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The Big Fat Holiday Four



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And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay, and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day. So a merry Santa Day to the blogosphere - I hope you're feeling as fatty as I am after my Christmas dinner (and that was two days ago).

FOUR.
Just in case you took a spin around in the TARDIS and lost track of time, a couple days ago the world celebrated Christmas. It began at 6 AM for me - I took out my mouthguard, drank a cup of tea, and then went back to bed. I then reattempted Christmas morning at 8:45 AM precisely, for my brother's alarm clock woke me up. It was a fair haul - Fujifilm camera, Doctor Who 1-5 Seasons, DVDs (Inception, Se7en, Iron Man 2, Supernatural, etc), a dozen or so books (DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, BEHEMOTH, LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, etc), art supplies, money for Thailand...It goes on. Like I said: fair haul. Thereby, I give you a few shots from my Christmas with my brand spanking new camera.

1: my little cousin Jimmy in the Batman getup I bought him. 2: my aunt's, where we have lunch.3: a part of my Dad's annual Christmas challenge (you kick a soccer ball into one of the three goals and you get a gift. you hit three, you get three presents). 4: the reindeer on the roof of my aunt's neighbour's. 5: my family's nativity scene (yeah, that is indeed Mulan's horse you see). 6:another part of my Dad's annual Christmas challenge (you pick out a paper and open it, you then either miss a turn or are told to kick a soccer ball)


THREE
Just in time for the holiday season, I finished revising the first volume of my book! RETURN is halfway through its sixth round and I'm developing and falling in love with my characters more and more as I creep closer to its core. (:

The only thing to remember is to keep motivated, and to stop reminding myself of the impending end to the holidays, which ends earlier for me (as I am going to Thailand on the 14th). I've begun re-sketching some of the concept art in regard to said characters, which I might thrown on up soon (for the time being you should check out the gallery link under the Portkeys sidebar menu).


TWO
So, I am a recent convert to Whodom, which you probably didn't know, and I got the entire five seasons of the reboot for Christmas. This morning, I began the fifth season, which I hadn't yet seen and I must say, impressive. New theme, new TARDIS, new Doctor and assistant. I must say, I'm loving all four. Especially Ms. Pond's Scottish accent and the banter. However, there are the down falls, such as the Teletubby Daleks, and Amy's trout pout. All in all, I'm glad I recorded the Christmas Special last night and that I heard the Doctor's impersonation of the TARDIS landing noise.


ONE
And the customary rant begins. Yesterday, I rented Return of the Joker from the video shop, which is a movie linked to the Batman Beyond/of the Future series. And I loved it. To hear Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong - the classic kids. It got me thinking about a matter that my friends will tell you will have me ranting for a solid five minutes without breathing. The new superhero cartoons. have you seen Batman: the Bold and the Brave? Ew. Compared to the Animated Series, I could do better.

All the cartoons are, nowadays, terrible animations, anime rip-offs, or that strange rounded balloon-type Pixar stuff. What happened to the classic WB style? I love that style. I grew up on that style. And now I must seek out a boxset of the Animted Series or never watch another Batman cartoon again.

#end Nerd Out.

Say What, Superhero Trend?



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Adam Christopher over at io9.com has just posted about his thoughts on how the next Big Thing could be superhero prose. Now some of you might be opposed to this idea, and I for one should be whole-heartedly embracing this concept - given the topic of my novel.

Soon I Will Become Invincible was released in 2007, and has always been something I've wanted to peruse. Apparently, it was pretty huge at the time when it came out - but recently the author, Arthur Grossman, updated his blog with the announcement that he had further books coming, sequels. Christopher's post makes the comment that that's pretty well four years after his first book was released; he then mentions Minister Faust's From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, which has a cult following, but may have been released too early.

Next year's overwhelming wave of superhero film adaptations (Green Lantern, The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man 3, The Dark Knight Rises, Thor...etc), Christopher predicts, may well inspire publishing to look that way for fiction. The visual need for superheroes will be satiated, but what about the written, the paper?

Now as a reader, I love the idea of costumed superheroes in fiction - but, hopefully, in good fiction. Any of that SMeyer prose and I can see a dive-bomb (film sound effects and all). But, at the same time, my own novel concepts deals with the grittier themes of vigilantism - young, uncostumed veterans, dealing with the hairsbreadth between heroism and villainess. But then you speculate, if action/adventure novels about superheroes were to surface, their romantic counterparts would as well. Lois and Clark from Lois' perspective? Personally, if superheroes became a trend, I'd like to see an emphasis put on really good, well-developed villains. Antagonists, particularly in YA, have been flat of late.

