Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loving someone else's book...

Makes you love writing even more.  You want to create characters and plot and scenery that evokes the same gleeful feeling you get when you read a new great novel.  On that note, here are eight things that I loved about Wildefire by Karsten Knight, which I purchased yesterday at the lovely Brookline  Booksmith and read today in between walks with the doggies and a trip to the gym (kill me).  I will also put a one-sentence review up on that page by tomorrow. 
1.  The GORGEOUS cover.  It is a wow cover, and unlike a lot of covers on the market today (good or bad) it actually does evoke the story itself.
2. A wonderfully written female protagonist, Ashline Wilde - and she was written by a guy!  I prefer to identify with the main character; I need to like him or her.  A lot of really good books have characters who exist in perpetual shades of gray and so you find yourself unable to truly warm to them.  I can appreciate those stories, but a book only sings to me when I adore the person whose story I am experiencing.
3. The character names were so fun and varied- Ashline is a name I've never heard before and it's so pretty.  The names were a mix of common and completely unusual- Bobby Jones meet Colt Halliday.
4. This is a debut novel from a local author (Karsten Knight lives in Boston just like me!) and knowing that gives me hope.  Also, his agent is Mary Kole, who did not sign me, but sent me a really nice email.  Yay for nice emails!
5.  There are a lot of characters but all of them felt well-rounded and had purpose.  I did not feel like there were any throwaway scenes or characters- they all advanced the story and I felt like I knew enough about each one to care about his or her place in the novel.  Also, the characters did not simply fall into predictable patterns (hello- especially on the last page!!), but neither were they studies in contradiction.  Some characters had surprising revelations, but nothing happened that had me scratching my head thinking, that was out of character
6. The teenaged characters seemed like teenagers.  Sure, some of them turned out to actually be gods and goddesses reincarnated, but still- they swore, they drank, they had moods- they were teens.  The fact that Ash still cared about winning a tennis match despite things like just finding out she was a volcano goddess was wonderful.  I like it when an urban fantasy keeps its non-fantasy elements very realistic.  I think it makes the fantasy portion of the story pop that much more.
7. This line:  "This is kind of like a really shitty version of The Breakfast Club, huh?" Hee and swoon!
8. It's a great story plain and simple (although nothing about the book is either of those things).  It felt fresh and exciting and I devoured it.  The ending certainly left the door wide open for a second novel so I wait with bated breath for the continued story of Ash Wilde

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clichés can make you cry, but then feel okay

A post from Steph Sinkhorn over at MaybeGenius has had my mind racing all week.  She has done a series of posts on clichés in different types of Young Adult Lit and a tweet from The Intern led me to this post on clichés in YA fantasy.  I urge you to read her post, the whole series of them in fact, but to summarize- Steph writes that she reads a lot of YA and she wants to highlight some of the more common clichés authors use in various genres.  She is explicit in her intent, "The goal with this series is not to ridicule, but to inform and inspire a break from the usual in today's literature."  Great, right?  Well, the reason this particular post has led to even more sleepless nights than usual is that I, in fact, DO have several of these clichés in An Unexpected Kingdom (concept of The Chosen One, princess who doesn't know it yet, special powers released at moment of coming of age (sort of), just-plain-evil villain).  For those who are capable of high-level mathematics, that means that of the 12 clichés mentioned in the post, my novel has one-third of them!  So, how do I feel about this?  First I felt sad, defeated, and sort of embarrassed.  Then I felt defiant.  That lasted about 30 minutes before I slipped into a depression.  Why write if I cannot bring anything unique or special into this world?  The depression lasted most of last week (that combined with Blogger's non-cooperation resulted in no new posts) and now I feel a jumble of things.  Resigned for sure.  Yes, I have some clichés in my writing but I am not ready to scrap my novel so I will continue to have these clichés for as long as I write about Ava.  Some readers won't like my novel(s) as a result.  That stings, but that's also just how it goes.  I feel hopeful, because I spent two hours sitting in front of my beloved bookshelves and looking at all the novels I love that make these clichés work.  Finally, I feel grateful. These are things that I need to keep in mind while I create.  I don't want to be cookie-cutter or derivative.  I want to write good stories that people will read and like (or better yet- love!).  To do that, I need to be mindful of clichés, even if I cannot and will not completely avoid them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meet my Critique Partners!

