Saturday, July 31, 2010

Songs on Saturday (2)

On Saturdays I bring you a song I've been writing to and/or listening to obsessively. This week our song is...

Something Corporate is my favourite band of all time. Well, them and The Beatles, of course... but that's beside the point. Anyway, Something Corporate. If I had to choose only one band to listen to the rest of my life, it would be them. Southern California piano pop-punk perfection. "Walking By" is one of their very early songs, pretty obscure. I didn't even know about it until this year and I've been a fan for five years. It's a ballad, about... well, I'm not even exactly sure what it's about. But it's beautiful.

This song, and a bunch of other Something Corporate songs, is basically inspiring this new project I'm about to start. This book is pretty much going to be a Something Corporate tribute novel. I hope you like the song :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I sent two queries today...

...cue the obsessive-compulsive email checking and the constant stomach ache!

I doubt I'll be sleeping tonight :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Rant About Trends

Oh, YA trends, how I detest thee!

Well, maybe "detest" is too strong a word. But not by much.

And remember that none of this is a professional opinion; just a consumer's opinion, really.

We all know what Twilight did to shape YA literature. Brought reading into the mainstream in a way that hadn't happened since Harry Potter, got your average teenage girl to love reading the same way the nerdettes always did... yep, it definitely did that. But it also started a craze in YA lit, and spawned a million copycats.

I'd hate to diminish any authors work, any novel that someone spent months and years pouring their heart and soul into, but there's no denying the fact that a lot of people wanted to cash in on Twilight's success. This basically has lead to the vast majority of YA titles on the shelves being paranormal romances.

I have nothing against paranormal romance itself. Not really.

But when I walk into my favourite chain bookstores, and it seems like every single book is about a girl moving to a new town and meeting a mysterious boy who turns out to be a [insert paranormal creature here] and then there's some dastardly plot to destroy the world and it somehow involves our relatively insignificant protagonist... ARGH!!

And the paranormal creatures always included in these books... are just pissing me off. Seriously. First there's the vampires. Now, these were cool to begin with, but they are just so tired now. Pretty sure everyone in the publishing business is completely over vampires.

But... now angels. And demons.

I hate angels and demons. I can think of three or four YA paranormal romances on the shelves right now that are about angels, which is insane when you think of the sheer magnitude of books that are out there. The thing I dislike about YA books about angels is that... the author, and the readers... we're human. Wtf do we know about angels? Absolutely nothing, they are (and should be) divine mysteries, by their very nature. So with what authority do we write about angels? There's something in this concept I just can't buy.

Also... books about angels, like Hush, Hush and Fallen and so many others are basically making the assumption that the reader holds the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and views of angels.

Okay. That's as much as I'm going to say, because this could get ridiculously political. I am not dumping on YA authors or publishers at all (because I love them). This is purely my opinion. I'm sick of these trends. So, besides complaining, the only thing I can really do is write the opposite of the trends I hate.

So I'll go do that now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thoughts on Sisters Red

This book has one of the best graphic covers I've ever seen. Totally represents the book, too, which is always good.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce...

I don't have all that much to say about this book. The story was really good - two sisters kicking werewolf ass. Freaking awesome. A fantastic alternative to the mushy werewolf books that have been popular, lately.

The main characters, Scarlett and Rosie March, were great. Even though we don't get too big an impression of their real personalities, they are pretty fully fleshed out. My one qualm with the characters is that, in their first-person POVs in alternating chapters, their voices sounded much the same.

But it wasn't really a big deal. This book was enjoyable, and really sucked me in. It's about time a YA paranormal really had some blood, guts and action! The romance was present as well, but it took more of a backseat to the paranormal elements. Definitely refreshing, what with all the romance-heavy, action-devoid paranormal novels out there. I did really like the fact that the werewolves were the enemy, not the romantic objects.

I don't have that much to say. I liked it. Not my favourite book of the year, but I enjoyed it.

I guess werewolves just aren't really my thing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Naughty Book Kitties' Contest!

