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Monday, June 28, 2010

Meter Monday (and a contest promotion)

So today I'm starting a new blog series called Meter Monday (was looking for a better name, but hey, I'm strapped for time here). The idea is to report on my WIP every monday, sort of like an running meter to keep me motivated. *starts singing just keep swimming....just keep swimming...* You can join too!! Just post a Meter Monday progress report on your blog, and hopefully link back here to keep it all neat and tidy. We can cheer each other on!!

My progress report:
So this weekend I got 150 pages done on the second round of edits on Nikki's Wish. It's at that stage where the whole plot is laid out, every scene is pretty much the way I want it and now I'm looking for ways to improve it. I looked particularly for areas where I could make things sound better, replaced weak verbs, eliminated stray adverbs, and just generally tightened where I could. I have just 50 pages left to go on this round. I also made an excel spreadsheet that lays out each chapter, its purpose, what each character in each particular chapter should be feeling and took notes on what little things I can do to intensify the emotional impact. It's sort of like a plot outline, but more focused on making certain that I'm seeing all the little things from each character's POV.

Books I read this week - yes, i consider this part of my overall journey to publishment. Reading as much as you can and everything you can is soooo essential to becoming a good writer. Might as well take credit for it. This weekend I finished The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (review here), and I started a Sarah Dessen book called Lullabye. I haven't read any Sarah Dessen yet, but since she's so popular I think it makes sense to pick up one of her books. Actually I picked up two others on a Barnes and Noble online sale (1.99 each) and I'll be doing a review of them when I finish.

Finally, I did some crits on AW. Critiquing others work has helped me so much, and I continue to do it because I enjoy it and it keeps me focused on those things I need to be doing in my own WIP.

So there you have it. Now for a little contest promotion: Janice Hardy, author of The Shifter, is giving away an anthology of short stories written by her crit group. You'll get to encounter a planet full of flying squid, a cross-country race through smart buildings and moving sidewalks, and a "designed" daughter who would rather be a son (I'm thinking a cloning experiment gone awry here, but I could be wrong). The most interesting one to me is Janet's short story entitled Man's Best Enemy. Don't you just want to read that based on the title? I do! Contest linky here.

So what progress have you made this week? Feel free to share and include a link to your blog. *just keep swimming....*

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review - The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

This is my first middle grade review, and I know most of my followers are not into MG stuff, but this is an exception I think because the book is The Red Pyramid, the highly anticipated new series from author Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame. 

Summary from Goodreads: 
Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. 

Reader's crit:  Ok, so here's the paradox. I had a hard time getting into this book and as I was reading it, some things just irked me *see below*, but at the same time I know that when the second book comes out I'll probably buy it. Now, I don't know if that's my book collector spirit taking control of me or what, but there you have it. Overall, I was rather disappointed with The Red Pyramid because I loved Percy Jackson so much and was so eager to check out a new series by him. My son LOVES Percy, and part of me was really excited because it takes a lot to get my son excited about books. In some ways I  think that the subject material (Egyptian mythology) is partly to blame. It's just a little bit harder to digest than the Greek Gods that we're all so familiar with - reading about them in Percy was like revisiting old friends. In The Red Pyramid, I had vague (really vague) memories of some of these Gods, and the mythology wasn't familiar to me at all. Things that I did like about the book - a kickass female protag, an african american male protag, the bonding between the sibs was real sweet, and the little animal sidekicks (a baboon and a cat goddess) were a hoot. Also, I was interested in the culture as a whole by the ending and I like that some things in the book were based on fact.

But there were some little things that irked me as a reader:
1. The female MC, Sadie is portrayed far too mature for her age. She's twelve, and she gets the hots for Anubis, a God who is said to look about 16. Now, I know what you're thinking, so what, right? When I was twelve I crushed over pop stars and stuff, so what's the difference? Well, the difference is that Riordan makes it seem like the relationship is possible, that the attraction is fully reciprocated and that just IRKED me. Maybe it's the parent in me that's stepping in here, and for my younger followers I apologize, but really? A twelve year old and a sixteen year old flirting with each other? *shivers*

2. Going along with Sadie acting too mature are her words: "I mean, I'd asked for the truth, but usually you don't actually get it, especially from guys." Ok, what twelve year old knows that much about men to say something like that? Unless I'm living under a rock. IRK!!

3. Over use of descriptions. There are a lot of strange creatures in this book, and yeah, I know that there were a lot of weird half-crocodile, half-lion things creeping around ancient Egypt. But did Riordan have to put them on every single page?? I couldn't keep track of them all, and it just got so redundant after awhile. It was like, oh, another strange creature to fight - how surprising. After 500 pages of it, it just got to be TOO MUCH.

4. Length - 500 pages for a MG book is rather long.

Reader's score: 3.5  If I hadn't been so enamored over Percy Jackson I would have opted to loan this from the library instead. And now that obsessive book collector thing is kicking in  *grumbles*.

