Homeland – First 1,000 Words Part 1

Tomorrow is July 1st which means Camp NaNoWriMo starts! YEAH! *throws confetti* In honor of my third NaNo, I’m sharing the first 1,000 words of my very first NaNo novel, Homeland. Here’s the logline for the novel:

Returning after 150 years, alien invaders make a second attempt to take over the earth, and a brother and sister pair, caught behind enemy lines, are left to grow up alone and to defend their devastated city against the alien authorities, and in the end find out a disturbing truth.

A few months ago, I entered these 1000 words in a Go Teen Writers contest. While I didn’t win, my entry was in the top 40 out of 200 entries which I was pretty excited about. Anyway, here is the first part of my 1000 words. Enjoy!

Foolishly, I chanced a look over my shoulder, my feet pounding, my heart thumping. They were still behind us. They would catch up to us soon, I knew it. I shouldn’t have taken that second to look. My breath came in short steamy puffs as I tried to keep up with my brother. The traitorous moon tried to penetrate the dust and give away our location as we ran through the city streets. Fortunately, its dim light did little to cut through the black night. As black as their uniforms, I thought. That picture made me push my legs even harder.

“Jace!” I cried out, hoping my brother would answer, hoping for some reassurance that we could get out of this mess. He didn’t answer. He only kept running. I tried to concentrate on moving my feet and legs faster and faster, even though my muscles were burning, because I knew what would happen to us if they caught up.

“Tessa! Down here!”

I followed my brother into a small, dark alleyway. At the end, we stopped dead, my feet at last still but my heart racing on, pounding out of fright and exertion. I longed to be safe in our apartment more than anything at that moment.

“Jace, what happens if –” I whispered into the darkness.

Jace’s growl cut me off. “Be quiet, Tessa. You’re not helping.”

I bit my lip, knowing Jace was right. I hung close to his side, waiting for him to tell me what to do next.

“I don’t know how we’re getting out of this,” Jace muttered under his breath, as he gazed upwards. I followed his eyes up to the top of the tall, gray, chain link monster blocking our path. It was at least twenty feet tall. Feeling caged in, I spun around certain they were right behind us. There were flashing lights nearby – no doubt the glittering torches the officers wore on their wrists –  but they hadn’t found us yet. It was a dead end road, though, and we had nowhere to go. We are going to be captured and tortured by the Primarins. I tried to push the thought out of my head, to stay brave like Jace, but I wasn’t my confident brother.

Jace reached up, gripped the chain link, and started climbing.

“What are you doing?” I hissed at him.

“I’m getting out of here!” he whispered back. “Start climbing!”

“I can’t!” I choked out the words, as I felt the tears start to fall.

Jace slipped down the chain link a few feet, and I gave a scared yelp thinking he was falling. He grabbed my arm. “Come on, Tessa! You are climbing it!”

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for part 2 next week.
~ Kayla

Weekly Writing Wrap-Up: June 20 – 26

Welcome to my Weekly Writing Wrap-Up for this week!

Total Word Count for the Week: 1235

Top Writing Day: My top writing day was Thursday with 963 words.

What I Worked On: I worked on editing Snow and some fanfiction.

The Good News: I’m really excited for NaNo, and I’ve nailed my idea and characters down well.

The Bad News: I’ve been feeling completely uninspired with writing lately.

Lesson Learned: One thing I’ve found helpful this week is the YWP NaNoWriMo workbook which you can find here. There are editions for elementary, middle, and high school. It goes over all the details of writing a novel such as creating better characters, adding sub-plots and more details, and editing your novel at the end. The whole workbook’s a big “lesson learned” for this week!

Goal for Next Week: My goal for next week and for NaNo is 1,667 words a day from Tuesday onwards.

If you’d like to share your weekly wrap-up, go ahead and post it in the comments below!

