go here
For Kelli's May Resolutions (the inspiration) go here.


Holli Anne's Report Card:

1. Run that 5K: A-
I actually ran the 5K today, which is June 2, BUT since that's only two days difference, I think it still counts. I also missed some training time because of some hardcore pollen issues, so I'm proud to report this one. I'm also so glad to report I'm injury free!

2. Write daily on my book: C
Yeah, this one needs some major work. I had a week of just major creative block, not exclusive to my book. I've finally gotten back in a groove, but even that needs improving. This will be my TOP goal for June.

3. Finish painting my house! F
On Friday when I remembered this was a goal, I considered manically finishing the paint job, but I didn't. Anyway, it will probably take me an hour tops, but something about having to move furniture is just getting me down. 

4. No boxes in my house: A+
I am OH, so proud of this! There are absolutely no unpacked boxes in my house, and for the most part, things are where they need to go. There is still some major organization to be done, but I'm happy with the progress and finally feel like our house is "normal."

Tyler Anne's Report Card:

1. Get to that 75 percent marker of my book: C-
I didn't make it to 75 percent but I did manage to push a little closer. HOWEVER, I may or may not have written MORE on another project...that now is in the lead. So, sure I didn't make it to that 75 percent marker but I did almost make it to the halfway marker of the other book. That, I feel, compensates just a little?

2. Finish and distribute my super secret project for Almost There: A+
My super secret project (that wasn't that secret) was a writing prompt book! I indeed finished it and put it on Almost There's Etsy shop. However, I wanted to take it a step further and decided to try my hand at Amazon's self publishing. So, if you want to purchase my eBook (The Dark Side of Writing: 35 Writing Prompts) go here!

3. Walk/jog for an hour everyday: D
I was good at this for a week. Then I digressed. However, I did start swimming so that's cool too?

4. Find a place to put all of my books!!!!!: F
I failed this...again. Someone build me an awesome bookcase?

Almost There Resolutions:

1. Evolve the writer side of this blog: A
We are really happy about this one. We've been posting Writer Talk posts weekly (here, here and here) and our Writer Talk Facebook group is growing.
2. Keep posting new prompts/discussions daily at Writer Talk: A-
The beginning of the month we were banging on all cylinders with this goal. New posts, new scenes, tons of interaction. However, the world still manages to go on and the Writer Talk group collectively got busy so daily prompts weened down to weekly prompts. I don't view this as a failure, though. It was just a change that helped everyone out! We are still oh-so proud of this group! If you want to join go here.

3. Bring more interviews/guest blogs to the site: A
We had three really awesome guests on our blog last month, and we have plans to keep that going in June, too. We just love hearing from other creative people doing what they do best, and we hope you do as well! If you missed them, here are our interviews with Josh from Blimey Cow, Joe from Story Cartel and Edward from Edward Fieder Photography!

4. Work on our individual projects that we will put on Etsy: A+
Tyler rocked this by publishing her writing prompts book The Dark Side of Writing! We also put our blog consultations up, along with our ecourse on social media for your blog!

For Kelli's May Report Card (over at She Learns as She Goes) go here.


How did YOU do?

-The Annes

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