Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Writer's Corner: Being Special...Or Not

Now that I've sent my MS out into the world to be critiqued by some truly awesome people, I'm turning my eye to other projects (or five) that have been bouncing around in my head for a while vying for attention.That's five YA ladies who are in need of worlds to be built for them, back stories to be created and most important of all personalities to be attributes to them.
       This is where I usually get stuck. My ideas seem to always start with a single thought or concept. For example, I want to write a steampunk novel involving dragons.Everything else is created to give life to that concept, including my MC. I'm not sure how other writers do it, but I somehow always end up asking the same question: How special/ordinary does my MC have to be for her to survive in this world I've created?
       Then I start with a blank slate and add layers from there. Kinda like when you play The Sims and you get a base characters and get to choose their gender/skin tone/hair color. If you haven't played Sims (You're missing out!) but imagine a store mannequin that you get to dress up however you want, give them a personality and have them come to life just the way you want.
       The problem I'm facing a the moment is that with five MCs to write, I'm not only finding it difficult to make them distinguishable but I'm worried that they're starting to get too special. Or too not special depending on the circumstances. I have this gripe with super beautiful heroines and heroes at the moment so I've deliberately made my MC in Seeder's Poison ordinary looking to the point of being facially scarred. I enjoy all things fantastical so my MC in Iron Willed is psychic and throws electricity. And did I mention the steampunk dragon thing?
       Despite enjoying books with strong heroines who have special powers, I'm also a great lover of the underdog. The mere human who doesn't have anything special about her except her humanity. And that's where I think I'm stuck. It's so easy to write a character and give them super special powers that can get them out of a jam. It's not so easy to write a character with no special abilities trying to survive in a paranormal world. The kind with fallen angels, vampires, werewolves etc. And yet my mind refuses to let go of this concept. So I keep imaging scenarios where her lack of powers would be advantageous and end up ripping out pages of my notebook in frustration.
      In this era of super heroes and larger than life characters, do you guys think it's possible to have a powerless heroine and not feel like she has to depend on others to get her out of a jam? Because I can't seem to think of anything and I'm supposed to be the writer. Well, I can think of one way out, but I seriously cannot write romance so that's not an option. If anyone can think of any books that do this well, I am all ears!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday Updates & Critique Request Begging!!

Forbidden Mind by Kimberly Kinrade
Butterface by Gwen Hayes
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Reviews to  come...Soonish...I hope!

The Good: I am finished editing to a standard that I'm happy with! Now I'm back to the drawing board for my other 5 series that I plan to write some day.
The Bad: I am sick to death of my own MS and don't want to see it again for a long long time.
The Favor:  I know everyone is super busy gearing up for exams and vacations and summer in the northern hemisphere, but if anyone has time and would like to critique my MS, please feel free to email me at If you want to read a synopsis of my MS it can be located HERE. The excerpt on this page is a bit outdated and is no longer a part of the story but it's a good indication of my writing style regardless.

Once Upon A Time finally started showing in Australia and it looks okay so far even if the special effects are a bit lame. Gossip Girl and Hart of Dixie are done for the year. Sad face. But that means more time for reviewing the books I've been reading.

Not much going on in these parts. Two days of straight rain over the weekend meant I was cooped up inside the whole time. I keep meaning to bake something but mostly end up on the couch watching re-runs of Friends and Scrubs.

Over and out for another week.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Review: Raggedy Chan by Camille Picott

Emma Chan-McDougal receives a special gift from her Auntie Gracie: a rag doll named Raggedy Chan. But Raggedy Chan is no ordinary doll. She is a beautiful Chinese princess who lives in a jasper palace on the enchanted isle of Kunlun. The peace of her island home is threatened when Drought Fury steals Winged Dragon, bringer of rain. Without Winged Dragon, Kunlun will wither and die. To save her stricken homeland, Raggedy Chan sets forth alone. Her quest leads her to America, where she meets people who distrust her because she’s different. Can Raggedy Chan adapt to the strange ways of this new land and rescue her beloved dragon? In this 10,000-word modern fairy tale, Chinese-American author Camille Picott draws on her heritage to weave a story of magic, adventure, and sacrifice.


