Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Game

It's a game called "Let's see how many books I can read during the hurricane when the power goes out."

Hurricane Sandy?

Bring it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book Review: Forbidden, by Tabitha Suzuma

The first thing to know about this book, is that it handles a taboo topic -- incest. So if that subject immediately puts you off, then stay away from this book.

Personally, I will look past subject matter if the story is written well, so I went into reading this book with an open mind.

In Forbidden, Lochan and Maya are brother and sister. Seventeen and sixteen years old respectively, the two siblings run the household. While their mother is off drinking with her boyfriend, being an irresponsible adult at all hours of the day, Lochan and Maya take care of their three younger siblings as though they were there own children. Maybe that explains the attraction they have to each other, an attraction that grows throughout the book as the two realize that maybe they love each other more than a brother and sister normally would.

Like I stated above, I wasn't put off by the subject matter. In fact, I was intrigued. I liked that it was something different, something that most people wouldn't touch. I've read a lot of reviews from people who wouldn't even give this book a chance once they learned what it was about, but I really wanted to know how it was handled. I wanted to see how a taboo subject was viewed by someone involved in the middle of it.

I did have a problem with the way the story was told, however. It was told in alternating points of view, which is nice because it shows you both sides of the situation from each person involved in the romance. However, it seemed to do nothing but drag on for over 400 pages. I read through the first 150, and then skimmed through the rest, and I still understood what happened through the rest of the book. All the major events could have happened in half the size of the book, and those could have been shortened just a little bit. There were a lot of repeated explanations of "forbidden" feelings, broken up by a few family quarrels, which took pages and pages to get through.

You can start this book knowing the basic gist -- that's the selling point: brother and sister love each other in a romantic, and sexual way. The rest of the story is just describing how they feel, how they shouldn't feel that way, etc, etc.

I think there was potential in the story, but poor execution. Don't be put off by the subject matter. If you're going to read this book, please do so with an open mind. It just trudged through like a soap opera.

And fair warning, this book is better for the more mature YA readers, as there is a fairly descriptive sex scene. Read with caution if that's not your thing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who Is Telling the Story?

The author, obviously -- if you want to get technical and point out the name on the cover. That's not what I'm asking though. Between the front and back covers, between the acknowledgments and the thank you's, who is telling the story?

The main character, or the all seeing narrator?

These discussions go on and on all the time. Which point of view is "right." Which one "should you use?"

The answer is always the same -- whichever feels right.

For me, it was always third person, with a little bit of omniscient in there. For me, it's because I hate to be tied down by only what my character experiences. To me, it's like playing with an unreliable narrator all the time. Also, I feel like my character is narcissistic every time they have to tell a story about themselves. In third person, I just imagine this all seeing eye as thinking this character was interesting, and wanted to tell the reader about him or her.

As for the omniscient part, that's because I am easily distracted, and I love to delve into other character's backgrounds. I like to get into their heads for a little bit. It might take away a little bit of the mystery, but at the same time, it can add to the dramatic irony.

Lately though, I've been thinking if that's right for me. Does it always work? I've heard that sometimes, no, it doesn't work. Sometimes, the point of view needs to change for the story to work. That seems like such a big deal. If you start out writing something in third person, then change your mind, you have to go through with a fine tooth come and turn every "I" into "he" or "she" or the character's name. "My" turns into "his" or "hers." Or the whole thing goes the opposite way. Seems like a lot of work, but sometimes necessary.

And also lately, I've been interested in trying to really get invested in the character. More often than not, a reader gets invested in a character when the story is told in first person, rather than third. (All I can think about there though is that with first person narrative, it's a risk to delve into other characters.)

So I pose this question to you. Nothing about "right or wrong" or "what should I do?" I simply ask for an opinion: What tense do you prefer to read? How about right? Why?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Summer Goal Wrap Up

I'm still trying to get over The Lock Artist. I just thought I'd let you know that. I've become way too attached the main character. (But we all have those every now and then right? I just finally found mine.)

