Friday, September 4, 2015

Mini book review: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

I received an ARC ebook from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

What if social media could be used for something evil? That's the problem "NEED" addresses, and it works. The novel grabbed my attention all the way to the end. However, the big reveal lacked motivation and broke my suspense of disbelief. For that, I dropped half a star.

The numerous POVs were difficult to track at first, but it gets better as the novel progresses. I appreciated how well the writing was, as each one of the POVs had a unique voice, a very difficult thing to achieve.

Overall, an attention grabbing, fast paced thriller with a good--not great--ending.

Excellent--4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Writing vs Programming: The Neverending Cycle

Writing novels is like coding applications: Write a first lame draft, work on drafts--make it better and more compact, and then "test."

The result of the testing--beta-reading for novels--shows mind-twisting problems that require lots of thinking and patience to solve. So there you go, feeling Superman, fixing, cutting, adding, not wanting to "kill your babies." The new draft is the coolest thing ever, right? So clean, ready to go to the customer or to query the agents. But fixing also implies breaking. As a rule, massive changes break other stuff.

And there you go with more testing.
And more fixes.
And more testing.
And ... and ... you feel like puking.
Can't go through it once more.

This test cycle repeats forever because "there's always one more bug, one more problem." So, no such thing as a perfect novel or app.

There, I said it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strings and Hammers

Back in December I decided to write a story with an object as a main character, where the challenge was to make the reader empathize with it.

I ended up penning Strings and Hammers, which tells the misadventures of an old upright piano.

Miracle e-zine published the story in Issue 4, available here:

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Snow almost killed me.

Monday was an ordinary day, a bit chilly, but pleasant. I lay in my cave, as usual. I don't go outside unless I'm starving or super-thirsty, but that day my stomach growled like crazy.

I had to go out.

First step on the ground? Not good. I tumbled down and buried in a mount of snow. Where did it come from? It wasn't there the day before. I fought my way out and stared at the white ceilings. When this happens food is hard to get.

But I was starving.

I marched to a house a few yards away, but my legs buried in the snow with every step I took. I stared at it. My mouth watered just thinking of the cheeses and snacks the place had. Wasn't an easy ordeal, but I managed to reach my destination.

That was the easy part--even with the snow. Now I had to get inside. That's always tricky because Tac, the guardian, is always around. So, I glanced around. No signs of him. I tiptoed on the driveway, constantly searching for him.

But I have no eyes on my back.

Tac came behind me and bit my tail. My beloved tail! Just liked that, my appendage was gone. And it hurt like hell.

I stormed back to my cave with Tac's rotten breath assaulting my nose--he was that close. But the snow worked for me this time. I buried myself in it and dig a tunnel. Tac's claw also dig in the snow.

He missed me by an inch.

I fought my way through the tunnel until I got home.

I hate cats.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Apple Pie and I

The fruity smell of apple pie traveled to his nose and went down to his stomach, a growl announcing its arrival. Like a hound dog, he followed the aroma and hunted for its source. Where did it come from? He looked at the house at the other end of the street. It used to be empty, but people had recently moved.

The place was special. It had been empty for a long time, and people said it was cursed. Ten years ago, something terrible happened. Something  nobody wanted to talk about. It was a forbidden topic.

Toy, as they loved to call him, wanted a piece of that pie. Badly. Hypnotized by the exquisite aroma, and ignoring all warnings, he strolled towards the house. When he crossed the street, a black cat crossed in front of him in a sign of bad luck. But he wasn't thinking. He continued to walk the pie walk. He knocked. No answer. He knocked again, this time harder. Still no answer. Frustrated, he walked around the house--to the back. The wonderful pie sat by the window, waiting to be eaten. Toy approached it, but Mr. Pie looked back at him in defiance. Toy jumped, grabbed the pie, and stormed back.

When he got home, he gave the pie a long stare. Dinner was ready. He was ready.

“Toy!” she yelled.

He  looked at the floor and didn't answer. He looked up.

She glared at Toy. “Bad dog!”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Flying Seashells

“Close your eyes.
“Imagine you’re standing in a beach, the sand covering your bare feet. A splash of cold water makes you gasp. So unexpected, yet so refreshing.
“Now listen to the waves crashing against the sand.
“Moisten your lips and taste the salt floating in the air.
“Open your eyes, Lisa.”

The beach reminds me of my childhood. I gasp and raise my eyelids. “The seashell!”

The doctor's forehead wrinkles. “Tell me about the seashell.”

