Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coming soon to Smashwords

Death of the Sun
It's hard to believe it was so long ago. I sat in my car, parked at the lookout spot we used to come to. Beyond the cliff, the city lights were spread out for a few miles. The silence was strange and yet comforting at the same time. I rolled down my window. There was a slight breeze, but the summer air was still warm. Tomorrow, I would get in my car and drive to Portland. Tomorrow, I would leave this small town, and everything in it, behind me. But tonight, I was still here, still haunted by the things that had happened two years ago.

Keep your eyes out for this new short story, coming soon!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New short story on Smashwords

I published a new short story on Smashwords tonight.

The Jensens is about a young woman who finds an inspiring book at a garage sale where an older man is selling the things of his deceased wife. (Say that five times fast!)

Here are the first few sentences:
Mrs. Gellar is now yelling. I watch from my position by the table of books. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her without her hair curled. She waves her arms, and her face grows red. The others in the yard are trying to politely ignore the scene, but we are all listening.

Read the rest of it here!

You can find a few other stories and nonfiction pieces at my Smashwords profile.

Thank you to the critters at CritiqueCircle for helping me perfect this story!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I write like. . .

I did this once before, but I don't remember who I got. This time around, Stephen King. Not bad!

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Underwhelming Books

There are some books that I cannot put down, but when I've actually finished it, I think, 'Wow. . .that's it?' Or I'm like, 'That was a good book' and a week later, I fail to tell you what it was about. Books that hook you, but don't make a lasting impression on you.

For me, these books fall into that category:
1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

2. Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

3. The Uglies series.
It started out strong. The first of the series (Uglies) is my favorite, but I hardly remember the next two, Pretties and Specials.

4. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

5. The Gossip Girl series.
I didn't finish it, but what was the point of those books??

6. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
When I was reading the books, I was like, 'Omg, amazing!' Now, I couldn't tell you the basic plot beyond Valentine being evil.

7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
500 pages of nothing.

I do have some level of respect for these authors. A lot of them are bestsellers, so some people obviously loved them. They had me turning the pages, desperate to learn more (well, some of them - Gossip Girl, not so much). But I felt kind of cheated at the end. Like, what was the point of that?

Did I learn anything? Let's look at the themes of these books.
Water for Elephants : love.
Lovely Bones: family??
Uglies: now, this theme did stick with me. The people of this world surgically enhance themselves at a certain age, and the establishment even inflicts brain damage to keep people compliant. There was a lot of social commentary in this series, so I appreciate that.
I know A Gate at the Stairs dealt with interracial families a littl bit. The main theme, I think, was growing up.
Gossip Girl: no, don't get me started on the LACK of theme and depth in those books.
The Mortal Instruments series: no idea. Don't fall in love with your brother?
Memoirs of a Geisha: I guess the theme could be "ambition makes people horrible"?

Did I feel anything for the characters beside, 'Ooh, what happens next?' Generally, no. I thought Jacob in Water for Elephants was lifeless, Tally Youngblood could have had a lot more personality, and I don't even remember the main character in Memoirs of a Geisha.

My writing has a tendency to be fast-paced and plot-centered, and the last thing I want is for someone to race through my book, and then say, 'Huh. Okay. Whatever.' I want my characters and themes to stay with the reader.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Website Layout & Smashwords

I recently updated the layout at No joke, this is the third layout I've had! I just love doing new ones, iWeb is so fun!

I also recently got a Smashwords account, where you can find some free short stories and nonfiction. I'm considering eventually self-publishing, but I honestly don't know. Both "traditional" publishing and self-publishing have ups and downs, and I'm very torn right now. Do you guys have any thoughts?

What I've posted on Smashwords thus far:

The Prodigal Daughter placed second place in Young Salvationist's 2009 Creativity Contest for the fiction category. It was later published at Pond Ripples Magazine. It's a short story about a daughter that visits her mom in the hospital. From when I published this Friday night, it's already had 83 downloads! I personally think part of it's because of this awesome cover. Thank you, Seer for the great photograph! (Seer's profile on contains NSFW images)

You Remember is a short literary piece written in second person. It's actually the only second person story I ever remember writing. It reads kind of like a poem. The story looks at glimpses of a relationship.

I wrote Invisible Walls on a plane on the way back from South Africa. It's about my husband, but at the time, we were just friends, and I had a small crush on him. It's just my thoughts about our relationship and where it might.

I also published Agape, which is actually a collection of nonfiction. It includes two devotionals that were published in Young Salvationist, a short piece about what it would be like to Jesus in the flesh, and my thoughts on God's love.

At this point, I like the uniform look my covers have. I think I'll stick to this theme (stock photo with Trajen Pro font over it) for my short stories, and have different ones for my novels, if I choose to publish them on Smashwords.

Check them out, leave a review! Do any of you have Smashwords accounts? I'd love to read your work.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Revision Central!

I started revision on The Second Generation today! I thought I was going to run out of toner on my printer, but I figured out that Brother printers sometimes say toner is low even if it's not and found a loophole to get its maximum use. Thank you, Amazon and YouTube!

I have. . .
- My 236-page manuscript.

- My list of handy links:
Limyaael's Fantasy Rants
Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision Workshop
Nanowrimo's List of Writing Resources

- Three pens and two highlighters.

- A binder full of lined paper.

- My writing books.

