Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Footprints in the Snow"

What am I reading now?  Stolen Away (Alyxandra Harvey)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Funny thing that you can be a faerie princess and the faerie king wants to kill you and your protector is a bird (well a hot guy that shape shifts into a bird) and your mom and aunt have been lying to you forever so when this all starts happening it's too hard to believe even though your best friend believes you and oh, don't forget there's another hot guy (the evil king's son) who defies his father to help you--

See this sounds like other stories (I've) you've read, but it's also unique in the telling. I enjoyed the perspective of the two friends and the interaction between the sisters. I liked that the adults know something the kids don't (seemed real to me). I also thought about how kids get so much of their own identity from the way the adults in their lives (read parents here) treat them. So much of this book, although shrouded in paranormal, felt real.

Yes, this is a good read. It's a stand alone, so no cliffhanger that you have to wait a year to resolve. There were satisfying relationships and action.

I picked this book up because of the author's name. I love her Drake Chronicles (see my review of those HERE) and I'm adding this title to the list of books I'd recommend to my paranormal loving friends.

Footprints In the Snow
I want to make my novels more interesting. I want my readers to love my characters as much as I do, to want to know what happens next, to have hope for their futures and to fell loss when they struggle. So how does an author invite a reader into the head and heart of a character?


That's right, good old fashioned, "grandma's in the kitchen telling scathing stories" of revenge, foolishness, poor choices, anger, ignorance. She laughing with her sisters and neighbors about people they know and don't know, telling unflattering stories at everyone's expense. They are the kind of stories though that makes anyone they talk about feel more human to you. Of course there's a healthy bit of judgment and humor that goes with the tellings as well. You don't want to miss one of those parties or leave the room at an inopportune time or you'll be the next topic of discussion. And we all got a file that we don't want to have opened in the public that is grandma's kitchen.

Just like those hen sessions (Grandpa's name for afternoon tea time), authors give the background to the pivotal moments that are etched on the character's--well character--and changed them to be the people they are today.

My goal for this week is to search my characters' histories and draw out the moments that shaped them into the people they are who make the choice they do in the story they have to tell.

Thought for the Day:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tension Times Two

What am I reading now?  Dearly, Beloved (Lia Habel)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  You know I loved the first book in this series! (And if you didn't know that you can read my review HERE.) This one is harder to define than the first. The story is growing and new characters are getting the spotlight. I like them and am looking forward to see how they all connect and interact in the coming books.
In the first book the zombies (those infected with the Laz) were obscure, hidden. Now that they are in the public -- and there are thousands -- public opinion is swaying toward persecution of the dead and the families of the dead.
Okay, granted some of the zombies want to eat anything and everything, but many don't and they want to be left alone to live their lives--deaths--existences.
Full on war is a reality and in the not too distant future.

This one is hard for me to rate.
     5 STARS for The Zombie Apocalypse
     4 STARS for Getting to know the new characters and setting up the continuing plot
     3 STARS for the romantic subplot, it kinda got left behind as the chapters flipped around as the multiple points of view being introduced.
OVERALL 4 STARS! I'll definitely continue to read this series.

Tension Times Two
Here’s another level of tension to look at—between two characters.

•Tension created by conflicting character goals

Inward thoughts are opposite of the outward actions and words toward another character

•The outcome is unknown because the characters are equally passionate about their position

•The interaction changes one of their lives

•Leave the scene with the definite feeling that it’s not over when it’s over

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fantasy Genres

What am I reading now?  Shadowfell (Juliet Marillier)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  I'm not really a fantasy reader, high fantasy that is. I love paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk when fantasy and scifi get mixed together.

But this book may change my mind!
I enjoyed it a lot. I'm grateful the book was not crammed full of world-building or new creatures with bizarre unpronounceable names. Too many high fantasy books are really just boy-books. (I know this is a term that is gets bashed, but girls tend to read for relationships and boys for worlds and adventures.) This one is great for girls. I haven't ready anything by this author before, but I've looked her up now and am putting some of her other books on my to-read list.

The  king has outlawed magical use by anyone but himself and enforces the law with swift death. Neryn travels with her father, hiding since her family was murdered because of suspicion or knowledge of their rebellion against the king or their abilities with magic. That is until her father loses her in a game of chance.  She doesn't know if the man who won her is interested in her freedom or her capture. Without knowing who to trust she sets out to find Shadowspell and join the rebels to save themselves and their land, Alban.

