Always Learning

In a Microsoft Word document I wrote up some personal thoughts running through my mind lately. Here’s part of it, in relation to writing specifically, plus some added elaboration. 

I wanted to enter a contest called Pitch Wars. The entry for it is in a week and a half, and for this contest you need a query letter and a finished manuscript. I have the latter, but I still think it’s too rough. I still really need to do a lot with it. But the mentor I gain from the contest could help me, right? (This is presuming someone picked me; the chances are decent they wouldn’t.)  So, I thought, if I really buckle down, I can get this polished enough.

Look, goals and deadlines are good for me, and I don’t believe in quitting before starting, but I realized after a day or two that this was not realistic. Right now, if I had to rate my own story, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars, which is good, solid. Better than some published books I’ve read, but of course I’m biased, and that’s just my opinion. But I want it to be, and I know it can be, more and better than that. I know I can’t achieve a perfect version of it before I pitch it (or even if/when it goes to print with a major publishing company), but I can do better.

Why pitch something sub-par to the potential I know it has even just in my hands?

And two weeks is not enough. Not unless I devote every free moment to it and quite frankly, I don’t want to stress myself out like that.

This contest happens once a year. There’s a similar contest that happens every year as well, in March. I have passed up bidding in silent auctions to get query/manuscript critiques that were super affordable. I know there are people who critique professionally for not a ton of money. I WILL HAVE OTHER OPPORTUNITIES. And I will use them when the time is right.

But that time is not now. Almost a year ago I hoped I would be ready by now. I’m not. But that’s not failure. I’m still in the process. I haven’t thrown in the towel, even if I’m not as actively writing as I want to be or ought to be. I still have goals in mind. I have not given up.


It’s OK if the timetable is longer than the one I originally envisioned. Theoretically and hopefully, I have several decades left on this Earth and I have time to learn and grow and become a better writer. I can’t compare myself to people who published awesome books when they were 22. It’s OK if it takes me more time. I wish their career longevity, but just because they started early it doesn’t mean their career will last. I was recently reading about George R. R. Martin’s career, who as who may know, is both not young and extremely successful as a writer these days. But there was a time he wrote a novel that was such a flop, he said it “essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time.” At the time. He moved on and did other things. Slowly and surely, building his writing up to become the author you know today.

And then there is Cristin Terrill, author of All Our Yesterdays, who recently explained why there wouldn’t be a sequel to her book. In case you haven’t heard about this, it’s because she couldn’t make it work. Period. Draft after draft, working with others, nothing could help it. She probably felt like a failure, so frustrated she couldn’t bring her ideas to life. But she learned. The experience will help her as a writer. She can and will grow from this. It was a really neat thing to read about, even if it was a little scary to think about it happening to me!

We are all always learning.

successI am always learning.


Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Grisha Trilogy

*WARNING!* This post does contain spoilers for Ruin and Rising.

GT-inspiration3After finishing Ruin and Rising, I got pretty excited about doing a new bookish wedding inspiration post for it. And of course, since there is an actual wedding described in the epilogue, it made it both easier (I know what to look for!) and harder (limitations!) to gather pictures for this post.

The hard part was finding suitable attire for this bookish wedding inspiration. I wanted to draw from the book as much as possible and make it feel like this could be the wedding in the book, and yet, the setting of the book versus the world we live in can make this difficult. I tried various searches on different types of dresses and attire that could work for a slightly more casual wedding, and also focused mostly on the season of winter, because for some reason I think Alina and Mal’s wedding took place in the winter. So first, let me get some of those pictures out there, just in case you were curious what I found.

GT-winter-attireSources: red couplebride and groom with cap, cardigan over dress, groomsmen with sweaters, and blue bride with coat

I almost went with the coat over the dress in the top right corner as the look for Alina. After all…

The bride wore no kokochnik, no dress of gold.

So with that in mind, I figured she didn’t have the chance to properly go dress shopping. But guys, GUYS, I found the most amazingly perfect Grisha-looking wedding dress (at least in my opinion) that I think also fits well with modern sentiment. So with that it mind, I present…

Bridal Look

The Dress

Gt-bride-dress2When I saw this Temperly London dress, there was really no turning back. It may not fit the sentiment of the simple wedding Alina and Mal shared, but STILL! It just screamed Grisha to me. I could not NOT share it.

The Hair

GT-hairI presume Alina’s hair was back to white by the time she and Mal tied the knot, and since Mal mentioned very specifically wanting to see a white veil in her hair, I thought combining the white hair updo with this simple veil might be a look worn by Alina on her big day.

The Accessories

GT-accessoriesI honestly don’t know what the deal with the driftwood crown is, but it was mentioned in the book (“He had to stand on a chair to hold the driftwood crows above their heads as the blessings were said”), so I Googled for one and found the image on the bottom right. For Alina’s bridal accessories, I decided to go with a simplistic sun theme as a reminder of her recent past, including this sun-inspired ring and sun charm necklace.

The Groom

GT-groomI don’t know what Mal would wear, and it probably wouldn’t even be this, but I was looking for something nice but laid back and not black. This guy also looks a little bit like I picture Mal (though Mal is probably a little more muscular?), so there was also that. It’s hard to follow up that dress.

The Location

A chapel stood on the coast of West Ravka, south of Os Kervo, on the shores of the True Sea. It was a quiet place, where the waves came nearly to the door. The whitewashed walls were laden with shells, and the dome that floated above the altar looked less like the heavens than the deep blue well of the sea.