It's All In The Plot
Raggedy Chan is first and foremost an adventure. Though it's aimed at younger children, I couldn't help but admire how incredibly complex it was. It's got notable mythical animal characters to entice children and exciting plot twists for those of us who are on the other side of childhood (sniff).  Just when I thought things were going to be smooth sailing another obstacle would arise and Raggedy Chan would have to think of a clever way to resolve the dilemma. The Princess/Raggedy Chan shows all the desirable qualities of a strong heroine who would do anything to protect those she loves. 

Themes And Symbolism
I'm the first to admit that when I read it's purely for pleasure. Mostly because 1. I don't care if your book is a satire of the current political climate/trendy social justice topic. I can see that stuff on the news and I deal with it every day at work. 2. I'm not deep enough to delve into your heavily embedded symbolism so if you tell me your farm is run by pigs that's all I'm going to get out of it. With that being said, I couldn't help but notice that I actually got this book. Like, really got it. Camille has added just the right blend of storytelling, thematic influence and symbolism for the book to be both a compelling adventure story and a useful learning tool. This is a book that's not just for children my friends.

Everyone Is A Bit Racist
I think it's high time the whole world admitted to this fact. Heck, I'm half Chinese and I felt slightly racist reading this book. I kept thinking to myself, "why is Auntie Gracie talking like that?" and then I realised that both my parents speak exactly the same way and if I was having that kind of reaction imagine how other people would view it? Camille does such a great job of integrating her cultural influences into this book and I would argue that the skeleton of Raggedy Chan could be used to highlight the experiences of any immigrating culture. Kudos for the use of food as a way to teach about a culture. I think we can all agree that food brings everyone together.

Fish Out Of Water
What's truly genius about this book is that at one time or another in our lives we will all feel the way Raggedy Chan did after returning home from abroad. Whether it be from an adventure/travel/moving house/moving school. For a short time we feel tethered to both the past and the present, who we were and who we've become and life gets confusing and even scary. So much so that we consider not going forward to save ourselves the worry. Raggedy Chan does a marvelous job of reminding us that it's a scary world out there but we're missing out on great friendships and big adventure if we close ourselves off to it. We all want to belong and sometimes it's only by leaving the place we're most comfortable that we find where we truly fit in.


Monday, 21 May 2012

Monday Updates

Books I’ve read in the past few weeks that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing:

Raggedy Chan by Camille Picott
Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker

As I’ve noted, my reading hasn’t really dropped off so much as my reviewing has.I also need to change my rating system back to the usual 5 points rather than a 10 point system because it's much easier to integrate into other platforms.

So I went to the NKOTBSB concert on the weekend and somehow managed amidst screaming my head off, to think up some good resolutions to some of the plot holes in my story that I’ve been worrying about. It’s amazing how the brain works. In case anyone was wondering, the concert was awesome. Took my right back to my high school years!

In other writing news, I am busily editing away on my MS, silently worrying that the voice isn’t strong enough. It’s hard not to put my own dry/sarcastic voice into all of my MCs so they all tend to walk on the bland side.

 I’ve exhausted the entire series of Bones so I’ve gone back to watching Gossip Girl re-runs and catching up on Hart of Dixie. Thankfully, less TV means I am not such a zombie and can get on with other things.

It hits winter in Australia next month even if it already feels like it. The annoying this is that it doesn’t get cold enough in Melbourne to give us any snow but living near the bay means there’s always an icy wind. I used to really hate winter but now I find that I am so much more productive when I know it’s horrible outside and I don’t need to be out in the sunshine.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Blogger's Corner: The Dreaded DNF

This segment is a bit of a spinoff of my Writer's Corner segment and it's something I've been pondering for quite some time. The Did Not Finish pile is a topic that's very near though not necessarily dear to my heart.
       We all have those books that we can't finish reading for one reason or another. They don't even have to be books that we find incredibly difficult to read. It may just be because the story doesn't grip us or it wasn't what we were expecting at all.
        Whatever the reason, these books tend to be cast aside into the gaping hole that is DNF and the likelihood of us picking them up again is marginal. Once upon a time, I would force myself to read every book all the way through regardless of how many times I fell asleep reading it. Since I started blogging, I have so many books on my TBR that I am now relentless when it comes to culling the DNF.
       Having said that, as a book reviewer I feel like I'm only reading 2 out of every 5 books that I pick up. This doesn't seem productive somehow. So I'm wondering if I should add a DNF component to my reviews. On the one hand, it will explain the lack of review material on my blog. READ: I am not as much of a slacker as I appear. On the other hand, I don't want to relegate a book into obscurity simply because I personally didn't feel inclined to finish it.
      I know everyone makes up their own minds essentially about what to read, but I feel like putting a book on a DNF list (especially an indie book) might have a detrimental affect on it (not that I think my reviews matter much to people!).
      Am I over thinking the issue? How do you guys feel about DNF?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Why The Slump?