I wouldn't be talking about this unless it would benefit me, right? Yeah, right. That or it disadvantaged me so significantly...But it doesn't. Now, I'm not saying that superheroes are the Next Big Thing. I'm hoping, just a little. Christopher mentions that original concepts aren't so common, Megamind, The Incredibles and Hancock being the only films he could mention. I can't think of any others either. He then goes on to say that original superhero television has recently exploded. There's Heroes, Misfits, No Ordinary Family and the forthcoming The Cape, Three Inches and Alphas.

So back to books, right? It's all well and nice to talk about movies and television, but fiction is the main point here. There are a number of anthologies of late, such as Masked. There are a lot of sites and online magazines that are penned for superhero fiction - though that's the same for everything, isn't it? I don't know, Christopher makes a good attempt at trying to predict the trend, but it's kind of futile, isn't it?

You can't really foresee the market.

In Which I Get Disgruntled With YA (Or, I Begin to Hate This "In Which" Title Stuff)



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Like many, there are times where I get disgruntled over my genre - YA, or more specifically, YA Fantasy. Who wouldn't where septuplet-plots are popping up with crisp "'Ellos!", with shells for protagonists and with blurbs that include: "enmeshed in a forbidden romance", "they fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone - especially herself", "he looks like an angel and acts like a jerk" or "she has to find out what he's so desperate to keep secret...even if it kills her", or even "when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life". Le sigh. Surely, I must be missing something.

One of my friends, when she found out about my writing, asked: "So, it's like Twilight?" Every fibre of my body was screaming "NO" and restraining myself from pulling a Barney Stinson "Friendship over!" But looking back, I'm realising that of late, the pull in the market toward YA has given it a certain reputation - that it's just "on my period stories" and "Twilight copies". Even if trends seem to shift this way, it's not what YA is. Or what it should be. There are diamonds in the rough, there just might be a little too much rough.

"Peeta crouches down on the other side of her and strokes her hair. When he begins to speak in a soft voice, it seems almost nonsensical, but the words aren't for me. 'With my paint box at home, I can make every colour imaginable. Pink. As pale as a baby's skin. Or as deep as rhubarb. Green like spring grass. Blue that shimmers like ice on water.' The morphling stares into Peeta's eyes, hanging on to his words. 'One time, I spent three days mixing paint until I found the right shade for sunlight on white fur. You see, I kept thinking it was yellow, but it was much more than that. Layers of all sorts of colour. One by one," says Peeta. The morphling's breathing is slowing into shallow catch-breaths. Her free hand dabbles in the blood on her chest, making the tiny swirling motions she so loved to paint with."

I'm not saying Suzanne Collins made a diamond - far from it, I believe - but YA fantasy can be made up of so many great moments. The outlandish scenarios that characters are catapulted into can withdraw flickers of raw human emotion, moments when a lump of coal hits the light just right and fools you, catching you in a moment where it's a diamond.

I'd wager that I could ask any YA fantasy author, or aspiring author, and they could describe a scene which they personally believed contained this enchantment I describe. Beauty, variety, depth and imagination - With such potential in such an affluent market, I just don't understand why an author would want to waste their time, scribbling away for six months in order to latch onto the tailcoat of a trend, writing a story they mightn't believe in, that they know parallels several others and they know have 2D populations.

A lot of these stories are slotted into the YA fantasy book list, but are primarily romance novels, with a paranormal/fantastical element thrown in to make it different. But lamentably, they're becoming a little too similar. Maybe they're in love with the concept of mermaids, but the ones they want to write about, the story they want to tell, is different from the current market trends. Maybe they're afraid that no one will want their mermaids. So they write their mermaids into someone else's formula.

From some author interviews I've read, the romance has become fundamental. What happened to the character-driven works where you felt as though the protagonist could've been sitting across from you at Gloria Jeans, describing this outlandish adventure they had over the summer break? Debut author Sarah J. Maas said on her protagonist, Celaena: "She's the reason I never gave up on QUEEN OF GLASS, and the reason the plot kept on growing and growing. Writing about such a strong heroine is awesome - and inspiring...She's made me a lot bolder - and made me unafraid to stand up for myself...I guess I find strength in her strength". Of all the next-big-thing YA authors, who's expressed such passion for their protagonist? Not the new romance plot they've got planned, not the possible movie portrayal or the Top Hottest list the character made - who has said that they love their character?

A fantasy author, I think Robin Hobb, said the Tolkien set a bar for her by writing THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Maybe these YA fantasy writers have a bar set for them - maybe their own Tolkien is Rowling, SMeyer, Westerfeld, Clare, or Collins. Maybe following the path of Pants her He-Man (cookies for reference-guessers) is easier, safer. One of my brother's friends pulled out of a representative soccer team because it was easier to say yes, rather than no, to his old team, to settle for an easier grade than to leap and risk falling, failing.

