Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: Behemoth


By: Scott Westerfeld

Review by: K Carson

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.

Characters: I can't get over how much I love Westerfeld's characters. The worldbuilding really amazes me, but what really makes this series fantastic is its characters. There were several new characters introduced in this installment, like the rebel Lilit or the enigmatic American reporter Eddie Malone. The characterizations were thorough and well developed.

I decree: 5/5 Stars

Plot: The plot in this book feels transitiionary. The stakes are clearly laid out, but the tension isn't as strong as it was in Leviathan. Behemoth's strength lies mostly in its characters and the evolving tensions between them. The climax in this book leads me to believe that it's mostly set up for the conclusion of the trilogy. There is nothing I can say that overly bothered me about the plot, but when held against Leviathan, it falls flat.

I decree: 3/5 stars

Fundimentals: Keith Thompson once again blesses Behemoth with his breathtaking artwork. I wish more books had artwork like this! As I mentioned earlier, the tension was lacking. But Westerfeld's world building definitely took my breath away. We were able to glimpse a true Clanker city, which was a differnet from the mostly Dawrwinist world we saw in Leviathan. Westerfeld's writing style is still to the point and both Deryn and Alek's voices are consice, acurate and a joy to read.

I decree: 4/5 stars.

Overall: Read it. I adore Westerfeld's steampunk. I can't wait for the last installment. Highly recomended.

12/15 stars.

Refer to my Leviathan Review for Westerfeld and Thompson's websites.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why I Do Not Participate in NaNo

I've been having a bad coupla days lately. It's the time of year when crap upon crap just keeps piling up. And it doesn't help that the first snowfall up here puts everybody (but me) in a foul mood.

And I've almost finished plotting for my next book, which will be a prequel for Shell. I'm ready to go for the first of November to start writing.

So naturally, since it's November, I get people asking me: "Oh, so you're going to do NaNo this year?"

Que the facepalm.

For those of you not familiar with the whole process, National Novel Writing Month, o(otherwise known as NaNoWriMo) takes place every November. Writers sign up and pledge to write a 50K novel in 30 days.

Most non-writers think it's an absolutely horrific idea to write an entire novel in a month. That's like, a whole novel! 50 000 words! Omigawd!

I don't share that sentiment. When I start writing, I write fast. My average time is about 2-2.5 months per novel. The shortest time it ever took me to write a novel was three weeks.

Could I pull it off? Yeah. And I have before. But here's the thing: NaNo puts a lot of stress on me, because when I set a deadline for myself, I move Heaven and Earth to meet it. And writing is something that I love to do. I'm very motivated, and 9/10, when I start a novel, I finish it.

But when I do NaNo, something in me cracks. I get really stressed and no longer care about what I'm writing, just that I'm writing. Usually, at the end of the month, I have a finished novel that's a hunk of crap. And instead of using that novel to get half a great novel done, I used it to finished a whole crappy one.

I work well under deadlines, but when I set deadlines for myself, they're realistic. I know how well I work and I strive to do the best that I can. But I cannot write a good novel in a month. I don't think many people can.

That's not to say that NaNo isn't a great experience. You're working side-by-side with professional and amateur writers. I don't think many people use their NaNo novel for something they actually want to sell, and if they do I suspect they need a fair bit of revising. But some people need that motivation to pump out that novel, and I get that. Go motivation! Go bettering yourself! Go you for undertaking that Herculeon challenge! Writers are not people who sit around waiting for inspiration to stike. They're the people that sit in their chairs and write, even if they aren't feeling 100% that day.

It's the BIC rule-- Butt In Chair. Follow it, live it, love it. During NaNo, and the rest of the year, too.

So I'll probably finish my novel somewhere in December while the rest of you guys are polishing your NaNo masterpieces. I'll catch up, I promise.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Duff's New Book "Elixer"

Hilary Duff's recent release of Elixer has been ruffling some feathers from authors who are questioning the recent string of celebrity books. Ones like Justin Bieber's memoir and Miley Cyrus' memoir.

