How I Learned to Love The Outline: Guest Post by Kat Ellis!

I know, I know. I’ve been all silent-like. And I owe you folks a book review (of a book I haven’t had a moment to sit down and read…)

To make up for this long period of deathly quietness here on the ole blog, I’m going to let someone else fill it up with their own wordsplosion. Why? Because she’s got an excess of Awesome and needed to get some of it out. It’s a very serious health condition. We’re raising awareness so people like her don’t have to live with the burden of making the human race worthwhile.

So here she is, Kat Ellis. A very good friend of mine who is incredibly talented and has nice handles on her coattails to allow me to latch on for dear life as she becomes famous for writing books like PURGE. If you don’t check her out, I promise you’ll cry about it later. She’s usually either roosting at her blog, or teasing innocent writers on Twitter. Either way, you should go ahead and harass her. Tell her I sent you.

That’ll teach her to use glitter on me when I specifically—Oh. I’m sorry. Inner monologue again…

~~~
On Outlining
When my good pal Ian Forbes Wolfby-Hermington Hiatt extended an invitation to his blog, I asked him what I should write a post about – and he immediately said I should write about my Process. I eeped and nodded.

I have only one Process which I now stick to religiously when writing: detailed outlining. It’s very complex (it’s not), and the whole thing came to me in a dream (it did not come to me in a dream). My outlining process is what makes me a plotter rather than a pantser, and as everyone knows, a writer must fall into one camp or the other – they’re the rules. But my outlines are actually incredibly useful for formulating a synopsis and query, so if you struggle with those or hit the dreaded brick walls when writing first drafts, detailed outlining could help.

I came by this method when I googled Beat Sheeting and apparently misunderstood what it is. And is about. And what a beat and a sheet are. Yeah. Here’s what you do to write a really useful outline. (Note to pantsers: This is useless to you. Now go pants with yo’ bad self.)

  • Open a new doc, write 5 “Part” headings, numbered 1-5. Each of these will end with a Significant Event.
  • In between, put in at least 5 “Chapter” headings for each “Part” – not numbered for now. It’s easier to just add in the numbers as you go along, but as you have the headings laid out ready for you, you’ll end up with at least 25 chapters. I usually work to the premise that each chapter will have around 3k words, so this will leave you with a novel of 75k, or thereabouts. You can of course adjust the number of chapters to accommodate your usual chapter length or whatever you like.
  • Now start filling in the blanks. Write 1 or 2 paragraphs to summarize the events in each chapter. Seeing the “Part” heading looming helps me to focus on the Significant Event that will drive the plot forward. This can be anything – the MC discovering the murderer’s identity, a plane crash, whatever. 
  • Whittle, shift, revise and generally tinker with the outline until it looks like the bones of a story. Then you have something you can not only follow as you’re writing your manuscript, but can also edit further to become your synopsis, and even the basis for your query as you should have the main plot and themes laid out ready for you.

See, didn’t I say it was easy? Happy outlining!

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SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

I’m a very lucky fellow for a lot of reasons. But for tonight, let’s just go with the fact that I’ve read three books this month and they’ve all been great books.

And they’re all signed copies from debut authors who donated the book to a charity auction.

An auction for what?! You ask. Because you’re an awesome, good person and you want to help whatever charity would be so equally awesome as to offer novels for an auction of The Apocalypsies, the 2012 debut author group. I know, no matter when I manage to trick the world into publishing my stuff, I will never be part of a group with as badass a name as that…

I want to take this moment to ask you if you have a few bucks you could spare for the wonderful charity that put on this auction. Every little bit helps, folks.

They help homeless animals. Do you hate puppies so much that you can’t donate $1 on Paypal? 
$1 kissing booth. You know you want to.
And now on to the review!!!
SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

Most of Nottinghamshire knows Will Scarlet: a quick and clever thief that sticks to the shadows and protects the band without question, but even those that know Scarlet’s really a girl don’t know the secrets of her past, like how she got the scar on her cheek. Guy of Gisbourne may be the one person who does: and he was just hired to bring Robin Hood and his gang to the gallows.


And now you get to hear my flowery words.

Cards on the table, SCARLET is not a book I’d typically pick up. Don’t misunderstand me, I was immediately intrigued by the premise and cover, but if you look in my Young Adult library, you will find very little that doesn’t have some fundamental tweak on reality. I’m not a historical fiction kind of guy, and there is absolutely nothing world-bendy going on in SCARLET. You won’t hear about any dragons or magic or any such things. I use my reading as escapism and, while jumping into a new time period and character is escapist fare extraordinaire, it’s not really up my alley.

