29 November 2013

Top Five Friday: Old Scrooge vs New Scrooge

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  ~ Victor Frankl

In November, I am continuing to participate in the Two Pages-a-Day writing challenge.  And I must have been abducted by aliens who replaced my brain with rocks, because I’m also doing NaNoWriMo for the first time.  Someone get this girl a drink!!

lack Friday is Old Skinflint Scrooge’s wet dream.  It’s Reformed Scrooge’s nightmare.

I went shopping on Black Friday once.  I barely escaped with my life.  My checkbook, on the other hand, was mauled and decimated.

Or is that “malled?”

When I witnessed two grown women throwing punches and pulling each other’s hair over whatever toy was the hot must-have-or-junior-will-need-therapy, I ran out of there like Santa fleeing a rabid reindeer. 

I was the one who needed therapy after that!

Beating the Jones’ at Their Own Sad Game
Cyber Monday is a little less crass in its hawking of electronics that you will only upgrade later in the year ~ at full price.

And yet, we all manage to complain about how wretched it is that stores are opening earlier and earlier.  We shake our heads and wag our tongues about how more important family and friends and peace is.

And then we go camp outside Best Buy, Walmart, Kohl’s, or all three.  I have one word for you:


Seriously, if you really care about changing how things are done, then, to quote a clichéd meme, you really do need to be the change you want to see. 

It starts with you.

And me. (What? I admit I am not completely immune to considering standing in line for the new Microsoft Surface 2 ~ would make writing easier!) 

So I decided that this year, I would make my Black Friday protest productive.

Hibernate for a Day
After a marathon couple of days cleaning and prepping and most of Thursday cooking for Thanksgiving, I have earned a little extra shut eye.  No getting up in the middle of the night to sleep on cold and dirty parking lot in thirty-degree weather for me! 

Write a Letter
I have actually thought about asking my friends to forgo buying my Christmas presents this year and asking them to instead, write me a letter. 

Not an email.
Not a text.
Not a post on my FB wall.
Not a two line note.

A real, long, letter.  An open letter.  A vulnerable letter.  

Write Anything
John Cusack standing under a window with a pen and paper. That will be me today.  At some point.  After I crawl back out of my hibernating cave of blankets and comforters.  I do have a book I'm trying to birth, might as well sit down and "git 'er done."

Make a List and Check It Twice
Well, more like a spreadsheet.  Yes, I am an Excel nerd.  I also roll my eyes at math, so Excel sheets make my life awesome.  This year I combined both my Christmas card and Christmas gift list.  Every year I promise myself that I will get all my Christmas cards signed, sealed and delivered on time.  And yes, I know that Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and doesn't end (technically) until Candlemas.  
But everyone loves to be loved and to know that they are remembered.  Better to remind them that you are still alive and hope they are too while you both are indeed still kicking.  Use today to email people or post a status on Facebook or Tweet asking for address updates.  
And when you send someone a card, don't just sign it.  As much as Hallmark may do a good job expressing sentiment, it isn't yours.  I hate getting cards that are just signed The Cranks and nothing else.  You know what happens to those cards?

"In the bin!"
If you don't know what to say, then maybe you should tell them that.  Or maybe you shouldn't send that person a card.  Maybe you should call them.  Either way, make it personal, make it vulnerable.  

That's the point of Christmas cards.
Take a Page from Dickens
No, not literally ~ although that would be an awesome craft project!  Instead of acquiring more, spend Black Friday giving by researching charities.  Be creative.  Don't just give to the well known ones.  That are many charities out there that do good work and don't carry the burden of high overhead costs.  
Maybe it's just me, but the CEO of a charity making millions makes me go hmmm.  Check out Guidestar for a list of charities and full disclosure on how they handle their finances.

Let's make today about friends, family, and sanity. 

And not about the hoarding, consumerist "Me Monster."

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How will you honor the spirit of the holiday season this year?

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25 November 2013

Writing Believable Characters: The Importance of Background in Dannika Dark's "Seven Years"

A man should be more original than a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates.
Flowers die and sugar sticks to your hips like a permanent record to a criminal.
~ Dannika Dark

In November, I am continuing to participate in the Two Pages-a-Day writing challenge.  And I must have been abducted by aliens who replaced my brain with rocks, because I’m also doing NaNoWriMo for the first time.  Someone get this girl a drink!!

ver experience something that changed everything?

There was your life before the event: ordinary, routine, perhaps a little on the naïve and ignorant side.  Most of us are guilty of believing in our own immorality. Until we become sick.  Or we lose someone we love. 

Seven years ago, twenty-eight year old Alexia lost her older brother to a horrific motorcycle accident. His best friend, Austin, whom Lexie had had a crush on since she was five, disappeared right after the funeral without a word.  Two years later, her father abandoned what was left of the family.

