Posts Tagged ‘The Hunger Games’

How many of you are fans of my first novel, Reborn City? I’m hoping a lot of you are thinking to yourselves “I am!” or “It’s something I’ve been meaning to check out”, because I’ve got some good news for you! As you know, I’ve been editing RC‘s sequel Video Rage on and off since I finished the first draft, and that I wanted to have another editor take a look at it before I get it published and into your hands.

Well, here’s where the good news comes in: I met an editor through one of my writing groups on Facebook who was willing to work within my budget. Her name is Britney Mills, and can I just say, she does great work and a fast turnaround? She read through RC within a few weeks, and then read through VR within a similar amount of time. I was like, “WOW!” And she does amazing work. I looked over three of VR‘s chapters last night with her corrections, and it’s all solid suggestions and points. Definitely what I was looking for in an editor.

So now that I have a third party’s feedback on VR, I’m going to dive right into editing tonight, making corrections and thinking about Britney’s suggestions. After I’ve done all that (and hopefully that won’t take more than a few weeks), I’ll send it back to Britney for her to take another look at. Once she gets back to me and any other problems she finds are corrected, I’m going to say “Done!” with VR, send it off to the copyright office, have a cover designed, and once all that’s taken care of, set a release date.

In short, Video Rage will be published sometime later this year.

Yeah, exciting news, right? Especially for my three biggest fans of the first book (aka my mother, my sister, and my stepmom). I can’t be more exact on a release date, but I’m hoping for a summer release. And I promise you, it’s going to be good. Britney told me in her email from last night that one of the things she liked about VR is that it “did a great job of keeping things interesting but not letting me guess ahead of time what is going to happen”. I think that’s a very good sign.

Reborn City

Reborn City

So if you’re looking forward to Video Rage and are tired of the wait, you can start getting ready for more adventures of the Hydras. And if at all you’re now interested in reading the first book Reborn City, it’s available from Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords. From what people tell me, it’s my most popular book right now, and it’s not hard to see why. The story follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager in the dystopian city-state of Reborn City as she’s forced to join an interracial street gang known as the Hydras for protection. It’s a great book that includes themes of gang violence, racism and Islamaphobia, drug addiction, and many others (and if you’re tired of dystopian fiction that you can’t imagine actually happening in the world, like Hunger Games or Divergent, you might find RC more appealing).

And if you’re an author looking for an outside party to take a look at your book and make sure it’s up to scratch, I highly recommend Britney’s services. She gives great feedback, does a quick turn around, and I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for her help. You can check out her website, Writing Unblocked, if you like for more information.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a few things to take care of today before I start editing, so I’m going to get on that. As more news comes in, I’ll make sure to update you. Have a good one, everybody!

Oh, and if any of you do decide to read Reborn City, make sure to let me know what you think, either in a comment or a review online. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me become a better writer in the end. Thanks!

I would like to blame thank my good friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters for tagging me in what clearly looks to be a ton of fun. It’s the Burn, Rewrite, or Reread Book Tag, which doesn’t actually involve burning but is like a book version of Kiss, Marry, Kill.

Alright, here are the instructions:

  • Randomly choose three books.
  • Choose which of these three you would burn, rewrite, or reread.
  • Do three rounds of this, and then tag someone to do the book tag as well.

Alright, here I go. Let’s see what I come up with:

ROUND ONE

Burn: Day Four by Sarah Lotz. Oh my God, what a book that promised to be good but ended up being a great waste of time. Sure, it started out okay: cruise ship stalls in the middle of the ocean, everything’s in chaos. Quick pace and lots of interesting stuff going on. But then when it slows down after the initial chaos (because things can’t always be quick-paced after a ship breaks down), it just gets boring, with little to no clear direction of where the autor wants the story to go and an ending that is just bizarre (and not a good way). It’s enough that I probably won’t ever read a book by Sarah Lotz again (and considering the reviews online, I’m better off not).

Rewrite: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. If you read my review of that book, you know that I liked it but I wish it could’ve been a bit scarier. Especially since Stephen King recommended this book to me (why, Your Royal Scariness? Why did you say it was so scary? It wasn’t!). Anyway, if I could I’d rewrite this one and maybe make it a bit more on the scary side. How? I don’t know, some changes in atmosphere, a few more parts where the older sister acts like a creepy possessed girl. It’s a thought.

