Friday, February 25, 2011

The Menacing and the Magical

So last week a friend (and fellow member of the Magic Pen critique group) gave me a good idea.  That idea was to start a feed featuring different creature's I come across while doing my research. "That's a brilliant idea" I said. Thus....The Menacing and the Magical was born.

In my post "Tools of the Trade" I shared a tidbit about a Mongolian death worm.  Here is another one for you.

from The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures.

The Backahast: A Scandinavian water horse that lives in the rivers and fresh water lakes. It conceals itself by appearing  like a floating log or overturned boat. If you try to approach it, it will pull you under the water and eat you. Sounds like fun. I wonder if I should start a travel blog warning unsuspecting tourists while traveling abroad.

If you are ever in the need to expand your vocabulary with "whimsical" words, please visit a blog I enjoy and follow.  There you can also find reviews for children's books.

By the way, how do you like the fairy picture. I found it in a public domain and absolutly love it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

spoiler free

Amazon description-
Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ... 

The opening chapter of this book is one of the most exciting first chapters I have ever read. In fact, I was hooked after the first sentence. If you are a writer you need to read this book for that reason alone. The rest of the story did not keep pace with the excitement we got in the first chapter yet it was still exciting enough to keep me reading.

While in the prison we follow Finn. He is a great character. He is smart, tough, sympathetic and I was genuinely concerned for him throughout his journey. His little band of followers admire him and follow his lead without question. While in the "Era" we follow Claudia. She is just as smart, brave and driven to discover the truth no matter what the consequence.

Catherine Fisher intertwined a futuristic dystopian novel with an old english environment to create an interesting mix. That was good and bad. The good part about it was the originality factor. The characters forced to live in the "Era" were very aware of the technology that could exist for them. But an evil sorcerous, acting as their Queen, finds it easier for her to control the population if they are secluded from it.

The bad part was.....since they were aware of the technology they talked about it a lot. That made it hard for me to form a clear picture in my head when they were in the "Era". Now the parts when they are in the prison are very easy to picture.

I liked this story, it was entertaining from start to finish and had an ending I did not see coming at all.  It is the first of a two book series. Incarceron left a cliff hanger to lead into the second book but had an ending I was very satisfied with.

Over all I can recommend reading this book. Plus it has a really cool cover. (I know, your not supposed to judge a book by it's cover but to be honest, that is why I picked it up in the first place.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Apart from my regular consultations with my all knowing oracle (Google) I have a few other things I refer to often when diving into the unknown depths of my literary world. 

First and my most favorite, note cards.  I use them by the hundreds. I write down facts and ideas but the most fun I have is outlining with them. I write down my scenes and lay them all out then I can shuffle them around for pacing purposes.

Tied for second place is my dictionary and thesaurus. I use the thesaurus more because I have a tendency to use the words "mammoth" and "frozen" a lot and need alternatives.

And coming in third is my Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlin Matthews. Always looking to be a little creative with my paranormal creatures. Did you know there is a Mongolian Death worm named Olgoi-Khorkhol. It is about four feet in length, dark red in color and spits highly corrosive poison at its attackers. So if you are ever wandering the the Gobi Desert be carful. There is also fun and pretty things like fairies and dragons as well.

What things do you find useful when you are writing?

Monday, February 14, 2011

and introducing our special guest...Tracy Prince

My critique group recently had the privilege of having author Dr. Tracy Prince stop by and speak to us. Tracy talked with us about being a writer and shared some insight into the publishing world. Having her visit us was a joy as much as it was inspirational. I love listening to authors speak about their work and give helpful hints to us hopefuls still working toward publication. Tracy shared a lot with us but a couple things really stood out to me and I thought I would pass it along.

In her very words, "If you aim for nothing you'll get it."  That saying could not be more true. If we want something were going to have to aim high. So that means get your little hinny back to work, that book isn't going to write itself. Well wait till your done reading this post first.... Please....

Another thing that surprised me was, when pitching your book to an agent, have your pitch but also have a "two second zinger". Thanks for the heads up on that one. Now I can be prepared if some one tells me to sum up my book in one sentence instead of staring at them with my mouth agape. You never want to let an opportunity pass you by.

Her upcoming book "Portland's Goose Hollow" from the Images of America series will be released April 11th. This is a great series, it shares with us the rich history of our towns and very own neighborhood.  For more information  on Tracy and her upcoming release visit her Amazon page. Tracy will also be doing a reading at Powell's Books in Portland on April 15th, it is sure to be a good time.