It's easy to hate these stars. I mean, when you're a writer vying for an anget's or publisher's attention, it's obnoxious to see someone who most likely didn't even write their own book waltz right past you. While my friend and I were having a lovely discussion, I broke off mid-sentence to rant when my eyes landed on Bieber's memoir. (although this has more to do with the fact that he's sixteen and what would he have to write about?)

After I finished ranting, I had to take a deep breath and realize the ramifications of Duff publishing her book. What does it acheive? Diehard Duff fans will go into the bookstore to get her book, and who knows, they might pick up something else? This will get money to the publishers, the agent and the ghost writer. It gets publicity for book stores and brings people in who might not go to a book store as often as we'd like them too.

Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, sometimes we rant. But when we think about it, Duff's book benefits us, the unpublished writers of the world. Because if a publishing company is making more money, they're more likely to take a chance and buy a book of an unpublished author.

Sure, it may not increase our chances greatly, and if we write a crappy book it doesn't matter how many teen celebritites write something, we won't get our foot in the door.

But being the optimist that I am, I have to look at the lighter side of this. What do we honestly get about bitching and whining about these actors and singers who have publishers kissing their asses? We don't get anything. Sometimes it's fun to be bitchy, but it's better to channel that energy into working on perfecting your next book.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Query Woes.

Shell is complete, and there's nothing quite like the sensation of finishing a book. Especially this one, since I honestly believe this is the greatest thing I ever written. It's always nice to have something you can wave in the air and say, "I made this!" even if it is just a wad of paper.

My baby is off with betas, exchanging ideas and working to become a better book. In the mean time, I have some time to myself to work on my query.

Oh Dear Lord.

I don't think many writers enjoy writing quieries. Not only because you're taking a book you spent months crafting and summing it up in a few brief paragraphs, but because there are so many rules that go with queries. There are rules to writing novels, and you can break every one of them, so long as it works. With queries, even if it works, breaking the rules is frowned upon.

I've compiled a list of common queries errors that I always have to keep at the forefront of my mind when I'm struggling to write my queries:

1) Length. No, no, no. I can't keep it to 250 words! You have to hear about all these fabulous subplots, like how the dad is evil but he doesn't mean to be evil,. he's a good guy, and how he met the MCs Mom and the history of the whole world. I have to go into detail about the socioeconomic pressures that motivate my MC!

2) No more than two characters. But I really want to tell you about my favorotrite character Puck, who doesn't have much time in it but he's totally awesome. And this other buy who doesn't actually speak, and the dad, and I have to talk about the MC's second cousin twice removed...

3) Keep the focus on your MC. Nah. I think I'll write the entire query about Bob. He's this guy that the MC meets at school. They never talk, but I think his perspective will really illustrate how awesome my book is.

4) Your MC MUST be active. LIke how my MC is discovered by the evil guy and gets kidnapped and then he's saved by these other people and doesn't actually do anything because he was drugged?

5)Be specific. Or I could talk about this other really cool thing but keep it a complete and utter secret so the agent's scratching their head and wondering what the hell I'm talking about through the entire query. If they have no idea what's going on, they'll request pages for sure!

6) Hook them in fast. Fast? Of course I can be fast! My hook is only six pages into my query. Talk about speedy!

-Le sigh- Back to the drawing board with me.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Fiction for a Reason.

Have you ever read a book that you can't help but look at and go, "There's no way that would happen."

I call these my Not Likely books. My favorite would be Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, book review can be found here. These are not the books that are so terrible you want to throw at the wall, or the worldbuilding is incomplete and doesn't make sense. These are books with realistic traits (like a relationship, mostly) that you want to scratch your head and say "Why doesn't life work like that?"

Or, "Why, when we write, don't we paint a realistic portait of the world?"

I'll tell you why: because nobody wants to read a realistic portrait of the world.