Reread: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. You know what I just realized? All the books in this round I’ve listened to as audio books. Also, I’ve actually reread Battle Royale already, but that’s because it’s one of my favorite novels. The language is flowing, nearly every character in the fifty-or-so large cast gets really fleshed out, and it really makes you think on a while bunch of different levels. Plus it does in one book what the Hunger Games wishes it could do in three. So I’ll probably end up rereading (or re-listening to) Battle Royale again someday.

ROUND TWO

Burn: The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah. No offense to Sister Souljah, I admire her work, but I did not enjoy her debut novel, about the daughter of a big-time drug king who suddenly finds herself without money or connections and tries to come out on top as her world falls around her. Not only was the main character totally unsympathetic (imagine a novel narrated by an even more annoying Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you have Winter Santiaga), but it’s basically one big morality tale about why you should walk the straight and narrow and stay away from drugs and hustling and all that or it’ll come back to haunt you. Yeah, I think there are a few memoirs out there that told that story better.

Still, I will say that the book’s language influenced me when I was writing Reborn City and I wanted to really show the dialect of West Reborn. That’s one thing I’ll always be grateful to Sister Souljah for.

Rewrite: Destroyer of Worlds by Mark Chadbourn. This was the last book in a trilogy, the trilogy itself being the third trilogy in a trilogy of trilogies that took our modern world and placed it into a mystical universe mixing Celtic mythology with Eastern philosophy. It’s a wonderful series, but the last trilogy had its problems. Especially the last book, which felt rushed to the point that characters who should’ve gotten some character development got none at all, barely a mention in one case. I really think this book could’ve used a hundred or so more pages to really tell the story the way it should’ve been told, and if I could I might help out with that.

Reread: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. If you liked Harry Potter, you should love the Bartimaeus trilogy, which is kind of like Harry Potter but is told in three books (plus a prequel) and is slightly more grown up than HP. The story of a magician’s apprentice who summons a demon to help him get revenge on another magician and the mayhem that ensues when he and the demon get embroiled in a plot against the British government is pure fun, with a wisecracking demonic narrator and a world that is beautifully constructed and mirrors our own in interesting ways. I’ve reread the trilogy before, and I’m always entertained when I do. Check out the first book. You might just find the same gem I found as a kid.

And finally…

ROUND THREE

Burn: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Honestly, I’ve had to read this novel twice for classes, and each time I wasn’t at all surprised that Emily needed a review by her famous sister Charlotte to get this book noticed by people, because it sucks! Not only is the narration and style annoying, but the story drags, and a lot of what happens makes you scratch your head. Seriously, did the Lintons never consider calling the local sheriff when Heathcliff kidnapped his niece and tried to marry her off to his sickly son? Like I said, I’ve read it twice, and I don’t plan to read it again. It may be a classic, but it’s a classic that never should’ve been one.

Rewrite: Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz. Koontz has written some great novels–I love the Odd Thomas series, though I’m behind on the books, and The Face would make an amazing movie, it’s that good–but this one really got me angry. It started out with promise: guy who made money off the Internet needs a heart transplant, but he’s very low on the donor list. His new doctor gets him put high up on another list, and he gets a new heart. Thing is, the person who gave up their heart for him might be coming back for it. Yeah, sounds like a ghost story, but it turned out to be some weird spy thriller tied up in a Christian morality tale. I kid you not, if Koontz had stayed with the ghost story element instead of switching things up about two-thirds in with the spy twist, I might’ve really liked this novel. And now you know how I’d rewrite it.

Reread: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a wonderful novel about following your dreams and fulfilling your personal destiny in this grand world, as told through the eyes of young shepherd Santiago as he goes on a journey to Egypt after having a dream about finding treasure at the pyramids. I read it as a teen and it blew me away. If given the chance, I’d love to reread it again, because it’s such a beautiful story that gets you on so many different levels. If you haven’t read it, this is definitely one you should check out, especially since it’s been translated into so many different languages. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

And now, the people I tag:

Have fun! And make sure to link back to me when you post these.

That’s all for now, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me and I’m going to get to it. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear!

