blog about reviews writing

Monday, November 28, 2011

Myths About Writers

Whenever you mention the fact that you're a writer, a million stereotypes are bound to come into people's heads.  Some of these are true, and some are myths.  Here are some common myths about writers, disproved.
  • Writers are addicted to coffee.  No, not necessarily.  Writers are addicted to whatever will keep them going long enough to finish that next chapter.  Sometimes it's coffee, sometimes it's something else.  Hopefully not drugs. 
  • Writers are antisocial.  It's not that we don't enjoy your company.  We simply come off this way sometimes.  The average human would be bored to tears sitting in front of a keyboard, typing all day.  They don't see this as a "normal" pastime.  Writers, on the other hand, love every day where they can do nothing but put words on the screen.  Social activities can get forgotten in the process. 
  • Writers listen to my conversations at Starbucks.  No, not just your conversations.  We listen to the everyone else's conversations, too.  Not you exclusively.  Sorry.
  • Writers talk to themselves.  We talk to our characters.  We talk directly to our story.  We talk to the computer screen, to the blank notebook.  Why talk to ourselves when we have so many other available options to talk to?
  • If you say something bad about a writer's work, they will hate you.  No, they'll just write a character remarkably like you into their books.  Said character will die. 
  • Writers have no friends.  Writers actually have more friends than the average person.  We have our normal, real-life friends, and then we have our characters.  That's more than the average human can say. 
  • Writers admire J. K. Rowling like she's something more than human.  Well, some of us might.  But some of us don't.  Personally, I very much enjoy her books, but there are many better things out there to read. 
  • Writers suffer from insanity. Actually, we enjoy every second of it.
And there you have it.  It's like Mythbusters, but less awesome.  And with less explosives.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Love Triangles

One thing I keep seeing over and over again in young adult fiction is the love triangle.  The dreaded, the abominable, the triangle. 

A love triangle happens when one girl is in love with two guys at once, and can't decide between them (it could happen the opposite way, too, with one guy and two girls, but it's much less common).  Both guys are in love with the girl, leaving the girl with a predicament.  The girl also loves both the guys.  Which should she choose?  Oh the horror.

Okay, technically, it wouldn't be a love triangle unless both the guys were in love with each other, too.  But we won't go there. 

There's my amazing Paint skill coming through, right there. 
There's a problem with this, though...have you ever seen a love triangle in real life?  No.  At least, I haven't.  Let's face it: love triangles just don't happen that much in real life.  So why should every YA book have one?

This brings me to my next point.  Nearly every single YA book these days has a love triangle of some sort.  Why?  Readers want plot.  We don't want to sit there and read about some girl whining because she can't decide who to love.  If she loves two guys at once, it can't even be true love, anyways.  It's just some extra friendliness and a little lust.

Love triangles are also highly predictable.  Have you ever seen the girl end up with the nice, normal guy?  No.  She always ends up with the supernatural guy.  If you're going to write a paranormal romance, someone should shake it up and write a story where the girl doesn't go for the supernatural guy.

I'll be honest.  I have formed a deep hatred for love triangles.  And for good reason: the vast majority of them are anything but well-executed.  But, to be fair, I have read some books that pulled off a fantastic love triangle.

Like Eona: The Last Dragoneye, for example.  That's the most convoluted love triangle you'll ever see, my friends.    Or The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Or the Seven Realms series.  That one is amazing, could argue that it's actually a love pentagon.  Yeah.  (I tried to make a diagram showing this, but failed epically.)  Han is (or was) in love with Raisa, who loves him back.  Raisa also loved Amon, and Amon did love her back, until he got engaged to someone else.  Then there's Reid, who seems to have a thing for Raisa.  Love pentagon.

So, amigos...I beg of you...don't write a love triangle, unless you've got a really interesting twist to it, or you can do it like Alison Goodman.  And please don't write a love triangle for the sake of a love triangle.  That's the last thing the world needs.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you have a great day and eat lots of turkey and stuffing and pie. 

And now go away.  Quit reading blogs.  Yes, even this one.  Go do something else, because it's Thanksgiving.  Go spend time with someone you're thankful for.

But while I'm here, I might as well say this: I'm thankful for all of you.  YOU.  Every one of my 39 amazing followers.  And any ghost followers.  You rock.  Now go away.

(And yes, this is a scheduled post.  Of course.)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio RacesSome race to win. 
Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

First Look: ***** When I first heard about this, my initial reaction went something like this: "NO WAY!  An actual, recent YA books about horses?  Okay, somebody's out to make fun of me, because this can't be real." 

