Quotable Quotes

“Take pride in your pain; you are stronger than those who have none.”

That quote comes from Lois Lowry’s, Gathering Blue. It’s such a simple, yet powerful quote that I thought I’d discuss what that quotes mean to me but also quotes in general that I’ve found endearing or memorable.

Generally no one in their right mind wants to be in pain whether it’s physical or emotional. All of have experienced pain in some degree at one point or another. It’s become a part of the human experience due to imperfection. Yet for millions worldwide, pain is a chronic affliction. Although I don’t experience pain on a regular basis I know several that do including a loved one who has been battling multiple health problems in the past year with no cure let alone closure from the medical community as to what exactly is causing her endless list of symptoms. When I read Gathering Blue, the 2nd time around earlier this year, I had a greater appreciation for the story of Kira, the main character who was crippled from birth who has a remarkable talent that saves her life. Although my sister doesn’t walk with a limp like Kira, her health problems at times can be debilitating. Therefore the quote at the onset took on added meaning to not only myself but her as well.

My Interpretation

Trials can either make or break us. Her quote reminded me that hardships can make us stronger depending on our attitude. When I reflect on it, it really takes a strong person to put up with chronic pain, because I don’t know if I would fare any better if I were in her shoes! It takes true resilience to persevere despite being in a situation that is beyond your control.

It was one of the few quotes that I took away from the book, but it was a profound message that I hope other readers will get from it as well. Of course there are other quotable quotes from other fiction works that I liked. I know I’m being biased but here’s a collection of my favorite quotes from my story series.

******

“Do not forget to put it here where it never gets lost,” his mother said, pointing to his heart.”  – Before the Legend

“Remember, you are never alone in this world. Never.”  – Before the Legend

“I suppose we both got what we wanted. While some built great roads, we built great walls. – Chasing Blue

“I had to make more than an impression. I had to win.” – Chasing Blue

“It was not about being on this ‘side or that side.’ It was about what was right. That was the side I choose. Even if that put me somewhere in the middle.” – Chasing Blue

I might add these quotes and more on each of the respective pages for each story in the future. Now I got a chance to share some of my favorite quotes. What quotes made you laugh, left a profound thought, or made a memorable statement? I would love to hear your favorite quotes in the comments!

 

Review on Giver movie

From Movie-List

I followed The Giver movie from the time it was first announced it was being slated into a movie to the time it came out in the big screen. Fan reactions though were mixed and rightly so due to some major changes to the storyline such as aging up the characters, adding more romance and action than what the book portrays. I for one was one of those initially disappointed from the trailers and I was not shy about expressing my initial reactions about the movie. Leading up to the movie, my posts about The Giver have been the most popular this year, so I return to write about my most buzzed about topic of 2014. Since getting a chance to watch the movie for myself, my initial reactions have softened. Here’s my long overdue review on The Giver movie.

After seeing the initial trailers, I was prepared going into the movie that it would not be 100% faithful to the beloved classic by Lois Lowry (no surprise there.) With that in mind I had to put aside my personal feelings in order to see the movie in an objective light.

Disclaimer: This review does have spoilers!

Much to my delight, the movie began with Jonas’ world in color, which was true to the idea behind Sameness in the book. Jonas’ community is safe and predictable. Hunger, poverty, and war are things of the past, a past most in his community know nothing about except one person; the Giver. In the first five minutes, viewers are given context as to how Jonas’ world came about, emphasizing the stark contrast between his world and our world. Peculiarities of Jonas’ world which were subtly revealed in earlier chapters were made apparent right away in the movie.

Personally the beginning was a little too rushed. I wished the beginning could have spent some time to develop and maybe even warm up viewers to his world. The movie was no doubt paced so that the inciting incident could start sooner, which is when Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver. That is the point in the book when the plot really begins to take off as Jonas begins to discover new memories and realize what his community has sacrificed.

