Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: Silver Phoenix

Let me start by saying Silver Phoenix is a charming story. It's filled with exotic creatures and people. And demons. Set in a land similar to China, it's a unique YA novel. It could be that I've been reading too much YA urban fantasy, but I can honestly say I've never read a YA that's struck me as so fantastical.

Ai Ling is a young unmarried woman who sets off to find her father, gone missing during his trip to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams. (I love that name. It fills my head with flowering trees and ponds and streams with those delicate Asian bridges. Just from the name!) On the road, she meets Chen Yong, a young man in search of his birth parents, as well as demons, goddesses, monsters, dragons, laughter and tragedy. The imagery is vivid and compelling, creating places I've never even dreamed out here in the working world.

I'm very used to reading books with strong women protagonists, and Ai Ling certainly doesn't start that way. Even while her fears annoyed me, I admired her determination to push on anywayt. I'll admit that it was an interesting journey for me as a reader, watching Ai Ling go from timid mouse to bold phoenix. (Har har. Couldn't resist.)

This is a wonderful tale of finding strength and courage, and breaking out of social norms. I highly recommend Silver Phoenix to everyone, no matter their age. There's something in this one for everyone.

Sadly, I don't think you'll find this one in most book stores. So go online and order it.

Hi Cindy! *waves*

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Endings Suck

The end of a book is nearly as important as the beginning. The start of a good novel pulls the read in, entices them to read more. It's the hook line and sinker.

Ends are the dessert. The stuff that fills you up but leaves you hungry for more.

Ending are hard to write. Really hard. I've rewritten the last quarter of this draft three, maybe four times, trying to get everything right. Because it's the black moment, the finally battle, the resolution and that tasty bit that makes a reader want the next book.

They suck the life out of you! Mentally, emotionally, and creatively. They're like the writing version of vampires. Only less sparkly. Though granted, there are a lot of sparkly endings out there, and if that works for your book, then go for it. I mean the actual writing.

When your ending sucks everything you have in you and demands more, and you feel like ripping your hair out, banging your head against the wall, or taking up hard liquor, take a deep breath and give it more. I love telling people that nothing in life worth having is ever easy. A great ending is defiantly worth having, and it's not easy.

Don't give up, though. Dessert is the best part. For you and the reader.

Disclaimer: This post was written after a long day of working on the ending of a novel. The writer cannot be blamed for any or all confusion this post might cause.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unnecessary Violence

I'm working on the second draft of ANGELIC DEMON. I'm in the last 20,000 words. The home stretch. It's where all the villain motivations are revealed, Jacky saves the day, and I (hopefully) give enough closure for the book to stand alone, while leaving enough tasty tidbits that I could continue the series.

I've been there for over a week. Here's why:

What I had originally planned involved a lot of violence. A lot. To be perfectly honest, I'm not great with the writing blood and gore and doing horrible things to my characters. I've rewritten this chapter three times now, and it still doesn't feel right.

Then I realized why.

1) My villain didn't have any motivation for being a villain. Um, oops. This is a big no, no. Villains have to have a reason. The best villain advice I've ever been given is "Villains are the heroes of their own stories."

I put the writing on hold until I got the motivation figured out. It took me a while, and there are still a lot of wrinkles that need to be ironed out, but I got the over-all big picture. Just by doing that one thing, a whole new aspect of my villain's personality came out. Zomg, he actually started to feel like a person in my head.

2) Unnecessary violence isn't a good thing. When my villain was just a villain because I needed one, without drive or direction, the violence worked. It was some of the hardest stuff I'd ever written, but it was good. It also didn't work. At. All. There wasn't any reason behind it, except to make my bad good look really bad, and that's not good enough.

3) The end doesn't justify the means. Now that my villain had fresh motivation, violence--enough a little dose of it--just didn't fit right. Why on earth would the villain start with violence when persuasion could get him what he wants just as easily, and without the mess. There will be plenty of coercing violence later, but it should be later, not right up front.

All this taught me that I need to pay more attention to all my villains. You can't stick them in the book just because you need the additional conflict. If you do that, I can almost guarantee headaches and heartaches will abound.

Remember: Villains are people too, and like all people, they have thoughts, feelings, and something that drives them. If they don't, then they're just a crutch for your plot to lean on, and not a very sturdy one at that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So Many Types of Tension

Back in May, at the Backspace Writer's Conference, someone (I'd have to do some digging to figure out who, exactly) said "Every chapter should ratchet the tension up a notch." Which got me to think, as it was meant to do, about the different types of tension I use in each chapter.

The list (I'm really fond of lists, have you noticed?) started off fairly simply. Action, Romance, Character. Also pretty self-explanatory.

Then I added one for Romance/Action, because there was a chapter that had both, and it felt important to point out. Later, there came a chapter that didn't have action, or romance. I suppose I could have labeled it as character, but that didn't feel quite right. It was a big reveal moment. Okay then. Reveal got added to the list, and after talking with some Purgies over on Absolute Write, Complication, and Black Moment were also added to the list.

