Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Posts tagged ‘fiction’

Books books books books books!

I’ve been trying to write my thoughts on a couple of novels down for a while now, but I’ve realized I don’t want to make complete posts of them. I’d rather combine them in something of a monster post.

The first book on the list is Watchers. I’ve been  a huge fan of Dean Koontz since my best friend Meggie Monster picked up Odd Thomas and forced me to listen to her read it aloud. Oddie is one of the few boys over whose hotness Meggie and I have never argued. It’s a very good thing he does not exist.

watchers

I also picked up Watchers because she recommended it. I love the way the title plays into the book. I loved Travis and Nora. Okay, Nora’s story absolutely gripped me.

And of course, I loved the dog.

I was surprised when I realized that the book was written two years before I was born. The entire first half of the novel aged beautifully. The second half, not so much. The 100 pages (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration) that Koontz spent building up the suspense that surround a traceable phone call was tiring. I started skipping things. That’s really the only thing I feel I can criticize.

Another book I read on vacation this summer was Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

geisha

In a nutshell, I completely fell in love with the writing during the first 1/5-1/3 of the book. The rest didn’t impress me as much. What happened, Mr. Golden? Where did the clever descriptions and simmering passion go?

Thankfully, it did come back in snapshots that mainly surrounded Sayuri’s visits to the artist (If I had the book with me I’d look up the name), the horrifying description of her encounter with the Minister, and her final revelations with the Chairman. I find this book’s ending absolutely delightful…if a little plot-holey.

I think I can make a full post out of my review of In Odd We Trust. Like I said, I ♥ Oddie.

Book 2 Word Count:  11, 000

Partial Requests:  3

Book 2 is Underway!

All I have time for today is a quick update. I want to get going on organizing my life for college. Finally I feel the drive.

I hit the 10,000-word mark on book 2 today. Hooray! It’s been a geniune struggle to start this one, so I’m over the moon. I simply can’t write this one in order. Just can’t.

Word Count:  10,225

Partial Requests:  3

Dream Diary:  Loving college.

Courtney’s Writing Nonfiction? What?

To be honest, I expect to get a bit of rap for trying to write anything memoir-esque at my age. I’m 18. What could I possibly have to say?

One of the best things I got from this last conference was a gentle reminder of the value of those years from Emily Sue Harvey. “It’s amazing that you write,” she said. “Not only that you have the drive, lots of kids have the drive. You have something to say.”

Her words surprised me. I’d never thought of that–having something to say–as my strength before. Then I thought about the number of nights I’ve spent lying awake just thinking about life, the times I’ve agonized about getting through situations without hurting others, and my uncle’s words about the emotional-literary power woven into my writing.

I thought maybe she was right.

So I’ve been looking for stories in my life, and I’ve finally struck gold. I’ve found a story I want to write so much it hurts. I’ve resolved to turn it into a masterpiece. It involves the World Scout Jamboree I attended in 2007. I’m dying to share it, even in its atrocious first-draft form, so I’m going to be an indulgent teenager and post the first paragraph.

The Teapot Boy

My first impression of the boy who would change me forever was as wrong as it possibly could have been. I remember sitting on the stage set up in that gymnasium, scanning the crowd and getting seized by a glare. That’s right. I was minding my own business, making drowsy conversation with the people lounging on the sofas where I’d been taking a nap, and a boy I’d never met before was staring me down.

On that creepy note, I must leave you for now. I’ll keep you update though. I’m very excited about it.

So excited that I didn’t feel like working on the reviews I should have written today. Sigh. Those will happen soon. I promise. The posts on the way are:

A review of In Odd We Trust by Dean Koontz & Queenie Chan
A review of The Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Thoughts on Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
& Thoughts on Song of Renewal by Emily Sue Harvey

Jambo Picture:

Sword dancers from Qatar

Sword dancers from Qatar

The Printz Award

The Printz Award first caught my eye on the cover of White Darkness (Geraldine McCaughrean) in the media center at my high school. The more I learn about the literary nature of the books that receive them, the more I think it may be a main marker of this “Literary Little League” the wall street journal mentioned. That article, by the way, is here. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204261704574275941028138178.html

The more I learned about the Printz Award and the kinds of books that receive it, the more I like it. I’m very interested in reading the list of winners, including the 2009 winner, Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta). Perhaps this would be a good study for me, and even help me develop yet another dream, another goal.

More about the Michael L. Printz Award here:

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/printzaward/Printz.cfm

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!

* THE WHITE DARKNESS BY GERALDINE McCAUGHREAN – FIRST IMPRESSIONS *

whitedarkness_web

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

HORROR, WEDDINGS, AND CROCHET :)

I went to the bookstore yesterday on a high from the conference. Never a good idea. Then again, I may singlehandedly save the industry at the rate I’m going.

I’m kidding. What I actually did was sit down with a HUMONGOUS stack of magazines. Like:

This.

This.

Except not that neat.

I looked over the entire back wall of a Books-A-Million and picked up anything that looked interesting to me. I picked up crochet magazines because I used to love to crochet. I picked up wedding magazines because I’ve had some pretty cool wedding stories in my life. I looked over film review magazines because that’s something I want to learn how to do. I looked at horror magazines because that’s a little like fantasy–but, as I decided, not much.

I flipped through to see which one took fictions and checked out a few other sections that I might like to write for. Then I picked a handful that seemed like the best winners for me (and my budget):

Writer’s Journal
Realms of Fantasy
Writer’s Digest
American Girl (which I’ve already discovered does not take fiction submissions)

I also picked up Otaku USA because I’m also running an anime review blog under a persona.

The final think I bought was The Waters and the Wild by Francesca Lia Block. Four things to say about that:

1. I want Jennifer Heuer to do my jacket cover.
2. The synopsis of this book grabbed me…and then I discovered it didn’t do justice to the first chapter.
3. That name is too pretty to be real. It’s either a pseudonym or the lady’s parents are overpassionate.
4.  $17 is too much for that tiny hardback. I only bought it on a binge.

I’M IN LOVE WITH MY BAD GUY

I am: watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY.

What is the anime freak listening to now? Other than that? No Good Deed from Wicked the Musical

Dream Diary: Can’t remember. Although I recently dreamed about a massive set of headphones.

When I created the bad guy for my novel, Dravvind, I had no idea how deep and dynamic a character he would become. I always hoped he would evolve into something memorable, something truly terrifying, but back when I tried to make him those things, I pretty much failed.

Lately, however, he has evolved all on his own. He has thematic significance, beyond simple “power corrupts.” The themes of insanity, obsessive love, family, and sacrifice are all inextricably bound to his character, and they are all themes I wanted in my book. His biggest theme, however, is the theme of human goodness. He is not pure evil, and he will profoundly prove that before the end.

Do other others get this fascinated by their bad guys? Their villains?

I know of quite a few works in which the villain is obviously dynamic and powerful in terms of impact. Wicked the Musical, for one. (I’m addicted to the soundtrack to that, and I’m dying to see it!) Star Wars, The Godfather, All the King’s Men, Nineteen Minutes, Macbeth, nana nana na…. Yeah, bad guys are everywhere.

But which bad guys do you love?

Obviously, I have to kill my bad guy. I tried to get out of it, but one of my readers said “No way. He must die.” Okay, I’ll kill him. But I will make you cry when he dies. xP

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