Friday, July 22, 2011

And the winner is...

Mysti! There, I said it! And it falls greatly seeing as today is her _th birthday (Happy Birthday, Mysti!) She gets a copy of Mary's A Sign in Blood, which, between you and me, is pretty good (well, at least the part I've read. I wish I had it as a paper back :( - I would have finished it three times by now)

So, wonderful winner Mysti, wait for wonderful writer Mary to send you your prize.

On another note, just for everyone's entertainment, seeing as I'll be MIA for a while again (I can't wait to stop having to study all the time), I decided to discuss sense of humor in writing.

I love jokes in books - I laugh at laughable situations. The more it makes me laugh, the more I love a book. But I kinda get the feeling that my humor is a bit messed up. No matter, it makes ME laugh, and that's important.

Maybe you're wondering what I'm yapping about. Here are some random excerpts of what I find funny in my stories. (No order)

Rachel’s jaw fell open.
“Dracula!” She said, turning to Daniel.
 He shook his head. “No, my name is Daniel.”
She hit his shoulder. “You know what I mean, you doofus! Don’t you think Vlad might be Dracula?

“Did you know this before you became a Hunter, or did Max teach you how to steal cars too?” She’d actually wanted to ask what crawled up his ass, but was grateful this came out instead.
 “I’ve always known how to do this stuff. Just like picking locks.” He drove off in his usual screechy manner. The tiers squealed against the asphalt again as he shifted into second gear. “Don’t you know how to do it?”  
Rachel shrugged. “I never needed to. I was a goody-goody med student before turning into a Hunter. And why would I need to lock pick if I can break through doors and walls?”

“That’s how Hunter law works. Max was my maker, so his stuff is my stuff.” Daniel smirked. “I’m your maker, so my stuff is your stuff. It’s my obligation to sustain you. Kinda like a parent.”
 “Eww! Don’t say that!” 
 “The phrase ‘Who’s your daddy?’ suddenly gets a new meaning, no?”
 “Stop it! Do you want to put me off you for good?” Okay, she shouldn’t have said that. Please, please, please tell me you didn’t hear that.
“Why? Are you on me?”

"What happened?"
"This... thing jumped out of nowhere, in front of me." Sam squinted, but still couldn't make out what it was.
"That thing is a house, I believe," Jerry said, unfastening his seatbelt. 

"William, who did you want to save?" Tom asked, grasping his shoulders.
William stared beyond him. He raised one shaking finger and pointed behind Tom.
"What is it?" Jerry asked.
"It's a tree," William answered flatly.
"Yes, we see it's a tree. What about it?" Tom ran his hand through his hair. He had a bad feeling about this.
"It's a nice tree."

"Hey, look, more henchmen!" Tom said on a tone which implied that Snitch Gravel had just supplied his personal zoo with more exotic animals.

Sam wiggled harder, but there was no use. "Kyle, I'm stuck."
"What do you mean you're stuck?"
"I mean I can't get out."

Kyle's eyes never left Kay as she chatted to Jerry. Jessie glanced at him, a smile tugging at her lips. "Should I get you a bucket?"
"A bucket?" he barely managed to turn his attention to her.
"So you'd stop drooling on the floor."
The bucket joke - Gold

"What? We haven't officially started our mission yet." Steve lowered his voice to a whisper. "Besides, I've managed to pick up this gorgeous piece of work, and I'm not letting the chance go to waste."
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "You know I'm all for a little more love in the world, but now's not the time to pick up chicks."
"Easy for you to say. You're here with your girlfriend. I haven't had a girlfriend since I was your age, and I'm honestly tired of not getting any..." Steve didn't say what he wasn't getting, but mimed it, causing Jerry's eyes to widen. 

"How on Earth did he manage to pick her up so fast?"
Jerry shrugged. "Probably told her he has a terminal disease."