But now, because of SCARLET, I may have to tweak that assumption.

Y’see, dear reader, SCARLET does pretty much everything it sets out to do. Gives you a narrator with enough personality to hook you in about a page. Gives you a mystery for that character that’s fairly intriguing and unravels at a speed just slow enough to keep you digging for more. And for you ninja/explosion/Matrix-Lobby-Scene fans out there, this book has more than enough action to keep you clawing for the next knife throw.

The Leading M’Lady
So, first off, yes. This is a YA book with a heroine as the main character. Shocking, right? But in the same vein as Katsa from the Graceling series, Scarlet is as badass as they come. This is not some Bella waiting around for a dude with emotional issues to come and save her. Scarlet does most of the saving in this book.

But don’t worry, she’s not some robot. She gets herself wounded aplenty. A sure sign that the author wants us to realize that we’re dealing with a human. Nothing worse than a flawless heroine who can save the day every time and still keep her hair looking gorgeous and flash a smile to any nearby men to make them all swoon and forget what they were…what was I talking about…?

Add to this that the intense Scarlet is accompanied by three men of varied abilities, goals, and personalities, and you come up with a pretty strange “family” of sorts. You’ve got Much, who is the peace keeper of the group. Not overtly, but he breaks tension in his own way. Then you’ve got John, the brawn, who is a bit of a lady’s man and a little tunnel visioned. And of course, Robin Hood. The leader and arguably just as mysterious as Scarlet. His past is fairly up front, but he’s smart. Cunning. So it’s never quite clear what Robin’s thinking or feeling.

And you have Scarlet. The rough-edged girl who has to deal with all of these personalities. Toss in some rubber walls and you may not notice a difference between this band and a psych ward…

Villains Be Here
Robin Hood story? The Sheriff of Nottingham must be here, right? YEP. And he’s an evil bastard, to be sure. Oppressing the people and shedding more blood than a blind barber.

But I think the real villain here is Gisbourne. He’s a bounty hunter after Robin and his crew, and he’s even more ruthless than the sheriff. I always like to point out clear psychological disorders in villains and there’s little doubt that Gisbourne is a sociopath. Someone kicked this guy in the face when he was a kid (or they should have) and now he’s got a few screws loose to show for it.

And he’s got a history. That much is instantly clear when he saunters onstage.

I won’t say I was particularly disturbed by these villains as I have been by others, but they are intimidating. It’s rare that you see such a complete disregard for life in villains. In most stories, when the villain kills someone it’s of direct importance. They mean something to the hero, or they’re critical people. In this story, of course those people are targeted. But the sheriff and Gisbourne have no problem just killing because it’s a way to show the people that they are all expendable.

Here’s Your Knife
I’m a guy. So I’m a fan of weaponry. In fact it’s vaguely well known that I collect medieval weaponry of sorts…

Scarlet is good with knives. Like really good. You know how Jack Bauer can bring down a helicopter with a 9mm pistol, or John McClane can kill Severus Snape with a wristwatch? That’s what Scarlet’s like. She could probably give you a buzz cut with a few knives if you didn’t breathe too deeply.

And there’s some significance to her weapons. Some of them are deliberate, sure, but let’s look at it a little deeper.

Scarlet throws knives. A weapon that, usually, is for the up close kill. But she keeps her distance. For what other people need to do real personal-like, Scarlet does from afar. Knives are offensive weapons only. It’s very hard to deflect any sort of weapon with a throwing knife.

In many stories, weapons serve as a means to an end. In this story, I believe Scarlet’s weapon choice represents how she deals with the world.

And to illustrate that further, and end this review of a great book…

The Perfect Line
“He tugged my hand again, and we started walking. I pulled my hand out. He didn’t need it no more, and if you weren’t careful with things like that, it could go on and on, never letting go of the hands.”

DISCLAIMER: Book Review Friday here is an enjoyable affair. I don’t review books I don’t like. Why bother wasting -my- time typing something negative and waste your time in having to read it? I usually don’t read a book unless I have a strong feeling I’ll enjoy it. And if by chance I don’t enjoy it, you won’t be seeing a review here. That’s just how I view reading and this site. My blog library will only contain books I enjoy. I keep bad books in the cold, moldy blog garage. As a warning to future books…

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THE OTHER LIFE by Susanne Winnacker

First, I have to say how lucky I am. Thus far, half of the books I promised to review in July have turned out to be really good. As anyone who reads my Book Review Fridays knows, I don’t give negative reviews. If I don’t like a book, it gets relegated to a box in a dark corner filled with bugs, mold, and unwashed gym socks. Never to be heard from again.

So, rarely do I tout book reviews in advance. But I should go buy lottery tickets. Because THE OTHER LIFE by Susanne Winnacker turned out to be another great story. Much like last week’s STARTERS, I’m already excited for the inevitable sequel.