Anyway, I thought that since Summer comes to an official end at 10:49am this coming Saturday, I should go over the goals I had set for myself this Summer and see where I ended up. (By the way, yes, I am very happy that Fall is beginning... thus the reason I know the exact moment that the season changes.)

Let's recap, shall we?

  1. Blog more
    This... I did not do. Not really. I have five posts in the entire time between setting my goals, and this post. Sure, I didn't slack on my tumblr, but that's all Boondock Saints, Walking Dead, and me being immature. I try to keep a level of quality on this blog, and for that, there is significantly less.
  2. Write... something.
    On some levels this is a success, but on most it's probably a failure. I did manage to write... something. Just not nearly as much as I would have liked. I don't think it would have been out of reach to write one manuscript this summer. Quality would be lacking, yes, but I'd have words that I could at least work with. My results? About a chapter and a half, and a whole lot of self doubt.

    Gee, I sure do sound inspiring right now, don't I?
  3. Ignore any urge to quit Jiu-Jitsu
    Now this one was a success, because I'm still at it. And I'm still getting bruised, and hyper-extending limbs, and pulling muscles. But I'm also getting people trapped in arm bars and choke holds, and being told I'm actually pretty strong and have surprisingly flexible shoulders. (Something to which I attribute four years of marching band, holding a flute parallel to the sidelines, while my shoulders also stay parallel, and my feet face the end zone. Ever try it? Yeah, you'll need flexible shoulders for that one.)
    Anyway, it's fun, and I'm still training.
  4. Finish editing Echo
    I got a few more chapters done, but only because there was a contest I tried entering. Obviously I didn't make the contest.
  5. Try to finish reading Harry Potter
    Well, there's always next time. On the plus side, I did manage to read about two chapters.
So, I think I'm going to try to set goals for the remainder of the year. I might as well add them to the bottom of this post.

  1. NaNoWriMo
    This starts in November. This was the only reason I ever wrote Echo. This is something I need to win again. Just once. For now. It'd be nice.
  2. Finish editing Echo
    Can't hurt to try, after all.
  3. Do some more writing for me
    I know all writing should originally be for me, but I mean the kind that won't be shared with anybody, ever. Guilty pleasure writing. I did this all the time in high school, and I loved some of what I wrote. My only regret is that I lost all of it to the Great Flash Drive Destruction of 2011. (I still can't believe I broke it in half.)
  4. Harry Potter
    Yeah, it's still on the list. But I'm going to be a bit more realistic and say that I want to finish book four by the end of the year.
  5. Get a life.
    Okay, now I just must be kidding myself.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Lock Artist - a book review

It's books like this one that remind me why I love reading. It's also books like these that make me curl up in a ball in the darkest corner of the house, wrapped in a blanket, clutching the book and crying because I know that I will never be able to write something as good as what I just read.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little bit. And no, I did not actually seek out the darkest corner of the house and wrap myself in a blanket and cry. My point is, though, that I really, really, really loved this book.

The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton. He's a fairly well known author, from what I understand, as I've never heard of him before I stumbled upon this book. (And I'm not even sure how I did.) He apparently wrote this book as he took a break from his main series.

"I was the Miracle Boy, once upon a time. Later on, the Milford Mute. The Golden Boy. The Young Ghost. The Kid. The Boxman. The Lock Artist. That was all me.
But you can call me Mike."
-Page 3, The Lock Artist

The book is about a young man named Michael who has come to be known as "The Miracle Boy." It was not a name he asked for, it was just one given to him after a traumatizing experience when he was nine years old. He doesn't like to talk about what happened, partly because it was traumatizing, and partly because he can't. It's not that the experience left him physically incapable of speaking, but he just has not uttered a single word since that day in June of 1990.