I've already gone through chapter 13 today at the library. There are few big things I know I need to work out, and right now, I'm reading through it entirely and marking down what I need to change when I come back to the computer. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Best Seller #5

I haven't had one of these in a while. . .this dream was really interesting. The main character of my next dream/novel adaptation has the ability to pull people into her imagination, showing them worlds they can only see through her mind. In my dream, she was helping a young girl who wanted to be a princess, but I think this could go anywhere. It'll be called Imagine. Original title, yeah?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Word Clouds

Wordle has these neat word clouds you can make. I did it for some of my stories:


The Stones of Cilean

The Second Generation

My next project, which is currently unnamed

How fun!

Some of the words I noticed were prevalent in two or more stories:
asked, looked, like, know, going, go.

Interesting. . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's official!

Skyline Publications has published the fourth edition of Literary House Review, and my short story Magnitude is one of the 20 stories! You can buy the book, or you will probably be able to preview it online soon. How exciting!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Influential Books in my life

Inspired by

Books that have changed my life or worldview
(not necessarily in order)
1. The Bible
I feel like this should go without saying. This book has been the foundation of my family and faith, and it is a huge part of my life. I try to model my life after it based on what God has revealed about himself in these words.

2. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
This is the first book I read in the series. I absolutely fell in love with this series. It was a huge instrument in my development of writing. Literally hundreds of fanfictions shaped the way I wrote. I also spent hours obsessing about the movies and roleplaying games.

3. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
This was one of the most influential books I read during my year at Revolution Hawaii. It really made me think about how my faith related to the way I lived, how I treated people, and the political standpoints I had.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Read first at Ridgeview and later at PHS, this book is powerful. It showed me how strongly our society relied on pleasure and how far we had drifted away from morals and absolutes, but it also made me appreciate that we still had a semblance of them.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
I read this series throughout my childhood, finishing by the time I was 12, and I would read the books to my sister Grace. I think CS Lewis and his worlds were a huge part in fostering my imagination and my love for books.

6. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
I learned so much about the validity of the New Testament reading this book. It made me feel like I wasn't crazy for believing an old book like the Bible.

7. Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller
There is something about Miller's poetic imagery and thoughtful writing that really speaks to me. I loved Blue Like Jazz, but I loved this book even more, and I can't even describe why.

Books that have affected my writing
(not including books that are about writing, and again not necessarily in order)
1. Harry Potter series
Like I said, mainly because they inspired me to write so much. But I definitely picked up some of JK Rowling's habits.

2. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I could only DREAM about writing this beautifully, but it really impacted the way I treated war in my stories and the way I viewed story vs. truth vs. reality.

3. The Tomorrow series by James Marsden
Especially recently, I have taken a lot of inspiration from the Tomorrow series and what I feel is a very real representation of teenage characters in war. I feel the characterization of Ellie helped me shape Natalie, Tracey, and, to some extent, Jennifer.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Again, I have drawn inspiration from the way Suzanne Collins deals with war and its effects, especially psychologically on the protagonist.

There are a smattering of other books, too, especially ones I read in high school that introduced me to great literature: The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, 1984. But I feel like these are the most influential.

What about you? What are some books that changed your life?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nano Update

I finished The Second Generation! I posted my progress at this post.

For the second half of November, I'm going to be editing The Stones of Cilean. I have an 80K draft currently, and I'm working on a new beginning that ties together the story a bit better. Right now, I'm about 20K through. Wish me luck with the rest!

I am so still taking advantage of those Nanowrimo write-ins here in Salem. Having only lived in Pendleton before and met only one gal through Nanowrimo, it's so great to write with an entire group of novelists! Salem's regional people are really fun, too. Check out the continual story we wrote last Saturday here: Each person wrote one sentence, but you were only allowed to read the previous sentence, so it made one crazy story! And last Saturday, during a 10-minute word war, one girl wrote 1,700 words! In 10 minutes! Craziness, I tell you.

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Hardback, 1999, 320 pages.

Like many others, I picked up this book because I enjoyed the television show. Well, let me warn you right off the bat: this is nothing like the television show. In fact, I like the television show more (and I'm still very sad that they cancelled it!). But don't let that turn you away from the book. It was a fascinating concept and a quick read (but okay, I skimmed most of the heavy science parts).

In April 2009, a physics experiment causes a worldwide temporal displacement: a "flashforward" during which the entire human race's consciousness shifts forward in time 21 years. The book deals mainly with the physicists Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides and their responses to their visions (Simcoe finds he's married to someone other than his fiancee, and Theo finds out he's been murdered a few days before the day everyone saw), but Sawyer also jumps around and looks at the global effects of such an event as well as minor characters here and there.

I read through this book in 4-5 sittings. During the first two, I covered nearly 2/3 of the book. Then it slowed down, and I started to get bored with all the science explanations and the blatant "telling" instead of "showing." It asks some amazing philosophical questions. Everyone wonders about what their future is like, and if they had a chance to see it, how they would react. There's a lot of debates about free will and time and how it all fits together.

I found the characters a little flat. I was interested in their stories, but not past the point of, "Hmm, I wonder what's going to happen." Like 4 on a scale from 1 to 10. But it is what kept me reading, I wanted to know about Theo's killer and how Lloyd's marriage worked out. I also thought some of Sawyer's predictions about the future were a little contrived/far-fetched. Of course we have to have flying cars, but I don't think the institution of marriage will ever be reduced to merely living together for a certain amount of time. And in all three books I've read of Sawyer's, he has to say something about how his Canadian/European characters can enjoy socialized healthcare while Americans can't. Yes, we know. No need to rub it in.

All in all, I'd recommend this book, but not before others.