~ Kayla

Grammar Rule – Commas and Introductory Phrases and Words

Previously On Grammar Rule: We learned about commas in a list and commas and conjunctions. In case you missed last month’s installment, you can find it here. In today’s Grammar Rule, we are learning about commas and introductory phrases and words. Don’t go anywhere because we’ll be right back with this month’s episode of Grammar Rule!

*insert catchy theme music here*

First of all, we need to clear up what exactly is an introductory phrase. A phrase is a group of related words that do not have both a subject and a verb. An introductory phrase is a phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence and prepares the reader for the rest of the sentence. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can now move on to the commas. After most introductory phrases, you will need to add a comma.

Slipping on his ring, Bilbo turned invisible.

To find the Arkenstone, Bilbo had to face Smaug.

Drawing his two swords, Fili ran into the orc battle with a shout.

A fearsome and malevolent beast, Smaug was considered the greatest calamity of that age.  

“Slipping on his ring,” “To find the Arkenstone,” “Drawing his two swords,” and “A fearsome and malevolent beast” are all types of introductory phrases, so a comma is needed to set them off.

By firelight the dwarves heard the tale of the Battle of Moria.

In this sentence there’s an introductory phrase, but no comma. No, that’s not a mistake. If you have an introductory phrase with five words or less that starts with a preposition, there’s no need for a comma. However, it’s not considered wrong if a comma is placed after “firelight.” Crazy, I know.

Occasionally, the dwarves would hear orc screams at night.

If your sentence starts with an adverb like “occasionally,” you will need a comma after it.

Meanwhile, Gandalf travelled to Dol Guldur to find the Necromancer.

Introductory words that help sentences to connect and flow together like “meanwhile” need a comma after them.

No, Kili has never washed his hair.

On the other hand, Legolas washes his hair at least twice a day with special Elf shampoo.

Interjections and common expressions also need commas after them.

Here are a few links that I found helpful while writing this post:



http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quizzes/nova/nova2.htm – this one is a quiz you can take to test your comma knowledge

Join me next month for the next installment of Grammar Rule!

*insert more catchy theme music here*

~ Kayla


Quote of the Week

Welcome to today’s quote of the week! It is a long one, but a good one from Robin Hobb, author of Assassin’s Apprentice.

“The second thing you have to do to be a writer is to keep on writing. Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend who says you are better that Tolkien and don’t have to try any more. Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that you have unique stories to tell, and tell them. I meet far too many people who are going to be writers ‘someday.’ When they are out of high school, when they’ve finished college, after the wedding, when the kids are older, after I retire . . . That is such a trap. You will never have any more free time than you do right now. So, whether you are 12 or 70, you should sit down today and start being a writer if that is what you want to do. You might have to write on a notebook while your kids are playing on the swings or write in your car on your coffee break. That’s okay. I think we’ve all ‘been there, done that.’ It all starts with the writing. ” – Robin Hobb

~ Kayla

What I’ve Read This Month – My New Favorite Author

The month of June began as a slow reading month. For the first couple weeks, I only managed to read one or two books. Then I had a rash of books that didn’t grab me and keep my attention. I was afraid I wouldn’t make my reading goal. Enter The Maze Runner by James Dashnermy new favorite author. The Maze Runner was so good that I finished it in a day, and it made me want to read, read, and read some more! I went on to read another one of his novels that was just as good. I ended up reading a total of eight books this month, and today I’m sharing what I thought of them!

The books I've read this month

The books I’ve read this month

Legend by Marie Lu

I read a review of this book from http://thestorysanctuary.com/, decided to give it a try, but never ordered it from the library for some reason. When I went book hunting last, I found this book on the shelf, remembered the title, and took it home. I’m glad I did because it was a really good book. It had a bit of romance in it which I didn’t mind since I thought it was so sweetly done. It’s the story of a boy named Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal, who lives on the street, trying to survive and help his family. June is a prodigy agent who is fiercely loyal to the Republic, and her dream is to arrest Day. When June’s brother is murdered, it’s believed that Day killed him. June goes on a whirlwind hunt to try and track Day down. In the end, both of them learn secrets that they never expected to uncover.

