Review: Zero Repeat Forever

As mentioned in my last review for Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister, I’ll be reviewing a book now and then that I rank as pretty damn spiffy. Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast falls into that 5 star category. Let me tell you a little story…

I applied for this ARC through Edelweiss and was turned down. So when everyone stood in line for the Wonder Woman ARC at Yallwest 2017, I was in line for this! I originally found this whilst scouring the Query Tracker website and I loved the query–turns out it’s also the blurb on the back of the book. Win.

I’m always on the lookout for smart, well written young adult science fiction and Zero Repeat Forever fits into this category. In fact, it rather defied my expectations. I’ve been finding it hard to connect with books recently, taking a few days to get through the first 100 pages. For this read, 150 pages went by as if time didn’t matter. Cue this reader devouring ZRF into the wee hours full of all the emotions. I could not put it down. This book, it had me.

Raven is not your typical “I’m badass, so there” protagonist. When the invaders come she’s at summer camp with her boyfriend. And when the Nahx kills him, she’s understandably upset. She’s as moody and morbid as one probably should be when one’s world is ending at the hands of an invasion.

Eighth, the non-verbal Nahx who only goes by his rank, doesn’t know the details of his mission, only the directives that rattle in his head: Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. He’s a protector, letting his female Offside partner do all the shooting. When she’s killed, he finds himself on a dangerous journey. I wanted to spend more time with this strangely poetic monster, looking forward to his POV chapters.

In a The 5th Wave / Beauty and the Beast-like manner, the two come to rely upon each other for survival. But it’s more complicated than that and, in this reader’s opinion, not quite as juvenile (as BatB).

There’s an emotional component to this book that I did not expect. Snuck up on me and rapped me around the ears. I had to put the book down at a couple points to catch my breath. Prendergast’s voice compels this story forward and it’s as tense as it is beautiful.

I’m happy to rank this book up there with one of my favorite reads of 2017 and look forward to the reread when book 2 comes out! This book is published by Simon & Schuster Canada and is released August 29, 2017.

Usually I end my posts with a line from the book, but this particular ARC is not for quotation. Instead, I’ll use the Edgar Allan Poe line from the Part One title page:

I have no faith in human perfectibility.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

In which I pimp my bio

For those of you readers who may not be aware, I will be entering my third completed novel, Defiant, into one of the most intimidating and awe inspiring competitions in the writer twitterverse: #PitchWars. Go, look it up, and if you are an unpublished author with a desire to learn from published/agented mentors, get thee to Brenda Drake immediately!

Here is my introductory post. Who I am, a little about my project, but mostly just a hello to potential mentors who may be stopping by. (Hi guys!)

Starting with the project — 5 things!

  • It started as a seed of an idea back in October 2014 when I wrote the first chapter after an epiphany of a first line. No surprise that three years later the first line and chapter are no more.
  • This MS is a rewrite of a previous novel I’d completed and lightly queried (with 2 partial requests!). I liked it. Betas liked it (with copious notes, of course!) but then I reread it and realized it wasn’t the book I wanted to write. I wanted darker, complex. A main character with more to lose and a broken moral compass, unlikeable, selfish more than selfless. Not some damsel. A Slytherin.
  • Defiant is a dual POV, dark YA sci-fi set 200 years in the future after the air turns toxic and everyone is forced indoors, living in Hong Kong-style high-rise cities.
  • The story follows Ilana Perez, the cold-hearted heir to her arctic high-rise city. Caught in the blast of a terrorist firebomb, Ilana wakes to find not only her life taken from her, but also her face–another girl is wearing it and ruling in her stead. In proper Ilana fashion, she strikes her doctor, landing him in a coma and earning herself a two year sentence in the mines. It’s down low she takes the name Estre, the eerily familiar face staring back at her in the mirror and whose memories are slowly taking over, a painful malfunction of her life-saving surgery. She falls in with a group of criminals and vows to use them to get her back upstairs. But when she discovers the real reason her family was targeted, she’s forced to choose between her desire for power and the very future of her city.
  • Themes of Red Rising collide with Face/Off. Morally ambiguous anti-hero with PTSD and a bit of kissing.

