Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Week 3


I know, RIGHT?

How is it already week 3? HOW?

*makes grabby hands as days gone by*

The Project: Omg, mutha-effin-breakthrough. About time. I have been staring at this plot wall for weeks (okay, months). I just kept running into it head first over, and over, and over, and over.

It’s enough to give a girl a story concussion.

And then finally—on the subway, listening to a science podcast of all things—something better than inspiration hits: revelation.

It’s like I’ve been trapped, staring at this wall for so long, and only just realized there’s a door right in front of my face. It was a massive facepalm moment.

I whipped out my phone and wrote down my idea. The note started, “OMG YOU DUMMY!”

So the NaNo project has new life, and I am slowly catching up.

About. Time.

My Mental State: What is this thing you call “social life”?


LSP is my spirit animal

Stats Thus Far:

Day: 19

Words: 10,000


Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Week 1


Honestly? No Idea.

Well, it arrived sooner than any of us (ok, mostly me) anticipated. Yes, it’s that time of year.

Camp NaNo Time.

So what does that mean? Well, it means my sleep schedule is all kinds of messed up. It means I’ve given up TV for a month (except for that rewatch of FMA because that…you know it…shut up). It means I’m hanging out with Fat Cat more than other people.

It means April will go by way too fast.

Okay. Let’s do this.

The Project: Wow. Where do I even start? I…kinda have a plan? Okay, I have a really rough outline, a couple of major plot points I want to hit, and at least one character to kill off. It’s not the longest (or most detailed) of checklists.

Honestly, I haven’t hit my stride yet, but I’m holding out hope that I will soon. Spotify and waking up early to write definitely helps—or, at least, helping me get words on the page every day. And for the first time in a long time, I don’t have plans this weekend, which will help me catch up (or—gasp—get ahead).

Let’s face it: I’m totally winging it this month.

My Mental State: Tired.

I could go on, or I could go to bed.



Stats Thus Far:

Day: 5

Words: 4,087

Horror Faves






Are you ready?

Are you?



I’ll wait…



It’s Horror week.



Yes, it’s time for my current obsession: Horror. According to Wikipedia, Horror is “a genre of fiction which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror.” So, basically, anything you find scary. Which, if you’re me, is a very long list.

Okay, I’m scared of everything.

So grab your flashlight, gather your most attractive friends, and let’s explore that weird abandoned house in the woods the alluring world of the Horror genre!

What could possibly go wrong?


Everything, I said. Everything!

So, let’s theorize what keeps chasing you and leaving threatening messages:

  • Gothic Horror—a.k.a. ye olde scares. Manners and murderers. Society and sociopaths and Scotland Yard. People, it’s a classic for a reason. (Notable examples: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Haunting of Hill House)
  • Ghost Stories—a.k.a. I see dead people. What ingredients do you need for a ghost story? Couple living people, at least one dead person, and some creepy shenanigans. Simple. (Notable examples: Anna Dressed in Blood, The Woman in Black, The Turn of the Screw, Wait Till Helen Comes)
  • Zombie Fic—a.k.a. I see more dead people. C’mon…you know what zombies are. Do I really need to break this one down? (Notable examples: World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Warm Bodies, The Forest of Hands and Teeth)
  • Monster Fic—tumblr_nlwhmr7yyy1t0bbgxo1_500
  • Slasher—a.k.a. you call that a knife? Basically, someone has taken the concept of “big game hunting” a little too far. Also, avoid all woods, basements, attics, dark roads, suspicious vans, abandoned theme parks, newly re-opened summer camps, or lake houses of any sort. Trust me. (Notable examples: Psycho, American Psycho, Killer Instinct, The Silence of the Lambs)
  • Lovecraftian—a.k.a. that monster you can’t spell. Also known as “cosmic horror,” it’s usually chock-full of the occult. Which is easier to spell. (Notable examples: At the Mountains of Madness, The Atrocity Archives, Maplecroft, Annihilation)
  • Splatterpunk—a.k.a. kind of looks like a Pollack painting. Honestly, I think the name says it all. (Notable examples: The Autopsy, Off Season, The Woods Are Dark, The Light at the End)

So, on that uplifting note…

Do you ever get that unsettling feeling that the same things are happening over and over, that you’re trapped in the same thing and can’t escape? Do you see that same things over and over, until you start to fear it?

Those are called tropes. Avoid them:

  • Having sex? You’re dying first—because not only is that a horrible message, but disgustingly predictable. So please, for the love of god, NO.
  • Creepy children—they’re horrifying, and frequent star of my nightmares. *shudder*
  • “Sarah’s been dead for twenty years…”—a.k.a. phrases I like to insert into totally mundane conversations. Usually in a weird, old lady voice. You should try it.
  • The Basement—seriously, don’t go into it. Never go into the basement. Why do you even have a basement? Nothing good ever happens there.
  • Let’s Split Up—NO! Shut up. Fred, I know you want to check out that attic with Daphne, but no. Stop. Don’t even.