Three things for Friday:
1. Lately instead of using any regular old curse word I have taken to exclaiming, "blogger!", both because it makes me laugh and because Blogger has been infuriating.  My pages take ages to load and I am unable to post comments, even on my own posts.  (So, Jenny and Rena look for the answer to your question at the end of this post.)
2. I stayed up until nearly 4:00AM revising the first two chapters of An Unexpected Kingdom.  Admittedly and naively, I thought that since I was in a query-ready place that there were not large-scale revisions to be made (until an editor at a publishing house got his/her hands on it).  THEN I got some wonderful criticism from CP Rena that will not change my story but will change the ease with which readers understand Ava.  Thus the late night/early morning.
3. Now that I have received official permission, meet my two new Critique Partners Rena and Jenny!  For ease, we can pair them with a theme from their novels- so Rena= dragons, Jenny= angels.  Rena (rhymes with Bean-a) is my YA CP.  Her novel is From the Blood of Dragons and here is a short summary:  Allyson just found out she's half dragon, and someone is kidnapping people descended from mythical creatures, using their innate abilities to power a super army. With her best friend, a half troll named Beth, Allyson sets out across the southwestern US to track down the kidnappers and free their friends.  Jenny will be critiquing Ben Q. and a quick summary of her The Guardian Tribe: Kella never tells anyone what she is, a freak, to be dissected. She did once and her drug addict mom went crazy. Her secret…her best friend, Gabrielle, is her guardian angel. That’s not all, Kella can fuse her body to Gabrielle’s angelic form and they become one being. Words never pass between them, only feelings and powers. These angelic powers allow Kella to fly, kick the crap out of boys, and sometimes bring people back from the brink of death.  I am really excited to work with them and to continue to read these two novels!   **To answer Rena and Jenny's question my life has not been exciting as maybe my profile makes it seem (sad but true).  My jobs as a lifeguard and a waitress overlapped (long ago) and my jobs as a waitress and attorney overlapped (more recently), but it seemed catchier to put them in the order I did.**

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A lone ship no more

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had tried unsuccessfully in the past to join a critique group (my pathetic attempts will once again not be chronicled for your amusement) and that I felt a critique partner (CP) or group could help me improve my craft.  So thanks to the wonderful ladies over at WriteOnCon, I was able to connect with not one, but two wonderful writers who I think are going to be my CPs!  I exchanged chapters with both writers (they both happen to be women- but I don't want to talk about them here until I have their permission to do so) and we did critiques of each others' work and talked (and by talked I mean emailed) generally about what we are looking for in a CP.  I ended up connecting with both writers so one is going to be my critique partner for An Unexpected Kingdom and hopefully beyond with my YA work and the other is going to critique my MG work in progress, The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  I enjoyed reading the first chapters of both of their novels and am excited to help both of them make their work shine.  Yay for critique partners!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bossing Myself Around

I tell myself to buckle down, to get to work, to stop messing around.  "Enough is enough!" I admonish.  I mentally cajole, lecture, and yell.  All to no avail.  I just won't listen.  There are all types and causes of writer's block and I guess unless you have physically lost the use of your hands, they are all psychological.  I am suffering from a motivational writer's block.  My story isn't going poorly, I'm not frustrated by my characters, I am just not writing despite my best efforts to force myself to do so.  Confused yet?  How can I both be the one telling myself to write and not writing?  Well, I'm confused too.  I am bossy.  Ask my husband.  Like bossy people the world over, I never thought I was bossy until presented with incontrovertible evidence (trust me), so now I am an admitted bossy boss.  However, the person who is most resistant to be bossed around by me is.... me.  It is so frustrating.  I am so frustrating.  Is this what it is like to have a teenager?  If the whining thus far was not clue enough, I did not write at the library yesterday.  I went to the library.  I read a book instead.  I then checked out a whole bagful and last night I read instead of writing again.  The good news is that I stumbled onto a really great series and read the first three books in one sitting.  The series revolves around the attendees of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, which is a boarding school for future spies.  So cool, right?  Well, it's even better than it sounds because author Ally Carter has managed to do what no writer has done for me since JK Rowling- create a world that I absolutely want to inhabit.  Just like I wished I could turn back the clock and be eleven again so that I could receive my acceptance letter to Hogwarts via owl post, I have a similar longing to be a Gallagher Girl.  This brings to mind something I maybe lost sight of a bit in the past few months- why I write.  I write because I love to read and I hope that my novels will make someone feel the way I do when I read a book I love.  And there are a lot of different great feelings there- it can just be an utter appreciation of the crafting of a story (Henry Neff's The Tapestry series or the recently read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan), the joy of truly fun adventure (all of Rick Riordan's books), awe (The Hunger Games trilogy), agonizing heartache (Bastard Out of Carolina is one blazing example), and so many more.  In short, I want to write and if I can't boss myself out of this motivational block, maybe I can read myself out of it because reminders of why I want to write are all around me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oh Blogger!

For some reason Blogger is not being very cooperative lately and I have not been able to post or add items to my other pages.  I must admit I have not taken such setbacks in stride (bit of swearing).  I have been trying to get my latest one-sentence review up, and I liked this book so much, I will put it here in the post as well.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: "A completely cool title is not the only amazing thing about this novel, I would not have predicted that such a literary and carefully-crafted work could come from a zombie story but, wow it sure did and the result was that I had to sleep with the light on."  This review and many more can be found on the One-Sentence Reviews page.  I am sitting here this morning waiting for my local library to open because I am going to try writing there today.  I have just not gotten back into the groove these past few weeks and am hoping that a relocation will spur results.  I will report on my success or lack of it later today.