Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Wrap-Up

I thought you'd like to know that if you scroll way down and look on the right-hand side of my blog, you'll find my rating system, so you can see what I mean when I give a book/movie a certain rating.

Books I Read

Markram Battles: Omens of Doom by M.C. Muhlenkamp


Recommended to anyone who likes short stories, dystopian, and The Hunger Games. You can find my review of it HERE.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare


Recommended to anyone who likes urban fantasy, romance, and a good, long series.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles


Recommended to anyone who likes a simple plot and a character-driven stories. This is a great introduction to classics, because it's not difficult to read.

What is the What by Dave Eggers


Recommended to anyone who likes to learn about history through something that's more interesting than a textbook.

Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger


I loathed this book so much, I don't even know who to recommend it to. (But I know people like it, so go ahead and try it for yourself, if you want.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Recommended to anyone who likes interesting layouts (the entire book is told through letters), simple stories, fantastic characters (including Charlie, the first protagonist I've loved in a very long time), and a surprising ending.

The Girl In the Arena by Lise Haines


Recommended to anyone who likes dystopian (thought not necessarily The Hunger Games, despite what the Goodreads book description may say--it's nothing like THG) and a long lead-up before finally reaching a big finale.

Cut by Patricia McCormick


Recommended to anyone who has dealt with self-abuse (though I've never cut myself, reviews of people who have raved about it), likes character-driven stories, and quick reads.

Free Four: Tobias Tells the Story by Veronica Roth


Recommended to anyone who likes Divergent, quick reads, and a chance to get into another character's head.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo


Recommended to anyone who likes middle-grade books (though this book will appeal to people of all ages, trust me), quick reads, and quirky characters. You can read my review of it HERE.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


Recommended to anyone who likes fairytale retellings, dual perspectives, action-filled stories, and a good long, series.

Movies I Watched

"The Day of the Doctor"


(This is a continuation of the TV show "Doctor Who.") Recommended to anyone who likes to laugh, likes science-fiction, action-filled stories, fantastic characters, and a good cry (which you will several times throughout the series).

"The Time of the Doctor"


(This is a continuation of the TV show "Doctor Who.") Recommended to anyone who likes to laugh, likes science-fiction, action-filled stories, fantastic characters, and a good cry (which you will several times throughout the series).

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"


Recommended to anyone who likes simple stories, fantastic characters (including Charlie, the first protagonist I've loved in a very long time), and a surprising ending. (I highly recommend reading the book first--with any book adaptation, but especially this one!)

"The Avengers"


Recommended to anyone who likes superheroes, action-filled stories, and likes to laugh.

Quotes I Wrote

I turn to him. "Where is he? Where are you keeping him?"
He chuckles. "Why should I tell you?"
I glare at him. "I will rip you--limb from limb--until you're nothing. Until all that's left of you is a head. And that head will tell me where he is."
--Flightless Birds

“Well, well,” he says, voice a little breathy. “What have we got here?”
I try to put as much hatred into this one glare as much as possible. “You’ve crossed the wrong person.”
--Flightless Birds

I don’t wait to hear the rest of Toby’s sentence, if there is even more to hear. It seems like I’m living in a world full of unfinished sentences these days.
--Flightless Birds

“I can take care of myself.”
“My dear, I have no doubt of that. But everyone needs a shoulder to cry on. Everyone needs a hand to hold.”
--Flightless Birds

The boy pointed to the box of Pop Tarts. “Disgusting food, if it even counts as food. The glands of a beaver’s backside are used as flavoring for the strawberry ones, and who knows what else? Who’s to say whoever came up with the ludicrous idea didn’t say, ‘What the hell, how about we inject the S’mores ones with the anal substance, too?’ I’m Harry, by the way. Harry Potter.”
He extended his hand. I took it.
“You’re kidding.”
“Totally. My parents aren’t that mean. No, I’m Lane.”
--Beneath the Moon and Stars

But she had this look about her, like she was a pile of stone waiting to be chiseled into something beautiful. 
--Beneath the Moon and Stars

She flung herself back against the seat. “God, I’m such a mess today. I got a D in English, I broke down in a grocery store, I shoplifted, and now I’m in—” Her eyes widened a little. “A total stranger’s car, and he’s taking me who knows where. Oh, God.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m just taking you to my house.”
She didn’t look remotely comforted by this fact. I didn’t blame her.
Kya shook her head and stared back out the window. “You could be a murderer, or a rapist, and I just got in your car?” She phrased it like a question, like she was asking herself how she could be so stupid.
“We all do stupid things when we’re upset,” I said, trying to be comforting, but also trying to convince her that I wasn’t a psychopath. How do you convince a person that you’re not a psychopath?
--Beneath the Moon and Stars

Becca stared, open-mouthed, and pointed to Kya.
"Who is this? Where did she come from?"
"I told you I was going to Jake’s [the grocery story]," I said. I poured the cocoa into two mugs.
Becca looked incredulous. "So you bought a person?"
I shrugged. "She was on sale."
--Beneath the Moon and Stars

Obsessions I Acquired

A video game called Terraria, which my brother Max and my friends, Rich and Brennan, introduced to me.

