Posts Tagged ‘Majanka’

Majanka’s Reviews: TV Series “The Frozen Dead”

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Lately, I’ve grown more and more fond of these Netflix mini-series, with six or eight episodes. I like how they take more time to tell the story than a movie would (with the series lasting about six hours total, whereas movies last only about two hours) so we get to explore the characters and their history more, and we get to know them better. I previously reviewed Manhunt: Unabomber, another eight-part TV series by Netflix, and since I really liked that one, I wanted to give The Frozen Dead a shot, since it seemed similar in tone and topic.

The Frozen Dead, or Glacé as it’s originally called, is a French TV Series that is set mostly in the French Pyrenees, a setting that works wonderfully here. In fact, I would go as far as to say the setting is the most interesting part about the entire series. We get beautiful shots of the mountains, we get a psychiatric center set in total isolation from the rest of the world. As a viewer, you instantly get a sense of isolation, of being abandoned, of being alone, of being lost.

The series opens with main character Martin Servaz, a grizzled old detective who carries a heavy burden of guilt, being brought on a case involving a flayed and headless horse. While this wouldn’t be my preferred case either (and Martin apparently is haunting down a murderer back in Toulouse), he’s apparently been brought on the case because the horse is worth 600 00 euros. Martin makes it clear to his supervisor he would rather be anywhere but here, but gets to work anyway, teaming up with Irene Ziegler, a local policewoman.

We’re also introduced to our second main character, Diane Berg, a psychiatrist working in the local mental hospital, which is totally isolated from the rest of the world. From the get-go, it’s obvious something is up with Berg. For example, why does she want to get into building A so badly? And why is she so dead set on treating Hirtmann, a patient who was locked up there for murdering six girls.

As the story unfolds, and the Martin-Hirtmann-Berg connection becomes clear, the suspension rises, and soon enough, a cat-and-mouse-chase begins, during which it’s far from clear who is the cat and who is the mouse…

Yet, despite the stellar cast and beautiful scenery, the show is missing something. It’s just not thrilling enough. There are too many clichés, too many subplots that are easily to uncover for viewers who often watch this type of show. Every surprise the show throws in, I already saw coming, and while it’s still entertaining, it doesn’t knock you off your seat. Hirtmann is a psychopath for sure, but he’s not scary or creepy, not in the way you expect from a serial murderer: not in the way Hannibal is, or Norman Bates, or heck, even Dexter.

If you don’t go in expecting too much, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. It isn’t the best out there, but definitely not the worst either, and for crime TV fans, it’s a good choice.

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Majanka’s Reviews: TV Series “Alias Grace”

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

If I had to name my favorite TV series of 2017, I would no doubt choose “Alias Grace”, a miniseries based on a novel written by Margaret Atwood. Another series based on a Margaret Atwood novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is gaining a lot of popularity as of late, but don’t hesitate to try “Alias Grace” just because it gets less publicity – this series is pure genius.

The story focuses on Grace Marks, a nineteenth-century Irish-Canadian servant girl who allegedly helped murder the owner and housemaid of the farm where she worked. The book is based on a true homicide case from 1843, but the life story of Grace Marks is mostly fictionalized.

Grace gets to tell the audience her own story through sessions with a therapist, Dr. Simon Jordan, who was hired by a group of citizens eager to get Grace released from prison, believing her innocent of the crime she was accused of permitting. Slowly, while at times gazing straight into the camera, Grace tells us her story. The narrative switches back from the scenes with Grace and Dr. Jordan, to Grace’s past, showing us the events that led to the murder.

The actress portraying Grace Marks, Sarah Gadon, is absolutely phenomenal. Her performance is by far the best of the entire series and that’s saying something considering each actor and actress plays their role extraordinarily well in this miniseries. The issues focused on by the series are surprisingly timely, given that the book is set in the nineteenth century.