The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott

Right before his Uncle Henry’s suspicious death, Wade Kaplan receives a coded email from him. Along with his stepbrother, Darrell, their cousin Lily, Lily’s friend, Becca, and Wade and Darrell’s dad, Dr. Kaplin, Wade heads to Germany to figure out what happened to Uncle Henry. What they don’t realize is that they are stepping into a historical mystery involving relics that a secret order will kill them for. Both the characters and the mystery were believable (well, as believable as historical codes and mysteries and secret family graves can get), and I loved all the main characters. It was an enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the classic adventure tale of David Balfour who was kidnapped and sent to the Carolinas by his evil uncle. When the ship wrecks, David and his new friend Alan Breck race across Scotland to avoid soldiers and return to David’s home so he can claim his inheritance. I really liked this exciting novel. We listened to the audiobook version of it, and the narrator was Scottish. His accent made the book even more enjoyable and authentic!

Saving Thanehaven by Catherine Jinks

Noble and his sword Smite are trying to rescue a princess when a boy named Rufus comes along. Rufus tells Noble that he can think for himself and that Noble is actually something called a computer program. When Noble takes Rufus’s advice and starts thinking for himself, his computerized world starts crashing down around him. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was brilliant how the author created a personified world in the computer. The quirky team of characters was fun and the ending was really, really good. It was not what I expected at all!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I put this book on hold at my library back in April. I was number 55 in line. Two months later, I finally got to go and pick the book up. I read it all in one afternoon, and during that time I laughed, I cried, and I cheered. Wow. So good. The Maze Runner is the story of a boy named Thomas who opens his eyes one day to find himself in a lift. He remembers nothing except his name. When he reaches the top, a bunch of teenagers welcome him to the Glade. Thomas learns that this “safe-haven” is surrounded by a maze with no exit. Once Thomas arrives, things begin changing, and soon it’s a race to save the “Gladers.”

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

I picked this book up last time I went book hunting, recognizing the name from The Maze Runner (which I hadn’t read yet). After finishing and loving The Maze Runner, I was eager to try another Dashner book. Wow. It was amazing. I was hooked from the first page, and I finished it all in one day. I couldn’t stop reading! I loved the characters and the huge twist at the end. Michael is a gamer who loves spending time in the VirtNet, a total mind and body emersion into the game world. One day, VirtNet security tells him there’s a dangerous hacker on the loose, and it’s up to Michael and his friends to stop him.

The Pig Who Saved the World by Paul Shipton

A few months ago, I read The Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton and loved it. This is the hilarious sequel in which Gryllus the Pig and his friends must save the Cosmos once again, this time from King Sisyphus. The sequel was just as good as the first one. I loved Orpheus, the talking head. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that this is the last Gryllus the Pig book. I’m going to miss reading about the ancient world’s one and only Cosmos-saving talking pig!

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

In the second Book of Ember, over 400 of the “Emberites” have escaped their dying city and are now on the surface. Along with Lina and Doon, they travel three days and find themselves in the small village of Sparks whose inhabitants have agreed to help the Emberites. Soon, the people of Sparks are running out of food because of the extra four hundred mouths to feed. It’s up to Lina and Doon to avoid an all-out battle. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, finishing it in a day. I didn’t like it as much as the first, but still, it was good story and a good sequel. I can’t wait to find out what will happen in book 3!

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Five Things I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo

In just a few more days, July’s Camp NaNoWriMo will be starting. I’m already signed up and ready, eager to join the other thousands of writers who will be attempting to complete a novel in a month. This will be my third NaNo, and I’m just as excited about it as I was my first. It was that first NaNo that completely changed how I wrote and allowed me to finish my first full-length novel. I’ve learned a ton from both NaNoWriMos, and today, I thought I’d share the lessons I learned.

