Wednesday, June 30, 2010

RTW: Best book of June

I'm really liking that we have this monthly consistent topic. It's making me be sure not to neglect reading! This month, the best book I read by FAR was FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK by Melina Marchetta. It's not just one of my favorite books of the month, but one of my favorites ever. Before I say more, here is its synopsis, courtesy of Barnes and Noble's website:

Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she is not what she seems — and the startling truth will test Finnikin’s faith not only in her, but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

So. I am madly in love with fantasy, especially of the high and epic sort. And there are nowhere near enough of these in YA, in my opinion. This book had some minor problems, of course, as do all books. But it was so good overall that I don't even care. I loved--LOVED--that she kept with the awesomeness of the genre while also carving out her own little spot. I didn't feel like I was reading a book I'd already read. I didn't know what would happen when I turned the next page. And I was never bored. I think it could appeal to people who aren't as into this genre, too. The language felt legitimate for another world, while still maintaining readability.

I sent this one on its merry way to the lovely Amanda, but I will definitely buy a copy at some point, because I know I'm going to want to read it again.

What was the best book YOU read this month? Visit YA Highway to share, or to see what others said!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This week's topic should be pretty hilarious: if your favorite literary characters used, what would they say? I can't guarantee mine will be hilarious, but I can guarantee that some of them are. I tried not to be spoilery. And not all of these are my ~favorite~ characters (particularly the ones at the bottom).

My favorite literary characters would be separated into people with actual problems:

"I really hope I don't die or get black lung in this coal mine before someone manages to overthrow the government. FML." --Gale* (Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

"When I left my crazy mom with the neighbor and went on a little romp through other worlds, I'm not sure I thought it through. Now I have this daemon I'm going to have to pretend is a pet, and there's that dude I kind of accidentally killed, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to get sent to foster care. FML." --Will (His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman)

"Everyone in this world is dead except children. And me. FML." --Shade (Shade's Children by Garth Nix)

People whose problems are a little more standard, but you can still empathize with:

"I have to massage my stepsister's smelly feet, because if someone gives me an order, I have to listen. FML." --Ella (Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine)

"My boyfriend is going on about all his conquests again. And how misunderstood he is. If I have to listen to any more, I might stab out my eardrums. FML." --Ginny (Harry Potter by JK Rowling)

"I am the only good character in this series. Why do I appear on so. few. pages?? FML." --Murtagh** (Eragon by Christopher Paolini)

And the ones with problems so lame you want to laugh at them. Or slap them. Or something:

"Too many boys like me. And my boyfriend won't make me a vampire unless I marry him. I'm fine with an eternity as an undead creature, but MARRIAGE? FML." --Bella (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer)

"No one understands me. FML." --Harry*** (Harry Potter by JK Rowling)

Visit YA Highway to see what others have said, and to post your own link!

*I had a way better one for Gale, but opted for not spoiling Catching Fire for those of you crazies who haven't read it yet.
**What? You think I've read three books of that series for Eragon? No, I've read them for the brief Murtagh appearances FOR SURE.
***I do adore the books, but I like to tease poor Harry.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Respect and betas

Because I'm apparently feeling inflammatory today. This has been sort of festering. It's not because of anything that happened to me personally, either, so don't take this post as some kind of...rant at someone who I feel has 'wronged' me or something. Being a beta reader has been good to me. And I think I've blogged something in this vein before, but I don't think it can be said enough.

But I have a fear that sometimes as writers, we can be a little egotistical. We have to be, to an extent. If we don't feel that what we've written is good, it may as well go in the drawer because no one else will like it, either. But the problem arises when our ego gets in the way of being able to take criticism. Every beta you have has something valuable to say. Every. Single. One. It doesn't matter who they are. Were they more critical than all your others? That doesn't mean they're wrong. Maybe it means they're just an intense beta. Some people are more intense at critiquing than others. Even if you feel like they didn't enjoy your ms, or didn't get your characters, that doesn't mean their feedback isn't valuable.