Bon soir monsieur! Est-ce que je peux assister?” the clerk asked as though he sincerely doubted it.
 “Yeah, bon soir right back at you. I have no idea what you’ve just said, but I didn’t like your tone. Now, I want a bit of help from you,” Sam said. “I want to know whether you’ve seen a very beautiful girl come by here. Long brown hair, amber eyes, about this tall, wearing a pinkish trench coat…”
 “I ‘ave no idea what you are talking about. Now, get out of my ‘otel!”
 “Let me reformulate that,” Sam said pleasantly, taking his gun out and leaning his elbows on the counter. “I’m looking for a girl. Long brown hair, amber eyes, about this tall, wearing a pinkish trench coat. Have you seen her?”
 “Sam, what are you doing?” Angie asked, her head snapping from left to right as though to make sure no one could see this.
 “I’m only conversing with this nice gentleman, trying to get some information out of him.” Sam turned his attention back to the clerk who had turned pale and shaky. He said something in French quickly, but Sam only released the safety of his gun as an answer to his statement.  
“She’s not ‘ere anymore. She left with zee men who brought ‘er a few ‘ours ago.” He finally answered, his voice trembling. 
“Good enough. Merci.” Sam pocketed his gun and headed for the exit.

"Jerry, I'll race you to the corner and back," Jimmy said, jumping up and down on the spot, his teeth clattering.
"Race me? You want me to run in these heavy winter boots, through snow reaching my knees? You have got to be joking."

"I admit, I didn't expect it to go so well. But you and Tom are..."
"I was going for amazing, but have it your way."

And that's it. Do you find any of that funny? I know I do. I amuse myself quite easily. That's why I think my sense of humor is a bit wacky. Anyway...

See you guys soon, I hope! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Hunger Review

Hi all!

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I took some time to let it sink in. You all know I've been on top of The Hunger Games trilogy recently. I've made short work of it. So I wanted to do a mini-review on it and show what I liked, what had me going meh! and what I've learned from all this.

The Hunger Games

Is a great book. The concept is amazing, the characters are strong and the writing is... I have no idea since I read it in Romanian, but in Romanian, it was really nifty. It was one of those books where I couldn't stop and crit. I found nothing wrong with anything as a writer. It hooks you and keeps you there until the very end. As a stand alone, it is marvelous. - Of course, this is all my opinion.

What it's all about: You all know the concept of the Capitol and it's surrounding districts. One revolution brought on the wipe out of one district and the birth of the Hunger Games. Each year, 2 teenagers, boy and girl, from each district are put in a CGI arena and fight for their lives. Katniss Everdeen is one of them - she actually takes her sister's place and becomes part of the Hunger Games together with Peeta Mellark, a boy she knew but never talked to. -> very basic story line.

I liked the characters, the setting and all the world building in this book. Even if Katniss wasn't sure about her feelings and what she should do, I loved how her instincts took over and she did what she had to do. I liked that she grew attached to people, that she was fair, and that she tried to do the right thing.

The little things I can snark on:  The first chapter isn't exactly gripping. It has a good hook, but it's a little slow to start. The whole getting out of bed thing was a little disappointing.
The ending was a little disappointing - the whole Gale vs Peeta thing and the thought of marriage coming out of the blue. It showed a little of Katniss's selfish, jerky side, and I didn't like that much. Especially since I've grown to really like her.

Overall verdict: 5/5 stars. I think this book truly deserves it - because of the entertainment value if nothing else.

Catching Fire

I started reading this right away after finishing the first book. It felt like the middle book of a trilogy as the action seems thin. I know it's not, but that's how it seems to me. Probably because most of what happens is a repeating of the first book - getting ready for the tour and then the second Hunger Games for Katniss and Peeta.

I did like the twist with Snow, and how he played a big part in this book. I liked his idea of getting rid of Katniss and I especially liked the budding of the revolution, played subtly. There were some great scenes in this book - like their visit in District 11 (when the old man got shot). The fall of the Capitol was also painted well.
And I can't help but applaud the ending - a great hook!

Things I can harp on: Katniss is starting to turn into a jerk in this one - what with the whole Peeta-Gale-no, Peeta- no, Gale part. She's really inept in keeping up a relationship with people. I understand where she's coming from, but I expected her to grow.
 The second Hunger Games didn't have the savor and feel of the first - they almost seemed a bit rushed and too many people died too fast and too pointless, IMO.
Not sure I liked Peeta's latest lie about her being pregnant. I liked him, though :D

Overall verdict: 4.5/5


This is a good book. But it annoyed the crap out of me. I might be one of the few who feel this way, but I kinda saw it as a fail. I read it fast, but found myself annoyed and getting bored. And that's only because it felt less...good compared to the other two books.