If this were not enough to make Michael interesting, he also has a special talent -- he can unlock anything. Whether it's a regular lock to someone's back door, a padlock hanging on a gym locker, or a safe containing millions of dollars, Michael can open it. An "unforgivable talent" as he puts it -- one that gets him caught up with the wrong people.

What's interesting about this story (as though it's not already interesting) is the way it's told. The first chapter starts off almost ten years after the events of his story. He's in prison, still unable to speak, but recounting his tale for the reader. After that, the story splits into two timelines. It starts in September of 1999, as Michael is on his way to a job where his special skills are needed. The next chapter starts by telling his childhood, but only after that tragic day. He still can't talk about it... not yet.

And so it goes on, back and forth from chapter to chapter. As one timeline progresses towards the end of the story, the other tells mostly of Mike's life in the summer of 1999, just before the other timeline began... eventually leading into how it began, before the novel comes to an inevitable end.

I really do think it's a great book. I would be lying if I didn't say I had to put it down a few times to think, to calm down, to take a moment before I could get back to it. When I was done, I put the book down and looked at it. Then I re-read a few passages that suddenly made so much more sense when it was over.

Needless to say, I loved Michael as a character. I rooted for him from the beginning, even though I knew he was a criminal who had been in jail for ten years. For most of the story, he's a typical kid. He's 17, he's mute, he's tormented by something he can't talk about, and even if he could, he wouldn't. There's only one person who can even come close, Amelia, the little bit of romance that does not take away from the suspense at all.

Clearly I might be a little biased here. I'm raving about a book as though everyone will automatically love it. I've seen mixed feelings about the ending, but I thought it was done right, and I thought it made sense for the characters involved. I read the last quarter of the book in one sitting, and I currently can't get the book out of my head. The writing was beautiful, and painted some amazing imagery in some scenes.

The only real critique I had? There is one instance where the word "road" is used instead of "rode," and to me it was painfully obvious.

In conclusion, I loved this book. If human were allowed to marry book, this book would be it. Yes, I'm aware of how weird that sounds, but you should all know I'm anything but normal.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Waving the White Flag

Maybe if I just admit defeat my muse will come back to me. Maybe if I start swinging that metaphorical white flag, I'll find myself able to write again.

This is just a post to vent my feelings -- writing related feelings, of course.

I'm sure every writer goes through it... writer's block, frustration, procrastination, fear... whatever one may call it. That feeling of wanting to write, but not wanting to write, because it will never be good.

I think I may be putting this out here to ask for advice. Not just to vent. Because I'm pretty sure this has been a problem for me for a while. At times it feels like I'm a one and done author. I wrote one book and now I can't write another. Nothing I write can live up to that, even if that one manuscript isn't even finished yet. (As in, in the editing stage, pre-querying.)

I believe this can be referred to as a sophomore slump?

How does one write their second book? I hear it's the hardest one to accomplish. For me personally, I've ruined every attempt by thinking too hard about it. I put too much backstory into the characters and struggled to get that to show rather than explore the characters as I write them. (And yet I can't stop, because I love exploring my characters. Just in the wrong stage of the writing process.)

The one attempt at writing without backstory is currently five handwritten pages in a notebook in my purse.

Two years ago, a chapter a day was a considerably easy feat. I could write whatever I wanted, and not care about how it flowed, or how it might be recieved by others.

Today, anything I write feels like it's running into a brick wall -- repeatedly.

I once wrote a novel in a month. Now it took me thirteen days to write one chapter.

How did this happen?

Reading more, writing regardless of what's coming out, finding a beta... all things I know need to happen (although the latter is much harder than I thought.)

I think what sucks the most is that I'm in the middle of a story right now that I would love to finish, but that brick wall keeps getting in the way.

So my question(s) to you, fellow writers, is have you ever hit a block like this? How did it affect you? How did you overcome it?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharing our Shelves

What does your bookshelf say about you? That was the question posed by YA Highway, and I decided to answer it with a photo of my own bookshelf.