OMG YOU GUYS - Brent over at The Naughty Book Kitties is having this amazing contest, all about LGBT lit. You (or I!) could win a ton of awesome signed books, from a ton of my favourite authors (Julie Anne Peters? Ellen Hopkins? Hellooo?). I really want to win this one, as sooo many LGBT books rank among my all-time favourites.

You can enter here!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thoughts on The Agency: A Spy in the House

I love mysteries. Every Friday night, I watch Hercule Poirot movies on the Knowledge channel. And on Saturday nights, I watch this fantastic British murder mystery series called Midsomer Murders. British murder mysteries are by far my favourite thing on TV.

So I was really excited when I heard about Y. S. Lee's novel The Agency: A Spy in the House. There really are not enough YA mysteries. The only ones I can really think of off the top of my head are ones like John Green's Paper Towns, where there is a mystery woven into a coming-of-age story. There are very few really hardcore mysteries in YA literature, and I think there should definitely be more.

A Spy in the House's first chapter was excellent. We're introduced to Mary Lang, a twelve-year-old thief being sent to the gallows in Victorian London. She is saved from her fate by a mysterious woman and sent to a charity school.

But the second chapter, where Mary is grown up and requesting a different post other than schoolteacher, was freaking boring. The way The Agency, a secret women's detective school, was introduced is like, major info-dump. I was kind of wondering what I'd gotten myself into, with this book!

So if you come up against a wall in the opening chapters, persevere. Because once the narrative had moved past Mary's becoming a spy, it really picked up. It actually became addictive, the kind of book I stayed up late for and hated being parted from. I fished it out of my backpack at work to read feverishly on my measly 15 minute break! I just had to know how everything was going to turn out.

The two main characters, Mary and James, made an awesome pair... I haven't rooted for a pairing in YA this hard in quite some time.

I'm really glad I read this book when I did, since the second book in the series is being released on August 31st! Not a long wait for me this time.

I actually really loved this book. And while some people don't care for the cover, I like it a lot. It says a lot about the story and stays true to the setting and time period of Victorian England.

I'd give it a 4.5/5.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Songs on Saturday!

I just thought of this! Like, a few seconds ago! Maybe it'll become a weekly feature!

Anyway, I thought I'd post a song -- a song that, this week, has influenced my writing in some way.

So, today the song is...

So, not only is this song ridiculously catchy, it has a totally infectious rebellious tone. This week, I used this song to help me write the new first chapter of FAKE, in which my main character sticks it to the man.

The music video is pretty stupid, though.

Friday, July 16, 2010

First Chapters

I'm rewriting the first chapter of FAKE tonight. Rewriting first chapters seems to be a thing I often have to do. The first drafts are always really flat, because I'm floundering and trying to find my feet in the story. It's usually just a character looking at things and commenting on things. My original first chapter for Ambulance was just Zach getting to school, hanging out with his best friend, then making out with his best friend. Then it was on to the second chapter, where the action started.

That was totally lame. Then I discovered Valerie Kemp's wonderful blog, especially her amazing post about first chapters.

The revised first chapter ended up skipping the boring social commentary Zach makes, and getting right to the conflict: Zach and Patrick fighting over how to define their relationship.

Valerie's blog post was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed to go from booooooring to WOW.

And so, with FAKE, I took the first chapter from "wtf, this chick is just sitting at the dinner table watching her family" to "WTF this chick is deliberating picking a fight with her parents in front of national TV cameras!!!"

It appears that most of my first chapters including fighting, in some way... hmmm...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts on Hush, Hush

This is going to be an extremely muddled review.

First off, I'm going to address the controversies surrounding this book. Many bloggers and reviewers and such have expressed concern because Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick's romantic interest, Patch, is a freaking scary stalker murderer. No joke: for more than half the book, Patch is stalking the protagonist, Nora. He repeatedly threatens her safety, places her in sexual situations where she feels downright terrified, and openly admits that he wants to kill her.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is our love interest.

Yeah. Really. This makes Edward Cullen's creepy behaviour look completely normal and acceptable (which it isn't). I agree with the critics of Hush, Hush and its peer novels who say that the way these twisted relationship dynamics are presented sets a terrible, awful example for teenage girls.