Maybe somewhat off-track, but I'll include it anyway. Some think that the fantasy world is meant to be morally clearer, generally sharper and easier to comprehend than reality - that's why attractive = boyfriend, endearing fault = protagonist, opposition/ugly = evil and quirky = unimportant friend. There are times where I want to shake editors, tell them that YA fantasy isn't an easy road, it doesn't deserve negligence when it comes to revisions. Contemporary YA can be questioning, probing, intelligent. Why can't fantasy? I believe that YA fantasy should embrace the questioning of human emotion, exploring the complexities of individuals, of their morals and motivations. It shouldn't be an MTV show, My Supernatural Boyfriend. Romance should take a lower road to character, to the nuances that individual traits bring to a real relationship.

"Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can." Terry Pratchett

The YA fantasy that I'm talking about, predominately, is urban fantasy, where the element is brought into our own world. Our surroundings. There are, of course, similar issues with the ageless fantasy of far-off worlds and times, but I read few of those (Not sure why). Anyway, the fact that this genre has a crutch, that there is an aspect that doesn't need world-building, may have sparked laziness in other areas. Borrowing ideas from fandoms, borrowing dialogue from notorious movies, implanting a carbon-copy of a love interest with different hair, or giving your defined antagonist an "attention: villain because author says so" t-shirt.

What am I saying? I'm saying that I'd like a stop in laziness and for authors to just sit down, brainstorm and make up their own material.

Thoughts?

In Which You See the Revision Desk



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This is a pretty sad photoblog, but whatever. Deal with it. I had to use Photobooth to take these pictures - I couldn't find my camera. A couple posts back, I posted in my Friday Five (which I discovered actually takes place on a Thursday for the Americans - given that my blog clock is set to some non-Australian time zone) that I might do a photoblog to accompany my revisions complaining and moaning.

Meet Beastie. I should probably be calling him RETURN, but Beastie seems more fitting. There are approximately 45K words in that, 250-ish double-spaced pages and then revisions added on to it. The post-its are mainly notes that I've shoved into parts that I haven't gotten up to, or on pages that I need a new word or to research something. You can't see any of the paper clips, only that bull dog clip, but they're the same thing: If I rewrite a scene or a chapter, I do it either on a separate sheet or on my laptop and print it, depending on how long it is. I strikethrough the scene in the manuscript and clip the new one onto first page (as you will see below) of that scene.

So to the left is Beastie's insides. You can vaguely see what's going on - and it's also back-to-front. As in, where you see my hand: that is the left side. So, I revise from word one. I make my sentence rewrites, spelling and grammar and the edits that I can write in under two sentences on the page. If it's a paragraph or two, I usually just asterisks and then write on the left page. This set is unusual as I wrote an entire page, clipped it on, then decided to cut most of it. What else? I always edit in blue or purple pen, I don't like the look of red and sometimes my eyes glide over the black on black print. I also, if you can faintly see it, put crosses next to the lines where I've made corrections. And if there's paragraphs, I just draw a line from one cross to the next. So there, there's my MS.

Now I present to you the most important thing I own. Meet Atticus. He's one of those WD My Passport Essential things, but he's also the caretaker of my brainchild and all the other brain-foetuses that I have on that drive. Everything I have every written has been bestowed to Atticus, and if there was a fire, I would undoubtedly grab him. During the revisions process, I use Atticus to print off character summaries, bits of dialogue I've typed here and there, research information from the internet that I need to keep track of, and parts of the Beastie when I'm doing several things at once to rewrite them. He also holds all my music, my soundtracks, everything.

I shall now introduce you to The Folder. I made him up during the week whilst procrastinating and I love every inch of him. I have about 100 lined pages in the front, then a divider where I've printed out The Bookshelf Muse's Emotion Thesaurus (I was really, really procrastinating that day). Then, I have dividers separating each main character, the most important supporting characters, and the antagonists. Here I put summaries, future ideas, dialogue, mannerisms, bits of paper for me to scribble notes and ideas. Some have pages of research clomped in there, others have links to youtube videos for accent reference. It's a big, fun party. (;

So this is the Wall of G. It's directly above my desk, as you can see all my pencil-holding devices and knick-knacks, and is simply five pieces of wrapping paper, turned over and scribbled on in Sharpie. Each piece is a book summary, an instalment in a series that I've planned out. There's actually one missing. I'm never motivated enough to outline the final book. That'll come back and nip me in the arse, I know it. So on top of the summaries, I have bits of dialogue, expanded scene summaries, new scenes I want to slip in, notes to myself such as "opportunity to explore layout more. Different levels, boathouse, etc". The yellow bits at the top are ideas for characters, plots, and a summary of some sort of organisation. So, there is the Wall of G - which I use by looking into future plots and finding things to foreshadow.