“I was nine when we found it. My dad said it played ocean music, and I-I…”

He stares at me, waiting for me to continue. I look away, concentrating on a painting of a blue mountain.

I face him. “It sounded like the sea, but I know that sound is—”

“It doesn’t matter what you know now,” he interrupts. “What matters is what it was to you.” He writes a note. “What did you feel?”

My hands sweat. “It didn’t feel right.” I pause, but he gestures me to continue. I sigh, knowing I need to tell him. “It stunk.”

The doctor raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything.

“It made a sound so loud,” I continue, “I threw the seashell to the ground and yelled.”

He writes on his notepad, his eyes glued to mine. “And then?”

“I passed out.”

He rubs his forehead. “Is this how your problem started?”

I nod. Memories rush to my mind. The hospital. The way the nurses looked at me, as if I were a monster. The constant medicine. Mom smiling, her eyes sad.

“Where are your parents?” he interrupts my thoughts.

“Parents?” I echo, thinking. “After the incident, I never saw my dad again. He died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the doctor says, but I know he’s trying to be sympathetic as this information is on my file.

I give him a half smile. “That was a long time ago.”

“What about your mother?” he asks.

I shake my head and roll my eyes. “You know what happened to her. Why do you ask?”

“Sorry.” He takes a deep breath. “Do you know why she is...there?”

Here we go again. This is the fifth doctor I tell what happened. “She hated me.”

The doctor pens more notes. “Why?”

“Because of the stupid seashell,” I want to run away, but I know they’re waiting for me outside.

“What about the seashell?” he asks.

“Because seashells kill people. That’s why!”

His face hardens, and he looks at me intently. “You’re not ready.”

“I am!” I say.

“You’re in denial.” He shakes his head. “You killed your parents.”

“No, I didn’t!” I wrestle with my straitjacket and stand.

Two guards storm inside the room and grab my shoulders, while the doctor injects me. I feel dizzy.

Seashells fly, hitting people’s heads, making them explode.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Writing is like shuffling dominoes: you start with some pieces and end up with rubbish.

But then you have something fixable, which is better than nada.

What follows is more shuffling:

Mechanics of the story? Was he seating and now he's outside the house? How did that happened?

Time of day? I had a character having breakfast at 9 p.m., which is not that bad, but still...

What about the sense of smell? A girl enters a fish packing factory, but it doesn't stink.

More shuffling.

Should she cry before she says, "He died," or after? Does it make sense?

Oh, the wonders of writing.

After all this shuffling, I take the story to a critique group.

I get frowns and blank stares, signaling some parts of the story are still buried somewhere inside my brain, refusing to leave. I take a million notes.

And then, again, more shuffling.

Now the tale is patchwork. Still rubbish. Crap. Caca.

So, like good whine, I let the story breathe. Pretty much, I try to forget it.

Then I revisit and, finally, fix it so it makes sense.

Sort of... well, at least I try.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All You Can Eat

The restaurant served pizza, steak, burgers, French toast, and pancakes. They also had salad.

Olig's eyes widened at this banquet. He'd never seen that much food before.

Five bucks. That's all that he needed.

He grabbed a plate, threw three pizza slices, and topped them with a burger and a juicy steak. He snatched a small bowl, tossed some salad, and juggled his way to the nearest table.

Olig placed the food on the table and admired his catch. He looked at his belly. "You're going to grow," he said.

A robust man pointed at Olig. "I used to be as skinny as you." The man grabbed his generous stomach. "But I grew." He laughed, sprinkling food toward Olig.

Olig nodded and sat. He looked around. A plump lady swallowed a pizza slice in a single go. A kid with two straws in his nostrils munched on a huge burguer.

Nausea hit Olig, and he stormed out of the restaurant. He inhaled the night's air and shook his head, thinking. I'll never be like them. Never.

Two years after he arrived at the promised land, Olig sat at a restaurant, waiting for his food to arrive.

A young waitress with a perfect smile placed a plate on the table. "House special."

"Thanks," said Olig, eyeing the lobster and steak dish. A mash potato wall surrounded the meal.

As the waitress walked to another table, Olig admired her slim figure.

He sighed. "I used to be that skinny."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pet Love

I sat on a bench, enjoying the day, when my dog climbed on my lap. He looked at me, tongue hanging out, with those eyes that say, “I love you, Master,” and I wondered. What did I do to deserve his unconditional love?

Can people love each other like that? Like dogs?

We have a strange relationship with our pets. We jailed them, give them the same bland, boring food every day, and in exchange they give us their love. Why?

