Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: Serena Ryder

There is a lot my main character is left to learn on her own. For the most part she takes it in stride, but sometimes it's too much. To me that is what this song, called "Sweeping The Ashes" is about.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Report Monday: This Dark Endeavor

Title: This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Genre: Young Adult

Synopsis Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.
(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?:  I love Frankenstein. It's one of my favorite books and I was eager to see what direction Oppel would take with his re-telling.

My Review: As the title indicates, this is the story of Victor's initial introduction to alchemy and the magic of science. He does not create the monster in this book, but I can see how he could go down that path. I kind of thought of the book as filling in the blanks of Victor Frankenstein's teen years. Oppel shows the reader what may have led to Victor's obsessive nature and need to prove himself.

Oppel captured me with his prose and his characters who were, in my opinion very real. Young Victor Frankenstein is a flawed hero and I sympathized with him even while abhorring his growing bitterness. Konrad is the lovable and charismatic antithesis to his twin. Elizabeth is transformed from a quiet, angelic figure into a strong, passionate girl who is an equal to the twins intellectually. Henry Clerval is the sensitive artist of the foursome and he rounds out the group nicely.

It is a quick read, as the pacing is steady and makes it hard to put down. The setting is the same as the original story and there were several nods to Mary Shelley's tale. The use of lightning in several well-placed metaphors and even an alchemist who lives on Wollenstonekraft Alley, Wollenstonecraft being Mary Shelley's maiden name. This Dark Endeavor is the first in a series and I am eager to find out what happens next, though I think it is safe to assume that Victor will create a monster at some point.

Recommendation: A must-read for Frankenstein fans. To me the book bridges the space between Middle Grade and Young Adult and it will appeal to boys as well as girls.

Next Week: TBD

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weathering a Storm...of Edits

Everyone is bugging out on the East Coast this week. First we had an earthquake, something unheard of around here. Now everyone's eyes are trained on Hurricane Irene headed straight for us tomorrow evening.

My weekend plans, which included a white trash 80's themed backyard BBQ* and a long drive to visit college friends have been cancelled due to the impending storm. I know it's going to be gross and destructive but in a way I am looking forward to a weekend devoid of plans. I have been so busy the last month that I have barely worked on my story. I still have 30 pages left to edit before I hand my book over to beta readers and Irene is going to force me to get them done. If she doesn't cause too much damage, I might end up grateful for this opportunity to sit down and work uninterrupted.

I will need to keep my Netbook fully charged and hope I don't lose power for longer than my battery life. I have to be sure my Nook is charged too, I just started Game of Thrones and I am in book love. Every time I read the words, "Winter is coming" I get goosebumps. Seriously, why did I wait so long to read the series?

Hope everyone stays safe this weekend.

If you are in Irene's path, how are you going to weather the storm?

*Don't worry the party has been rescheduled, which is great news because I have yet to locate my leg warmers and neon hair scrunchies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: Missy Higgins

This is a song about loss. What type of loss does my character experience? I'm not telling. But whenever I hear it, I think about my main character and all she goes through. I guess I put her through it, and all I can offer up is a song as solace. 

"The Sound of White" Missy Higgins

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: The Gaslight Anthem

Maybe it's all the teenager references or because I am so attracted to their adorable, tattooed frontman, Brian Fallon, or maybe it's just the awesomeness of the band but I have every song by The Gaslight Anthem on my playlist for my YA Fantasy. My main character loves Gaslight a lot. I might love them even more. Therefore, I shall post two videos for you to watch or ignore as you see fit. 

This one, called "Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?" really captures my main character at the beginning of the story. She plays the guitar and I imagine she turns her amp up and belts this one out when has a bad day.

It is so hard to only choose two, but I can't post them all. "Navesink Banks" is slower, and hints more toward where my character is at the end of the book. And no she doesn't become a pickpocket.

Brian can stay at my house. . . just saying.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Like a Spark: Title Epiphany

Music is an important part of my writing process. It seems it becomes more vital with every chapter that I write or edit. At present I am almost done my first round of edits for my current project, a YA Fantasy.

My next project a YA Retelling begs every day to be written. In order to satiate the demands of the feral beast that my shiny new idea has become, I made a playlist based on the book, the characters and how I feel about it all. I was listening to the playlist in the car this morning when it came to me-the title of the YA Retelling, I know what it should be. Elated, I rocked out and drove on.

Historically, I am terrible with picking out titles. I am one of those writers who can't force a story or a character. I prefer for the names and personalities to present themselves. It's so hippie of me, I know. But how can you pick two or three words to represent the 70,000 you wrote? In Young Adult there is even a trend toward one word titles. Not that we should all follow the trends but marketing is something to keep in mind.

I am so pleased with having a title, I had to google it to see if there were any books already published with the same one. So far, I think we are in the clear. I also had another idea in the afterglow of my title epiphany.

I mention how I use music as inspiration and encouragement a lot on here, and starting tomorrow I am going to post videos of songs I listen to while writing. If you like it, it may become a Wednesday tradition.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Report Monday: Passion, #3 in Lauren Kate's Fallen Series

Title: Passion, Book #3 in the Fallen Series

Author: Lauren Kate

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Synopsis Luce would die for Daniel.
And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .
Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.
Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.
Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.
Sweeping across centuries, PASSION is the third novel in the unforgettably epic FALLEN series. (from Goodreads)

Fallen, Book 1
Why did I pick it up?: By now you may have noticed, I'm a sucker for a nice cover and I liked the covers for the series. I've got a hair obsession. Also, I have heard a lot about YA books dealing with Fallen Angels but I haven't read one so, I decided it was time to jump on that bandwagon.