The main characters although aged up, were readily identifiable. Asher was Jonas’ carefree friend and Fiona was portrayed as kind and nurturing. Although the actor that played Jonas is my age he had a boyish face to pull off being a teenager at least. Asher initially seemed playful but he became rather stiff and serious throughout most of the movie which was out of character for him. Of all the characters I must add that Jeff Bridges did a great job portraying the mysterious and aloof Giver. It was interesting though seeing the dynamics between Jonas and Fiona. It was no surprise that the movie played on Jonas’ natural chemistry with Fiona and made her his love interest, especially when Jonas’ experiences memories from the Giver such as love. Although I strongly resented having Jonas being played by such an older guy, I can see why they aged his character.

This movie didn’t have “mind-blowing” special effects or explosions but the visuals were still eye-pleasing. How they incorporated the memories was my favorite part of the movie. The modern clips, encompassing an array of the human experience made me feel like I was watching a National Geographic special. One scene I enjoyed which had the score Happiness and Pain playing in the background, shows Jonas engrossed in the memories as he is holding a baby he helped deliver. I also appreciated how the black and white treatment of the movie gradually transitioned into vibrant colors. Many people will say this was done in Pleasantville first. True the movie did the B&W to color thing. But the gradualism of color in The Giver encompassed everything in the viewer’s range of sight vs. splashes of colors on a person or an object, which made their color treatment slightly different.

Clearly there were many changes to the book. In the movie they got injections instead of the pill. Jonas kissed Fiona which never happened and many changes that I can rant about later. Despite the changes, the movie didn’t deviate a lot from the main plot which is what really mattered. A lot of the pivotal scenes are in the movie, including the scene when Jonas asks his parents what is love only to get lectured on how love is an obsolete, meaningless term. From this scene to the part where Jonas is shown what “release” means, helped propel the character to no longer be content with the choices his society has made and move him to take the course of action by the end.

Disclaimer:

While I won’t give away the whole ending I will say there are some notable changes to the ending for those that haven’t watched it. The ending is ramped up, to provide more action than what the book offers. Some people who didn’t like the ambiguous ending to the book may actually like the ending to the movie. I personally liked how the ending brought the plot full circle while still capturing a little bit of the unknown, keeping true to the open-ended nature of Lowry’s work.

Considering this book is more introversion vs. an action-driven plot like other dystopian adaptions like the Hunger Games or Divergent, it had pressure to ramp up the action and romance subplots. I loved the book because of the simple yet compelling storyline which sets it apart from other dystopian works. If you haven’t watched the movie already and are wondering whether you should see it, don’t expect this to be another Hunger Games nor expect a true book-to-movie adaption. Instead just watch it for what it is, an adaption for entertainment purposes. Coming to the movie with lowered expectations I surprisingly enjoyed the movie. Factoring in the strengths and weaknesses, I give the movie a B.

Now this is just my thoughts on the movie. What did you think about the movie?

7 Things I wish I knew before self-publishing

It’s been over a year since I published my book, Before the Legend. This past year I’ve learned so much about self-publishing and marketing. Although I’m thankful for the little successes and milestones I was able to reach, there were several things I wish I could have done differently before and after self-publishing my book. The first three in the list are things are already knew before publishing but underestimated while doing this process. Here are my top 7 things you want to do before you self-publish.

