A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, February 27, 2012

Struggling, With A Smile

For Christmas I received a copy of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  I've been struggling through this epic poem and it's kind of a love/hate relationship.   I will be completely lost for three stanzas and then a light bulb will go off and things become slightly clearer.  There are moments where I'm just in awe of the words used and how much they convey, and then there are other moments where I'm left scratching my head.

Part of the problem might be that this is the first epic poem I've ever read (I thought it was a regular set of tales when I put it on my wish list).  Another part might be the fact that this book was written back in the 1300's (originally in Italian if I remember right).  But a small part of me says it's difficult just because it's supposed to be.

It's an interesting sensation when you're reading a literary work like this one.  I feel like I am standing just outside a room trying to peer in but the bright lights (or dark maybe, given the story's content) make it hard to discern all the details.  I've felt like this before, back when I was reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It's like almost understanding everything the author is trying to convey - and not being upset that I don't understand.

In any event, I intend to make it all the way through and absorb as much as I can.  There are gold nuggets to be found in these verses to be sure.

Anyone else read something difficult like this recently?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Different Cultures Can Tie The Tongue

Yesterday I was reading an interesting article in Poets and Writers magazine.  Basically it involved one writer interviewing other writers and one in particular caught my eye.  This writer was a female writing in Jordan.  At first I became lost in her world as she described her background and talked about various things, such as her cultural ties and her other family members.  The more I walked through the article though, the more aware I became of just how restrictive a world she lives in.

Jordan is (in some respects) one of the more Western-thinking Arab countries.  And from her descriptions of life there, some aspects of her life sounded really interesting and inspirational.  As the interview progressed however, it became clear that there are still some things a writer cannot say in Jordan.  For example, criticizing the King is a crime.  The woman did admit to a bit of self-censoring in her writing as well.  While this didn't surprise me (since I've been to many countries in the world and shed my naivety quite some time ago), it did make me pause and think.

I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech, even when I don't agree with what's being said.  I cannot imagine writing an article or a story and having to worry about the words I choose or the topic I'm writing about.  This very blog post would likely be impossible in someplace like Jordan, since I'm not exactly hiding my dismay at their laws.  I like to think I have a fairly creative mind, but that creativity would be stifled in such a place.  I'd probably end up behind bars permanently (or worse).

I guess I am saddened by the fact that I love learning about the various cultures that make up humanity, and yet here is a culture (or society at least) that keeps its people from examining and celebrating their culture through writing.  It's truly unfortunate.

I keep hoping that someday the right people will rise to power and embrace at least some of the freedoms we enjoy in this country.   I don't think they need to model their governments exactly like ours, since we have plenty of bad examples as well.  But maybe someday they will find a happier medium that frees their people a little more without sacrificing their core cultural values (if that's possible).

Am I wishfully thinking here?  I'd love to hear anyone else's perspective or experiences.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Catching Attention Immediately

Last night the family and I sat down to watch The Voice.  If you're unfamiliar with the show, its a singing contest/reality show where the judges listen to the person singing without facing them so that they can decide based on the voice alone as opposed to taking the person's appearance/stage presence/etc into consideration.

As the show progressed, one thing became very clear.  Those vocalists that jumped out there and wow'd the judges from the get-go were immediately rewarded by the judges turning around (meaning the judges were then offering to mentor the vocalist going forward).  Those who didn't grab attention immediately struggled to get any kind of response from the judges (and in some cases failed completely).

The parallel between the show and my WiP hit home since I'm currently working on my opening chapter.  I'm struggling with the same problem these latter vocalists struggled with. I need an opening that catches the attention, that grabs the reader right off.  I need to engage them immediately so that they're willing to go through this ride with me.  I'm finding it's not an easy task.

One thing I learned through the critiques is that I've tried to tell the story in a very blank - almost empty - world.  I'm not very experienced with this whole world-building stuff, so my first thought was to use the beginning to introduce my world.  As I started re-writing the opening however, I noticed that I was bored.  I was painting the picture of my world, but it reminded me too much of Tolkien (and I hate the overbearing description Tolkien used).  More importantly, I couldn't see my reader being excited about the story either.

So it's back to the drawing board.  I've got to find a happy medium between describing the world enough and getting the reader engaged right away.  I don't know how I'm going to do it, but hopefully I'll figure something out soon. 

Actually, I think I'll go re-read the openings of Possession and A Million Suns.  They're great examples that might inspire me.

How do you go about creating that ever-important first scene?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Guest Post - Dies Irae Blog Tour

Today I join the Dies Irea Blog Tour, and I'm honored to introduce my friend Christine Fonseca to promote The Requiem Series.  When Christine first asked me what type of post I thought would work best, I asked her if she could talk about writing a series.  So without further ado, here is Christine's take on the subject.