BUT. Before we get on to the awesome book…I want to remind you how I came by my signed copy.

You see, I participated in a charity auction for a set of books from authors debuting in 2012. The Apocalypsies. I know, no matter when I manage to trick the world into publishing my stuff, I will never be part of a group with as badass a name as that…

I want to take this moment to ask you if you have a few bucks you could spare for the wonderful charity that put on this auction. Every little bit helps, folks.

They help homeless animals. Do you hate puppies so much that you can’t donate $1 on Paypal?

If you don’t, little puppies everywhere will cry. And pee on your things. I told them where you keep your favorite shoes.

If you don’t pay the Protection Fee, I can’t promise your shoes won’t squish and smell funny…

So please, spare some change for the lil buggers?

OKAY. Now that you’ve done that (or you’re a heartless jerkface) let’s 
get to the review!!!
THE OTHER LIFE: The Weepers by Susanne Winnacker

Sherry has lived with her family in a sealed bunker since things went wrong up above. But when they run out of food, Sherry and her dad must venture outside. There they find a world of devastation, desolation…and the Weepers: savage, mutant killers.

When Sherry’s dad is snatched, she joins forces with gorgeous but troubled Joshua – an Avenger, determined to destroy the Weepers.
But can Sherry keep her family and Joshua safe, when his desire for vengeance threatens them all?

So you may think you’ve seen this story before. I Am Legend had an interesting take on it, right? 28 Days Later? REC (or Quarantine for you American-Version-Only folks)? And if you look at THE OTHER LIFE on the surface level only, you’d be vaguely accurate. Humanity gets nailed to the wall by a virus and splits the species between the normal, showtune loving folks we know and love, and the primal flesh-hungry freaks. Now if only Broadway could jump on the goldmine of crossover potential and produce a musical with dancing Infected…

But you’d be wrong. For many reasons I cannot tell you or it would spoil the awesome, and for several others. So let’s cut at those reasons like we caught them chewing on our best friend!!!

Heroes Can Trip

In every other Infected story, at some point or another, the hero or heroine goes Rambo. Is it cool? Yes. Of course. We all love it when they pull out a katana/axe/lawn furniture and go psychotic on the Infected, dicing them up and shooting them up all ninja-like. But let’s face it. The average man can barely manage to pee without missing the toilet. Do you really think he can pull ass-handing-skills out of nowhere? UNLIKELY. 

In THE OTHER LIFE, our heroine Sherry can handle a gun. And she’s about as good with it as you are. Our hero, Joshua has been hunting the Weepers since he got out of diapers. (Actually not, but I love the thought of a toddler hunting Infected. Picture it, please.) And his body looks like he ran through a lawnmower factory while naked. And over the course of the story, he earns himself more marks of failure.
Because The Weepers series will clearly have one thing most other Infected stories lack. Real humans. People you know. People you love. And occasionally hate. They survive through determination and skill, sure. But mostly on luck. And they have no delusions about this.

Where The Wild Things Are


Let’s just focus on stories like 28 Days Later, or even any zombie story ever, disregarding I Am Legend which is debatable as to the society of the Infected. The titular (or sub-titularly…) Weepers are not strictly insane killers. They’re animals. Humans altered on some extreme level to be hairy creatures adept at hunting. Not just killing at random or recklessly. They’re vicious and ruthless, sure. But they’re cunning. They’re stealthy. They plan.

The difference here is that in many Infected stories, the non-humans are easily outsmarted or so tunnel-visioned that they become predictable and thus easier to fight. The Weepers are anything but. To put it simply, while the hero and heroine are hunting Weepers, the Weepers are hunting them right back. It’s not some blind free-for-all to kill the humans just because. The Weepers make calculated movements as a group to bring down prey.

Basically, we’re not dealing with psychotic humans anymore. We’re dealing with a new species.

If they learn how to open doors we are—wait, they still have hands? Shit…

No Spoilers Here

All right, what completely sets THE OTHER LIFE apart from all of the other Infected stories, is the depth of the story. 28 Days Later begins at an unnamed research facility where they’re testing nasty stuff out on apes. Boom. Apocalypse. I Am Legend (film version, anyway) begins with curing cancer. Within about 15 minutes of Quarantine, we know the virus is a fast acting version of rabies and nothing more.

And The Weepers came from…well, that’s not so clear. Because *character name redacted* has some information about that. And *character name redacted* has something to add to his tale, but of course he *verb redacted*. And every so often we get the hint that *epic revelation redacted* because, as it turns out, Sherry, Joshua and everyone being hunted by The Weepers have been *shit luck event redacted*. Does the book end on a cliffhanger? I promise you it *assurance one way or the other redacted*. But what I will say, is as soon as I closed the book, I went online to try and preorder the inevitable sequel. I want to know if Sherry and Joshua will *possible awesomeness redacted* or not…I mean…THAT WOULD BE INSANE! Are they going to go all super *character-type redacted* and charge the *location redacted* to *goal redacted*?!?!?!!?!?!