So you see my problem? There aren't nearly enough books here. I thought for a time, I was running out of room, but alas, there's still room that I can even put all my movies and television shows on the bottom shelf.

But let's be honest, I haven't even gotten to reading half of these. (coughcoughbookmarkinthemiddleofharrypottercough).

And yes, my high school diploma is dividing my books from my movies. (Probably not where it should be.) My book is up there (as a "never to be seen by human eyes" proof copy that is severely outdated. If you can pick it out you win a prize. Not really, but it's fun to pretend.) And there is a book I bought from an internet writer, who doesn't advertise it out of fear, so don't expect to find it on shelves anywhere.

My shelves range from comic books to Sylvia Plath. John Green, J.K. Rowling, Lois Duncan, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. I have a German print edition of Looking for Alaska, and I also have a book about screenwriting. I think YA dominates my shelves. There's a few classics, and a few little gems. And The Book of Awesome. Because it's awesome.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Backstory, and what to do with it

I really need to work on updating this blog more often. I know I say that, but the actual act of doing so, that's an entirely different story. Also, please bare with me for this post, it's midnight, and I know that if I don't write this now, I never will.

The point of this post though, is to discuss something I've run into as I work on my latest manuscript. (Any guesses as to what number attempt this one is? Hint: I don't even know.)

And this current issue is -- characters: the ones who have known each other forever, and the ones who have just met.

Is it just me, or do they both present their own challenges?

While characters who have known each other have pre-existing relationships, there's the problem of having to convincingly give backstory to the readers. As for the characters who have just met, it's easy to provide backstory as the characters get to know each other. With them, however, there's the needed effort of building a convincing relationship. (Whether it be romantic, platonic, or full of hate.)

As I've been writing, I've found that my weakness here is providing backstory for characters who already know each other. What I've noticed is that if Bob and Jim are just getting to know each other, they can tell each other about themselves, and in turn, tell the reader. Not so if Bob and Jim have known each other forever. Honestly, do you go up to your best friend and remind them of the number of siblings you have and how they have affected your personality? Most likely not.

So this is the point where we, as writers, must come up with creative ways to reveal Jim and Bob's backgrounds to the reader without taking advantage of the dreaded "info-dump." (Makes you sick just thinking about it, doesn't it?) There are surely countless possibilities, but it's mostly a matter of figuring out what they are, and which ones fit into the story.

Add a little bit of information explaining a relationship a character has with an object or location? Doable, I think, or at least I'm pretty sure I've employed this method successfully in my previous manuscript. How about, bringing in the side character who needs to be brought up to speed? Sometimes considered a cop out, but I think could be executed well. Or my new personal favorite, which I'm sure I can only pull off once, is to have a character tell his story under the guise of a bedtime story. I came up with that one in the shower, and given the plot, I think it will work.

But why is this necessary? Why must we have backstory? Why can't we get right to the action? The here and now. The story arc that will make the reader pick up the book and shell out the cash to buy it in the store.

Because we want to believe these characters are real. That has got to be such an important point. If we, as readers, don't believe that the characters are real, how can we relate to it? How can we, even for the briefest moment, convince ourselves that this story could have happened somewhere to someone at some point? Real people have histories. Real, well-rounded characters have histories. They are what shape Bob and Jim, and every person they have ever come into contact with.

So to conclude this post, I bring up the methods of bringing in the backstory once again. I think if we remember why it's important, maybe it will be easier. There's just a few things to remember, such as that no one wants to read a long, boring, word-heavy info-dump. Especially the ones that make no sense. (Remember how Bob already knows how many sibling Jim has, and doesn't need Jim to remind him over coffee the next day. Unless, of course, for emphasis to a point Jim is making... hey, there's another method right there!)