The book mainly focuses on the rebellion and brining the Capitol down. But the rebels are jerks, lead by district 13 and a president which is just as bad as Snow, and it's annoying that no one realizes that.

I'll go straight into things that annoyed me: Katniss spends most of this book wondering around and being emo. There's a brief flash of her old personality when she wants to go hunting again and asks for the former Hunger Games winners to be spared. I liked that part, and when she wants to save the burning hospital. But most of the time, I grow to hate Katniss. She's so incredibly selfish, it makes me want to slap her.
I hate how many people died pointlessly (and here come spoilers) like Finnick and Prim - I mean what was the point in killing them off? And in such a confusing way? They deserved better. The bloodbath was so overwhelming that by the time that Prim died, I couldn't care anymore.
What annoyed me the most? Katniss falling unconscious so many times and denying us of great action scenes - like the fall of the Capitol after Prim died and beeing knocked out after she killed the president of district 13 - I felt cheated and also felt that the strategy had been used a lot in this book/in this series.
And I had a problem with what happened to Peeta - why screw him up like that? And why have him still be better than Katniss even if he was screwed up?
The ending - felt rushed - even if she and Peeta got married and they had kids and there was no more Capitol and the President was decent, it still feels like they didn't win. I get that Katniss still has nightmares, but there's no joy, no nothing. It's kinda depressing - like all the fighting, all the death was for nothing. MEH!

Overall verdict: 4/5 - I know  I ratted a lot on this book, but it was still gripping and had some really good scenes and managed to get emotions across well.

So, this is it. I'm currently reading Mary's A sign in Blood and A Game of Thrones (since I can't read on the computer for a long time - sorry Mary - I am making progress though :D). Maybe I'll give you some thoughts on those.

Oh, I was supposed to tell you what I've learned from the Hunger Games:
Mostly that chapter length doesn't matter and that even a brilliant book can be completely brought down by the ending. So... I'm thinking twice now about killing all my characters off in the last book of my series O:)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Interview with Marion Sipe

Hey peeps!
I promised a special post and a special interview for you all. And here I am, finally awoken from the depths of my slumber to bring you *drum roll* Mary Sipe! You might know her from CC, since she's there and all active.

Her book, A Sign in Blood, just came out on the market for grabs. So... let's see where it came from and what makes Mary tick, shall we?

Stef:  Hi Mary and welcome to my corner of the universe. Grab a cup of something and a bite to eat, and let’s get down to it.

Mary: Oh! Danishes, thank you! ;-) 
Stef: As usual (favorite start up questions), tell us a little about yourself.  

Mary: Is it weird that this is always the hardest question for me? I can go on and on about my stories, but I never know what to say when someone asks this question. *G* I love writing, and reading, and drawing. I like to garden, when I have the space, and I'm a bit of a foodie. I have a wonderful fiancé, and spend way too much time in my own head. 

Stef: Kinda get what you mean there - I do most of my writing in my head too.  Tends to piss off the people around me for some reason. Speaking of which,  what got you to start writing?

Mary: I was twelve, and I enjoyed poetry and journaling, but I also moved around a lot and saw many interesting places. Writing for me was a way of processing it all. My journals contained bits of fiction, and poetry and snippets of worldbuilding and... That became writing short stories and attempts at novels. There was no moment of decision, I just did it and knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. 
Stef: What do you love/ hate most about being a writer? 
Mary: I love writing, everything involved with writing, except the proofing.  Worldbuilding is one of my favorite ever things, but I love the first drafts and the second drafts and the editing and the rewriting, and all of that just fills me with happy. The deadlines are a pain, but for me they're a necessary evil. Without a deadline I could work on the same piece forever.  

Stef: I know what you mean. I've had a series in the works for over ten years now. Somebody stop me! *hem, hem, moving on* Tell us something about your brand new shiny book.  

Mary: A Sign in Blood is about blood, fittingly. :-D It's about all the connotations of the word, from family bloodlines to actual flowing blood. It's about Chadri, and her oath to find her father's murderer, and it's about Nathias and her attempt to reconcile with her past and her children. It's about Liral, who's trying to establish her own identity in the shadow of the throne. It's about Bastian and his attempts to be closer to his family through his cause, and how that separates him from the family he's got left. And it's about Carial, and his mission to keep his people safe, and his own doubts about his fitness to do so.  

