Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Announcing A Writer's Guide to The Hunger Games!

I've been a huge fan of The Hunger Games for a long time now, in case you haven't noticed. And whenever we're given the advice to "see how published books have done it" I've always flipped back to The Hunger Games Trilogy. And so earlier this month I decided to start a blog just on that--seeing how Suzanne Collins manages to capture her audience in this series.

This week I made my first two posts on it. So if you're a fan of The Hunger Games or just want to get insight into how Suzanne Collins manages to hook so many readers, be sure to follow my new blog--A Writer's Guide to The Hunger Games.

In other news, I'm now 62k words into my W.I.P. with three more chapters, two more days, and three thousand more words to meet my goal.

What book do you always look at to see how the author did it? How's your W.I.P coming along?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Somebody Has a Gun

I've read a book somewhat recently that I feel sort of takes Michael's stance on action. It's like the author was thinking, "Well, as long as things are blowing up and people are fighting, that'll make my book interesting!"

I wish sometimes authors (and screenwriters and anyone making a story) could see that they're pulling a Michael here. Now, obviously there needs to be action, and for some stories it's appropriate to have guns and that type of action. People have guns in TV shows and movies because it is exciting, like Michael said. But Michael fails to realize that usually before the big fight that he wants to emulate in his improv class, there's character development and conflict and mystery. They may start out with a big scene, but then it peters out and we get the plot. Bursts of action may come in the middle, but sandwiched between those there's other crucial elements that make a story interesting and worth reading/watching.

But really, seeing/reading anything that just seems to down on the action without incorporating other elements can just be tiring. This may be more of a jab toward action movies than books, but this is something we can all fall into and I've been thinking about.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

Title: Bella at Midnight
Author: Diane Stanely
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Middle grade/little YA-ish (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: browsing through the library and it looked intriguing.

Bella has grown up thinking that she was just a simple peasant girl. But suddenly, Bella's world collapses. First, her best friend, Julian, betrays her. Then she finds out that she is, in fact, Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. And now he wants her back. Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and tries to accept her new life with her deranged father and his resentful wife. But when she finds out about a terrible plot that threatens the kingdom, she sets out on a journey that will lead her to a destiny far greater than she could have imagined.

This book has some charm to it. It takes a spin on the Cinderella story, and one in a way that I haven't seen before. The parts where Bella is a peasant and growing up are sweet, and when she's taken away from that happy place it's sad. Overall the plotline is interesting and has compelling stakes, and the ending is satisfying to any happily-ever-after lover. The reason that I couldn't completely get into this book was because it shifts first-person POV frequently. And not in a Shiver type of way where it's between two POVs, it's at least eight different characters (and those are the ones I can just think of off the top of my head). I found this unsettling, because I was always jumping not only from head to head, but also story to story. Halfway through the book we leave Bella and the characters she has for new characters, who do end up being her stepfamily, but it's such a transition it shook me up.

Other information: I couldn't find anything more on this book, or a website for the author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PerNoFiMo Check-in

All right, because I need to be accountable to somebody for my Personal Novel Finishing Month, I've come to tell you guys my progress.
I am now at 58k on my W.I.P. Whew!
I think I'm going to be closer to 65k when I finish, but I tend to underwrite my first time through, so after everything goes through and it's finished, it should be longer.

And, to amuse you, a video called Harry Potter in 99 Seconds. Because I am both a nerd and easily entertained.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Young Adult (dystopian)
Why I read it/how I found it: It's the sequel to Matched


In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever. 

Once again, the way that Condie can spin descriptions amazes me to no end. Crossed is just as poetically written as Matched, and with all of the rich imagery the setting has, it makes for breathtaking sentences. As description is one of my weak points, I just ate it up. In Crossed, I felt like I really got to know the characters more. Their struggles, wants, and past were fleshed-out and stunning. I wasn't sure about how I'd feel with Ky taking half of the book through his POV, as I'm not generally a fan of adding in a second POV in a sequel, but Condie really made the right choice. There are things he tells us that Cassia would never be able to, but things he wouldn't be able to tell Cassia and through us, her. I feel though, that this book wasn't as much about the plot as it was the characters, and I felt the same way with Matched. Everything else about it was so beautiful that I couldn't bring myself to care, although now I have expectations of the third book. And part of that is action. While I'm sure more character growth will be needed in the third book, it's come to the point where I hope we get a lot more action and plot.

Other information: There is a third book (still untitled, and today I went to a signing with Ally Condie, and she said that she and the publishers are still struggling with a title). Matched has been opted for film by Disney. You can find Ally Condie's website here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's for the Kids

I don't know about you, but I've been following news for The Hunger Games movie since...well, since it was announced that it was opted for film. And I've loved seeing big news companies covering the story. I always get really excited and read through the articles and the comments, too. And, amongst all of the hyped-up fans, I've always noticed a different kind of comment: "This is just Battle Royale for kids." Followed by more snark about how it isn't violent enough and it's toned-down and dumb.

Ok, even if I wasn't Peeta-crazy, say what now?!