And today, I came across another chapter that didn't really fit into any other tension type. It got labeled Buildup. Buildup of what? Well, in this case, it's the build of tension and suspense to lead into the horrible thing that happened to one of the supporting characters.

I'm amazed by how many different types of "tension" is used in a novel. And I'm sure different people have different tension types.

Here's my question for you. If you went through and labeled each of your chapters according to the type of tension it uses to build up the over all tension of the story, what would your list look like?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July's To-Read List

I find it strange that I tend to read more when I'm writing than any other time. There's something relaxing about reading a great book at the end of a long writing day. I guess it servers as a reminder for what I'm working for, and is tangible proof that it is possible to get published.

Slowly, but very surely, the stack--and box--of books I have that need to read is being whittled away. Eventually, I'm going to have to start boxing the books I have read, because the shelf where they're stacked is getting pretty stuffed, and the pile has started to spread to my sister's book case. (Whoops.)

So the list grows, but more books are crosses off the list than added to it (for the most part.) It's been fun, watching it change.

The List (in no particular order)

Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson
Well of Eternity - Richard A. Knaak
Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Trollop - Charlaine Harris
From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris
Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
Voyager - Diana Gabaldon
Magic in the Blood - Devon Monk
Magic in the Shadows - Devon Monk
Dragon Bones - Patricia Briggs
Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs
Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
Silver Borne - Patricia Briggs
Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
City of Ashses - Cassandra Clare (borrowed)
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card (borrowed from brother, don't actually own)
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Feast of Souls - C.S. Friedman
Kushiel's Scion - Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Justice - Jacqueline Carey (Don't actually own this one. Don't know how that happened.)
Kushiel's Mercy - Jacqueline Carey
Banewrecker - Jacqueline Carey
Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
Glass Houses - Rachel Caine
The Dead Girls' Dance - Rachel Caine
Midnight Alley - Rachel Caine
Feast of Fools - Rachel Caine
Lord of Misrule - Rachel Caine
Carpe Corpus - Rachel Caine
Firestorm - Rachel Caine
Thin Air - Rachel Caine
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin
The Gunslinger - Stephen King
Prince of Dogs - Kate Elliott
The Burning Stone - Kate Elliott
The Last Wish - Andrzej Sapkowski
Genesis of Shannara - Terry Brooks
Children of Chaos - Dave Duncan
In the Realm of the Wolf - David Gemmell
Hero in the Shadows - David Gemmel
The Becoming - Jeanne C. Stein
The Scent of Shadows - Vicki Pettersson
Dragonfly - Frederic S. Durbin
Personal Demon - Kelley Armstrong
No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong
Broken - Kelley Armstrong
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik
Night World Vol. 3 - L.J. Smith
The Secret Circle - L.J. Smith
The Night of the Solstice - L.J. Smith
The Hunter - L.J. Smith
The Chase - L.J. Smith
The Kill - L.J. Smith
Changes - Jim Butcher
Beauty - Robin McKinley
Spindle's End - Robin McKinley
Tithe - Holly Black
Valiant - Holly Black
Ironside - Holly Black
Vamped - Lucienne Diver
Speak of the Devil - Jenna Black
The Dust of 100 Dogs - A.S. King
Helpless - MJ Pearson
Bullet - Laurell K. Hamilton
Graceline - Kristin Cashore
Black Magic Sanction - Kim Harrison
Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green
A Devil in the Details - K.A. Stewart
Red Hot Fury - Kasey MacKenzie
The Switch - Lynsay Sands
Silver Phoenix - Cindy Pon

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Book Review: A Devil in the Details

Jesse James Dawson fights the good fight for lost souls. Literally. He's a champion that fights demons to win back souls of those who lost them in a bargain.

Jesse is such a smart ass. I love his quips, and snarky personality. Mostly, I love the fact that he has a family. Mom, brother, wife and daughter. A lot of main characters in urban fantasy seem to have a big lack of familial relations. (Usually. There's more than just this one exception.)

She does such a wonder job painting pictures of her characters. Axel, especially, holds a place in my heart. (Erm... just not one big enough for him to get to my soul.) Despite being a little slower paced, with more attention to character relations, the story moved really well.

I want more backstory. There's so many tantalizing glimpses of it. Hopefully we'll get more as more books unravel.

It was a quick read, and fully entertaining. There were some great twists and turns, and I'm gnashing my teeth. Ms Stewart, I daresay your ending is enough to drive a reader nuts. If I stalk you until the release of the next book, you've no one to blame but yourself. (And I get to say this because I (kinda sorta) know her. No real creepy stalking involved, I promise.)

Ms Stewart is one awesome lady, by the way. I'm glad I got to know her before her feet were set firmly on the road to fame. Good luck and happy writing, fellow purgie!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Um, No.

"Epic fiction fantasy."

Much redundant redundancy?