Friday, April 29, 2011

Review "After Tupac and D Foster" by Jacqueline Woodson

Another one of the books that I picked up from Michelle Mclean's contest.

It is about two young African American girls growing up during the time when Tupac was going through his troubles before he died. They meet a girl who just comes out of nowhere and they become fast friends even though they don't know a ton about the new girl.

That's pretty much the book. I thought that the way the author developed the time period and the characters was well done. I really liked the narrator and how we get to understand her and her life.

However, the problem that I had with the book and this was just me, I wanted more from it. I wanted something else to be happening. The girls sort of live their life, but don't have much in the way of input. It seems like most of the story revolves around the death of Tupac and their reactions. Maybe the meaning was lost on me, and I'm not afraid to say that. I enjoyed it for what it was, a character study of life in an African American neighborhood, but really thought that there were missed opportunities to have the main character get more involved in the world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WiP Wednesday

I haven't talked much about my current project, mainly because I've been busy working on it.

I have started to get into a swing of things in regards to the characters and really living through the main characters eyes. There have been a few twists and turns along the way, but they have worked out better than I anticipated.

The only thing that is happening to me right now is I'm in the second act of the book and things are happening and things are generating conflict and all that good stuff, but I feel in my first draft that the pace is sort of up and down when it should be pedal to the metal.

I know it will get fixed in the rewrite and will smooth itself out during the many drafts that are to come, but right now it has me feeling antsy, like it might not work itself out. Have you ever felt that way? Felt like the second act in the story, where all the cool things are happening, is sort of up and down? How did you handle it? I know what I'm going to do, and that is continue along the course and relook at the couple of scenes that need to be tightened up. I'm not worried in the least, but thought that it would be interesting to see how you guys work out the second act.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Family Update

Since this blog is about a little bit of everything, I am going to update things about my family.

Since I can't remember the last update I gave, I am just going to dive in.

My ten year old has started doing choir. It gives her something to do and keep her away from the television and computer which she was previously spending way too much time on.

My five year old has started gymnastics and already moved up one level up to the "Sparklers" level, which is exciting for her. I think she's enjoying it immensely and really getting her more acquainted to being in an organized activity, which hopefully should make the transition to school easier.

My two year old has started to really talk and show personality. I really like these years because its very cool watching them develop into small people.

So to keep this writing related, we did an easter egg hunt at the zoo on Saturday and at our house on Sunday and it got me thinking about writing.

One thing that this made me think of was how while we are writing is how we like to slowly reveal the secrets (eggs) and develop the plot so that the reader (hunter) finds them in the order you want for an engaging story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

This is another book that I won in Michelle McLean's blog from a few months ago.

I didn't know what to expect when I picked it up. I'm glad I read it though because it raised a lot of questions. I really enjoyed the character as she seemed so real and relate able, despite the fact that she's going through her own issues.

The best part was the way that Mary Pearson slowly revealed the secrets of Jenna. It kept me wanting to know more. The pace was slow, but it developed along its own path and worked for this sort of story.

I don't want to spoil anything for you, but will state that the twists in the story surprised me and the ending is very heart warming. I would recommend this book for people that are looking for a different take on the character study.

The Classics

I have been out of modern books lately and decided to delve into some of the free classics on the Kindle store.

I downloaded about 11 of them so far, ranging from "The Scarlett Letter" to "Frankenstein." I started reading them last week and started with "The War of the Worlds," by H. G. Wells. Now this book was written back in 1898 and I mention that because I think it's important to my point.

The book drags, there is a lot of time spent on mundane details that do nothing to add to the plot. The characters are fabulous though and I really enjoy the action when it gets to it. However, I think writers back then had a different style that got you published.

Now days, you have to start off with a bang and keep the action going throughout otherwise the reader will get bored, distracted, and you lose him. Back in the early 20th century, a lot of the same distractions weren't around, so books were a very big source of home entertainment.

What do you think about the Classics now? Can you sit down and read them at the same pace you can books from today? I can't. I'm not afraid to admit it, but I still get through them, they just take me a lot longer.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?

Monday, April 18, 2011

This generation

I went and saw Scream 4 over the weekend. Now I'm a huge fan of the series, so far in that I actually have posters of the 3 first films somewhere in my closet. If I wasn't married probably hanging up...

Anyway I really enjoyed the movie, particularly the way that it handled this younger generation. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still not too old, but I'm talking about the Young adult market of today. The kids that are living high school (That glorious time...).

The reason that this matters is because they really showed how kids now days are media savvy, they don't read as much, they watch television, go to movies, play on facebook, play video games, almost a dozen other things that don't involve picking up a book and reading it.

So it got me thinking, now that writers have to compete with so much different interests, what do they bring that will draw the audience away from all of the flashy things. People don't have time to waste on things that don't interest them. I think I have the answer, well at least in my mind. I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments.

I think the writers have to work harder than they did before to grab the audience. That's why the first chapter, first page, first paragraph, heck even the first line is so important. You have to show the reader who has other things to waste their time with that you can keep them entertained. Not only that, but you have to keep reinventing yourself throughout the book to keep them hooked. One wrong step and uh oh the reader is going to go play some facebook game.