A thing I could learn from this book:

Cut out what the reader won't care about. So much of the science stuff I just skimmed. Like, what's the point? Is this a novel or a science textbook? A lot of it was really interesting, but most of it was like, "Hmm, okay, don't care." A lot of the character description was unnecessary, too. If it doesn't move the story along, get rid of it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Green Mile: Book/Movie Comparison

Similar format to Everything Is Illuminated: After a brief summary, I'll look at Characters, Setting, Theme, What Was Gained by Film Adaptation, and What Was Lost by Film Adaptation.

The Green Mile was written by Stephen King first as a serial novel in 1996. It's the written account of Paul Edgecombe, an elderly man in Georgia Pines retirement home, writing about the year of 1932 on the E Block ("Death Row") of Cold Mountain Penitentiary. He was the head guard, and tells the story of John Coffey, a large black man who is sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two girls, but is much more than he seems. He tells about Percy Whetmore, an arrogant guard; Eduard Delacroix, an inmate, and his pet mouse, Mr. Jingles; and John Coffey's moving story.

The movie came out in 1999. It was adapted to screen and directed by Frank Darabont. Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecombe, Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, and the rest of the cast is great, too.

I thought the setting in the movie was great. Set in the deep South during the Depression, the film really captured the accents, the scenery, the dress. I envisioned the prison a bit differently, of course, but there were some great details. Even the sweat on their brows, you could tell it was the summer. It really captured the feel of the South.

What a great cast! Michael Duncan as John Coffey was amazing. David Morse as Brutus "Brutal" Howell - I really liked his performance. And Dough Hutchison as Percy Whetmore - he plays a great weasel. He captured Percy's cowardice, arrogance, and violence perfectly. Seriously, I could go on and on about the cast. Sam Rockwell was a little older than how I imagined Wild Bill, but he was just as crazy.

About the script, though, and how the characters were portrayed, I think it was very accurate. In the book, I had a hard time telling Harry and Dean apart, so I'm glad in the movie, Dean was considerably older than Harry. They gave a few of Brutal's best lines to Paul ("What am I going to tell God at the judgment seat when he asks why I killed one of his miracles? That it was my job? My job?" paraphrased, of course) - but I understand that he was the main character and needed to have the position of the leader.

There were other, small details that I saw differently in the book (I imagined Hal Moores overweight, his wife much older, and Delcroix more haggard), but those are going to happen with any movie. When reading the book, the characters come to life in your head and you get used to them that way. All in all, the basic essence of these characters were kept intact in the film.

The book has many moral conundrums. It's hard to even put them into words. For one, racism is rampant in the South. One man (a reporter in the book, Coffey's defense in the movie) compares Negroes to dogs. I honestly think they toned it down in the movie, the n-word is used plenty of times in the book (not by the guards), and it's made clear that even if the guards could prove Coffey's innocence, people wouldn't want to hear it because he's black.

(Warning: spoilers from here on out!)

A major issue towards the end of the book is killing an innocent man. Coffey has the power of healing, and the guards feel like they're killing one of God's gifts to men. They have their jobs to think about, in the middle of the Depression, but this pales in comparison to his abilities. Hal Moores, even after his wife is healed by Coffey, signs Coffey's death warrant. The story makes you think about the justice system, how far you're willing to go for a job, the injustice of society (and the whole world), and helplessness.

Coffey's abilities go beyond just healing. He is super sensitive to the feelings of the people around him. One powerful scene in the book that I wished had been in the movie was when Coffey stood in the room with "Old Sparky" and said something along the lines of, "Pieces of them are still in here. I can hear them screaming." But they added in a scene where Coffey felt Delacroix's pain, which I think strengthened his empathic abilities.

What was heartbreaking to me was the line, "He killed them with they love. It's like that all over the world." I think this encompasses a major theme, how people are ugly and cruel to each other, and justice is only sometimes given. Percy and Wild Bill probably got what they deserved, but at the same time, John Coffey was killed even though he was innocent, and Delacroix had to endure a horrible death. Like I said, it's hard to even put into words what the story says about mankind. It's full of good and evil.

There was a short story about Paul in Georgia Pines with a cruel employee that reminded him of Percy. Adding this to the movie would have made it too long (it was already three hours), but it definitely gave his old age another dimension. We also didn't see Jan's death, but I think the realization that the gift Coffey gave him was, in a way, a curse was made clear in the last few minutes of the film.

I think the repeated visual of the light bulbs bursting during Coffey's bursts of power added to the story since we couldn't get inside of Paul's head. I also thought Coffey showing Paul what he saw as opposed to Paul going to investigate was a good move for the film - it shortened it, and made Wild Bill's crime more real and moving to the viewers.

I really enjoyed this movie. I can understand why it was nominated for a Best Picture at the Academy Awards. An amazing story. Sad, for sure, but a lot of great stories are.

The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile by Stephen King

Paperback, 1999, 544 pages.

This is the first fiction book of King's that I picked up after reading On Writing. I got it from the library, it's a thick little paperback. I wasn't expecting that length, but it only took me about a week to finish it.

This book is the written account of Paul Edgecombe, an elderly man in Georgia Pines retirement home, about the year of 1932 on the E Block ("Death Row") of Cold Mountain Penitentiary. He was the head guard, and tells the story of John Coffey, a large black man who is sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two girls, but is much more than he seems.

I really enjoyed this read. It was first published as a serial novel, and you can tell where the cliffhangers are, where people probably groaned and said, "When's the next one coming out??" Even though the movie and book were both really successful, I didn't know anything about the book other than John Coffey was probably innocent. The twists and turns were a total surprise to me, so I won't spoil anything for anyone who decides to read it. I'll just say it was a great story with moving characters.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Avoid making sweeping moral judgments. This book definitely deals with some huge moral issues - racism, innocence vs. guilt, violence, arrogance, punishment, justice. But Paul rarely comes out and says, "Racism is bad" or "Percy got what he deserved." At times, of course, he can't insert his beliefs about these things, but in the end, King leaves a kind of moral ambivalence in the wake of the powerful story. He doesn't come right out and say that the guards were right or wrong. He doesn't hammer some moral into our heads. We are left to decide what the story says about life and punishment and God and mercy. I liked that because it didn't seem like King was preaching to me. There were good men and bad men and a lot of men in between, and that's very close to real life.