The series is a slow burn, taking its time to unfold. Every scene is detailed, mesmerizing, and the last episode is downright ghastly, in the way gothic horror can be, giving an eerie, surreal vibe to the viewer that will stay with you long afterwards. A story about women too often suppressed by society, it’s also about liberation, about setting oneself free, and it tells this tale in a hypnotizing way that keeps viewers glued to the screen.

Keeping the reader guessing if Grace’s story is truth or fiction until the very end, this series is capable of mesmerizing the viewer and compelling them to keep watching episode after episode. Superb acting, lush settings and a strong, multi-layered narrative conjure up the best TV series 2017 had to offer: “Alias Grace”.

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New Year’s Resolutions 2018

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Each year, I try to write down my New Year’s Resolutions…and instead of shrinking, the list seems to be expanding each year! I find that writing down goals makes one more accountable for them.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are my writing-related resolutions for 2018:

  • Draft one book per month. I still want to achieve this, and one year, I will. If it’ll be this year… we’ll see. Either way, getting to focus on new content each month allows me to be more creative and to get inspired faster. The best way for me to write books is still to fast draft them, so this is still the way to go for me.
  • Write 2k a day Monday-Friday. This isn’t a hard rule, it’s more of a guideline. If I aim for about 2k words a day, then I can finish a book in a month. It’s not a hard rule, though, so as long as I achieve the previous goal, I’m happy.
  • Write one short story a week. I always fail this, even though I love writing short stories. Well, this year that will hopefully change. I already have a short I need to write for Ghost Slayer, so that’s a fun way to get started.
  • Finish editing A Study in Shifters, the first book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series (round four of edits, almost there!)
  • Complete the first draft of The Sign of The Serpent, the second book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series.
  • Work on edits for The Sign of The Serpent.
  • Complete the first draft of the third book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series (no title yet).
  • Keep up with blogging regularly, at least 2 times a week.
  • Update my website with my new books and upcoming books.

Those are a lot of goals! Wow. I hope I get to complete them all. Did you set any writing goals (or other goals) for 2018?

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Looking back on 2017

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Now 2017 has come and gone, I like to reflect on the past year, and see what I’ve accomplished in the past year, and not just writing related, but in general.

  • My boyfriend and I bought a piece of land, and next year we’re going to start building our house on there. We already have an architect lined up who finished some draft versions of our plans for the house. I’m so glad we’re taking this next step of building a house together.
  • We adopted a new cat, Teigetje. While our first cat (Snoebels) didn’t really get along with Teigetje at first, they’re best friends now. And they’re so adorable when they’re playing together.
  • I found a job as Legal Counsel, and I really love my job so far. Having a steady job is huge, especially if we’re going to build a house, and the work hours allow me to combine this job with writing.
  • My best friends and I went to Disneyland in Paris, and it was an amazing holiday. I’ve only visited Disneyland once, when I was a kid, and it was wonderful to go back after all this time.
  • And of course, I signed with Monster House Books (yaaay!) and got to write my first book for them, A Study in Shifters, which will release this year (2018!).

Those are some huge steps forward, and I hope 2018 is as productive, challenging (but in a good way) and exciting as 2017 was.

And to you, dear readers of this blog post, I wish you the very best in 2018! Happy New Year!

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NaNoWriMo Week 5 – The End

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

It’s the end! After five long weeks, thirty long days, we’ve finally reached the end of NaNoWriMo. And guess what? Even if you reached your word count goal or not, you can still consider yourself a winner because, no matter how many words you wrote down, you wrote down something. You made some progress, and that alone is worth being celebrated.

We’re all winners today. Congratulations to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, and a double congratulations to everyone who reached their goal, whether that was writing a 10k novel or a 100k novel. Congratulations!

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NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Nearly At The Finish Line

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

We’re in week four of NaNoWriMo, and that finish line is creeping closer as we speak. But… Will we make it? Here are some tips and tricks to survive the fourth week of NaNoWriMo.