Obviously you can't take every piece of advice. Some of it's conflicting, some of it just isn't going to work. But discounting an entire critique? The idea of it makes my stomach hurt. Beta reading takes time. A lot of time. This person (or these people) invested themselves in trying to help you. Whether their criticism is hard to swallow or not, everyone deserves the respect of their opinions being considered fairly.

I don't know how that will come off being read by others. And probably the majority of people who read this blog do love and respect their betas. But like I said, this issue has been festering in my mind, and I couldn't not blog about it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Thanks for reading, everyone! Your comments are great :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Contests and things

There are a whole hell of a lot of contests happening at the moment. So...I'm going to link a few (there are many MANY more than these, but I am lazy and didn't want to hunt for them all.)

First, YA Highway's BEA ARC giveaway is still happening. You have until Sunday the 20th to enter, and there are some seriously kick ass ARCs up for grabs.

Sumayyah is having a contest on her blog and I really want to win this one because the prizes are so cool and unique.

Jill Wheeler is having a 100 followers appreciation contest, also with really great prizes that I am salivating over (literally--there's chocolate.)

And Jenn Wood is celebrating having 50 followers with a book giveaway of her own, and I haven't read any of these books yet, so obviously I want them!

I promise to blog about something interesting this week. I have a few topics floating around in my head, just have to sit down and work on one.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

RTW: How do I know when...

...a project will work out, and when it won't.

To be completely honest, there's a point at which I sort of make my projects work out. It goes something like this:

Step one: Kaitlin has a sparkily idea.
Step two: Sparkily idea blossoms into sparkily premise.
Step three: Kaitlin attempts to turn premise into actual story.
Step four: Kaitlin starts writing.
Step five: Kaitlin gets hopelessly stuck somewhere between 10 and 10,000 words, and has to step away from ms for a few weeks (or sometimes months) to figure out what is wrong.
Step six: Kaitlin figures out the problem. Creates an outline (usually), and continues writing.

Ever since I started writing seriously, if I don't stall out on step two, I don't stall out at all. I stubbornly think through that crazy little idea until it works. It may not closely--or at all--resemble what I started with, but it will work. I will make it.

Because if I haven't gotten blocked up on step two, then the idea feels viable to me, and I get invested. If I can't turn the sparkily idea from step one into a premise in step two, then it wasn't that sparkily to begin with, and I toss it away, never to think of it again.

How about you? To see how other people know when to give up on a project, or to link your own blog, visit YA Highway! Not to mention that we have a giveaway going on at the moment, where you can win some kick ass ARCs straight from BEA, including THE DUFF by YA Highway's own Kody Keplinger, and the much buzzed about MATCHED by Ally Condie. And those are not the only good ones, oh no they are not. So get your little behinds over there and enter. And participate in our Road Trip Wednesday, while you're at it, of course.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It was hard...and then it wasn't.

My current WIP is high fantasy, as probably most all of you know by now, since I've mentioned it plenty before. High fantasy/epic fantasy was my first love...or maybe my second love, since I guess I have to admit that my first love was books with animal MCs (Redwall series, hello!) or horse books (I may or may not own books 1-18 in the Thoroughbred series). So, of course, it was thrilling when I got the vague idea for this WIP. But also scary, because while it may not be the most popular genre right now in YA, it's no small corner of the market. LORD OF THE RINGS fans are die hard. Do I really need to give more examples? (Should I admit that I've only read THE HOBBIT? Please, no one stone me for that.) It's a genre with so many tropes attached to it, that it's hard to have an idea that doesn't step on any toes.

Or at least, I thought it was.

I spent a really long time--probably too long--agonizing over how to make sure my WIP stood out from all the others, while still sticking to what makes the genre great. I rewrote the first five hundred words about seven times before I got a beginning that stuck, because I couldn't make myself settle onto exactly what I wanted to happen. Until finally I gave my setting a really hard look, decided on something that felt for sure unique, and went with it. The rest fell into place, and I stopped worrying as much. I reminded myself that it was a first draft, and who cared if it wasn't as unique as it needed to be? I could refresh myself on the genre later, and fix any issues.

