Wednesday, October 28, 2015

November is Coming!

As evidenced by the constant flood of everything Halloween, November is rapidly approaching us. Yes, that means (hopefully) cold weather, sweaters, boots, pumpkin pie, turkey, football, and crazy shoppers. But do you know what else it means?

If you guessed NaNoWriMo, then you'd be right! Woo hoo!

If you don't have any idea what NaNoWriMo is or why you should be excited about it, I'd suggest you go read my post from March here.

Anyway, with only three days left before the mad race to 50,000 words begins, I obviously don't have time to plan a whole new novel. That said, I have four decent unfinished novels from years past, and I need your help to figure out which one to work on! I'll post synopses and possibly excerpts from all four, and then you can use the poll in the side bar to let me know which one you want me to work on! 

Also, if you're working on a novel of your own, please let me know! I'd love to be your writing buddy! Check me out on and as thestrangemusician! 

Story 1: Victoria's Cross
Synopsis: London, 1940. George and Katherine Knight die in a bomb blast, leaving behind their five children- James, Arthur, Anna, Robert, and young Peter- in the midst of a war. When James and Arthur end up drafted a year later, they learn that the war is much more than they ever read about in the papers. Meanwhile, Anna, Robert, and Peter discover that the war extends much further than the battlefield- it reaches right into their own family.
Excerpt: First, there was scraping all the leftovers off the plates and storing them carefully in the fridge. Every bit would be needed, especially with the rationing now. It seemed like portions kept getting smaller and smaller, but in a house of boys, it was hard to tell.
 Then came laundry and mending. Everyone needed new clothes, but no one was getting them. Peter wore hand-me-downs from Robert years ago, and some of the clothes were a bit threadbare, but at least they fit him. Robert’s trousers were all too short, and she couldn’t think of any way to make them longer at this point- they’d already been mended and let down too many times. He can’t just keep wearing Arthur’s trousers either, she thought, setting aside the trousers. Arthur’s clothes fit him alright, but the shirts were worn soft and thin, especially in the elbows, and likewise in the knees of his trousers. James, as the oldest, had the newest clothes, but even they were worn and he’d have to pass a few on to Arthur or Robert soon enough. Anna’s own dresses were worn, but she had the opposite problem of Robert- they were becoming too loose. The needle moved quickly and fluidly between her fingers and the fabric, sewing patches onto sleeves and sewing up seams and taking in her own dresses.
Finally, there was cleaning. Making sure everything was being used. Collecting the boy’s laundry for washing and mending. Washing the dishes. Dusting. Even going through the trash to see what could be reused. In this time, every little thing had some sort of purpose, and if it didn’t, it was a luxury the Knight’s didn’t have. Scrap metal or glass could be donated, and would be paid for. Paper could be written on again. Anything could be reused.
Done with her chores- for now, at least- Anna sunk, exhausted, onto the couch, knitting in hand, a cup of tea on the table, and the radio on. The yarn wove around the needles fluidly, stitch by stich creating a sweater, desperately needed with fall and winter coming. All of a sudden, the yarn stopped and the needles fell limp.
“A draft has now been issued. All men of suitable age and health for war are to enlist in the army by the end of this week, or so be arrested for treason.”
The voice on the radio crackled, but there was no mistaking what had just been said- and what it meant for the Knight’s. The knitting slipped out of Anna’s thin fingers, and one bony hand reached up to cover her mouth in surprise.
That means James and Arthur! The only income we have. Robert needs them, Peter needs them, I need them here! Robert and Peter are in school. I can’t work and keep up with the cooking and housework and take care of them! What will we do? They’re… they’ll be going to war. If they… no. I cannot afford to think like that. They’ll be safe. We all will. We’ll all be safe and sound… we have to be.

