Book Review: Militess and Mage by Monica Enderle Pierce

Book: Militess and Mage

Author: Monica Enderle Pierce

Series: The Shadow & The Sun (book 1)

Rating: 5/5

Excellent fantasy novel. If you’re looking for a romance novel, this may not be for you. It’s really more of a fantasy story with a romance running through it.

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Starting with the cons, as there are so few.

Cons

  1. There are almost no steamy scenes, and the few that are there are forgettable. Again, this is more of a fantasy story.

 

If you’re good with the one sorta con, I highly recommend giving this book a read.

Pros

  1. The story has an excellent plot that moves along well, especially coming into its own once there’s a bit of trust between the characters.
  2. I love that they’re not “in love” or even “in lust” with each other at first sight. This attraction grows along with their trust. The sparring back and forth started to drag a touch in the beginning, but the author soon got the characters working together by moving the plot along.
  3. The characters sing. I love their strength and their vulnerability. They both made sacrifices, sometimes unwillingly, for their power. It’s clear both earned their standing even if they were born into privilege. The Mage suffered under a cruel master and the warrior suffered the social stigma of being a bastard.
  4. Both the hero and heroine are very powerful, but so is the villain they are up against, and their power has reasonable limits. This adds to the tension as victory is never guaranteed and there are a lot of close calls along the way.
  5. Once the plot really starts moving, it’s fast and furious and you get swept along for the ride.
  6. I *love* that heroine starts out strong and ends strong. She is never weakened for the story. She doesn’t have to go from warrior to damsel to make the story work. I loved that she was physically scarred and unrepentant about it. She took lovers as she chose. Yes! A true warrior that happened to be a woman instead of a “female warrior”.

“Aspiring” Writer

One topic I’ve seen a lot lately is the discussion wrapped around calling yourself a writer. Not an aspiring writer, but a writer.

I think I understand where this advice is coming from. This is a really hard field to get into, and it’s easy to get disappointed. I am experiencing my own doubts about my work and if I should continue to write.

I do not like the process of trying to find an agent or publisher. It really puts me out of my comfort zone, and the constant rejection is disheartening.

So calling yourself a writer is supposed to be an affirmation.  A way to keep yourself going when you’re thinking of quitting.

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But I feel like this is somewhat disingenuous. In my experience, most people who say they want to be a writer or are aspiring to be a writer mean they want to write full time. Most are already slugging away in their basement, spare bedroom, or if they’re really lucky, home office. But what they want is for their writing to support them and their family. They don’t want to have to hold down a day job so they can make ends meet.

So I get it. If you write, you’re a writer. You are doing the act of writing, and it doesn’t matter if you ever publish your work or not, if you never earn a dime from your work. And the publishing aspect is the part I like the least. I hate spending my few writing hours a week looking up agents, rewriting queries, etc.

I suppose if you’re an actor, you act. Even if it’s only at your community theater.

A co-worker of mine wanted to be a baseball player. He made it the minor leagues but got hurt. It ended his baseball career. He still plays baseball for fun, but he never says he’s a baseball player. To him, calling himself a baseball player means something very different than playing in his weekly rec league.

I suspect the same is true for writers.So, this affirmation feels a bit…I hesitate to say it…patronizing.

J.K.Rowling posting her rejection letters, (harsh, scathing rejection letters), did far more to motivate me than all of the “you are a writer” posts combined.

I write. I write almost every day. I wrote on my birthday, Valentine’s Day and Easter. I wrote when I had a cold. I wrote when I had bronchitis. I wrote when I didn’t want to write anymore.

So I am a writer, but I’m also an aspiring writer.

I am aspiring to find an agent. Aspiring to publish my first novel. Aspiring to make my writing profitable enough that it can pay for a laptop dedicated to it. Maybe even the latest version of Word.

I may not be good enough, lucky enough, or connected enough for any of this to happen. But I’m working for it. Aspiring towards it.

Three Things I’ve Learned Revising My Second Book

I have been revising my second novel while procrastinating on writing a query for my first. Yeah, I know. But this whole query thing sucks. As does the rejection that goes with it. But here are three things I have learned revising so far.

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I Fall Apart at the End

I had been clipping along with my revisions pretty well through the first half of the book. It was better written than the first draft of my first book, which I chalked up to the experience of writing and revising a whole book. Of course, I’d thought this was going to continue throughout the novel. Boy was I wrong. Once I got to the middle of the story, the writing got more . . . well, it needed work. A lot more work.