I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately, and something in the most recent episode I watched got me thinking. It was stated at the beginning of the season that the main villain of the season, the demon Lilith, is breaking magical seals to raise the demon Lucifer out of Hell, and she needs to destroy sixty-six seals to do so. Based on that, I thought there were sixty-six seals in total, which seemed reasonable. According to the episode I watched yesterday though, there are over six-hundred possible seals, and Lilith needs to only destroy sixty-six to get Lucifer out of Hell.

Now I’ll admit that I’m still working my way through the season, so there may be more to these seals than what I know right now, but based on just the description I have above, that’s a pretty poor security system. You’re keeping the ultimate evil bound by six-hundred seals, but only sixty-six need to be destroyed to let him out? That’s like only needing an eleven percent passing score on a lie detector test to get access to Top Secret national security files. You’re just acting for trouble.

With that in mind, as well as my thoughts on the movie The Boy that I reviewed earlier this week,* I got to thinking. Sometimes creators do things in fiction that make absolutely no sense when the fans get to them. Obviously, there are things in fiction that are most likely impossible–the magic of Harry Potter, actual giant lizards like Godzilla, TARDISes and Time Lords (sadly)–but we forget that so we can enjoy the story. This is called suspension of belief, and it’s how we can enjoy these stories. However sometimes a creator–whether it’s a book, a movie, a comic, or a TV show–is just too hard for us to believe. When that happens, the story, and our enjoyment of the story, suffers horribly.

With that in mind, here are some things every storyteller can do to make it easier to tell a story without dong something that will make a reader/viewer say, “What the hell? That’s so stupid!”

  • Avoid the unnecessary or stupid twists. Back to The Boy again, which, if you haven’t read my review, singled out the twist that the boy Brahms was alive and a full adult as the movie’s biggest fault. I get that they were trying to distinguish the movie from others like it with a unique twist, but besides feeling kind of lame, the twist made the whole concept of the movie nonsensical (see my review for full details on that). If you plan to include a twist in your work, ask yourself a few questions before you use one, such as: is this twist necessary to make a good story? Is it predictable? Does it make the story seem silly or even make the events of the story make no sense? I’m convinced if the filmmakers of The Boy had asked these questions, they might have had a better movie on their hands.
  • What brought people to your work in the first place? I love bashing 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, because it is such a terrible film. In fact, the filmmakers even seemed to think that the movie was crap, or that they were unable to really make a great Friday the 13th film, so they packed in as much swearing, sex and nudity, drugs, alcohol, and raunchy or childish humor as possible. The result was a film that felt like it was trying to be one of those dirty teen camping trip comedies that had to remind itself every few minutes it was about a serial killer living on a lake.
    If you’re going to tell a certain type of story, keep in mind at every step what sort of story it is and don’t focus unnecessarily on elements that are only a small part of the story or even unnecessary. In the case of Friday the 13th, people watch those movies to see Jason go on a rampage. The sex and drugs and all that other stuff are just added bonuses as well as what causes Jason to target his victims, not why we pay nine dollars at the box office. And the fact that the filmmakers felt those elements were more important is why I’ll always enjoy bashing this piece of crap out of Michael Bay’s bum.
  • Could this happen in the real world? I have a lot of problems with the Hunger Games books.** One of my biggest problems is how the series ends: Katniss finds out President Coin ordered the bombing that killed her sister, so she kills Coin in revenge as Coin takes control of the nation. The new government of Panem hushes up Coin’s treachery to preserve the new order, so for all intents and purposes Katniss just assassinated the new President unprovoked. And Katniss…is portrayed as a girl gone mad with grief over the loss of her sister, she gets exiled to District 12 with weekly phone conferences with a shrink, and lives happily ever after?
    I don’t care if you’re the face of a movement, if a similar revolution occurred in America, and the face of that revolution killed the new leader, you bet that person would at least get locked up in a prison or psych ward so they couldn’t tell anyone what they’d done. Exile and getting to raise a family? Nothing bad happens to her? I don’t care if she has nightmares a lot and never tells us her kids’ names because she’s afraid of losing them, that still would never happen in real life!
    So when you’re telling your own story, ask yourself if a situation is so unbelievable, even in the wackiest of fiction, that people can’t suspend their disbelief anymore. If it is, you might want to consider tweaking it so that guys like me don’t go on a rant about it on the Internet.
  • If it needs a lengthy explanation for why it happens, you might want to rethink the why. This one comes from personal experience. When I was writing Reborn City, I had this really complicated reason as to why my protagonist Zahara Bakur had to join the Hydras. That, and another situation later in the book had really complicated reasons why those things had to happen. It wasn’t until later drafts that I realized how overly complicated those situations were and found simpler explanations for why Zahara had to join the Hydras or the other thing had to happen, explanations that were so simple but worked so perfectly I wondered why I tried to use the run-around logic that a smart reader could easily poke a hole in.
    So if you want a specific event in your story to happen for the sake of the story but the way you get it to happen is really overly-complicated, requires a lot of explanation, and from certain angles makes no sense, perhaps you should reconsider either the event or why it happens. It beats having two unnecessary pages of dialogue explaining why something needs to happen when a much simpler explanation is at hand, at any rate.
  • And finally, don’t forget what is obvious or necessary. This kind of fits into my third point, but I’m making it separate because I feel that’s the best way to present it. Anyway, in one of my fiction workshops in college, a classmate turned in a story that took place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was a good first draft, but a major problem I had was that the protagonist apparently forgot his bow and arrow at home. I said to her, “This is a world where people dumb enough to leave their weapons at home while on a trip are likely to get killed a hundred different ways. No seasoned hunter like this guy forgets his source of food and protection.” In the same way, make sure that you avoid moves like that, where a character does something that makes no sense for someone in their position or the setting has some part of it that also makes little sense when you think about it. Trust me, it will improve the story if you avoid those problems.