Many of these books basically say that if a guy follows you around, watches you sleep, makes lewd comments about you in class, it means he loves you. And that is obviously not true. If a guy ever does any of this shit to you, run and call the police.

Now that that rant is over... the real review.

Besides how disturbing I found the romance aspect of this book to be, Hush, Hush was actually readable. Unlike Beautiful Creatures, I was hooked and read this book through to the end. Ms Fitzpatrick's writing, while not necessarily good ("his eyes looked like they didn't play by the rules" and many other phrases made me either scratch my head or, in a few cases, laugh out loud), gets the job done.

The plot was full of holes, and basically relied on convenience for many events. Nora's mother's job conveniently took her out of town a lot, so that Nora had lots of opportunity to have strange boys over.

Characters... what can I say? Nora was flat, boring, and even though she was supposed to be a 4.0 GPA kind of girl, was incredibly stupid. Seriously, brain-damaged stupid. Really weak-willed and a huge pushover. Vee, the best friend, was funny at times, but usually a tired cliché. I also felt that Nora, the POV character (or maybe the author?) was constantly poking fun at the fact that Vee is a bigger girl than Nora. Nora always refers to her as "more voluptuous than me" or "a few pounds above curvy." As a not-skinny girl, I found this a bit offensive.

And Patch. Well. I would have liked it if he'd been portrayed as the villain throughout the novel, but I was really not comfortable with the fact that about three-quarters of the way through the book, he was suddenly the love interest, even though every single thing he'd done up to that point had designated him as a scary, demented psychopath.

But... despite all its shortcomings, somehow I was glued to Hush, Hush. I may read the sequel when it comes out. Btw, does anyone know what the hell the title references? It has nothing to do with the story.

I seem to be the only person in the blogosphere who didn't care much for the cover... huh.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

This is the first teaser I'll be posting here! It's from FAKE, which is about a (secretly) transgendered girl, the sixth of fifteen children. Here's a bit of it.

The montrous dress stares me down. Mom hung it up on the back of my bedroom door, so I can’t hide from it. No matter where I sit it’s there glaring at me. The pale purple fabric makes me want to puke. Mom kept stroking it and poofing out the skirt when she made me wear it for Dad and the little kids.

“It fits you nicely,” she said, and the most Dad would do to show his approval is nod.

My older sisters Helen and Amber made a big fuss over Carrie and basically ignored me. Instead I got stuck with Jason. I’d take the blathering idiot sisters over Jason any day.

“I’m so proud of you, Jennifer,” he announced, patting me on the back, barely glancing at the dress or even at me. “I’m so glad you’ve turned away from the dark path you were headed down. I’m so pleased you’ve decided to rejoin us in the light.”

Heat and pressure built up inside my stomach, like a mini earthquake. I try to swallow it.

“You’re welcome,” I replied, and it’s the hardest I’ve ever had to work to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

Jason didn’t hear me. He was already waxing poetic about something else to his wife, Terese, who was all sweaty and red-faced as usual.

So now, after school, the dress is staring at me from the back of the door. Looking so innocent, so pretty and purple and girly. But when I look at it all I can see is the symbol of all my misery. It represents the mask I have to put on in front of basically everyone in my life. I can’t be myself anymore, not ever. Not in front of my parents. Not even with Carrie or John, the people who actually care about me. I have to put on this dress, this super prim and perfect exterior, to hide myself. To hide the ugly, impure monster I really am in their eyes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It doesn't suck!

Last night I continued my read-through of my recently finished first draft. I picked up where I'd left off, about halfway through, and read for a couple hours straight through to the end.

And... the verdict?

It doesn't suck.

I'm beyond thrilled. Seriously, I'm totally stoked. I always get this bad case of second draft jitters where I'm convinced that everything that I remembered being good about the novel in the first draft was actually just an illusion and all I have is a stack of barely-strung-together words.

But my first read-through was good. There was no panic, no OMG HOW AM I GOING TO FIX THIS PILE OF CRAP. I know exactly what I need to fix. I need more scenes with a certain character. I need more setting details. I need a much better first chapter, since this one kind of sucks. I basically need to spice up the first half of the novel.