Revision progress slowed.

Then I got about 2/3 of the way through, and the writing went from rough to bad. Very bad. More like a glorified outline. There’s still dialogue and the like, but the transitions (which I struggle with normally) are beyond bad. Description seems to have been tossed out the window, the villain is poorly developed, and the heroine seems to be regressing rather than coming into her own.

I have my work cut out for me, but that’s what revision is all about. This is why it takes me so much longer to revise than to write.

 

Character Arcs

As I have been revising this piece, I learned something about how I have been writing character arcs in my first two books.

My heroines both have external conflicts to resolve: escape from a necromancer to save her soul; escape slavery so her children will be born free.

Both of my heroes have internal conflicts: let himself find happiness beyond duty even after all he’s seen and done for a righteous cause;  learn the humility, compassion and sacrifice it takes to be a good king.

I’m still not sure if it’s good characterization or not. I want my female characters to be perceived as strong, even if they need the hero’s help. These are romance novels. I need to find a reason to keep the hero and heroine together even if they aren’t two people that would normally be together. I also need to make larger than life heroes feel more human.

As I think through the many romance novels I’ve read, this seems to be a somewhat common theme.

I need to think more on this, but for the moment, I’m not sure I have a better solution.

 

Motivation

My motivation has been flagging during these revisions. Some of that is due to a sick child. But more of it is due to the draining process of revision. It’s more fun to create, to let the characters come to life and see what’s going to happen next. It’s less fun to deal with character arcs and plot pacing. It’s even less fun to work through transitions, descriptions, and the like.

All are important. And the work isn’t ready for external feedback until all have been dealt with.

Time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get to it.

Book Review: Deliver Me from Darkness by Tes Hilaire (Book 1 of Paladin Warriors)

Book: Deliver Me From Darkness

Author: Tes Hilaire

Rating: 1/5 Stars

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I preface this review with the fact I read the name of the series Paladin Warriors, and was *squee* Paladins! I love knights and dragons, swords and sorcery. Bring it on!!

I read a bit further to see that the author’s take on Paladins was angels from The One God that had chosen to come to earth to fight Lucifer’s minions. *double squee*

Oh wait, the hero is a vampire. Still a Paladin, but somehow a vampire was able to turn a holy being. Hmmm, probably a bit of story there, hopefully a good story . . . Still hoping for the Paladin parts to be really good even if they’re not as powerful as I would’ve thought.

IF you are a huge fan of vampire romance, this might be your cup of tea. If you are looking for Holy Paladins, Guardians of the Light, and Knights in Shining armor, this story isn’t for you.

Pros

  1. Steamy scenes were pretty good.
  2. The background characters were amazing. I *loved* Logan, I liked Vallin by the end, and Alexander was also cool. Gabby was wonderful, and Christos easy to hate.

