The more you write, the more ideas you get.



I remember reading the excellent book On Writing by Stephen King sometimes in 2009, when I had just moved state-side with my husband. And I remember feeling so pumped up and excited to start writing something, because the great Stephen King said that ANYONE could write a story, they only had to start.

So I sat down with my pen and paper, already thinking about printed books and glory and fame… and I hit a wall. I had nothing to write about. My mind was blank. Not a single interesting story idea to be found anywhere. But I wanted to write! So I grabbed the first half-baked story that had the misfortune to wander into the spotlight and tried to run with it. The run quickly became a walk, then a crawl, and finally it died in horrible convulsions. That was my first effort at becoming a writer and, as you can see, it was not a very successful one.

Then in October 2013 a good friend of mine told me, “Why don’t you try doing NaNoWriMo with me?” I looked at the site, I read the rules, and I decided why the heck not? But the last disastrous foray into the land of writing was still fresh in my mind, so I was rather freaked out to just start on November 1 and write 50k in 30 days. And I still had NO IDEA what I would be writing about! Needless to say that the closer that first of November loomed, the more stressed I got.

And then a miracle happened. Around October 15, one a character literally barged into my dream, knocking the door down with his military boots, and said, “Ok, you will write this, and you will write it now.” I woke up with a half-formed idea, three fully-formed characters and an almost feverish need to put pen to paper and get story out, because it was burning me from the inside. I spent the last 15 days before the start of NaNo frantically outlining the story, I hit the month of November running, and I didn’t stop running until I finished the first draft around January 15.

During this exciting journey, I learned a lot about writing in general, as well as what worked and didn’t for me (outlines are a must – I can’t pants it for the life of me). But something even more extraordinary happened in the process as well – all of a sudden, my mind was bombarded with stories clamoring to be told. I was writing one, and at least three more were knocking more or less politely at the door, waiting for their turn. Where I had suffered from lack of things to write about back in 2009, I was overwhelmed with possible ideas now. It was like the trickle had transformed into a downpour!


I now have a list of stories I want to write, and it’s getting longer every month. I must admit that it’s exciting. I am in the middle of the first rewrite / edit of my NaNo novel, and I have a finished short story waiting for a second rewrite, but I am also writing a brand new story that might turn out to be a novella. And I have enough plots for at least two more short stories set in the same word as another short story I just started sending out to magazines. Not to mention, another half-written novel I really want to go back to, because I have finally figured out the outline for it.

I guess it is true what everybody says – the more you write, the more you discover stuff to write about. It’s hard to start the ball rolling, but once it’s on the move, it gathers all sorts of interesting things along the way.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman


Stars: 4 out of 5

With Everlost, the first book in the Skinjacker series, Neal Shusterman created a fascinating world that I enjoyed exploring.

Nick and Allie die in a car crash, but instead of going all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel, they collide with each other and go of course. So they end up stuck in a world called Everlost – a place that permeates our real world, but in which things that had meaning in our world, but were for some reason destroyed, still remain. It’s a world where the Twin Towers are still standing in New York, the Titanic still sails the seas, the Hindenburg soars through the skies, and all the fortunes in the fortune cookies are always true.

Nick and Allie soon find out that only places that don’t exist in the real world anymore, that are solid in Everlost only, are safe for them. Everywhere else they start sinking into the ground if they stand still for too long. They also discover that this world is only populated by children, the oldest of which was barely 17 when she died, and that monsters do exist, even if they are man-made.

I absolutely loved the world of Everlost. The idea that the ghosts exit in this world that is near ours, but not entirely like ours, is fascinating. Also loved the fact that landmarks, buildings and objects that had some significance or importance to somebody pass into the Everlost as well when they are destroyed. Or that the Afterlights (because they don’t want to call themselves ghosts) are only safe in those places that passed into the Everlost too.

I loved following the main characters, but most of the supporting characters were just as fun to read about. Mary, and the McGill, and Leaf were all very real and well-portrayed characters with their own personalities and goals. They all are basically in the same boat – trying to make sense of what happened to them and figure out how to spend eternity in this strange place.

I was also happy with the fact that the author didn’t chose to go the easy way and populate this world with monsters or other creepy things. The only monsters our heroes encounter are man-made. In fact, this is one of the messages of the book – that you can chose what to be in Everlost, whether you will have the strength to stay human, or lock yourself in a mindless routine that you would be repeating forever, or even become a monster. Every soul copes with the circumstances differently. There is no right or wrong way. But this world is not sad and gloomy at all, because in the end, there is a coin for every lost soul to get to their final destination. They just have to be ready to take that last step.