aesthetic

Five things about me:

  • My name is Delara and I’m a wordaholic. Fact. I love to talk, write, and read. Find me on Twitter: @delarathirteen
  • I’m an LA based writer/producer and creative director for short form on-air promotions and marketing. Been doing this 15+ years, I now get to work from home and choose my projects. This leaves me loads of time for writing and revising and editing! (You’d think queries and pitches would be easier for me. Um. Still hard!)
  • Cali born and Massachusetts raised but London is where my heart lives. In fact, travel is my favorite thing other than words.
  • I bookstagram! Discovered it late last year and post every day, another outlet for my creativity. If you fancy stalking me on IG, I’m @bookwnoname (if you are currently humming the song by America, you and I will get along like a house on fire!!)
  • I read. A lot. All of the books. Current read Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor.

Five of my current favorite TV shows:

  • The Expanse
  • Game of Thrones
  • The 100
  • Westworld
  • The Walking Dead

Music of Defiant, five of many:

  • Inception – Hans Zimmer
  • V for Vendetta – Dario Marianelli
  • Nine Inch Nails: Head Like A Hole
  • Ruelle: Until We Go Down
  • Lawless: Dear God

Current book inspiration:   (sorry, can’t choose just five)

  • Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
  • Red Rising trilogy – Pierce Brown
  • Six of Crows duology – Leigh Bardugo
  • And I Darken – Kiersten White
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • Red Sister – Mark Lawrence
  • Vicious – VE Schwab

(NEW!) 5 6 Favorite characters: (right now)

  • Kaz Brekker
  • Mia Corvere
  • Holland
  • Darrow
  • Arya Stark
  • Lada Dragwlya

As a mentee you’d get these five things:

  • A creative partner. I thrive on collaboration and talking about ideas. Just ask my husband. He could use a break.
  • A full time writer. I’ll be dedicating time to revisions and edits should my project be chosen by you!
  • A sponge. Teach me. All of the things. I’m looking for a mentor to help me take my manuscript to a darker place.
  • A dry sense of humor. A healthy dose of cynicism. I try not to take myself so seriously. Not precious about my creative.
  • Book recommendations. Did I mention I read a lot???

In summary, I am extraordinarily keen to find a mentor who can help me continue to make my manuscript sing. Perhaps a friend and critique partner when all is said and done. The most intriguing aspect of #PitchWars is the community it creates, and I’d be honored to be a part of it.

I like to end my blog posts with a line(s) I wrote that day. Here’s a passage from Defiant.

She laughed. Not out of joy but something much darker. Like it came from the center of her. The place where the pieces of a broken heart still lay jagged.

Happy bio hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 1, July

As my just completed WIP languishes in the last looks of my critique partner, I now find myself with some writing time on my hands.

So Camp NaNoWriMo it is. I’ve not done one of these before, usually too slammed with work to even consider a full writing project. But this July’s camp comes at the perfect time, in between finishing line edits and Pitch Wars. Yes, I am subbing my previously complete manuscript to the Pitch Wars mentor gods. I’m looking to continue learning, growing and expanding my repertoire as a writer of long form prose. Should I be chosen, there will be a party where I may even partake in alcohol. Should I not, I’ll move on to the next.

And speaking of: I’m now just over 16,000 words into my newest endeavor, Hunter or Hunted, a YA SFF set on a dying planet far, far away. I blasted through 5,829 words today, cresting the 50 page mark and pulling through that first major story beat without a scratch on me, though if only my MC fared as well. But she’s a badass, make no mistake. She’ll be fine. She’s got a suns-scorched world to cross, after all.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m shattered from all the feelings. And what better, I get to do it all over again.

One of my favorite lines of the day:

The singer on the stage all legs and lips and beautiful in a broken kind of way.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

 

Tuesday, 6 June

I’ve written a hell of a lot of words these last few days. You remember how a couple weeks ago I marked down on the permanence of the internet that I’d finished my book.

Yeah. About that. I have this thing I do whilst I’m editing. I add words rather than subtract.