Story 2: Masquerade
Synopsis:   After the famous Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes is called in to solve the murders of young Charlotte Keene's parents, her interest in forensic science, medicine, and criminology is sparked- an almost unheard of interest for a growing young woman in Victorian society. Ostracized by her adoptive family- her aunt Margaret and two cousins, Bennet and Emmeline- she is forced to hide her interest, studying, and dream of being mentored by Sherlock Holmes himself. At the age of 18, her secret is outed and her books taken away. Desperate, Charlotte disguises herself as a homeless boy names Charlie and flees to London, in search of her freedom and her hero. There, she is quickly sucked into an investigation of serial killings that shakes the foundation of everything she knows about herself. 
Excerpt: “Charlotte Ann Keene…” She started tersely. I restrained a shudder at the use of my full name. “Charlotte. I remember…” she stopped pacing and looked at me. “I remember when you were interested in science!” she scoffed. “You were nine, only a child. You said you wanted to be a doctor, or detective-” she had been speaking as if the words left a bitter taste in her mouth, but she said detective as if it were especially sour. “Inspired by that ridiculous fellow named Holmes! I explained to you, that it wasn’t proper. It was not your place. I thought you understood. You told me you would give it up. You’ve become such a lady, a beautiful, smart, accomplished, well-bred young lady. You could be a bit more social... But this-” she held up the book she’d taken from Ben. “This, cannot be in your future. It is not ladylike. I am also very angry that you have lied to me, for these nine, almost ten years, and I am angry that you have continued with these preposterous studies.” She tossed the book ungracefully back down on the desk. I winced at the thump it made.
“I’ve had Rosalind search your room. She brought me all of your books on this subject. I am confiscating them as of this evening. She also found a few journals of your own writings on the subject. I am taking those as well. This must end, immediately.”
I leapt to my feet. “My books? My journals? You’re taking those away?” I yelled it in a voice that was certainly not “ladylike,” but at this point I was too angry and hurt to care. “They’re all I have, all I care about! This-” I gestured to the room, and to my own dress, which was far too formal for my tastes. “This isn’t me! This is not who I am, or what I’m interested in, or what I care about! I do not want this life. All I want, is to learn, and to do something with my mind. Is that really so wrong?”
“Charlotte!” Aunt Margaret fumed. “How dare you speak to me in that manner! It isn’t proper. You will cease your studies, and you will be more respectful. Now, leave me, you have quite vexed my poor nerves.” She put a hand daintily over her forehead as she waved me away dismissively with the other. She was quite clear that she was through with me. In all the thirteen years I had lived with her and my two cousins, I had never been this through with her. After all of this hiding and lying, I was done, and not in the way she wanted me to be. I felt the anger bubbling up in me, like a pot on the stove about to boil over.
“Darn your nerves!” I exploded, relishing briefly in the appalled look that crossed her features before I stormed out of the room, my heavy footsteps and the slamming of the door punctuating my final words perfectly.

Story 3: Currently Untitled! 
Synopsis: Michael is a relatively normal 17 year old. 
Except, most normal 17 year olds don't spend most of their time in the hospital. And most 17 year olds go to school, get a job, learn to drive, hang out with friends. Michael, on the other hand, does none of the above. He's an amputee, so on that hand I guess he really isn't that normal. 
Oops, sorry, poor choice of words. 
Oh, and me? I would say I'm relatively normal too. I'm Olivia. I do go to school and have a job and know how to drive. When I met Michael, I was looking for a story. 
And boy, did I find one.

Excerpt: None yet! This one's still in planning stages

Story 4: Anchored 
Synopsis: Abby, a high school senior haunted by the events of her junior year escapes with her struggling single mother to a small beach town called Bayview for the summer. 
Riley, fresh out of high school and still unsure of what life holds for him, is anxious to see what might lie outside Bayview and beyond the grip of his strict, business-mogul father. 
Can Abby come to peace with her turbulent past? Can Riley find his future? What will the present hold for them both?
Excerpt: The van jolted to a stop, and I jerked awake. I would have gone flying except for the fact that I was glued to the seat by my own sweat. I glanced out the window groggily, attempting to determine our approximate location.