In the end, the thing you want to tell is a good story. Avoiding anything that strains the credulity of your audience can be very difficult, but with trial and effort, you can get very good at it. This is also why I recommend having your stories looked at by editors or beta readers who won’t spare good advice because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings or risking your friendship. They can help you avoid these traps and improve the overall product of the story.

What tricks do you have for avoiding situations that strain the credulity of your audience?

What are some stories where they did something that really took you out of the story?

*By the way, it’s been nearly a week since I published that post, but an average of 36 people a day have been checking that post out since. I guess I’m not the only one who found that twist completely stupid.

**Especially the trilogy’s very backstory. A nation in the far-flung future had a massive civil war, and the Capitol decided that to stop future rebellions, the entire country should revolve politically, economically, and socially around an annual death game involving youth from the Districts? If Panem can genetically engineer scary monsters, they can synthesize a drug that takes out aggression and dump it into the Districts’ water supply. Problem solved, and all those seventeen-hundred and twenty people who died for the Capitol’s perverse pleasure instead grow up to be contributors to society. Yes, that is diabolical and I know I’d make a great dictator. My mother informed me of this fact when I pointed out this problem with the books.

So I stayed up way too late last night working on Laura Horn, and I’m happy to say that I’ve reached another milestone in the editing process. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Laura Horn is a novel I wrote during my third year of college at Ohio State, and follows a teenage girl with a tragic past who comes across a conspiracy against the US government and finds herself in the position to stop it. It’s kind of like White House Down or Olympus Has Fallen, only instead of some hunky action hero, you’ve got a teenage girl trying to sort through her inner trauma.

Yeah, that’s a story I wrote, and I’m making it work somehow. It’s no harder to believe than a teenage girl taking on a government that kills a bunch of its citizens’ children in an annual death game or forces its youth to choose factions based on their personalities, anyway.

Anyway, the novel is divided into seven sections, including the prologue and epilogue, based on what happens in those sections. Last night I completed editing on the last two chapters of Part III, which means I’m a little more than halfway through editing the novel. To which I say, “Hooray, I’m making progress!”

And I remember thinking that the first draft of this novel might be a little too hard to believe. I don’t mean that like I meant the examples above, I meant that while the story itself would make a great novel, the way it played out in the first draft wouldn’t work. I actually considered rewriting the story so that the story seemed slightly more plausible. But then I decided to take a chance and start editing the first draft, see if I could still make a great story with the material I already had.