Torment, Book 2

Favorite Lines: "What do you have on under there? Are those Converse? You've got to be kidding me with those."

Okay, so it's probably the least romantic line in the book, but I love Converse and I laughed out loud at this part. Luce just travelled back to 18th century England and her, we'll call him her time travel assistant, is teasing her for her choice of footwear.

My Review: First, I made the mistake of assuming the Fallen Series is a trilogy, which is very popular right now with Young Adult Series. I realized I was wrong toward the last few pages of Passion, when it became clear there was going to be a bit of a cliffhanger ending. My Nook informed me that the fourth and final book in the Fallen Series, Rapture, would be released in June of 2012.

Another disappointment for me was the hair thing. Lucinda is depicted on the each cover with these gorgeous black tresses, particularly on Torment. In the books, however the present incarnation of Lucinda has very short hair. Obviously, not a big issue, I just prefer when covers are more straightforward.

Overall, I enjoyed all three books. I know a lot of people were annoyed with Passion being a prequel, but I didn't mind. To me, it didn't feel like a prequel at all. Yeah, Lucinda travels backward through her past lives and the stories of her former incarnations are explained but her story continued moving forward. The cliffhanger ending definitely had me wishing I already had a copy of Rapture on my Nook.

Recommendation: Fast, fun reads. They are great for a beach weekend.

Next Week: TBD.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Sister Effect

Last night two of my three sisters were in my apartment. An impressive happening since one lives in Florida. Also impressive was that it was just the three of us. They each have a son and usually one or both boys are around.

We gushed about our love lives (them) and lack thereof (me) and reminisced while listening to 90's music. Eventually my guitar came out. It's been months since I played and to say I am rusty is to be very generous. Even when I was playing every day, I wasn't very good. But I love making music happen, even if it's mediocre.

My fingers remembered the chords but switched too slowly and my voice was off key. After a few seconds of the first song the soft pads of my fingertips were already sore. They heard me play when I was at the top of my game so they knew how off I was. Still they clapped and laughed and sang along with the words they knew.

This is the thing with my sisters, they are supportive without trying. They aren't the sort to just be nice for courtesy's sake. They were genuinely entertained. Which probably explains why I kept playing well after the chords were sloppy and my fingers were numb-I can't type today because they are still tingly.

 Even though they kept me up late and I should be exhausted, I am in good spirits. I feel light and optimistic and I wanted to share my happy vibes with all of you. I hope everyone has a fabulous Friday and a great weekend.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Inconceivable: The Teen Sex Issue

There are a lot of places where I anticipate the topic of teens having or not having sex to be brought up. It comes with YA writer territory. However, one place I did not expect to hear about it was midway through a training webinar at my office.  The speaker was discussing spousal waivers and prenuptial agreements. I work in Retirement Benefits (Please dont' be bored, I promise this post deals with sex.) Basically, you can't waive spousal rights until you are a spouse, so any mention of it in the prenup is pointless.

The speaker possessed a dramatic flair and had a voice that reminded me of Wallace Shawn, who plays Vizzini in The Princess Bride. He summarized the rule by saying, "You cannot consent until you say I do, and you can tell that to your teenagers."

A few people chuckled. Some rolled their eyes.

I was distracted from the training and got to thinking about sex in young adult fiction. A benefits webinar was not the appropriate place for the Vizzini impersonator to make public his opinion on teen sex this blog is ideal for me to weigh in with my opinion on the very controversial issue of fictitious teens having sex.

It is my job to tell the story as honestly as possible. If a story I am writing involves sex, I will include it. If it doesn't, I won't force it onto the page. I don't include graphic descriptions of it, that's just not my style. The point is, sex happens in YA and I don't see the point in taking it out to please anyone else.

Sex is generally relevant in young adult fiction because it is always present in the lives of teenagers. Having it, not having it, thinking about whether or not they are having it and why; it is going to be there no matter the main character's stance.

In a lot of ways, sex is just like profanity in whatever story you are telling. Stephen King advises not to censor your character because they will come across to the reader as censored and false. And nobody makes a connection with that kind of character. Be honest to your characters and yourself.

What do you think, is sex in YA inconceivable?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Report Monday: Forever, The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3

Title: Forever, The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: In Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. In LINGER, they fought to be together. Now, in FOREVER, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I love werewolf love.

Favorite Lines: All the Rilke poetry and Sam's lyrics.

My Review: Something I appreciated about the series was that the main characters, Sam and Grace, assume typically reversed roles. Grace is very analytical and approaches problems from a logical place and Sam is emotional and sensitive, always playing his acoustic guitar and thinking up song lyrics to express his tortured feelings. As an analytical girl, I dug it.

Stiefvater's werewolves seem more wolf than werewolf to me. At times the series reads like a work of science fiction rather than fantasy, despite being fantasy. Sam, one the main protagonists, discusses whether the act of becoming a wolf is magic or science or both. Cole, a new wolf in Linger-the second book, tackles werewolfism from a scientific standpoint. I thoroughly enjoyed his growth and his narrating. Perhaps all magic is just science we do not understand yet.

Each book in the series is printed in colored text matching the covers. Also, the story is told from many different point of views. The trade off is generally smooth, though at times when I was reading through quickly I missed that the story had changed hands. But I think that was my failure to observe the name at the beginning of each chapter rather than an abrupt change in the storyteller.

Recommendation: If you, like me, love werewolves and teen romance grab it!

Next Week: Passion, #3 in the Fallen Series by Lauren Kate