At its height, my manuscript topped 113k. Which is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I could take this MS to 140k if agents would take even the slightest look at it. But to be safe, I’d like it to be under 110k.

And wouldn’t you know it. After writing and rewriting the ending about eight times now, I’ve got it to 109k.

And now I can begin cutting the fat.

Third draft. This is where I get in and perfect. I’ll spend a week in this place, reading it and taking the pages of notes I made whilst on the second draft and applying them. Maybe I adjusted something later that will require a tweak early on. A character that came back needs a bit of fleshing out. A world-building rule that I needed to change in order to get a character from A to B. And of course making sure that the whole thing is as polished as I can get it. Because after this draft.

I read.

I turn my word doc to a PDF and pop it on my kindle app and highlight all the bad things. The errors I’ve been looking at for months. Like the time I forgot the L at the end of the word pool. Gross. I’ll highlight anything that feels too cliche. Those phrases I see way too often. Like “ran his hand through his hair” or “she bristled” (I use the word bristle a LOT. Such a great word!)

And once I make those changes I’ll dive into the overused words. THAT. ACTUALLY. PROBABLY. REALLY. VERY. JUST. THEN. etc. etc. followed by trying to trim down the “felt” and “thought” tags, though my MS doesn’t use a lot of those, a quirk of my protagonist. Can’t hurt to trim the ones still there. Took a look. I have 105 instances of thought. Not bad! I could probably lose have of those easily.

But in the mean time I’m more than excited it’s under 110k today. But tomorrow?

That’s another story.

Here’s a wee line from my manuscript. May or may not have been written today. The days have run together.

A small access panel opens.

A beam of artificial light straight from mouths of demons.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

Review: Red Sister, aka Mark Lawrence is a genius

I’ve decided every once in a while I’m going to drop a review on you, the internet. Only books that I back 100% with every fibre of my being. So welcome to my most recent 1000 star read, Red Sister (Book one of the Ancestor) by the disturbingly talented Mark Lawrence.

Hers the unvoiced everything of first love, tongue-tied, ineloquent, the refusal to sully so sharp and golden a feeling with anything as blunt as words.

That line right there perfectly encapsulates this book for me. There are no words I could dream up to adequately describe how I felt after the first line, the first page, the first part and subsequent closing of the back cover. But I suppose I’ll give it a go:

A brief synopsis:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

This book may take place in a school, but Harry Potter it is not. I repeat: this may have characters of a young age (8yo and up), but it is NOT young adult. Like the author’s Broken Empire trilogy, this book keeps its feet ensconced firmly in the darkness of its world with all the glorious moral complications living therein. The world building is beautifully detailed and brilliantly intricate, so much so there’s a guide at the front rather than the back for ease of access. Abeth is a land with a dying sun, strange magics of the blood, and tangled politics causing friction between church and state. The landscapes are haunting and wholly believable. Not at one moment was I confused about where and when I was.

In pure Lawrence style, this novel is intense and bloody and decadently violent. And an all female cast to boot, which is a huge *finally* for me. Because girls can be brutal. Fact. Fellow authors take note. Boys are not necessary. More girl assassins taking names and kicking ass, please.

This is, in its own way, a coming of age story. Nona’s past is a mystery that is revealed to us as she gets to know her new classmates, develops friendships, and makes countless enemies. There are plenty of threats against her and opportunities for the girl to face her demons and become the person she truly is deep down. And by the end of the book I was at the edge of my seat, ready to throw it across the room because it was that bloody good. But I’m not going to tell you why–you just have to read and discover for yourself.

Mark Lawrence has won me over once again with his lyrical prose and expert pacing. He is one of those authors who makes me reconsider my life choices. No, I’m not going to close my laptop forever and toss my notebooks in the bin. I will instead use his words as inspiration, to work harder, and one day I hope to shake the man’s hand and thank him for so successfully taking me out of my world and inviting me into his.

And as this is a thing I do on my blog with my own writing, I leave you with a stunner of a line from this book:

I have been too young to know, and I have been too old to care. It’s in that oh-so-narrow slice between that memories are made.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

 

Friday, 19 May

Today will forever be known in my household as the day I finished my 3rd book.