Writer's crit: You're probably already getting that I'm not as crazy about this book as I was with Riordan's other work. The thing is, I think that Riordan really stumbled on a bit of luck when he thought up Percy Jackson - the story there is compelling. It's good. But when the story isn't as engaging, as it is here (and also with the 39 Clues, another series of his), then Riordan's weaknesses as a writer show through.

Problem #1. Set up. For a MG book, this one takes way too long to get into. By page 100, not a whole lot had really happened. Riordan does a lot of telling in the first chapter or two. New writers couldn't get away with that. 

Problem #2. POV. The story is told in alternating FP POV of the brother and sister. In retrospect, I can see why Riordan chose to do this because both kids end up having equal powers at the end, but in the beginning and middle of the book it was very distracting. Since both characters have a bit of snarkiness to them, it was often hard to remember who was speaking. This is bad for a kid's book when you have to really fight to keep the reader's attention, and I think the book probably would have been done better if it had been in third person. Then Riordan could have jumped between characters without the reader getting confused as to who was speaking. 

Problem #3. Excessive description, especially of the monsters that all seemed very much alike by the end. 

Problem #4. Confusion. Ok, so there were 5 major gods to keep track of, and their parents, and then there were about 4-5 minor gods, and then there were several instances where characters weren't what they appeared to be or had hidden agendas, and then there were a lot of dreams/spirit floating to interpret, and on top of that, the Kanes' mission to defeat Set was really just a small part of this bigger problem that was out there. Granted, there were lots of Greek Gods as well, but in Percy Jackson, not all of them were introduced in one book. The reader was eased into it and again there was the sense of familiarity. But in this...well, I just got confused keeping track of it all. It's a good lesson for kids, but a lot to handle I think. My son is about a third of the way through and after he reads it, I'll have a better feel for how well kids do with it, but I would guess that they would be rather confused, as I was, by the end. 

Overall writer's score: 3

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Blog Award

So I was given this awesome award by two fellow bloggers, Naomi at Inkcrush and Ezmirelda at Dreamz of a YA writer, which is great because I love awards and well, I never get them so, thanks guys!!

My duties as award reciever:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award - DONE!
2. Share seven things about yourself
3. Pass on to fifteen bloggers - well, I don't know if I can find fifteen and nearly everyone on AW has already gotten one, but I'll do my best.

Seven things about myself:

1. I'm a bit of a risk taker. I got married at the young age of 19, to a guy I had met online.  Now this was back when the internet was just a baby, so stalkers weren't really a problem, and we've had a very successful marriage with three kids and lots of good times - so no worries there folks. But I'm sure that I gave my mother a heartattack when I told her I was spending the summer in Florida to be this guy whom I had only met in person once. If my daughter were to do that, ok, let's not go there....

2. To go along with the risk taking, I have a bit of an addictive personality. I latch onto things and become obsessed with them. For awhile it was scrapbooking, then it was gardening, then daytrading (which my husband put a stop to after I lost 5000$) and for the past two years it's been writing (hence my AW name, adktd2bks). I think I have far more chance of being successful with the writing than the daytrading - and less likely to lose my shirt.

3. I love Prince. I started listening to him when I was 11, and while I haven't latched on to his newer material, I really do love all of his older stuff. I saw him in concert once and hopefully will again some time soon. My favorite song: Get Off, and apparently John Green agrees with me (it was in Looking for Alaska).:)

4.  I do have a day job - I'm a geneticist/ molecular biologist though I haven't been all that excited about my career lately.

5. The only food I really don't like is tomatoes. My husband is from Malaysia and he's really into ethnic foods and such, so I've tried a lot of everything. Oh, I guess I don't really like raw oysters either but that's not because of the taste. They're just too big and slimy so I always feel like I'm choking.

6. I saw Anne Rice's house!!! This was before the New Orleans flood and no, I didn't get to go inside, but I'm a big fan of hers so it was very interesting to see the setting of her Witching Hour series.

7. I love all the people on AW!!!! *big hugs to everyone*

Now to pass on this award:
1. Alissa Grosso, YA author who has given me lots of good book recommends.
2. Kate Hart because she always has such wonderful pictures on her blog.
3. Karla because she has such wonderful teasers.
4.  Vee for taking the time to do a critique of my query, and she's an awesome newly-agented writer that you can learn lots from.
5. And Kara at Moomurs because I've recently discovered her blog and she's terribly cool. 

Well, I think that's enough since the award has been making the rounds everywhere.

Thanks again guys!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Review - some girls are by courtney summers

Ok, why is that whenever the title is in small letters on the book I feel obligated to post it that way in the review? Makes no sense. *walks off shaking her head*

Onto the review:

Summary: Regina Afton is a member of the Fearsome Five, the hated clique that is both feared and revered at Hallowell High. But she's more than that. She's the best friend, and right hand woman, of the clique's leader, Anna (think of the Godfather's Luca Brasi and you get the picture). In short, she's a bitch. She doesn't like herself much, but it's a coveted position and being in the circle is a million times better than being out of it. Until the night of the party. After Anna's boyfriend, Donnie, attempts to rape her, Regina seeks advice from Kara, another member of the group - and finds herself betrayed. Kara tells Anna that Regina slept with Donnie and before Regina has a chance to explain, she finds herself frozen out of the clique. From then on, it's a blood-bath (sometimes literally) as Regina copes with banishment and faces her own true self.