GT-seaside-chapelWhen I first started looking for images for the proper white chapel for this wedding, I immediately thought of the Interfaith Chapel in Seaside, FL, which I saw (the outside, not the inside) when I visited there. It seems like just the right size, and I love the way the way it is decorated in the left photo, because it makes me think of the stag’s antlers and just the trilogy in general. But then I reread this part of the epilogue and looked for some more chapel pictures that might be slightly more fitting.

GT-bluedomechapelPhoto source for top picture

These three pictures are not actually of the same place, but we’ll pretend they are. 🙂

The Cake

GT-cakeEven the smallest of weddings deserve a little cake. This is the sort of simple cake that I imagine Alina and Mal might have celebrated their marriage with.

What would you expect from the Ruin and Rising wedding, or at one inspired by it? 

Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars is not the sort of book I normally read. But with so much hype, and considering there was a mysterious aspect to it I really did not want to get spoiled on by waiting too long to read it, I requested it from the library’s e-book system and read it.

First, I’ll have the non-spoilery review…

OK, you’ve heard about the hype, the mystery, the shocking ending. Now that I’ve read the book I can say that I was sucked into the mysterious nature of the story (though not from the very get-go, which I’ll explain soon), and though I had a slight suspicion for at least part of the ending, I did feel pretty shocked afterwards.

Before I move on to the spoilers, I wanted to delve into the narrative structure of the novel. The narrative for most people, will be love or hate. I did fall in the middle with it, but mostly because I wasn’t crazy about it at first, then it grew on me, then I would stop reading for a little while and have to get back into it when I started reading again, etc. But I did find it was pretty powerful at moments. There really isn’t a typical three act plot structure, the narrator tells-tells-tells and doesn’t really show, there’s purple prose and simple prose and weird sentence breaks and fairy tales… and it can work… if you want it to, and if you’re OK with something slightly different from the norm. I won’t say it’s a slow beginning, because it’s not, but it may or may not grab you from the very start, just depending on how much you gravitate towards that kind of narrative.

Be normal now, she said. Right now, she said.
Because you are. Because you can be.

There are a lot of metaphors, which I found pretty effective once I got past the first really shocking one that I took literally and was about to freak out. But I loved when she used metaphors to describe the other Liars.

He is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

If you like this sort of narrative or are willing to try it out, I think you and We Were Liars will get along just fine.

GR-wewereliarsNow the spoilery review below is in all white to highlight if you have read the book. I’ve just got to talk some stuff out…

I was slightly disappointed with the ending, and I don’t even think I realized it until I had been finished for a couple of hours and continued to think it over. I had several ideas of what could have happened running through my mind, including that the Liars minus Cadence were dead, but I couldn’t reconcile how it would all work together. I even went so far to think of the Liars having been cloned as a more likely possibility than them being ghosts. I think ghosts crossed my mind for the briefest second, but I thought no way would the author do that, because it’s silly. Yet, there it was. And so many people loved the ending. And I kind of had an emotional reaction to it myself. I wasn’t like crying or flailing or yelling, “Five stars!” because none of that happened, but it did leave me with a sense of shock, and that was what I wanted after all it had been hyped up to be.

I didn’t want it to be paranormal. I’m really not a fan of paranormal. The way some people find stories about aliens silly is how I feel about stories about ghosts. (And just to be clear, when I say stories, I mean obviously fiction stories, not real people relaying what they believed happened to them.) 

I have problems with this ending logically. Did everyone else know about the ghosts and interact with them? I tried looking back (which is a little hard with an e-book) and it does seem Cadence was the only one who interacted with the Liars’ ghosts. Did the adults know of their presence though? If not, did they not wonder why Cadence wasn’t asking questions about where they were? What did they think she was doing all that time? And then if they did know, how did they not totally flip?!  Were they literally never going to tell Cadence what happened and make her figure it out on her own? What if it took her years?

I appreciated the recurring idea of “being normal” and not talking about bad things and maintaining the air of Sinclairs, but I was disappointed I never got to see the adults (or the littles!) come full circle and start talking about things. Or even Cadence really; she only shares her revelations with the reader. If this was supposed to be a flat or negative character arc then I guess I would have liked for the ending to make it more obvious that she and her family had made the decision to ignore it all. Like Cadence is about to say something about it and her mom stops her and tells her to be normal. The last line of the book, “I will endure,” is a little vague and can really mean anything in terms of how she’s choosing to cope with the tragedy. 

And then I have just a random thought that doesn’t have anything to do with my ultimate rating of the book… I noticed that there were two blue things that are usually white, and both are pointed out as being unusual: the blue Italian toilet and the blue hospital sheets. Did anybody find any meaning to this? I thought it was more than coincidental but could never figure out a significance. 

Anyhow, my immediate, emotional reaction rating was 4 stars. The logic side of my brain is saying 3 stars would make more sense. So I think I have decided to compromise at 3.5 stars. 

3.5starsBTW, I automatically knocked a half-star off the rating for the mention of wearing Crocs. Because seriously?! Wealthy New England socialites do not wear Crocs.

No-CrocsContent advisory: Language, including strong language. 

Alright, please share your thoughts on We Were Liars if you’ve read it! I want to know what you thought of the ending, if it worked for you, and why or why not.