But... that's all. No existential angsting, not like with the last WIP.

I'm counting myself extremely lucky this time around.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts on The Iron King

Confession: I may be the only person in the blogosphere who didn't like this book.

I'm sorry. I really wanted to like it. I tried hard to like it. I was besotted with its pretty cover. I was glad that the main character's name was Meghan, since that is my best friend's name and I don't see it very often at all in YA novels. Which, when you think about it, is strange, since it's such a common name in real life.

But I never got around to finishing it.

I was hoping it would be a different kind of faery book, one that didn't play on the over-used classifications of Seelie and Unseelie courts, the gritty, beautiful-but-tricky-and-dangerous kind of Holly Black faeries. Don't get me wrong, Holly Black is great, but I feel like her books have spawned a lot of copycats that killed faeries for me.

But The Iron King was kind of... meh. Didn't stand out of the pack enough for me. And the Meghan character really pissed me off. The faeries kept asking her to make deals with them and stuff, and she would blindly agree to the deals without even hearing the faeries' conditions, even though they made it clear that it would be a terrible deal for her. I was like, argh! Just ask what they want already, and THEN make your decision! Don't just sign away your life without educating yourself!!!

The love interest was forgettable, the quirky cat character was a totally blatant Cheshire Cat rip-off. Meghan was insufferably dumb. The one thing I really, really liked in this book was a villain, and I randomly got super super stoked about the idea of him.

But that wasn't enough to get me to finish the book. It just didn't grab me, it was too easy to put down. So I did.

I'd give it a 2/5. But hey, every other blogger and reviewer seemed to love it. It might be right up your alley!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thoughts on Beautiful Creatures

Last week a friend of mine, a librarian, ambushed me when I walked into my local library. She was clutching Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, a brand-new copy in crisp, perfect plastic binding. She told me the library had just acquired it and, though she had it reserved for herself, she had no time to read it. So she offered me her reservation slot, thinking I would like it.

I've long been aware of this book, in book stores and in the blogosphere, so I thought I'd give it a try.

A confession: I could not finish it. So this opinion is not based on a complete read-through.

For starters, I'll say a positive thing. I'm impressed that this was written by two authors. I'd be really interested to hear how they did this, since BC is not a narrative split between two characters the way David Levithan's collaboration projects are, or collabs between other writers. It is pretty cool that they were able to work together to create a relatively seamless story.

Well... let's start with the narrator, Ethan Wate. He's supposed to be a sixteen-year-old boy, or somewhere around that age, but he sounds like a middle-aged woman the way he describes peoples' clothes and stuff. It's stressed over and over that Ethan is "different" than the boys in his high school, but I really didn't see much of that. I felt like I was just being told that he's different and not really shown what's different about him.

The love interest is Lena Duchannes, who is the town pariah because she's the local hermit's niece. This is stupid. Real people don't really care who your family is. Sure, you'd be a curiosity, since there's so much mystery surrounding your relative, but the whole town wouldn't shun you and threaten to kick you out of the school! My next-door neighbour is a (super creepy) shut-in/hermit type, and I'd be interested in his niece, but if I hated her it would be because of her own qualities. I also just hate the name Lena because I knew someone named that once, and she was a raving lunatic bald woman. So that name's kind of ruined for me.

Basically all the townspeople in Beautiful Creatures were really stupid and one-dimensional. It's a sleepy Southern town, and yes, I get that. Not much changes around there, I get it. But the authors pound this into our heads every few pages. And, while I live in Western Canada and haven't met many Southerners, aren't they famed for being friendly and hospitable? What happened to that?!

I got to page 180, and I was still just vaguely aware of what the story was even about. I just felt like I was being jerked around, plot-wise, given the absolute bare minimum of information so I'd be "intrigued" but I just felt like I was being lied to. Also, the little mini flashbacks Ethan and Lena experience? Soooo hilariously bad I actually laughed. It was this really cheesy third-person POV during this little episodes, and yet when they pull out of it, Ethan and Lena know the peoples' names even though what they witnessed didn't tell them that at all, the third-person flashback narrator did.

Anyway. The verdict: completely lame. Skip this one, guys.