Yeah. It’s that flavor of awesome.

Go check out THE OTHER LIFE by Susanne Winnacker!!!! Well worth the read.

And check in next week for SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen. I’m foreseeing another awesome heroine!!!

DISCLAIMER: Book Review Friday here is an enjoyable affair. I don’t review books I don’t like. Why bother wasting -my- time typing something negative and waste your time in having to read it? I usually don’t read a book unless I have a strong feeling I’ll enjoy it. And if by chance I don’t enjoy it, you won’t be seeing a review here. That’s just how I view reading and this site. My blog library will only contain books I enjoy. I keep bad books in the cold, moldy blog garage. As a warning to future books…

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STARTERS by Lissa Price

Welcome welcome to the first of four very special Book Review Fridays! I know I’m not as constant with these days as I’d like to be, but rest assured if this weeks book is any indication, I’ll have no problem reading and reviewing each of these four books!

But before I tell you about STARTERS by Lissa Price, I want to remind you how I came by my signed copy.

You see, I participated in a charity auction for a set of books from authors debuting in 2012. The Apocalypsies. I know, no matter when I manage to trick the world into publishing my stuff, I will never be part of a group with as badass a name as that…

So I want to take this moment to ask you if you have a few bucks you could spare for the wonderful charity that put on this auction. Every little bit helps, folks.

They help homeless animals. Do you hate puppies so much that you can’t donate $1 on Paypal?

I didn’t think so.

Now that I’ve got you muttering profanities at me and putting in credit card information, let’s move on to the book review!

STARTERS by Lissa Price

In a future Los Angeles, becoming someone else is now possible. Sixteen-year-old Callie discovers the Body Bank where teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. But when her neurochip malfunctions, she wakes up in the mansion of her rich renter and finds she is going out with a senator’s grandson. It’s a fairy-tale new life, until she discovers her renter’s deadly plan.


So STARTERS is a dystopic tale wherein most people between the age of 20-65 have died off. I won’t tell you why. That’s half the fun! This leaves the little kids running around and the elderly scootering around. If this doesn’t sound disturbing, I assure you it quickly gets there once you start reading. If it does disturb you, I promise it’s at least ten times worse than you’re imagining.


The Mind Jumping Good

It’s very rare that a book gives me the squirmies. I like to think I’ve got a strong will when it comes to creepiness. I’ve mentioned at least one other on here with the villain(s) in BZRK by Michal Grant. STARTERS might outdo them. I mean the heebie-jeebies that crawl up your heels to your spine, across your shoulders and drills into your thinkybox. Then you have to put the book down so you don’t pee a little.

While there are a handful of specific scenes that inspired this in this book, the overall premise does it, too. Imagine willingly giving your body up for a day. A week. A month. The body you keep covered in public. The body you’ve grown fond of over the last few years. You know that weird birthmark no one knows about? How about that twitch you get if you don’t sleep just right. Remember that scar you got when you tried to make a grilled cheese for the first time? Yeah. They’re all out in the open now. Sure, you’re getting paid enough to buy a small house, but there will always be that pocket of time where you went to sleep and someone else drove you around like an remote control car. Who knows what they saw. What they did. Who they talked to.

But times is tough. There’s no chance to live off the fatta the land anymore, George. You’re homeless and there’s no work and no freedom. This is your only choice. So it’s either a life of sickness and inevitable death/imprisonment, or sacrificing your body for someone else’s pleasure.

The Reality Jarring Bad

STARTERS is a dystopia. What this inherently means, is your narrator knows the shit situation they’re in. And you need to catch up to that. So Callie, the girl put in the terrible circumstances, knows how awful things are from page one. Do you love your grandparents? I’m sure you do. But you know how they say the elderly vote in record numbers. You know how old folks are constantly complaining about “your generation”. Because, the fact is, anyone ten years younger than them is part of that generation. ‘Cause in their day people had respect!

Well, it takes a little while for you to realize just how terrifying it would be if a specific age bracket had absolute rule. It would be no better if kids were on top, to tell the truth. Whether you’re talking about age, race, gender, species, it doesn’t matter. When one group holds all the cards, things get scary for everyone involved. Because the oppressed have no chance to make their own life, and the ones on top are quickly silenced if they dissent.

And once you get to the point where you fully understand that Callie is well and truly screwed, you start staring at old folks with a certain level of unfair terror. For now…


That Perfect Line

“When hawks cry, time to fly…”