Folks, I have to stop this review to tell you a story.  When I was a kid (read: younger than I am now.  Elementary school), I devoured horse books like they some kind of chocolate that multiplied faster the quicker I ate it.  I loved them.  And then I read all the horse books in my school library (and now, I'm not kidding about that.  They had a little sticker on the side with a picture of a horse.  I read them all...).  Then, I got older.  There weren't any new horse books coming out that would take me more than half an hour to read.  So I sighed sadly, and went on a huge fantasy binge, still hoping for those horse books in the back of my mind. 

Setting: *****   The setting honestly made me confused.  I couldn't tell if it was a dystopia or not at first.  I couldn't figure out where on Earth we were.  It didn't really explain much.  Throughout the book, though, I managed to figure out that it's a rather historical--probably--setting.  In Europe somewhere, maybe England or something. 

Even though I had to work so hard to figure it out, I still ended up liking it.  I loved how Stiefvater managed to get across the atmosphere of the place.  Atmosphere is something I shall definitely blog about in the future, because it's so important, but you almost never hear about it.  Anyways, I liked the detail of the setting, how it seemed so real.  I also love how the water horses were incorporated into it. 

Characters: *****  Awesome. Amazing. Wonderful.  Realistically....realistic.  I'll stop adjective-dumping right now.  It's not often when you get to read about characters like these.  I really grew to love them as real people throughout the story.  Puck was so headstrong and emotional and...awesome.  I could really relate to Sean's relationships with his horses.

The supporting cast was fantastic, as well.  Finn was such a realistic brother.  George Holly made me laugh.  I hated Mutt.  And so on.  Sometimes, a good, memorable supporting cast is even tougher to pull off than the main characters.  Even the horses made awesome characters.   

***** At one point in the story, I desperately wanted Puck to win the race.  I also desperately wanted Sean to win.  Maggie Stiefvater is an absolute genius for doing this to me.  The plot was so utterly, fantastically believable.  I wanted to simply tear through it to find out what was going to happen. 

What Stiefvater really did well with the plot, though, was the tension.  It was constant, from the first page to the last.  It never, ever let up.  It turned the book into a big vacuum, just sucking you in.  And also, it's definitely worth noting that there was no insta-love.  No love triangles, either.  This is a huge breath of fresh air in today's YA literature.

And the ending.... Oh, the ending. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and perfect.  I didn't cry, but I was as close as I ever get.  Which, for me, is the equivalent of sobbing my eyes out.  It's been a long time since I've read something so wonderful and sad at the same time. 

Uniqueness: ***** One hundred thousand million percent unique. This is almost a shame, because I'm desperately in need of more books like this.

Writing: ***** Wow. I can't decide if I want to hug Stiefvater for writing this much awesomeness, or go cry in a corner because my book isn't up to this level. Her writing was FAN-TAS-TIC. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I just got the feeling that the writing was so incredibly honest. It made the story seem real, and her voice and the characters' voices really shined through. Writers should read this book, as a lesson, to try and figure out how on earth she does it.

Likes: I have to pause my review to tell you another story. I finished this book in the car. After I was done, I sat in a daze and stared out the window. Just then we happened to pass a horse farm. In the middle of a huge pasture, there was a lone foal walking through the snow. And it was so incredibly beautiful, especially after finishing this book, that I might've cried, had I been that type of person. That's what kind of effect this book had on me. Little bit of postivie Mockingjay Syndrome here? I think so.

Stiefvater knows her stuff, when it comes to horses. Not only did she accurately describe riding and tacking up, but she also understands the bond between horse and rider. It's something so many people overlook, and it makes the story impact the reader so much more.

Not-so-great: This review does not begin to give this book justice.

Total Score: I'm in love with this book. It's amazing. Incredible. The characters were so honest and real, and the writing style was simply gorgeous. And it's so different from other books on the market, too. I finished this book a few days ago, but yet I can't stop thinking about it. It's emotional and heartbreaking and beautiful. I'd say that words cannot describe this book, but...they can, and do. The entire book does. You just have to read it to find out. A must-read.

PS: If you haven't seen the trailer, you definitely should. It's lovely. 
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why I Stopped Following Your Blog

Though the majority of my posts are centered around books and writing, today I'm going to stray from my beaten path.  I've decided that, in addition to writing posts, it might be fun (and helpful to you) to dabble in the world of blogging tips.  Now, I'm not that successful, as bloggers go, but I have managed to pick up a few tricks of the trade. 