I am very much aware of the similarities between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, although I haven't ever read the former. But I really think this is just one of those ideas that gets used a lot, so there's no way to really say the idea was "stolen."

However my main beef with these types of comments is the dismissal of it being "for kids" in such a condescending way. I'm 19, so maybe I get riled up at this comment because I'm in limbo between childhood and adulthood and get in the defense about that part of me still in kid mode. But I'd hope anyone would look at these comments in a similar way that I do. And that's "well, why shouldn't there be a version of this for kids?"

There are concepts, themes, and ideas in The Hunger Games that kids should learn and be exposed to. I admire Suzanne Collins' skill, because while she does portray the horror of the situation, she doesn't do it in a way to alienate a majority of the YA audience with vast depictions of violence (depending on the kid, I'd think anywhere from ages 12-14 they could read this book). If she had created another Battle Royale, then I don't think the book would have reached as many kids (or adults), even with the same themes and storyline.

I feel the same way with Speak. It took me a long time to read Speak because before I thought, "Ew, rape. It's going to be so graphic!" But I finally decided to read it, and Laurie Halse Anderson is able to talk about rape in a way that doesn't mask the troubles and terrors that come with rape, but she also doesn't make it into a big scene that scarred me with too many details.

I know some people have a much more relaxed view of what kids should be exposed to. And I know some people are stiff-necked about it. I fall in the middle. Laurie Halse Anderson explained in a note at the end of my copy of Speak that, "America's teens are desperate for responsible, trustworthy adults to create situations in which they can discuss the issues that are of high concern for them." I don't believe in making an overly-graphic novel for a YA audience (and I don't consider The Hunger Games to be overly-graphic, so I wouldn't exactly say I'm a prude about it), but I don't believe in covering up subjects, either. It all comes down to the "responsible, trustworthy" part. Kids are expecting truth, but they're expecting it in a form they can become comfortable with the issues. And that's where books like The Hunger Games and Speak come in. Two different genres, two different subjects, but both targeting to YA and their needs.

So, to those negative commentors, yes, The Hunger Games can be seen as a Battle Royale for kids, but I don't think that makes it worse. I think it makes it even better.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tips for Baking

Last week I made a cake for my friend's birthday. I'm pretty much the designated cake-maker among my circle of friends. Since coming to college and living with people who see me make the cakes, but have no idea why I do certain things the way I do has made me realize how much my mom knew about baking that most people don't know.

So here are two things I've learned from my mom that are really helpful when you want to make a cake.

1. Put down the Crisco! I found out coming to college that people will put Crisco and flour on their pans so the cake doesn't stick. Way better option: get some wax paper and trace the bottom of the pan. Cut out the wax paper and put it at the bottom of the pan. Your cakes will come out (don't worry about the edges, they don't stick) and just peel off the wax paper. Seriously, it's 100 times better.

2. Freeze your cakes. Before you put the frosting on, it's best to let your cakes freeze for an hour or more. This makes them stiff, so it's easier to spread the frosting around. And my roommate noted that when I frosted the cake, there weren't any crumbs getting all up in the frosting. I've been watching this be done this way for so long, I didn't even know crumbs were an issue.

There you have it. Two easy ways to make your cake-baking experience easier! Do you have any culinary tips others don't often know about?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yay for Blog Awards!

Thanks so much to Juliemybird for this blog award:
It certainly is lovely! The roses are beautiful.

And of course, I need to pass it along! So without further ado, I pass this award to:
1. Amanda the Aspiring
2. Abby Fowers
3. Bethany Elizabeth
4. Magpiewrites
5. Paige

And you know if I gave them an award, they're totally worth it to follow. So go on and follow them if you aren't already!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Yeah, I just wrote down PerNoFiMo, not NaNoWriMo. Because while I'm not officially participating in NaNo, I'm trying to embrace the spirit of it.

Last year I tried it, and I failed. I think part of it was that I decided a week before to do it, I didn't have an outline together, and this idea wasn't one that I could just spit out. I needed time to research and plan. So when it came time to write I hit a lot of brick walls and around 20,000 words I realized I would be using none of what I'd written. Plus, I spent a day driving home to California for Thanksgiving and a day driving back up to school. And once at home, I didn't want to write. I wanted to spend time with my friends, family, and cat.
Seriously, how could I write when I hadn't seen my kitty in 3 months?
I wasn't planning on doing NaNo this year. But then, a little idea I had began sprouting. And this one doesn't really need an outline or research, just a general idea and then I could run with it wherever I wanted. So tempting not to try again, except for a few things...

I'm sure you all know how it goes.

And, to top it all off, I'm still on a W.I.P right now that took a back seat when I came back to school.

I wanted to get in the spirit of NaNo though, and so what I decided was to have my own PerNoFiMo, or Personal Novel Finishing Month. This is going to be the month, guys. By November 30, I will have finished the first draft of my W.I.P. I'm currently at 45,000 words and hope to be anywhere between 65,000 and 75,000 by the time I finish. Anywhere between 20k-30k more to go.

Not quite (at all) 50,000 words, but it'll be a great accomplishment nonetheless.