Tea! Okay, it's not an obsession (most of the things on here are just new things I've discovered and liked), but I've been trying tea--different flavors with different sweeteners--for a while now, and I've finally found a kind I like. It's a tea flavored with orange rind and sweet spices, cooled with milk, with some chocolate/coffee ground-up goodness sprinkled on top (thank you, Trader Joe's).

Picture of the Month

This is a picture of Raven from Flightless Birds, if she were a fantasy character.

How was your April?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Query Letter Question

(Wow, I haven't posted for a while. How did that happen? Anyway.)

Hello, again! I'm back, at least for a little while. I'm going to be pretty busy this next week with packing so our family can get ready to move into our new house next week (!!!). I feel like we're getting ready for this fantastic journey, when in reality we're moving two minutes down the road. But hey, a new house, however far away it is, is still an adventure! (I think my brother is most excited about the intercom system.)

But I'm getting distracted. I have a question for anybody out there that has advice for me. It's about query letters. When writing a query letter for a picture book, should you tell the agent everything that happens in the book, ending and all, or not? For example, should I write:

Casper is a ghost. He’s also hungry. He wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but there’s a slight problem. He’s out of peanut butter.


Casper is a ghost. He’s also hungry. He wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but there’s a slight problem. He’s out of peanut butter. Casper is willing to try anything he can think of to fix this, and he does. Once he’s able to get his hands on some peanut butter, though, he discovers a new problem. He used up all the jelly.

I've never queried a picture book before, so I'm not sure what to do. I'm open to suggestions, so please comment away!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Another Liebster!

Thank you, Laure! :)

Laure's Questions

1. Fiction authors: How do you use your blog?

All sorts of ways. I write book review, I blog about writing, I do memes, I share tidbits about what's going on in my life. I blog about everything you can imagine, and then some.

2. Do you have a master plan for accumulating hundreds of thousands of fans?

Not really. Just by networking naturally, I pick up readers and find a few gems myself. There's no grand plan involved, just doing what I love best.

3. What is the easiest part of writing for you?

The first draft, by far! Creating characters and whole new worlds is my favorite part. The very beginnings of the story is the most exciting for me. There are hundreds of pages just waiting to be written, and I get to decide what goes on them. It's amazing.

4. What is the hardest part?

Editing. :P My books are all little parts of myself, and it pains me to cut and change all my hard work, however necessary.

5. How much are you bothered by typos or misplaced words in other people’s stories?

We're all human, and humans make mistakes sometimes. I don't gasp and point fingers and tut at every extra letter or missing apostrophe. I do get annoyed, though, when I try to read a blog post or article about something I'm genuinely interested in, and instead of relaxing and letting my eyes roll over the words, I have to decipher the meaning of everything the writer says. I'm trying to read a blog post, not crack a code! And by now, everyone should know the difference between its/it's, their/they're/there, and your/you're. Those drive me crazy.

6. What is the best technique you’ve found for hunting down such problems in your own manuscripts?

I try not to do everything at once. When I start editing, I do a quick spell check, then work slowly, chapter by chapter. My critique partners are great at catching misplaced commas and semicolons, and my mom never hesitates to point out mistakes she catches! I always appreciate it when someone tells me I've misspelled a word or forgot a period.

7. Do you fully form your characters before beginning a story?

It depends on the story. Sometimes all I have is a name, and other times I know exactly what happened during her seventh birthday party. But I've never once created a character that I've completely stuck with throughout the entire story. I always end up changing at least one thing about my characters, even minor things.

8. If so, does the story ever end up needing those characters to be majorly different?

Again, it all depends on the story. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

9. How do you generally perk up a bit that has turned out kind of boring?

Through editing. I never try to change boring bits or parts that don't make sense in the first draft. I always focus on pushing past it until I do revisions. Usually I end up cutting boring bits all together, or adding a bit of dialogue. I struggle with description, so sometimes when I try to make an effort, I end up over explaining and boring myself.