~~~
So, STARTERS gets my seal of approval. It’s got a creepy factor that ticks the top of the gauges. And a compelling narrator who, I’ll admit it, had my heart feeling fuzzy for her plight. Pick it up!

And tune in next week, same time same place for the review of THE OTHER LIFE by Susanne Winnacker!

DISCLAIMER: Book Review Friday here is an enjoyable affair. I don’t review books I don’t like. Why bother wasting -my- time typing something negative and waste your time in having to read it? I usually don’t read a book unless I have a strong feeling I’ll enjoy it. And if by chance I don’t enjoy it, you won’t be seeing a review here. That’s just how I view reading and this site. My blog library will only contain books I enjoy. I keep bad books in the cold, moldy blog garage. As a warning to future books…

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GRACELING TRILOGY by Kristin Cashore

Oh dear…this has been a long time coming. I finally get to review a trilogy. I finally read a trio of books during my writing career that I’ve loved so much that I wanted–nay NEEDED–to gush all over you poor, unsuspecting Internet. This will be a long post, folks, as I’m covering three books! So hopefully you enjoy some of this!

But ye best be warned: There be spoilers here. I’ll warn you before you stumble into the bear trap and then scream about how I’ve ruined your leg, and you’ll never walk again, and I have to drag you out behind my shed, beat you into unconsciousness and bury you alive. For liability and guilt’s sake, it’ll be the crushing earth that kills you. Not your inability to be warned about spoilers!

So the GRACELING trilogy is not like any others you’ll read. They share characters, they share a universe, they share basic premises, but they each have a very different feel to them. They each ever very different themes. So why did I love them so much if they’re so different?

It’s a Geekster’s Paradise
If you’re a fan of fantasy, sci-fi, or comics, you will see some impressive parallels between the world Kristin Cashore has crafted and some of your favorite properties. Have no fear, though! These are not rehashings or rip-offs. These books are their own, but they tackle issues that are seen in a lot of “geeky” franchises. I’ll go into this more when I look at each book on its own, but there’s a little something for everyone here. Special powers, fate, heinous villains, struggling heroines, and even the occasional hero (who needs his ass saved by the heroines).

The Fantasy That Wasn’t
Graceling and its companion books are not fantasy books. At least I wouldn’t classify them as such. I’d call them paranormal. Maybe even sci-fi. But because they’re set in a universe of swords and arrows, you might think they are. It would probably take the finishing of Graceling to realize that this isn’t some high fantasy book with twenty-five special areas you need to memorize and an intricate history spanning thousands of years with fifty some-odd kings who each had some random quirk or something. You won’t be stumbling across trolls, centaurs, dragons, or the shockingly unhelpful Best Buy sales associate who, let’s face it, doesn’t know anything more about wireless printers than you do.

What you do get is a very straightforward world. There are kingdoms. They live together, rarely in harmony, but they’re easy to keep track of. The politics are simple enough because they’re shockingly realistic. An island nation being peaceful. Because island nations tend to be isolationists. The central groups constantly struggling with each other and forming deceitful truces. Oh, hello mainland Europe for the last forever.

I’m not bashing high fantasy, far from it. But there is a big difference between Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms, and it should be noted!

Your Heroine, Sire
I intended that to say ‘Sir’ but added the ‘e’ by accident. It’s amazing how much more badass it looks, right?

The GRACELING trilogy is three books that are companion books to each other. In GRACELING, our heroine is Katsa. In FIRE our hero is…well, Fire. And in BITTERBLUE its…you know what? The first book is really the odd-ball here because Bitterblue is the heroine of the third book…

But the point is you have three heroines. And they’re very different.Katsa is hardcore. The kind of person you’d piss yourself to run into in a dark alley. Fire is…troubled, I suppose would be the best way to put it. But she has a certain elegance that Katsa never bothered with. And Bitterblue is your average teenager with way too much responsibility on her shoulders and a past that none of us could even imagine.

I love YA heroines. They’re my favorite to read, and my favorite to write. But all too often, they fall short. I won’t name names, but you frequently get the heroines who are only strong until the man comes and saves the day. Or the heroine who starts off hapless and through luck makes it to the end. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these characters, but it doesn’t say much for women in YA. As much as you lady folk like reading about some amazing guy, we fellows like to read about amazing women.

The GRACELING trilogy is our savior. These women don’t need anyone. They stand on their own, make their own choices. They don’t spend hours sitting in a room waiting for Romeo to show up. They go find Romeo and save him from the inevitable trouble he’s stumbled into because, seriously, why the hell can’t these guys keep from getting into trouble?!

The Books (Here be spoilers!!!)

Graceling
From Amazon:

If you had the power to kill with your bare hands, what would you do with it?

Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa’s Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Combining elements of fantasy and romance, Cashore skillfully portrays the confusion, discovery, and angst that smart, strong-willed girls experience as they creep toward adulthood. Katsa wrestles with questions of freedom, truth, and knowing when to rely on a friend for help. This is no small task for an angry girl who had eschewed friendships (with the exception of one cousin that she trusts) for her more ready skills of self-reliance, hunting, and fighting. Katsa also comes to know the real power of her Grace and the nature of Graces in general: they are not always what they appear to be.

What Geek Power Do You Hold?
A superior race rising above us normal folk with special abilities? I think the best geek example of this is X-Men. GRACELING takes this concept and runs off in many, many directions with it because there are many to be had in the Seven Kingdoms. The politics of people with abilities, the decisions they make about others with abilities, and the true nature of abilities. GRACELING asks: Just how dangerous is the simplest weapon in the hands of a sociopath?

Fire
From Amazon:

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. Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.
What Geek Power Do You Hold?
A heroine struggling with an ability that begs for her to dominate over anyone around her? A power that has, for generations, proven to be the source of absolute power? All the while leaving this girl to struggle with whether she can use this power for good, or is destined to be evil? This is a concept seen in other forms, but I believe the most well-known example is Star Wars. Much like GRACELING, though, it’s taken on different paths here. Fire doesn’t have any choice about her abilities, they just exist. People are inherently influenced by her. She can’t turn it off. She’s seen what her power can do to the world, and she doesn’t want to repeat the same evils, but her path keeps leading her towards this. And perhaps the most important thing, is she is the last one. The last of her kind. The greatest struggle she has? Does she allow the blood of potential inherent darkness to go on to a child?