Pic courtesy of Clover @ Fluttering Butterflies
It's taken me a couple of weeks to write this post and I think that's apt considering the everything slump I've been in lately. I've read quite a few books lately but just haven't felt the need to sit down and share my thoughts. After much soul searching and staring at a blank screen, I've finally come up with a bunch of reasons why.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, multitasking is a complete nightmare. In an attempt to "put myself out there" for lack of a better term I've signed up to a whole plethora of social mediums. Goodreads, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook. You name it, I'm on it. Instead of increasing exposure, it's become a major chore to go through all the sites and keep updated on everything. So much so that I'm finding it really difficult to get motivated to even post reviews on multiple sites. Which is a huge shame because some of the books I've read deserve all the exposure they can get.

At the end of a hard days work (which I spend in front of a computer) the last thing I want to do is get in front of another computer and have to think about what it is I'm writing. Whether what I say makes sense, if it's funny or insightful. If it's something someone else wants to read. All I want to do is  something brainless and nothing quietens brain matter as well as the idiot box. Though I'm finding TV to be such a trap. It provides some much needed stress relief but also keeps giving me great novel ideas.So whilst I have some new ideas to flesh out, I'm too busy being lulled into complacency while the flashing pictures. Catch 22.

This should really have been the first and most prominent  out of all the reasons why I have been in a slump but since my mind works in random ways, it's going to stay where it is. You guys know by now that I spend a ridiculous amount of time internet stalking. My head is so full of useless information. Mostly about why a zombie apocalypse could never happen. But I'm a semi-pro and I do stalk the occasional book review blog and let me tell you, there are some incredible bloggers out there. I'm talking the ones who have a blog and also post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Most likely they're the first reviews you see when you look up a book. They're not just reviews with a few paragraphs either. These things could be considered novellas. None of it is filled with fluff. Every word is pertinent and every idea well established. It's these reviews that make me think...why bother writing my own reviews when it' all been said and said so well? I don't have the time or inclination to put that much love into a review and I feel like it's a bit redundant. Of course there's the other notion that everyone has their own personal thoughts on a book and every review is helpful regardless of it's contents. I personally love reading the different perspectives on a book that many bloggers bring to the table, especially those ones who write short reviews but still manage to say so much. For myself, I just don't know if I have anything to say that hasn't been said better. So as I flip back and forth between the two sides, I am sitting in limbo with a bunch of reviews backed up and going nowhere fast.

I have noticed that most wannabe writers who blog don't post as often as the book bloggers I follow. It's got me questioning whether I should be spending so much time "socialising" and much more time writing. But I'm shallow and live in fear of a mass exodus from my blog if I'm not always around. Besides that, I love engaging with other book bloggers. There are so many incredible people who blog and I want to be able to keep up to date with their blogs. I have to admit that being ever present does cut into my writing time. I should be editing right now but instead I'm blogging and agonizing over things that wouldn't have existed if I wasn't a blogger. Although I wouldn't be nearly a good a writer if I hadn't stumbled across the many great books and blogs that I frequent now. So I'm stuck in another moment where I need to decide whether it's more important to me right now to be a blogger or a writer. Hoping to find some balance soon.

I love YA. I love strong female characters. I love the paranormal. I even enjoy the occasional romantic plotline. So when I start reading the latest big thing in YA it should be a given that I will fall in love with it right? WRONG. This is where it all falls apart and I end up standing on a virtual soapbox calling for some common sense and wondering where it all went wrong.Over the last few months I've read so many YA best sellers I can barely keep count and they all have one thing in common: I didn't enjoy any of them. So much so that I'm beginning to think the problem is me. Am I just out of touch? Can I not relate to teenage girls anymore? Probably not. But I've decided not to let it get to me. Despite moving on in years, I highly doubt I would have liked those books even if I were a teenager so no use feeling bad that I'm not part of the mainstream. I'm resigned to be a weirdo :)

I swear I'll be better soon.