Thanks, Eric, for hosting a leg of the DIES IRAE blog tour. Eric asked me to talk a little about the process of a series—the pros and cons, ins and outs, that sort of thing. My initial reaction to his request was laughter. Why? Because the series never started out as such. Not even close.

The world of Celestium and my angels started off as a stand-alone book called LACRIMOSA. When my beta readers read it, they all told me it should be a series. But I queried it as a single title, still not convinced it was worthy of a series. In truth, I wasn’t convinced I was ready to commit to a series. See, writing a series are hard. Oftentimes the storyline deteriorates into the world of the cliché. And this is NOT something I wanted to happen to LACRIMOSA or that world. So when my friends suggested a series, I really did ignore them.

Until I sold it.

As a four book series.


Looks like I needed to get comfortable with writing a series—and quick!

Where did I start? By figuring out the things I was most worried about with a series. After brainstorming, talking with some of my friends, and talking with my loyal teen group, I identified the following areas of concern with writing a series:
  • ·         Many series have a strong first book, and weaker, cliché, or repetitive follow up books
  • ·         Retelling backstory—over and over and over
  • ·         “Forcing” the storyline beyond what it really is

Then I thought about other options, like companion stories. But, I had a couple of concerns there as well:
  • ·         Lack of story continuity (and the feedback from readers that this isn’t always a good thing)
  • ·         Switching POVs to a new character or characters
  • ·         Lack of linear storytelling

While neither of these lists are fatal in my opinion, but there are things I wanted to be aware of as I plotting and planned my series.

So, what did I come up with? Here are the basics (without giving away my plots, of course):
  • ·         A full storyline that steers clear of the cliché
  • ·         Crafting each story to stand-alone to some degree, without retelling backstory over and over
  • ·         Using novellas and novelettes to bridge between the stories and introduce alternative POVs without losing the continuity of the series.

Man, this is tough. Beyond tough, actually. But I can honestly say I have enjoyed the process; enjoyed stretching myself as an artist.

Will I be successful? No idea. I guess all of you, my readers, will be the final judge. I can only hope you do!

About Christine Fonseca
School psychologist by day, critically acclaimed YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her debut YA Gothic series, The Requiem Series, including DIES IRAE and LACRIMOSA, examines the role of redemption, sacrifice and love. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can be sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog.


Some sacrifices should never be made—even for love. 

Mikayel lives by one rule—obey the orders of the angelic Council at all costs. But when he and his friends, Azza and Demi, are sent to Earth as teenagers, following the rules is more difficult than they expected.

Being human isn’t the only problem facing the three angels. Unbeknownst to the Council, demonic activity is on the rise, threatening to break a tenuous peace that has existed for a millennia.

Caught in a struggle for power with unseen demonic forces, and fighting against his rising emotional, Mikayel must now decide how many rules he is willing to break to save his friends, a decision that could reignite an ancient war and will threaten the only thing that matters to the angels, the survival of humanity.

“Dies Irae is the perfect introduction to Christine Fonseca’s Requiem series. The beauty of the words will tempt you, the tragedy of the story will break you, and the love, woven throughout like music through the trees, will haunt you for days afterward. Dies Irae promises a tale unlike any you’ve read before.”
~Ali Cross, Author of BECOME

Format: Digital format only - from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers. Links not available at present.


As if casting out demons isn’t hard enough, five-hundred-year-old Nesy has to masquerade as a teenage girl to do it. Nesy is the best of the warrior angels called Sentinals. She never makes mistakes, never hesitates, never gets emotionally involved. Until she meets Aydan.  

He is evil incarnate; a fallen angel that feeds off the souls of others. Everything Nesy is supposed to hate.  But she can’t, because he’s also the love of her former life as a human girl—a life that ended too soon, tying her to emotions she was never supposed to feel.

Now Nesy must choose between doing her duty—damning Aydan to the fiery depths of hell—or saving him, and condemning herself. 

“LACRIMOSA reaches out, grabs readers by the heart, and takes them on an emotional journey from the first page to the last. The last novel you’ll need to read to understand true sacrifice.”
~Elana Johnson, Author of POSSESSION

ISBN: 0984786368 (ISBN 13: 9780984786367)
Hardback and Digital formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and fine retailers. Links not currently available.

Additional Titles in the series include LIBERA ME (Nov 2012) and REQUIEM (March 2013). The book trailer can be seen by linking to YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwTQoOFKEZg

For more information about Christine Fonseca or the series, visit her website – http://christinefonseca.com or her blog http://christinefonseca.blogspot.com