Bitterblue
From Amazon:
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

What Geek Power Do You Hold?
BITTERBLUE is different from it’s companion novels, in that it is really a history buff’s dream. You read a lot of stories about the rise of a power, or the fall. But you almost never see the aftermath story. You don’t see the world recovering from the war, just the war. Because, I suppose, the idea is that clean-up stories aren’t all that fun. And they really shouldn’t be. After so much death and suffering how can there be fun? BITTERBLUE is packed with action and mystery to be sure, but it’s not the gathering of armies of its sister books. It’s not the clanging of swords. It’s about a girl trying to grow into an adult and a queen at the same time. About a kingdom, limping from old wounds and terrified to even dare remember the injuries. While the previous books are though provoking, entertaining, and full of awesome, BITTERBLUE is moving. I don’t think I found myself cheering for the downfall of the darkness in this book, but I did find myself closing the book every now and then because things were too intense to charge ahead. 
This book will remind you of the atrocities committed in our world in the past, and in the present. And instead of thinking about the end of the tyrant, you will think about the carnage left in their wake. The lives destroyed for generations by the quest for power.
~~~
So there you have it! My thoughts on the GRACELING trilogy. I cannot begin to recommend these books enough. I’m not a huge high fantasy fan, and when I picked up the first book, that’s what I was sure I was going into. I was pleasantly surprised and now I’m just hoping we get to spend some more time in this amazing world that Cashore has created!!!

DISCLAIMER: Book Review Friday here is an enjoyable affair. I don’t review books I don’t like. Why bother wasting -my- time typing something negative and waste your time in having to read it? I usually don’t read a book unless I have a strong feeling I’ll enjoy it. And if by chance I don’t enjoy it, you won’t be seeing a review here. That’s just how I view reading and this site. My blog library will only contain books I enjoy. I keep bad books in the cold, moldy blog garage. As a warning to future books…

Posted in Book Review Friday | 1 Comment

You Can’t Take the Sky From Me

So…I’ve wrapped up my revisions on Guardian and sent it off to a few beta readers. Final draft came in at 107,000 words. I cut some thousand words from the last draft via deleting entire chapters, then somehow came out with a higher word count than before. Here’s to hoping they don’t believe it to be complete and utter garbage. I intend to be torturing agents with it very soon.

In the mean time, I’m working on a new and fairly exciting WIP. One that you may in fact get to see sooner rather than later. It’s a very different…well everything than what’s out there these days. Expect to hear more about that soon.

Some things you can expect. This Friday you can look forward to a special Book Review Friday when I -FINALLY- at long last tackle the Graceling trilogy. I absolutely loved this series and it’s review delay has nothing to do with the books themselves, but rather my busyness.

What I’m really excited for though, is the month of July. What can you look forward to? Four Book Reviews. I’m -extremely- hopeful that I enjoy these books enough to honestly review them the way I like to here. Let me give you the rundown.

Back in May I participated in an auction for the charity Pens for Paws representing Fat Kitty City. They’re a great organization taking care of our furrier companions. While cats and I have a somewhat wary approach to each other I’m more than willing to lend them a hand when I can.

Now, by participate, I mean I got insanely lucky and won the item I was bidding on. The Apocalypsies Megapack! What is that, you ask? A pack of debut author books, a majority of which are Young Adult books! I got lucky, because these all seem to be pretty freaking awesome just by the premises. So you should be able to look forward to me telling you all about these books every week. Worked out, luckily enough, to be four YA books. One for every month of July! Here are some blurbs and the likely order you’ll be seeing these reviews. Going to go by the the order I received them in to be fair. 🙂

STARTERS 
by Lissa Price
In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party–her body will commit murder, if her mind can’t stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first–the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It’s a fairy-tale new life . . . until she uncovers the Body Bank’s horrible plan. . . .

THE OTHER LIFE 

Sherry has lived with her family in a bunker for more than three years. Her grandfather’s body has been in the freezer for the last six months, her parents are at each other’s throats and two minutes ago, they ran out of food. Sherry and her father must leave the safety of the bunker. What they find is an empty Los Angeles, destroyed by bombs and haunted by Weepers – savage humans infected with a rabies virus. While searching for food, Sherry’s father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a vineyard where a handful of survivors are picking up the pieces of their other lives, before the virus changed everything. Sherry must find a way to help her family, stay alive, and decide whether Joshua is their savior or greatest danger as his desire for vengeance threatens them all. This debut novel is a page-turner that is not easy to forget.

SCARLET 

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

SHADOWS CAST BY STARS 

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet—especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.
Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe—government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerilla warriors—and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument….

