Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

Paperback, 2010, 188 pages. Library copy.

This is the story of a girl in Yemen named Nujood. Her father married her off at age nine to a man three times her age. It tells about her short-lived, frightening marriage, and the successful divorce with the help of the courts and a lawyer who didn't charge her anything.

It's a very inspiring story, and I really felt for Nujood. She's a brave girl, and I'm really glad that her story is shedding some light on this issue. Of course, I wish she'd never had to go through that, but her courage is helping other girls.

It's horrible that child marriage happens all over the world, and laws aren't enough to deter people from it. There's a lot behind it, including cultural customs and sometimes what the family thinks is the girl's best welfare. Nujood's father claimed he wanted to protect her from some of the things her older sisters had gone through, and the men agreed the husband wouldn't touch her before she hit puberty, but that wasn't upheld. In the end, her father and brothers were more angry with Nujood for bringing shame on their family than glad she was getting out of that relationship. I don't want to judge them too harshly - I'm glad they didn't react to Nujood with violence.

The writing wasn't stellar, and I don't know who the "blame" goes to. I'm assuming Nujood told her story to Delphine Minoui, who wrote the original manuscript in French. Perhaps it was the translator. The narrative kept using cliches like "flying off the handle" and "on the spot" and others. Since it was a first person narrative, it took me out of Nujood's voice, since I'm sure she wouldn't say things like that in Arabic. There was also a lot of weird tense changes. It didn't get in the way of the story, though, which was very inspiring and also heartbreaking.

A thing I can learn from this book: Stay away from cliches. They're overused, and there is a better way to get across what you're trying to say.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Seller #6

A speculative fiction novel. The main character is an author, and her family knows a strange guy who takes existing stories and uses a code to make songs out of them. The guy starts messing around with her stories and is soon responding to her fans pretending to be the other.

It doesn't have an ending. It's one of those experimental novels that doesn't make sense and has a cliffhanger.

(Yeah, it didn't make sense to me, either.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

There are so many versions of this book, and I'm too lazy to go find my copy. Pictured copy is not the one I read. It was a paperback version with a cheesy cover, about 300 pages. I bought it at the library for $1. Well, technically 50 cents because it was buy one get one free, and I also got The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy about a year ago, so it's kind of fitting that I read The Hobbit this time of the year. They're good books to curl up with and lose yourself in another world. They're classics for a reason!

I was reading some of the Goodreads reviews, and I think it's sad when people give this book a modern standard. Literature written a hundred years ago follows much different rules than literature written today. This wasn't written a hundred years ago, but you get my point. Much different conventions. I read modern novels and classic/older novels expecting completely different things.

J.R.R. Tolkien's writing, especially in this book, reminded me of C.S. Lewis, and I just love the nostalgic feeling of their novels. When everything is so matter-of-fact and they write things like, "Well, you know how trolls can be." I'd really like to read The Silmarillion, but from what I understand, it's not one story, but kind of a history of Middle Earth? Don't know, I guess I'll see when I pick it up.

Some things I could learn from this book.

Setting. Tolkien really knows the geography of Middle Earth. He has the maps in the beginning of the books. Each land has its own history, its own culture. He definitely knew the setting in great detail. A lot of times, I draw a map kind of as an afterthought, because I have to to make the story make sense. But he was so detailed. It's very admirable and definitely sometime I could learn from.

I'm excited for this movie. Peter Jackson is great.

Chris's boss recently got an iPad, and he gave us his Kindle for free!! Needless to say, I've already downloaded about a dozen out-of-copyright works. Time to catch up on some classics! I'm reading The Secret Garden right now. It is such a neat little gadget. I will always love the feel and smell of a book, but I read in bed a lot, and my wrists get tired easily. The Kindle is really good for that. Plus it was FREE!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Death of the Sun on Smashwords

It's here! Death of the Sun is now available on Smashwords for free. Enjoy!

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.

The Second Generation Createspace Proof

I received The Second Generation proof from Createspace yesterday! I got a free one last year for Stones of Cilean, and even though I didn't "win" this year and get a free coupon, I still wanted one for The Second Generation. And here it is!

I don't plan on self-publishing The Second Generation, though. It's currently with betas, and my goal is to start querying it in June. If I'm still querying it in eight-twelve months, then I'll think about self-pubbing it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finding Fiona & Markets for Novellas

In writing Finding Fiona, I've discovered this is not going to be a very long story. Usually, I have a problem with dragging my stories out - I remember two Nanowrimo's where by the time I got to 50K I hadn't even started the meat of the story yet! But this story has been pretty succinct and I'm approaching the climax of the story, and I'm only at 30K words!

