Saturday, June 30, 2012

Winner of the June Book Giveaway!

Where the heck did June go?? Granted, I've been hunkered down on a pretty extensive revision, but still. I thought I had come up for air often enough. Apparently not.

Anyway, it's time to announce the winners of this month's book giveaway.

For Prize Pack #1


Kirthi!!

For Prize Pack #2


Marie Frances Baldomar!!

Congratulations!! I will get your books out you as soon as I can. As for everyone else, stop by next saturday to see what I'm giving away next month!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan


Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth. Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart. Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting. And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.

This is an interesting account of the 1600’s in England. It’s a work of fiction, but the author clearly did her research and utilized actual, historical characters well. Also, the time period feels authentic, especially for the court that existed during the reign of Charles II. England had just spent years under Cromwell, who imposed radical puritanism on its people. Then the court, post-Cromwell, swung wildly the other way.

There is a lot of innuendo, adultery, and references to sexual practices. For that reason, this isn’t really a book for younger teens. But I think older teens, say 16 and up, will find this interesting. The feel of the time period seems authentic, as well as the situations of many of the characters. For the most part, I enjoyed this story. The parts I didn’t enjoy are just personal taste.

For example, I’m not big into scandal. But Charles II’s court was rife with it, many of which were cause by him. He was notorious for having mistresses and acknowledged nearly a dozen illegitimate children. If that doesn’t set a precedent, I don’t know what does. Hence, there is a lot of drama and scandal between several characters. That said, there are no gratuitous mean girls, and the drama that unfolds still feels authentic to the time period.

Even with the promise of scandal and drama, this is a pretty quiet book. It’s character driven, so there’s not adventure on every page. Yet it was still interesting enough to keep me reading. The romance is on the lighter side, too, which was fine with me. I think some readers might take issue with the ending, but I enjoyed it. It felt like Shakespeare, in a way, and I thought it fit the story well.

If you’re looking for an historical novel that feels authentic to the time period, you might enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a romance that happens to be set in an historical time period, this probably isn’t the book for you. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quotes From Famous Writers


Here's some more great quotes from great writers. Enjoy!

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
- Stephen King

Make your novel readable. Make it easy to read, pleasant to read. This doesn’t mean flowery passages, ambitious flights of pyrotechnic verbiage; it means strong, simple, natural sentences.
- Laurence D’Orsay

Writing is turning one's worst moments into money.
- J. P. Donleavy

Rereading reveals rubbish and redundancy.
- Duane Alan Hahn

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.
- Ray Bradbury

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
- Thomas Mann

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
- Stephen Covey

Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush.
- Pete Murphy

If you're a singer you lose your voice.  A baseball player loses his arm.  A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes.
- Mickey Spillane

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
- Sylvia Plath

If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!
- Fred East

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis


It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?

This is a cute book that's definitely for fairy tale lovers. It reads like one and references practically all of them, so you kind of need to like fairy tales if you're going to read this book. :)

Personally, I love fairy tales so this book was right up my alley. I gave it a lot of leeway, simply because of the fairy tale aspect—there is no way anything in this book could be mistaken for what happens in real life, so I didn’t look at it that way. Instead, I put my feet up and went along for the ride. And it was a very pleasant ride.

This story references Jack and the Beanstalk, The Princess and the Pea, The Frog Prince, Rumplestiltskin, and more, but it is far more than the sum of its parts. The plot is more complicated than I anticipated (a pleasant surprise), and the characters have plenty of depth. The voice perfectly fits the story, and the first line is the best I’ve seen in quite some time:
“My name is Sunday Woodcutter, and I am doomed to a happy life.”
Doomed to a happy life?? That hooked me right there.

If fairy tales aren’t your thing, then this isn’t the story for you. But if you have a soft spot for them, then you’ll probably enjoy this darling of a book. 

For a chance to win an ARC, go here and fill out the form. Good luck!

Monday, June 18, 2012

22 Rules of Storytelling

I stumbled across this link last week, and there is so much good stuff here that I'm still processing all the information...and I'm sure that several blog posts are going to come out of it. :) In the mean time, though, I thought I'd share with you all. Enjoy!

22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan


Farrah "Digit" Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group's number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping-- all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in...

A funny story. Digit has great voice and a great way of dealing with the smart side of herself. She hides in plain sight, but in the process she closes herself off from others and doesn't really get to know them. For someone so smart, there are a whole lot of things she misses. I loved that about her. Then, she meets John, someone who understands how it feels to hide your personality because it seems easier than dealing with the consequences of being yourself. She begins to wake up, so to speak, and let her real self, Digit, out for the sake of saving lives. Once she does this, she can't put Digit back in her box.

There are some very interesting themes going on in this story. I think many teenagers probably feel they are hiding their true selves from everyone else. I sure felt that way at that age, and I think teens will connect with Digit. She’s quirky, but not too quirky. She’s funny and even pretty normal in her abnormal way. I really liked her, and I loved following her through all the spy adventures across the country.

The romance was clunky, though. I didn't quite understand Digit's attraction to John, and I didn't see the signs that John was falling for her. Then all of a sudden they are a couple, sort of, and in love. It wasn't instalove, but we weren't close enough to either Digit or John to really feel what they were feeling. As a result, I wasn’t as invested in the ending as I wanted to be.