Here’s to hoping these books rock as much as they look like they will…For anyone still unaware to my “review” approach, I don’t bother reviewing books I don’t like. I don’t like wasting my time being negative, or your time reading negative junk. 
This is my vain attempt to be a gambling fellow…
How about you folks?
What’ve you been working on? What’ve you been reading? What’s your favorite kind of cookie?
Posted in ain't life grand, writing advice | 3 Comments

Road Trip Wednesday: Comeback

Hey folks!

You know, with Road Trip Wednesday showing up later and later in the day, I have trouble responding to it in a decent amount of time. But today, I figured, what the hell? I’ll give it a go and get it out as quick as possible. Maybe I should resolve to do it at the end of the day…ah well!

Today’s topic:

How did you spend/how will you spend the summer after graduation?


Being that YAHighway.com is…you know. YA. Young Adult. I’ll assume this means high school graduation. As it stands I’ve had three graduations with diplomas. None of which were enjoyable graduations. Sitting in hot rooms/hot fields waiting for my name to be called. Though, I skipped my most recent graduation and got my diploma in the mail. Good times.
Back from that tangent, the summer after my high school graduation was an interesting one and involved two things. 
A trip with my high school marching band to Disney. There are some stories there. But not nearly as many as in…
The New Hampshire Chronicles. Yes. I came up with a title. Two of my friends and I went camping for a few days in New Hampshire. It was a good time. But no one calls a story ‘Chronicles’ without some epic tale to be had. Someday I might write them all out proper. The story involves some hilarious attempts of one companion to get a date (yes, on a camping trip), road races, exhausting and unintended hiking, an arrest warrant, and one particularly evil chipmunk. 
You want to hear that story in its entirety?
How about you, folks? How did you spend your summer after high school?
Posted in Road Trip Wednesday, YAHighway | 19 Comments

On Revising

No, Dear Reader. I am not dead. Not yet, anyway.


I’ve spent the last few weeks absolutely buried in revisions however. Attempting to get Guardian: Relics of Providence prepared for eating by the agent community. I’m sorry to say it’s still not where I’d like it to be.


Revisionist Theory
I’m sure there are many folks out there of the mind that a writer will never be fully happy with their work. Writing is not an exact science, and as art goes it’s a very different animal. Painters only have so much canvas, sculptors only so much marble. Hell, even a fellow build a house on has so much land and sky to work with.


Writers have unlimited space. We really do have free reign over the length and density of our work unlike any other creator. When you boil right down to it, we’re about as close to God as an artist can get. We create worlds and mold them in our own image, right? The only things we’re limited by is our own imagination and the boundaries we set ourselves to.


To that end, it can be difficult to call a written piece “finished”. Hell even that painter or sculptor can add or take away layers of their work. So I don’t think anyone is deluded enough to think there is some magical point where a piece is locked in and untouchable. 


But I don’t think anyone, most of all a debut author, can look at something they’ve written and say “Good
enough!” As James Scott Bell puts it in The Art of War for Writers:

“I’ve seen a great many manuscripts in the last few years that have been very good, yet failed to sell. The writing was solid, the characters and plot workmanlike, the structure sound.

Yet no placement. Why not? Because good enough isn’t good enough anymore.”



So, Guardian: Relics of Providence remains a work in progress. Until I can look at it and say that I believe in it as much now as they day I sat down last year to finally start penning it, I can’t expect an agent, editor, publisher, or reader to believe in it either. 


Which isn’t to say it’s not close! I’m legitimately at a point where I’m ecstatic with about 75% of the book. The other 25% is minimal things. Select chapters that need reworking. Dialogue that needs sanding. 


To-Be-Read
For now, I’m working on catching up on my to-be-read list. And hopefully some book reviews! I’m hoping to get a nice solid review out there for you folks on the Graceling/Fire/Bitterblue trilogy which I absolutely loved. I can honestly say it’s one of the strongest, if not -THE- strongest trilogy out there. I cannot recommend the trilogy highly enough, and hopefully once I sit down to write up a good review for you folks, you’ll be convinced!






Happy Arrival!!!
And, to wrap up this post, I’d like to introduce you to the newest love in my life, Katsa:

She’s a Seagull guitar, and a great improvement over my old acoustic. 

So how about you folks? Where’s your writing at? New projects? Revising? Querying?


Posted in ain't life grand, GUARDIAN, Relics of Providence, writing advice | 3 Comments

Book Review Friday: FEAR by Michael Grant


This week’s review is all about FEAR by Michael Grant.

For anyone not in-the-know on one of the best young adult series, FEAR is the fifth installment in the GONE series.

The concept of GONE is this. The town of Perdido Beach in California is suddenly, and instantly sealed off beneath a dome. That would be bad on its own, but at the same reality crushing moment, everyone over the age of fifteen vanishes. Not like they wander away and disappear.

Poof. Gone.

Heh heh…gone…get it?

Now -THAT- would be enough. It’d be a take on Lord of the Flies.

But the kids trapped beneath the dome start changing. Developing powers. You know that brat down the street who throws snowballs at your car? Imagine, instead, him throwing a car at your car. Yeah. That’s terrifying.

This review isn’t so much about FEAR on its own. Reviewing the fifth entry in a series would be a bit awkward. It’s an established story with established characters. And those characters are worth looking at…