Reader's crit: If you haven't read this book yet, get thee to a bookstore. NOW! OMG, Some Girls Are is so awesome, it really did make me do all those thing listed on my score sheet - yes even the hubby. :) I could not put this book down - I mean I sat in one spot and read and read from the first page until the very last. I haven't had a book grip me like that in quite a while. And it was gripping. The book was loaded with tension. The main character, Regina, isn't all that likable. I mean, she was cruel to people, hurt them, even drove them to the brink of suicide, and yet there I was crying for her situation. How did Summers do that? I mean we've all had an encounter with a bitch before and Regina's character is the type that puts other bitches in their place, and yet, I was bawling my eyes out. And not just at the ending - probably four or five times throughout the book. If a book can get me all teary eyed before I'm even a quarter of the way through, then it's got something special. On my reader's scale I give this a 5, though if I could, I'd knock it up to a 7 or 8.

Writer's score: I'm searching for something critical to say here.... searching.... still searching. Ah! I've got it. *Pause* Nope, sorry. There just isn't anything here that I can say needs work or that irritated me. Maybe the only thing I could say is that the tension never let up enough that I felt like I could put the book down to go get a snack or a cup of tea. And I do love my tea. I have heard people say that the ending was too abrupt, but I really didn't mind it. I think that Courtney Summers has now become my all-time favorite YA author (not counting JK Rowling or Rick Riordan - but those are middle grade). Really, I'm in love here. Score = 5.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Haven't done a teaser in a while, and this one is really a teaser. So to orient you, in Chapter 1, Nikki has witnessed a boy fall from the observation deck of the Foshay Tower (posted in SYW if you're interested, under Nikki's Wish chapter 1). After a few moments of shock and disbelief, she gets another, greater shock when a boy who looks exactly the same as the one who just fell arrives on the scene. She faints, and this is where the teaser picks up. One more thing, the dialogue in italics is Nikki's deceased twin sister, who Nikki hears in her head throughout the book.

It wasn’t the cold that brought me out of unconsciousness. It was the warmth. I opened my eyes to find a heavy blanket draped over me and a soft pillow under my head. For a brief, hopeful moment I thought I was at home resting on the couch. But the hard concrete under my butt confirmed otherwise. In fact, I was still on the observation deck of the Foshay Tower.

“Not a dream,” I whispered as I sat up.

“Whoa, take it easy. You bumped your head.”

My eyes pivoted to the boy crouched in front of me, taking in every detail at a glance and then playing it back in slow motion.

Faded jeans. Black t-shirt. Leather jacket. My fingers brushed the outside of the identical jacket I still wore. A chill slithered down my back.

Dark hair, bushy eyebrows, hazel eyes. I hoped for some indication of recognition from him. There was none.

Stubble across his cheek, speed bump over his nose, soft pink crease down the center of his… I licked my own lips.

“I am dreaming.”

I reached out my hand to touch him but was rudely interrupted when he thrust a cold icepack toward me.

“Here. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do for now.”

“Um… th-thanks,” I said, and with a shaky hand I set it against the bump on the back of my head. Now that he had reminded me of it, I realized just how much my head hurt. Still, this didn’t stop me from examining every inch of him once more. My Sam had a small blemish above his eyebrow. So did this one. My Sam had a little cut on the left side of his chin. So did this one. They were the same down to every last detail.

How was this possible?

Because it’s not, you idiot.

But…but he looks exactly the same. Look at that cut!

Oh, for crying out loud, Nikki. How often does a guy cut himself shaving? They look the same because they were born the same. They’re twins!

Twins? Twins! Of course! How could I have not figured this out sooner? Me, Dreyer twin number 2. How could I have been so clueless?

Can anyone say den-i-al? Come on girl, get with the program. Sam’s dead. Gone. Ka-put.

I shivered as the entire episode came back in one blinding flash. Shani was right. Sam was dead. This boy’s brother was dead. What was I doing, sitting here, mooning over Sam when he was… dead?

The boy chuckled as if reading my mind. And even this, his humor in the midst of chaos felt familiar.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You won’t remember any of it.”

“I…” I wanted to tell him that would be nice, like real nice, but another part of me didn’t want to forget. I couldn’t forget. I was the last one to see Sam alive, and that meant I had to tell his brother about it. “I’m… sorry,” I finished, feeling weak and pathetic. When had those two words ever helped me? Never. I had to do better than that.

“No need to be sorry,” he replied. “You haven’t done anything wrong, and like I said, in a short while, you won’t even remember it.”

If only it were that easy.



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