A lot of life doesn't have meaning. Or, at least, if it does, we aren't able to see the full picture in our short lives. A man's wife dies while he's away fighting in WWII. He comes home, living the rest of his life alone, until he finally dies of lukemia at the age of 62. Now, there's a great potential for a good novel in that premise. You can have a lot of conflict, character driven action and real heart. But in fiction, characters have to acomplish something. They have to overcome their conflicts. If this premise were to be turned into a novel, this man might have to overcome his own depression and selfishness, his bitterness, or he may have to overcome the society that is denying him his wife's life insurance. Whatever. Even if the victory is small, the character has to acheieve some kind of goal.

A book in which this man tries to overcome his bitterness, then fails, and then retreats back into his house and dies alone wouldn't be very satisfying. There are plently of real-life stories of people giving up, failing, dying, leaving, whatever. We don't want to read about someone who doesn't succeed, even in the smallest way.

Reading is an escape from reality, just as television and video games are. We don't want to escape into a reality in which characters fail. We want to see them succeed in what they need to succeed in, so that we have hope that we can succeed in our own lives.

Hell, look at memoirs. The ones that do the best involve the writer overcoming the odds in their life. The fact that it's true draws people to it.

So yeah, I love Perfect Chemistry, but is it realistic? No. But if it was realistic, I wouldn't love it nearly as much as I do. Sometimes, as writers, we need to allow ourselves to step away from reality and venture a little bit farther into the world of make-believe.

Also, exciting, crazy news! I've got a twitter account. You can drop by if you'd like. I don't have much up yet, but I plan to get the ball rolling soon.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Mm... liquid courage.

Hello everyone out there in internet land. As you sit reading this post, where are you?

If you're like me, it is one o'clock, you just got out of your classes, and am now sitting in a corner of the bar trying to make eyecontact with strangers.

Yes, I am that creepy person sitting alone in the bar that you avoid at all costs. Why am I drinking at one in the afternoon? Because I suck at making friends.

This may come off as a slightly skewed reason for drinking in the middle of the day. Well, being the little writer that I am, I spend most of my time hiding in my room pounding out characters and struggling to create some semblance of reality with my words. So, naturally, I'm socially inept. When people try to talk to me, sometimes I sit there and stare with mouth agape. (This also happens when I'm talking on forums, it's just nobody can see it.)

My mother is very concerened about this, being the social butterfly that she is, so she tries to get me to do things she thinks will help me meet people.

Hence the bar in the middle of the day.

Why am I indulging her? Because I am a sad, lonely kid looking for someone to spend my afternoons with. And as I'm sitting here, burying myself in my laptop and trying to work up the courage to talk to the guys by the pool table, I can't help but wonder how I can sit here, being the chicken shit that I am, and yet most of my characters are rash, rude, and often don't hesitate to speak their mind.

How can I write a character that is utterly confident in him/herself if I myself am not confident enough to talk to inhebriated individuals at my university's pub? How am I able to convey swave and sophisticated when most of the time I feel like a bumbling moron?

I realize that most of writing has to do with imagination and immitating reality. I mean, I can write about magic without ever seeing someone shoot a lightning bolt from their hands. What's so different about writing a confident character when I'm sitting in the corner nursing my smirnoff? I actually think there's a huge differnece.

Expelcially for young adult writers, there is a huge emphasis on character. Teens like people we can relate to. (Adults too, so I'm not leaving out other writers.) So you can make up how magic works, even if you've never sat and saw someone preform a spell. But when it comes to characters, you need to really experience different things to propperly articulate what you mean.

For example, if you're a realatively outgoing person, and you're writing a character that is anything but, than go to a public place (doesn't have to be a bar) and take a seat in the corner. Don't talk to anyone. Just sit and observe, and think how someone might react who was too afraid to get up and be themselves. Think about what they might look at, how they might sit, how they would reason with themselves why they shouldn't get up and talk to that cute girl/boy and why it's so much better if she/he sat there and studied for their history test.

And as a realtively reserved person myself, I need to hurl myself into situations that I might find uncomfortable (like talking to strangers) to get a real grip on how a character with confidence in themselves might act or feel in that situation.

Doesn't mean a few drinks beforehand won't help.

Now, I'm going to chug down the last of my smirnoff and head over to the pool tables to see if I can strike up a conversation with a real human being.