Sure, some parts of the story needed to be seriously changed, several chapters have been combined, and one I actually threw out because it became unnecessary, but all in all this story turned out to still be workable and make sense. And slowly, gaining speed as I worked through more and more chapters, I’ve fallen in love with this story and I’m very close to finishing up this draft.

So at this point, I’ve about twenty-four chapters left to work through (assuming I don’t combine any more of them or chuck one or two more out). I think I’ll start on the next chapter after I have lunch, and see where it gets me. If I’m lucky, I can get another two chapters out of the way, and maybe be done by the middle of next month.

So wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. Because this afternoon, I’m going into full editing mode, and I can’t wait to see what I come up with during that time.

RC cover

It’s been a long time in the making, and a lot of work since I announced that I was planning on turning Reborn City, my science-fiction novel, into an audio book back in August. I listened to a lot of audio samples, contacted a bunch of potential narrators, and even received a couple of auditions. But as of today, I am very pleased to announce that Reborn City has a narrator!

If you’re unfamiliar with Reborn City, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel that follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who’s forced to join a street gang called the Hydras, and her involvement in a strange plot involving the gang’s superpowered leaders and the shadowy corporation that rules the city they live in. The novel contains themes of Islamaphobia, racism, gang violence, drug addiction and several others.

It also is a world that has much more resemblance to our own than Hunger Games or Divergent does (just look at the refugee situation these days and how some governments have responded to refugees these days) and I like to think it makes a little more sense than those books.

The audio book will be narrated by Barron Bass, an actor and voice artist based out of New York (check out his website here). I heard some of his samples on ACX, the website I’m using to produce the audio book (see my article on that site here). I liked what I heard, and I started corresponding with him. Once I heard his audition, I had a pretty good feeling I’d found my man. After some more weeks of correspondence, I sent him an offer and he accepted.

Our esteemed narrator, Barron Bass.

Now, I’m hoping we’ll have the whole thing done by early March, but I’m flexible. If Mr. Bass needs more time, I’m willing to give it to him. You can’t rush perfection, after all.

So I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, which following the production process on ACX is that the first fifteen minutes of the book are recorded for my approval. After that, I give some feedback, and we work chapter by chapter on the book. Once it’s all done and it’s uploaded onto Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, I’m hoping a lot of people decide to check it out and take a listen. Maybe leave a few reviews while they’re at it.

And if RC does well, then maybe I’ll do Snake as well, and any other book I decide to publish from here on out. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do my happy dance. Have a good rest of your day, my Followers of Fear. I know I am.

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?

I do a lot of female leads in my writing And for some time now, it’s been bothering me. Not the kind of bothering like “I’m a dude, I should write more male leads”, but the kind of bothering where you ask every four-year-old’s favorite question: why? Why do I feel such an affinity towards female leads? And why do they always seem to come into the story with some baggage or that they get baggage early on in the story?

I’ve been wondering about both points for some time, and I think I might finally have some answers. For why I prefer using female protagonists, I think it has a lot to do with my childhood. I grew up in a family with a lot of women in it. That has some upsides and some downsides, one of the upsides of which being that I had some very good examples of strong women right in my own home. My mother is a woman rabbi and became ordained in an era when there were very few women before her or with her in that role (there still aren’t many women rabbis, but there are certainly more than when my mother was ordained). And sometime after she divorced my dad, she became involved with another woman, who I’ve come to look up to as another mother. My mother’s partner is an accountant, and was there countless times when I was having trouble with math throughout middle school and high school. She was also one of the people who taught me to play sports during the few instances where I showed an interest in sports (rare instances, but thy exist).

Besides my family, some of my childhood heroes were actually heroines. Growing up, I was very big into shows with girls who could have normal lives one minute and kick monster ass the next. This primarily involved Sailor Moon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of which I’m still huge fans of (by the way, Sailor Moon is getting an anime reboot next month. If you haven’t guessed, I’m kind of counting down the days till then). Besides sometimes having really creepy monsters and awesome battle scenes, these shows portrayed women as more than just screaming damsels in distress who need a man to help them. They show women able to fight back as well as have real character development and  growth. With all these influences, it’s no wonder as a writer I tend to write more female protagonists than male.