I really enjoyed this first book and I can’t wait to dive into Everwild, the next book in the series. So if you enjoy a well-thought world and engaging characters, pick up Everlost and read it. Go do it now!

Editing my novel – first steps.

Editing woes


My big adventure as a writer started November 2013 when I attempted to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to write at least part of my first ever novel. I plowed ahead and even won NaNo with a nice 55k word count. My novel, however, was only halfway done. So I persevered. I applied butt to chair for the whole of December (well I made a break for the holidays) and half of January, until I had finally put THE END on my manuscript. I ended up with a 100k word brick and an immense sense of satisfaction. I did it! I had finally finished something. For the first time ever. Yay me!!!

So I put my first draft in a drawer and busied myself with writing a couple short stories. That was also fun and challenging in a different way than writing a whole novel. When you have a very limited amount of words to tell your story, you have to be a lot more careful about the choices you make.

Short stories were also my first serious attempt at editing a piece into something good enough print (still working on that, first story is on version three so far). I had tremendous fun editing and rewriting them, trying to see if I could tell my story better.

But now I am faced with the 100k brick that is my first draft, and I must admit that the task of editing it is daunting. I mean it took me two weeks to tweak a 5k words story well enough to be able to send it to my critique group, how long would going through THAT many words take me? I admit that I am terrified. I have been circling around this text since beginning of March, unsure where to start.

I even sent it to my wonderful beta who had been there with me every step of the way while I was writing the darn thing. I think she sensed my rising panic, because she advised me to break the story into manageable chunks, to re-outline my novel now that it’s finished, breaking it into scenes, and go from there. That’s what I have been busy doing for the past week.

I must admit that this advice was invaluable. Not only do I have a clear Excel spreadsheet with every scene making every chapter, but I also have a better understanding of what is going on in my story. I now know how the events unfold and link to each other. And I already see a few problems that need fixed. I didn’t notice them when I read through the manuscript before, even though I felt that something wasn’t quite right.

So now that I have that clearer picture, I can start working on my plan of attack. Hopefully, I will manage to make my novel better (and not get paralyzed by fear in the prospect of the cheer volume of words I have to edit).

But this is the first lesson I learned about editing a novel – a detailed scene by scene outline is a must.

The process is ongoing, so stay tuned for more!

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

The Great Book of Amber

Stars 5 out of 5 (especially for the first 5 books in the series).

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny will always have a very special place both on my bookshelf and in my heart. I was fifteen years old when I came upon the very first book in the series – Nine Princes in Amber. I had never heard of Zelazny before, I was more of a Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Gabriel Garcia Marquez type. But I was home with a particularly nasty case of flu and nothing to do, so I cracked the book open, not expecting anything exceptional… and I got lost in the complex and wonderful world that Roger Zelazny had created. So much so that I read the first book deep into the night, until I reached the very last page. And when I did, I could barely wait until morning to rush to the library and get all the rest.

The world of the Amber Chronicles is absolutely fascinating. There are two original words – the House of Amber and the Court of Chaos, and a myriad of other worlds that are Shadows (reflections) of those two. Earth is one of those reflections. Amber has a royal family and a very large one at that, because the king, being immortal, had the chance to have many wives and lovers and father many children. So there are, like the first book says, nine Princes in Amber and about just as many Princesses. They have never been a very close-knit family during the best of times, but now the king is missing, and the rivalry for the succession has started. And everything goes in the battle for the throne of Amber…

I also fell in love with the protagonist of the first five books. Prince Corwin wakes up in a hospital on Earth after a terrible accident, with no memories of who he is and a nagging suspicion that the woman who claims to be his sister and who brought him to the hospital is not to be trusted. We discover this wonderful world through Corwin’s eyes, who is rediscovering it and his place in the grand scheme of things.

I love Corwin’s progression throughout the books. He starts off as an arrogant prince of Amber, who doesn’t give a damn about people born in Shadows and is only interested in getting back to Amber and taking the throne from his brother Eric. His reason behind this? Eric is technically a bastard, so he had no right to the throne. Plus Corwin thinks he is more suited to be King of Amber.