5. Don’t give up on your idea

When I was working on God Save the Queen, I started really disliking my idea. I didn’t know why. I just didn’t like it. I wanted to give up on my idea and walk away; however I wasn’t about to lose my second NaNo. I decided to stick with it and press on. I ended up falling back in love with my idea, and things turned around. Before NaNo, I tended to just give up on my novel ideas when I felt uninspired. Sometimes that’s necessary (if the idea is just dead), but NaNo taught me to keep going even if I went through a period of disliking my idea.

4. Rough draft? What’s a rough draft?

Before NaNo, I never quite grasped the concept of a rough draft. I would reread what I had written and think, “Ugh! This is terrible! There are so many mistakes to fix, and I must fix them now!” My belief was that the first draft would be this brilliant work. Writing under the time constraints of NaNo, I couldn’t worry that my draft wasn’t perfect. That’s when I realized that rough drafts were exactly that – rough. It shouldn’t be perfect. It seems so silly now, but it was a huge discovery.

3. Say no to the delete key

This sort of goes along with #4. I used to look at my draft, reread what I wrote, and think that the scene was terrible, and then go in, delete it, and rewrite it. I realized early on that even if I hated what I wrote in my NaNo novel and wanted to delete it, I couldn’t. That would mean losing all those words in my novel, and getting behind in my word count. Looking back, I’m glad I learned that. Now when I’m working on a rough draft, I very, very, very rarely delete things. Who knows if that scene will later on make sense and inspire a beautiful plot point.

2. Pressure is good

I get very little done when I don’t have the pressure of NaNo on me. Sure, I get some writing done, but nothing compared to what I accomplish during NaNo. I need that pressure to get done in a month, to keep me at the keyboard, to keep me working. Knowing this now, I can do NaNoWriMo all by myself, setting goals to give me that pressure so that I’m able to get more done.

1. Just keep writing, just keep writing

The most important lesson NaNoWriMo has taught me is how to finish a novel. Before NaNo, I never guessed that I would have been able to finish one novel, much less three. When I wrote those final words in Homeland, I realized I’d found the key to finishing a story. That key? Just keep writing. Don’t stop, not until you get to end of the story and type “The End.” For me, that was the most important lesson I learned from NaNoWriMo.

In a way, this post is a bit of a thank you to the creators of National Novel Writing Month. I couldn’t have learned these five lessons without you. I’ll see you again for July’s Camp, and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn this time around.

What have you learned from NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Kayla

Weekly Writing Wrap-Up: June 13 – 19

Welcome to my Weekly Writing Wrap-Up for this week!

Total Word Count for the Week: 2242

Top Writing Day: My top writing day was Sunday with 925 words.

What I Worked On: I worked on fanfiction, my new novel idea (Rowen and Serenity), and character interviews for my NaNo novel. I also worked on editing chapter 6 in Snow.

The Good News:  I’ve chosen my idea and started work on interviewing my July Camp NaNo characters.

The Bad News: I didn’t make my goal every day.

Lesson Learned: To outline or not to outline, that is the question that needs to be answered. I made an extremely detailed outline for Homeland (my first novel) which I sort of used. Snow (my second novel) had no outline and turned out great. God Save the Queen (my third novel) had no outline, and I think I needed one to keep me on track. What to do, what to do. Whether I need to outline or not is a continuing “lesson to be learned.” Whatever I decide I need to do quickly because July is almost here!

Goal for Next Week: My goal for next week is 800 words every other day.

If you’d like to share your weekly wrap-up, go ahead and post it in the comments below!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Tintinnabulation

I’m currently listening to The Taggerung by Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series. The novel is read by the author himself, and Jacques has an amazing accent. One of my favorite things is when the story calls for the abbey bells to ring. Jacques always makes his voice sound like a ringing bell. In fact, it’s so good you probably couldn’t tell it from the real tintinnabulation of Matthias and Methuselah, Redwall Abbey’s twin bells. Hold it. Back up there. That’s a big word! What in the world is tintinnabulation? Read on to find out!