And I think that that’s a good thing, really. If you look at our contemporary media, you see several more men than women as leads, and generally the men are much more developed. Sure, there are women like Katniss Everdeen and Black Widow or Mystique, but the former seem very underdeveloped in Books 2 and 3 when you consider how she keeps going back to her romantic issues and how her life is mostly manipulated by powerful men, and the latter have yet to have their own solo films. Recently there’s been controversy over the new Assassin’s Creed game not having any female leads, and most video games still don’t have as many female playable characters as men, and those that do don’t always take the time to develop their leading ladies. To be sure, there are a new class of women (particularly women of color) emerging in the media who are portraying women in strong, positive, fully-developed roles, such as Olivia Pope in Scandal, the detectives from SVU, and even the women from Orange is the New Black. But there is still a long way to go, and the landscape is still very uneven.

Even though my work is only read by a small amount of people at this point, I like to think that with the large number of female protagonists I write (and hopefully received as well-written role models) is helping to correct the problem and give more girls what I was given at a young age, which was some great examples of strong women.

As for the whole thing with the baggage that a lot of my characters come with, I think that can be said for a lot of writers. Let’s face it, authors tend to have their characters come with baggage. Maybe they’re orphans, or they lost a loved one, or they have a dark past with family issues or drugs or something. I think that’s because we like our characters to be a little broken, in order to make them more identifiable and to make it easier for us to facilitate character growth. Honestly, I think it’d be more of a challenge to give a compelling story with development and growth to a character who doesn’t have anything worse than clinical depression or a tendency to pig out on junk food.

In any case, I’m happy to say I now have a better understanding of myself. I look forward to seeing what I can do and what I can write now that I have a better understanding of my process and the sort of characters I create.

Well, that’s all for now. I think I’ll sign off now and watch some TV. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear.

I got The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on DVD on Friday and watched it this afternoon. If I were to do a review, I’d say it was a very good adaptation of a book I absolutely hated for a number of reasons. However, I’m not writing this post as a review for Catching Fire. I’m writing this post because, after I took the DVD out and went to make my dinner, I thought to myself, “There is such a difference between Katniss Everdeen and Zahara.”

And indeed, there is a great difference between the two characters. And I’m not just talking about upbringing, religious identification, and their experiences. I think the biggest differences between Katniss and Zahara is their access to choices in their lives. (Okay, there’s also major differences in character development, but since all three books of The Hunger Games are out and only one book of the Reborn City series is out, I won’t go into that lest I spoil something).

In THG, Katniss rarely has any sort of choice in what she can or can’t do. Except for certain memorable instances, Katniss follows a script that someone else wrote, whether that be the Capitol or someone associated with the Capitol, or District 13 and someone in the rebellion. Sure, the moments when she gets a chance to make her own choices are pretty momentous. She volunteered for the Hunger Games, she nearly committed suicide using poison berries, and she killed President Coin in an act of revenge. But other than those moments, she’s mostly dancing to the tune of someone else’s fiddle. And she’s either unaware of it or she’s aware of it and so pissed off about it.

Zahara, on the other hand, has a little more leeway. When I wrote Reborn City and started planning its sequels, I obviously wasn’t planning on writing about Zahara’s choices. But after she’s forced to join the Hydras, she does find that she has a bit of choice in the events that occur later on in the story. And those choices do end up affecting the Hydras in several ways, whether  it involve a gang war about to go wrong, or by a simple encouragement that changes the way someone thinks. And as the series goes on, Zahara will get to make more choices, some of which will have greater effects than the previous ones she’s made.

Why the difference? Well, I guess you’d have to ask the authors. In addition to wanting to create a story that was a commentary on both our addictions to violence and reality TV, Suzanne Collins also wanted (I’m assuming) to allow readers to relate to the feeling that our lives are not our own. We’ve all been there, had those moments when we felt our lives weren’t our own, where we felt like our lives are being directed by someone else. Maybe our parents, our employers, our teachers, our government, our spouses, etc. Basically we have to subordinate our lives to the needs or whims of others. This speaks to plenty of people, particularly teenagers and young adults who are constantly pressured to fulfill the wishes and pressures of the adults around them. I can only guess as to why Mrs. Collins wanted to weave that theme into her trilogy, or if she even realized what she was weaving in until it was already there. What is obvious that Katniss exemplifies that theme of lack of control over one’s life, and it’s part of why people identify with her.