“We’re in Bayview. I thought we’d stop and eat before going to the condo.” Mom gestures to the barbecue restaurant we were parked in front of.I nodded numbly, and hopped out of the van.
The door chimed cheerfully as we walked in, and at first, we too were cheerful. The prospect of working air conditioning and a full stomach after a long car trip was definitely nice. That is, until we saw the prices. It was too expensive for us, I knew, but mom sighed and ordered us both the pork plate- the cheapest thing on the menu at $8.00.
We ate in silence, with only the sound of our plastic forks scraping on the styrofoam plates. It wasn't until we were done that mom said anything.
"You can go next door and look around if you want. It's a music store."
I just nodded and got up, throwing away my empty plate and nearly running out the door as the bell chimed. The music store was vintage, with whole sections of old records along with the new albums. Old guitars hung from the high ceilings, and others lined the rough-hewn walls. There were racks of sheet music scattered randomly, and the help desk at the back was a semi circle bearing the store's name- Rhythm and Blues- in vintage blue neon sign. Come to think of it, the whole place was blue, and exuded a calm, almost retro feel.
I walked over and picked up a ukulele and strummed a few bars. The high, almost twangy sound was comforting, and almost put me in the mood for spending the summer at the beach.
"Need any help?" A deep tenor asked from behind me. I spun around to face him.
The guy was tall, much taller than I was. My head came up to about his nose. His hair was dark, curly and reached his ears. He was tan, with bright blue-green eyes, and looked like he spent all his time on the beach. Which he probably did. Judging by his "Rhythm and Blues" t shirt, he was staff. I knew it was his job, yet my stomach involuntarily fluttered at the idea that he was talking to me. My voice caught in my throat as I tried to respond.
"No, just looking," I managed to squeak out. He just grinned.
"Okay, let me know if you need anything. See you around.”
I nodded silently, not trusting myself to speak. He turned with a wave and disappeared between the shelves. I ran out of the store before I could do anything else stupid.
Mom was waiting, sitting in the driver’s seat of the old van. I dreaded getting back in after so long in that sticky leather seat, but I was desperate to get to the condo, and it’s not like I could just walk. So I hopped in, and we turned back onto the road towards the coast.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review of the Month: October

I don't know about you, but there's something about drizzly fall days that makes me want to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. My book of choice? Currently, fairy tales. There's something about cold rainy days that makes me reach for a good fantasy novel. I'm in the process of rereading one of my all time favorites, The Hobbit, (more on that soon, I promise!), but this month's book review is on something new I picked up recently.

The book I'm writing about today is Mette Ivie Harrison's The Princess and the Hound, which is described as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a fascinating twist- the "beast" is a woman. With an intriguing catch phrase like that, I couldn't help but pick it up and take it home.

As with any classic fairy tale, there's a princess. Her name is Beatrice, raised by her father, who was rather barbaric at times, and she is beautiful not as most typical fair-haired, blue eyed, delicate fairy tale princesses are. She was described as beautiful in her strength and uniqueness, with her fiery red hair and freckles. Lonely except for her loyal sort-of pet hound, Beatrice is not the kind of princess you expect. She remains quite mysterious for much of the novel.

And then, of course, you have the prince. He's described as young and handsome, of course, but once again he is not necessarily the confident, daring fairy tale hero you expect. The book is written from his perspective, and follows his childhood, so we get more of an inside look. It's obvious that Prince George is unsure and often afraid, although we get to watch him grow and mature as a character.

At times, it seems they're total opposites, marrying only for duty, and you might wonder if they will ever get along properly.

This one's been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, but I finally got around to opening it up last week, and then sped through it in about a day and a half. I couldn't put it down!

I will admit, I spent the first half of the book rather confused. I wondered when and how Beauty and the Beast would come into the story, when it almost felt that the plot was heading in an entirely different direction that what I'd expected.

And then, when I finally did understand the proclaimed tie in to the classic fairy tale, I almost didn't think it fit. Animals definitely feature very prominently throughout the novel, and different perspectives on them are offered from different characters. As an animal lover myself, I found it easy to relate. Still, to me, it wasn't Beauty and the Beast. Yes, there were some obvious similarities, as you will understand if you do decide to take my suggestion and read this book, but what I found was that The Princess and the Hound didn't feel like yet another retelling of a classic story.

It felt like a new story, a new classic, all it's own. It wasn't piggybacking off of the appeal of the original, it had a different appeal, all it's own. Even though I picked this book up expecting a retelling of a story I already knew, I was not at all disappointed to find I knew nothing of where the plot was taking me.

Fans of fantasy, fairy tales, and of course, romance, will definitely enjoy this book. It had great characters, a wonderfully complex plot, and a wonderful perspective on animals. And. there's a sequel (make that a whole series, as I've just discovered), so there's even more to love.