I don't stop following blogs often, but it does happen.  Here are all reasons why someone might stop following your blog:
  • You can't spell.  Bloggers are human, and they can't be expected to spell everything right.  Or to have no grammar mistakes, for that matter.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I'll admit to it, too.  My blog posts aren't always perfect.  But you need to at least make an effort to get rid of these mistakes.  Use spellcheck.  Read the post over at least once before publishing.  You might think your blog readers won't notice if you don't proofread, but guess what: we do.
  • Your blog takes forever to load.  I'm not a patient person, especially not when it comes to the internet.  If I want to see a site, I want to see it now.  I don't have time to wait for it to come up.  All those fancy, flashy counters and widgets and buttons on your sidebar might be cool, but they're not worth it if it takes five minutes for your homepage to come up. 
  • You never post.  You posted, say, a few times in July.  Then one or twice in September, and nothing since.  If I'm going to follow your blog, I want a steady stream of blog posts coming in.  Not this sporadic "Oh, I'll post whenever I feel inspired/like it/bored/whatever".  You don't have to post every day; once a week is fine, even.  I just don't want to wait months for your next post.
  • You post too much.  The opposite of the last bullet point.  You posted, say, once this morning.  Another around lunchtime, once this evening, and once again right before you went to bed.  Alright, so maybe you found something really worthwhile to share with us, but still.  I don't want you clogging up my dashboard.  It's annoying.
  • Your blog blasts music at me against my will.  This is probably the number one reason I'll stop following you (or not follow you in the first place).  I absolutely despise it when I pull up your blog and music starts playing.  I don't care what new, awesome songs you discovered this week.  It's annoying beyond belief, and it makes me jump every time.  If you want to put a music player on your blog, fine.  But please, please make it so you have to click play in order for the music to start. 
  • Your blog has nothing to offer me.  All your posts are about what you did over the weekend, a rant about your hatred for the Twilight Saga, your complaints about your WIP.  Frankly, I don't care.  I want to read posts that inform me, entertain me, engage me.  Since I follow mostly writerly blogs, I want to read articles on writing.  I don't need to know if your dog just barked at your neighbor.  Or that you just had a ham sandwich that was the best thing since sliced bread.* 
  • You only post weekly IMM-type things.  IMM, in case you didn't know, stands for In My Mailbox.  It's a weekly thing book bloggers like to post, showcasing the books they acquired during the past week.  Again, I don't care.  I did about two IMM posts, and then I stopped, because I realized that, let's face it...nobody cares what books showed up on my doorstep (unless I'm wrong, here, in which case, let me know and I'll gladly restart the IMM).  An IMM once a week is fine, whatever, even though I'll rarely read it, if ever.  But don't let these sort of posts be your only posts.  It's annoying and shows that you have no creativity as a blogger.
  • It's not professional.  Your layout looks like a kindergartner put it together.  Your sidebar sticks out and covers the blog posts.  Stuff like that.  You don't need to be really fancy with your layout.  It doesn't need to look like Steve Jobs designed it or something.  At least put a little effort into it, though. 
  • Your blog has no point.  One day you post a book review.  The next you post a persuasive essay on why we should recycle.  The next, a biography of Alexander the Great, some photos of your goldfish, a how-to article on making sushi.  I can't figure out what on earth your blog is actually about.  Maybe some people are actually interested in each one of those things.  That's great, but most people probably aren't.  Now, I'm not saying that your blog has to stick to one thing and one thing only.  I don't do that.  I'd get bored.  But please, at least find a general subject area to post in.
  • All you do is complain and apologize.  You tell us you're sorry for not posting more often.  You tell us you're sorry for the lack of quality posts this past week.  You complain about how nobody follows your blog and nobody comments and nobody cares.  I don't need to read your whining.  If you keep complaining like that, of course nobody is going to follow your blog!
  • U cant tell the dffrnce btween txting + blgging.  I can't even stand it when people text like that, let alone blog.  If you're going to blog, you need to be literate enough to use vowels and whole words. 
  • I can't read your font. 
    Your font looks like this. It’s pretty, but it’s impossible to read. It hurts my eyes, which are bad enough without your crazy cursive.
    I don't want to have to squint in order to see your words.
Now, this is not an all-inclusive list. But it's a very good idea of what NOT to do on your blog. If you do one of these, will I stop following your blog? Probably not (unless it's the music one...). But if you do a couple of them, you'll get on my nerves and then I'll stop following. And nobody wants to log onto Blogger and find out that they have 24 followers, when they had 25 yesterday.

*I've noticed that teenage boys have this thing for posting what they just ate on Facebook.  "Just ate three bags of cheetos XD" or "Dude, those onion rings were the bomb!".  I'm making fun of teenage boys?  No, of course not...well, yeah, of course. :)

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    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

    Infinity (Chronicles of Nick, #1)
    I am the power they can't tear down.

    At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

    Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

    But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he's next on the menu.

    As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that? 

