Saturday, June 15, 2013

Introducing: Monster

I once had the chance to critique and beta-read this amazing book for a girl named Mirriam Neal once. I absolutely fell in love with it, and all its characters. It's an amazing book called Monster.

The year is 2053, and the world is recovering from a Morbus, a plague that swept across the globe, destroying millions of lives. Eva Stewart is a promising young WorldCure scientist assigned to a facility in Alaska where she is made a Handler and given her own human Subject for research and experimentation. What she believes to be a step up in her career becomes a nightmare when she discovers writing on her Subject’s cell wall. "I still have a soul." Soon Eva is drawn into a horrific plot kept quiet by WorldCure, and as everything she knew collapses around her, she must discover the truth behind her Subject, her beliefs, and herself.


Monster as I read it, slightly rough and not yet in publishing stages, was still completely amazing. Now she's refined it, and guess what?


That's right people, you can own your very own paperback copy of Monster for yourself. And I highly recommend it. It's a fantastic book with amazing ideals, and so well written you fall in love with the characters from the very start.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy it!

Buy Monster here!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The System

I'd like you introduce you guys to a little thing I like to call . . . The System.

What's The System, you ask? Well I'm glad you did, because I'll tell you.

The System is what some friends and I discovered a few years ago when watching a ton of movies and reading a lot of books. It's a System that never fails and is always true. Mostly.

The System is what happens between two characters when one of them is injured, or in danger of being injured. The other character realizes just how much they care about that person, and often times the love they have for the injured one grows. The System is particularly powerful when the two characters are on the edge of being in love, or have been in love but are slightly estranged for some reason. It can also work between friends.

In most cases, as you watch the movie or the plot, you see Character 1 and Character 2 (we'll call them Liz and Jack) getting closer, but neither of them really quite making the jump to actually admitting they love each other. One of them might not even realize they DO love the other person.

So what does this situation need?

Let's say Jack gets mortally wounded. He's gotten shot, perhaps. He's lying on the ground, bleeding horrendously, and all of a sudden, as Liz is freaking out, she realizes. She could lose Jack. He could die right there.

She doesn't want that to happen! She can't let that happen! She loves him!

This is The System in motion. It's Liz realizing she loves Jack, and simultaneously loving him more because of his injury.

It happens every single time, just about. (That's why it's a System and not a Law :P) Need more examples?

  • Tony Stark and Pepper Potts - Every time they have a fight and then Tony nearly dies later, all Pepper cares about is whether Tony is okay.
  •  Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger - Ron is well known for being a bit thick in the areas of love, but when Hermione is being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange and he hears the screams, all he wants is to go to her and save her.
  • The Doctor and any of his companions - This totally goes both ways. The companions realize they love/care for the Doctor when he's injured/dying (which happens often) and the Doctor realizes the same when his companions are injured/dying. The love grows with each injury.
  • Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase - This happens in the fourth book, and Percy doesn't necessarily get injured at that particular moment, but when Annabeth realizes that he'll be going off to do something seriously dangerous and potentially lethal, she kisses him for the first time.
  •  Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen - Probably one of the more powerful ones. This applies a bit more to Catching Fire than The Hunger Games. When Peeta hits the energy wall and nearly dies, Katniss freaks out. She realizes just how much she cares for Peeta, and how awful it would be to lose him.

Obviously there's more to falling in love than injuring a character. I'm simply saying that there's a System that always seems to creep into plots, making itself the catalyst that makes the characters sit up and go, "I love them! I can't let them go!"

It also applies to friends. Obviously it doesn't make friends want to kiss each other (well, sometimes maybe, if the friends are in love), but it does make the friends realize how much they do care about the other character, especially if the two friends have fought recently. Like Harry and Ron, after Harry battles the dragon in the fourth book, or when Ron has to save him in the ice pool in the seventh. The danger made them both put aside their pride and apologize.

The System. It's real.

Keep an eye for it. I promise, you'll see it everywhere.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Fun Things You Discover

Sometimes I just love researching. You find out the coolest things sometimes.

For instance, I'm currently working on a steampunk story. I was going to make one of my characters, Emmett Astor, a rich car enthusiast. You know, one of those guys that just buys up cars and drives them occasionally.

Well, it's set in 1883, so I had to check when cars were invented. Steampunk or not, I like to keep some things in their correctly invented places.

The first car was invented in 1885. Well dang, I guess he can't be a car enthusiast.

Well, maybe he can, but I found another thing he could be an enthusiast of. But that's beside the point.

