Return From the Wild White Yonder (aka Chicago)

So I've had a very long hiatus from blogging and, well, life in general. I went to Chicago for one of my pharmacy rotations. The type of work I did there definitely wasn't for me, but I did learn a lot in terms of just how versatile the PharmD degree is. So at least I got something out of it, right?

The bad thing about rotations (one of them) is that I have hardly had any time to read, let alone write anything. :-( I can tell my brain is getting antsy because all my characters keep popping into my head and the more songs I hear, the more fodder I get for scenes for them. Which is all well and good, I just think my brain is reaching the overflow point. So it's a good thing I've got this whole week off, huh? :-) Hopefully some progress will be made on one of my three WIPs. I'm almost done with reading On the Edge by Ilona Andrews... Well, I've got maybe 20% left, but to me that's almost done. It took me a few more chapters than normal to get into it, but I'm finding myself attached to the characters, which is always a good sign.

At the moment my still packed suitcase (I already got one over with) calls to me. I have this insane urge to really clean everything, including the Dreaded Closet. *gasp* So yeah, this was a pretty half-assed post, but at least I got something down, right? Right.

No NaNo

So today is the first day of November and for most writers out there that means the first day of NaNoWriMo. Given my jam-packed schedule with my rotations I'll be unable to participate this year (again). The first time I'd even heard of it was last November... on about the 20th or something. So I caught wind of it too late to actually participate. I can't help but think, "Gee, Ashley... you don't need those extra few hours of sleep, right? You could give NaNo a shot." But then I remind myself that it's cold/flu season and if I miss more than two days of any rotation, it becomes incomplete which means I don't graduate in June w/ everyone else. At least according to our Office of Experiential Education. So I've gotta keep myself healthy and at least for me that includes plenty of sleep.

Given that, I haven't exactly been the model of proper sleeping behavior lately. Had a back-to-back up 'til 4am on Thursday and Friday. Lotsa fun and no ill effects so far. *knocks on wood* But back to NaNo... I'm trying to decide what to work on once I graduate (besides studying for the NAPLEX and pharmacy law exam): my overhaul of my completed book or a NaNo type period in which I work on one of my WIPs. I'm leaning toward the overhaul even though it won't be much fun. Because once that's actually worked on then I can actually start querying. What would you suggest? And yes, Cari, that question's mainly aimed at you. :)

Procrastinating (again)

Tomorrow I'll be starting the third week (of six) of my first rotation. The first two weeks already went by super fast. As is evidenced by the time period between posts. Though I'll readily admit that I'm not that great at actually posting regularly.

My rotation is keeping me super busy, though my preceptor, the staff pharmacist, and techs are awesome. It's definitely a different environment than the pharmacy that I get paid to work at. I'm learning a lot and learning more when I get home. Unfortunately, that means no writing for Ashley. *tear* I haven't even been able to muster up enough enthusiasm to tackle the empty whiteboard on my wall. Okay, there are three post-its on there so it's not totally empty, but it looks very lonely. And yet, all I do is lie in bed and stare at it.

I'm working on finishing Sandman Slim and I'm right in the middle of the big fight scene at the end, but I haven't brought myself to finish reading the book either. It's a very different book--present tense is generally not my thing at all, but I have to say Kadrey handles it pretty well. The MC is delightfully screwed up and full of general badass-ness and he's got enough backstory to make you root for him.

Argh, I can't even string together a coherent blog post tonight. I guess I better get back to my assignments I need to get done before tomorrow. Hopefully next time my ramblings will make a little more sense...

Dawnbreaker Review

I don't normally do reviews, but having just finished a book and having free time on my hands, I figure I'd give my thoughts...

I just read Dawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake and it certainly entertained. There's something to be said for Danaus. To be honest, I think I almost like hearing about the part-bori/part-human more than Mira herself. The mystery that's integral to his character remains fascinating to me, probably because it's fascinating to our narrator.