    First Look: ***** I love, love love, love this cover.  And the other one, too.  It's awesome and mysterious and blue.  The premise looked interesting, but not spectacular.  Then again, I've never read a zombie book before, so I didn't know what to expect.  But the cover was enough to draw me in anyway.

    Infinity (Chronicles of Nick, #1)
    An alternate cover (the paperback one, I think).  I like it.

    Setting: *****  Yeah, I get that it's New Orleans.  Kenyon liked to state that often enough.  We never got many more details, though.  What season was it?  What kind of weather?  What did it even look like, for people like me who've never been to New Orleans?  Setting didn't play a real big part in this story, but a little more information would've fleshed the book out more. 

    Characters: *****   They were likable enough, for the most part.  My main, huge (read: ginormous, gigantor, Everest-sized) problem with this book is that the characters weren't the least bit believable.  Let's look at Nick, for starters.  No, I've never been a fourteen-year-old boy, but I spent all of last year with them.  Nick just didn't act like them.  He wasn't realistic.  He took all the "Hey, here's a demon!  Hey, zombies exist!" way too casually.  He didn't even seem to care, in fact, that everything he knew about the world was being turned upside-down.  He wasn't ever afraid of any of it, either.  His only worry was whether or not he'd get grounded when he got home. 

    The other characters weren't any better.  The mom bothered me to no end.  She was so naive, so gullible.  She believed every lie Nick told her.  She was more overprotective than a real parent would be.  And then Kenyon would do what I call "name-dropping": she'd introduce too many characters at once and didn't make their personalities clear or distinct enough for me to tell them apart or even remember who they were three chapters later.  Nobody felt like a real person at all.

    Plot: ***** I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the plot.  I might have enjoyed it much more had I not had huge problems with the characters and the writing.  It had plenty of action, and the pacing was decent.  It didn't explain very much, though.  Half the time I had no idea what on earth was going on.  Kenyon introduced us to many concepts that might've been really cool, had she actually let us in on what they are.  It didn't make much sense.   

    I know that this is a spinoff of Kenyon's Dark Hunter series, but that's no excuse to skip over explaining everything.  Unless the Dark Hunter series didn't explain anything either, but I doubt that. 
    Uniqueness: ***** It seemed unique enough. But then again, I'm not a connoisseur of zombie fiction.  For some reason the whole thing kept making me think of Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, but I have no idea why. 
    Writing: *****  Okay, these reviews are my honest opinion.  So I have to give it.  I felt like I was being talked down to, as a young adult reader.  I've never read the Dark Hunter series, but I still got the impression that this is just a dumbed-down version.  There is nothing I hate more than being talked down to in a book, just because I'm a young adult reader.  Guess what?  I know more about writing than quite a few adults.  That's not to brag, it's just the facts.  I write, and I strive to continuously learn more about it.  Most adults don't.  I know good writing when I see it, and I didn't care for this writing at all.  

    To me, the voice felt sarcastic just because apparently, adults seem to have this odd notion that all teenagers use sarcasm in excess.  That's not true.  I use sarcasm, sure.  But definitely not as much as this narrative.  It really put it on thick.  Sarcasm was used even when characters were in deathly peril...not a good situation.  I understand that some people do act like that, but it takes away from the emotional impact of the scene, and therefore is bad.  

    Likes: It did make me laugh.  I'll give it that. 

    Not-so-great: Already mentioned above. 

    Total Score: I had such high hopes for this book, but they fell flat.  The characters weren't the least bit realistic.  The plot didn't make much sense, and was never explained.  It was overly sarcastic, to the point where it got annoying.  I felt like I was being talked down to because I was a teenager, and honestly, I resent that.  I hate the feeling.  I can't enjoy a book when I feel like the author isn't treating me like a serious reader.  The only reason I'm not giving it one star is because there were some parts that made me laugh, though I'm not sure if half of them were even intended to be funny. 

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    Monday, November 14, 2011

    The Moment We've All Been Afraid Of...Hunger Games Trailer!

    So, I saw the Hunger Games trailer.  If you haven't seen it, then watch it right away:
    I have to say it...I'm actually impressed.  Yeah, not all the characters look right, but at least the movie company seems to have the gist of it down, which is more than some can say.  Based on this, I think the movie will at least not be a terrible fail.  What do you think?  

    And since I feel insecure posting really short posts, I have to add some randomness.
    This is my main character from my current WIP.  His name is Davi.  You all know you wish you had a Lego version of your main character. :)

    This is an actual game of Risk.  No lie.  I'm the purple player (the others are my brother and two cousins...all younger than me, by the way).  They argued over who got to defeat me.  This, my friends, is why is why I will never become a military strategist.  All the other games we played ended like this, too.  All I can say is EPIC FAIL.