And then we follow this character through his journey and watch him transform into someone better, wiser and ultimately more “wholesome”. He makes some mistakes that have far reaching consequences and suffers the backlash for them. Some of his actions put people he cares about in danger. He also discovers that there is more behind his father’s disappearance than meets the eye. But more importantly, at the end of his personal journey, he decides that he doesn’t want the throne of Amber, because one of his brothers is much better suited to be a better king than he ever would be.

I also loved the whole Tarot system, where each Prince and Princess of Amber had a personal card, as well as some key locations in Amber, and Amberites could talk to each other and even travel through them. The episode where Corwin escapes from his prison cell by painting an image of a lighthouse and stepping into it absolutely blew my mind.

Finally, Roger Zelazny was a master of written word and a true poet. Some of his descriptions are so absolutely beautiful. I think I will always remember his description of Corwin riding his horse from Shadow to Shadow and the scenery changing and morphing around him.

Anyway, if you haven’t read anything by Roger Zelazny yet, I would suggest that you start with these books. The first one might have been written in 1970, but it is still just as beautiful and entertaining to read now than it was then.

A Newbie’s reflections on editing

Editing my short story.
Toss and rewrite.

As far as editing is concerned, I am what the gamer world would call a total “noob”. I have only started seriously applying butt to chair since October 2013, and so far I have a finished first draft of a novel and two short stories to show for that. So I have minimal experience with editing my work (even smaller than my experience in actually writing it).

However, I started this blog not only to share my thoughts and opinions on books and shows I like, but also to track how I progress and evolve as a writer. So based on editing two short stories and finishing the re-read of my first draft, I have made several observations about my writing process.

So far, when I sat down to edit both of short stories, I ended up keeping about 10% of the original text and rewriting everything else. When I noticed that, at first I was depressed, because I felt bad for all that time I wasted writing the first draft only to toss most of it away. But then I started analyzing the differences between the draft and the end product, and the result was not as abysmal as I had thought. Yes, I had tossed 90% of what I had written, but the bones of the story remained the same – the plot stayed in those 10% that were left in its entirety. So I got the structure of the story right the first time around, but it’s the presentation that needed reworking.

Doesn’t that realization make you feel better instantly? I know it did for me. I didn’t waste that time writing the first draft. I put the skeleton of my story together instead. And those scenes that I tossed and rewrote? They served a purpose too. They showed me that first setting / event/ character reaction that came to my mind didn’t work. If I hadn’t put it down on paper and re-read it, I would never have noticed that. Guess what, that made me think of a different way of telling the story. And if the critiques I received on Critters are to be trusted, the story only became better because of that.

And now I am faced with the daunting task of taking the first draft of my novel (which about 95k works longer than my short stories) and trying to make a decent story out of it. I must admit that I am scared: if I have to toss and rewrite 90% of the original, that would be about 90k words. That can potentially take me A LONG time. But I have learned one thing from the short story editing exercise and the read through my draft – the plot is there, the characters are alive and their POVs are visible, so the “bones” of the novel are solid. Now I just need to make sure to flesh it out and dress it in Sunday’s best before I let it fly into the world.

The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

Last Stormlord

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I loved the world Glenda Larke created, but on the other hand, the characters left me absolutely indifferent.

So let’s talk about the world first. This is a continent on which water is a precious commodity that is cherished and strictly regulated. In fact, the whole continent depends on the Stormlord to take water out of the distant sea, put it into clouds and guide those clouds towards the mountain range in the middle if the continent. There the clouds break and release the water as rain into the Mother Cistern from which it is distributed to all the cities and villages on the continent through an intricate system of tunnels and holding cisterns. Each city has its own water quota, and each citizen is given a daily ration. To be born waterless is the worst fate possible.

The system worked for centuries. So much so that everybody forgot what the time of Random Rain even was like. But now the old Stormlord is dying, and there is nobody powerful enough in water magic to take his place. Oh, there are plenty of rainlords in the cities, but none of them has the power to extract water vapor from the sea. So the whole continent is on the brink of a disaster and searching parties are sent to every single little village to test people and hopefully find a new stormlord. But the nomads of the Red Quarter are brewing a rebellion and dreaming of the return of Random Rain, and the Rainlord of one of the Scrapen cities has plans of his own. The whole continent is about to explode into violence… if it doesn’t die of dehydration first.