And then, just because I said I would, I give you the Map (cue Dora the Explorer song). Dora and Boots are going...*cough* This is my city, which I have clearly named Tallara. It's Aboriginal, very fitting for Australia. (: On the left is a list of landmarks, places that are key to any of the plots. I haven't finished filling them in yet - right now they're just little dots on the map. The map itself is of an entire city region, which includes the suburbs and the expressways leading elsewhere. I find it much easier to get a grasp on pacing when I see how far they have to travel to do certain things. This too is Sharpie on wrapping paper. It's about a metre and a half wide and lives on the wall above my bed. The wind blows the blutack off all the time.

So there you have it, this is the revision desk. I have been using these things for a while now, you know, except The Folder, and it's quite possible I might start a revision segment, giving my advice and experience, and linking and referencing other bloggers who've helped me.

In Which I Present the Friday Five



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I couldn't decide on something to talk about today, so I thought: why not do a Friday Five? Good idea, conscience. A Friday Five. Now, I don't know if anyone's ever outlined what exactly goes in a Friday Five...If they have, I'm disregarding it.


FIVE.
I've been slugging through Cassandra Clare's CITY OF GLASS, which was difficult to get into, difficult to put down through the middle, and hard to finish toward the end. I don't know what's wrong with me, whenever I get to just before the final conflict, I lose interest - I mean come on, I've been waiting for this for 300+ pages, why don't I want to know the outcome? I've got to get through it tonight once I get back from seeing Love and Other Drugs because Saturdays are now to be my review days.

CITY OF GLASS is pretty good. Better than the earlier ones, I think. The series is a guilty pleasure of mine - you know, I should be reading something classy and taxing on the brain, but while I'm going through revisions, the last thing I want to do is strain myself any more. Simon has been consistently pleasing, and the Clary and Jace problems have resolved nicely. I've got something like 100 pages left.


FOUR.
The HSC results were released yesterday, the Honour Roll was in the newspaper, and I read through it all. Now, you probably don't know this, but the general consensus around here is that I will top English Extension 2 and Modern History, and that I'll get an ATAR of 99. People want me to go to Sydney, or NSW. I want to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Yeah, England. So I was looking at this list, and then I looked over the syllabus for Years 11 and 12.

Half of my HSC will be Russia, the Revolution and the like, the other half will be the Arab-Israeli Conflict (with Crusades topics in Ancient History). This morning, I bought DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (and came across a snooty Dymocks clerk), a HOLY BIBLE (to study as background text for English, Art and History) and a whole lot of $2 old classics from Vinnies.


THREE.
Character voice. I have a cast of six. Six characters that used to sound exactly the same are being slowly beaten with a club into six individuals. It's working, yes, but I may be developing some form of psychosis.

How do you deal with character voice? Do you believe that you should be able to pull out anything a character says and be able to put it aside and know exactly who said it? Personally, I don't use adverbs as dialogue tags. Hell, I pretty well only use the "he said, she said" tags, if I even use tags. I like changing the dialogue patterns itself and the physical movements of the speaker.

For example, say we have Ronan. Alright. So Ronan is reclusive, bookish and very clever. He doesn't have good social skills, so his initial words are usually stammers, he fidgets and pulls at his clothes/hair/etc., and he can't make eye contact. He talks with his hands, especially when he's explaining. He's one of those people who talk in long sentences, having to explain every little thing, and make sure that everything's thorough and he has left no room for doubt or for anyone to debate with him. (:


TWO.
Christmas Traditions. I don't know about you, but I have certain things that happen around my house during the holiday break. December 1st is The Day the tree goes up. We always watch the Lord of the Rings movies (Well, I do. Everyone else watches the first half hour of the Fellowship and then fall asleep). We always have a Christmas Pudding. We always have turkey and special sauce on Christmas Day at my Aunt's. Those are my family's.

I personally abandon Facebook for five days before and after. I exchange presents with my best friend, B. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray and Brideshead Revisited. Every Christmas. Yeah. (: I'm starting new traditions this year. I'm not going to touch my manuscript all day Christmas. Not once. I will watch my top Doctor Who five. I will drive to my Aunt's. I will not be the first person up and making breakfast.

So what are your traditions if you have any?


ONE.
The one thing I know you want to hear about. My revisions. Oh, my. Revisions are going slow. RETURN is giving me a head ache and I want to stab a spork in my eye. My character problems are only the beginning. I think I need to move my desk - maybe work in my bedroom. The light is terrible and I'm losing interest really easily. Thankfully, I've restructured one of my antagonists so now she rocks instead of sucking. I'll probably need to redo my settings, particularly in the cityscape. Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy and I've been working my fingers to the bone trying to mould the Cast of Six into real people. Hopefully it's working.