Still, this is a fun, fast-paced story that will bring a smile to your face. For a chance to win an ARC, go here and fill out the form. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Compilation of Articles on Common Advice for Writers

Once again, I've gone through the articles on this blog and created another PDF. This one is about advice most commonly given to writers, but with a focus on concrete definitions for each concept.

Here's a rough outline of what to expect:

Components of a Story
Show vs. Tell
Write What You Know
Kill Your Darlings
The Opening Hook
Critiques

Feel free to download it here. If you'd like to see any other PDFs I've created, you can get those here.

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell


Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancĂ©, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a “springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land. Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water.
Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

Saundra Mitchell is a master of setting. All of her books have had a vivid and palpable feel to them, and this book is no exception. I could taste the dust of the road, smell the grass on the prairie, feel the water between my toes, etc. Whenever I want to feel like I’m in another world, I pick up one of Saundra’s books.

Zora is a great character. Her grief is tangible and drives her to do selfish things because she can't see beyond it. That rang true to me. Desperation also drove her to find her inner strengths, which also rang true. And the guilt she felt from her attraction to Emerson was fantastic. I really liked Emerson, too. all his actions made sense according to his personality, and I had a good feel for who he is.

The shape of the story wasn't as effective as I was hoping. It was pretty even throughout, and I kept looking for more surprises. The foreshadowing of complications from the wells was natural and needed, but I was hoping for something on top of that—completely different, yet related. This story kind of seems a vessel to find the earth and water elements, and then the next book will have the actual conflict. Which is a bummer because I thought there were a few missed opportunities for conflict. For example, I wasn't sure of the point of the stage robbing, especially since we don’t see Ellis again and the conflict with Royal doesn’t really amount to anything. I am hoping it's not setup for the next book.

The ending, however, is superb. I loved how it ties the two books together while setting up for the third, which I will most definitely be reading.

Monday, June 04, 2012

When Fiction Becomes Reality?


People are always doing new studies and looking at things in a different way. It’s fantastic. It helpsus grow and change. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone did a study on the effectsof reading fiction? How the brain processes the information and what happensafter the story is over? Well, someone finally did

The basic premise isthat when the reader can fully lose himself in the book’s main character, hefeels as though he’s experienced everything that character has experienced. Notin the same way that a vivid imagination can guess what the experience mighthave been like, but actually feeling like he’s gone through the experience. It’scalled ‘experience-taking.’

“Experience-taking changes us by allowing us to merge our own liveswith those of the characters we read about, which can lead to good outcomes,”said Geoff Kaufman, who led the study as a graduate student at Ohio State. Heis now a postdoctoral researcher at the Tiltfactor Laboratory at DartmouthCollege.

Interesting, huh? Andwhat an experience for readers! And how amazing that we writers can give thisto them!

The next question, ofcourse, is how do we do this? Well, we have to build complex, realistic characters that trickthe reader into believing they are real people. They need quirks, opinions, biases,body language, flaws, everything. When those attributes exist, readers will beable to identify with one or more of them, and then they’re off—stealingexperiences from our characters. :) Who knew great writing could be sopowerful?

The key to creating stronglinks to main characters is how and when to reveal certain details aboutlifestyle, quirks, opinions, etc. It’s all about the timing of the delivery. One of the studies in the article illustrates this.

In one experiment, 70 male, heterosexual college students read a storyabout a day in the life of another student. There were three versions - one inwhich the character was revealed to be gay early in the story, one in which thestudent was identified as gay late in the story, and one in which the characterwas heterosexual.Results showed that the students who read the story where the characterwas identified as gay late in the narrative reported higher levels ofexperience-taking than did those who read the story where the character’shomosexuality was announced early.

In other words, if thecharacters are established as real people first, with traits that the readercan identify with, then it won’t matter how many differences they have down theroad. That connection has already been made, and the reader can go with it. Howcool is this?? Seriously, my inner geek is really excited.

This just reinforcesthe importance of character, and how we need to make them so real that theyfeel like actual, physical people that a reader can lose himself in.

What do you think of all this?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

June Book Giveaway!

Another month, and I've got four ARCs to give away. Here they are:

Prize Pack #1
ARC of Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!
On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.



ARC of A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan
Farrah "Digit" Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group's number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping-- all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in...


Prize Pack #2
ARC of Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?



ARC of Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are best friends and total overachievers. Even if they aren’t the most popular girls in school, they aren’t too worried. They know their real lives will begin once they get to their Ivy League colleges. There will be ivy, and there will be cute guys in the libraries (hopefully with English accents)! But when an unexpected event shows them they’re missing out on the full high school experience, it’s time to come out of the honors lounge and into the spotlight. They make a pact: They will each take on their greatest challenge—and they will totally rock it.
Gigi decides to run for student rep, but she’ll have to get over her fear of public speaking—and go head-to-head with gorgeous California Will. Bea used to be one of the best skiers around, until she was derailed. It could be time for her to take the plunge again. And Neerja loves the drama club but always stayed behind the scenes—until now.
These friends are determined to show that smart girls get what they want—but that could mean getting way more attention than they ever bargained for.


To enter, fill out the form below then come back on Saturday, June 30 to see if you've won. Good luck!