Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In which my prof rocks

Today was, as my friends and I have dubbed it, "the second first day of school." School started yesterday, but we still had new classes to go to today (which is also the reason I've been sparse online--sorry fellow campaigners. I'll get commenting soon.)

In my last class of the day, English 291, my professor went over the syllabus. We're starting off the year with Beowulf. And so my professor asks, "Why are we reading Beowulf?" We give him some decent answers, but none of them really fulfill his question. So he dives further. "Why read Beowulf? Why read Shakespeare? Why read Charles Dickens? Why read Twilight?"

Now, I don't know if you've ever been in a college English class when the title Twilight was dared uttered. But you get an explosion of groans at the mention of the word. I think the English classes I go to have extra contempt about it, because our university's name is on the back flap of all the books, so in order to compensate, students need to be ultra-hateful and superior toward it.
So, now you can imagine it, a room of 30 students verbally declaring their superior intellect through moaning while I stay silent since, yes, I once loved the books and I do admit I have a guilty pleasure in them.

Now of course I realize that my prof had set this all up. Hearing us, he asked, "What? What's so bad about Twilight?"
The rest of this really just has to be told in script form.

Twilight hater: It has no substance! Bella doesn't even do anything!
Prof: You realize that we'll be reading about guys sitting around, drinking mead, and boasting about how he swam against another guy for 13 days? How is that substance?
Twilight hater: Ugh, I just hate Bella, she's annoying!
Sensible student: Whether or not we like Twilight, it's had a huge cultural impact. Before Twilight, vampires were unpopular. Now authors are spitting out vampire books, and there's movies and TV shows about them.
[We have some more discussion about cultural impact]
Prof: A lot of you mentioned Harry Potter earlier and how much you like those books. What makes it better than Twilight?
Harry Potter fan: Harry Potter has a lot more depth to it and layers, like references to the Holocaust and WWII.
Prof: How do you know Twilight doesn't have a meaning between the vampires and werewolves as outcasts from society, but still can't work together?
[More of the Twilight hater. She was very vocal]
Prof: Okay, but you guys know that Pride and Prejudice has no depth or substance, either. The "novel" was considered to be trash when it was written.
[All of the girls (97% of the class) breaks out in protest. Prof quickly assures us he likes Pride and Prejudice, but he hates the 2005 Kiera Knightley movie, gains approval again, and discusses the awesome 6-hour version]
Twilight hater: Bella's annoying. She doesn't do anything. She can't even choose!
Prof: You know, in the 1950s thru the 1970s, Hamlet was seen as the man who couldn't decide--it's even a line in the Lawrence Olivier version. And that's Shakespeare. Besides, do you guys know why Shakespeare wrote? He wanted to make money. He wanted a coat of arms, to become a gentleman, and he made money off of his plays. Very few of them published in his time. He didn't care about writing [cue snooty English accent] literature. But now Shakespeare practically has his own religion. So what is substance in literature? Is it there already, or do we put it there?

Then class was over.
This was a really amazing experience for me. I mean, you take something that is now currently mocked by all of those in scholarship, and you argue that it could be as great as Shakespeare.
Now, I don't really believe that. As much as I can bring out the fan in me, I'm not going that far. But it still made me consider more possibilities, and why things are put into the canon we study as English majors. Maybe it doesn't need the symbolism and deeper meaning. Maybe it just needs to be culturally impacting, and that's what really makes it literature.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Title: Fire 
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Penguin Group
Why I read it/how I found it: It's the companion novel to Graceling.

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

I really enjoyed this concept of the "monster" beings. In Fire every species has their monsters, ones with brightly colored hair and extremely beautiful, who can manipulate others around them. They then reproduce with other creatures of their same species and pass on the monster gene. Fire is the last of the human monsters. Her emotional struggle with her father, Archer, and her own identity is very interesting. In this book there is one character from the companion novel Graceling. Unfortunately, this tie-in came out way too forced to me. The side of it had nothing to do with Fire or the characters around her, it was just a plug to call Fire a companion novel rather than a separate book on its own. I also felt a lack of action at the end of the book, but it was bearable to get through even without it.

Other information: A third companion novel, tentatively titled Bitterblue is in the process of being written. Kristin Cashore's website is here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sparkfest: My Inspiration

Over on Christine Tyler's blog The Writer Coaster, she has a blogfest featuring the books and authors who have really inspired us as writers. These are the questions she asked:
  1. What book made you realize you were doomed as a writer?
  2. What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
  3. Or, is there a book or author that changed your world view?
And so here are my responses:
1. When I read Harry Potter the first (couple dozen) time, I was a young, young writer. I loved, loved, loved the series. But it wasn't really until this past year I realized I was doomed. I mean, obviously J.K. Rowling has made millions (or more) off of HP, and we can't expect her type of success. But the way she weaves mythology, magic, religion, alchemy, and so many different threads into her larger tale is so astounding. And not only that, but her work with HP is just magical. I'll never produce anything half so amazing as HP.