Until I forget, of course, which is why I am posting it here.

I wasn’t expecting to be done today. I’ve gone back and forth on how I wanted to end this lovely little work of speculative fiction. The room I wanted her to end up is now the room she’ll end up in at the very, very end. Book three of the trilogy, should it ever get that far. It turns out, once I let that go, the ending flowed like whiskey. And no my MC ends up in a whole new place entirely. The place she probably should have been headed the entire time.

And no, I won’t tell you. Because spoilers.

I can tell you right now that it needs ALL OF THE EDITING. It tops out at 99,100 words give or take. And I know I need serious character development for the new kids. So the second draft will end up being longer. And since I pulled most of the beginning and many of the middle scenes from the previous polished draft, I feel like at least 1/3rd of this book will require little effort.

This is all just thinking aloud, as my second run through this draft will include the following:

  • aforementioned character development
  • a timeline to ensure everything lines up correctly
  • world-building issues
  • subplots – are they there, make sense, resolve?

But first! I am taking a few days off. I will not turn on my computer for anything writing related for at least two days. Then next week I’m going to continue working on a fantasy manuscript I’d started whilst waiting for readers to get me feedback. I’ll deep dive into Feud for a week or two, just to get my head completely out of the Defiant world. And then I’ll jump back in, feet first, a giant cup of tea.

So until then, here’s a line from today’s epic 6,462 writing day.

In my days I was always dying.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

Wednesday, 17 May

Let’s talk about not having an ending.

I had one. I knew exactly where I wanted my current WIP to end. The very room that the MC would find herself in, questioning just about everything. I was confident. I knew.

Until I didn’t.

Brief recount. Yesterday I wrote 3402 words. And today I undid about 2500 of them.

It hurt, but I had to listen to my inner critic. I’ve been heading down this one path for a few days and not liking where it was going.  The trees were nice and shady, but maybe too shady. I couldn’t see the forest for them. Metaphor metaphor metaphor. That path was taking me further and further from the room. The one where my MC needs to be when the curtain falls. When the last ounce of her story is squeezed out (before the sequel, of course).

So yes, the inner critic. As artists we can be our worst critics. One of the reasons I try my best not to give myself such a hard time whilst drafting. Even during my day job, which is short form writing, I always treat the first draft as rough. In editing I will polish. It might not read very well, but it’s something. It’s words on the page. Heading toward a common goal. The. End. Keep on writing.

But knowing when to let it go is also helpful. So I cut out those festering words and started over.

And yet again my main character surprised me. She’s steered me back toward that room. And now, at just over 90k words, I know how I’m getting to the end. I think!

So today’s final count, not including the one’s removed, is 1770. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ll take it. With all my procrastinating and hating on my words, I’ll bloody take it.

Here are a couple of lines from today that aren’t the worst.

Everything smelled like so many roses. But our time was running out.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

Monday, 15 May

Short one today. I just got off a marathon call with a critique partner and want to get a few ideas written down. Before then, just a little update on this writer’s life.

Wrote 3,554 words. Some of them bad. Rather, most of them bad. But it’s moving forward. I anticipate at this pace that I’ll be finished with this first draft within the week. A little behind schedule, but not the worst. I’m expecting this to exceed 100k words, which for a debut YA is not ideal. I’ll have to go through and do some judicious editing to keep it at that 95k sweet spot. That means edits will go into June.

Why so fast, you ask? It takes me months to edit! you say. For all intents and purposes I have been editing for months. I don’t think there is a right or wrong length of time to be working on a novel. Some can write a first draft in six weeks. Others it takes years. I fall into the former category. Six to eight weeks to draft, then editing until I read more than I change. Then I stop. Why?

Because at some point you just have to.

I went to Yallwest this April and saw a panel where an author said he still picks up his book ten years later and finds things he wants to change. Sentences he’d tweak if he could.

At some point, you just have to give it to the world and hope for the best.

Plus, I work much better if I have a deadline. Doesn’t everyone?