So, I've been doing some research about where Finding Fiona could find a home. My understanding is it's pretty hard to get a story longer than 20K published in magazines of journals and next to impossible to get a novella represented by an agent. I already have a handy little spreadsheet, but I figured if anyone else was having the same problem, I could help out.

Finding Fiona is primarily science fiction, but it has a mix of YA, mystery, and action/adventure. This list reflects those genres.

These are some of the options I have so far:
Blue Leaf Publications is a small publishing house that publishes novellas from 35K-65K words in science fiction, fantasy, speculative romance, and other 'spec fics.'
Dark Quest Books is a small publisher of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They deal with both ebooks and print. The word count isn't specified on their guidelines.
Mundania Press publishes speculative fiction, and at the moment, they're not accepting science fiction or fantasy. They're seeking steampunk, urban fantasy, horror, and a few other genres.
WolfSinger Publications is a small publisher that primarily publishes science fiction and fantasy. Their preferred wordcount is 10K-50K, and anything less than 25K will only be for sale as an ebook.
Silverthought is an independent publisher of speculative fiction. They have both online and print divisions. For online, they will accept up to 50K, but there is only a flat fee of $50. For print, they only say "novella."
Double Dragon Publications is primarily an ebook publisher. The preferred word count is 40K-90K.
AKW Books.
BlueWood Publishing. Print and ebooks, but less than 50K will only be published as an ebook.
Champagne Books. Chiefly ebooks. Novellas should be approximately 25K.
Lillibridge Press. Seems fairly new, but this is the opposite of my "ETA" below - very professional look.
SynergEbooks. Epublishing, trade paperbacks, CD-ROMs. Word count isn't specified.
Untreed Reads Publishing. Seems to be primarily short work. Actively seeking short stories and novellas.
Write Words, Inc.. Paperback and ebooks. Word count not specified.
Writers Exchange E-Publishing. Print and ebooks. Word count not specified.

That's all I have for now. I just found this list on so I'll probably spend a little while checking that out and then come back and update this!

ETA: Looking at that list. . .maybe I'm a snob, but if your website layout is horrible or if my thirteen-year-old sister could make better ebook covers, I don't want to submit to you. There are so many I just bypassed because they look so unprofessional and I would actually be embarrassed to be published on those websites. I actually want to start my own to show people that it's not that hard.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Paperback, 2005, 464 pages.

I can't remember where I heard about this book, but I was kind of intrigued since it got so many low reviews on Amazon (415 one-star reviews!) and yet it was a bestseller. It's based around a real-life book called Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a thick book about a man who dreams about his love. In the novel, however, it's full of mysteries and puzzles. The main character Tom's dad was obsessed with the book, and he meets another student at Princeton who also becomes entranced with the book and its secrets. The story follows the two of them as they try to solve the last puzzles while dealing with two men who've been studying the book for years. It's a mystery and action/adventure.

I picked it up from the library, and I liked it. I think I can see why a lot of people wouldn't like it. There are a lot of infodumps, and sometimes the backstory or history relating to the puzzles completely interrupts the current story. The writing isn't stellar, but the story intrigued me. I wanted to see what happened to the characters and what the big secret of Hypnerotomachia was. I wasn't disappointed, either.

I liked the friendship between the four guys. They're all different, but they clicked, and I really liked the bond they had. Charlie was the nicest guy, too. Paul really annoyed me after a while, but I suppose that was the point, to show how much the book had taken over his common sense.

There was a lot of cool history in this. I commend the authors for doing all that research! Seriously, a lot of time and effort must have gone into this book. The adventure aspect was great, too; they wrote great action scenes.

I think it was a good read. Like I said, not stellar, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time.

One random question I have. . .how on earth can someone write a book with another person? It's probably just me and my writing style, but that seems next to impossible. It's my book! My story! My characters! Although I have to confess that in middle school, shortly after the Lord of the Rings movies came out, me and my friends wrote this ridiculously silly fan fiction. I can't remember what it was about, just that it made us giggle during church and Legolas was probably in love with me. Still, today, that seems impossible. I might want to try it sometime, just to see what it's like.

A few things I could learn from this book.

Research. I didn't look up any of these references, but I'm sure some people did. I'm sure they got as accurately correct as they could. They even had an author's note that explained some of the things they didn't quote correctly. In my writing, I avoid the research until later, but I need to be sure it's accurate.

Backstory/Infodumps. Some of the backstory and infodumps were necessary for the story, but they completely interrupted the fast-pacedness (yep, it's a word now) of the story. In my own stories, I want to find a way to tie that into the story so it isn't so jarring.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Story on Smashwords - Melanie's Secrets

New story is up on Smashwords - Melanie's Secrets. I know I said Death of the Sun would be next, but it still needs some tweaking.