2. Well, my WIP features a princess as the MC, so I might be able to trace this back to my Disney and Swan Princess days. But, if anything, I would really attribute it to Gail Carson Levine and her books, especially Ella Enchanted and The Two Princess of Bamarre as well as the short Princess Tales she wrote. While my WIP is intended for an older YA audience opposed to an MG one, these books that I grew up with definitely set me up for my current WIP.

3. Jane Austen changed my views on day-to-day activities, and taught me about balance. C.S. Lewis taught me how the spiritual can be in anything. Jay Asher made me stop and think about how one of my actions could affect someone else. But I have to ultimately give this one to Suzanne Collins for her work with The Hunger Games. I kind of thought about war before, but not to the extent that Collins made me. I came to face with all of the gray areas of war, life, and government after Mockingjay. I'd never stepped back from a book and asked myself, "What would I do if I were in this situation?" I've never self-evaluated myself more than when I read this series.

Join in on the blogfest! There's still two more days to post!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Campaign

Hey everyone! Rachel Harrie is hosting a Campaign meant to build writer's platform. It's going to be a great way to get connected with other writers online. You can find out more about it on Rachel's blog Rach Writes.

Music for Writing

I'm not talking about music that reminds you of your book, or music you listen to while writing. Sometimes, hearing a song just reminds me of what I'm feeling about my writing. These are the songs for me, not my book or characters or setting. Just for me.

The fabulous Regina Spektor's song Eet reminds me of those times I'm in despair and wondering why the heck am I doing this again?
A song that always reminds why it is that I write is Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield.
And if I ever feel like just giving up, Josh Groban's You Are Loved always puts me in a better mood.

Do you have any "you" songs for writing, or life, that you feel are just meant for you?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Why I read it/how I found it: Stephanie Perkins was at a book signing that I went to.

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all... including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Usually, contemporary books aren't my favorite. Nothing against that genre, it's just not really my thing. But this book was a lot of fun. It was so much fun exploring Paris with Anna and waiting for that French kiss to come around. I really loved how Perkins creates her characters. They all have unique personalities and quirks about them that just make them feel so alive and real. They all have their flaws, which I really appreciated. Because even though Anna is crushing on an American-British-French guy, he's not perfect, and neither is Anna. And through these flaws that help them grow as characters, I felt like even though this was a light read, I still got something out of it without being bogged down by some Great Big Message.

Other information: Stephanie Perkins' website is here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The One You'd Never Suspect

First, I want to thank Laura Josephsen for giving me the Liebster blog award. I've already gotten this one, and I'm busy right now getting ready to head back up to school (going there today!) so I'm passing on the rest of it. But check out Laura's blog and follow! Thanks again Laura!

My mom and I have really been getting into 24. We never watched it when it was on TV, so we've been renting it. We've gotten through the second season and holy cow is it intense!

Warning: I will now start spoiling 24, and Harry Potter. Just in case anyone still cares.

In the second season, there is a jaw-dropping, oh-my-gosh-did-that-really-happen moment that pointed out something really obvious to me that's used when crafting a story. It's something that's done so much, you don't really even think about it anymore. Or, at least, I'd never thought about it.

First, for background on the story, there has been a discovery of a nuclear bomb planted in LA by a terrorist organizations called Second Wave. The audience is introduced to the Warners. Kate's little sister Marie is getting married that day to Reza Naiyeer, a English man of middle eastern descent that works for their father. Mr. Warner is a financial consultant of some kind. Kate is suspicious of Reza, and has a P.I. investigate him. It turns out, money from Mr. Warner's company went through to Second Wave by Reza. Kate hides this from Marie, wanting to protect her baby sister. But then the federal agency CTU (made up for the show) comes and investigates Reza, who swears he has nothing to do with it. Marie is furious with the agents for suspecting her fiance, and even more mad at Kate for investigating him without her knowledge. Reza comes to the conclusion that Mr. Warner must have sent the money. They are both questioned, brought into CTU, and in the end, Reza realizes it wasn't Mr. Warner who sent the money.

It was Marie.

Turns out, she's the one helping the bad guys plant a nuclear bomb in LA. She's presented as someone who has no idea what's going on, and while not stupid, just not really intelligent. At one point, my mom suggested that Marie might take a gun and find a way to help her fiance escape from questioning. I laughed and asked, "Do you really think that Marie could shoot?"