I think this is also why writers have to be involved in social media, because kids now can relate to it and if you can create a bond through the media you can get them interested to at least give it a shot. What you do with that shot is up to you, but it better live up to the readers expectation.

So what do you think? Am I way off base? Or do I have some clue what I'm talking about? I would love to hear what you think.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Characters taking over.

Have you ever thought your story was going to go one way and then as you are writing it, it takes a turn you didn't expect.

My current project just did this. A bad guy who I didn't think would be a bad guy just revealed himself. A bit early, but allows for major drama between the two throughout the rest of the book. I'm roughly 140 pages in.

Do you force yourself back to the plan you had in mind or do you brave it and let the characters take you on this new journey?

Right now I'm letting my characters take me on the journey, but I still have an end goal in mind and playing it out in my head, I think I can make it to that end goal while staying true to these turn in events.

What would you do in my position?

"Savy" by Ingrid Law

I won this book from Michelle Mclean's contest a couple months ago.

It is a simple book with a simple plot of getting to see her dad. Now after this, it gets all twisted and turny because of all the various things that happen during this trip. I don't want to ruin it, but the thing that I found most interesting is the cast of characters. Each one is so different from each other that it makes a normally ho-hum journey into a magical discovery of a story.

I really liked the voice of the piece. It's simple, yet effective because of the way that the main character sees the world. It really drew me into the world that the author was developing. Small things like how they try to hide their savy from the outside world while being surrounded by people who think they are just weird.

Things like this are what endeared me to this story and characters. I found out that there is a sequel, yet I'm not rushing out to buy it. Mainly because this was such a perfect little plot that I think any more might be too much. Has anyone read the sequel? How is it?

This might be a story I will be reading to my younger children when they grow up because it would be something that will stimulate their imagination. I recommend this book for anyone.

Parents just don't understand

I'm a young adult write, or I try to be. Lately my current project was called out because I was spending too much time on the parents. Having the kids relate to them, having the parents drive the action a bit. It will change more later, but I believe that the parents (the father especially) needs to drive it a bit because he's the mayor and something he says sets things in motion in a bad way for the main characters.

My question is, what is too much parental involvement? I've read books that the parents are there and you only get a small sense of them, basically you know they are the mom and dad and that's about it. Then I've also read books where the parents are there the entire time, almost like a pseudo-antagonist. Always getting in the way.

What do you think is the job of parents in Young Adult fiction?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Splatterhouse PS3 review

I haven't done a video game review in a long time and felt that since I will be finishing some books that I won in a contest (Thank you Michelle McLean) I will have reviews of the books I won coming up soon.

So on to the video game review. This game is a redone version of an early game back in the Genesis days. It's a beat'em up game with a gory twist. I found the gore to be fitting and the humor to be just right. I really enjoyed the combat and the satisfaction I got from destroying the various creatures.

I thought that the blood looked believable, with the gore in the splatter kills to be nice and realistic.

One of the things that became a nuisance was the camera had trouble at time. It sometimes became a distraction that could lead to your death at times. The biggest issue that I ran into were bugs and glitches that should have never been. It just showed bad quality assurance and left a bad taste in my mouth after I played it a lot.

I found the pacing of the story to be nice. It didn't seemed rushed and I thought it covered a lot of ground in terms of story. The characters were there and that's all they needed to be.

I would give this game an easy 4/10, and only because it's pretty easy to get through with some major glitches that would reset my system, or completely freeze it.

Grabbing the reader

I have noticed in my readings that sometimes the books don't grab me right away in the first chapter. There are some questions and I keep reading to find the answers, but overall if I don't get something by the fifty page mark its difficult.

You have probably heard that your first sentence has to hook your reader to keep them interested, so my question is, what do you do if you are reading a book and that first sentence doesn't hook you? Do you power through it regardless? Do you put it down and come back to it when you have nothing else?

In your writing, do you fret over the first line of your project? Do you want to make it sparkle because you need it to draw the reader in? I'm guilty of that. Very very guilty.

So how important do you think the opening sentence is to the book? The opening paragraph? The opening chapter?

Wrestlemania 27 and how professional wrestling can relate to writing.

I am a wrestling fan. I have been a reinvigorated fan as of 2009 roughly. I'm not a big fan at all, but I enjoy the matches sometimes. Now that it is out of the way, I was invited to a Wrestlemania Party today with some friends.

I have to admit that it was a very good show overall. Lots of drama, lots of action, and some "Oh my God, he didn't just do that moments."

I have to admit that despite all of this I enjoyed it for the entertainment that it was. It got me to thinking about my writing and I know wrestling isn't the pinnacle of writing, but they do emphasize something that every writer should practice.... A balance.

You can't have too much of one element in your writing. Too much action and your reader gets bored giving them the opposite effect you are looking for. (I've been guilty of this in my earlier writings.) Too much drama and the audience gets bored because they keep getting a build up that doesn't pay off as the ending is too anticlimatic. Too much bit stunts, you have to keep your high points within the reason of your story. If you go too far out there you lose your reader, which is the cardinal sin for writers.

So what do you do to keep the balance in your writing? Do you outline? Do you write on index cards (I'm thinking of doing this once I get my first draft down.)