Friday, February 15, 2013

Things that Will Make You a Better Writer

I can tell you all the things everyone else is saying about how to be a good writer. Take a creative writing course, do writing prompts and grammar exercises. Read this book or that book. I can tell you that you need to be determined and focused, but odds are you know all of this already. In the end what makes a good writer is someone who can tell a good story, so below are things that have helped me tell better stories.

Ashley Rose

Write Poetry – Ever hear someone describe a book as written in lyrical prose and then wonder how you can write in lyrical prose? Lauren Oliver’s writing is often described this way and I think her writing style is a big part of why her books are so beautifully descriptive. One way to learn how to write more lyrically is by writing poetry. Poetry makes you look at the way words sound and how they can project emotions and how they make you feel. When you write poetry you search your vocabulary for a word that rhymes, or has a certain amount of syllables, or just feels right. Writing poetry will help you think differently about the words you use in your stories.
Read EverythingStephen King once said, “There are books full of great writing that don't have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story... don't be like the book-snobs who won't do that. Read sometimes for the words--the language. Don't be like the play-it-safers who won't do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” If you want to write a book that can do both then read both. But go beyond just stories and language, read books that are in your genre and read books outside of it. Read contemporary and fantasy, horror and romance, books written in first person and third, present tense and past, those that are published under big names and indies. We are inspired to write by what we read and if you read a little bit of everything you may find yourself inspired by something entirely new and different for the type of story you like to write.
Write for the Newspaper – I wrote for my school newspaper in college and the biggest thing I learned from it was how to edit. Now, writing articles didn’t spark my creativity like writing fiction, but having to keep my articles under a certain word count taught me how to cut unnecessary material. “Dead words” were what we called them in my creative writing class in high school. See what words, sentences, even paragraphs you can cut. If it doesn’t move the story along you don’t need it. Mark Twain once said “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.” This is a lot harder of a thing to do than most people think. When you’re writing a first draft of a novel you tend to just want to write without thinking and then suddenly you’re going into great detail about what your main character is eating for lunch. Details are great, but once you get your first draft done go back and make sure you details don’t side track your reader.
Take a Class on Shakespeare – A real Shakespeare class where you talk about what Shakespeare was trying to say with his work, not some Woman’s Study’s course where feminists get their panties in a twist reading Taming of the Shrew. The truth is there are some wonderfully strong female characters in all of Shakespeare’s works (Including Taming of the Shew), ones that any woman could be proud of if she truly understood what William was trying to say. But that’s not exactly why you should read Shakespeare, why is because Shakespeare looks at all sorts of different themes in his work from feminism, to liberalism and  anarchy, to justice and mercy and of course love and sacrifice. If you take a course, and I say a course because Shakespeare can be hard to figure out on your own, even with cliff notes, but with others who you can talk with and discuss things with as you read his plays, you will find they relate so perfectly to the world we live in, even now so long after they were written. And, they just might inspire you.
Study Psychology – One of the most important things to me when I’m writing is having characters act in a way that is believable, and after studying Psychology for the past few years I feel like I have a better idea of how and why people react the way they do. Understanding human nature helps me create human characters. It’s easy to write characters that are like us, but it can be hard sometimes to figure out what someone else would do. If you don’t have time for a psych class Google some of the basics and create character profiles. Is your character an introvert or an extrovert? How do they deal with stress, do they internalize things or make inappropriate jokes? And, most importantly why do they do what they do? Is your character guarded, what happened to them to make them that way? Also when I’m looking at paranormal aspects, like Ivy’s telepathic ability in Into the Deep, understanding the human brain was helpful as well.
Study Philosophy – Maybe not logic so much, but my Ethics course was incredible. Thinking about right and wrong and how we decide what is right or wrong will blow your mind a little, but it was a really helpful course in showing me how people justify their actions, how people make bad decisions, and how different people look at the world differently. Along with Psychology this went a long way in helping with my character development. It also made me want to say something with my writing.
Watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog – If you don’t have the time to take a class on Philosophy watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. This short little side project of Joss Whedon’s, like most of his work, will have you looking at your characters in new ways. With a villain as the main character who really only wants to change the world and a superhero who’s the antagonist and is really only a tool this movie will help you break away from clichés in your writing and show you that you should look deeper into the motives of all your characters. What do they really want, hope, dream for? Some of the best stories out there make you sympathize with the bad guy. Having all of your characters deeply written and well-rounded is important. I also highly recommend watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hidden Beneath Cover Reveal!

Here it is, the cover reveal for "Hidden Beneath", sequel to my debut novel "Into the Deep".
 
Just when Ivy Daniels thought her life was going exactly how she wanted it, a surprise visitor arrives to shake up her world. Two years after an accident left Ivy with the ability to read minds she’s finally put her past behind her. Now, the summer after her senior year of high school Ivy is looking forward to going away to college and enjoying the rest of her vacation with her best friend Charlie and boyfriend Aden. The life altering events of her junior year of high school that made her realize things aren’t always as they appear have been pushed to the back of Ivy’s mind, and so has the memory of the one person who helped her though them – that is until he shows up on her door step a month before she leaves for L.A. asking for her help.

Where has Ivy’s ex-boyfriend, Brant, been, and why did he leave? Find out in this sequel to Into the Deep that will lead take you on an adventure filled with secrets, lost love, and forgiveness.

COMING SUMMER 2013
 

Hidden Beneath (Into the Deep, #2)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review for Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

4 Stars. Philosophical and Intriguing

Not only is this a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet, but it’s told through the zombie’s point of view. I had to pick this up, and it really is an interesting read. However the humor in the book is a little drier than what I’m expecting from the movie based on trailers, so if you’re looking for a comedy keep that in mind. This book has its funny moments, but I felt like its purpose was more to make you think than to make you laugh.