PS - I'm also reading Gone with the Wind right now, and as that is an infinitely better Southern novel than this one is, it probably coloured my disliking of Beautiful Creatures.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren (and if you aren't a devotee of her blog already... why the eff not?!)

Today is a very special IMM post. It comes not only with the list of books I acquired/obtained in recent days, but it also contains a rant at the end. So, without any further ado...

Got from the library:
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

So. Normal IMM stuff aside, here's the little rant.

I just got back from Walmart. This is not an anti-Walmart rant. I actually love Walmart. I live in a small town. We've only had our Walmart for four years and the novelty has not worn off yet. It's really fun to just hang out there, walk around, look at CDs and the DVD bargain bins. You always run into at least a few people you know. And you get to know all the people who work there, too. Plus this town is always lousy with tourists, so there are a lot of goofy-looking yuppies at the local Walmart, and that's always fun to laugh at.

It hasn't really killed local businesses. Our Walmart is a great social shopping experience in town.

Anyway. I love the book section at Walmart. By no means is there an amazing selection. It can be pretty abysmal, actually. Shitty romance novels, shitty Twilight novels, shitty detective novels, shitty celebrity memoirs. But still, I love looking through the pitiful shelves at the local WM.

But today. The little book stand that is usually by the shoe department was gone. So I headed over to the big book section, and there it was. Stock had been rotated, and I was floored.

My local WM had Sisters Red on the shelf. And the paperback of Shiver. And Hush, Hush, Fallen, Carrie Ryan's incredible The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and so many more. Modern, hit YA novels that the blogosphere has gone crazy for.

I was overjoyed. Some people may have qualms about WM selling books, and to some extent I understand, but...

The kids YA novels are aimed at? We're poor. We really want to read these gorgeous hardcovers, with their silky-soft covers, but we don't have much money. It is very attractive to see a $20 book on sale at WM for 30% off. Very attractive indeed. If I had bought Sisters Red, Fallen, and Hush, Hush at an indie bookstore and paid full-price, it would have cost me over $60. At WM, it cost me $48. And I also bought a drink.

Just sayin'.

Anyway, I am not expecting Hush, Hush and Fallen to be any good. Basically every blogger I trust has had major problems with them. But I'm a glutton for punishment apparently.

On queries

I think I'm getting better at this query writing business. In just two days I've managed to whip off a (I think) very lovely query letter that (I think) really expresses a certain tone, and characterizes the main characters and conflicts perfectly.


It's hard. It is hard, definitely. But somehow, with this WIP (FAKE), it melted off my fingers. And I think this is because I wrote this novel with a query in mind. I didn't have the query written before the novel, but I was thinking ahead to it.

It feels like FAKE was written with a kind of streamlined plot. Not that the plot or story is very simple, or one-dimensional. I just think it's tangle-free. My other WIP, Ambulance, is complicated as shit. There are four main characters, and they're entangled in this crazy love square, with extremely complicated relationships and feelings for each other. I would constantly throw in new aspects to their relationships, new characteristics, and it was way too complicated ("He's like this, and it's an allusion to that, and that means that this guy feels this way about that guy!!!!").

It is so hard to adequately explain these crazy relationship dynamics in a query, and since I almost invariably fail with almost every query draft I wrote, anyone reading the query is left totally confused about what the story is really about.

I think Ambulance was just too convoluted. It has too many layers of plot & character interactions, that had been laid on and overlapped over four whole years of writing and made even more complicated by my own growth as a writer over those four years. FAKE was written in two months. I kept it simple. I was looking ahead to the query letter. I was writing what I knew I could boil down to a few paragraphs later.

And I'm infinitely relieved I figured this out!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mockingjay tour!

I just ran around my house, screaming in excitement, because an author is coming to my town. I officially have no life.

But that author is Suzanne Collins, so... justified, right?

That's right, she's doing a massive book tour for the release of Mockingjay (which is in 53 days, in case you haven't been obsessively counting down like I have been). She'll be in Vancouver in November. Unfortunately, I'll be in school and stuff then... but I will gladly blow off a class or two to go if I have to.