  1. If you’re ahead, keep going

If you’re ahead of your targeted word count, congratulations! Now, keep going. No dilly-dallying, no focusing on other stuff, keep on writing! That you’re ahead doesn’t mean you’re there yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed right before the finish line, and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Be glad you’re ahead, but keep going, and don’t take any breaks until you’ve hit that marvellous finish line.

2. If you’re behind, time for a sprint

Years ago, NaNoWriMo’ers already started with word sprints, where you write as many words as you can in fifteen/twenty/thirty minutes, or even an hour, in an effort to get that word count up. Join other NaNo’ers for a word sprint or a word sprint weekend to get back on track. There’s power in numbers, and if you have other people participating too, it’ll be that much easier to reach your goal. Try the @NaNoWordSprints twitter account if you’re looking ofr other authors joining in the sprints too.

3. Keep on going, don’t give up

No matter how far you’re behind, now is not the time to give up. You’ve come this far already, don’t give up now. Even if you’ve only written 10k words so far, try for 15k. If you’ve only made it to 5k, push until you reach 10k words. You don’t have to reach that big 50k goal, any progress is progress, but now is not the time to give up.

4. If you’re getting bored, add more conflict

If your own book is starting to bore you, don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural. That’s mostly because you already know the grand resolution, the big ending that is going to tie it all together, and that takes away the tension for the author. A good way to get un-bored is by adding more conflict to your story, adding different layers, and overall, making the story more complex and intriguing. Find a way to fall in love with your story again.

5. Take it one day at a time

Don’t stress over NaNoWriMo too much. If you didn’t get your desired word count yesterday, don’t fret about it again today. Let it go, or the whole experience will have you more stressed out than anything else. Instead, focus on your progress, and be proud of any progress you’ve made so far.

I hope my tips were helpful to those of you participating in NaNoWriMo. Good luck, and see you at the finish line!

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NaNoWriMo Week 3 – What If You’re Stuck?

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

It’s NaNoWriMo Week 3 and chances are high that you’re either still going strong, typing up those words, adding those subplots and racing toward the end… or you’re stuck. Utterly and completely stuck.

Well, no worries, I’m here to help. Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve used myself every time I felt like I got stuck in a novel.

  1. Are you stuck because you can’t decide?

Sometimes you’re stuck simply because you can’t decide. You have to make a decision in your book and that decision is so daunting you don’t know if you can make it. For example, in “The Soul Thief,” I had to choose whether two characters would kiss in the book or not, and I really struggled with it. Eventually, I made a choice, but it took me several weeks just to make that choice.

If you already have an outline, it might help you not to bump into this obstacle. If you don’t, it could be helpful to make an outline, and then to look at the path your protagonist still has to make before he/she meets their end goals. Then, ask yourself: what decision should I make now that will ultimately bring the main character closer to their end goal? Decide with that in the back of your mind, and it’ll be easier for you to make a decision.

2. Look at the plot from one of your character’s point of view

This sounds a little strange, but I’ve actually done it before and for me, it worked. Try looking at the plot from your character’s point of view. This could be your main character but it could also be one of the supporting cast members. If there’s a conflict you can’t resolve, or a situation you can’t decide on, try putting yourself in a certain character’s shoes and see if he/she can come up with a solution.

You know that saying that sometimes if you look at something from a different viewpoint, using a different set of eyes, you might get a better understanding of the situation? Well, this is exactly that.

3. Add a plot twist

If you’re stuck, it might just be because your story is too boring. Especially in the middle of a book, if there aren’t enough subplots, supporting characters, or not enough tension and drama, your plot might just seem too boring. If everything is going great and everyone is happy, then obviously you’ll have a hard time as a writer because that’s obviously dreadfully boring to write about.

So, add a plot twist. Add a subplot. Add a larger supporting cast (although try not to make it too large, or you’ll be in trouble too). Spice up your plot. Subplots are strange creatures. They can actually add energy to the main plot, give a reader a different angle to look at the main plot and ultimately make a main plot even more interesting than it already is.

