Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Writing Space

So I spent my part of my Saturday night cleaning my room. Exciting stuff, I know. It still smells a bit like a foot in here, but at least I can walk through it again! *not ashamed* I decided I would post a picture of where I spend most of my time--my lovely writing space.

On my desk, besides all the tech stuff, I have a business English book, two Writer's Digest magazines, a couple of National Geographics, On Writing Horror by The Horror Writers Association, How to Write Science-Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, 
Dirty Japanese Dictionary 
(super useful when I want to curse people out without them knowing), the first volume of Bleach (Japanese manga) which I haven't translated yet, ラブリー・ボーン(The Lovely Bones) by アリス・シーボルト(Alice Sebold) which I also haven't gotten around to translating, a Teen Titans DVD (I should really continue my marathon), and my Kindle.

Underneath my desk is my puppy's bed and some of his toys. A Game of Thrones calendar hangs next to my chair. On my white board I always have some sort of message in Japanese, usually telling me to study (which I oftentimes refuse to do). On my cork board I have a list of major revisions I need to do for my book, a list of novels I want to read, a German grammar sheet I never look at, and, of course, a picture of Kurosaki Ichigo from Bleach. He's so friggin' awesome. There are also a few quotes:
"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them." - Nathaniel Hawthorne 
"Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers ‘Please will you do the job for me.’" - C.S. Lewis 
"Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line." - Paul O'Neil
The color of my walls actually comes from the cover of the book Eragon. I know, I'm such a geek. o(≧∇≦o)

Have you carved out a place where you like to read/write?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Genre vs. Literary Rant

What I'm Reading: Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund
What I'm Listening to: Soundtrack of Lord of the Rings. It's usually all I ever listen to when I write. So epic.

Before I begin, I'd like to recommend this article I just spotted by Ursula K. Le Guin concerning the Literary vs. Genre debate. I'm afraid I can't say my rant is quite so elegantly written. 

R.A. Salvatore (fantasy genius) wrote the introduction of The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science-fiction by Philip Athans. He begins by saying he was once asked at a convention if he was ever going to write "a real book." I was more than a little surprised and angry when I read this. I think for someone to ask such a question, they would have to be pretty pretentious and arrogant. And Salvatore's not alone. Genre writers are oftentimes not considered "real" authors.

I get it every once in awhile too. Someone will ask me, "What do you write?"
"Young adult fantasy."

I've gotten a couple critiques where people state, before they've even read my story, that they're not into fantasy. At the end of the critique, they're usually like, "Well, if I liked fantasy, I think I would like your story." I mean, thank you for your time and effort. I appreciate it. But if you're already so biased against my story before you even read it, why bother?

I've taken three college writing courses so far. The first was an intro to creative fiction class. Though it was fiction, we weren't allowed to write anything that wasn't realistic. No fantasy, no sci-fi, no horror. We were encouraged not to write anything with action or adventure. My teacher wanted us to focus on everyday lives. How freaking boring is that?

The second class was creative nonfiction. Obviously, I couldn't use my imagination and make stuff up (although I may have stretched the truth a few times). This was the most difficult class for me since my life is, for the most part, uneventful. I didn't get much out of the class.

The third was intermediate fiction. On the first day of class, we went around saying who our favorite author was. I knew I was in trouble when I didn't recognize any of the names. When it was my turn, I proudly said J.K. Rowling. I was in a class with a bunch of kids my age, but they all had moved on to more "adult" stuff. I was still stuck in the fantasy and sci-fi realm. Later, my teacher basically said that every sci-fi and fantasy book she ever read as a kid could really have been the same book. There's little difference between them. Apparently I was the only one who got miffed when she said this (which I complained about on our class forum later). As with my first writing class, we were only allowed to write contemporary, character based fiction. We would be given F's if we wrote anything that deviated from that.

From my experience with the classes, I probably won't take another unless it is specifically geared for writers like me.

Most books they make you read in school are atrocious. And they wonder why so many kids don't like to read. They don't expose them to good stories. Call of the Wild? Horrid. David Copperfield? My fellow classmates burned their books when they were done reading it. We're forced to read these books because they're "classics." Well, who said they were? What makes them so great? Because they're old? Most of the time I don't see the value in these books. Honestly, I don't recall ever reading a literary piece and liking it.

So who is the better artist? The one who uses their imagination to create fascinating worlds and characters or the one who draws from serious, real-life experiences? To someone who is fair and reasonable, the answer would be neither. But to me, the one who creates the fantasy setting, the one who uses their imagination will always be the most creative and, therefore, the best. I write and read in order to escape the dullness of reality. Literary fiction only proves how mundane life truly is.

My conclusion: literary fiction can go suck it.

What is your opinion concerning genre and literary fiction?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review - Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan

To view the author's website, click here.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan is the first volume in The Riyria Revelations and contains the first two books in the series.