I found out the first car was created by Karl Benz, who was a German. But then a name caught my eye--Bertha Benz.

She had a picture on the side, and the caption read "the first long-distance driver in the world."

Whoa, a woman was the first long-distance driver in the world? I couldn't resist.

I learned that she was the business partner and assistant of her husband, Karl Benz. One day, in 1888, she took two of her sons, ages 13 and 15, on a 66 mile drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim, to visit her mother. She didn't tell her husband she was taking the car, and she didn't inform the authorities.

Along the way she met with a few challenges. The fuel the car used could only take ligroin (kind of like petroleum but not quite), which can only be bought in apothecary shops, so she had to stop to buy some of that. A blacksmith had to fix the chain for her. The brakes broke, and when she repaired them she also invented brake lining. She used a hatpin to clean a fuel pipe and one of her garters to insulate a wire.

She was a very handy, Mrs. Benz. I like her a lot.

She and her husband have been added to my list of cool historical couples, alongside couples like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (for generally being awesome and adorable together) and Theodore Roosevelt and both of his wives (Alice, which you'll see why in a moment, and Edith, because their marriage was just generally happy and cute).

Alice gave birth to her daughter, Alice, and Theodore missed it because he was in Albany. He thought she would be born two days later, on Valentine's Day, which was his and Alice's wedding anniversary. He received a telegram saying his daughter was born, and then another saying his wife was seriously ill. He rushed home, but Alice was already semi-comatose. He held her, until someone informed him that his mother, who was living two floors down and had been ill for days with typhoid, was rapidly deteriorating. He went to be with her, and she died an hour later. Theodore then rushed to Alice, and held her until she too died on the same day. She was only 22 years old.

Martha and Alice Roosevelt both died in Valentine's Day.

Theodore wrote those eight little words in his diary, and never spoke of Alice again.

As for Victoria and Albert, they were so in love that when Albert died, Queen Victoria had his clothes laid out every day, his rooms kept as they were, and even had hot water drawn up for baths and towels and linens changed. She slept with a portrait of him on a stand at the end of her bed, and a smaller portrait of him on her pillow, so when she woke up it would be like he was still there.

I can't make this stuff up, people! 

Real life sometimes has the best stories, better than any fiction could be. I think this is why I enjoy history so much. There are so many interesting things that have happened in the past.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing is Hard

I don't know if you knew this, but writing is no walk in the park.

Writing is more like you deciding you're going to walk in the park, and it's a beautiful day out, so you decide to go walking in your jean shorts and a white tank top and cute flipflops, only to have it start raining halfway through, and then turn into a windstorm, and then a hailstorm, and then a blizzard, and then you get lost in the park and you don't know what you're doing or where you're going, you're just trying to keep walking, until finally you find that sidewalk that looks familiar, and you stumble onward until you fall forward in a frozen half-alive heap on your welcome mat and it's sunny again because you made it to the end.

That's writing.

It's a roller coaster, and no mistake. And sometimes it's fun, and sometimes it's not, and most of the time you're either staring at a screen or yanking your hair out.

Honestly, I wouldn't trade that for the world. That's the point of writing. It's a hard, awful journey that has the potential to bring you to an amazing end. Whether that end is just finishing the book, or getting it published, or going on to be a bestseller, it doesn't matter.

But unfortunately, there's times in writing where you just don't get your own story. You're missing a detail and you can't for the life of you figure it out.

Like for instance, I am retelling the story of Cinderella in a steampunk world. She is Amelia Elizabeth Stanton and she is an inventor looking to escape her stepfamily as well as the social norms of Victorian London society. Her "glass slipper" in this story is a decorative gear, a gear her father gave her when he passed away. He told her it was a key, but that she would have to discover what it unlocked.

But what does it unlock?

That's just it. I don't know. I have utterly no idea.

I brainstormed about it. I got to the key bit, and I thought up the scene where she would actually unlock the thing. It's a compartment in this dirigible she had built with her father. He put the compartment there and filled it with something and gave her the key.

I imagined it in my head. Amelia and her new boyfriend thing Emmett are in the dirigible and she puts the gear into the gear-shaped slot. The door slides open to reveal--


Yeah, that's the sound of my Train of Thought derailing. Going off the tracks, rolling down the hill, falling into the river and being swept out to sea, probably going over more than one waterfall in the process. Bye-bye, Imagination Express!

I honestly had a thought there, and it was almost tangible, but now I. Can't. Remember.