The first paragraph of Melanie's Secrets:
My sister and I used to be good friends. Halloween used to be our favorite holiday. One time, we got this idea to see how long we could stay out of the house before our parents noticed. I don’t remember if it was my idea or hers. It was a test. We wanted to see how much our parents cared about us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Books Read in 2010

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
3. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien
5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by Tolkien
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by Tolkien
8. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
9. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
10. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
11. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
12. Replay by Ken Grimwood
13. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
14. Pretties by S.W.
15. Specials by S.W.
16. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
17. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis *
18. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis *
19. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle *
20. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
21. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
22. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
23. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
24. The Giver by Lois Lowry
25. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
26. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
27. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis *
28. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
29. The Last Battle by C.s. Lewis *
30. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
31. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling *
32. Children of Men by P.J. James
33. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
34. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
35. WWW:Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
36. A Wind In The Door by Madeline L'Engle
37. Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
38. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
39. The Dead of Night by John Marsden
40. A Killing Frost by John Marsden
41. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
42. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
43. Light Raid by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice
44. Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden
45. Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman
46. On Writing by Stephen King
47. The Green Mile by Stephen King
48. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
49. Burning for Revenge by John Marsden

Reviews: Goodreads (not too detailed, trust me)
A few of these books were reviewed here on the blog. Check the "book review" tag :)
* - previously read

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Hardback, 2010, 289 pages.

I loved The History of Love, so I had to check this out. After a long waiting list at the library, I finally got to pick up this book.

It's hard to explain the plot of this book in just a few sentences. There is a collection of characters: a writer who lives a reclusive life, a father who was too hard on his son, a student who falls in love with the son of an antique's dealer, and more. They're all connected by a desk, an old piece of furniture that looms in their lives.

I can't deny Nicole Krauss has a way with words. She pulls me into the minds of her characters. She speaks about the human state with such effortlessness and brings all the sorrow and joy and mystery and loneliness and community of life into her pages.

That said, I guess I'm a stickler for tradition. This novel reads more like memoirs from four different people who happen to be connected by a desk. It's great writing, but I was left wondering, 'What's the common thread? What binds all of these people together?' Some of them love the desk, some of them hate it, some don't even know it exists.

I loved the characters and their stories, but I'm okay with the fact that I don't read novels like this often. I feel like they're stories I can only take every now and then because if I read novels like this consistently, I'd probably get bored or, worse, I'd start talking in sweeping generalizations that don't really make sense but sound pretty anyway, and my writing would start getting really long-winded, like this sentence, and all my paragraphs would be a page or more long.

Regardless, this book comes highly recommended from yours truly. This is the kind of book that's a special treat, a gem, even, but I'm still glad it's not the norm for novels today.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Rules can be broken. Nicole doesn't use quotation marks and doesn't make a new paragraph every time someone new speaks in dialogue. She more often tells than shows. But breaking these common rules in her writing really works for her and for the story. I think it's important to remember that this isn't the norm for a reason, but that, if the author is really good at what she does, she can make anything work.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goals for 2011

Happy New Year, everyone! I had a great weekend in Pendleton, where Chris and I used to live before we moved to Salem.

My writing/reading goals for 2011:

1. Read 75 books. This year, I read 49, which you can see on my Goodreads. My goal was 50, but my last week was busy, or I would have finished Great House by Nicole Krauss.

2. Get The Second Generation out to agents. Right now, it's in beta-stage (others are reading it, and I'm waiting on the feedback). I hope to have it out to agents by June.

3. Finish Finding Fiona. I want to finish this novel/novella, polish it up, and then I'll see where I want to go with it. If it ends up being a novella, I may publish it on Smashwords. If it's longer, then I'll seek traditional publication.

4. Figure out what to do with Stones of Cilean. At this point, I'm really not sure where I want to take Stones of Cilean. The major plot line needs some work, and it's hard to find beta readers for any novel. If I decide to pursue publication, I need to write the sequel.

5. Publish more short stories on Smashwords. I don't have a definite number, but I do plan on at least one a month. I think stories over 2,000 words I will sell for 99 cents. I think this'll be a good way to build up my platform. It'll also keep me writing, because if I publish only one a month, I'll be out of short stories by April.

Other goals for 2011:
1. Travel. Chris and I have tentative plans for a trip to Mexico and a trip to Europe. God willing!

2. Develop Ward's Murder Mysteries. Write more mysteries and advertise the business!

3. Set up an istockphoto account with Chris. With original photographs and old scanned photos from antique shops that are out of copyright.

4. Update All Bible everyday. A new blog of mine that goes through the bible chapter by chapter, book by book.

5. Expand my volunteering. I currently volunteer for Odyssey Hospice, but I'd like to volunteer for the Salvation Army shelter in town and the Kroc Center library. I want to do something consistent for all three of these organizations, especially if I'm going to have a lot of free time since I'm unemployed.