She can.

Under these observations, I examined Harry Potter and some of those who ended up being the person that caused the madness.
Quirrell: P-poor, st-tuttering Professor Quirrell. He's hardly there, and when he is, he's so weak and pitiful Harry and the readers would never guessed he could attempt to steal the Stone.
Ginny: While Voldemort was behind it the whole time, no one (that I know of, at least) guessed that Ron's sweet, crushing-on-Harry sister could open the Chamber and do something so horrible (even though she didn't mean to).
Peter Pettigrew: All right, so we think he's dead most of the book, and who would blame the rat? But still, no one saw it coming that Wormtail betrayed the Potters. No one thought maybe Sirius killed him because Wormtail was the one who gave the location of their friends. By McGonagall's description, he was a inept little thing who could have never done it, and on top of that, he was fiercely loyal to James and Sirius, always following them around as a school boy.

Catch any similarities here? They all seem (or are) weak. Quirrell let people believe he's more weak than he was with his stuttering and fainting. Ginny was only eleven and naive. And why do you think Peter blamed Sirius? Because with how bold Sirius was, and how unhinged he became after Lily and James' death, people easily believed he betrayed the Potters. Then we have Marie, who drags you through the first few episodes of 24 with a clueless, happy bride-to-be facade.

The person you'd never suspect seems weak, or at least, not threatening. There are times in 24 where you could see in Marie a hint of the mad woman, like when she gets furious at the government agents interrogating her fiance and father, and demanding her sister not be part of the wedding for being suspicious of the fiance. Before, I thought she was just being a brat. Overall, she seemed inept and unable to help terrorists. But boy, did her other side come out!

For whatever reason, the "bad" people or the more outgoing are always suspected. Malfoy, Snape, Sirius, Reza, and Mr. Warner. And in real life, it's oftentimes true that these type of people would be the ones to do it. But in stories, we don't want it to be obvious. We want to surprise them with the Marie. And I think part of that is the disguise of weakness and inability to do the horrible crime.

Now that I look at it, it's obvious that this is what you need to do. Call me slow, but I'm glad I've got it now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Young Adult (paranormal)
Why I read it/how I found it: It was at the library, and I realized I hadn't read anything on angels yet, so I went for it.

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

There's an angel on the cover. The description says that Nora's in the middle of battle between immortals and fallen. The reader has got to pick up that Patch is a fallen angel before even reading it. But no, we're dragged through most of the book before Nora can figure it out (by a Google search. First website she clicked on, too. Anyone who's done a Google search has to know the first link rarely gets you all the info you need). If the publishers had kept it a secret that Patch is a fallen angel, then maybe it would have been more intriguing to figure out what he is. But it isn't a secret, so it's annoying having to be dragged through the poor plotline to get to that conclusion. Nora isn't a very interesting MC, not to mention incredibly stupid. Patch was a flat character, except for this bad-boyness, which is really just awful relationship-wise. Want to give your daughter, sister, cousin, an example of who not to go out with? Point out Patch to them. Just hope they have more common sense than Nora. It is actually ridiculous that this is pulled off as a romance--something for girls to aspire to. And on top of that, it isn't even a good romance. There is absolutely no reason for Patch to love Nora or vice versa, but we're just supposed to go along with it. Sometimes the best friend can make up for the awful MC and love interest, but Vee couldn't. She was even more stupid than Nora. At the end, Fitzpatrick tries to redeem Patch, make him into a good person, but he isn't. He's still selfish. His original motives were unforgivable, but Nora forgives him anyway.

Other info: There is a sequel, Crescendo and a third book, Silence which comes out in October. Becca Fitzpatrick's website is here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

50-page edit

A while ago on K.M. Weiland's blog Wordplay, she has a post up on the 50-page edit. In it she suggests that every 50 pages or 20,000 words to go over and edit what you've written so far. I stored it away as something I might try. About a week ago I came to a big change in my WIP and I was having trouble finding the characters and story again from this big change.

Then I remembered the suggestion of a 50-page edit. I'd gone a bit over the suggested word count with over 30,000 words, but I still buckled down and decided to try an edit-as-I-go strategy. And I think it really helped. Not only do I recognize things I should bring up as I continue writing, but I also felt re-established with my characters. Since I decided to edit on paper, I'm still making the changes onto my computer, but after today I should be rearing and ready to write through again.

This WIP I have going is really tricky, it's like nothing I've ever written before. It's challenging and making me switch strategy of how I write. But I'm loving it. I'm loving the challenge of it and learning new ways and adapting in my writing.