*side eye*

Horror is a collection of bad things. Terrible things. It’s 350 pages of awful things happening to people who, usually, do not deserve it.

So why do I love it?

Maybe it’s the weird, dark part of my personality. The part that got me sorted into Slytherin. But what I love about Horror is how uncomfortable it makes me feel: the chill up my back, the sweat on my neck, the fear that someone is right behind me. It’s controlled terror, a fear injection that can give myself whenever I need a hit.

Time to get sciencey: fear produces adrenaline, and adrenaline is addictive. Therefore, fear is addictive. You lose yourself in good horror, getting completely swept up in the hunt, running high on adrenaline. And, when you close the final page—heart pounding, palms sweaty—your body craves more.

It is the definition of delicious and dangerous.

Horror is addicting, as long as it’s not happening to you.



Looking for more scares? Check out these random faves:

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  • Misery by Stephen King
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
  • Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Fever by Megan Abbot
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
  • The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
  • Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman

You’ve been warned

Mystery Faves


Who said murder?

It’s that time folks. You knew it was coming. This week…is…mysterious…

*lightning strike*

*thunder crash*

*Wilhelm scream*

Yes, it’s time to deduce what makes Mysteries so alluring. So, what is Mystery? I don’t have to be Hercules Poirot to answer that, I just have to be able to search Wikipedia: “Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. In a closed circle of suspects, each suspect must have a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character must be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader.”

Lot of laws in the Mystery genre. Badum-clink!

(Please pardon any bad puns, I’m drinking scotch as I write this to get into the mystery mindset. I’m also eating Nutella, but that’s not particularly noir-ish. It’s just delicious.)

Anyway…the game is afoot!


Oh yeah, it’s business time

First, let’s round up some suspects…

  • Noir—a.k.a. the stuff dreams are made of. It’s a subgenre of tropes that are still so lovable—the hard-drinking detective, femme fatales, gangsters and their molls, girl fridays, corrupt cops, backstabbers. And, for some reason, everyone only speaks out of one side of their mouth. (Notable examples: The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Postman Always Rings Twice)
  • Legal Thriller—a.k.a. there’s my Grisham! It’s the “law” part of Law & Order. Lawyers play detective and solve the crime in cross examination. (Notable examples: The Lincoln Lawyer, and about a BILLION John Grisham novels)
  • Cozy Mystery—a.k.a. hand-knitted murder. Generally takes place in a small town, and the person who kinds the killer is usually a nice lady who isn’t a cop at all, but in reality runs a bookstore/antiques shop/catering business. Because you don’t have to wear a badge to decipher clues. (Notable examples: Murder is Binding, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Death by Darjeeling, Aunt Dimity’s Death)
  • Procedural—a.k.a. Good Cop, Bad Cop. Possibly, the most realistic of the Mystery genre since the crime is actually being solved by a cop. Also, a type a TV show starring Nathan Fillion. (Notable examples: The Black Echo, Along Came a Spider, The Bone Collector, The Silence of the Lambs)
  • Paranormal Mystery—a.k.a. SOOKIE! Yes, the vampires are solving crimes now. Because it gets boring being an eternally good looking immortal, and sometimes you want to solve murders for funsies. (Notable examples: True Blood, Secondhand Spirits, Storm Front, The Diviners)
  • Historical Mystery—a.k.a. elementary, my dear Watson. It’s pretty self-explanatory—solving crimes in another era. So no cell phones, internet, DNA analysis tests, fingerprint databases. Honestly, I have no idea how they arrested anyone. (Notable examples: Death Comes to Pemberley, Burial Rites, The Name of the Rose, The Alienist)

…just to name a few.

Now, we’ve got the suspects, let’s check out the murder weapons!

  • Red Herrings—they’re so obviously guilty that they’re…not guilty? Listen, it’s never the obvious suspect, with the most motive, and a questionable alibi. You know why it’s never them? Because that’s not clever. So you might as well just ignore those obvious characters to begin with.
  • Buddy Cops—they’re wackily mismatched, yet compliment each other perfectly! How do they solve so many cases? How do they manage to fight about everything, yet still get along? That’s the real mystery.
  • Locked Rooms—look, locked room mysteries can be kind of cool: murder in a secluded place, no way in or out. But they have to actually make sense. Looking at you, Murders in the Rue Morgue.
  • Two Weeks From Retirement—you know that guy who’s really looking forward to retiring and spending more time with his family? Yeah, doesn’t usually end well.
  • I’m Being Set Up—tumblr_m10dsbplmz1qfnnjfo6_400


But—to do the classic detective monologue and wrap up the case—what is it that makes Mystery so compelling, so universally beloved? Frankly, because when it’s well done, it makes your brain leak out of your ears. It’s the rare exception to the rule of having the reader get inside the main character’s brain—for once, you don’t want to see their thought process throughout the novel. You just want to know what they were thinking at the very end, for optimal shock and surprise. As a reader, you don’t actually want to solve the mystery easily (or at all). You want to be stumped. Surprised. Stunned. You want the protagonist to be the smartest character, not just in the book, but in the room where you’re reading it (the room where it happened…sorry, couldn’t help myself).