Villains

Michael Grant is one of the best authors around when it comes to villains. Some villains you love to hate. Some you might even want to avoid meeting in a dark alley.

The GONE series has villains that you’ll have nightmares about. If it’s not the BIG bad of the series that’s just downright creepy, it’s the human villains. Psychopaths, sociopaths, zealots, and dictators. And they’re under the age of 16.

What’s worse is when you realize that these types of people actually exist. Even at that age. Think about the bullies you went to school with. What if they had the ability to blast you with beams of high-powered energy? Or could drop you into a world of nightmares with nothing but a mere thought. On top of that, remove any sort of authority. No parents. No police. No military. And hundreds of innocent bystanders. Even the bravest of us would be utterly screwed.

For now, I’d like to focus on two of the more central villains. Being a psychology major makes it all the more interesting.

Drake Merwin is a sociopath. Period. He doesn’t really have any goal beyond hurting people. It’s just something fun to do. He’s a serial killer running around with nothing but little kids as targets. Yeah. Disturbing.

Then there’s Caine. Caine isn’t quite a sociopath. The term ‘sociopath’ gets overused a bit, especially in literature. To keep the definition simple, sociopaths completely understand social norms and morals. They just don’t care. They’re non-factors to their decisions, for the most part. The only reason a sociopath might take morals into account is if they’re attempting to blend in.

Caine, however, shows blips of emotion. So while Drake is terrifying for being a shotgun with no real aim, Caine has one desire. Power. Control. On top of that, he’s smart. Caine knows how to manipulate people. If the world had gone differently, he would’ve been a politician, and one who achieved a very high level, as well.

Think of it this way. Drake is a lightning storm. It blasts away random things and sets fire to homes. While he occasionally aims at individuals out of deranged hatred, it’s pretty much just whatever gets in his way he looks to destroy. Caine has plans. And he tends to succeed in them…meaning he will eliminate you if you’re a threat. Period. Drake could get bored, or distracted.

Caine won’t. You’ll either die, or submit.

Unless you’re one of the…

Heroes

Just like the villains, Michael Grant has done something I’ve long enjoyed in other tales. Flawed heroes. No one -really- wants the square jaw of justice to fly overhead and tell us all about not doing drugs and abstinence. They want someone like them. Someone who hated their father or occasionally lies or hit someone’s mailbox and kept going. Mistakes. Human. Flaws.

I could go on and on about Sam Temple. He is -the- hero of the GONE series. No question. He’s got flaws a-plenty, and while I love him as a hero, he’s what you’d expect of the reluctant savior of the people in Perdido Beach. He’s got an interesting story, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen elsewhere.

I’d much rather talk about people like Edilio and Quinn.

Spoilers aside, these are two unlikely heroes. All too often you see people like Sam becoming these respected warriors because they have an intense ability and some rather enduring ideals.

Edilio and Quinn are not super humans. They can’t blast people with heat beams. They can’t move things with a flick of their wrist.

Quinn is that guy in your class you might overlook and, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t count on. In spite of this, he -becomes- a hero. It’s one thing to start a tale as the fellow no one wants to tangle with. But when you get to see someone grow into someone you’d be proud to call a friend? That’s a powerful story. What it really speaks to the reader is, you might not be able to step up right away to an emergency. But it doesn’t mean you can’t rise to the occasion. Quinn is a dynamic person who grows throughout the series.

Edilio is the kind of hero you see everyday. He’s the fireman. He’s the EMT. He’s the lifeguard at the pool. The person doing an everyday job that others can’t or won’t. He’s reliable. Trustworthy. To put it simply, Sam is the fellow you trust to save your life if he can. Edilio is the fellow you trust to save your life or die trying. To put it simply, Edilio’s the kind of guy I’d want to have on my side because you know he’s a loyal guy who will do the right thing because he’s a good guy. Not just because he has some superpower.

‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ Sure. Edilio’s mantra seems to be: ‘There’s great responsibility’.

So, with that, I can say I highly recommend the GONE series. They occupy the ‘top shelf’ of my library, reserved only for the truly great books. So take that for what it’s worth.

How about you folks? What villains and heroes really stand out in your favorite literature?

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Social Networking and Young Adult Writing VIDEO!!!

So, for anyone not aware, I recently finished my graduate degree!!! Woo!!! I’ll soon be the proud owner of a Master of Education in Instructional Technology.

For one of my final classes, I was allowed to dive into my lovely writing career. It involved closely watching my own social networking as I tried to establish myself as a hopeful writer.

Now, I could go and let you read some research paper about my wonderful experience with all of this…

But how about you just watch this snazzy video instead. Well sorta video. It’s more of a slide show, really. But not all that boring. I suggest going full screen for this one.  Hopefully you enjoy it!!!

Feel free to make comments! This was my final project for the class, and hopefully you’ll agree with my professor and give it a good grade!
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment