Monday, November 29, 2010

Paranormalcy (a book review)

I must admit right off the bat that I never read YA novels. Nor do I usually indulge in urban fantasy. (I have read a few books in that genre, but I won't mention them now.)

However, earlier this year, I was perusing the tweets of an agent I'm researching, and found she had a debut author with a book coming out this year. "Hmmm," I thought. That debut author is Kiersten White, and her book is Paranormalcy.

Photo from
The blurb on the jacket reads:

"Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal."

I really loved this book. Of course, being of a Christian persuasion, there were elements I fundamentally disagreed with, but for a pure entertainment value, I found this book fit the bill. When I set the book down, I pondered what was going to happen next, and ended up reading the last couple hundred pages in one sitting.

I could really identify with Evie. Since I was homeschooled, although not working for a paranormal containment agency, I felt the same emotions Evie did at that age by not having others her age around her, not being able to go to a prom, or have a "normal" life.

Evie has an awesome presence on the page. Her asides to the reader really add to her personality and realism.

If I would say there is one negative about this book is the fact that towards the end, it seems Evie doesn't grieve much for the loss of life (particularly for a friend). I'm not sure if this is just an oversight, or if this will be tackled more in the next book or not. (The next book, by the way is Supernaturally, due out next fall. I will be picking up a copy.)

You can pick up a copy of Paranormalcy pretty much anywhere, especially since it hit the New York Times Bestseller List for Children's Books. Amazon has it for $11.55, as well as a $9.99 Kindle version. It may be a good gift for your teen girl for Christmas, especially if she likes urban fantasy.

Until next time,

Monday, November 22, 2010

November's Update

Okay, so I checked my blog to make sure today's post had been posted, and what do I find? I hadn't even written the blasted thing! So you're getting my freshest, pre-caffeine update here.

Long and the short of it: not much progress this month.

Sure, I've done my blog posts, both here and over at Christian Children's Book Review. And, I was able to get out one evening and work on a new scene in Homebody that needed to be added.

My Little Guy. Photo courtesy J. Smith Innovations
But quite honestly, since we found out about my son's illness, writing has come down off the priorities list from somewhere around #3 or #4 to maybe #6 or #7 (lower when I'm feeling pressure to find a new place to live.)

I know this is just a phase, and I'll eventually be able to pick up more steam, especially since I think we're seeing improvements with my son already, but it's still frustrating.

On the upside, a friend of mine and I had a conversation over the weekend that has me brainstorming on some freelance ideas that would merge my two passions: writing and politics. Maybe I'll be the next Michelle Malkin. (I'm not as bombastic as Ann Coulter.) So, those are good prospects. I'll have to see where that leads.

With the holidays coming up, I know I'll be in the car a bit more. Hopefully, that means I'll be able to spend some time on the trusty laptop and do some writing. (No, I don't get carsick.)

Anyway, there's my update. Please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and my out-of-the-country followers, enjoy your week.

Until next time,

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

This month in the blog chain, the theme is Thankfulness and Thanksgiving.

I had this post all ready to go a few weeks ago, and thought it was great, but now, I need to add this. I've left the rest of my original post below, but I need to get this first part off my chest.

This has been a very tough year for myself and my family. It seems we've had battle after battle, hurdle after hurdle since December last year. The most recent battles are coming on top of each other: selling our home/needing to move, and finding out our son has a condition called failure to thrive.

When days go like they've gone in the last week or so for me, it's tough to find much to be thankful for. Last Wednesday, my son was positively diagnosed with FTT (Failure to thrive). Tomorrow, we see a dermatologist about his problem eczema, the day after, back to his doctor to see if he's gaining weight. I've been so worried about my little guy that my daughter has started throwing more tantrums. *sigh* Makes writing a difficult impossible prospect.

For right now, I want to state I'm incredibly thankful for my doctor. She's calm, collected, and takes my concerns as a mom seriously. She's also proactive. I know where we're going with the treatment of my son, and as a mom, that's something I appreciate--I know what I can expect.

On days where things aren't going well, try to find the one bright spot in your life, no matter how dim it may be comparatively.

And now, my original post:

By ~NefaroStock at
First off, I'd like to remind folks that across America, there are falsehoods taught about the origins of Thanksgiving in public schools. Kids these days are often taught that the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Native Americans.

Nope. Nada. Uh-uh.

The Pilgrims gave thanks to Almighty God. My CW friend Tamera Lynn Kraft has a thumbnail sketch of the history at her blog. And, Rush Limbaugh has a chapter on it in his book, See, I Told You So. Both are accurate in their presentations.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for. A year ago, I had one child. Today, I have two very beautiful children. At this time last year, I wasn't even aware I was pregnant. (This year, I'd better not be!) Both my children, though they can frustrate me to no end, bring a lot of joy to my life.