So for those of you who are revising, how's it going? I'll probably start doing a series of revision posts, give you some link lists, my own opinions from my experience. I might do a photo blog next and show you the set-up. The post-its, the wall scribbles, the tape and The Folder. Oh, yeah, it's capitalised. I have profiles, maps, etc. (:


In the mean time, I'm going to the movies.

In Which the Four Horsemen of the Prose-ocalypse Star



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This morning I read a post over at Debbie Maxwell Allen's Writing While the Rice Boils which carried me through cyberspace to an old 2009 Kidlit.com post about the Four Horsemen of the Prose-ocalypse. Basically, emotional cliches or the four areas of the body that are well-known hit sites for emotional bombing in novels.

Mary at Kidlit.com said that these areas are the:
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Stomach
She then goes on to list a number of cliched phrases about each of these areas of the body which I personally have seen far too many times. i.e. He cast his eyes to the ground. And I shall dismount my high, white horse; I am incredibly guilty of implementing and encouraging these four horsemen.

I struggle to come up with new phrases and cool, fresh spins on things as simple as that knotting in your stomach, that ache in your lungs, or the teary sparking in the back of your retinas. And though these four horsemen are lovely, I think they have a couple kid-brothers that we see somewhat but not enough.
  • The Horse-brother of the Hands. I once had a character that talked with their hands and fiddled with a ring on their thumb; they then went on to get varying sensations whenever they were nervous, tired, angry, etcetera. But with their hands. There's tingling, sweatiness, greasiness, aches and pains, knots and cramps. There's gripping your hands, steepling your fingers, pointing and gesticulating (one of The Worst words - always throws my mind into the gutter).
  • The Horse-brother of the Back. I think this guy's a recluse, personally. We rarely ever see him - in my last revision I gave this sort of emotional thingawhatsit to a protagonist. If he got tired, angry, happy, upset, worked-up or nervous, he would get shooting pains, tingling up his spine, itchy spots, uneasy tightness, cramps, etcetera.
We should also note that there's a lot of distant cousins and such of these Horsemen, such as he of the Mouth, of the Brow and of the Knee.

But if you know that you're an unintentional supporter of the Four Horsemen, don't fret. That's what the Angel of Revision is for. Hell, I've had my days where looking at my manuscript, I can honestly say that my choice of words could start the Apocalypse, but I've been working at it for over a year now, and it's paying off.

I find that a lot of these phrases turn out to be comparisons - similes or metaphors that the writer thinks fits. So take, for example, My heart clenched in my chest like a giant fist. First of all, I think someone once told me that your heart isn't much bigger than your fist, so, really, if it's a giant fist, I'd get that checked. Second, we'll get back on track. So take that and think, alright, what would that feel like. How would the rest of your body respond to it. Would you double over? Gasp? Clutch at your chest? Tear-up? The response to the pain usually furthers the reader's understanding of it.

A lot of people hold the belief that you should just avoid describing eyes and their motions all together, for whatever reason they hold. I don't agree with this. Eyes are renowned as the emotional gateways and the most famous of all the Horsemen. But the actions often don't fit the emotion and writers almost use it as a lazy way out of deepening the reader's understanding of the character.

YA is the greatest guilty party, they're the leaders of the Horsemen cult. They've got tattoos, man. Teenagers, apparently, are only capable of a very limited number of emotional body movements. Shrugging, crossing their arms, rolling their eyes, scoffing, smirking (Oh, God! The smirking! The horror.), chuckling, or cocking their eyebrows. Do their lips not twitch? Do their heads not tilt?

When you're setting up your characters and thinking about their quirks, you know, how they jingle their keys and how they like their coffee, write a heading: the Horsemen, and then figure out how their body reacts to certain emotions.

In Which I Condemn the eBook...Not.



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This morning I read a post by lit agent Sarah LaPolla, in which she responded to Leah McLaren's post on how e-readers take the fun out of giving books. If this were a playground conflict at my school (where you must always side) I think I'd be wearing the words Team LaPolla in pen ink on the canvas of my Dunlop Volleys, despite the fact that I'm not going to invest in an e-Reader anytime soon, nor am I exactly pro "Oh-Em-Gee, e-readers are taking over the universe!".

First paragraph of McLaren's post and I'm rolling my eyes. Point One - most percentages are made up on the spot. Point Two - she says that 10% of adults in the US are giving e-readers as Christmas presents. I'm guessing that's around 2 million e-readers. What of it? If any of them are like my Dad, they're only giving them because they look nifty and besides the token debauched humour card they give to my Uncle, they cannot think of anything else besides John Howard's autobiography. And so what if last year they made up 1% of the Christmas market and that figure's gone up to 10%? It's like the iPod. There was a point where that's all any tween-slash-teen wanted for Christmas, but now, everyone has one.