Foreshadowing. Because Paul was writing this from his retirement home sixty years in the future, he would occasionally allude to something that would happen later on in the book. It definitely hyped up the suspense. I wanted to read about Delacroix's bad death a hundred pages before it happened. This obviously wouldn't work with every narrative form, unless the narrators were consciously in the future. Because plenty of times, if you use the past tense, the narrators are in the present, and they don't know what's going to happen any more than the reader. But in the event where they are in the future, this is a good trick to use. I wonder why Ishiguro's use of this annoyed me when King's didn't.

This book is sad, I cried, but I'd recommend it! Expect a book/movie analysis soon - we watched the movie last night!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

Hardcover, Published 2000, 297 pages.

Recommended by my old writing professor, I picked up On Writing at the public library. It's the first book I've read by Stephen King, and not the last! I actually picked up The Green Mile today.

The book is split into three parts. The first is an autobiographical part. I wished I knew more about his books and his work, I'm sure more of his stories would have resonated with me. I may have said, "So that's where he got that idea!" It was still a delight to read about how he developed as a writer: first submitting short stories to magazines, slowly working his way up, getting married, having kids, and publishing Carrie first.

The second part is the actual writing part. It doesn't read like an instructional manual, but a conversation with one of our age's most prolific writers. I enjoyed this part, of course.

The last, third part was a small bit about a car accident King was involved in the middle of writing his book. He had some horrible injuries to his hip and legs and was confined to a wheelchair for a couple months, and he talks about how writing brought some pleasantness back into his life.

I'd definitely recommend this book to any and all writers! I made a small list of the main points he made in the middle section.

1) Read a lot. Read a lot of books as often as you can. My goal this year was 50 books, and I've read 46. Next year, I'm going to aim for 75. He also convinced me to pick up some audiobooks. Standing in the library today looking at books on CD, I felt awkward. When I'm finished, can I say I've read them? I haven't really. . .I haven't ran my fingers along the words, my wrists haven't ached with trying to figure out how to hold the book late at night in bed, I haven't folded the corners of the pages on my saved spots. But you know what? It's just a different way to take in a story. And I figure it will be best for certain literary styles that are hard for me to get into. I have some driving each week that I can fill with audiobooks. To start off, I picked up Fight Club and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, two books that have been on my "to read" list for a long time. Now they're on my "to listen" list.

2) Write a lot. Practice, practice, practice. King said one of the only ways to see if something works is to write and see. I definitely agree with this. Writing classes have their purpose, but from when I started writing Roswell fanfiction at 13 to my first finished novel at 21, I really believe that the hundreds of short stories, novels, and essays that I wrote (most of them never to be seen by anyone other than me) were the backbone of my progress. He suggested writing the same amount of words everyday at the same time. My writing time is going to be after lunch, and I'm going to write at least 1,000 words. Second day of my goal, and I've already failed, but it's next on my to do list.

3) Most adverbs are unnecessary. A mark of the untrained writer, most adverbs can be removed from the story without real trouble.

4) He said/she said is divine. My problem is I use it too much.

5) Don't get fancy with vocab.

6) Get rid of the passive voice.

7) Write every day. I mentioned this already, but it's important, and I need to do it.

8) Write your first draft with the door closed. Don't let anyone read it. Their interruptions can disrupt your creative process. Write your second draft with the door open, doing research and thinking about the readers.

9) 2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10% Cut what you can to speed the story along. I think Nanowrimo novelists do the opposite of this. They get to 50,000 words and realize they are far from the "Novel." Don't add more junk, get rid of what is unnecessary.

10) The main question with theme is "What is the story about?" All stories deal with a basic theme, it doesn't have to be something amazing.

11) Tell the truth, even if it offends. King repeated it often: a writer's job is to be honest about life, even if it is crude, racist, violent, etc. I struggle with this because I want to honor God with my writing, but I do want to be honest about human nature. I also have lots of proper family members and younger siblings, and I think about them sometimes as I'm writing a questionable scene (yesterday, in The Second Generation, a 22-year-old was forced to kill someone to save his friend, and I kept thinking about my 13-year-old sister who gobbled up my last story. To be honest, I will probably ask my mom to read it first and approve it for her).

12) Read your market. If you're going to submit to a magazine or publisher, read their material to see if your stuff works. I don't do this often enough, I just send out my stories to people who seem all right.

Those were the main points I wrote down last night at 12:45am after I finished the book. Check it out!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Magnitude to be published in Literary House Review!

My short story Magnitude will be published in Literary House Review 2010! It will come out in November. I will keep you guys updated if you want to buy a copy!

I also forgot to post about The Prodigal Daughter being posted at Pond Ripples Magazine in August. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nano 2010 Rebel - The Second Generation

I've decided what to do for Nanowrimo. I'm a rebel, baby! I will update as time goes on.

My goal:
Finish The Second Generation by November 30th. This will consist of about 72 more pages or 4 1/2 16-page POVs. If I average 537 words a page, that's about 38,664 words. Not as much as 50,000, but I don't want to rush this or sacrifice quality, because this novel is awesome right now and I don't want to ruin it. It's not going to be all writing, either. I have some really important things to work out, like the layout and logistics of a village that has a huge role in the story.