I loved the premise. I loved an entire society structured around the conservation of water, where every single drop is accounted for, and where water tokens are the main currency instead of gold. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I looked forward to exploring this world.

This is where the book hit a wall, at least for me – I couldn’t empathize with the characters, and I was supposed to discover the world through their eyes.

Of the two main protagonists, Terelle rubbed me the wrong way the most. I mean she was so determined to run away and not become a snuggery girl that she ended up in even worse slavery in a way… and stayed there, not even trying to change her fate. But she kept complaining about her life constantly in her head, and the reader had to be part of all of her monologues. I wanted to shake her and yell, “If you are so unhappy, then grow a pair and CHANGE it!!! Or shut up and live with it if you are too chicken to act.” And she stayed the same throughout the book. Even in the end, when it had seemed that she had finally tried to do something about her situation, she still ended up doing what her master wanted her to do instead.

As for Shale… his whole story is a collection of tropes. Born to be the lowest of the low. Abusive father. Poor family. Tragedy that kills everyone he cares for. But he has a power that everybody wants! At this point the words Chosen One might as well start flashing over his head. This wouldn’t be too bad if the character had an interesting developmental arc in the book, but he doesn’t, at least not from my point of view. In just a couple years, he transforms from an ignorant boy who couldn’t even read and knew nothing about the world outside of his village into a young man who is more mature, educated, smart, talented (insert other qualities here) than everybody else.

That’s my other problem with this book. Apart from the two main characters, none of the supporting cast are interesting enough to empathize with. It seems that they are there to either guide our young heroes, or thwart them, or die in horrible suffering. So since I couldn’t find an emotional connection to anybody in the book, I was left watching the story unfold as an outsider. I finished the book, but I have absolutely no incentive to pick up the next one, sadly.

J. K. Rowling or why telling a bestselling writer to stop writing makes no sense.

I know I am jumping on the wagon way too late, since this article had been posted on February 21st, but I have some thoughts on the subject, so I decided to post them anyway. Hey, this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want in it, right? Wait, where are you all going? Come back!!!

Ahem, back to the subject at hand. I think the idea that bestselling authors somehow steal readers (and thus money) from less known writers by publishing new books is absolutely preposterous. More than that, the reasoning is flawed.

Would I buy a new book by J. K. Rowling? I would read the synopsis first, and if the story interests me, then yes of course I will. But I would do that with any other book as well, regardless of the author. Granted, seeing a big name on the cover would incite me to pick up the book and actually look at the synopsis more than a name I don’t know. Does that mean that bestselling authors sell more books? Yes, definitely. Does that mean that by doing so they steal money away from less known authors? Heck no!

No author, no matter now prolific, can publish more than one or two books a year. Even an average reader goes through at least 12-20 books a year. And a book junkie like me usually goes through at least one book a week (because I still have a full time job, a family and my own writing which chip away at my reading time). So after I am done with the latest Rowling, King or Scalzi (those should have kept me occupied for about a month), will I just sit on my hands and die of boredom the rest of the year waiting for their next book? Of course not! I will go on a hunt for more books to read in the genres I like.

This is why I love Amazon with their neat feature called “Customers who bought this item also bought”, or the recommendations page on Goodreads. I discovered many fabulous authors by browsing through those recommendations, opening each book and reading reviews and synopsis until I found a book I wanted to read. And if I happened to like a book by this new author, I would look for more of his or her books to read.

My point is, if this – if this bestselling author hadn’t written a new book that I read and liked, I wouldn’t have gone looking for something similar, and I would never have discovered a lot of new fledgling authors that I love and follow now.

Bestselling authors shine a spotlight on the genre they chose to write in and attract more readers who might have been unfamiliar with that genre before. And this is good news for everyone, readers and authors alike.

Back to our example, J. K. Rowling wrote a crime novel. Even if only one third of her followers bought it and liked it, chances are they will want to see what other crime novels there are out there, and they will not wait for Rowling to publish a new book. Instead they will go and browse the crime section on amazon or their local bookstore / library. Chances are, they will pick up Lynn Shepherd’s novel next, or the first book of another new author, boosting their sales.

So instead of telling those bestselling authors to put their pen down and retire, we should encourage them to explore more genres so that everyone could benefit from the publicity.

Also, a good writer can never retire, because writing is not a job but a way of life. Telling them to stop writing is like telling them to stop breathing – rather impossible to do.