Then a week or so ago, FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK arrived in my mailbox, and I was dying of excitement to read it, but was also afraid to. What if my WIP sounded similar? What if some of the plot points were outright the same?

Well, of course, I started reading anyway, because who could resist that beautiful cover and that beautiful epic fantasyness and Melina Marchetta's beautiful writing? And it wasn't scary. Any similarities were superficial (like how Finnikin & co are doing a lot of journeying, as are my characters). Nothing to be afraid of at all! Not to mention that FINNIKIN, in turn, stands out in the genre itself. Nothing about that book is tired.

Now I know it's just one book. But it reaffirmed my belief that no matter what your genre, no matter how 'done' something is, you can always find your spot. Maybe my WIP will turn out amazing, maybe it will fall flat on its face. But I feel confident, at least, that it is its own. It's good to remember that no matter how many books there are, there will always be room for more.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The day the outline died

I'm pretty much a die hard outliner. Usually. I like to give myself some vague points to work off from the start, and then once I get 10,000 words or so into the WIP, I sit my butt down and make a super thorough, point by point outline. Sometimes it changes, but at least I have it, and I know what the hell I'm doing.

But not this time. This WIP refuses to be outlined. I tried several times, sort of like how I tried writing the first 500 words several times, and failed spectacularly. The first 500 words finally worked out, but I gave up on outlining. I have a little list of Brilliant Plot Points I've thought of that belong later on, so that I don't forget them, but no outline. And it's actually working. It's sort of eerie. I'm probably jinxing it by writing this post. But there's so much happening in this WIP that I'm finding it easier to just go with it.

Is there a point to this? I thought there was, but maybe not. I guess I just wanted to point out that sometimes, mixing things up works. Fun as it may be, writing isn't always easy, and sometimes your tried and true methods fail you. Branching out of your comfort zone is scary sometimes, but it's not impossible, and it can really help get you over that block.

At least, it did for me!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

RTW: Best book of the May

Okay, I was a bad bad book reader again in May. In my defense, I did write tons. It's a thin defense, I know. I'll work on it. So,while I did reread Catching Fire near the start of the month, I think giving it my best book of the month post is kind of cheating (it's just unfair to other books. It's not their fault they can't live up to the wonder that is this series) so I'm going to pretend I read it in April. And in that case, the best book I read this month is a completely random, really old book: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. I used to love this book, according to my mom (I remember reading it in sixth grade or so, but didn't remember anything else about it). She brought a copy of it to me the last time she visited, and I read it a couple weeks ago. The summary, from Karen Cushman's site:

Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man—any rich man, no matter how awful.
But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call—by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all. Unfortunately, he is also the richest.
Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father? Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!

It's very entertaining. The MC is fourteen (and this is historical fiction; medieval times), and the book is written in the form of her diary. She's spunky and hilarious. It's just a quick, fun read. Amazon says it's YA, in my super (un)professional opinion, it's more like upper MG, but is definitely worth reading if you like voicey things and historical fiction.

Visit YA Highway to see what my lovely co-bloggers read this month, and to link your own! Also, our anniversary giveaway is still going on, if you haven't entered it yet. The prizes are kick. ass.

And while I'm posting, because I'm too lazy to give it a post of its own, and because obviously posting it on twitter and facebook weren't enough: I got engaged this weekend! At the spot in that lovely photo above (I wish I could take credit, but the boy took that picture.) It's in the forest behind my parents' house in New Hampshire, where a sawmill was built (Brandon was standing on the sawmill's foundation for this picture, so it's not in the photo) in the 1700s, by the same ancestor who then built my house in 1790. And there's your random Kaitlin's family history lesson for the day. Good job picking the spot to do it, boyfriend...errr, fiancĂ©.