Beginning: 74,683 words, 139 pages, in the middle of Natalie's 3rd POV.
10/15/10: 75,258, 140 pages. +575 words total
10/17/10: 80,283, 150 pages, just finished Natalie's POV. +6175 words total
10/22/10: 81,457, 152 pages, beginning Ben's POV - going with a new backstory for Ben and his family. +6774 words total
10/24/10: 83,141, 157 pages. +8458 words total
10/26/10: 86,105, 163 pages. +11,422 words total
10/29/10: 90,596, 171 pages, just finished Ben's POV. +15,913 words total
11/1/10: 91,750, 174 pages, beginning Heath's POV. +1154 words November +17,067 words total
11/2/10: 93,467, 177 pages. +2871 words November +18,784 words total
11/3/10: 95,454, 181 pages. +4858 words November +20,771 words total
11/5/10: 98,716 +8120 words November +24,033 words total
11/6/10: 100,772, 191 pages, finished Heath's POV +10,176 words November +26,089 words total
11/7/10: 103,023, 195 pages +12,427 words November +28,340 words total
11/8/10: 106,065, 200 pages, finished Tracey's? +15,469 words November +31,382 words total
11/9/10: 106,357, 201 pages, revised Tracey's last scene. +15,761 words November +31,674 words total
11/10/10: 110,455, 209 pages - it's finished!! +19,859 words November +35,772 words total

Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden

Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden

Hardback, published 1999, 265 pages (the edition I read isn't the one pictured).

The fourth book in the Tomorrow series, Darkness Be My Friend centers around Ellie and her friends. The book starts off in New Zealand, where the protagonists have been for a few months. They're asked to go back to Wirrawee to help with a mission to attack the air field. They're not directly involved with the mission, they're just leading New Zealand soldiers around Wirrawee. Unfortunately, things don't go according to plan.

This series is gradually becoming slower in pace. I know some people don't like it - the first book is action packed, and by this one, there is a lot more retroflection and waiting for things to happen. But I think it's very realistic. These teenagers aren't trained soldiers, they're just teenagers who were in the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) place at the time of the invasion. Instead of carrying out missions every few days, they have to rest, think about what they're doing, and try very hard not to be killed.

This book took me a bit longer to read than the last ones, but I'll definitely pick up the next one and eventually finish the series. I'm very involved with the characters, I want to see what happens to them. I wonder if I'm the only one who could see Ellie and Homer eventually getting together. They have pretty strong personalities, and would always be butting heads.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Psychological Effects of War. In The Second Generation, my characters are faced with killing in self-defense, ambiguous enemies, and more. It's not a war setting, but reading this book and The Hunger Games has reminded me that heroes rarely walk away from dangerous, traumatic situations unscathed. Maybe in action movies, but not believable fiction. My female protagonists in The Second Generation and Stones of Cilean go through a lot, and I see Marsden and Collins as great examples.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book/Movie Comparison: Everything Is Illuminated

My first book/movie analysis. For this post, after a brief summary, I'll look at Characters, Setting, Theme, What Was Gained by Film Adaptation, and What Was Lost by Film Adaptation. If this works, I'll just keep this format for the rest, too.

Everything Is Illuminated was written by Jonathan Safran Foer in 2002. The book is divided into two sections.

The first is the story of a young American Jew, Jonathan, traveling to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life, Augustine. He is led around the country, searching for the shtetl Trachimbrod, by a Ukrainian named Alex and his grandfather. This part is written by Alex and mailed to Jonathan after the journey has ended.

The second section is Jonathan's writings mailed to Alex. It is his fictional account of the history of Trachimbrod. It's very literary and has bits of magical realism.

The movie was released in 2005. It was directed and written by Liev Schreiber. Elijah Wood plays the role of Jonathan, Eugene Hutz Alex, and Boris Leskin Grandfather.

The script only focuses on the story in Ukraine, following their travels around the country in search of Augustine and Trachimbrod.

I really enjoyed the setting in the movie. The beautiful countryside, the ornate buildings, the dingy hotel. During Alex's writing in the book, you don't read too much about the landscape or their surroundings. (I'm definitely not complaining - Alex spends a lot of time on their conversations, making humorous Ukrainian-to-English translation mistakes, thinking about American pop culture, and reflecting on what they learned on their journey.)

Because Jonathan's novel sections are taken out, the movie doesn't explore the fantastical Trachimbrod. That might have been really neat in film, but I'm glad they didn't include this section, the movie would have been quite odd and stilted. So, from here on out, I'll just talk about Alex's section and how it was adapted.

In any film adaptation, you lost a lot of depth. Film is a like an act of spying into the lives of these characters; books look into their minds.

The Jonathan in the book is a writer. In the movie, he's a collector. He spends a lot of time gathering things and putting them in ziploc bags, and in the beginning of the movie, there's a wonderful scene of his room, where the camera spans all the things he's collected connected to his family: movie tickets, handkerchiefs, jewelry. The "writer" role of the book is a way of showing Jonathan's character to us, and the "collector" role of the movie does this same thing. If Jonathan had solely been a writer, the viewers of the film wouldn't have been able to read his words.

Eugene Hutz was great as Alex. He was a funny, endearing character. The only thing I think the movie is missing is Alex's growth as a character.

(Warning: spoilers from here on out!)

At the end of the book, Alex tells his abusive, drunken father to leave and takes the role of the head man in the house. He also learns things about his grandfather and contemplates what it means to be a bad or good person. The journey to Trachimbrod changes him. He even confesses in the end that he doesn't go to nightclubs or become "carnal" with other women, but it was mostly an act. I didn't feel unfulfilled after watching the movie Alex, but I still felt like he wasn't as deep as the book Alex.

