Rising Depths is the second book in the Vicious Depths trilogy by Madeline Stanford. It is a young adult dystopian fantasy that I have fallen in love with since I read the first book while it was still titled Like Hell on Wattpad. That was before Stanford took it down to self-publish the series.
Warning: If you haven’t read the first book, this review contains spoilers for that book. Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens in the first book.
Now that Alex has been exposed as a traitor and she and Flynn have escaped to the Azure, she is looked to by the residents to figure out a way to defend themselves against the oncoming slaughter the Depths are planning. The Senatus members and Seth are still locked up in the depths, and the Azure is split between loyalists for Attis’s rule and those who want a new order. Even the Sentaus have committed crimes, lied, and betrayed their own residents. Things escalate as incriminating evidence against the Senatus is found, Samuel starts sending threats to the Azure with Isaac’s body parts, and the war looms nearer.
There will be spoilers at the end of this review that are marked clearly. Stop reading if you want to know what happens by reading it.
Do you remember when The Hunger Games came out and for several months afterwards Hunger Games knockoffs were being published? This falls into this category. Sure, it was okay. But I’ve read better The Hunger Game knockoffs.
Set in a post-United-States-America, the government is a monarchy. If there is a royal princess born, she is married off to other royalty from different countries. If a prince is born then the whole country gets a reality TV show called “The Selection.” It is like The Bachelor; girls from each province are selected to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage.
This story centers around America, named by her mother after learning a bit about the histories of countries past. America is already in love with another boy before she is sent to The Selection.
Everyone has a caste in this book. The lower the caste the less food and money you have. If you marry a caste below the female becomes whatever the male is. America is in love with a six, a labor worker, while she is a five, a musician. Birth control isn’t available to the lower castes which results in large families that can’t feed all the hungry mouths. As a part of The Selection your family gets a large check during the time you are competing.
A lot of people in the writing-focused Facebook groups I am in have mentioned they’re depressed and don’t feel like writing. One of the most common questions asked is, “How can I get my creativity back on track?”
What I have found is the advice one person gives doesn’t always work for someone else. You must try many different things to find what works for you.
Here is a list of different tactics you can try to get your creativity back on track:
Take a walk, exercise, go outdoors, or run errands. Movement can help spark your creativity.
Photo by StockSnap via Pixabay
Take a hiatus. Take as long as you need. A hiatus can last from a few hours to years. I took one for four years, from 2013 until 2017. The four-year break gave me fire and passion to not give up on my writing. I was so tired of not writing that I needed to write.
Work on another creative task: baking, cake decorating, sewing, cross stitching, knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, playing an instrument, singing, redesigning a website, using Photoshop or graphic design software, or whatever you feel like doing. Often, doing another activity can kick-start your creativity somewhere else.
Set an amount of time you will allow yourself to feel blocked, then force yourself to get out of the slump. Don’t let it control you, but… [Read More]
It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the world are thousands of words behind on reaching their goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Muses everywhere have gone on vacation and left no notice of when they will return. The NaNoWriMo slump is here.
How do we survive the slump week of NaNo? Here are some tips to get writing again.
Make a Catch-Up Plan
If you are thousands of words behind, it doesn’t help to try and catch up in one day. That’s an easy way to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, pull out those calculators and figure out how many extra words you need to write per day to catch up by November 30th. Aim for that new goal every day.
Write Out of Order
Did your manuscript hit a wall? Do you not know what to write next? Did you write yourself into a corner? The easiest solution is to write out of order. Write the scene that happens later in the book. You know, the one you’ve been dying to write. Work your way backward from there. Or, rewrite the novel starting from the scene where you last felt inspired and create a new sequence of events. If you don’t know what to write next, spend some time reading through what you have, but don’t edit. This may help you figure out where to go next.
Be a Rebel
You can count anything towards the 50,000-word goal. I have counted journal entries, notes I’ve taken from articles or videos on writing craft, and this article. You can count grocery lists, homework, or social media posts if you want. It’s up to you. Make sure to type these up in a word document so you can verify your word count. You could also work on several different projects if writing out of order doesn’t help bring your muse back from his or her sudden vacation.
A girl quietly pads over to her window in the dark of night. She separates the curtain with a quiet swoosh and perches on the wide windowsill. She looks up at the lighthouse on the far shore. Its beam of light illuminates her room and face every other minute. The harbor is silent as she starts to think.
What is she doing here, all alone on a Friday night? She has no friends; people say she is too deep a thinker for them to understand. Or maybe she is just weird, for liking school as an escape from her home. She’s not one to stand out from a crowd, but nor is she one who blends in. Instead she is a part of a different crowd, one she has yet to meet.