Plot twists do the same. If a reader thinks something is going to end up a certain way and then it doesn’t, that recharges the book’s energy and makes the reader long to go back to the main plot and find out more about it.

4. Re-activate your hero

Another reason why your plot could be in a slump is because your hero is too passive. Passive heroes are dreadful. If everything keeps happening to the hero and they don’t really respond to it, they just let it happen, then they’re just being boring, and no one likes a boring hero.

Let your hero grab the plot and kick it. Let your hero make decisions to move the plot along. Re-activate your hero.

5. Raise the stakes

Your story might also seem to drag, and you might also be stuck because the stakes simply aren’t high enough. If your main character’s end goal is to win a football competition at the end of the book, consider if this is the highest your stakes can go. Maybe if he/she doesn’t win, he/she will lose a scholarship. Or his/her parents’ approval. Or their boyfriend/girlfriend will not want to date them anymore. Raise the stakes and your plot will be stronger, and rather than drag along, it will speed ahead.

We’re halfway! If you’re stuck in your story, I hope some of my tips helped you. Good luck, and race you to the finish line.

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Round-Up

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Are you interested in reading my posts about The Adventures of Marisol Holmes? Well, here’s a round-up, so you can easily find the post you’re looking for.

General

All About The Shifters Species

Detective Skills and Locations

All the posts were cross-posted to this blog too, so you can find them here as well.

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NaNoWriMo Week 2 – Middle of the Book Syndrome

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

It’s NaNoWriMo Week 2 which means that, if you’re still on track, you’re now reaching the dreaded middle part of your book. I don’t know about you, but I hate writing the middle part of a book. It seems like I magically make it to 20,000 words, then I panic, the plot fails, the characters abandon me, and I know where I want to be at when I’m at 50,000 or 60,000 words, but I have no idea how to fill in the middle part of the book. Or even worse, I know how to fill it in, I just can’t get the words on the page.

If you’re not suffering from this mysterious illness where you dread writing the middle part of a book so much you start to worry you might never make it to the end, congratulations. But for most of us regular folk who struggle from middle-of-the-book-syndrome, here are some helpful tips to get through it (mostly) alive.

  1. Outline, outline, outline

I’ve said it before but when you have an outline that is strong enough that you can hold on to it when things get tough during writing, then your outline is your lifeline. You don’t know what will happen next? Your outline knows. You lose track of where you’re supposed to be headed when writing your plot? Your outline knows.

Trouble staying focused on your character’s end goals? Check the outline.

For Marisol Holmes, most of my middle arc relied on building up tension and trying to solve the mystery, it involved dropping clues about the mystery and meanwhile showing off minor characters. It was, as it’s with most of my books, the hardest part to write (in comparison, I find it much easier to write the ending of a book, or the beginning) but it’s where the character develop, where we get minor resolutions, where the reader gets to connect with the characters. Don’t rush through the middle of your book, but polish it until it shines…except not in NaNoWriMo, where time is off the essence. Here you can rush, rush, rush, just make sure it still works.

2. Add minor subplots and find resolutions for them

You can fleshen up your middle part of the book by adding minor subplots and preferably, also giving resolutions/endings to these minor subplots. For example, if a minor subplot of your book is that characters A and B are fighting over something stupid, you can have them resolve their argument in the middle part of your book, so that is out of the way for the grand finale.

In “A Study in Shifters”, my subplots mostly included character relationships, Marisol finding clues and trying to connect the dots of the case she was working on.

3. Add minor characters

This is especially important if you’re writing a series but works for a single book as well. There’s no use introducing all of your characters right at the start of the book. You can keep the introduction of minor characters for the middle part of your book.

4. Raise uncertainty about your character’s goals

Another often-used plot device is to raise uncertainty about your character’s goals. Take a romance book for example – in the beginning the characters meet or if they’re already in love, everything is going fine. The middle part of the book is used to build tension, and is usually the part where the characters are driven apart, and in the end, they usually get together again.