Here's a quote from the book that really signifies Alex's growth, from Alex's POV: "The bruises go away, and so does how you hate, and so does the feeling that everything you receive from life is something you have earned."

The grandfather is given a much different backstory in the movie. In the book, the grandfather gives his Jewish best friend over to the Nazis while they are ransacking his village Kolki. In the movie, the grandfather is a Jewish man who escaped the Nazis and stayed in Ukraine by pretending he wasn't Jewish. I think it was an interesting choice. The story in the book broke my heart; I cried the first time I read, and I was even crying in the library as I read it again yesterday. The story in the movie was moving, but I almost felt like it was too simple. The book version was complex, and you knew the grandfather was a good person, but it made you think about the horrors of war and what people will do to save their lives and the lives of their family. I suppose I like the book version a bit more, but again, just because it gives much more depth and growth to the grandfather.

The book had many themes. I think the theme about history and its meaning was definitely the stronger in the movie. Jonathan came all the way from America to search for Augustine. When they do find her, she explains the history of Trachimbrod, and we find out the grandfather's history.

Alex says at the end of the movie in a letter to Jonathan, "I have reflected many times upon our rigid search. It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us, on the inside, looking out. Like you say, inside out. Jonathan, in this way, I will always be along the side of your life. And you will always be along the side of mine."

This echoes Alex's sentiments in the book: "Everything is the way it is because everything was the way it was. Sometimes I feel ensnared in this, as if no matter what I do, what will come has already been fixed."

So much can be lost in film adaptation. Obviously, there was no way to translate the power of the written word to the film. In Alex's letters, it even becomes a point of contention between the two of them. Alex wonders why Jonathan continues to write sad, loveless histories for his relatives when "with writing, we have second chances." That was a powerful part of the book for me, but, of course, it's part of the book.

I regret the growth of Alex and his passionate response to his grandfather's suicide.

The film adaptation was simpler than the book. At times, the book (especially Jonathan's account of Trachimbrod) can be overwhelming or too "out there." The movie took the relationships and basic journey to find Augustine and put it into a beautiful landscape with talented actors. You still have the melancholiness, the love, the humor, the significance in the past.

The movie is definitely in my top 20 movies, and the book is amazing, too. I recommend both in a heartbeat!

What do you think? About the book? The film? The switch from book to movie?

Some links:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's like _____ meets _____!

Inspired by this thread on the Nanowrimo forums (yes, I do spend a lot of time there), I decided to do this for a couple of my projects.

Fill in the blanks:
It's like _________ meets _________! (I can add "in _________" if I want!)

Stones of Cilean
It's like Avatar: the Last Airbender meets The Hunger Games.
(In a world where everyone is gifted with elemental powers, Jennifer and her twin sister are drawn to a rebel organization, exposed to an ancient source of power, and caught up in the war that ensues over the stones of Cilean.)

The Seeker
It's like Lost meets Treasure Island.
(When Dakota joins a team exploring the Bermuda Triangle, she doesn't expect to be transported to an alternate reality where there's a hostile island of people who are blaming them for unstable electromagnetism. But it happens.)

The Second Generation - this is my tentative title for my Thatcher Novel
Honestly, I have no idea. I feel like it's a pretty unique idea, but it has probably been written before. There's nothing new under the sun.
All right, I just read a synopsis of The Host by Stephenie Meyer, and it seems like what's happening on Earth in The Host is a lot like what happened in The Second Generation during the war - the aliens took over human bodies to fight for what they wanted. Interesting!
(When four part-alien young adults are pulled into a power struggle for a refugee city called Thatcher, they grow to love one another, forgive their enemies, and fight society's expectations of them.)

Here are some for other novels I've read:
the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
It's Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman) meets Harry Potter.
Serious, when I read Neverwhere, I was like, "holy crap. This is TMI with better writing and older characters!"

The Luxe series (which I haven't yet finished - not a strong desire to, though)
Gossip Girl meets A Great and Terrible Beauty.

That's all I've got for now. Maybe I'll come back and do more later!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Light Raid by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice

Light Raid by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice

Hardback, Published 1989, 229 pages.

Set in a future North America where America is in a civil war. Protagonist Hellene Ariadne was sent to Victoria to escape from the dangers of the war, but she runs home when she has the suspicion that something has happened to her dad. She finds out her house has been destroyed by a light raid, her dad is in shock, and her mom is in jail, arrested for suspicion of sabotaging the war. What follows is an intense thrill ride full of twists and turns.

The book kept me guessing. I wasn't sure whether Ariadne's mom was guilty. I didn't know who to trust. I enjoyed following Ariadne on her journey as she put the pieces together and reacted to everything.

The book went a little too fast. I think that in exchange for the action and fast pace, the authors sacrificed some character development. Ariadne was a very likable character - smart, stubborn, quick-thinking, proactive. But the other characters - her dad, Essex, even Joss - remained one-sided. I like the romance, though.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Setting. I don't know what kind of preparation there was for this setting, but it seemed like they had everything figured out. How HydraCorp worked, the science of the future, the transportation, all of it. I lack this kind of detail in stories that take place anywhere other than our regular earth. At the same time, they just dropped in words like we knew what they were. Of course, I wouldn't want big info dumps or explanations about everything, but a lot of things, I didn't know what they were talking about, and just tried to make up an equivalent. For example, jams? Or those jeans? When I first read the words, I thought of pajamas, but I knew that couldn't be it.