She sits alone, hoping that one day she will find someone like her, maybe someone nearby, who sees her in all her beauty. Looking over the harbor she scans the water for any sign that she will find that one person.
As she sits in silent solitude, she hears a footstep followed by another and another. Her breath catches in her throat, as she sits silently, waiting for the steps to subside, hoping against hope that they would not reach the stairs before she could close the curtain, get into bed, and regulate her breathing.
Unfortunately, that does not happen. The steps go quickly up the stairs, thump, thump, thump. She struggles with the curtains. One sticks. As the curtain finally moves, she starts to hop into bed, but too late. The sliver of light that falls over her face makes her freeze. She is frozen when she hears her father’s voice.
“My daughter…what are you doing up so late?” He is genuinely concerned, but she hates these nights. The concern is suffocating, every question of worry pushing the pillow harder over her face, the air becoming thin and scarce. Every question of why she has no friends, why she is always alone and prefers it that way.
But that was the problem. She didn’t prefer to be alone; she was just searching for someone like her, and as of yet, she had found not one person she had even a remote interest in.
“I am just looking over the harbor, father.”
“Nothing more? No thinking, sulking, or in any way hurting yourself?
To each question, she shook her head and looked him in the eye. She never understood why he had to ask such things. She had never hurt herself, and though she had sulked she didn’t do it often. And she never saw why thinking was so bad. She was a morbid thinker sure, but she wasn’t annoying anyone else, so what was the big deal?
“Okay…well, good night.” He reluctantly walked out the door and looked back with every step until the door was closed. The girl waited until the footsteps faded and then crouched by the vent. She always listened to her parents’ conversations and she learned a great deal about what they thought of her, without all of the questions posed toward her.
“I’m really worried about her Ellen. What are we going to… [Read More]
Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford is a wonderful YA dystopian fantasy novel. The ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are uniquely turned on their heads in the world Stanford created.
Everyone is given a red test score when they die, doled out by the rulers of the Azure. These rulers are called the Senatus, and they have a mission for a girl named Alex Muir. With a red test score of 50, Alex is one point away from joining the Azure. In order to do so, she must be sent to the Depths and spy on the ruler of the underworld, Samuel, to find incriminating evidence for the Senatus.
The more she gets accustomed to the depths, the more she likes it. She finds friends among the vivacious Megan and the soft-spoken Seren, the trusting Isaac, moody Patrick, and loving Everett. She also has a mutual interest in the mysterious and notorious Flynn Cooper, the only person immune to the Inflamers and the only person with a red test score over 40 to join the elite Ember Circle that rule the depths.
The relationships and characters in this book are [Read More]
When people think of cults the Jim Jones incident of the 70s comes to mind. He laced Kool-Aid with cyanide and convinced his followers to commit a mass-suicide. But cults are a lot more common than that.
Cults usually have several defining characteristics. These are:
Members display zealous and unquestioning loyalty to a central leader, whether alive or dead, and follow his beliefs and ideas religiously.
Questioning, doubt, and other forms of dissent are discouraged and sometimes punished.
Meditation, speaking in tongues, and other mind-altering practices are used to expel doubts about the group and its leaders.
The leaders determine how members should think, act, and feel. This could be controlling which jobs or schools members should go to, who people should marry, and other personal life practices.
The group is elitist.
The group has an “us versus them” mentality and message.
The leader isn’t accountable to authorities in society today.
The group has a mentality of “the ends justify the means” that often results in lying to family members or collecting money for bogus charities and other ethically questionable behavior.
Peer pressure and other methods are used to control members with feelings of shame or guilt.
Members are often encouraged to cut ties with family or friends to make them dependent on the group for all of their social needs.
Recruitment of new members is a top priority.
Making money is also a top priority.
Members are expected to focus the majority of their time on the activities the group holds, regardless of previous obligations.
The most zealous members are completely dependent on the group and can’t imagine a life without it.
One of my friends, Ripley, allowed me to interview her about a religious cult she grew up in.
What was it like growing up in a cult? Specifically, before you noticed something was amiss?
It was nothing odd because it was all I knew. All my friends and their families did it so it was normal for me. I went to a small school within the church. All of my friends were a part of it. When I was young, I had church once every week. Then, in middle school, I had events several times per week. It was normal for me because of what I’d seen with others. It was really apparent something was off once I started opening my eyes, though.
When did you start to notice something was wrong? Was there a certain moment you realized?
Probably in the fourth grade. We were in Bible class at school and I started asking questions. The teacher shamed me, basically giving the impression to me and the other kids that asking questions wasn’t okay.
Another time, in middle school, my mother was struggling to pay tuition to keep me in the church’s private school. I almost had to go to public school, which I had been excited about. All of a sudden the money appeared. It turns out everyone had offered to help pay so I could stay. That struck me as odd.
