Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Posts tagged ‘books’

BREAKING INTO THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

As my blog readers know, I attended the Southeastern Writer’s Conference last month and got a bit of a shock. Miss Stephanie and–godforbid–Edward flipping Cullen did far more for me than I ever could have dreamed.

The industry is in a sad condition right now. That is undeniable. Agent in Residence Mollie Glick gave a speech about her job as a literary agent and revealed that a large part of it is keeping up with editors. Not only are editors moving and shuffling around between publishers and houses these days, they’re dropping like flies. Entire branches and houses are getting cut off.

It’s dark.

Apparently, Borders booksellers has nearly gone bankrupt several times within the past year and have survived by a miracle. (I’m very interested in this situation and there may be a post about it soon.) Without a doubt, the disappearance of a major booksellers would be disastrous to the industry. E-books would probably take off, boosting the printed word toward an obsolete state.

How do you break in when things are this bad? Where is the hope?

  1. Okay. Competition is high. It’s always been high. Relatively, it’s not that much of a difference.
  2. One market is still booming. One genre is easier than ever to break into. Respect for it is growing, and its popularity is wonderful. This is the Young Adult market, especially Fantasy. My market.

Four people–Emily Sue Harvey, Cheryl Norman, Mollie Glick, and Holly McClure–all remarked on how well the YA market is doing at the conference last month. About a week after it ended, I was in a bookstore, and I asked an employee if she was familiar with the YA section and if she could tell me what was selling best. She pointed to a few titles, naming one I’d never heard of (which made it all the more beneficial to me). “Anything to do with vampires, witches, or fairies. Actually,” she said, pausing, “that’s most of what we get coming through here right now.”

I almost cried.

If you’re a young adult fantasy writer, now is the time to step up and shoot for it. Despite the economic downturn, we are the ones who have been empowered. And it’s probably all thanks to Miss Stephanie Meyer and Mr. Edward Cullen!

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* THE WHITE DARKNESS BY GERALDINE McCAUGHREAN – FIRST IMPRESSIONS *

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I love it. Sym’s voice is one of the best I’ve read. The themes, patterns, and writing are all lovely and fitting for a YA audience. It even received the Printz Award–a high-level YA contest–in 2008.

And get this:  When I asked for this book at Barnes & Noble here in Texas, I was told that the store didn’t carry it. Nor did any of the stores close by. Looks like the major bookstores know of it, but no more.

Why?

I guess Sym is hard to relate to. The reader finds out that she’s unusual so quickly, it takes us a few chapters for us to relate to her. I think the complete click with her doesn’t come until the end. Perhaps Ms. McCaughrean could have done something about the narration of this book to bring the horrific moments that haunt the end home closer to the beginning.

That, however, is the only criticism I can make. I love the themes that flow so naturally through this book, the patterns. The end is glorious. Just thinking about a certain moment–and if you read it you’ll know which one–still gives me goosebumps.

Love & Peace!

UPDATING THE DREAM – REALITY GAUGE

I thought I’d blog a little about what’s going on in my own life today and update everybody on how my dreams are going. =) I attended the SWA Conference a few weeks ago, which I blogged about. I repeat:  This conference is an IDEAL beginner experience.

Thanks to this experience, my manuscript is in the hands of a literary agent I like very very much. Keeping my fingers crossed. We’ll see.

The last few days, I’ve been outlining Sunlight, the sequel to Sunrise. No, I’m not completely satisfied with that title. Bubbles would be more appropriate, but it sounds too much. like the name of a poodle. Le sigh. I think I’m going to start updating my second book’s word count on my blog just to add some accountability.

At the SWA Conference this year, I also got a definition for that mysterious thing I’ve been hearing about called Dragoncon–it’s an anime convention, a writer’s conference, and a sci-fi/fantasy convention combined.

Can you say My Paradise? How cool is that

It must be humongous. Apparently there are even something like 1500 registered Storm Troopers in Atlanta. My little brother wants to register and keep his helmet in his car so he can put it on whenever he sees a state trooper

I’m going. =D At least, I’ve got some of my anime friends interested, not to mention my Star Wars-fanatic parents. (Which might be an Oops….)

That’s the general past, present, and future of the moment though. I’ll keep everyone updated.

More soon ❤

Word count:  4000

YOUNG ADULT FICTION – LITERARY WITHOUT THE SLUSH

Laurie Halse Anderson recently posted this link in a Facebook note, and I absolutely love this article. Favorite, favorite, favorite. In essence, the article is about the growing literary nature of the young adult genre and how it’s becoming more enjoyable to adults. It describes it as a Literary Minor League–or literary without the boring stuff. That’s my kinda reading, and it will always be. Thank you, Wall Street Journal!