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    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Brisingr (Inheritance #3) by Christopher Paolini

    Brisingr (Inheritance, #3)Oaths sworn... 
    Loyalties tested... 
    Forces collide.

    Following the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Still there is more at hand for the Rider and his dragon, as Eragon finds himself bound by a tangle of promises he may not be able to keep.

    First is Eragon’s oath to his cousin Roran: to help rescue Roran’s beloved, Katrina, from King Galbatorix’s clutches. But Eragon owes his loyalty to others, too. The Varden are in desperate need of his talents and strength—as are the elves and dwarves. When unrest claims the rebels and danger strikes from every corner, Eragon must make choices— choices that take him across the Empire and beyond, choices that may lead to unimagined sacrifice.

    Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once-simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?

     Ah, Brisingr.  This book was a huge disappointment to many fans who weren't aware of the just-kidding-guys-I'm-turning-the-trilogy-into-a-cycle thing.  To tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed when I learned there would be four books instead of three, because then I'd have to wait years for the final book to come out.  But I soon got over that, because hey--now we've got four lovely Inheritance books, instead of three!

    What can I say about this series that I haven't already said?  I sound like a skipping CD, but I loooooove this series so much.

    We see some interesting things happening in this book.  We see Roran turned soldier, then whipping boy (and during the flogging scene all I could think was "Christ figure alert!  Christ figure alert!".  Freshman English taught me well). We see that Murtagh may still have a flicker of a conscience.  We see Nasuada briefly turn emo.   We see that Eragon has huge trouble functioning without Saphira there to guide him in matters of common sense.  While these are all interesting enough on their own, put them together and you get a masterpiece of character development.  Each character is so fleshed-out, so unique.  Even after close to two thousand pages, we're still learning about them, and they're still growing and changing and I still love them. 

    We also see Glaedr cough up his soul, straight into Eragon's hands.  The whole thing about the Eldunari is genius, and fits perfectly with the rest of the story.  Paolini outdid himself with that concept.  And know we all know what's in the Vault of Souls. 

    I laughed when Angela told Eragon to "Watch out for ferrets!".  I also laughed when I read this:

    "Your ring is full of light!" exclaimed Varaug, his eyes widening with pleasure. "Beautiful light! It will feed us for a long time!" (p. 737)

    All I could think was "Yes, my preciousss, it shall feedses us!"  I'm not completely sure Paolini didn't intend that to be a reference. 

    There's even more action, and even more betrayal and intrigue and swordfighting in this book.  And magic and wonder and no love triangles, thank God.  We've got more Ancient Language words to learn (yay!), and even more things to wonder about.  This series just has so much to offer, and I love it. 

    Reviews of other Inheritance novels:
    Eragon (Inheritance #1)
    Eldest (Inheritance #2)

    Inheritance (Inheritance #4)
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    Friday, November 11, 2011

    So You Think You Can Write? (Have Fun With That)

    "Oh, I'm sure I could write a book, if I had the time."

    Um, yeah.  Sure.  Whatever.  Let me know how that works for you. 
    This statement always strikes me as so ridiculous, I'm not even sure how to respond.  Okay, the wannabe thinks they can write a book.  Good for them.  All they have to do is sit down and write it, right?  (For a visual, I highly recommend this wonderful cartoon that I am irrevocably in love with.*)

    Their ignorance is like the broadside of a barn.  There's no way you can miss it.

    When I hear people say this (which I occasionally do), I just smile, nod, and humor them.  All while simultaneously laughing and screaming in frustration on the inside. 

    Okay, you think writing is something just anyone can do.  That's all well and good.  You say you can write a book, but let me ask you this: do you have any idea how much sheer effort it takes to write a book?  Do you have any comprehension of how much writers struggle to let out all the words?  Do you know how much of the writer's soul is poured onto that page?

    Do you have the slightest clue how long it takes to write a book?  Do you know what passive voice is?  Can you tell the difference between showing and telling?  Do you know what a static character is, or a character arc?  How about a plot arc?  Do you know how the Three-Act story structure theory works?  Do you know how to make your readers care, to make them laugh and cry and rave around madly because you haven't released your sequel? 

    Heaven forbid I ask this question, but do you even like to write? 

    Let me tell you something, wannabes: writers aren't like you.  We're different.  We don't think like you.  Where you see a simple, everyday object, we see a million possibilities for storylines.  We wake up in the middle of the night with urges to write, and we don't dare ignore them.  Our world is rich and complex, more so than yours, in a way.  We question everything, and not much makes sense, yet we can break everything down into twenty-six compounds (can you do that, chemists?  Huh, what was that?  Yeah, I thought so.).