Tintinnabulation is “the ringing and sounding of bells.” It comes from the Latin word tintinnabulum meaning bell. The word was supposed to sound like the ringing of bells. Edgar Allan Poe is sometimes cited as the creator of this word in his 1849 poem, The Bells. He seems to have combined several different words, such as tintinnabulary, that were similar to the Latin term. However, the word is also found in Charles Dickens’s serial novel Dombey and Son published from 1846-1848. So, it seems that this word’s origins aren’t as clear as a bell.

Here is the word used in Poe’s poem:

“In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

You can find more about this word here: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-tin1.htm

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Quote of the Week

Welcome to today’s quote of the week! It comes from Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon. I chose this quote because it’s a good reminder to keep writing! While sometimes it’s not possible to write every day, I try not to go more than a day or two without writing so that I can keep those creative juices flowing!

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”  – Jane Yolen

~ Kayla

Book to Movie – The City of Ember

Giant killer moles and humungous moths and beetles? This isn’t exactly the Ember I read about in Jeanne DuPrau’s novel. About a month ago, I read the book and loved it, and you know what that means. Yep, I had to go and see if there was a movie adaptation. There was a movie (yeah! 🙂 ), but it came with some pretty bad reviews (boo! 😥 ). Still I borrowed the movie from the library and, with very little hope, watched it.

Even with the addition of giant rodents and insects and a good number of deviations from the book, the movie wasn’t terrible. I went in expecting to turn it off in the first half hour and ended up watching the whole thing with only a touch of grumbling (ok, my mother told me to be quiet after the first few complaints). Warning: if you haven’t read the book yet, I wouldn’t read beyond this point. I spoil quite a few things in the book in reviewing the movie. So go finish that book, and then come back! 😉

On the positive side, it was a pretty entertaining movie to watch. It was family friendly, but still exciting. The main characters, Doon and Lina, looked as if they had stepped out of the book, especially Lina. By the way, the actress who plays her has a really cool name – Saoirse Úna Ronan. I am writing that name down for future novels! Anyway, I was happy to see that neither of them was turned into a rebellious teenager and neither of them fell in love (two things I was concerned would happen). I thought they looked older than twelve in the movie, but it didn’t really bother me. Poppy, Lina’s little sister, was adorable. I did imagine her a bit younger in the book, but the sheer cuteness of that little girl made up for it completely! The City itself was pretty true to the book, too, with the failing overhead lights and the crumbling buildings. The bigger plot points like needing to escape the dying city and following the map to escape stayed the same. Even some of the smaller details such as Poppy chewing on the Instructions and Lina going back for Poppy were surprisingly left in.

However, in their quest for excitement and suspense, the script writers couldn’t leave the book alone. In the movie, there was a giant mole that chased Lina and Doon and attacked the Mayor at the end. That never happened in the book. The entire sequence with the waterwheel also never appeared in the book’s pages. Minor characters changed or were added, such as Saul, the very sleepy Pipeworks manager. I could go on and on about the smaller differences from book to movie that were so irritating to me as someone who loved the book and hated to see any changes (such as the circular Instructions/map, Lina’s parents’ answering machine, the cards that formed a key – you get the picture), but still, they didn’t totally ruin the movie for me. The biggest and most irritating plot departure where I almost turned it off was the beginning sequence. In the novel, the overarching mystery, why the earth was covered in darkness, is not revealed until the end of the novel. In the movie, two minutes in and you know that Ember was underground and built for man’s protection. That made me pretty mad.

Even with all those negatives, I still enjoyed the movie, and I wasn’t pulling my hair out (too much) because of everything they changed. While it’s not a great adaptation of the book, it’s still worth watching. It was fun for me to see Ember all lit up at the bottom of the hole, Lina running around the city in her red Messenger’s coat, and Doon and Lina solving the puzzle. If you can get past the changes, it’s an enjoyable movie.

What did you think of this movie? If you saw it, what was your favorite part? Your biggest complaint? Comment below and tell me!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla