Monday, May 7, 2012

My YA Work in Progress

I'm not sure of many of you were aware, but I've been working on a Young Adult fantasy novel with my sister for the past few months. Okay, well not necessarily—we've been planning for the past few months but we started the actual writing process last week and I am so excited about it.
       It's an idea we've had for the last few years. Since we were twelve, to be exact. My sister came up with a very vague idea that she thought would make a good story and four years later, what do you know? We're writing it! Though, to be blunt, it is so much better now than it was when we first began planning. I don't even know how to express the amount of poor story-telling our earlier plans possessed. We've wrote out the plans for this story so many times. There have been endless "first drafts" and we've given up on it for months at a time because it was just too awful. It was only last month when we decided to give it another go and come at it from a different angle. We scratched so many plot points and characters and replaced them with new twists and such that I feel are much stronger and will live a much better impression on the readers.
         And we've reached 18,000 words as of today! I'm really, really excited and anxious about it and I have got no idea how we're going to get it published because I haven't got the faintest idea of how to go about that, but I'm going to try not to think about that until later.
         Now, as we're still in an early phase of the process, I don't think I'll share too much about what the book is about. All that I can say is that it involves an epic quest, a bad boy love interest, and two completely different antagonists that won't stop until they get their hands on something that our main character possesses. I really do wish I could share more, but I think it's best if I save it for when we're closer to completing the final chapter. We've only completed a few chapters at this point and the first chapter is long because it's told in five perspectives—something that's necessary to tell the story efficiently, unfortunately. It was very difficult to get their voices to sound different yet still sound like they were coming from the same book.
         Sigh. I'm going off now to work on it now but I think I can leave you all with a little bit that we wrote a few days ago and that I like quite a bit. Let me know what you think, if that's possible. Thank you!

          I sigh as my eyes flicker upwards, resting on the sky. Stars hang lazily across the dark space, watchful. For a moment I wonder if they can see us. I mean, my father used to tell me stories about the stars. He said that when we die, our souls leave our bodies and float towards the sky, higher and higher until they wrap around the stars and sink in. I don't think I believed him then, but now I hope it's true. I hope he's not really gone, just waiting.
          "Kaida?" A voice says beside me, seeping into my ears and scattering my thoughts. The word is deep and right away I know who it is. A hand reaches out, tightening around my wrist. "Is that you?"
          I turn, peering through the darkness. Blue strips of light play across him for a moment and I make out the lines of his face, the soft slope of his jaw. His curled hair dances in all directions. A grin widens my mouth as I nudge my shoulder lightly against his.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

BOOK DESCRIPTION: At age 16, Rhine Ellery has four years to live. Thanks to a botched effort to create a perfect race, all females live to age 20 and males live to age 25. On the cusp of her 17th birthday, Rhine attempts to flee, but what she finds is a society spiraling out of control. (First book in The Chemical Gardens trilogy.)
MY OPINION: Sigh. This is another one of those books that felt like a dream to me, the edges all milky and blurred by sunlight. DeStefano's writing style is beautiful, only comparable to things like cherry blossoms and cosmic dust. Her words all seem to trail after one another, blending together, creating sentences and phrases that taste like sugar as they roll off your tongue. 
Don't misunderstand, though. This is not a happy story. While there are scenes and characters and settings that make me smile until my mouth hurts, there is always this constant, dark undertone being woven throughout the novel, and it's fantastic. I liked that Rhine let herself relax and have fun and make friends, but that she never forgot the circumstances of her whereabouts. She never forgot that she was there against her will and she never forgot that she had a brother, out there, looking for her.
Rhine is a good character, although, in my mind, she is not the most memorable. She seems to lose herself in the sea of strong-willed, butt-kicking YA heroines and I don't think she has enough strength to swim to shore. One thing that I can tell you, though, is that she is likable. Her voice is fresh and hazy and even though I don't agree with some of her choices, I can still see why she made them and why they make sense. 
There were a lot of secondary characters that I liked being in the presense of. Cecily and Jenna were Rhine's two sister wives and they were both extremely interesting. While in the beginning I found Cecily annoying, as I went through the book I couldn't help but fall in love with who she was and why she was that way. They both seemed like very real and fleshed out characters and they were very vivid as I continued to read. 
The one thing that I didn't agree with at all was Rhine's choice of love interest. There were two male characters that she could have potentially ended up with, one being Linden and another that you'll be introduced to when reading the story. I felt like the second one was a flat character, only created to stir the waters between Linden and Rhine, but apparently he wasn't. Apparently, he was a legitimate contender for Rhine's love but I didn't feel any electricity humming between them, I didn't see any spark. That was the one thing I found very disappointing. There's not much to say about our villain. He was very well-written. He scared me, he really did, and he was a much better villain than some of the one's I've read. Much, much better.
The fact that everyone only lives until twenty or twenty five is the most terrifying concept of this book and it added an element of suspense that was hard to get away from. Even though I knew that she had four years left to live, there was a sort of fragility in all of the characters and it was very interesting to see how it would all end up. 
I can't go into too much depth, but in short, this book was absolutely phenomonal. I adored it. It was one of those books that I never wanted to end and when it did, I was left feeling a little bit emptier inside. I am so excited now that the sequel Fever is hitting the shelves. You can bet your life that I'm going to be picking that one up.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Work in Progress: The Ice Festival

Blue light and the moon's glow. The people, all together, all moving like silent wind. The voices and the laughter. The feeling of winter, the air cold enough to leave skin feeling stretched, but instead leaving the skin feeling new. These are the things I experience only on nights like tonight—on the night of the Ice Festival. 
Surrounded by darkness, I'm herded along the path by the people closing in around me. Their bodies push against mine, their voices hushed when they speak. The ground slopes upward beneath my feet, and soon I find myself standing on top of a rise. I stop for a moment, as crowds of people continue to walk around me, and look down into the valley. The Main Tent sits below, white and shining beneath the moon's silver light. It almost looks like a giant web, so thin and beautiful it could fall apart with the pull of a single strand. I see the shadows of people moving behind it, their bodies edged in blue light. In front of the arched entrance, two Ice Guards stand with their gazes forward. I feel sorry for them. It would be awful to be stuck outside in the cold while the most beautiful show of the year is performed on the other side of the curtains. The Ice Festival is only put on once a year, when the Winter star is at its highest point. There are other festivals, of course, but I've never been to them because they take place in the other regions. I've heard the Fire Region has numerous festivals, one being the Festival of Lights. Sometimes I imagine it. Everywhere, everything, ablaze with light.  
"Kaida?" A voice says, and right away I know who it is. "Is that you?" A hand tightens around  my arm and I turn, peering at the person through the blackness that fills the space around me. Blue light plays across him for a moment and I make out the lines of his face, the slope of his jaw. His curled hair dances in all directions. A smile flutters on my lips as I nudge my shoulder lightly against his. Oll Throck.

Note: This is an excerpt from my current work in progress. It's a young adult fantasy novel that I hope to have published in the next three to five years, as I know finding an agent is difficult and the publication process is long and tiring. If you have anything that you feel I can improve, please let me know. Keep in mind that this is only the first draft. I'm having a lot of fun with it and am excited for the day where you will all get to read it. Cheers.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

BOOK DESCRIPTION: What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
MY OPINION: The light in my bedroom is off and pale moonlight is edging everything in silver. The static of my television is humming like a small ghost behind me and the sound is sinking into my skin and now I think that my body's humming, too. And I'm tiredI'm tired and my limbs are heavy and I feel like I'm already dreaming, which is why it's the perfect time to talk about this book. 
I think we're all aware of how magnificent Lauren Oliver's writing style is. She is truly, truly brilliant. Her words are like a spool of yarn and she knits them together one after another and creates something beautiful, something like a masterpiece. The honesty in this book is astounding. Never in my life have I read such a perfectly crafted teenage girl complete with a perfectly crafted group of friends that all shine with the sort of life that you don't normally find in novels. Although Sam and her group are the 'mean girls' of their school, I found them so likable and real that I didn't even pay much attention to that. It's rare to read a story in the perspective of the mean girl, you know? I liked how Oliver let us into Samantha's mind. We got to see the workings of the inner circle and the way they all act with each other and with other people. It was amazing. And, they were so funny. That's something that I noticed when reading. Samantha was probably the most well written teenage girl that I've ever read. Ever.
I know that this isn't the first time a story has been told where the main character repeats the same day of their life until they get it right but Before I Fall somehow manages to be different than anything else I've ever read. The fact that we got to see the affect that Sam's choices made each day, and how one thing she chose to do in the morning fell like a domino and affected everything elsethat was wonderful, it really was.The secondary characters were absolutely brilliant. Every single one of them was three dimensional and they were my friends by the end of the novel. Juliet Sykes was perfect. The way her mind worked and the way she reacted to things was very sad but it was honest and that's the most important. Kent. Oh, Kent. He was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I'm surprised that he'd stuck by Sam for that long with the way she acted and everything, but I'm so glad that he did. 
This novel was breathtaking. Honestly. The way it was told was so unique and it literally made me think about my life and the way I treat people. Life is such a strange thing. It can end at any time and none of us know what comes after and that is both comforting and terrifying all at once. In case you were still wondering, I suggest this to everyone and anyone. This book is important and it deserves all the attention in the world. 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

MY OPINION: In a world of recent and mediocre dystopian novels, Divergent definitely stood out. It was a book with a lot of hype and buzz surrounding it, even before its release. I picked this one up on my birthday last yearand though it took me a while to get around to it, when I did, I was sort of blown away. I didn't completely fall over, I just kind of stumbled. It was really good.  
I enjoyed this one a lot. It was unlike anything I've read. Although it did have a similar feel to The Hunger Games, the two books are completely different. There were so many instances that I felt my hands shaking like autumn leaves, my legs like tree branches in a windstorm. It had a lot of suspense, for sure. It was fantastic.
Tris (Beatrice) was a very strong character. I don't remember there being a single moment where I felt she was annoying, which is something that tends to happen when I'm reading from another teenage girl's perspective. I liked her. Her voice was new and refreshing and she was normal. She had thoughts and emotions that I could relate to, she felt the same things I would feel. Her character developed a lot throughout the novel and I can definitely say that she was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful addition to the list of YA Butt Kicking Heroines. Four was also a great love interest. I loved the fact that he was older and he was the leaderI'm not sure why, there was just something about it that I really enjoyed reading. He was a little bit flat compared to Tris but I mean, you can't blame the guy. I'd be flat compared to her as well. Their romance was very well written. It was well paced and there was an undeniable chemistry between them, you could almost feel it seeping through the pages. Sigh.
I thought Roth did an amazing job at setting the different scenes, as well. Everything was very vivid and clear in my mind and I don't think I could have asked for anything more regarding her writing style and talent. You can tell that she's had some practice because her words seem to flow like water and you cannot help but to lose yourself in them. 
I loved that sort of 'the government is our enemy' element that it had to it. That's one of my favorite things to see in books, and Roth executed it perfectly. 
The secondary characters were brilliant, as well. Even the darker ones, like Peter and Edward. They all seemed like flesh and bone. None of them were flat. They were all real people with real thoughts and emotions and motives and that's one of the best things you can get out of a book, ever.
I suggest that you pick this one up. It was so good. And it gets better as you go along. You'll laugh and you'll cry and you'll sleep with one eye opened to make sure that you don't get stabbed. I am so excited for the sequel Insurgent. Roth set a pretty high bar for herself. Let's see if she can bring it one notch higher.

Note: I've read that Divergent is going to be made into a film by Summit Entertainment- the same Summit that brought Twilight to theaters worldwide. Although some may feel that too many YA novels are hitting the big screen, I think this one would make lovely company for The Hunger Games and Twilight. It would be lovely in the cinema. Not lovely as in pretty. Lovely as in horrifying.