    For us, the entire world, the entire universe, is just one big mass of words.  Every object can be described by words, can be broken down into words, and is essentially made up of words.  And we love it.  Maybe it's crazy; I don't know.  But a writer loves words more intimately than any person they could ever meet.  

    And they love their stories and characters like that, too.  We have dreams about them.  We sit for hours and scribble about them in our notebooks.  We see them in our minds, and think about them, think like them, think with them as if we were one being, which is not untrue.  A writer writes not because they like to write, but because writing is something that is ingrained in every fiber of their being.  Their very soul is a mass of words, just like the rest of the universe and beyond. 

    So unless you can say this of yourself, then have fun writing a book.  You'll never make it.  You have to not just love the writing in order to write something the size and scope of a novel--you have to be the writing.  Be the novel, be the characters, be every little letter that comes out of your pen. 

    If your passion for writing falls anywhere short of this, aren't a writer.  Which means that you shouldn't go around saying how you could totally write a book, because, well, you couldn't.  This is not my opinion: this is mere fact.  I don't mean to belittle the non-writers, or even the wannabes.  I'm just telling it like it is. 

    But if you can say this of yourself, then...congratulations.  Know that you aren't alone. 

    *And because I linked to that one, I have to link to this one as well.  My money's on Mr. Snicket, too, even though you can't deny the utter coolness of Pittacus Lore's name. 

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    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Just a Little Inheritance Hype

    How many people know what today is?  Tuesday?

    No.  Try again.  Would you like a hint?

    Is that a hilarious face or what?
    Yes.  Today, my friends, is where it all ends.  After nearly a decade, the final Inheritance book comes out today.    No, I'm not going to do any more ranting (or much more, at least) about how much I love this series.  Because honestly, I really, really do.  But this post is just celebrating the awesomeness of the fact that it comes out today.  And believe me, I've been waiting awhile.

    I've got my predictions for how the series will end, but I think I'll keep them to myself.   I'll say this, though: Murtagh had better turn good at the end.  And I definitely know what's in the Vault of Souls.  Did you know that the subtitle for Inheritance is The Vault of Souls?  Yeah.  We all know what that means.  Mucho eldunari.  (And, in case you didn't know, Brisingr is actually Brisingr: The Seven Promises of Eragon Shadeslayer and Saphira Bjartskular, or something on that order.  The title doesn't mean much unless you can name all the promises, though.)

    The biggest question of this final book is who will get the green egg (referred to rather affectionately as "Greenie" by a large portion of the fan community).  Yeah, I've got my ideas, but I'm just curious...what do you think about it?  

    While we're on the subject of this series, though, I have to address something: the
    movie.  Wow.  First, there's all the parts they skipped, which make a sequel movie absolutely impossible.  Then there's all this other weird stuff  Really?  And a couple of really weird scenes.  There's that "Congratulations.  You have just been promoted" creepiness.  There's that awkward scene where Nasuada is pretty much spying on Eragon while he's taking a bath ("Forgive me, Argetlam.  I should have knocked."  Fail.).  There's the "I suffer without my stone.  Do not prolong my suffering.", and the fact that ol' Galby is in the movie altogether (Fun fact: the guy who plays Galbatorix plays Lennie in
    Of Mice and Men.  This amuses me to no end.). 

    One thing I've noticed throughout this series is that people are so demanding of Eragon.  Like this:
    Dwarves: Eragon, become an honorary dwarf!
    Old Lady: Bless the child, Argetlam!
    Roran: Eragon, my girlfriend is pregnant!  Marry us!
    Oromis: Eragon-finarel, after you've finished your yoga, go meditate with the ants.
    Arya: Leave me alone, creep.
    Old Lady Again: UNBLESS THE CHILD, ARGETLAM!  You'll kill us all with your horrid grammar!
    Brom: Eragon, just kidding.  I'm actually your *censored*.

    Because what good is loving a series if you can't love it and make fun of it at the same time?

    I'm excited.  This book can't come fast enough.  So tell me...who else is excited?  Who thinks we're all nuts running around raving about Dragon Riders and yelling "Brisingr!" at everyone?

    Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!

    PS: I just found a fabulous page that has a handy Ancient Language to English translation chart.  So you can, you know, converse in the Ancient Language.  Or text in it.  Or blog in it.  Eka ach.  Or at least, I did there.  Enjoy.
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    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Write What You Know...Or Don't

    You've probably heard it said that you need to "write what you know".   This means what it sounds like: write about the things you're familiar with, that you have a good solid knowledge base on.  

    I disagree with this statement.  Now, obviously, the people who say "write what you know" don't mean you to take it literally.  How many of us have ridden a dragon, moved things with our minds, or worked on the Great Pyramid?  If we literally stuck to what we knew, then the vast majority of us would be writing boring books.