Active vs. Passive Character. Ariadne was taking charge in the first chapter. I knew she was going to be one of those characters who didn't wait around for what she wanted. And I was right; all through the book, she actively does things to move the plot along. I've heard this a lot in writing classes: your character should be proactive, not reactive. I think Ariadne was a good example of this.

If you'd like a quick, fun read, check out Light Raid!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Using the Internet for Good

The internet can be a source of good! This is a post of awesome websites that support charities, literacy, and other good causes. Use them as much as you can! And comment if you know of a good one I left out.

Better World Books is an online book seller. Their mission:
Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.
I've found that they are usually the same price, if not cheaper than, Amazon, mainly because they offer free shipping within the US. It can take a little longer for the books to arrive (app. 11 days), but for only 99 cents, your item will arrive in 2-6 business days.

Free Rice is a trivia website, and for each right answer you get, the website donates 10 grains of rice to help end world hunger.

GoodSearch is an online search engine. Once you choose a charity, each search you conduct will donate to said charity. There are almost a hundred thousand charities participating ( and you can install toolbars for your browser or make it your default search on Google Chrome. (Here is a list of more charity search engines.) If people used these search engines as much as they used google, they'd change the world!

The Hunger Site is a place - you click, and a cup of food is donated because of your click. According to this website, there are almost 2 billion people hooked up to the internet. If each person clicked on The Hunger Site daily, that would be 2 billion cups of food! On the website, there are lots more links to similar websites.

That's all I have for now, but I'm going to keep looking to find more awesome places to help others through your internet connection!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thatcher Novel

I've read a lot of different places that the novel should have one basic sentence to sum up the plot. I think this might be the best one I've written for this novel:

When four part-alien young adults are pulled into a power struggle for a refugee city called Thatcher, they grow to love one another, forgive their enemies, and fight society's expectations of them.

I am obsessed with this novel right now. I absolutely love the characters. I can't stop thinking about the possibilities. I have actually cried while writing it.

Title Ideas
The Great Beyond
(The) Road/Journey to (for?) Thatcher
The Fight for Thatcher
The Second Generation

Natalie Bandele
- Natalie's guarded and untrusting - but who can blame her? In the past two years, her sister's been sent to prison, her dad's been killed, three guys have tried to kill her, and another girl has tried to turn her and Tracey in. She's reluctant to let Ben and Heath travel to Thatcher with she and Tracey, but they slowly grow on her. Natalie often takes the lead. She's book-smart and a history whiz.

Tracey Saunders - Tracey considers Natalie her only family. Her mom was killed, her dad joined the military, and her brother ran away to Africa. She's reacted to the trauma differently than Natalie, searching out what kind of person she is. She offsets Natalie's reserved nature with warm honesty and a soft sense of humor. She loves music, and she's trying to figure out what she thinks about God.

Heath Parrish (last name may change) - Heath doesn't like staying in one place. He was born and raised in Thatcher, but left at thirteen. He moved in with Ben when he was sixteen, but they've spent the last two years traveling the US. Heath has made a lot of mistakes, some which he refuses to face, others that eat him alive. He's quiet and reflective, and a natural gardener.

Benjamin Long - After growing up in LA, Ben is a bundle of energy. He brings the comedy to the group. He lost both his parents before he and Heath left to travel, and his brother and him don't get along, so he considers Heath like a brother. Ben's ready to settle down in Thatcher for a bit. He's got a quick tongue and a quick mind.

Ah, I just love it! I think I'll go write a bit!


Nanowrimo is a month away. The new forums were launched last night. I've already spent a considerable amount of time dicking (that's Emily-lingo for 'wasting time') around there.

My NaNo history:
2004 - I won with Altair
2005 - Won again with Promising Light
Apparently, I attempted 2007, but I don't even remember my failed novel.
2008 - I got about 3,000 words.
2009 - I devoted to write 50,000 words of an already started novel, Stones of Cilean in motivation to finish it. It may have been considered cheating, but I finished it and won! I also got a proof copy of it: excited picture here.

This year, I may end up doing what I did last year. I'm currently obsessed with my novel about four half-aliens who are caught up in a power struggle over a city called Thatcher. And, as much as I love Nanowrimo, I don't want to step away from this story. If I haven't finished it by November 1st (and I don't think I will, I'm only halfway through - 50,000 words, in fact), I'm just going to count completely NEW words to my word count, whether that's part of this story or the sequel to Stones of Cilean after that. I'm a Nano rebel!

I think I'm going to make a separate post about my story, because, like I said, I'm obsessed with it right now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Best Seller #4

This dream was a little hard to sort out, but I've got the basics of a story down. This couple went through some hard times - a couple miscarriages and separation for a little while - but they get away on a small cruise for what they hope to be a romantic get-away. The boat has an emergency, causing it to land on a mysterious island where they encounter pirates and a past love of the husband. It'll be titled, A Sea of Love.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book/Movie Comparison: Introduction & List

It's kind of funny I'm doing posts like this, but I kind of get annoyed when people complain about movie adaptations of novels. But these posts aren't going to be about "OMG, I can't believe they left this scene out." The novel and the feature-length film are two very different forms of art. These posts are less comparisons and more analyses. I'm going to talk about how well the movie did in conveying the theme of the book, the growth of the characters, the main conflict, etc. Sometimes, the movies do it better. I'll try to learn lessons from each adaptation, too.

So, here are a few reference lists for myself (not exactly exhaustive). I'll come back, add to the lists, and eventually take some of them to make posts!