Writing: Story Worlds

I think that a big part of any novel is the story world that it's set in. Often, it can either make or break a novel. I'm currently working on an untitled young adult fantasy novel that I hope to have published within the next three to five years and writing the story world is one of the most interesting and difficult things about it. Not just the story world, but the different settings that I want my characters to visit (within reason, of course).
One thing that I've gotten into doing is looking at pictures for inspiration. For me, this is a really effective way of getting into the feel of the scene that I'm planning to write. In the novel that I'm writing now, I know that there's going to be a scene where my MC and the LI (love interest) come across a gypsy camp, and spend the night in a caravan. (I feel really uncomfortable referring to him as the love interest because he's much more than that. But for now, we'll leave it at that.) I need to be able to describe the way the gypsy's lantern casts shadows of dim light across the wall, the way the room smells of spices and mint leaves. I need to explain the way pale moonlight trickles in through the windows, edging our love interest's face in silver.
Creating atmospheres is extremely important when writing a scene. You cannot fail to explain what the character is smelling and feeling and tasting and seeingbecause if you do, you're leaving the reader in the dark. And reader's do not like being left in the dark, take my word for it. There are also going to be a few scenes in my novel where our characters are travelling through the forest at night, their bodies drenched in pale moonlight. I need to be able to make the reader believe that they are in a forest, rather than sitting warm beneath a mountain of bed sheets while the static of their television hums quietly in the background. And how am I going to do this? That's simple: by practicing.

CREDIT: Picture One / Picture Two

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

BOOK DESCRIPTION: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end
MY OPINION: I don't know about this one. I am sitting here trying to put my feelings into words, literally reaching into my mind and trying to pull something out, but it's proving to be very difficult. When it comes down to it, City of Bones isn't really anything that I haven't read a thousand times before.
Clary is one of my biggest problems. The way she was written, she was continuously contradicting herself. She explains that she is shy, yet in the first chapter she follows a group of strange looking people into a storage closet because she feels like they're going to stab another boy with a knife. She hides in the closet, planning to merely demand them not to hurt each other. I don't understand that at all. I know that if I was suspecting a possible stabbing, I would not follow after them into a small space. I would scream, I would call for help, I would do something...but I would not put myself in danger by trying to talk some sense into them. And she also hated people for no reason other than the fact that they were prettier than she was. I'm serious. Her and Isabelle spend a good chunk of the novel completely detesting other one because they felt threatened by the other's beauty. It was ridiculous.
Jace. Oh, Jace. I can see why Clary would find him physically attractive (his tawny hair and golden eyes) but I don't see why their relationship progressed any more than that. Jace was completely self-absorbed. I mean, completely. He was your typical rude bad-boy that is continuously being reminded of how charming he is, when really, he isn't. He's an ass to Clary, who seems completely unaffected by his rude remarks. Don't get me wrong. I like sarcasm. I like witty jokes and I like confident characters, but Jace seems to take everything one step too far. I don't know. I just didn't find him appealing, and I wish he'd been more of a fleshed out character because I feel like the idea of him has a lot of promise, if that makes sense. But I do love his name. Jace. It feels like a sugar cube on my tongue. I just really enjoy characters with nice names.
Also, the story world just felt like a regular walk in the park for me. In any type of dystopian or fantasy novel, the story world should be something that the author thinks a lot about and this one just didn't cut it. When I read the title City of Bones, I was expecting a little bit more. But through the whole story, we're just stuck in Manhattan and I don't know...I would have liked it if the Bone City had been more than it was.
Let's talk about the villain, or lack-thereof. First off, his name is Valentine. This alone should be enough, but I doubt it is. The villain felt so forced. I didn't see any reasoning behind his motives whatsoever. All we know is that he wants to completely exterminate anything that isn't humanbut why? I wish Clare would have let us into the villain's mind a little bit more so we could see what he was thinking and why he thought that way. But since she didn't, Valentine came off as a two dimensional character with no personality whatsoever.
It was a decent book, I can say that. It did take me a little bit of effort to get through it. Clare's writing, however, does show a lot of potential. I'm looking forward to seeing any books she may publish in the future, outside of the Shadowhunter world.