Ms. Drake gave Mira enough strengths and enough weaknesses to make her a believable MC. However, there were a couple moments in this book (as in Dayhunter which I just read this past week as well) that I wanted to scream at her. I mean, Mira has control over fire, people! After 600+ years, I'd think that using her fire is second-nature to her... which I believe it says something like that in the book itself. If that's the case, then why, on several occasions did she wait until either she or one of her compatriots are injured to burn those naturi to a crisp? I just don't get it.

Of course, I realize, that for certain plot points/scenes to work, then certain things have to escape our heroine's notice. And maybe that's the reason behind it, but as a reader it's a tad frustrating. And at the end... well, I don't want to give away the end, but Mira has it within her power to end this whole drama, but she doesn't. In the epilogue, she laments the choice, which, yeah. I would too. And if "this whole drama" were to have ended, then there wouldn't be another book now would there?

I can see that the next books in this series have plenty of room for some great plots and I'm excited to see that. It took me a couple books to get into this series, but I think Danaus has finally captured my heart. I think it's the brooding, dark-haired, blue-eyed thing he's got goin' on. :)

One thing that I do think Jocelynn has done very well is balancing Danaus and Mira's relationship with one another. On every page I can feel the tremulousness of their alliance. But at the same time, I can tell by her thoughts (and his actions) that when it finally does come time for them to have a showdown that things won't be as easy as both of them constantly joke about. I am SO looking forward to that. And the romance-reader in me wants to see them both get some action!

I've noticed that Ms. Drake's books (at least the most current two, I haven't read Nightwalker in a while) have a rather different kind of pacing from what I'm used to reading. In the Dark Days series, Dayhunter and Dawnbreaker center around an event that will be happening. Because said event is mentioned so much throughout the book, I feel almost like, "Okay, are we there yet?"

By reminding the reader so constantly of the timeline, I find myself impatient. It feels like every event that happens in the book is getting in the way of the climax instead of leading up to it. It's not bad, per se. It's just... different. And the climax happens at the very end (I mean like VERY end) of the book. There's perhaps ten pages after the big showdown and I just don't get enough closure for that. Granted, that is probably what works for Mira's story, but I'm just not used to it.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. Plenty of action and I can't wait to read more about our enigmatic Danaus (and Mira, of course).

The Dark Days series by Jocelynn Drake:

Freedom, Frustration, and Fun

How do you like that alliteration, hm?

As you can tell by the title (or maybe not) I've been busy. I finished my last didactic (aka classroom/lecture) quarter of pharmacy school on Tuesday. I passed all my classes and actually I avoided C's this quarter! Bam said the lady! However, on Monday I will start my first rotation at a local Target pharmacy. It'll be great experience to learn my counseling points for the drugs I'm not totally comfortable with yet. However, I might not be getting home 'til 8:30 M, T, W, F. I think my preceptor wants me to work 4-10's with her since she has Thursdays off. *sigh* But then, it's only for six weeks. I can live, right? ;-)

And onto writerly things: I've spent the better part of the past two days writing up a chapter play-by-play document for Untold Secrets. Let me just tell you... ARGH! As I was lamenting to my wonderful CP, Cari, there is just so much that as I was reading through the MS all I could think was, "This is complete crap." Or, "This is SO not necessary". Or, "Where the Hell are all these adverbs coming from?!"

I never noticed adverbs (whether in narration or dialogue tags) until Cari brought it to my attention. And now I see them everywhere. In my writing, in published works, or in MSs I'm helping to edit. Some of 'em I leave b/c they're what I needed, but seeing the empty adverbs are the worst. And boy did I have a lot of them.

Regardless, my reason for doing this play-by-play is to visualize my story via post-it/whiteboard!!! That's right! I got that aforementioned whiteboard and it's now hanging on my wall. Tadaaaa!Yes, I blurred everything out again, though you can probably make out the name Isaac. And yes, it's upside down. I put on the pen-holder thingy upside down just to see if it would go on and lo and behold, it wouldn't come off. So I've gotta rearrange, but that's all for the best since Untold Secrets will be going on there now instead of its sequel, which is up there at the moment.