    If we take this un-literally, though, we're still going to end up with a world full of boring books.  For example, I've never experienced anything life-threatening, or word-altering, or anything like that.  I've never experienced anything that would make for an interesting book.

    Another interpretation could be this "If you lived your whole life in New York City, set your book there.  Don't set it in a small town in the Irish countryside, because you don't know what that's like."  But I don't believe in this, either.  Just because I've never lived there doesn't mean I can't capture the same sense of place, the same atmosphere.

    But, then again, the phrase "write what you know" does have its value.  I interpret it like this:

    What you know makes for a great starting base for your writing.  But it isn't a limitation; rather, it is a springboard.  Expand on what you know.  Expand into something bigger.

    For example, say you want to write about a boy living in ancient China.  You're a girl, and you obviously don't live in ancient China.  You've never even been to modern China.  What are you supposed to do?  You're supposed to learn.  Watch closely how boys interact with the world, with other boys, with girls.  Do research.  Try to understand their point of view.  Also, research China.  Research ancient China.  Learn about the culture and landscape and how people lived and what they ate and what they feared and their myths and legends and on and on.

    Suddenly, this has become what you know.  You can write about your Chinese boy with confidence, because you have knowledge of him and his world.  You set out to write something you didn't know, but ended up writing something you know. 

    The meaning for "write what you know" that I really take to heart, though, is this:

    Every story is different.  Every story has a different setting, different plots, different characters.  But no matter if you're writing fantasy, or romance, or sci-fi, or "issue books", the underlying themes are the same.  People feel the same no matter what kind of story you're writing.  And since you're a person (I hope), you know how people feel.  You know how it feels to be happy.  You know what sadness is like, and anger, and loss, and hope.  You know what all of that feels like.  You're taking how you felt at paticular time, and passing on those feelings to your character.  Therefore, you are writing what you know.

    So, writers, keep this in mind whenever you hear someone tell you to "write what you know".  Write what you know.  Not as a limitation, but a starting point for everything else in your work.  Write what you know...this encompasses more than you might imagine.

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    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Character Words: Explained

    In my reviews, you've probably heard me use terms like "relate-able", "likable", and more to describe characters. 

    But what do they mean?  Are they good, or bad?  Should be my characters be like that?

    In this post, I'll explain.

    Likable: If a character is likable, it is easy for your reader to want the character to win.  If a character is likable, readers will, well, like them. 

    Example: Ron Weasley is a very likable character.  He's funny, and brave, and a super-loyal friend.  He has his flaws, yes, but we still love him anyways. 

    Why it Matters: You can have the most well-developed (I'll go into that one later) main character on the face of the earth, but it means nothing if there's no elements of likability to him.  If a reader doesn't care about your main character, then they won't care about the story and might end up just putting the book down. 

    Three-Dimensional (or well-rounded, or well-developed): If a character is three-dimensional, they seem like a real person to your readers.  They come alive on the page.  They have their good points and bad points, and everything in between, just like a real person. 

    Example: Loor, from the Pendragon series.  She's got her good points, in being almost unnervingly brave and totally dedicated to saving Halla (or the universe, for those non-Pendragon folks out there).  On the other hand, she is often times very cold and seems uncaring.  She's got her good and bad side, just like any real person.  

    Why it Matters:  Real people are neither completely good nor completely evil.  They're a shade of gray, somewhere in between.  And since your goal is to make characters that seem like real people, it only stands to reason that you should try to make your characters like this, too.  Three-dimensional characters often end up being the ones readers like most, because they seem so real.

    Relatable: This isn't actually a word, but I still use it.  Shh, don't tell!  If a character is relatable, the reader can relate to their actions, thoughts, and feelings.  They've felt similar feelings before, so they can understand the character better.  It's like in sixth grade reading class, when you had to make text-to-self connections. 

    Example: Meggie from Inkheart.  For starters, all book lovers can relate to her love for books, obviously.  Though most of us probably don't know what it's like to be pulled inside of a story and live in the book, we've all felt out-of-place at some point in our lives.  We don't know what it's like to go through some of the things that happen to her, but we can understand her undying love for her father and mother, her longing for home, and that identity crisis that inevitably happens to pretty much everyone in pretty much every book. 

    Why it Matters:  Obviously most of your readers probably haven't ridden a dragon, or kissed a werewolf, or flown to Jupiter, or whatever happens in your book.  But that's not what I mean by relatable.  If a reader doesn't have at least some tiny little hint of "Oh, yeah, I know how that is", then you'll lose them pretty fast. 