Fantasy Genres 

What makes a story fit the fantasy genre? And how is it differentiated into the sub-categories of fantasy? 

Fantasy: These stories have strange settings that invite the suspension of reality

High Fantasy: Novel is set in an alternate world or has an other-worldly setting, not like our world but has it’s own rules to follow

Low Fantasy: The world of the novel is like our world but with the inclusion of magical elements

Paranormal Fantasy: low fantasy where there is an alternate culture that includes monsters and/or magic as a normal element, along side but hidden from the main culture, main focus is often romance

Urban Fantasy: Setting is contemporary and in a city, includes strong elements of mythology, main focus is often character arc.

Steampunk: The setting is set during in a time period which experienced a great change in scientific thinking (Renaissance, Victorian Era, Industrial Revolution). The world is torn between the old thinking (gods, mythology, magic, monsters) and the new thinking (scientific thinking and processes). The world has fantastical elements of technology (example: steam powered flight machines)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tension Tip #2

What am I reading now?  The Unnaturalists (Tiffany Trent)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Futuristic--Steampunk--Alternate History--Paranormal all jump in the hot tub together. Yeah, fun story! Vespa has grown up in a world that believes science to be the pinnacle of existence; and honored eternal truth and the religion of New London. Magic is forbidden and all the heretics who use it disappear. Vespa meets Hal and they believe they must save the world from destroying the magic and themselves.

Too many stories for Young Adult audiences feel like the language or style has been dumbed down. As if the style squad has declared all novels for today's teens must read:
•simple sentences
•easy, natural vocabulary
•obvious structure.

I'm glad Tiffany Trent ignored that and wrote a complex story, with rich language and challenging elements in pov to keep readers on their toes. The writing definitely enhanced the story. I'd read the short-story precursor to this novel in the steam punk collection called Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances and enjoyed it--glad there is more to the story. Looking forward to the next too.

Tension Tip #2
If . . . then . . . 

There are two kinds of If/Then techniques to think about. The first one is the CHANGE. The second one is the TWIST.

The Change relies on the reader believing that "If A happens then B follows." Only as you write the scene, you get to choose the B, so it becomes: A leads to B and B is VERY undesirable. Often in life when we make choices there are many things that can happen. Pick the one that causes your character the most problems.

The Twist is similar except that it looks more like this, "If A happens, then the character believes B follows--except it doesn't--C follows." Often the character finds out there were other forces at play at point A and the outcome left the realm of expected results and was twisted into the realm of the unexpected with disastrous results. Now the character has to deal with the original problem and a new one that was created because of the twist.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Questions for Tension

What am I reading now?  Unspoken (Sarah Rees Brennan, The Lynburn Legacy #1)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I laughed and laughed as this story developed. You know by now that a book with great voice is a keeper for me. This one is hits that mark and adds a fun twisty plot. Another great author (with more books and other series) to add to your list of must reads!

Kami Glass has an imaginary friend, Jared. He's been there as long as she can remember, just a voice in her head. She's really never had to be alone. She knows all of his thoughts and he knows hers. Until he's not just a thought but a complete body; blond hair, broad shoulders and a dangerous sense of adventure--which she shares. Which is lucky for her since she wants to be a star reporter. She drags Jared and a few other friends through plans and felonies (and misdemeanors) as she searches for the mysteries in a town she thought she knew everything about. Turns out--she knew nothing--and that could cost her life.

Building Tension Through Questions

I'm looking at some ways to build tension in my stories. Here's the first one I'll share.

Decide what the overall book question is going to be for your story. The is the overall premise you are writing to achieve. For my current WIP it is:

Will 17 yo Cassie Witlon earn amnesty from Hell in the next 20 days?

Then as you plan or revise each scene decide what questions you can plant for the readers to be motivated to learn the answer to. Here are some more I'm using:

Will Cassie beat the deadline?
Will Cassie escape?
Will Cassie get distracted from her purpose?

I know these are a little cryptic but they become more detailed as I write the scenes. I need one question for each scene. Some authors describe this step as making sure your scenes have a "purpose" or a "goal". It's just a little easier for me to think in terms of answering a question.