Some of the things I loved about this book were the tie-ins to Romeo and Juliet. They fit perfectly, and they weren’t overdone. I loved this one line Julie had, “I mean, isn’t ‘zombie’ just a silly name we came up with for a state of being we don’t understand? What’s in a name, right?” It references that classic Shakespeare line “Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet,” but at the same time is making a comment on what these zombies are.

The zombies in this book are a little different than your typical horror movie variety. They still have some level of consciousness, some like R more so than others. Everything they do is in this attempt to be human again, to have a society, but they don’t understand what any of it means anymore. This book is really more about what it means to be human than surviving a zombie apocalypse. It questions not only the meaning of life as in why does life exist, but looks at what it means to be alive, to be human. Are we all just stumbling through life like zombies, or can there be something more to this existence? I also liked that this book explained why zombies eat brains. Eating brains gives them a glimpse of human life, of memory, and they seek that out. It really fit in well with the authors overall theme. These creatures are going out and killing just for a moment where they can feel alive again, even if the memories they’re experiencing aren’t their own.

When R eats Perry’s brain he’s pulled deeper into these memories than ever before and not only is this important because it sparks the change in him, but also because it allows for some great scenes between R and Perry, some of which are quite funny, and others a little heartbreaking. I liked getting to see more of Perry’s life and found him to be just as enjoyable of a character as our Romeo and Juliet couple, R and Julie. Getting to see the interaction between R and Perry was wonderful and it added another dimension to this story that I really enjoyed.

Julie was also a wonderful character. She’s a little rebellious and a free spirit. She doesn’t let anything pull her down even with death and loss all around her. I loved how open minded she was and her taste in music. The only thing about her that I felt was a little too stretched was that she was a little too quick to forgive R for the things he’s done, like killing her boyfriend. But, I did like that she understood his killing people was just the nature of the zombie and, though he tried to, not something he could easily control.

While I loved the characters and the theme of this book, there were also a few things that I wished had been a little different. For example, there are some beautiful descriptions in this book, I found the way it was written to be fascinating, and I do enjoy the present tense. However because it’s being told through R’s point of view it felt at times as if his thoughts were a little too advanced for a zombie. I think had this book been written in the past tense this wouldn’t have bothered me as much because then it would have been R looking back.

I also wish there had been more of an emphasis on R’s transformation. I felt like the zombies were too human like to begin with. They had a rudimentary social life, and a basic society. R even gets married at one point and though I think the author was trying to make a point about life and how we just wander through it, I could have done without parts of it. I think had they had less of a society established, even with how basic it was, that R becoming human would have been more profound.

Overall this was an enjoyable read, which I definitely recommend, especially if you like a little philosophy in your stories. I’m also really excited for the movie.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Review for The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life By Jen Naumann

A Fun Zombie Story with a Twist

4 Stars. This book started out interesting and had me completely hooked through the middle. It had well written characters and the storyline about two best friends who realize at the end of the world that they’re in love with one another was what kept me hanging on every page.

I loved Emma; she was just so honest and funny. Her relationship with Finn was sweet and natural and I loved watching the two of them realize their feelings for one another. I also liked watching Emma banter with Cash and all their snarky remarks. All of the characters in this book really played nicely off one another.

There were a few things that bugged me about Emma from time to time. She could be a little redundant with her thoughts, which isn’t helped by her shock induced amnesia half way through the book; although I did find this to be a believable thing to happen to this character. Emma wasn’t the strongest person and she takes everything that happens really hard, but I loved that she dealt with her discomfort with humor and cracking jokes. This is something I tend to do as well so I could completely relate. However, she freaked out a lot, and while she seemed to pull herself together at the very end I wished she had gotten herself together a little sooner.

When it comes to the plot I found that this was not your typical zombie storyline, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes and I was constantly trying to figure things out. The mystery in the middle of this book, wondering who Emma could trust and who she couldn’t was perfect. It had me hanging on edge and second guessing the intentions of every character. I also enjoyed that this was written in the present tense. It really pulled you into the action and made it all that more exciting because it was happening now.

One thing I thought I would be turned off by was the concept of how this virus started. Naumann drops hints throughout the book about aliens and I just wasn’t sure I’d like that, but once it was all explained I felt like the idea made sense, and it was a welcomed twist. I also appreciated that the author gave a reason for where the zombies came from as this is often overlooked in zombie stories. Another thing that I liked and thought was different was that only adults were infected, it was an intriguing idea to think about a world with only teenagers and kids and how they would survive without adults. It also reminded me a little of Lord of the Flies, particularly when our group of misfits came across a group of teen boys doing their best to survive on their own in their destroyed home town.

Now I want to say that part of me liked the ending, but where this book lost a star for me was wishing it had been a few chapters longer. I just wanted a little more, partly because I didn't want it to end. But, I think Naumann was making a point that we should appreciate what we have while we have it, and the ending of this book makes a point that there are things we simply cannot control. Even in the end when everything has been taken away from Emma there is this sense that she, though sad, is grateful for if nothing else the fact that she got to be with Finn and has him there with her. She’s going to die but at least she gets to go out like ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

It’s not a happy ending, but its left open ended and while I think that was the point I can’t help but wish Naumann had told us the happy ending my mind keeps conjuring up. We don’t see Emma die, and while the odds are stacked against her and her friends I keep thinking well… they could go and break Finn’s mom out and then she’ll have a cure and they’ll save Emma and they’ll still have this crazy war with the undead going on but just maybe they could find a way to fix it all. Naumann leaves the possibility open, but not knowing for sure is getting to me a little.

If Nauman were to do a sequel of this book I would definitely pick it up, and I’m going to be keeping an eye out for her work in the future.