Stef : Hmm... lots of plot lines, lots of characters - sounds like something I would write. Me likey!  How did you get the idea for it?

Mary: It evolved, really. In the beginning, this was Chadri's story and hers was the central plot, and it still is, but the more I worked on it the more intertwined her story became with everyone else's. Her story actually touches on a lot of lives, and it brings them together in different and complex ways. Her story is central to theirs, because of who she is and where she comes from. So, while it started with Chadri's story, it really became a much bigger thing. 
Stef Who’s your favorite character and which one are you most like?

Mary: Oh, boy. Picking a favorite is hard, but I'd have to say Bastian. He's not your typical hero. He's a translator and a priest, and he'd probably get quickly killed in most hand to hand fighting situations. (Although, he's working on that.) But he's smart, and he's quick, and he's determined, and he actually cares. He puts aside his own safety, his own pain, and he helps other people, and if that's not what a hero should be, then I don't know what is.
As for which I'm most like... I think there's a bit of me in all of them. How could there not be? But I've been reliably told that I'm most like Carial. Which I take to be a high compliment.  

Stef : I'll see, since I just won a free copy of your book *heh, heh, rubs reading hands*.  How about the setting? Where did you get the idea for it?

Mary: I love the setting! There are actually three nations of importance, The Bensas Nation, Malithior and Tredalor. The three of them are deeply connected by their mythology and politics. Malithior and Tredalor have finally settled into peace after a century of on again, off again wars, which the Bensas have so far managed to stay out of, despite the fact that their territory borders both nations. I wanted to do a desert setting, something old and huge, because the desert fascinates me. It's a demanding environment and one where inhabitants have to adapt in order to survive. But, no one place is homogenous, and there were mountains and the Bensas claimed those, and there were storm-swept grasslands and forest to the north and the Nirafel claimed those. It grew from the desert, though, from Malithior. 
Stef: That sounds awesome. I have to write something with world building at some point! What makes your book unique? 
Mary: I think it's the worldbuilding, but I hope that the characters are also pretty unique in their complexity. I wanted to do a desert setting, but I wanted to avoid or twist the typical things you see in one, and the typical things you see in fantasy in general. So, I have the regent who's making a play for the throne, but he's more than that, more complicated and with bigger goals. I hope I managed to pull it off. 
Stef What’s your favorite part/scene of the book?

Mary: Oh, just one? I have to say, that the last chapter is my favorite, but I can't really tell you why because that would spoil the book! So, instead, I'll pick my second favorite, which has to be... Chadri's and Liral's reactions the first time they see a temple to Myador. Without giving away too much, they think of it in very different ways and it means very different things to them, and I really liked writing that scene. 
Stef: That sounds awesome. I like scenes that tell a lot about characters without really spelling it out loud. But you're getting way to comfortable here. I saw you take that second Danish. So,  time for some questions about you – lightning round style ;)

What’s your favorite pastime while not writing? 
Mary: Reading, hands down. I spend a lot of time reading, but I often bounce from one thing to another, so it can take me a long time to finish any one book. Plus, I devour short stories and poetry and just about anything set in a written form. Also, TV addict. Pretty much anything with a story is fair game. 
Cat person or dog person? 
Mary: Both, actually. Although, right now I'm inundated with cats. Seriously, we have reached full kitty capacity. We have six and both my fiancé and I tend to call ourselves the Crazy Cat Couple. We both want a dog, too, but we can't decide because he likes the little yappy type dogs and I prefer the large, drooling kind. Plus, we're a little afraid the cats would devour it. 
*Giggles at answer* If there was anything you could change in your writing experience, what would it be? 
Mary: I'd like to get paid more for it. Dropping the day job would be heavenly, and being able to make enough to support us would be wonderful, if only because the fiancé's been so very supportive and I'd like to be able to do the same for him for a while. 
What’s your favorite food? :p 
Mary: Lasagna. No, wait, that's just because of the cheese, so I'll have to go with cheese. There's nothing better than a really good cheddar, except maybe a really good feta... or Swiss, or Oaxaca, or... Yeah. I like the cheese. 
OMG! You've hit me with the cheese. I love cheese, too. And in my country, we have a lot of types of cheese! Weee for cheese! *hem* Right, back to the lightning round.  Where does your inspiration come from?