McLaren then goes on to say that "curling up with a new novel on Christmas morning will never be the same". I don't know about her, but my Christmas morning consists of my family opening presents, preparing lunch and then going to my Aunt's place where we eat lunch with the rest of my family and chat until 7 o'clock. I then go home and crash. There is no book reading on Christmas day. I also think that my Uncle will open his present and immediately say "Oh, look. An iPod." It will take a moment for me to explain what the e-reader is. He will consequently nod and say: "My chance of working this is zero."

I don't understand why McLaren thinks this is the turning point, that for some reason the old-fashioned (are we really referring to them as that?) book will become extinct. Of course, there are the literary aficionados and the book collectors. And if any others who have myopia or other eye issues are like me, the last thing they want to do is open up another LCD screen to relax. I also think that tweens/teens (particularly girls) are the biggest demographic (look at Twilight and all the YA books getting film rights) and consequently, they'll continue to buy printed books. If I was thirteen and all smexy for E. Cullen, would my Dad say, "Oh, sure. I'll buy you that $200+ e-reader that you'll probably spill Coke all over and kill within a month. No worries"? Ha. If you think the answer to that is yes, you really don't know my Dad.

Despite this emergence of the e-reader, I personally don't believe that it will be able to take over the traditional book completely. The non-readers, young males as widely believed, will be more likely to buy a, what?, $200 e-reader before they buy a $20 book? Really? A teenage girl who never reads (she never even finishes the books set for school) whose motivated enough to buy the first Twilight or the first Hunger Games book is going to buy an e-reader? Right. One may make the argument that e-readers can be shared - am I going to lend my friend a $200+ device that has my entire library on it when she could drop it in the sink? Yeah, sure.

They will continue to print books, I reckon. Otherwise, what would happen to Dymocks or Borders? Would they become MacStore-esque, but with images of slim e-readers instead of laptops? Can you imagine the romanticism and imagery associated with books and photography and creativity being replaced by a white, shiny e-reader? *smirk*

The world isn't anti-ereader, and it shouldn't be. We should definitely embrace all technological advances, no matter what is being "threatened" as a consequence. Sara LaPolla makes a good point: "Books have been in the same bound-pieces-of-paper format since, well...since books were invented. So naturally, we're freaking out that someone is trying to change them". I'm not anti e-reader. I'm just anti-"the e-reader is so fantabulous it's going to make books, like, extinct!"

McLaren talks about not being able to distinguish the non-readers apart from the readers. I can't help but feel this has some sort of elitism behind it. I read books and you don't, but because this shows I'm superior, anything that wouldn't make the fact I read apparent is baaad. And why is it that "young males" always come up under this non-reader label? I'm young, and it's ridiculous. Some types of young women never read, some types of young males always read. It's like saying that girls are non-sportspeople. (This is getting a little off topic...)

What's my forecast? I think that in the future printing of books will probably be saved for bestsellers or reprints of collections - a la Conan Doyle and Austen - and first-timers and general authors will have to climb their ladders through the e-readers. Or maybe not. I don't think it's worth bawling over changing technology. It's going to happen. Do you think that the companies that manufacture the e-reader care whether you believe in the e-reader? Hell, maybe if I'm ever given an e-reader for a present, I'll be more inclined toward them.

Anyways, this is the end to my most "schizophrenic" post in a long while.

In Which I Advise You on Teen Voice



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This is a post in response to an article that I stumbled across written by another Australian teen, author Steph Bowe, which can be read at her blog and here, where she wrote about the do's and don't's of crafting teen voice.

I, like Steph, am a teen and it wouldn't be presumptuous to assume that I know a thing or two about teen voice. Once you get two or three years behind or beyond my age, however, things should and will get a bit off. For example, I have a younger brother whose circle has begun to howl with cries of "Yeaaaaaaah boys!" in response to anything good happening - something I've never said, personally. He's two years younger than me.

Now, very rarely do adults, writing YA, get the teen voice correct - sometimes, the odd parent with teenage kids will be able to pick up on the likes and the vocalised LOLs, but very rarely does this happen. They either pick something very outdated, or a couple years out of date - such as dope *facepalm*, or they just stick a bunch of huffs, and "whatevers" and "likes".