The Article Here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204261704574275941028138178.html

* VACATIONS FROM HELL – STORIES 4-5 *

Story #4:  The Mirror House by Cassandra Clare

Again, I have to say I was more relaxed in the skin of this main character. Violet is good but not too good. She’s flawed in the ways that make us question ourselves. I like that. It makes for a story with impact.

This story’s impact dosage is mediocre–a nice try but somehow insufficient. I expected better from Cassandra Clare, author of City of Bones. It would have had a much stronger effect with better buildup of drive. If I had come to deeply fear for the boy’s life and for the happiness of Violet’s family, the story would have been much stronger. As it was, it was a pretty picture–just lacking in color.

Overall:  Three & 1/2 Stars.

Story #5:  Nowhere is Safe by Libba Bray

I only love this story a little. Okay, I love it a lot.

I absolutely adore the voices of this smartass Asian protagonist and his cheeky friends. Their reactions to the creepy world around them is thick-skinned, brave, and a little too skeptical. For a moment, I had started to think of them as typical horror-movie airheads, which was disheartening. They were funny and I liked them. I didn’t despair for long, however. When the paranormal becomes real to them, they get smart. Well… most of them do.

I also love how this writer can take cliches and turn them on their heads and make you love them again. That’s a talent. The plot of this one is pretty gripping, but toward the end it started to lose me in the “This happened, then that happened, I’m running out of words” tone. The Youtube thing was cool, but obviously unbelievable.

I did believe, however, that the story could end with all of them as mincemeat. That’s good. It ups the horror and drive by tons. Good job, Ms. Bray! =D

Out of the five, this was my favorite. My favorite characters and the most laughs.

Overall, I give it: Four & 1/2 Stars.

* VACATIONS FROM HELL – STORIES 1-3 *

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Vacations from Hell is a short story collection/anthology featuring major YA authors–Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and Claudia Gray to name three out of five–each with a few thousand words of compelling, voicey short story. These aren’t your Hemingway, however. They’re a lot more fun than that.

I have to confess I’m intensely curious about this new development in the Young Adult Fiction world. I want to know the story. Why did Harpercollins decide to put together an anthology? Did they know it would take off as well as it has? How did they select their authors? Is it a coincidence that at least two of the authors (the biggest names) have the same literary agent?

I gobbled this book in about 24 hours–good for me. Only one segment of the book was boring and skippable. The rest left no words wasted. Two of the stories left a strong impression on me; one was so odious to me I wondered how it had found its way into print.

Story #1:  Cruisin’ by Sarah Mlynowski

Despite my childhood in the Bible belt of South Carolina, I found this character–Miss All Around Average–and her goal–doing it–worth reading about. Especially in the setting:  a cruise ship.

The story went along I became increasingly curious as to how it would turn out thematically. Would she realize giving her virginity to Random Casino Guy #2 was a little shallow? Would she simply fail at her attempt? Would she succed and feel good? Bad?

This story has a twist at the ending. And it’s not predictable.

Unfortunately, the story would have worked much better if it had been predictable–only to the very perceptive. It would have worked better if the story had not been in first person. As is, the ending of this story is as annoying as it is shocking. It still leaves an impression. You want to talk about it. You can tell I’m dying not to give the spoiler away online. It’s good. It simply could have been 100x better.

Overall:  Four stars.

Story #2:  I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend by Claudia Gray

After reading about the shallow girls on the cruise ship, this story is a breath of fresh, moral air. Like a good number of us on the planet, this antagonist is bent on good. I liked her.

The story itself isn’t as strong as the first one. It’s simple, with a completely wrapped conclusion and and a few really cool imagery moments. I loved the hot tub scene. I will not see a hot tub the same way for some time.

Overall:  Three & 1/2 Stars

Story #3:  The Law of Suspects by Maureen Johnson

Hoo, boy. Where do I begin? I’ll start with the ranking. Two stars. One for setting and one for creativity.

1.  The characters:  Two are flat (creepy French guy and sister), two are unbelievable (sexy French guy and main character Charlie), and Charlie cannot be trusted–as she more or less confesses from the beginning. Also:  Even if you acknowledge it as a fault in yourself, making out with Random French Boy #3 on the couch with a dead body on the floor and your homicidal sister locked in the basement is inexcusable.

2. The backstory/description:  It goes on too long. I started skipping it. This was the only time in this anthology I felt compelled to do so. I don’t care how you got to the French country house. Just get me there. Good stories–especially short stories–should start as close to the end as possible.  None of this backstory was even necessary to the central theme.

3. Lazy plotting:  So many plot holes appear in this novel it isn’t funny. The author spends a lot of time setting up certain scenarios with little payoff. I was both stressed and impressed as I read her elaborate and confusing setup, but the tangling of fringes that the story created was never satisfyingly unraveled.

4. It leaves the reader feeling cheated. Enough said.

Overall:  Two Stars.

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