Then, in high school, I had to go to public school. I was able to evangelize to my classmates at that point. They moved me from a middle school bible study group to a high school group early. It was almost like training me. In high school, we had even more meetings for the church. We had meetings three or four times per week.
What kinds of things did you notice were wrong with their teachings or attitudes?
It wasn’t very loving. It was very instructional. Religion shouldn’t be taught as if it has a handbook. It was like, “Here’s how to share your faith. Here’s how to share how God changed your life.”
They sent us to a retreat in the 8th grade to groom us on these things. They made us [Read More]
“Frat Girl” by Kiley Roache is a chick-lit book about a rebel. Cassie Miller is a girl who has aspirations to go off to her dream college in California. In order to do that, she needs to get a scholarship. The one she’s applied for needs her to propose a research project that relates to her major.
She’s a women’s gender studies major, so she proposes a project to join her father’s frat as a legacy. The frat has been in trouble for misogynist posters during a party. She proposes to expose the frat for its terrible behavior and disband the frat once and for all.
At first, things are going as planned. She wins the scholarship, rushes the fraternity, and survives all of the pledge tasks. She writes journal entries detailing their despicable behavior. But then things start to change.
As an avid reader of romance, I have read numerous novels where the hero and heroine fall in love for no reason. It simply serves the plot. This is not what we want as readers. We want characters that fall in love because they are meant for each other. They have to be perfectly matched and have complementary traits. For most writers, this is hard to achieve. However, the solution to this problem is simple.
Character Creation is Key
If you don’t spend time getting to know your characters before you start writing, it is a lot harder to achieve the kind of relationship readers want. Writing before you know your characters requires a lot of editing to get their relationship to where it needs to be.
Trying to fit characters to a plot has the same hindering effect. The choices characters make in a given situation are because of their personalities. It is a lot harder to fit a character’s personality to actions instead of figuring out what a character would do based on who they are.
Build One Character at a Time
By focusing on one character at a time, you are better able to [Read More]
I have been indecisive about how to edit, to say the least. This is, in part, because of the editing everyone talks about versus what it will actually look like.
We need an honest conversation about what the editing process entails.
When someone says the word “editing,” what do you see? A red pen fixing punctuation errors, awkward wording and grammar? That’s what I imagined. I didn’t realize one of the biggest secrets of editing: editing is, at its heart, rewriting.
Because of the common misconceptions about writing, I decided to list out the truths of editing. I stumbled across these through editing my novel.
Truth #1: Editing is Rewriting
In truth, everything after the first draft is editing. You must rewrite scenes, add scenes, delete scenes, and everything in between to get to the polished-draft phase. Everything you write after the first completed draft is editing, even if you are writing a completely new sequence of scenes for the first half of your book.
Truth #2: You Will Cut 90 Percent Of Your First Draft
I wrote 61,000 words for my first draft. The first 42,000 words will be completely rewritten. Some of the later scenes [Read More]
This is my latest on Coffee House Writers. I had the inspiration to write this from a friend who mentioned that her therapist had told her about this exercise. I was immediately taken with the idea and wanted to see if it could help me. This is what I came up with since I didn’t want to make an autobiography out of it. You can read the full article here. I hope you enjoy!
The Heroine of My Life:
** Trigger Warning** Mentions of Suicidal Thoughts and Bullying
Someone suggested as a therapy exercise to write my story. However, there was a simple requirement. I had to make myself the strong heroine with a happy ending instead of playing the victim. It’s an exercise to battle negative self-image and self-talk.
Here’s my story:
As a young child, I already had a stubborn personality. I liked to call it determination. My mother and I often butted heads because of this personality trait. It was something she called a battle of wills.
Traits of kindness, loyalty and caring for others appeared. I had a strong sense of justice and always helped others. I love helping my friends figure out their problems.
I was a take-charge kind of person. If I had an idea, I was passionate about; it would consume me to the point of obsession. I would work on the project until I couldn’t work on it anymore. I would stop after exhausting the possibilities or resistance from others.
But, as is always the case with young, strong-willed creatives, it put me through trial after trial of resistance.
I was creative; I was always writing fiction and reading whatever I could get my hands on. When eating, I read cereal boxes or labels on food containers to keep my mind occupied.
I was intelligent. My mind was always thinking. I would evaluate problems and ways to solve them. I sought to understand the world around me, why people thought and acted the way they did. I often wondered why I thought and acted the way I did. Understanding how and why things worked was critical for me. My endless questions of “why” often irritated my parents. They often told me to look answers up in the ancient encyclopedia we had or, later, [Read More]
Well, plans have changed. I admit I’ve never edited a longer piece of writing before. The editing process is a bit of a mystery to me.