Listening to teen speak is a good place to start. Go sit in the food court and listen. Do not go hang around outside a school. I'll give you an example. Now, the way teens address each other varies considerably, but I'll tell you about me and my peers. Sixteen. We call each other boys, guys, babe, etc. Never girls. Never "my friends". I have a friend called Gemma and a friend with Bird as a last name. Gemma I call Gemima, Gem, Gemmyboy, Gemdogs, G. Bird, I call Bird, Birdman, Birdy, B-man. My friend Connie, I both call and write down as Ron or Ronnie. TV and movies usually dim this down because I reckon it'd get pretty damn annoying to listen to it for hours.

Now, if you've listened to real teenagers speak, go out and read some YA books and watch some movies and TV shows geared toward teenagers. You'll pick up which voices are outdated, and you'll know which characters have real teenagers behind their dialogue. Try not to make references to current bands (i.e. Katy Perry, the Bieber Beaver, and whoever else is plaguing the radio) because you will, as Steph said, date your novel really quickly. If you want to do this, however, I'd opt for the Beatles or the Stones or something - but only if your character is the type to listen to this sort of music. I, for one, am one of those kids and have 12+ friends who are the same.

If this option is available to you, run your dialogue past a teen that you know. A cousin, a niece or a neighbour. Hell, if they seem a bit hesitant, offer to pay them for their services. $10 to comb through the dialogue of the entire novel, for every draft or whatever. As a teen, I would definitely take that money.

Of course, adding ums and a helluva lot of pauses and nuances with the characters' movements will make your dialogue unpleasant to read. The same goes for too much slang, unless it's used as characterisation - I have a character who you can barely understand. But that reflects on her background and her maturity.

If you can, try and make each teenage character a little different in their dialogue. If you looked at my circle of ten closest, our speech varies greatly. I have a friend whose worst curse is "shit" and who has a very maternal approach to addressing her peers. I have another who curses at any opportunity, but it adds emotion to her words - depending on how bad her language gets, you can really tell how worked up she is. I have another friend who always has to get a reaction, so there's a "right?" or a "yeah?" or a "get what I mean?" on the end of every spiel. I have another friend who speaks very little, mostly because she churns out whatever she wants to say in as few a words as possible, which makes her very blunt - she also tells the truth without fail. If you slotted these people into a novel, their dialogue would be different, no?

Any further comments? Add 'em on the end.

Oh, and photo credit to monstermagnet on deviantart.com

In Which I'm Visited by Santa's Delivery Elf



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A brand-spanking new blog requires a primary post of all levels of blabberdom. In this case, I shall be describing to my small-to-near-nothing audience of a broad-shouldered, yet skinny mail-delivery guy who waltzed up my driveway this morning. I, in fact, did not speak to this man. My Dad did, and was promptly handed a medium-sizedpackage. My Dad walked into the house and told me it had been sent from the North Pole - haha. Upon inspection, I deduced that the BBC had sent this to my Dad, and I was then given it to wrap.
I'd forgotten about this purchase I made on BBCShop.com, and was then allowed to wrap one of my Christmas gifts: Doctor Who Seasons 1 to 4 in a boxset. Hel-lo David Tennant.

In other news, I've had a lazy-day all day due to the fact that my family took pity on me as I worked an eight-hour shift at work yesterday, without any breaks and without sitting down once. I'd been on the grill nearly the entire time, and my arms were shaking as a result. I have disappointed myself as I have not touched one page of my book. Christ - I have to finish this damn thing twice over before January 14th, but I'm not even halfway now. I'm going to have to put a ban on DVD rentals (been watching West Wing for the past week), watching Foxtel (Vampire Diaries is on tonight!), reading City of Glass, Nicholas Nickleby, Sherlock Holmes, Sense and Sensibility, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief or Mein Kampf (Yes, I do indeed read far too many books at one time). And speaking of Hitler's book, I've had this one quote swirling around in my head for the past fortnight: Their swords shall become our plough, and from the tears of war the daily bread of future generations will grow.

I've organised files, etcetera. But the further I get from the beginning, the more I come up with to change the beginning. It's bloody ridiculous. The game plan, I believe, shall result in me going backwards for half of tomorrow, and then going forwards until my face melts off (I love the fact I can do that - hell yeah for school holidays!). You know, character voices is the bane of my existence. And my parents should probably remove the internet connection - my procrastination knows no bounds - since all I seem to do now is look up querying letters. (I have't finished yet! What is my problem?)

In closing, Lily Collins got cast as Clary in the Mortal Instruments movie. Read it here, the article comes from here. Clary is a teen, and Lily Collins, as seen below will pass as a teen. Bravo to the casting crew.

The Fitzgeraldist Reviews: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You



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I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You 
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls #1
Release Date: April 2007
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 288
Source: Personal copy
Rating: 
Buy it: Amazon | BookDepository | Barnes&Noble
The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school teaches advanced martial arts in PE, chemistry always consists of the latest in chemical warfare, and everyone breaks CIA codes for extra credit in computer class. So in truth, while the Gallagher Academy might say it's a school for geniuses what they really mean is spies. But what happens when a Gallagher Girl falls for a boy who doesn't have a code name?