10. Describe yourself in three words.

Bookish, empathetic, kind.

My Questions

1. Fantasy or sci-fi?
2. Male or female protagonists?
3. Epic adventures or simple, small-town life? (This can apply to books and real life.)
4. What book would somebody have to pay you to read?
5. What book have you reread the most?
6. Do you buy used books? Why or why not?
7. What genre would be wildly out of your comfort zone to write/read?
8. First drafts or edits?

9. What is your biggest source of inspiration?
10. Do you write stories based on real life experiences? Why or why not?


At this point, I've lost track of who I've already nominated and who I haven't. Anyone who would like to participate, jump in! :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Bohemian Rhapsody Stuffed Animal Music Video"

My brother Maxim, my friends Rich and Brennan, and I all worked together for a total of four and a half hours to create this music video. It stars our stuffed animals, who danced and acted to the lyrics of "Bohemian Rhapsody." Enjoy! :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Winner of the Fauxpocalypse Giveaway

And the winner of the Fauxpocalypse giveaway is . . .

Robyn LaRue! :)

Congrats, Robyn! I've just sent you an e-mail. Thank you for entering, everyone!

Be sure to check out my post below!


I got my first round of royalties a few days ago from Fauxpocalypse! :) It was so cool to see the PayPal e-mail and to know that the reason I was getting it was because of an actual book my story was published in. All of the authors from the anthology have been pretty excited. I still can't believe that exactly one year ago today, my mom sent me an e-mail with only one thing in it: this link. The subject? "Interesting website that might interest you."

So glad it did!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Markram Battles: Omens of Doom (a Book Review) Plus an Interview With the Author!

Markram Battles: Omens of Doom by M.C. Muhlenkamp

Pages: 67

Earth is no longer Earth. The Markram Empire has transformed its once colorful cities into conglomerates of white concrete and glass where combatant divisions continue to thrive amid the eager demands of a bloodthirsty society.
Thirteen has already chosen to fight for her freedom as a warfare entertainer. But the fight for her survival is just beginning. Her unmistakable connection with her Unit Leader spawns their biggest challenge yet. Seven cannot control her, nor does he want to. Their bond has become a weakness. A flaw. A frailty that could prove their ultimate undoing.

I think I loved this book even more than I liked the first one. While the first Markram Battles book felt like set up--which is good, because it gave me a chance to get a feel for the characters--this one felt like action. I understand Seven and Thirteen better now, I like them more, I feel for them when they hurt. Though sometimes I got the characters mixed up--especially since everyone is named after a number--there weren't too many to keep track of. I like it better when stories have a small cast of characters rather than large ones.

The length of each short story was perfect. They were short enough that I didn't feel overwhelmed and wanted to keep reading, but long enough to deliver a good story. Hall of Monsters was my favorite. There was a nice mix of action and description throughout all three stories, and the writing was lovely. This quote, for example, is one of my favorites:

"Most people picture hell as a fiery inferno of darkness. But they are wrong. Hell is white, white as snow. Spotless. Stark. Incandescent. A sandy cage of crystal glass where strangers come to gloat at the monsters they have created."
Seven's voice comes out flat. "You are not a monster."

"Are you sure about that? We kill for a living. Thrust our blades into the souls of our rivals only to satiate the blood thirst of a crowd that wouldn't enjoy watching more than to see us die."
He lets out a grunt, barely loud enough for me to hear. "We fight to live."
"We fight to survive. This is no way to live." I drop my head and look at the metal floor before me.
"What are you saying?"
For a second I don't think I am strong enough to answer, but when I open my mouth, my words come out in a whisper. "I'm saying that maybe this isn't worth it."
Seven leans closer. "I think we are worth it."
My eyes snap back up, tears pooling at the edges of my vision. "I think we are damned."

And the ending was perfect! The cliffhanger on the last story is one of the best cliffhangers I've seen in a long time. I can't wait for the sequel!

(Actual rating: 4.5)


Meet the author:

M.C. (Melissa Carolina) Muhlenkamp was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She is a lifelong reader, food lover, and slightly obsessive writer who loves nothing better than to lose herself in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. Whenever she isn't writing, you can find her on Pinterest, unleashing frustration on her vegetable garden, or most likely, chasing her kids around the house. She lives and writes in sunny California, but you can visit her online at

Connect with M.C. Muhlenkamp

Twitter: @mcmuhlenkamp


1. Who or what inspired you to write?

I don't think I can pinpoint one specific event or person. Maybe it's because I can't remember a time when I didn't write something. Writing has always been there. Sharing my writing with others however, took place because I had to make a choice. I arrived at a point in my life where I knew I had to either do something with it, or just conform myself with writing and dreaming all by myself forever. I am not a conformist. Never have been. Never will be. So, I did the opposite. I plugged my nose and took the plunge. 