Cons

  1. Flashback scenes were jarring and didn’t actually help with the story. As a matter of fact, they were a tad confusing.
  2. The Paladins are NOT *Paladins* They are rapists. To force yourself on someone, to forcibly “mark” them against their will, a mark that will bare their thoughts and feelings as well?!? Really? And every one of them was ready to forcibly mark Karissa because she was the last female paladin? Really? Maybe their order deserves to go extinct. Not sure what separates them from the Darkness. Why would the Light even allow this forcible marking? Shouldn’t the Light demand consent or smite the Paladin doing the marking?
  3. By the way, why were there no other female Paladins? Low birth rate, but why a low birth rate? And how did the ones that birthed the rapey paladins all manage to die? Book never does a great job explaining it. From some of the flashback scenes, seems like all the women were together for some reason and the forces of darkness pounced. I hope to hell that wasn’t the reason. Those ladies should’ve lit the forces of darkness up and taught them what it means to mess with a celestial being. But, you know, there were no big strong men around to protect them. *gag*
  4. The plot was weak. It appeared to be: everyone wants Karissa. Whether to forcibly subject her, as per the Paladins, or for her blood, as per Lucifer and gang. No idea why Lucifer wants her blood, and he gets it, so he wins.Not really the ending I was expecting in a Romance novel. Yeah, the hero and heroine also survive, but I don’t expect the bad guys to get what they want.
  5. I didn’t like the heroine from the beginning and never came around to liking her. Might be the temper tantrums. Might be everyone saying how powerful she is and then her constantly being a damsel in distress. She doesn’t do much of anything to save herself other than run away. Which, yeah, can be viable strategy, but then get the heck away! Quick synopsis of her story:
    • Captured and brought to Roland.
    • Sorta willingly taken to Haven with all the rapey Paladins, but then goes unconscious because of reasons and is imprisoned in a bedroom. I rolled my eyes when she simply walks out of Haven (who was guarding their most precious victim?). In the middle of the night. And doesn’t notice it’s still night until the door closes behind her. Right.
    • Good thing there’s a rapey Paladin that catches her and who’s about to force himself on her but has to stop so he can save her from a couple vampires and demons.
    • Good thing the vampire Paladin gets there in time to save her from the other Paladin . . . ‘Cause, you know, she’s so powerful . . .
    • The fact that later in the story she leaves the cabin when her vampire Paladin can’t, after she was told not to . . . Are you surprised she’d abducted (again)?
    • She’s taken to the coal mines where she’s drained of blood and tortured . . . in a romance novel . . .
  6. Serious damsel in distress. And I have no idea why she’s considered so powerful, or why an author has torture in a Romance novel. All I can come up with was that the author desperately wanted her to be vampire by the end rather than Rolland being redeemed to the Light and returning as a full Paladin (which is the Happily Ever After ending I was expecting a la the Circle Trilogy from Nora Roberts – great trilogy, by the way.).
  7. Karissa has no real growth or development, either. In the last scene, she is being all squeamish over helping dissolve the remains of a really bad guy and ewww, she can’t touch it. Even though there are Paladins (granted rapey ones) fighting all round her, risking their lives, to save her.

 

I opened the book wanting to love the Paladins, ready to love them, in fact. I came to hate them (except for Logan). The vampire ended up being the best of the lot (surprise twist, Logan ends up being Karissa’s brother, so no super nice guy for her!), and I kept hoping for there to be something that redeems the vampire Paladin and brings him to the light. Yeah, no.

He is still a vampire at the end, and now, so is she. No happily ever after for me. Looks like the end of the line for the Paladins as she was the last female one of them and now she’s undead. Not sure that’s entirely bad, given their propensity to not require consent.

Not a book I remotely recommend, but if you do read it, don’t get too caught up in the Paladin Warriors title.

3 Things I have Learned About Time Management

So, I was a bit frustrated on Wednesday after reading a post blaming writers for not making time for writing.

I have learned a lot about time management since I started writing with 2 kids, a husband, and a full time job. Here are a few of them in hopes they help you, too.

Time

Know Your Attention Span

More time does not mean more writing gets done. At least, not for me. It might mean I poke around on the internet more. It might mean I check e-mail or tidy my desk. For me, I have found that 45 minutes to an hour is about as long as I can productively write at a stretch. During that time, it’s ideal for me to put on a little music to focus. And to remember that if the baby fusses, DH has her for this period of time. I don’t need to go poking my nose in.

Focus. Write. Edit. Revise. Whatever I’m going to do, do it.

 

Use Dead Time

Dead time for me is during my commute, while I’m folding laundry, putting away dishes, etc. I try to think about characters, motivations, plot, etc.  Amazing how many little scribbles on sticky notes during this time have helped get through a block.

The time I spend on a walk may convert to this once I work through the pain from breaking my foot.

Best time I’ve ever had for creativity was taking walks outside. Got me some exercise, too. But the slow healing and large hills in my neighborhood has made that difficult since my fall.

 

Minimize Distractions

Whatever yours may be. As my writing desk is in the middle of the living room since the baby got my office, my writing time has to be after my oldest child has gone to bed. Her kissing my leg, as cute as it is, is not conducive to writing.

I can’t write while she watches her episode of TV before bed, either. Even children’s television programming tends to be too distracting for me. TV, in general, is just something I can’t ignore. No matter how bad it is, no matter how much I may want to, I can’t look away.

I’m not much for social media (still need to get a twitter account and a Facebook account), so that isn’t a distraction for me. I know for many it is, and I have heard of writers purposely getting a computer for writing that doesn’t connect to the internet just so they can stay focused.

“Magically” Find More Time

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I read a blog post recently blasting those of us who say we don’t have the time to dedicate to social media and building our brand. This post claimed we are simply binge watching Netflix, sleeping an extra half hour, whatever, but we’re not taking our writing seriously.