This is an example of how and why writing is hard. But you know, that's okay. Because it's not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it and we wouldn't all be awesome. We'd be average.

Don't get discouraged if you find yourself in a rut, or your train of thought goes over a cliff and you lose the best plot idea ever, or you lack motivation or what-have-you. Whatever it is, don't give up. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, take a tiny break, heck take a nap. Let your brain rest for a minute or two.

Then sit back down and stretch out your fingers. Place them back on that keyboard and get to typing. Shut down the internet, close out Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google, everything. Force yourself to get those first few paragraphs out. They're going to sound forced and rough and terrible. That's totally okay. You can edit them when you're done. Just get yourself started, and once you're started you'll get back into the groove again.

If you're stuck on an idea, like I am, sleep on it! Take a nap or a walk, or literally go to sleep for the night like I'm about to do. Once you and your brain are refreshed, sit back down for another brainstorming session. It'll come eventually.

I promise. I know because it worked for me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ask Me a Question

There have been a couple of these floating around the internet lately, and I thought I'd try it out. I'm going to introduce you to my main character, Finley Lancastor, and then you get to ask her questions! You can even ask more than one. She'll respond to your questions in a follow-up blog post, so feel free to ask as many as you want! If any repeat, or seem close, I'll just combine them.

Finley, if you'll tell them about yourself?

Heh, putting me on the spot, huh? Okay, well here goes.

Hey, guys, I'm Finley Lancastor, formerly a resident of New York City. I've lived just about everywhere there, from Queens to Manhattan to the Bronx...yeah, I've done and seen it all. And turned down the T-Shirt.

I can't even remember anything prior to waking up in a hospital at the approximate age of seven. My parents were no where to be found. All the hospital staff had to go on was my name, scrawled on the tag of my jacket. And even then, all they could figure out was an F, and then my last name. I kind of ended up with the name Finley.

I've foster-hopped homes ever since, either transferring to a new home, or running away when things got bad. I seem to have this weird thing about attracting danger. Usually the magical kind.

The police never did believe me. To them, centaurs and tree sprites and dwarves don't exist. How wrong could they be, huh?

Anyway, I moved to Alexios and joined the Hidden World, which I had apparently been seeing all my life. I never knew there was a whole world, and that humans were mixed up in it!

And actually, I was dragged to Alexios, unconscious. I kind of got attacked by this crazy fire-wielding goon and its evil fire-breathing pet bird. I was saved by a guy, and he called my attacker an Atrox, and the bird a shadowed phoenix. That's a long story. I nearly died, but I'm fine. Anyway, I got to Alexios, this cool island in the Aegean Sea, and started my 11th year at the academy there.

I was supposed to learn stuff, like how to kick butt and all. I was way behind,though, so I got this cool instructor named Donovan, and he began teaching me how to be a Guardian. A Guardian is a nonmagical human Hidden Worlder who protects the Elementalists, who are the magical humans. Guardians have the same pure magic in their veins that the Elementalists use, but we can't use it. It does makes us stronger though, and faster, and it gives us better senses...I guess we're superheroes, in a way. But that doesn't mean we're bullet proof. I know that fact well.

I guess that's enough about that, yeah? Um, a bit about myself in general...let me see.

Well, I've got reddish-brown, russet, rust colored hair. Mahogany. Whatever, I don't know how to describe it. I've got gray eyes, which I've always hated. I wish had green or something. I'm average, height and weight-wise, I guess. I'm about 5'5. I'm pretty athletic. I'm independent, in my own special way. It comes from living on the streets. I'm fiercely protective of my Elementalist, Roxana, and not just because she was assigned to me. She was getting picked on, and I hate that. I don't like bullies. If a bully has a problem, they can take it up with me, and I'll duke it out with them.

I'm afraid of failing, and of letting people down. It feels like that's all I ever did before I came to Alexios. I don't want to do it now that I'm here. I guess a weakness of mine is that I'm stubborn. I don't like backing down or admitting I'm wrong.

And, uh...what else, what else?

Oh. I've, this...crush? Okay, definitely not a crush. I like this guy a lot. More than I should. More than he wants me to, which has to be the most frustrating thing on this planet. But his name is Tallon Asidian. He's the one who saved me from that Atrox back in NYC. But he has this thing against serious Guardians dating. He thinks that if he's dating someone he won't be able to protect his assigned Elementalist. Which I kind of understand.

It doesn't make the situation any better. Oh well.