For Marisol Holmes, solving the case seems daunting in the middle part of the book, nearly impossible. The reader might start to wonder if she’s ever going to solve the case at all, thus doubting the character’s goals.

5. Add plot obstacles

When it’s easy for your protagonist to get from the beginning to the end of your book, to reach their goals without much trouble, then your book won’t be very exciting. Instead, use the middle part of your book to add minor plot obstacles. This could be things like misunderstandings between characters, physical obstacles, but it can also be the main character dicovering his/her goals might be different than he/she first thought as well.

In “A Study in Shifters”, some of the clues Marisol finds make her question her previous findings. She also learns some unsettling news that forms an obstacle for her too. These minor plot obstacles carry the plot along and add some tension.

I hope these tips help you battling middle-of-the-book-syndrome and urge you to keep on going with NaNoWriMo. Good luck!

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NaNoWriMo Week 1 – Tips and Tricks

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

It’s NaNoWriMo! As usually, I’m participating in this event. I’ve been participating for the last five years and although I didn’t always win, I usually do. This year will be extra tough, though, since I’m also starting a new job in November. So, finishing that novel in one month will be extremely difficult, but I like a challenge, so I’m going for it.

To help everyone participating in NaNoWriMo (and to help myself too, of course), I’ve put together a handy list of tips and tricks.

  • Set your goal

Back in the old days, NaNoWriMo meant writing a 50,000 word novel. But now, the rules are slightly more relaxed. 50,000 is still the norm, but if your novel will be 60,000 words, or even 100,000 all of that is allowed. In fact, the more words, the better! My books are usually between 60-80,000 words. I never quite know beforehand how long the book will be, but I do have a general idea, so I have to plan accordingly. Writing 50,000 words in one month is about 1,667 words a day, but if you’re writing a longer novel, then you’ll have to pen down more words a day.

  • Don’t stop writing when you’ve reached your quota

Surprisingly enough, I see many authors who call it a day once they’ve reached their desired quota for the day, either 1,667 words or more. Don’t! Why would you not continue to hit that next mark, maybe 2,000 words? And if you’re still feeling inspired, nobody or nothing is stopping you from hitting 5,000 words or more in a single day. The quota is there for the days you might not be able to write, the days you might not hit that mark because life happens, or because your inspiration is gone, or God knows what else. But if you’re feeling inspired, keep writing!

  • Make an outline

I used to just write. I didn’t have an outline, at most I had a vague idea of who my main characters and what I wanted to happen. Now, I always use an outline. You can’t fast draft without one, really. When you’re feeling low on inspiration, when you don’t know how to get from point A to point B and you only have thirty days to finish the book, then you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and wait until inspiration hits you and you find a way to bring your characters to the desired point. That’s where your outline is your lifeline. It will help you find inspiration, come up with ideas, and it will keep the path straight when you don’t know what should happen next, or forgot your end goal, the outline is still there.

  • Stray from your outline – sometimes

However, although I’m all for outlines, I don’t think you should see it as a Holy Grail. You can derail from the outline from time to time. When you have a marvellous idea, when the characters demand a certain scene, when you find an even better solution to a problem, there’s no reason why you should stick to your outline no matter what. This is part of the creative process, and it’ll make your novel so much better if you just follow the path creativity takes you on, without hanging on to that outline for dear life.

  • Turn off your inner editor

This is an important tip too. Turn off your inner editor. Even when you’ve caught a typo on the sentence above the last one you just typed, let it go.”Ain’t nobody got time for that” is your new life’s motto when it comes to NaNoWriMo. You don’t have time to go back and edit and re-edit that paragraph until it shines, you have to continue on and write your next paragraph, or you’re not going to make it.

So, there we are, my tips for NaNoWriMo. I’ll have some more NaNoWriMo tips and news for you next week. Meanwhile, for those of you participating in the event, good luck and happy writing!

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