First, I don’t like social media. I mostly like writing. Both are work, one is work I like doing most of the time. I don’t even have a personal Facebook account. I don’t “tweet” or have a Twitter account. I know there are more social media sites out there, but I clearly am not on them either.

Second, I find it rather flippant to lump all writers into the same category. Especially those of us holding down a full time day job.

 

So, here is my schedule:

6 am-7:30 am – Wake up. Eat. Get dressed, brush my hair, teeth, and whatever minimal morning routine I can squeeze in. Help get the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed etc. Make it out the door by 7:30 so I’m not late to work.

7:30 am-8:00 am – Drop the kids off and drive to work.

8:00 am-5:00 pm –  Work. Maybe later, depending on the time of year, the projects I am working on, and looming deadlines.

5:00 pm-5:30 pm (or later) – Drive home

5:30 pm-6:45 pm  – Make and eat dinner. Clean up after dinner.

6:45 pm-7:30 pm – Family stuff. Go for a walk, watch an episode of TV with DD, practice letters, read books, whatever. This is the brief snip of time I have to enjoy the kids.

7:30 pm-8:00 pm – Bedtime routine for DD1.

8:00 pm-8:15 pm – Shower, get clothes out for myself and the kids for the next day, etc.

8:15 pm-9:00 pm – Write while DH puts DD2 to bed

9:00-10:00 spend an hour with DH. We might sit and chat, play some video games, whatever. Maybe I’ll read if he wants to just chill. Can’t remember the last time we watched TV or a movie . . .

10 pm – Bed

 

So, I have to give up time with my children, time with my spouse, or sleep to wrangle more time to do social media. Or I have to give up my 45 minutes of writing time. Not going to do it, so I guess I am just not going to take my writing “seriously”.

I love writing. I would very much like to see some success in my writing endeavors. But it will never replace my day job. Families are simply too expensive and writer incomes too meager, especially in 2016 when mom’s are sometimes the primary income.

I really hope I just misunderstood the post. Or reacted strongly because we are going through a rough time with DD2 and medical issues, combined with a great deal of day job stress.

Or maybe the blogger has never tried to balance a full time job, a spouse, and two kids with a fledgling writing career and aversion to social media.

Or maybe there is no hope to launch a writing career at this point in my life. If that’s the case,  not sure how I feel about all the wasted hours I’ve spent alone at a keyboard when I could’ve been reading, binge watching Netflix, or playing Fallout 4.

Writing Through Distractions

I cannot write through distractions, not real ones, anyway.

Yes, I can write and listen to music. Sometimes, music can inspire my muse.

I can write while I eat a sandwich, drink my juice infused water, or let the cat sit on my lap. But turn on the TV? I’m done.

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I just have to look.

I don’t know how people write or do homework or do anything that requires concentration in front of a television. I see people doing it all the time, but I’m not one of them. I would just stare at my computer screen while I kept sneaking glances at the TV until I was just watching TV. Even if whatever was on was something I didn’t care about. Even if it was something I didn’t like.

To write, I need to focus.

In college, I used to hide away in breakout rooms to study. I seldom studied with anyone else because then I couldn’t study.

I know the rage today is multi-tasking. Easy enough if the work requires little to no thought. But the moment it is a difficult or in-depth problem, I need to focus on it. I will set time aside in my work calendar to dedicate to a particularly difficult analysis. If our open concept office environment isn’t conducive when I need it to be, I will squirrel away in a conference room.

If I need to think, I need to minimize distractions.

I really like to have that kind of focus when I write, but sometimes my only writing time comes while DD gets her episode of TV before she goes to bed. Focus is impossible for me as DD watches My Little Pony. Until she’s watched the same episode the 15th time (thanks Netflix!), and then I can mostly tune it out.

It’s so bad I have a hard time paying attention to conversations I really care about when someone has the TV on. I actually have a hard time hearing their words over the light and noise box clambering for my attention.I simply can’t do sports bars. I feel like my head is going to explode from information overload as all those channels bear down on me.

At our house, we generally do not have the TV on unless it is being actively watched. Probably because of me. Okay, definitely because of me. Most other people seem to have it on as background noise and don’t even notice it.

Ahhh, to not notice children’s television programming. Now that truly is a gift.