My husband and I celebrated eight years of wedded bliss this year. We've had our ups and downs, and this year has definitely been difficult for us, but I'm so thankful for my wonderful, sexy husband.

I'm very thankful that my elderly grandparents finally moved back to the city where they have family close by that can be over at their place in a matter of minutes rather than hours. My grandpa turned 90 this year, my grandma 87, and it's a blessing to have them closer--and that they can spend more time with their only great-grandchildren in this hemisphere. (They have a third in Asia, but that's another story.)

There's a lot more that I'm thankful for, but for now, I'll leave it at that. I hope over the next few weeks, you stop and ponder the meaning of thankfulness, and remember to thank God for the blessings in your life--even for the difficulties.

And be sure to tell those in your life how thankful you are for them. You never know--they may need to hear it.

Many Thanksgiving blessings.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Don't Label Your Characters

In the last couple of years, I've been working hard on the rewrites of the novel I want to start pitching to agents in 2011. But, it wasn't until this summer that a crit partner pointed out that the way I described certain characters could, just possibly, border on racist.

When I read that, I was appalled. Me? A racist? Couldn't possibly be the case! But when I started looking at what he said and the areas he pointed it out in, the more I saw he could be right. How could I miss this?

In the October 2010 edition of The Writer, Lynn Capehart has an insightful piece just on this topic. In part, she states:

As fiction writers, we can show support for racial equality--or inequality--by the way we describe our characters, or, as is too often the case, the way we don't describe them. Many white writers, for instance, will be surprised to learn that they may be inadvertently supporting inequality by how they use race in describing people of color, as compared to white characters.
These writers, you see, will not mention race unless the character they are writing about isn't white.
The more I've pondered not just this statement, but the entire article, the more I think she's right. I can even think of some examples from books I've read by New York Times bestselling authors.

I've seen it in my own writing. In one of my projects, my main character's best friend as well as a business associate are black. Most of the rest of my cast are white (not all, but quite a bit.) Unless I mention how pale one of my characters is, I usually don't mention their race. I do, however, make note of those that aren't white.

There are white writers who let the reader figure out a character's race from subtle descriptive clues. Others don't bother with clues but still manage to convey the information. ... But as a rule, it would be nice if either everyone's race gets mentioned, or no one's does.
The last part of the statement rings out "pipe dream" to me. It would be nice if I had some chocolate to eat right now. But, the first part is what I'm honing in on. Subtle descriptive clues. What does that look like?

While Ms. Capehart didn't give an example in her article I would think of as good, I can think of a few of my own. For instance, in Homebody, I have a character named Tyrone. Some people have said that just by his name, they can tell he's African-American. But, I don't want to leave that to conjecture just based on his name, but I don't want to use labels either (more on that in a minute.) In one scene, I describe him as "NBA-sized". In another scene, he drags his hand through his close-cropped dark curls. While these descriptions could, possibly, be viewed as Caucasian, my bet is that won't be the case.

So, I've just illustrated descriptions (I hope!), what's a label and why shouldn't we use it? As Ms. Capehart relates, she was reading a story that originally ran in The New Yorker.
In the story, when two police officers enter a house, the white one is described without resorting to race, while the other is labeled "a Puerto Rican cop".
Can you see the difference? It's a crutch. How much ingenuity does it take to whip out a label? None. How much time would it take to describe the "Puerto Rican cop"? Maybe a minute. Wouldn't that minute be time well-invested in your story, and maybe, just maybe, help it stand out from the crowd? As Ms. Capehart states:
Writers are supposed to look at the world and blend their observations into their prose.
So, my challenge to you is to look closer at your characters (and the real-life people around you.) Don't give them short shrift. Give them the description they deserve--no matter their gender, race, color, or creed.

How can you improve your current work-in-progress to eliminate labels--both ethnic and non?

Until next time,

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Celebration of NaNo!

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it's affectionately called) has arrived!

Every November for the last decade or so, authors around the world have set aside the month to make a mad race at writing a 50,000 word novel. It's a lesson in tenacity, breaking rules, and, above all else, just writing. It's a way to break out of a writer's block routine. To just get your story down on paper (or in bytes.)

Last year, I wrote about 55,000 words on a novel called Beyond Dead. Since I'm still working on editing Homebody and Cora's Song, I haven't had a chance to do much more than clean up B.D. But I'm planning to work on it, probably in the second half of 2011.

I'm not planning to do NaNo this year. For some reason, every time I do NaNo (or something similar,) I end up getting pregnant. Can't take that risk this year!

However, I do wish those I know who are making that insane run at 50,000 the best. Know you can do it! I did it in 2009, finishing on Thanksgiving Day. Even being sick, and having several days where I didn't write. (Probably morning sickness, but I didn't find out I was pregnant until December. If I'd known, I'd probably have given up!)

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Until next time,

For additional information, check out my post from last year. You can check out the NaNo website here.

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