No info dumping.
What are your suggestions?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wonderstruck - A Book Review

If you need an interesting book to read... read Wonderstruck.
If you need an incredibly thick book to read... read Wonderstruck.
If you like to read words, as well as pictures... read Wonderstruck.
If you like the 20's, the 70's and Deaf culture... read Wonderstruck.

Wonderstruck is exactly what I said. Written by Brian Selznick, two stories are told in one. Approximately 150 pages of text tell the story of Ben as he tries to figure out where he belongs. The remaining 460 pages are told in illustration, about a girl named Rose and her mission to figure out where she belongs. The stories skip back and forth, both following their own lines, until all the pieces come together close to the end.

In my opinion, this is really an amazing book. Ben's story was a little tough to get into, but there is a moment that sets the story into action, and caused me to keep turning the page wanting more, only to be met with an illustration and a different story.

Rose's story is just as engaging. It takes place in a world where movies didn't have sound, so it's only fitting that the reader is watching pictures go by, silent, but telling a story none the less.

And of course in both stories, both characters are deaf, and both are at different stages of being deaf.

Don't be turned off by the size of the book, just get it and read it. It is beautiful in so many ways, and it left me, quite literally, wonderstruck.

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Summer, New Goals - 2012 edition

So I'm "borrowing" this idea from Dianne Salerni to write down goals for this summer and find a way to accomplish each one. Now I don't have a summer vacation like she does, but it's a new season, so I can use that as a timeline. Here we go.

  1. Blog more.
    Okay, this one might be difficult. The reason being because I have no idea what to blog about most of the time. I still feel like I'm at an amateur stage, like I have no right to go on about a business I'm still technically on the outside of. I'll see what I can do though. Perhaps there will be things I can participate in. If not, I suppose I could blog random things, (much like my tumblr which you will never see.)
  2.  Write... something
    This one might be a little bit vague. But considering I haven't really done any writing that I'm proud of for a few years now, this is a goal I would very much like to accomplish. I just have to get over my procrastination, get over my fear of not writing like I once did, get over my fear of not writing enough, and push the multiple plot bunnies away so I can stick to one story. Simple, right?
  3. Ignore any urge to quit Jiu-Jitsu
    This one shouldn't be hard, but it's still a goal. Most of you probably don't know that I recently started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A quick rundown: it's hard, it's fun, it make you sweat like no other, and it hurts! I have mat burn on my feet, toes, and knees. I am covered in bruises. And by that I mean, I quite possibly have more spots than my Dalmatian. There's also a good chance I hyper-extended my arm tonight. But let me tell you, it's amazing to know this stuff. So basically my goal is to not die, and not let my dad freak me out about it. (He's a little wary of the fact that I'm the only girl in this class.)
  4. Finish editing Echo
    I probably made this goal last year. Anyway, I at least have an outline to follow now, and some new additions to some of my scenes I'm anxious to add. I just have to figure out when I'm doing this, while doing everything else.
  5. Try to finish reading Harry Potter
    Remember this from last year? Yeah, my bookmark has been sitting in the middle of book 4 since October.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jack's Complete and Utter Lack of Surprise

So I finished another book, and normally I would do a book review about it, but that would mean breaking the first rule of that book.

The funny thing is, I don't even have to mention that book, but by saying that I would break the first rule by talking about it, a good majority of people will know exactly what it is that I am referencing.

For the minority who are completely lost, yes, I am talking about Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. All inpronouncable last names aside, let's get to it.

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know those two sentences. They exist both in the book and film adaptation. Even those who have neither read nor seen Fight Club have heard these rules, and even applied them elsewhere. ("The first rule of Tumblr is you don't talk about Tumblr." The list could go on and on.)

So what is it exactly that makes something such a phenomenon? How does one create something that sticks in someone's mind and becomes a well-known classic?

For Palahniuk, it started as a short story. Surely he did not know the success it would bring. And there really is no set of rules to write something that ends up on everybody's shelf. There is no formula for writing lines that people can quote word for word. Quite frankly, it sucks for anyone who wants to be that creator, but that's just the way it is.