Book Read and Movie Seen:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling Part 1
8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
9. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
11. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
12. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
13. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
14. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
15. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien
16. LOTR: The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
17. LOTR: Return of the King by JRR Tolkien
18. The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
19. Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
20. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rich Riordan
21. Children of Men by PJ James
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
23. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
24. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
25. Holes by Louis Sachar
26. 1-3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
27. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
28. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
29. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (various film adaptations)
30. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare (various film adaptations)
31. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
32. The Green Mile by Stephen King
35. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Books I've read that have movie adaptations I haven't yet seen or aren't released:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Movies I've seen adapted from books that I want to read:
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
3. The Boy In Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Books I'd like to read that have movie adaptations I'd like to see:
1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Books that should never be adapted for film (in my humble opinion):
And this isn't because they are bad books - on the contrary, these are my favorites - but so much that is beautiful about these books can't be translated to film. Their language and literary style is really what makes these books amazing. If the story went to film without the language, it wouldn't be nearly as powerful.
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Paperback, published 2006, 288 pages

I picked up this book after seeing the trailer for the movie. It was not as amazing as some reviews made it out to be, but it was a very thoughtful book. What an interesting premise, too! I knew it wasn't going to be a really happy ending where she ran off and never had to be a donor, but I was still sad. There was a finality to it: really, Kath had no other choice but to live the life set out for her. At first, I thought Halsham was kind of messed up, having ideas like Miss Lucy, but in the end, what Miss Emily said really touched me. They were doing all that they could for these student who were created to save others, students most people didn't even consider humans.

I liked that the book wasn't solely about the process of cloning and donating and the social implications about that, it just focused on Kath's relationships with Ruth and Tommy. I wouldn't mind a book like that, but this definitely was a more reflective one, especially with the way Kath was looking back at her life, sorting memories out and thinking of why people acted the way they did. This is a lot how I think when I think about the past, I try to understand my own actions and those of the people around me, and there's a new insight from the years since then. I grew to like Kath's voice.

One narrative trick that started to annoy me was:
"That's why I was so surprised when she said what she said in Room 22."
Then Kath told you exactly what "she" said in Room 22.

"Tommy was talking about the incident at Norfolk."
Then Kath told you all about the incident at Norfolk.

I don't think it's a bad device in and of itself, but Ishiguro used it at least half a dozen time. He was probably trying to create suspense, and it worked the first five times, then I started to get annoyed.

Anyways, I finished this book in just a couple days. Ishiguro's writing is beautiful and entrancing; I really felt like I was Kath remembering Ruth and Tommy and Halsham. 

I'll write about what I thought about the movie when I see it. I'm thinking of having book/movie comparison posts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dystopian Novels and God

Some of my favorite books are dystopia novels: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. I recently read The Giver by Lois Lowry, too. These books seem to have a common theme: the suppression of individuality for what appears to be the greater good and an absence of conflict. It's a popular topic in literature because it has so much potential and it's amazing to explore how characters try to break out of oppressive regimes. They speak to readers, too, calling us to view the political and social norms around us.

Some of my favorite quotes from these books:

"A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting - three hundred million people all with the same face." -George Orwell, 1984

"But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin." -Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

I think it's interesting to compare this desire for individuality and free will to modern-day arguments against the existence of a loving God. For example, the question, "If a loving God exists, then why do bad things happen to good people?"

Now, I'm sure we could get extremely philosophical, but I'm just attempting to make a connection between genuine questions about God and dystopian literature. In these stories, societies and groups of people have sacrificed free will for an absence of evil. When everyone is the same, there's no option for sin or displeasure or unhappiness.

What if we applied this same concept to God and his plan for the world? If he decided to make the world easy and simple, and his people all identical in thought, then our society could potentially be without conflict or evil. But then we'd be robots, forced to love God either in fear or because we simply had no other choice.

I believe his choice to give us free will did cause evil in the world, but it also was the cause of genuine love and devotion and goodness. So, each individual can choose good or evil, and their choices affect other human beings, and sometimes, horrible things happen to good people, and sometimes, it's completely unfair. But in our world, we have a choice. We're not stuck in a society with Big Brother watching over our shoulders, we make our own society.

Like I said, you could get way into this. And you could definitely argue that you can't compare God and his plan for the world to literature. And then there is evil in the world that isn't caused by another human being, such as disease and famine. I still think it's interesting to look at it all and think about our desire for free will and how it might conflict with our desire for a peaceful world.

(These theme is also prevalent in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (which, unfortunately, I've only read half of), The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and many other books.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Best Seller #3

My next best-selling story is about a couple who gets what they want with their looks. It's called If Looks Could Get You Everything You Want.

I just have to add that this was inspired by a dream in which my husband told me the only way the police would let us go skydiving is if we looked like guidos. And he forced me to shave my armpits. Weirdest. Dream. Ever.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

another best-seller

Okay, when I said "every day", I meant "when I get around to it" and "when I remember my dreams."

So, this is my next best-seller. A dinosaur-like creature threatens to destroy our world. The protagonist decides to be the hero to try to stop this, and his ex-girlfriend (who happens to be my best friend) is impressed with his bravery and wants to help. It's set in the future with flying cars, and my husband and I will probably make an appearance, too. It's titled The Flight of the Brave.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Hey, everyone! This is my new writing blog! I'll write whatever I want here about writing, submitting, editing. Anything to do with words.

You may or may not know that Stephenie Meyer got the idea from Twilight from a dream she had. Well, every day I'm going to post what my next best selling "phenomenon" will be about based on my current dreams. As long as I remember my dream from the night before.

My next best seller will be about finding a king and queen vampire (no, really, there were vampires). It will also involve eating ice cream before bed, the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, and flashlights. It'll be called Royally Vamped. Sounds like a hit, right?