Mary: Everywhere. I watch a lot of documentaries: history, science, nature, culture, etc. Those are always spawning ideas, but they come from everywhere. Dreams, random flashes of thought. Sometimes I think that everything I see and hear and think all winds up in my stories, one way or another. 
What makes you love a book? 
Mary: If I can get caught up in the characters, I love the book. If you can make me embarrassed for them, or angry on their behalf, or make me want to grab them and shake some sense into them, or hopefully all of that and more, you've got me. 
What makes you hate a story? 
Mary: When I can't believe the characters, when their motives don't ring true for me, or they're cardboard and I can't relate to them. With good characters, I can forgive a bland setting, or roll-your-eyes plot, or clumsy prose. I will watch/read anything if the characters speak to me. 
Bonus question: If you had the power to transport yourself somewhere in history, where would you go? 
Mary: Ooh! Let's see... I would love to see the grandeur and life of the ancient world. Send me to Babylon or ancient Rome, or Egypt in the time of Khufu! Imagine the pyramids being built! Knowing what the Sphinx's original face actually looked like! That would totally rock. Oh! Or participating in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece or... Okay, there are a lot of places I'd want to stop off.  Can I just have a TARDIS? :-D 
And – of course – excerpt of your work. *phew, out of breath!*

The fragment was a chunk of weathered sandstone that fit easily in Chadri's hand. Small, unfamiliar runes curved along one side of it, alive with a power unlike any she knew. It felt oily beneath her fingers. Such a small thing to kill for.

"A week before his murder," she said, raising her eyes to meet Ilana's, "my father gave this to an associate. She said it had something to do with the highborn noble he was investigating, and that it was very important to him. You were his partner, Ilana. What is this?"

Ilana glanced at the stone, but no recognition showed on her face. "I don't know it."

Chadri couldn't tell if she was lying, but Ilana watched her intently and Chadri used that. She slipped the stone back into her pocket and made a show of drawing her knife. Ilana jerked, but there was nowhere to run. She pressed herself back against the short wall. Chadri's heart skipped, afraid the woman might actually throw herself over the edge. Nathias grabbed Ilana's hair and wrenched her head back.

"Stay," Nathias said, sharing a look with Chadri.

Once Nathias had guaranteed Ilana's attention, Chadri sliced her own palm, stifling a hissing breath. Blood welled up and her power suffused it, tingling as it pushed against her skin.

Sheathing her knife, Chadri closed the distance between them. She dipped her fingers first into her own blood, and then into the blood oozing from Ilana's arm. Nathias tightened her hold on Ilana's hair, forcing her to keep still. Chadri used their mixed blood to draw the rune of truth on Ilana's forehead. Speaking the rune, she touched her bloody finger to Ilana's lips.

"You can't make me speak." Ilana tried to spit away the blood, but it didn't matter. The connection had been forged the instant their blood mingled, shaped by the drawn and spoken rune. White rune-light sprang into being around Ilana's mouth. Chadri kept silent, struggling to force her own power back into her recesses. As effortless as she tried to make it look, her skin crawled and her fists clenched of their own volition.   

Great to have you here Mary! I wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading your book!

Mary: Thank you! It was great to be here!  

Alright, peeps, here's how it's going down. You can buy Mary's awesome new book here (Amazon) and here(Smashwords). Also, one lucky commenter will have the chance to win a free copy of the book. Just follow and leave a comment with your email address, and I'll choose a winner in two weeks' time.

Hope you enjoyed learning about Mary. I know I did.
See you again, hopefully soon. ;) 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm not dead

Sorry peeps! I said I'd actually let you know how I did on my test unless I drown in kittens. I didn't, but I've been busy these last few days (been to a wedding and traveled home and back)

I got a 92/100 which is pretty decent, so I'm rather proud of myself. Just for that, I'm heading out of town for a few days, so I won't be around the Internet at all. Then I'll have a little break and THEN I'll have to get back to studying in hope of landing a high-paying judge job O:)

So, yeah, that's me. And sorry for scaring everyone. (Thanks for reminding me, Jay!)
I'll see you guys on the 8th with a special interview and giveaway ;)