2. What are your top three favorite novels?

Really? Can you torture me any more with this question? Answering it has left me depressed and practically bleeding over a giant stack of books. I feel like a traitor just so you know. However, after much deliberation and personal struggle here are my top three.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

3. What is your favorite thing about writing? How about your least favorite?
My favorite thing is research. I love reading and I love reading with a purpose. Research is just an excuse to do just that. That's when the drafting part of a story comes alive in my head. Different aspects I have learned through research come to play and mingle with already existing ideas, and the result is pure magic. I get all giddy and excited and my creative wheels begin to spin. My least favorite thing is outlining. Some writers don't do it. I've found it indispensable, however tedious it may be. 

4. What inspired you to write Markram Battles?

A combination of things. I like to think of Markram Battles as a dream that went to play with the X-Men in ancient Rome. It merges three of my favorite interests into one project. Sleeping. X-Men. And history. It all started with Seven, one of the main characters. My dream with him was more like a nightmare, but it stuck with me enough to dig deeper. That led me to study the concept of the X gene, which is the mutant gene in X-Men, as a possible explanation for an evolved race of humans with supernatural powers. Ending with the speculation of gladiatorial games within that frame of work. Like I said, a dream that went to play with the X-Men in ancient Rome.

5. What is the hardest thing you've had to do in your writing?
I have to say editing. It is such a painful process, but, oh, so necessary. Slashing scenes, cutting sentences, digging deeper into subjects, killing characters all together is not fun. Especially when someone else is saying you have to do it. But the end product is always worth it.

6. What is your favorite writing snack/beverage?

Water. I can't write while I snack. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to take a break every once in a while and clear my head before diving in again.
7. What is the best way--in your opinion--to bust writer's block?
There is no secret formula. Just sit back down and continue typing. I know it hurts. I know you feel like your head will explode while your body remains glued in front of the computer dripping with blood. But there’s no way around it. You can take breaks, clear your mind with another project, spend the next few weeks or months reading while you procrastinate, and even spend hours trying all the little tricks and tips you read online, including that one about standing on your head while drinking a glass of water. But sooner or later you’ll have to come back. Sooner or later that same headache inducing feeling will come back, and you will just have to deal with it. Don’t think other things won’t help. I have certainly tried many things that have helped me spur a new wave of inspiration, but in the end the best thing for me has been to sit back down and continue typing.
8. What is the best piece of advice you could give to teen writers who want to get published?
Start now. Don't wait until later to get out there and explore. Share your writing, enter contests, meet other writers. Time's a waistin' when you already know what you love to do.

Lightning round!

Chocolate or peanut butter?


Cats or dogs?

Dogs. Cats don't like me.
First draft or edits?

Edits. They make all the hard work worth it

Melissa will be answering any questions you may have for her, so feel free to leave her a comment at the bottom of the post! :) Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Encyclopedia of Me - E

Eleanor & Park: After Harry Potter, this is my favorite book. It's so simple, but beautiful and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As Eleanor once said, "I just want to break that song into pieces and love them all to death." That's how I feel about this book!

The Ellie Sweet series: Every teenage writer trying to get published should read this series. It deals with things we all go through--querying agents, critique partners, editing, balancing writing along with your other priorities, etc. It's very addictive, too! I read both books in three days each.

Ed Sheeran: Not only is he an amazing lyricist, but he also raps, plays guitar, and did a duet with Taylor Swift. And he's only 23! Some of my favorite songs by him are, "Give Me Love," "I See Fire," and "Kiss Me."

Eggs: You can boil them, scramble them, fry them, put them in a sandwich, put them in a salad, make omelets with them, use them to bake cookies, and so, so much more. What's not to love?

"Enchanted," "Everything Has Changed," and "Eyes Open": Three of my favorite Taylor Swift songs. Handy that they all started with 'e.' ;) Also, the "Everything Has Changed" music video is one of my favorite music videos.

Europe: I definitely want to visit Europe someday. Places to visit include England, Portugal, France, Italy, and Greece.

Eccleston, Christopher: The first Doctor from "Doctor Who" I was introduced to. :) I was convinced that he was going to be my favorite--because how in the world could I like any Doctor more?--but then David Tennant came along and changed my mind pretty quickly. But "The Parting of the Ways" and "Father's Day" are still some of my favorite episodes.