And on that note! I have dinner to make and notes to scribble down and a Mark Lawrence book to read. So here’s a line from today:

Familiar blue lights lit the way. This time I wasn’t interested in their friendly twinkling.

I had no patience for stars.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

Sunday, 14 May

Drafting. Should be a dirty word. I mean, there is only one way to start one’s work in progress, and that’s just to write. I have taken the VE Schwab method on this particular revision. First version of my WIP, Under the Northern Lights, I plotted. I allowed for changes throughout, but I stayed fairly rigid to the outline. And then ended up not liking the book as much as I probably should have. Good experiment, and what is it they say? Practice makes perfect? Sure. I’ll buy that.

So on this rewrite I’ve kept the first part of the book pretty similar. Then mildly plotted the second act, in as much as I knew what was happening to the MC and where she physically needed to go in her world, but not how she was going to get there. And I know where she ends up. I know the last scenes. But the in-between is kind of a mystery. A connect the dots, if you will. Here’s what Schwab has to say about it.

I suppose I’m blathering about this because I just spent the last couple of hours writing a massively pivotal scene and it is horrible. In the way that it’s rough as a draft should be. Everything’s all “eyes this” and “his face that” and there are no metaphors. No description other than serious bare bones “walked into the room” malarky. But the dialogue. I don’t know. I did something right. It’s heavy. Full of all the emotions I may have expected after a couple rounds of polishing. At 318 pages in I know my characters. Or at least I hope I do. And wouldn’t you know it, the crappy first time out of my head dialogue actually made this author tear up.

Or maybe it was this song I’ve been listening to on repeat made the emotion come: Eptesicus – Batman Begins Soundtrack. Hans, James, you’re killing me guys.

This scene is one I’ve been looking forward to writing for days. It’s a foothill en route the peak, a dot to connect to on the way to that big final hurrah. And I actually still don’t know who the villains truly are yet. I thought I did, but one of my characters may have just given me a better idea.

Don’t you love it when that happens?

There are my thoughts for today. It’s just past 6pm. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put a disaster flick on and try not to think about my MS for a couple hours.

Until then, here’s a line I wrote today that I’ll probably edit later:

I was only aloft for a second. But in that second I was flying.

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.

Saturday, 13 May

I figured I should tell you where the images for this blog come from. A prolific reader, I stumbled upon this amazing wonderland of an online community, bookstagram. I’m quite active, posting and talking about books and doing my best not to be a complete nerd but allowing myself to do so all the same. So the images for each of these posts is one that was featured on my account the day it was written.

I think there’s an icon at the foot of this page you can click on to take you there. Go on.

It’s a lovely distraction, bookstagram. I usually take an hour each day to take photos and create my caption. Perhaps one day I’ll feature my own book there. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot.

Today I wrote 2,453 words. But, I hear you say, it’s Saturday! Why would do that? Honestly I only wrote for about 3 hours. The rest of the day was spent on housework and talking with a critique partner about my pages. I’ll do a post about CPs soon. Might be my new favorite thing. Oh, can’t forget the episode of Scandal. That show!

Let’s talk for a moment about music and writing. I subscribe to Spotify and in my little corner of my lounge you’ll find me, headphones on, listening to writing playlists. I have one big-ass one with movie soundtracks–I recommend Oblivion, V for Vendetta, Ramin Djawadi’s Westworld & GoT, Inception and pretty much anything Hans Zimmer, Hunger Games is quite good too. And then there’s the character playlists. My main character’s name is Ilana, and her playlist is a place my 90s self would have lingered, chain-smoking cigarettes and dressed all in black. Some dark songs by Ruelle, Adna and my MC’s spirit animal, NIN.

But there’s one song I’ve been listening to on repeat. I promise it’s like dystopia writing catnip: Dear God by Lawless & Sydney Wayser. And my pages are all the better for it.

What do you listen to whilst writing?

Okay. Here’s a line or two from today.

Firm hands pressed to shoulders and a whisper to my ear.

“Let him go.”

Goodnight, dear readers. And adieu.