Anyway, writing out all the scenes via the play-by-play onto post-its will help me visualize the book. More importantly, it will hopefully help me see what can come out. B/c at 138K, US is just WAAAAY too big. I'm aiming to get it down to 115K and that's on the high side for a first Urban Fantasy novel. Still, that's 23K to whittle down. However, based on this brief skimming I've done, I'm going to have a lot to switch up and remove so I just might actually make this a workable novel soon. Which would be ideal since I told myself I will start querying once I graduate in June.

Nevertheless, I still like working with these characters and I love em too much to just chuck the whole MS. Plus, it's proof that I've grown as a writer since I started writing/developing US two years ago. So that's where the "fun" part of the title comes in. Writing is still (and I hope will always be) fun for me and that's all I can ask for. :)

Update and Plotting Goodness

It has occurred to me multiple times these past weeks that I have neglected my blog posts. My poor blog. :( At least I have the excuse of having been insanely busy these past couple weeks. September is the only month that all three pharmacy classes will be on campus at once (my class being the one leaving to go out on our final rotations a week from Monday). So there was all these events that had to happen and the handing over of the reins (I'm outgoing president of one of the professional organizations).

This past weekend I hung out with one of my friends from undergrad, attended APhA's end of the year banquet, got my hair done (and a massage. woot!), worked, went to an induction ceremony, then hung out with friends from work at Dave & Busters. I know what you're thinking... that doesn't sound like me. Trust me, I was exhausted on Sunday. I stayed home all day catching up on Tivo and giving my poor cat some attention. Oh... and also... I brainstormed/plotted.

My method is Rachel Vincent-inspired. She did a post on her blog a week or so ago showing her whiteboard method. As I didn't have a whiteboard this is what I came up with:
Yeah, I blurred it out since, surprisingly, my camera was able to capture enough to make it semi-readable. Not that my gibberish would mean anything to anyone but me. But nevertheless... you may have noticed that it's a cutting mat. For crafting. However, I've since come to realize the drawback of the surface... you can't write on it. And those red notes over to the right? That's what I would have liked to have written on a whiteboard, but wasn't able to b/c, of course, it wasn't a whiteboard.

I'm hoping to rectify the situation tomorrow by making a trip to OfficeMax. Yes, a 2'x3' whiteboard is a semi-investment ($45!) but I think in the end it'll be worth it. :)
Now, my post-its (thank you Rachel for the SuperSticky suggestion!) may look a little haphazard, but I will explain a little... The green and orange are for secondary characters that I want to see worked in. The purple is the main plot. The teal is the MC's inner struggle. And like Rachel, I've found that I work up-down, left-right instead of left to right. It just seems more logical when post-its are involved.

The pink ones are miscellaneous scenes that I'm not sure (as of yet) where they fit in the big scheme of things in terms of conflict. And the board isn't even finished yet. It did help me, however, in organizing some things in ways that my mind wasn't working before. So yay for inspiration...

The problem is I think I have to re-read and re-plot all of US, given its mammoth length. Therefore, some of those scenes may have to be used in this one I'm plotting on the board. *sigh*

One more thing before this mammoth entry comes to a close: the new Three Days Grace album was released today and next Tuesday is Breaking Benjamin's new album. They posted the song clips on the amazon page for it and I can't freaking wait. Both of those bands give me such great inspiration and writing material to work with. Their sort of my muses sometimes. :)

Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to keep up a little bit more with blog entries in the coming weeks.

Cover Machine

I am a cover-making machine lately. Okay, I've only made 3 or 4, but they're addicting! Made some for me and one for my wonderful cousin. Just having a cover for a book makes me want to write more. "I must have awesome writing to go with this awesome cover!" I know these covers will never see the light of day, but nevertheless they are fun! I'd post them here, but I used deviantart pics that weren't stock and I haven't gotten permission to post them. Oh, except for the one I did for my cousin. That main one was stock. But I don't have my dear cousin's permission to post it. Let's just say that they kick ass. ;-) Ooh! Ooh! Wait, this one is stock too! I can show you! :D

And before I hear anything about how I'm wasting time doing these that I could spend ya know, actually writing... I will say that in doing one of these I was forced to think of a title. And it's a title that I'm actually totally happy with!! So it got some creative juices flowing and I got to find another creative outlet for my brain. :)