But not everything is as it seems.  And Lexie is about to find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The Love Story
Seven years ago, my world ended.

Seven years later, my new life began.

It's been seven years since Lexi Knight lost her brother in a tragic accident. On the anniversary of his death, her brother's best friend shows up unexpectedly - a man she hasn't seen since the funeral. He is no longer the boy Lexi once knew, but a dangerous-looking man with tattoos and dark secrets. He broke her trust and abandoned her family, yet what he reveals makes it impossible to stay angry. Lexi has been secretly infatuated with Austin since childhood, so finding out he's a Shifter just makes him sexier. Dammit.

Austin Cole has returned to the city where he grew up, and just in time. He's lived a hard life these past seven years, and the shadows of his past are threatening to destroy Lexi's family. It's time that she learned the truth about her brother, but there is a shocking twist that Austin never saw coming. Now he must protect her family when her mother and sister wind up in mortal danger. Will Lexi learn to accept the truth about who he is, and can Austin salvage a relationship from the ruins of their past?

The Importance of Background
One of the most important rules of writing is that your characters must have a history ~ whether you tell the whole story to your readers or not.  You as the writer must know it.  No one ever acts in a vacuum and stories certainly don’t happen in a vacuum either.

It is the nature of humanity.

It is the nature of myth.

And unless you have already read the Mageri Series by Dannika Dark, if you read Seven Years you may be a little lost and confused about Austin’s story ~ the Breed back story.

I won’t give any spoilers, but when you find out Austin’s secret, you can still get the story as it is currently unfolding.  But you miss the nuances that come from already knowing the intricacies of the Breed world.

Since this is touted as a stand-alone novel, I would expect there to be more detail about the paranormal world that Lexie finds herself thrust into.  But since I was already a big fan of the Mageri series, I knew the basic history of Mages, Chitahs, and the various other Breeds.

Getting to Know You
If you  haven’t read the Mageri series, stop right there, go download all four books (the fifth is being written) and read them.  Ms. Dark does an excellent job of building the Breed world right in the midst of our own.  Shifters make an appearance in the Mageris series, but in Seven Years they take center stage. It was like reading another chapter in the Mageri series.

Which is why, although I read it one sitting and loved it, I can’t agree that it’s a stand-alone.

Having said that, I also wanted to learn more about the Shifters: where they came from, what their hierarchy is.  Ms. Dark is currently writing the sequel and I hope we get to learn more.

And I would love some of the characters from the Mageri series to make an appearance. Hint. Hint.

So if you like Shifters, if you like a little mystery, if you like smoking hot love scenes ~ buy Seven Years.

But buy the Mageri series and read it first.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

I received this book as an ARC from the author.  I have not been paid for this review.

About Dannika Dark

This is the segment where you learn a little more about who I am, so here's what I can tell you:  I drink copious amounts of vitamin water placed precariously close to my laptop while writing. These are two healthy habits I have no intention of breaking. I'm a transplant living in the south, but I was born in the 70's to a military dad who moved us around the world.

When I'm not writing (which is all the time), I'm hunting down Indie music, watching movies, reading, eating Tex-Mex, discovering new ways to humiliate myself bowling, and burning up my laptop battery on the Internet. I have a relaxed, easy-going personality and don't like drama. I live with a cat who thinks she is a dog, or a goat (she eats plastic, so I'm not sure which).

Throughout my life, I've had insomnia. Counting sheep never worked and eventually I would imagine those sheep were the sole source of food after an apocalyptic battle where only thousands survived. I made up stories in a futile attempt to bore myself to sleep. The problem was, I got so wrapped up in my "head stories" that I would continue them through the following nights, changing it up each time to make it more exciting. Eventually, I started writing my ideas down - creating short stories, and then I discovered my love for poetry.

It's almost embarrassing how many spiral notebooks and stacks of paper I have of poetry and lyrics.

Another passion: digital art. I design all my book covers, marketing, and series art. I'm a very visual person and pursued photography as an avid hobby for many years.

I am not a YA author (I feel like I have to state this only because I've had a few people ask), but I think it's wonderful there are so many books available to teens in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal. 

I am finally doing what I have always wanted to do: giving my characters a pulse through writing full time. I focus on adult urban fantasy romance, but I don't like labels and I enjoy blending genres to break out of the confines of predictability.

But it's what I love to do. 

And the Giveaway!
1st prize: 1 autographed paperback of Seven Years 1 key necklace 5 autographed bookmarks
2nd prize: 1 autographed paperback of Seven Years 5 autographed bookmarks
3rd prize: 1 Dannika Dark ebook (Winner's choice) 5 autographed bookmarks


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