  1. Thorough professional editing- Before I published my book I had several people edit my works for free. In addition I also edited my own stories several times over. Even though they proved to be helpful I realized I needed professional editing to cover my bases. When I first chose an editor on Thumbtack, I underestimated the importance of the types of edits needed to make your work polished. My first editor was focused more on the  content of my story, which is referred to as a structural edit. What I failed to do before I published was pay for a line edit which involves a focus on the mechanics of writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation. Looking back now I would do at least both types of edits before publishing.
  2. Professional Formatting- For a new time author formatting can be tricky especially for eBooks. Considering that first impressions means everything, it is so important that the formatting of the book is clean and professional. Hiring a professional is one good way to ensure that everything from the spaces between the lines, to the page numbering is aligned and spaced correctly. For those feeling ambitious, guides such as the one on Smashwords were very helpful in getting started in eBook formatting. Even after you think you’re finished double-check how it appears on different devices. If something appears off, fix it before it goes live. It needs to be close to perfect before it goes live. If publishing the print version, order the proof and verify it before it goes live.
  3. Professional Book cover- First impressions are everything, and your cover is the first thing you’re viewer will see. It needs to grab their attention and convey what the book is about. Might I add it should look professional. Anything less than great may come off as amateurish. Unless you’re a graphic designer/graphic illustrator,  it’s very difficult to nail the design just right so that it’s not only beautiful and striking but also marketable. Your book needs to appeal to your target audience and oftentimes it’s easy for new writers to overlook that. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to seek help from a professional design artist. When you are designing your cover it’s important to test and see how it looks resized or in black and white before going ahead with the design. Ask others for their honest input. What did they like or didn’t like? Their feedback is very important and can give you insight as to what you can improve upon before it goes live.

Marketing Strategies

  1. Have a plan- It’s important to have a concrete plan. How do you plan to market your book? How do you plan to get reviews? When is the best time to publish? Those are just a few of the questions you need to consider. Having a plan helps you to stay focused and not to rush into publishing without knowing how you plan to sell your book.
  2. Advanced Copies for review- Several authors and publishers have utilized the strategy of giving out advance copies in exchange for reviews. Getting people to read your book before it’s published builds early buzz  that can spill over after the book goes live. With more copies circulated to readers who are more likely to enjoy your particular book, there is great potential in having early exposure while getting early feedback on your work. Finding reviewers early on ensure that when your book goes live on sites you’ll already have reviews from the jump which may sway potential readers and potentially boost book sales.
  3. Cover Reveal!- Marketing doesn’t have to start when the book is already out. As alluded to earlier you want to create buzz weeks if not months before your book is published. One marketing tips some authors have tried include cover reveals, whether on your Facebook page, or sites like Goodreads. It’s a great way to generate anticipation and visibility before your book goes live.
  4. Pre-orders. Even though this may apply more to print books, I thought I might throw this in for the 7th point for the marketing strategies. Having your print book available for pre-order is a great way to create buzz for your book and get a head start on potential sales. Early strong sales on Amazon can determine if your book makes it to important lists such as hot new releases which is where you want your book to be if you want to gain more visibility which can result in even more sales.

Be realistic- Above all it’s important to be realistic. Not all books will sell well. Setting realistic goals helps you to be grounded and not to get too disappointed when you’re expectations aren’t realized. Learning from others successes and failures beforehand will help you be prepared for the challenges of publishing.

So there you have it. Seven things that you don’t want to underestimate when going into self-publishing. It’s too late to reverse the past but I can learn from my mistakes for the next book that may come along. Considering I haven’t tried the marketing strategies (cover reveal, advanced copies, etc) prior to publishing Before the Legend, I have no way of knowing if they are actually effective in terms of sales. I would love to hear from others who have tried these or other strategies. 1) What did you try when publishing? 2) Would you consider it effective?

Blogging 101

From Blogspot

I return to my blog to discuss about the very thing I’m doing: blogging.

Although I’ve taken a break from writing new works, I haven’t taken a break from blogging just yet. It’s been about two years since I started this blog. The world of blogging was still relatively new to me then. Even back then I knew what I wanted this blog to be about: writing. And from those first posts up till now that has been the main focus of my posts. Although my blog has a modest following, it’s been the most prolific and most followed of the two blogs I have out now. What has helped me to continue to keep blogging?

Here are some tips I’ve learned from other bloggers that can help new bloggers out there getting started.