But Mystery novels should also be a puzzle—a 300-odd page puzzle. And, like Vegas, the house should always win. Hell, as a reader, you want the house to always win. Because the minute you solve the puzzle—or know who the killer is—is the minute you lose interest. There’s nothing left to hook you, you know how the book ends.

Good Mystery holds you captive, frustrates and tortures you. And it should drive you nuts but, oddly, you love it.


You feel like this

Want more Mystery? Check out these random faves:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Supernatural Enhancement by Edgar Cantero
  • Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • When Lightning Strikes by Meg Cabot
  • Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
  • Dead to Me by Mary McCoy
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  • Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Hetzel
  • Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
  • City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray

Now I need to re-watch this movie

Contemporary Faves


I’m SO fancy

Guess what, fellow genre nerds? This week is Contemporary!

So what is Contemporary? It’s real life. Well…fictional real life. According to Wikipedia, the paragon of informational resources, it’s “a story that is true to life.” Which is obnoxiously vague. So I define Contemporary Fiction as lies. Really believable lies.

Just kidding.

But, obviously, there are more parameters than just “realistic.” The story has to take place in the present—or present-ish. Just not the distant past or predicting the future (that’s where the “contemporary” comes in). There’s also no magic, no mythic creatures, no aliens, no mighty immortals, no superpowers. and no deus ex machinas. It’s real real.

But, you know, still fictional.


Yes, Felicia. Yes it is.

So, subgenre time.



Listen, Contemporary is a big genre. And a lot of novels take place in the present. So the books that fall into Contemporary seemingly exist in this nebulous, ever changing category with uncertain borders. So there aren’t really “subgenres” per se. Contemporary novels can certainly co-op elements from other genres to a certain degree (such as mystery, romance, thriller, etc.), but those elements never take over the story—they just accent it.

At its core, Contemporary plots are character driven. They’re 300-page-long human interest stories. Yes, there may be a (small) mystery to solve, or other people to fall in love with (or just have unrequited crushes on), but at the core is the main character.

Now, with that schpiel over, let’s get to the tropes:

  • Gruff older character + precocious child—a.k.a. the worst buddy cop movie of all time. Seriously, what is it about grumpy old people who want to befriend obnoxiously lovable children? Why is that age disparity so popular? And how do those stories not include more pudding packs? Those ages are the target market for pudding.
  • Everything sucks—and the world is like my coffee, dark and bitter. Seriously, we get it, reality is kind of the worst sometimes. But if your character only sees the worst, then you’re stuck with a one-note story. And even emo songs have range, your story should too.
  • This story is a metaphor—look, don’t get me wrong, I love metaphors as much as the next reader. But if the whole point of your story is to be a giant, extended metaphor, then we’ve got a problem. Metaphors are embellishment, and without the base of a plot, there’s nothing to hold them up. It’s like gravy—delicious, but you can’t eat it on its own, it needs to be on something.
  • Isn’t it ironic—tumblr_n66tgm2jih1s9laueo1_500

But what makes Contemporary so great? It’s not the grand escapism of genre fiction. It’s quieter, subtler.

Almost…insidious… The way it sneaks up on you and buries you in feels. You try to fight it. You try to escape it. But you can’t. It’s just too powerful.

The rhythm feels is gonna get you.

But this is all my stupid, jokey way of saying that, when it comes to Contemporary, you’re in it for the people. As a reader, you’re there for a relationship with the characters. You’re all in—you want to fall in love, get heartbroken, and fall in love again. You open a book and want to find friends, loves, family, faves.

It’s intangible company.

Despite how bleak it gets, it’s comforting to be surrounded by people (even fictional characters) who share your same thoughts and emotions. Even when you’re technically alone, with a book, you’re not alone.


So no one told you life was gonna be this way…

Want to know more about Contemporary fiction? Here’s a random list of faves:

  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
  • Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea by Jonathan David Kranz
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • Sway by Kat Spears
  • 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Teen Idol by Meg Cabot
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • Tangerine by Edward Bloor



I know I don’t

Sci-Fi Faves


Whatever you say, Benny Batch.