Imagine that an ugly giant caged you inside a gigantic house, where the steps stood four feet high, and the furniture seemed unreachable. Would you roam inside this place? Would it get old? This monster would feed you, let’s say, boiled chicken and water every single day. Would you love him? Would you care for him?

I never understood dogs.

Now, cats are a different story.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Writing Interruptus

New idea, Write!

Darkness covered the castle where--

"Excuse me." I look up to find a young girl with dark short hair.


"Are you a writer?" She chews her gum.

No, I'm making brain tacos. "Sort of."

She points at my laptop. "What are you writing about?"

Hell if I know. "Stuff."

"What kind of stuff?"

I scratch my head, and it's not because I feel uncomfortable. I just have dandruff. A flew flakes fall. "Just started this story. It's about a castle and--"

"Vampires? Cool!"

I wait a few seconds, trying to cool down. "No, it's not about blood suckers."

"Really?" She turns around and leaves.

I take a deep breath and go back to my writing, but my muse left with the girl. This is the moment to ask the brain.

Darkness covered the castle where the battle began. Ghosts hovered above it, scaring...

Scaring what? I close my eyes and concentrate.

"Aha. So, you are serious," a guy says. I open my eyes. A mature man is talking on his phone. "I cannot do this. You know that. We're going to lose thousands." He hangs up and shakes his head.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. The castle and the ghosts. E-mail. When was the last time I checked it? I open my mail. Curtain sale. Delete. Free Disney vacations. Delete. New friend request from someone I've never heard of. Delete. No more unread messages. Facebook? Twitter? Nope. I take a deep breath and type.

Dark ghosts hovered above the castle, an omen of the oncoming battle. Birds flew away at the sight of the wandering souls.

A girl with short dark hair rode a black horse, heading for the castle.

"Ramona!" A man standing at the entrance raised his hand. "So, you 'are' serious."

Ramona locked her eyes onto his, frowning. "I am. You must pray to the skies. To the birds."

"I cannot do this. You know that."

She stepped off the horse and grabbed the man's neck. "Pray. Pray for them. Before we lose them."

"We're going to lose thousands."

She relaxed and moved his hand away from him. She knelled and look at the sky. "Lord. Help us in our quest."

It's not exactly what I had in mind, but it sort of works. I guess getting interrupted helps.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Breakfast Tacos

Are breakfast tacos food for thought?

I think so.

Whenever I can, I treat myself with two or three egg and [chorizo, bacon, potato, name your own] tacos. As they travel down to my stomach, ideas pop up in my head. It gets better. When I finish my delicious tortilla and egg delicacies, I feel like napping, and writing too. That's when I pen some of my best work.

This morning I went to a new place and stomached three gigantic tacos. When I was done, I felt like vomiting. Mhh. Why not write about vomit? Ideas!

- The FBI chases a dude who vomits radioactive material. Mhhh. No.
- A dude chases the FBI because they vomited on him. Nope.
- An alien made of vomit lands on planet Earth, and chases the FBI and the radioactive vomit dude. Interesting...
- Radioactive zombies rule Earth! Two words: chee sy.
- Zombies, FBI dudes, vomit, and videotapes. Nah.
- Zombies, dreams, stomach, tacos, egg, dlsl;a khajh 76 gsaj.


Time for a nap.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Caffeine Distraction

Do your characters talk to you?

Mine don't.

They scream.

That's a good thing, I guess. But other voices talk to me. Yeah, I know. You're thinking, "This dude is crazy." No, I'm not. Well, just a little.

Who are these people? you may ask. Actually, they're real persons who talk, talk, and talk when I'm writing. They are like the people who clap in the middle of a Classical concert. So, so distracting.

I was writing in a coffee shop when one young girl, let's call her Latte, said, "You've seen the latest? It's so, you know... WOW. So good." That didn't make sense at all but of course, that ignited my curiosity, so I listened.

"I didn't, 'cause I was with you-know-who, and he was so handsome, and cute, and--" said the other girl, who I'll call Java.

"I know!" Latte interrupted. She sighed. "I wish I had a boyfriend like yours. He's so--"

"Awwww," said Java, staring at the window, pointing outside. "Look at the doggie. So cute. I want to punch him."

Latte sipped whatever she was drinking, looked at the sky, and moaned.

"I'll call him Cutie. Is he a beagle?" asked Java.

Latte looked down, facing Java. "Ohmygosh, my latte-marianno-frotte-lotte is so, so out of this world."

Difficult to follow, eh? This is my typical morning at the coffee shop.

I need to find another place to write. Oh, well.

This is what I have to stand just to get my daily dose of caffeine.