I’ve heard new bloggers lament, I don’t know what to write about. My short answer to that reply: write what you enjoy. I can’t stress this point enough especially for personal blogs. Think about your favorite celebrity, subject or hobby. Isn’t it true that for most for us the things we’re most passionate about, we’ll have plenty to say especially if it’s something we’re well versed in, know from personal experience or research. That principle should apply to blogging. When we blog about topics that we have a personal interest in, we’ll have many things to discuss. And if we don’t know everything (who does) will want to do some more digging. When we write what interests us, we’ll find writing new posts will come more naturally.

Audience

However once we make our blogs available to the world-wide web that brings a whole other dimension to think about; readers. That lends itself to questions you have to take into account.

1. What is your blog about?

2. Who is your intended audience?

3. What will interest your target audience?

If we have answers to those questions you’re off to a good start. Your answer to the first question should serve as the guiding force behind the posts you write about. Knowing what the point of the blog early on will help give your blog a focus instead of having a bunch of random incoherent posts. Sometimes though your blogs may contain your personal musings. Those are okay especially if your blog is of a personal nature that mimic that of diary entries. However having a focus gives our blog a sense of consistency. Even if we vary it up every now and then, readers will have an idea of what to expect in terms of content. If your first couple of posts are on a given subject (e.g. fashion, technology, health, sports, photography, writing, etc.) readers will expect future posts to be about that.

That leads into the answers for questions 2 and 3. What you write about will appeal to certain readers. Therefore it’s important to consider the audience of that subject matter and what will appeal to them in future posts. But you still want to write about things that of interest to you as the blogger. You don’t want to get in the habit of writing posts just to take up space, or writing about topics you have zero interest in. Otherwise writing will become more of a chore and it will get boring fast! That’s why it’s important that you write about what you want to write first and then think about your audience. That way you avoid that pitfall. At the same time your blog should attract readers. The types of readers will depend on what you’re blog is about. Having a blog with a focus helps to draw those who will be invested and more likely to appreciate what you have to say. It’s important to strike a proper balance between writing what you like but also what your readers will care about too.

Write Quality Content

Quality may seem subjective. Especially with the different types of blogs and different writing styles. But what applies to virtually all blogs is good writing. That means making sure your grammar, punctuation and spelling is correct. You don’t have to be an English major to run your posts through spell check before hitting “Publish.” It makes your writing more professional not to mention readable. There’s a lot more involved obviously to this like making sure your sentences flow together, watching your tenses etc, but I think you get the idea. This is blogging 101 after all.

You’ll have short posts from time. That’s ok. However you want to aim to write or post something that’s going to be useful or insightful to your readers. Depending on what you’re writing about, your readers may want more ‘meat’ in terms of the content of your posts.

Pacing

In writing, quality is more important that quantity. Posting regularly is good even recommended. Posting at regular intervals (which I don’t always do lol) is good practice recommended by a lot of bloggers. When followers know when you will post new content there more likely to return. At the same time you have to pace yourself. Although I have more time on my hands now, for the most part, writing a blog post every week let alone once a day was not feasible with my schedule. Not to mention posting daily can pose a challenge in terms of keeping to that schedule let alone coming up with fresh engaging posts. You never want to feel pressured to post just anything for the sake of a deadline if the quality is going to suffer.

Deadlines can be good. It can motivate us to stay on task. If you blog for a news outlet or for money, this will be of greater importance to you and rightly so. For me I try to write a new post every month. Some people post weekly or bi-weekly. I stick to once or twice a month on average. When writing, stick to a routine that works for you.

Connect to your readers

It’s important to connect to your readers. Here are some quick points to help you reach more readers and potential followers.

1. Use catchy titles. Your title is often the first thing viewers see. There’s no hard rule to titles. Generally I try to make them simple and to the point.

2. Tags are your friend. With people searching for blog through tags, using good tags are important. Think of tags as keywords of what your blog covers. You want to aim to use popular tags that people will likely be looking up that are still relevant to your post. It’s even better if you use tags or keywords that are actually in your blog or title.

3. Comment and follow blogs similar to yours. Did you genuinely like what they posted? Show it by liking it and/or commenting. That might bring new eyes to your blog. They’re more likely to return the favor if they see genuine interest vs. a solicitation to read your blog.