I can't think of anything else. So! Anyone have any questions for me?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Strange Things a Writer Looks Up

I got this idea from a fellow blogger! She went through her recent history to find the odd things she had looked up for various stories. I thought I'd try it out. I don't have that many strange and outlandish ones, but several are still kind of interesting. Take a look for yourself!

  • How long does it take for you to die of a stab wound?
  • Dragon ears
  • Dogfights (as in the planes, not actual dogs)
  • Transmutation
  • Evil ginger (I wanted to know if my evil guy should be a ginger! He's not.)
  • Using a punching bag
  • Symbol of anarchy
  • Hammered dulcimers (They're so cool. Look them up and listen to them!)
  • Flying kicks (and other forms of unarmed combat, mostly for watching)
  • How to set a broken nose.
  • Guy Fawkes Day/November 5th for Boston
  • When were skirts invented?
  • Nomads
  • How many rooms does a princess/prince/king/queen have?
  • Can you hum with your tongue cut out? (Yes.)
  • How to set a dislocated shoulder.

Yeah, maybe not the craziest list ever, but some of them are a tad worrisome, I suppose. I actually pinned this thing on Pinterest about how to hide a dead body. For fictional purposes of course. I don't know why I'd ever write a story involving that, but just in case.

What about you guys? What are some strange things you've looked up recently?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Naming Characters, Part 3 - The Odds and Ends

So we've talked about narrowing down the search, and we've talked about making up names. Now it's time for the odds and ends of naming characters.

Last Names: Oh this is a biggy. You want your last name to have oomph, to make your character stand out more. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson wouldn't be as cool if they were just Harry and Percy. There are no real rules for adding a last name to your character. It can quite literally be anything you want. Only, there are a few things you could consider about last names that will make them better.
  • Royals: Not all royals need last names. If you have a queen, often times they don't have last names. Think Queen Elizabeth. Does she have a last name? Nope. Likewise, my kings and queens tend to not have them.
  • Ending On with the Same Sound: Try not to do this. Like having a Skyler Tyler. It simply looks and sound, well, tacky. 
  • Syllable Counts: This is a sort of half-and-half rule. On one hand, two names with the same syllable count work together (Jerry Parker, John Smith , Elizabeth McAllister). On the other hand, sometimes you might want to consider different syllable counts (Jerry Smith, JohnMcAllister, Elizabeth Parker). Sometimes, when you have a longer first name, it's better to have a shorter last name. Otherwise you end up with a mouthful like Elizabeth McAllister.
  • Same Letter: This is also a sort of half-and-half rule. In some stories, having the same letter for both names works (Janett Jones, Haley Hart, Peter Parker). Although, like Peter Parker, they kind of give it a comic-book feel. If your story is light-hearted, happy, fun, and funny, you could get away with this. If you're going for something darker or more serious, consider finding a different letter.

Names Between Friends: You don't want your main character's name to rhyme with her best friend's name. Having your character be Izzy and her best friend be Lizzy is tacky, especially when they're together all the time and you lump them together in sentences. (Lizzy gave Izzy her books back. Izzy smiled at Lizzy and gave her a nod of thanks.)

This goes even more especially when you have couples. For instance, in Defender, Finley's original name was Falinn. But having her fall in love with Tallon, and making it Falinn-and-Tallon/Tallon-and-Falinn, it became tedious. They sounded too alike. So I changed it to Finley.

 Culture: One thing I didn't get to on the first part was naming your characters according to their culture. If they're Chinese, give them a Chinese name. If they're Spanish, French, German, whatever, make sure their name comes from that country. Unless, of course, they have a reason for not having a culture-appropriate name. Like my character, Roxana Grace. She's half-Japanese, half American. Her grandparents immigrated to America, where her mother was born and raised. Her mother met an American man and they got married and had Roxana and Lucas. Her father insisted on American names. So that's how my half-Japanese girl got an American name. See? There's a reason, and it makes sense.

But what if your story is set on another planet, or in a made up country? This goes into worldbuilding, but whatever culture you have established there, make the names similar. Do you have a desert country? Why not make the names have tribal sounds, with letters like K or Z or M? You know, Mizuk or Chazak or Kilak. Is your planet's culture very formal and elegant? Well you won't expect Bobs and Carls and Johns to be running around, would you? Make sure your names are culture appropriate, even if the culture is made up.

Well, that's all I can think of! If you have any other tips, feel free to post them in the comments! Thanks for reading this naming guide!