 Also look for her name in future works, she will have two more books released by the end of the year in addition to this one. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen            spoiler free

Fiction, depression era, United States
published 2006

In the summer of 1931, 21 year old Jacob Jankowski was one week away from his final exams at Cornell veterinary school when an unfortunate incident with his family lead him to drop out. He hopped the first train leaving town and as fate would have it, it was a circus train.

This books weaves a tale of romance, betrayal and the effects of the great depression, while highlighting human-animal bonds and the depths people will go to fight for the ones they love.
The story bounces back and forth between a 93 year old Jacob and his 21 year old self.

I can't remember the last time I have read a book that was not young adult or some sort of fantasy story but I am extremely glad I read this. This story was amazing and the writing was superb. The descriptions were so vivid the story played out in my head like a movie (which is good 99% of the time, I'll get to that explanation in a minute).  The story moved with a good pace, I never once wanted to skip anything out of boredom.

The elements of the circus enviroment were very authentic. Now I can't comfirm that, being I have never personally lived among the circus folk, but you can tell the author did extensive research  and delicatly placed her knowledge into the story to creat a perfect balance. From the lingo to the characters attitudes she really hit it head on.

Now for that 1% of the book I could of done without. Keep in mind almost all the books I read are "young adult" and I'm not use to certain elements contained in this story. There were a few scenes that were of a sexual nature that kind of threw me off. They were not overly graphic but they didn't do anything to forward the plot either. Those scences could of easily been cut. But that is just me, I prefer more of a PG-13 version.

There were also a few scenes where pain was inflicted on animals and with the vivid descriptions I pictured it perfectly. It was sad but quick. The author did not linger on about it.

Over all I recommend this book. It is beeing made into a movie starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, release date April 22nd.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This is Where the Magic Happens

Humble but Heavenly

So this is where it happens. Where the wisdom and greatness flows out of my head and onto the keyboard to share with all of you.

My office just received her first make over and is very happy about. Long gone are the cluttered stacks of paper and the clunky desk top computer. She's super sleek and streamlined.

Complete with new book case and cheesy Valentines day decoration.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book review, Switched

Switched by Amanda Hocking          spoiler free

Young adult, paranormal

From the first moment Wendy Everly's mother laid eyes on her, she was convince that Wendy was switched at birth with her baby boy, leaving her with what she calls a monster. On her sixth birthday Wendy's mother tried to kill her. That incident got her mother put away and Wendy was left in the care of her aunt and older brother.

Eleven years later, after being labeled a trouble maker and bouncing from school to school, Wendy befriends a boy named Finn and with his help, she finds out she is from a world humans don't know exist. It turns out her mothers suspicions of her being a monster, may be right.

I am not really sure where to start. The story itself was engaging enough to keep me reading and it has a paranormal element I have not seen much of. Kudos for being original.  Now…I hate to say anything negative, I would never want to hurt the authors feelings, but I just didn’t really like this book. Wendy was not a likable character, emotions were forced and not very believable. The settings were good but some descriptions were incomplete. This book read to me like it was the draft before the final draft. 

Now I went to Amazon to see what other people thought of this book and I am in the minority. Switched has tons of positive reviews. Amanda Hocking is self published and since April she has sold just under a half a million copies. That is a huge accomplishment and obviously people find her work appealing.

I think this author has tons of potential for the future and the mistakes in her book are nothing that a round with a professional editor couldn’t fix.  

In my opinion, if you want to read it, get an electronic copy. It is only .99 cents.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Back to Basics, Writing Numbers

I sit here today on the corner of What Was I Thinking Street and How Do I Get Out Of It Avenue. I"m spiraling through the back story vertex and according to experts, back story bogs things down. Personally, I like it. I like knowing what makes the characters who they are.

While designing my fantasy world and getting to know my characters I had a ton of fun creating the back story. Then during one of my NaNoWriMo frenzies I actually gave my back story a back story. Where does it stop. I need the back story police....."Kriston Johnson" said deep voice man, "put the back story down, step away slowly." Since then I've been trying to narrow it down enough to move the plot along and keep only the essentials. I'm hoping to work in my favorite part about a fire tending Minotaurs fighting along side a one winged angel in a battle between good and evil, it's really cool. But it may not happen.

So back to things at hand, while weaving in the past events I started throwing around a lot of dates. I decided before I get to far into it I better make sure that I am using the proper technique for writing numbers. When do you use actual numbers and when do you spell things out. Different sources disagree on some rules but I found a source that I decided to base my technique on. I thought I would share it with all of you.

I suppose when it comes to publishing your editor will make the final decision on which rules you will follow but we all need a consistent guide line to get us started.
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