4. Make it easy for readers to connect with you. One of the best ways to start is by having an About Page. Make sure to tell readers a little about yourself. What’s your background? Hobbies. Any interesting facts about you? Those are all good things to include without spilling your whole life story. I’m an introvert by nature but even then you need to make it easy to connect with readers. Make sure you have a follow button that’s easily visible so others can follow you if they like what they see. Don’t forget to include share buttons so people can share your posts with others which will drive more traffic to your blog.

5. Continue to keep writing. You only get better by writing more. So get out there and write!

All Good Things Come to an End

It seems like all good things must come to an end. The month is almost over and with it marks the end to two main things. And I’m not just talking about summer.

 

Before the Legend eBook going exclusive on Amazon.

Starting this October 1st, I plan to officially sign my book to Amazon’s KDP Select program. It’s a partner program to Amazon that allows authors to publish through the site while enjoying perks such as higher royalty rates for $.99 priced books, greater control over promotional pricing, just to name a few. What does that mean for readers? That means for the next 90 days my eBook will only be available for purchase on Amazon in Kindle format. That means it won’t be available in other formats such as Mobi, ePub, etc. If you do wish to purchase the eBook in the following formats I strongly suggest you download the format of your choice from Smashwords or the Buy Now Page for the list of current retailers before the change goes into effect tomorrow.

Although I was originally against the idea of exclusivity, I was curious to try a new approach to self-publishing. I’m curious to see if publishing the eBook via Amazon will have an impact on sales or future exposure to my book. After the 90 days I can fully gauge at that point whether this is something I would want to continue or end.

The Series End

My story series which has gone on for what seems like forever has finally come to its end with the last two chapters of Chasing Blue. It was a bittersweet experience saying goodbye to the many characters that have graced the many pages. In the Two-Part Finale, which has just been released, the ending is probably the most intense, heart-rending portion I’ve ever had to write before. While it was not easy, it was one of my favorites parts to write. I had a rough idea how it wanted it to end but I had no idea how the characters would inadvertently write themselves, changing how the scenes play out. Even though I anticipated the finish line for a long time, when I finally got to the end I realized I didn’t want the story to just “end”with a pretty little bow tied on top.

When writing this, I also realized there were many questions that still needed answering. Problems that needed resolving. There were so much packed in these final moments with Troy and the growing unrest on the island that I had to split the last chapter into two parts: “Breaking Point” and “Last Stand.” Essentially in these two chapters, it pick up right from the previous chapter “Insurgence,” when the rebellion begins. However the stakes are at their highest as Troy must find out what really matters before its too late. Here’s a brief overview of the Two-Part Finale….

A powerful quake rocks the island to its core, tipping the scales in favor of the rebellion. However things have never been more dangerous than ever before especially for Troy as he finds himself at odds on both sides of the conflict. However something far bigger looms, threatening to kill everyone including the ones he loves the most. Before he says goodbye one last time to his first home, he must find his friends before he loses everything in ashes! 

I hope everyone enjoys the final concluding chapters of the 4th and final book to the story series. Where do I go from here? For now I will take an indefinite break from writing new works. This is not the end. I still have new story ideas sitting in my imagination. Think of it as the start of something new. Like Troy, I have other adventures and pursuits I’m eager to explore. To start a new chapter in life as a young adult. This blog isn’t going anywhere. Not anytime soon at least. I will continue…. after I take a vacation of course. :)

Dramatic Music anyone?

Down to the wire

After three years, Chasing Blue: The Final Saga is finally coming to a close. After just completing the 2nd to last chapter to the final series, I can almost taste the finish line. And as promised the final chapters will build on more suspense until it crescendos to the climax.