Do you edit as you go? Have you ever needed to switch around how you write?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dream Team: The Office edition

We all know that writing a book, and then publishing is a lot of work that expands beyond just the author. So, if I could choose my team for my book from the character in NBC's The Office, this is who I would choose for what job:
Pam Halpert would be my critique partner. She's already given the world her idea for her own YA series, and so we're both going down the same path. I think she could be honest with me, but still be nice and supportive.
Dwight K. Schrute for my agent. He's the top salesman at Dunder Mifflin, and I think that the sign says everything there is to say about him. He'd get my book sold.
 Oscar Martinez for my editor. As a member of the Finer Things Club, he already has an appreciation for literature. Given his level head, I think he'd be best suited for this job in the office.
Kelly Kapoor as the cover designer. Now, my first choice would have been Pam, but she's already my critique partner. Kelly has style sense already, so I think out of all the people in the office, she would be able to most adapt to that role.

For my marketing manager, I'd choose Michael Scott. Now, some of his ideas are crazy. But some of his ideas turn out pretty amazing, like his proposal to Holly:

So, if this cast of characters is what I had for a publishing team, this is who I would choose.
Thank goodness there are other options, though.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
How I found it/why I read it: This is one of those reads I just kept hearing about and had to get my hands on.

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the character growth in Katsa, especially the growth in the first part. Above everything else, I think that this book focuses on Katsa and as she comes to find her true self, and not what others have made her to be. Po (despite the name that always made me think of Mulan and Teletubbies) also made a swoon-worthy love interest. Cashore also describes details of setting so well, I could just picture the type of location they would shoot for a movie. Around the middle, however, it starts to slow, and for quite a few pages. Overall though, there was always something interesting going on.

Other information: There is a companion novel Fire to Graceling and another companion novel is in progess, tenatively titled Bitterblue. Kristin Cashore's website is here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I love the library

When I came back home from college for the summer, I brought home 32 books (and that's not school books). I went to school last year in the fall with only 5 books but accumulated 27 more along the way.
As you might imagine, this created a lot of problems with finding a place for these books. They cluttered my room and I was just stacking them up. So, to make room for my new shiny books, I went through and looked at what books I hadn't read in a long time, and I knew I wouldn't read again. So I gave them a new life at my local branch of the library.

But then again, I suppose I owed it to the library to donate those books, considering I took eight books out today, and that's pretty standard for me. But hey, I have a long weekend ahead of me with my family vacation up in Big Bear mountains. The books should be back in no time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Novel Films Blogfest

Madeleine from Scribble and Edit is hosting this blogfest, to name all of the works of fiction that you have seen the movie/TV show, and read the original book, play, or comic story.

I've marked the particularly great adaptations in aqua and the particularly awful adaptations in red.
  1. Pride and Prejudice (1995 version, of course. Not the 2005 joke)
  2. Sense and Sensibility
  3. Persuasion
  4. Emma
  5. Mansfield Park
  6. Romeo and Juliet
  7. Hamlet
  8. Othello
  9. The Taming of the Shrew
  10. Harry Potter series
  11. The Fellowship of the Ring
  12. Ella Enchanted
  13. Flipped
  14. Twilight Series
  15. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
  16. Wuthering Heights
  17. Anne of Green Gables
  18. The Wizard of Oz
  19. Gone With the Wind
  20. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  21. Prince Caspian
  22. The Thief Lord
  23. Inkheart
  24. A Walk to Remember
  25. Great Expectations
  26. A Christmas Carol
  27. Little House on the Prairie
  28. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (one and two)
  29. The Importance of Being Earnest
  30. Lord of the Flies
  31. Little Women
  32. Charly
  33. The Polar Express
  34. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  35. Charlotte's Web
  36. That Summer/Someone Like You (combined to make How to Deal)
  37. My Sister's Keeper
  38. The Scarlett Letter
  39. To Kill a Mockingbird
  40. The Great Gatsby
  41. Alice in Wonderland
  42. A Series of Unfortunate Events
  43. The Bridge to Terebithia
  44. Animal Farm
  45. The Princess Bride
  46. Tuck Everlasting
  47. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  48. Peter Pan
There's a lot of books I'm anxiously waiting to become movies. Obviously there's The Hunger Games to look forward to that's in filming right now. And a new Romeo and Juliet is being filmed, which I dare to hope will actually capture their lust, rather than trying to convince people they were actually in love. Several books are in the pre-production stage (The Giver, Uglies, Paranormalcy, Divergent) that I'm crossing my fingers get made, and made well.