    Definite Personality: When a character has a definite personality, that simply means that I know what their personality is.  It's interesting, and distinct.  I can tell who they are, as a person, from their thoughts, words, actions, and narration voice.

    Example: Edilio from the Gone series has a definite personality.  Readers familiar with the series will immediately identify him as the level-headed, responsible one.  He knows how to lead people, and he gets things done.  Other characters look up to him.  I can sum up his personality just by saying level-headed, responsible, leader.  That's who he is, no questions.

    Why it Matters: Let's face it: characters who don't have a definite personality are boring.  Now, I'm not saying every character has to have a personality "extreme", or stereotype, or something.  I'm just saying that we, as readers, need to know exactly who your character is.  Readers don't like characters whose personalities seem to waver, or blur. 

    And there you have it!  Now, it probably seems like some of these are almost identical.  That's because...well, they are.  Each one of these is closely interlocked with each of the others.  When you find a balance between them, that's when you know you have a phenomenal character who has a definite personality, who is likable, three-dimensional, and relatable. 

    If you're curious, some characters who have all these traits (other than the characters mentioned above, of course) are: Murtagh and Nasuada (Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini), Eona and Lady Dela (Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman), Froi (Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta), Vo Spader (Pendragon series), Sapphira Adi, Walter Foley, Acacia, or anyone from the Dragons in our Midst/Oracles of Fire series, anyone from Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, and more.  This is by no means a complete list, but I'd go on forever if I didn't stop myself. 
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    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Eldest (Inheritance #2) by Christopher Paolini

    Eldest (Inheritance, #2)Darkness falls... 
    Swords clash... 
    Evil reigns...  

    Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn't sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall - one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king's dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life.

     Let me warn you, before we get started: I love this series.

    Okay, now that I've warned you, I can begin part two of my I Love Inheritance rant.

    First, Eldest might just be my favorite title of all time.  Yes, of all time.  It sounds really cool.  Eldest.  It's mysterious and unusual.  But you can't really understand it until you read the penultimate (one of my favorite words, right there) chapter of the book.  Then your mind is forced to do a double-take.  Or at a quadruple-take, because that chapter is one of the most intense chapters ever written. 

    I'll admit that the writing in Eragon wasn't a masterpiece by most standards.  Eldest definitely improves on this.  I can tell that Paolini's writing is much more mature, and he's really improved.  (Okay, minus a few lines like "Eragon pricked his ears", or something on that order.  Pricked his ears?  So now he's human, with basically part of a dragon's mind, part elf, an honorary dwarf, and part horse?  Just a little species overload there, don't you think?) 

    Now, I love this book to death.  But then, there's that odd chapter where Eragon has a war to fight, but instead spends hours watching ants.  Ants.  Um...okay, then.  Thanks for teaching me more about ants than I ever wanted to know.  LOL.

    But, in all honesty, my only major disappointment with this book is that Paolini skimmed over Angela's fantastic rant.  He shows us the part where she calls him a blockhead (which is funny in itself), and then just tells us what she said next.  Come on!  And while we're at it, I'd just like to point out that if Roran hadn't been in bed with Katrina to start with, she'd never have gotten kidnapped.  Abstinence, people.  Abstinence.

    I certainly hope no one has ever accused Paolini of not having strong female characters.  Anyone who says that obviously hasn't read the book.  First, we have Angela, who is just all-around awesome.  She can poison an entire army, speak in fabulous riddles, and call Eragon a blockhead without getting killed.  And then we have Arya.  I love her for straight-out rejecting Eragon, which he was really asking for.  There's also Nasuada, who dared to fight Galbatorix with lace.  And Elva, who also was a much-needed slap in the face for Eragon.  And Saphira, of course, Eragon's only source of common sense. 

    I'm probably coming off like I really don't like Eragon, as a character.  That isn't true.  The first time I read the series (which was, admittedly, a long time ago), I didn't care for him much.  I found him whiny and arrogant.  This time through, though, I'm finding him much easier to connect to, for some reason.  I think it's the fact that there's no longer a huge age gap between me and him.  I'm actually pretty impressed at all he's accomplished at only 16.  I can appreciate his struggles more, knowing he's not much older than me.  He's still pretty arrogant at times,  but I like him a lot more. 

    This book is intense.  It's epic.  It's awesome and heartfelt and exciting and doesn't follow Star Wars.  It throws twists and turns that make you do a double-take, even if you've read the book several times before.  It glues your eyes to the page and doesn't let you put the book down (except for that time when you steal a glance at your window to make sure there's no Ra'zac out there).  It's amazing.  I love it. 

    Reviews of other Inheritance novels:
    Eragon (Inheritance #1)

    Brisingr (Inheritance #3)
    Inheritance (Inheritance #4)
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