In book one, The Crown Conspiracy, Hadrian Blackwater, a mercenary, and his partner Royce Melborn, a thief, are hired by a foreign noble to do a last minute job stealing a sword from the king's castle. However, as they execute their mission, they happen upon the body of the slain king and are framed for the murder. Escaping with the young crown prince in tow, the two go from hired thieves to protectors of the new king. So begins their mission to figure out the traitor who set them up and to restore the rightful heir to the throne.

In book two, Avempartha, a small village near the border of the elvenlands is plagued by a creature that comes at night killing swiftly and indiscriminately. Royce and Hadrian are hired by a young girl who lives there to open an ancient, elven tower in the middle of a raging river. There lies the only weapon that can slay the creature--a sword with its name carved into it. Royce and Hadrian must find a way into the tower, which is also the beast's home, before the village is completely wiped out. 

There's more to the plot of both, of course, as there are imperialists, royalists, and nationalists all vying for power, but I'm trying not to give anything away. *wink*

The writing style was kind of simple, but I've never been one for flowery writing, so it works perfectly for me. Makes it a very quick read, which I like. One thing that kind of bothered me throughout was that I didn't get a clear sense of point of view. I would've liked to get into the main characters' heads more. At times, it felt almost omniscient. Mostly the story is action, dialogue, and descriptions. I would have enjoyed reading more reactions and reflections of the characters. Another thing that kind of irked me was that there are soooo many countries and cities to remember. There is a nifty map of the world, but it still gets confusing at times, and I'm not one to have a good memory.

Royce, the thief, is hands down my favorite character. I guess I have a thing for dark-haired, dark-eyed, cynical bastards who keep to themselves. Hadrian is a bit too friendly and happy-go-lucky for my tastes, though he is still a cool character (he carries around three swords, what's not to like?). Their banter is humorous and I love their relationship with one another, especially since they're so completely different. To me, any story with a strong bromance is flipping awesome.

The endings of both books left me wanting more. I'm going to have to order the next volume soon. I find it interesting the series was originally self-published as eBooks. It became such a hit that it was picked up by Orbit.

Overall, action, adventure, death, magic, swords, elves, dwarves, fallen empires, lost heirs...I don't see how I couldn't like it. If you enjoy traditional epic fantasies, then I would recommend this.

If you've read the book, go ahead and share your thoughts. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

YA Gender Rant

What I'm Reading: Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan
What I'm Listening to: Boys & Girls -- LM.C (kind of ironic)

ヽ(#`Д´)ノ <-- This is the face I make when I peruse the teen section at the Barnes and Noble. I am sick, sick, sick of looking at paranormal romance, teen drama, and any other "girl fiction" novels. It's gotten to the point where I pass the teen section entirely and go straight to the adult fantasy and science fiction section, where I can find a book that has something of interest in it.

Statistics show girls are the biggest audience of teen fiction. That's really not hard to believe since there are so few books coming out for boys. At least, I haven't seen many. A vast majority of the YA writers out there are now women, which is great, but the lack of difference in the novels being published is kind of scary. When I read through the descriptions of their books, they all seem to have similar premises. Of course strong female protagonists are necessary, but male protagonists are beginning to disappear, I fear.

I've heard girls tend to lean more toward fantasy (I'll admit I'm one of them) and boys are more into science fiction. Girls tend to read character-driven novels, whereas boys read plot-driven novels. Honestly, I don't care what the book is. So long as it holds my attention, I'm happy. I don't like it when people label a book for boys or girls. It's stereotypical. As a girl, it's expected that I read romance, drama, and books on female empowerment, right? But I don't. I can't stand it. Makes me wanna vomit. Most of the novels on my bookshelves (and there are quite a few) tend to have guys as the protagonist. In my honest opinion, males are more interesting. It doesn't hurt that it's easier for me to fantasize about them when I can get in their head. Perhaps that is too much information? :B Is it weird that I only like romance in novels when it comes from the female perspective? Usually if it's from the male perspective, I get jealous and overprotective. I don't want the main guy to be in a relationship because they're MINE! (Yeah, I know I'm psychotic).

One of the writing tips I've read is to have some sort of lovey dovey stuff in your story so that it will appeal to female readers. I'll admit my novel The Kingdom's Champion does have romantic elements in it, but it's not the sole focus of the book. I'm all about action and adventure. Blood and guts. Magic and swords. I'm hoping my book will appeal to both boys and girls. However, if I had to choose which of them to market to, I would pick boys. Five of the six point of views are males. The one female protagonist is a tomboy who has, at times, bigger balls than the others (sorry, I can get kind of vulgar). However, in all actuality, I would just be content if someone read my book and liked it, regardless of their gender or age.

Some authors find it difficult to write from the opposite gender's perspective. Perhaps that's why, since YA writers are now mostly female, there are so few male protagonists. I really have no problem writing from a male perspective. It comes naturally. Perhaps I just think like a guy. *strikes manly pose*

As a female, it's great to see that there are so many successful women writers. But I think the industry is beating the genre, especially paranormal romance, to death. There should be a nice, healthy balance. Right now, there isn't.

All I can say is, "Damn you, Twilight!"

(/ω\) <--And this is the face I make when I admit I actually liked reading Twilight. Shh.

Do you have a preference when reading or writing in regards to male or female protagonists? Do you prefer male or female writers? Or do you simply not care?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review - The Lightbearer's Daughter - O.R. Melling

Isn't the cover cool? I want a cloak...and a wolf... 

It's been a few years since I read the first two books in the Chronicles of Faerie: The Hunter's Moon and The Summer King. My memory of them is foggy, but I know for certain they were enjoyable reads and I would strongly recommend them. 

This Young Adult novel is about Dana, a twelve-year-old girl who lives with her father, Gabriel, in Ireland. Years after his wife's sudden disappearance, Gabriel decides to return to his home in Canada where he's been offered a teaching job at a college. Needless to say, Dana's not happy about the move. She still has hopes of finding her lost mother, who left her when she was three. One day, while visiting her eco-warrior friends who are camped out in a forest that is threatened to be obliterated, she happens upon a Lady who asks that she deliver a message to a King. In exchange, Dana is promised one wish. In order to get her mother back and to stay in her beloved Ireland, Dana must embark on a dangerous quest through the wilds of Ireland, where she is constantly traveling between the Earthworld and the Faerie world. 

The novel addresses the impact we have on nature by showing how we affect not only real animals, but also the creatures of the Faerie world. I feel like Melling's attempt at trying to prove that humans are destructive and "evil" gets to be a bit annoying. I know it's a huge issue and needs to be addressed, but I don't want to be lectured. If you're someone who doesn't care for all this "going green" stuff, I wouldn't recommend this book. She also names off a lot of flowers and plants and, I'll be honest with you, I'm no botanist. I have very limited knowledge of flower names, so half the stuff just flew over my head. 

Being a person of Irish descent, I've always had an obsession with Ireland. It is one of the reasons I started reading this series. I love the Celtic myths the story is based on and the bits of Gaelic used throughout. There is even a nifty glossary in the back of the book that has the pronunciation and definitions of the words. 

Even though this is book three in a series, you can read them each as a stand-alone. Honestly, I can't say I cared for The Light-Bearer's Daughter as much as the previous two, but I always hold a certain loyalty to the first book in every series. Also, when I read the first two, I was better able to relate to the teenage protagonists. In this story, Dana is only twelve. 

With all the fantasy elements, this series is reminiscent of Holly Black's Tithe. In ways, the worlds of Faerie are similar. However, Melling's story doesn't have the darkness and grittiness Black's has. At times, The Light-Bearer's Daughter feels very innocent and childlike, and at other times its spooky and disturbing. 

Overall, it was a pleasant, quick read. I will definitely look for the fourth in the series, The Book of Dreams.

If you've read the book, share your thoughts. 
If you haven't, go read it. :P 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mark Alberts

What I'm reading: The Light-Bearer's Daughter - O.R. Melling
What I'm listening to: Silence. It is indeed blissful.

Mark is one of my favorite characters because I can relate to him the most. He's shy, doesn't like to be touched, and he's a geek. He's into anime, gaming, and is obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi. Every birthday wish he makes, he asks for an adventure like the ones he reads in his books. When he wakes up in Garthna, he finally gets that wish. Only, he's not destined to be the hero. Kevin is. Mark becomes more than a little jealous of his friend who can wield a sword and do magic. Of the three, I've been told Mark is the most sympathetic character (and he should be made into the primary main character, not Kevin). His mother died years ago, he lives with his alcoholic dad in a dirty trailer house, and he always ends up being the one who gets hurt (seriously, I like to make my characters feel pain, and he gets the brunt of it. ψ(`∇´)ψ). Mark's also the brainy one of the group and spends most of his time in Garthna researching in the immense library of the castle. Weapon of choice: sword. Weapon he is actually capable of using: bow and arrow.

Some of the music videos are a little, um, out there. If you look up the first one, you'll know what I'm talking about. Mark has an...interesting taste in music.

So now you've met the three main characters from earth. I also get inside the head of three other characters from my fantasy world: A prince, a king, and an assassin. I may delete the king's section entirely though. I haven't decided yet. There are only maybe three chapters that follow him and I know if you have too many POV switches, readers get confused and irritated (especially those sillyheads who abhor multiple-POV). I honestly prefer multiple points of view just because I get bored following the same character around. They create tension and make me want to keep reading. Usually.

Next up: A review of The Light-Bearer's Daughter by O.R. Melling. Maybe. I've never done one before. :B