Friday, November 27, 2009

An gives YA a thumbs up

This Turkey Day, I was thankful for coming across a young adult book that had me laughing, crying, and reading well into the night. 

Midnight Girl by Will Shetterly is about Cat Medianoche, whose father hosts a paranormal show, mother is dead, and grandma lives in the basement.  Every year on her Halloween birthday, before the separate parties for each side of her family, a mysterious costume appears.  This year, the mystery will be revealed.

Shetterly made this great YA urban fantasy available for free on Scribd, for $3.95 in several e-formats on Smashwords, and at Lulu in trade paperback and hardcover

If you're unfamiliar with his name, don't let Scribd and Lulu scare you off.  Shetterly's work has earned  a place on the International Reading Association’s 20 favorite books of US teenagers, Minnesota Book Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction, and finalist status for the World Fantasy Award.

While I'm in YA land, I know that I've mentioned City of Bones, book one of Cassandra Clare's Immortal Instruments, but did I tell you how much I enjoyed the series?  There is controversy about the author's history as a fan fiction writer that comes up enough that I feel compelled to mention it, but isn't so deep that I won't rec the books.  They're imaginative and fun with a heroine that I quickly came to care about and a leading "man" that I wish I were young enough to crush on. 

No worries about less-than-appropriate crushing with Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning, but I do appreciate the understated adventure poor Chloe finds herself in when meeting a ghost gets her diagnosed as schizophrenic.  Learning the truth about the group home she gets put in is one thing; getting out alive is something else entirely.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I don't know it all, but...

Other people's words often inspire me to write my own. With a scene half existing in my mind's eye, but not quiet clear enough, I opened up an ebook ARC I've been looking forward to reading. If I found any inspiration, it was to count the paragraphs of info dump (18), then to check the publisher while composing my complaint: Don't give me Dickens-like language unless you're going to give me his depth. Actually, since I've never read any Dickens that I wasn't forced to, don't give me either.

The publisher wasn't easy to find--no listing in the ARC itself, no declaration on the garish blog; more like a trail of cyber crumbs that lead to a new e-publisher with two books each under "Now Available," "Recently Released," and "Coming Soon." New doesn't have to equal bad. I was ready to stop checking out the book's background and go back to reading the book itself, hoping that beneath the painfully flowery prose, the promise of the premise would be fulfilled. (Now who's being painfully flowery?) But I stumbled upon one more bit of info: the author is one of the company's editors.


As a writer, I'm still floundering with a broken middle and won't pretend to be any kind of expert. As a reader, I say:
1. No one's going to tip you by the adjective. Less is more.
2. Write what you mean. While your metaphors drip with analogies, some things end up just not making sense.
3. There's only so unreliable your third person narrator can be. It ends up reading like I hold this thing to be true, and I will continue to hold it as true and cram it down your throat (in case you missed it during the initial info dump) as everything I write around it contradicts it.

Okay, unpublished writer to kinda-published author, having a guy who sort of works for you as your editor is like having your mom be your beta reader. Don't do it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Not taking helpful advice

I should be, at this moment, sneaking an illicit smoke before rushing into my Physical Anthropology class. Instead, I'm fighting with my body. Again. Since I've been absent more than I can stand already, I will win in time for American Identities. The struggle got me thinking of something my mom said just a few days ago as I lamented about the the pain I was in and the classes I was missing: "I don't know why you're even putting yourself through going back to school. Why don't you just stay home?"

It came from a place of love; she's the mother of a woman with a chronic illness--one I've managed very well by rejecting the steroids the docs would have me on, and by moderating my activity level. For all the great things about going to college, there has also been the painful reality of my flares increasing.

Why am I putting this in my writing blog? Because my answer to her question also applies to my writing: The benefits are worth the struggle. And it got me thinking about other advice that shouldn't be taken as well.

Someone recently suggested I change something about a group of people in a story I'd posted for critique because she couldn't relate to them. I had to fight down my knee jerk reaction to fix that. She wasn't supposed to relate to them. What she showed me, however accidentally, was my failure in showing how the main character is disconnected from them for much the same reason.

A better example comes from the experience of friend. She sent out several queries for her young adult novel, and got back some really good feedback--and some feedback from one agent saying that 85K was pushing the edge for YA and that she should scrap it and start over.


Anyone who's semi-actively followed this blog knows that YA isn't my thing, though that's changing slowly as I stumble upon (or have crammed down my literary throat) more and more YA that is good urban fantasy regardless of the intended age group. Of those, two seem thinner than the typical 85K plus I find in adult fiction. Even if I tend to read the exceptions, "pushing the edge" suggests the work needs to be trimmed not scrapped!

If, say, two out of three had given such advise, maybe the passive-aggressive message would have been, "You've got great story ideas here, but the delivery is all wrong." Don't just ignore the input coming at you; mine it for gems. But as it is, I think that agent's hidden advice was, "You've got talent enough for me to respond personally rather than shooting out a form letter, but I'm not really the person you should be wasting your time on."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Drive by post #1

Praise is a funny thing. I sat in my Pop Culture professors class today listening to how good a writer I am and thinking, "Who, me?" And I was wishing that he'd tell that to my Women in Global Perspectives professor. :-) But then, that was why I was in his office.

I'd decided to go back to college for American Studies because (1)I can't go back to my former career so I need to learn something else and (2) since I'm pretty anti-academia, I needed something that would good for my writing without being/leading to an English MFA. One look at my school's American Studies program and I was geared up for learning. Then one look at the syllabus and an hour in his class and I knew I wanted to teach it.

Exciting stuff. It might be more than exciting if I can stop denying the good and learn to make it better.

Meanwhile, I'm behind on NaNo, so I've gotta run.