But maybe, just maybe, if we read up on these kinds of novels and watch these kinds of movies, we'll pick out the things we like an incorporate them into our art, in ways that work and add up into our own success.

So Fight Club... what's the verdict?
Read it, if you want. Maybe just to say that you have read it. Maybe just so that you can understand. How about the movie? Watch it, but only if you have two hours with nothing else to do.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Re-reading my Childhood

Every now and then we all feel it -- the nostalgia. We crave an earlier time and feelings associated with them. We want to go back on the swings in elementary school, or hang out with our friends from high school and talk about nothing of great substance. Whatever it is, it happens to everyone.

Things from my childhood always find their way back to me, and I can spend hours reminiscing. One fine example is the American Girl series. I think if you were ever a girl, or ever had a daughter, you would know about these books. Historical fiction books centering around girls from different era's of American history. Do we remember Felicity from 1774? Or Molly from 1944? Or the many girls in between? I sure do, (and I had about 80% of the books. I'm still kicking myself that I ever gave them away to Goodwill.)

There's another series under that company though that not as many people may now about. It was short lived, and the books are now out of print. The Girls of Many Lands books. The idea is mostly the same -- young girls in different historical eras. The main difference is (besides these girls are twelve years old, and not nine) they aren't limited to the United States. England, France, Alaska, Ireland, China, and more. This time I owned all of them, and once again, I'm kicking myself. (Especially since they are out of print.)

Well, my nostalgia got the better of me. Most of these books still carry their original price tags, (mostly the original series.) The second series can be found on Amazon for as little as one cent each. Despite the amazing price, I wasn't ready to re-buy all the books I had gotten rid of for a reason. But still something was pulling me in. Something was causing me to keep going back to that webpage and hover the mouse over the "add to cart" button. What was that something?


Nostalgia and the need for research create amazon purchases, let me just warn you about that. So what was I researching? Which book did I buy, read, and must now add a short review onto my blog about?

Kathleen: The Celtic Knot by Siobhán Parkinson

12-year-old Kathleen Murphy has never had much, having grown up in a poor, Irish family. Then after being late for school one too many times, it is suggested she begin Irish dancing classes, and her natural talent for them makes her feel like she finally has something.

Of course this book is short, considering the age-level, and re-reading it took me about three days, (as in three half-hour lunch breaks.) What I like about this book is that it includes a short history section at the end, as well as a glossary of Irish words. In addition, the book was written by someone who grew up in Ireland, so we know the books is authentic.

Why is this important? As a child, it was amazing to jump into a completely different world. I could read about girls in other countries, and different times, and compare them to what I lived in then. It was amazing, it was inspiring, and it was fun.

As an adult, (if I can even consider myself as such,) it's nostalgia and research. It's still entertaining of course, but I read it for an entirely different reason. I was twelve years old again, not a care in the world, traveling through Dublin with Kathleen and learning to dance with her. Not only that, I was learning about Ireland. I was learning about Irish culture and speech habits. If you haven't guessed by now, my latest WIP will include some Irish characters.

It's always said that to really be a writer, one must read. I don't think there's any problem with giving into nostalgia at the same time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Different Site and New Plans

Well Happy New Year! (About 20 days later.) Did everyone have a good holiday? A good new year? A good first few weeks of the year? Mine have been pretty decent and filled with plotting, and soon I will get down to writing.

I've got big plans for this year, big expectations and resolutions I expect to meet and exceed. While I've been thinking about my latest characters, and anxiously awaiting the return of The Walking Dead on tv, (yes, I am one of those people) I have been contemplating some changes.

Some of you may know I have a tumblr, and at this point I will never link to it on this blog again. (It's rather.... less than professional...) but I am considering creating a second one, to coincide with this blog.

I'm just curious if any of my followers would think this is a good idea, or a waste of internet space.

This is a very short post, but I should have a book review coming up soon.