Cammie Morgan may be fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti), but the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without him ever being the wiser, but can she have a regular relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy in training, but in her sophomore year, she's doing something riskier than ever—she's falling in love.
(Goodreads blurb)
Review:
I vividly recall fourteen-year-old me getting trés excited when she happened across this book in K-Mart all those years ago. She was all: "Dad! Holy crapola, spies! Dad! Spies! I'm buying this, kthanks." Charming, isn't she? Charming and so, so naïve. Had Carter decided to aim this series at an older audience and consequently complicated the plot and tone, with overall improvement, I think she could've really had something. Alas, people were content in this book's mediocrity.

The Gallagher Academy For Exceptional Young Women is a boarding school that teaches advanced language skills and correct conduct, but also general espionage skills. The protagonist of Gallagher #1 (Because ITYILYBTIHTKY is still too long!) is Cammie Morgan, a banal and perfect specimen right off the bat, fluent in fourteen languages and able to kill an assailant in seven different ways which give her impeccable credentials. Can you see where this is going? I could. I still can. Cammie's problem is that she's fallen for an ordinary boy who knows nothing of her double life.

If Gallagher #1 had had used its title ironically and taken itself seriously, it could have potentially been absolutely breathtaking. Do you hear me? BREATHTAKING. Carter should've set it in the English countryside or somewhere that paid homage to classic spy film and TV, with a deadset serious protagonist name (Cammie? Christ, really?). Being second-generation, as she is, makes her sound as if her family is pompous. Sorry, but it does. Had she been called Barbara or Winifred and then been known as Babs or Freddie or by her surname as true spies are in fiction (You don't see Fleming calling Bond "Jimmy"), this protagonist could've juxtaposed dated family beliefs and spy customs with the modern-day technological focus and the different threats that are posed in the espionage industry with current events (ie: terrorists, organ harvesters, uprisings in North Africa). It seemed like Gallagher #1 community.

Now, Carter needs a crash course in show don't tell, her discrepancies unforgivable given her genre. You are writing about spies for the love of God! She should also know that the premise will attract certain readers, ones with expectations and understanding of spies and the complexity and intrigue associated with that. Therefore: do not repeat things several thousand times for us to get the point. Guess what? We got it. The first time.

Furthermore, I felt like like Carter might as well have put an <"insert action scene here"> and then continued on. This feels very snarky and particularly rantish, but I must: If you are going to write a book that has a premise which promises action, then you have to deliver kick-ass action scenes! It's a given. Okay, okay, I know there's another way out of that. You know, the Thomas Crown, the clever twist, the salmon smacking them in the face because they were looking at the herring. Right?

No. It was like when you ring someone up with something really exciting to say and then a few minutes goes past of idle chat and you haven't gotten to the point where you can politely say: "SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN TO THIS BECAUSE IT'S AWESOMESAUCE." and suddenly, that person has hung up on you, or the line has dropped out. You are left standing there in the awkward arm dance of keep phone to ear, no, check to see if call is still ongoing, it isn't? lemme just check again..."hellooooo?"


I went into this with all these expectations and ideas of how clever and awesome it was going to be because I actually have so many spy books and movies on my shelves, and then Carter really didn't deliver. She obviously has said no to my Thomas Crown. Beside her superfluous one liners and stilted jokes, her lack of attention to the genre and its features has made the book far below sub-par.

The characters. The secondary cast were forgettable, and I can barely recall their names even now. The love interest, Josh? He was underdeveloped and his normalcy made him an empty shell that had no life beyond his little affair with Cammie and the stark contrast between banal and ZOMGspy! Carter's focus shouldn't have been on the ZOMG, like, love at first sight! but on developing a first love slowly and, more importantly, what it meant for her spy career.

Cammie Morgan should not have been the main character. She wasn't near intelligent enough to attend a school as prestigious as Gallagher was described, and she hadn't the sort of focus and priorities that a character as "impeccable" as described would have. This Godsend of a security school? So, yeah, if Cammie can fool the adults with her shenanigans which, no joke, I could pull off on a whim, then our hopes and dreams with the future of global espionage is doomed. DOOMED, I say!

I'll end this with a question: what drives a book? Conflict. Yes. Stakes. Danger. Did Gallagher #1 have any of those to offer on such a degree that it carried the story forward? No, not really.


This has been a post.

If you've read the book, feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. I love hearing what people thought of the books, even if they do disagree with me!

Until next time: Happy reading!

Nina
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