The newest chapter: “Insurgence” builds on the prior chapter, “Invasion”. As a recap for those that haven’t read the previous chapter, Troy runs off with Priscilla into the night to find the others including his friend Julius. Although they find a hiding place in the crags, they are reminded they must keep on the move before they are discovered. We see more of the tension and drama building in this chapter as the characters have a fleeting moment of “calm” before it’s time to flee again. Just when you thought things were getting angsty, the latest chapter intensifies the action to a whole new level. In “Insurgence” we see the sparks of the rebellion igniting. The stakes are higher. The action intensifies. Troy is faced with painful decisions with potentially devastating consequences in this heart-wrenching chapter.

Dramatic Music Anyone?

As a personal habit of mines from time, I enjoy listening to a certain song or soundtrack as I read a particular scene in my story. From personal experience the right song enhances the reading experience! When writing out a scene, music plays an integral role in how the scene comes together. Like music, each piece, down to the words should not only flow together but also capture a feeling or mood. When writing some of the darker intense scenes, I found it very helpful to listen to dramatic music that fit the mood I was going for. This included many movie scores especially Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which has some amazing scores in my opinion. This helped me get in the head space I needed to portray more intense, emotional scenes. For more slower moments between Troy and Priscilla, slower melodic pieces were used as I wrote out their scenes.

Here’s one of the intense action scenes from my story when the guards invade the tower, inspired partly by the musical score used in one of the Catching Fire trailers. Credit goes to Dean Valentine, Music Piece:  “Dark Matter.”

-Excerpt-

The sentinels returned but the Messenger was nowhere to be found. There were even more horses than before. Each man was girded with breastplates and helmets. They looked like warriors. They looked like a miniature army sent out to destroy us. The negotiations had failed.

“Find all three brothers,” one of the chief sentinels commanded the men swarming the hill. “Bring Troy to me but kill the rest of the brutes.” They knew I was here.

Bang!

I could hear them banging the door like madmen. My heart was pounding with every thud. Once the war cries bellowed from below I knew they were inside now. It was time to light the fire. Now! I raced to the rooftop with the withering torch. I hurled the torch, letting the flames lick the straw. It had begun.

I ran back to the corridor where I was greeted with the noises of battle. Hold them back! Do not let them get past the first level!” Caius shouted to the men below. He raced up the stairs to meet me in the top corridor. “Your father captured the Messenger. This is your father’s response to ‘a negotiation!’ The plan failed us. We have to kill them now!”

“No! There has to be a better way,” I protested.

“There is no other way, Troy!” We both walked in the room as the guard approached Barbarius with the sword. Apollus stuck his foot out causing the man to stumble. Barbarius scuttled over, rocking back in his chair and stomped on the captor’s hands with his sandals. Caius rushed into the room with his sword drawn.

“I will handle this,” I muttered, yanking his free arm.

“No, I will. You did a poor job of handling it!” he said shoving me against the wall.

“Agh!” the man yelled. I looked down as Apollus lifted himself partly erect to head-butt his captor. As Caius came swinging with his sword, Barbarius leaned back in his chair, shifting his weight on the tips of his toes. While still fastened to his chair, he swung around as the sword came slicing the air, striking him from behind. The chains fell to the ground. Without knowing it, he had helped free Barbarius! Enraged he took another swing at Barbarius who was defenseless. He ducked, just missing the knife by a hairbreadth. Desperate, he grabbed a chair leg as his weapon to block his strikes.

“Hold your hands up!” I ordered Apollus. Without objection he lifted his hands. I only had one chance to get it right. With a swift blow, I slashed the chains bounding his two hands. His jaws dropped. He was either stunned I had such good precision or that I bothered to do him a favor or both. Just then the guard from behind grabbed my neck from behind, sending me falling backwards with him.

“Traitor!” he growled in my ears. I elbowed him in the ribs, but his grip only tightened.

“Let me go!” I rasped. Gasping for air, I struggled to reach for my dagger. I looked over at Apollus who was easing his way out the doorway.

“Apollus. Please!” I croaked as his grip grew tighter. Now I was the one that needed mercy. Apollus bit his lip as he stood, frozen. Now the tables had turned…

Read it in full here.