I have read lots of articles about how to approach editing, but few seemed to lend themselves to the way my brain works. Being a panster, a term for someone who doesn’t plot or plan before writing, means a lot of methods for editing aren’t aimed towards your process. Plus, a lot of these methods didn’t tell me how to approach each step. They just gave a basic rundown of the process involved without going into detail.
I ended up cobbling several methods together to get what I think I need for this specific project. I have a general idea of what it needs to improve.
What methods did I choose to include in the editing process?
First off, I wanted to read through and separate the scenes. I placed a hashtag between each of the scenes. Then, I filled out an index card with a couple of questions. These questions were:
Who is in the scene? I wrote down the names of each character that makes an appearance. I made a note if they only appear for a portion or leave in the middle of the scene.
What happens? I made a short synopsis of the events in the scene.
When does it happen? This has three parts to it.
I included the day number during the timeline of the novel (Day 1, Day 2, etc.,).
The time of day the scene happens (early morning, morning, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, night, late night,).
And the day of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc.).
What is the POV Character’s Goal? What are they trying to accomplish? Do they [Read More]
This is my latest review on Functionally Fiction. As always, you can read the full article here.
Review of “Fallen Too Far” by Abbi Glines
This book is a spicy romance that made me want to read a lot more of her work. I was introduced to Abbi’s work through her book Until Friday Night which I wrote a review for. It was a fairly good YA book that I enjoyed.
However, it doesn’t hold a candle to her adult books! Spicy love scenes and relationships that are addictive grace her books, I am finding.
This book tells the story of Blaire, a nineteen year old who has experienced her fair share of trauma. Looking for a place to stay, she contacts her estranged father, who sends her to Rosemary Beach where she meets [Read More]
There are two main parts to every story: internal and external conflict. These are also known as character and plot, respectively.
One of the age-old debates in the literary world is which is more important to the story. Neuroscience has answered this question with fMRI technology. According to Lisa Cron’s book, “Story Genius,” the character’s journey is more important. Why?
It’s how our brains process the story. On page 109 of “Story Genius,” Cron writes, “Cognitive psychologist and novelist Keith Oatley… defines fiction as ‘a simulation that runs on the software of our minds.” We use stories as a way to evaluate different social situations and how we would react to them. Basically, it allows us to experience the situation and reap the chemical rewards of navigating it successfully without ever being in the situation for ourselves.
Your character’s journey to change is what makes the story compelling to readers.
You need to relate to the character on some level. Our brains are wired to relate to the character, not the plot. If the character is not relatable, then the reader stops reading.
That begs the question: how can you create a relatable character and make the story compelling?
I am a fan of the “Graceling Realm Series” by Kristin Cashore. In the back of the third and final book, “Bitterblue,” I found a mention of the blog post that detailed how she ended up restarting the writing process for that book all over again.
Imagine having written seven notebooks, all filled with the first draft, the equivalent of 800 pages of a typed manuscript only to be told to “start over” by your editor. Infuriating right?
Well, Cashore agreed with her editor after some thought. And when she sat down to write it, she wrote a much better, more concise manuscript.
Of course, in order to get the motivation to write, she had to trick her brain. She had to use tricks to tell herself she was writing a brand-new book. She had to use other tricks to show herself she was making progress and not just floundering.
I recently went through a similar experience. Although I wrote nowhere near 800 plus pages of a manuscript (more like 200 pages and 61,000 words), I felt overwhelmed with the prospect of editing the novel I had written.
It is the longest manuscript I have written to date, and the whole vision of it changed around 40,000 words in. Not to mention that 90 percent of the plot points happen in the last 20,000 words.
You will be on a journey of learning your whole life. Along the way, there will be tears, great friends, betrayal, suicidal thoughts, and support. You will go through a lot of hard times, but the good times will make the hard times worth it.
You will be an energetic, stubborn, bossy child with advanced social skills and an affinity for writing. For you writing is an extension of playing pretend. It is fun and exciting to create a world all your own. Music and the life you observe and the worlds you experience from reading will inspire you.
Your parents have their faults but have redeeming qualities, too. You will think they are perfect and will have a hard time coming to terms with the fact they will be toxic for you later in life. They will play favorites and treat your brother better with more support later in your life. You will be on medicine from a young age.
You will experience a psychiatric unit and suicidal thoughts induced by medicine when you are just ten years old. You will come out learning of things like cutting and burning. You will be exposed to a world you shouldn’t have at your age. The next year your aunt will die from suicide. This will be hard to see your family so broken about it. You will feel guilty because you don’t cry. You will grieve your way, and that is okay. This event will save your life many times later in your life when you continue to have suicidal thoughts for yourself.