Continuing our deep dive into genre, this week is Sci-Fi. Prepare the laser cannons!

So what is Sci-Fi? According to the internet, it’s: “a genre of speculative fiction dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life.” And, according to Sci-Fi, the internet is what supersedes our humanity in the future. So, kind of fitting that all my research is coming from our future electronic overlords.

But, essentially, Sci-Fi takes something familiar and already fantastic—the internet, space exploration, medical research, technological advancements, etc.—and takes it to the (albeit, frequently dark) extreme. In a way, Sci-Fi is like fortune telling—pessimistic, occasionally eerily accurate fortune telling.


No, but for real, where’s my hoverboard?

And, like last week’s dive in Fantasy, Sci-Fi is equally saturated with books and had to be split up into subgenres, liiiiike:

  • Cyberpunk—a.k.a. badasses with computers. Emerging in the 1980’s, it’s the blend of cybernetics and the emerging punk scene, two things that go together astonishingly well. Usually set in a near-future, dystopian universe, and featuring elements of nihilism, post-modernism, and film noir. (Notable examples: Snow Crash, Blade Runner, Ready Player One, Count Zero)
  • Alternate History—a.k.a. What If? Essentially, it asks the question “what if life turned left, instead of right?” What is America lost the Revolutionary War? What if Hitler won WWII? Predictably, things get weird. (Notable examples: 11/22/63, Wolf by Wolf, The Guns of the South, The Eyre Affair)
  • Military Sci-Fi—a.k.a. star wars. Future war expands beyond all borders and into space. Setting blasters to stun will not help in this situation. (Notable examples: Ancillary Justice, Old Man’s War, Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game)
  • (Post-)Apocalyptic—a.k.a. the end is just the beginning. The world may end in Ice or Fire (or both), but some of humanity survives. Or at least tries to. (Notable examples: Station Eleven, The Road, World War Z, The Stand)
  • Steampunk—a.k.a. Tesla is king! Victorian manners and Silicone Valley ingenuity. Petticoats and pistols. H.G. Wells and high society. Usually crosses over with Mystery, Thriller, or Romance genre. (Notable examples: Soulless, Leviathan, Boneshaker, Clockwork Angel)
  • Space Opera—a.k.a. the final frontier. Military Sci-Fi, without the war. Guardians of the Galaxy, without the awesome soundtrack…and less talking raccoons. (Notable examples: Leviathan Wakes, Dune, Revelation Space, Foundation)

However, unlike Fantasy, the lines between subgenre tend to be a little more solid. And like taxonomy (yup, bringing back that reference), it’s easy to determine what species a book falls into.

That said, there are always common tropes that appear, regardless of type of Sci-Fi a novel may be. Here are a few:

  • Evil robots—yes, they are always trying to kill you. Yes, it’s a parallel to Frankenstein. And yes, no robot will ever be more evil than HAL.
  • Effortless interstellar travel—Space is unfathomably huge. So why is it that ships are able to zip around it in the blink of an eye? Shouldn’t space travel be more like The Oregon Trail, where at least one member of the crew will die of dysentery?
  • Sci-fi slang—zetus lapetus, it can get cheesy!
  • Time travel rules that contradict themselves—lookin at you, Doc Brown. Seriously, after Part III, did Marty spend the rest of his life in therapy? Because I know I would if Biff Tannon became my step-father in an alternate universe.
  • The BIG TWIST—vg1abnk
  • Babel fish—somehow, everyone speaks the same language, or can easily be translated. How? Excellent question.
  • Let’s kill Hitler—we get it, you have a time machine. But when has this plan ever worked out?

But, common plot devices aside, what makes Sci-Fi so great? It’s a glimpse—granted, a frequently bleak glimpse—into what our future might be. Let’s be real, there’s no way of knowing what our future might hold—what technology will take off, how humanity will act, whether there’s life out there in the universe, or when we’ll finally get to start that colony on the moon—and most Sci-Fi is set so far in the future, none of us will live to see if any of our predictions come true.

Which is super bleak…

But true. Sci-Fi lets us imagine a future that we will never get to see. And, in the case of those bleaker scenarios, lets us try to correct our mistakes before it’s too late.

Sci-Fi predicts where our actions will lead us as a species, and reminds us that the future—as likely as it seems—is still unwritten.


Yeah, still haven’t forgotten about that hoverboard…

Want to know more about Sci-Fi? Read it! Here’s a random list of some of my favorites:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
  • 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
  • The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Soulprint by Megan Miranda
  • Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
  • Of Beasy and Beauty by Stacey Jay
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • All Men of Genius by Lev A.C. Rosen

YOU’RE my favorite, Gary Oldman