With Zahara and RC on the other hand, the intentions were very different. I realized early on in writing a novel about street gangs that people in gangs or in slums or broken families or several other similar situations that they feel like they can’t leave the situations they’re in. This attitude, which seems to perpetuate itself over generations in a terrible self-fulfilling prophecy, horrified me. Imagine people who didn’t try to change their horrible lives because they felt that trying was impossible, that it would only lead to pain and regret. Where they were was where they belonged. Throughout the trilogy I try to fight that belief through the travails of Zahara and the Hydras, making choices and fighting for not only their lives, but also to live their lives as they wish.

So I guess this difference in opportunity and choice for Katniss Everdeen and Zahara Bakur really just boils own to the intentions of the authors when we were writing our stories. I strove to write about teens fighting against a world that oppresses them and tries to control them, while Mrs. Collins seems to have written a story about a world where, among other things, the lives of others are maddeningly not their own.

It’s interesting what the intentions of the autor can do for a single story, isn’t it?

That’s all for now. Tomorrow school starts up again, so I’m heading to bed to get ready for the big day. Goodnight, Followers of Fear, and have a great week.

I’m proud to say that the first draft of Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City, is finally finished! And it took exactly six months to write. I’m not kidding, I started it on July 5th, 2013 and finished it today on January 5th, 2014. Crazy coincidence, huh?

Writing the last three chapters of VR were at times difficult but all the time extremely fun. I just felt the story flowing out, even when I made changes to how the scene played out in my head to how it played out on paper at the very second I was writing the story. And a whole lot happened in those last three chapters: the final conflict of the novel was resolved and I was able to set up for the third and final book of the trilogy (more to come on that later in the post). I’m actually very satisfied with how this novel turned out. I started it with the goal of making a kick-ass story where the characters didn’t lose their depth and weren’t reduced to one-dimensional cut-outs like Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire. Although I may be biased against my own novel, I believe I did a very good job. Most of the characters grew in their own ways, and some had pretty exciting and at times tragic twists happen to them. I think anyone who reads this novel will be satisfied with it (God-willing).

And now for the page and word counts (and by page, I mean 8.5″ by 11″ MS Word paper pages). In my last post about my progress with Video Rage, the page count was 197 pages and the word count was 54,703 words as of Chapter 24. With the addition of Chapters 25-37 (the last chapter being called “Epilogue” actually, but whatever), the page count is 299 pages and the word count is 83,935 words! That’s a pretty decent-sized novel, around the size of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone actually. Of course the editing phase may either trim it down or expand it a little, depending on how I go about editing each and every chapter and what I do in those chapters.

So now that I’ve finished this monumental task, what are my plans? For now I’ll make sure to back up VR and other important documents so that I don’t lose them. Then I’ll only write for homework and for scholarship for a little while. After that period though I’ll work on several short stories and after I’ve done enough of those, I’ll get back to work on Laura Horn and finish that up as well. And as the final draft of Snake comes together, I’ll work on that too and get it ready for whenever it’ll be published. And when it’s time, I’ll start going over VR and editing it as well. Perhaps within a year or two it’ll be available as well.

And as for the third and final book of the series, I won’t write that any time soon. I need some time to work on other books and other projects so that I can return to the world of the West Reborn Hydras with fresh eyes and ready to finish their story. I also need time to figure out how the story will end. I know what my final scenes are probably going to look like, and I know who the main antagonist will be and how he’s going to be a pain in the ass for the Hydras, but I haven’t settled on anything yet. When the time comes though, I’ll let you know. And hopefully by then the Hydras will have a bigger fan base than just my sister, my stepmother, and a few good friends of mine. That would definitely be nice.

For now though, I’ve got files to back up and a dinner to cook before the new semester starts tomorrow. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear.

The edition I got from the library. God, it was good! Blew my mind…and possibly a finger off. That explosive.

Some of you may remember from a while back I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and wrote a less-than-favorable review of it. It was around that time, I started to hear about a book that predated The Hunger Games and was considered by some fans to be much better than Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. And when I heard it was a Japanese novel, then I got really interested (typical me, I’m a nut for most things from Japan).

This past month I finally found the time to get the book, titled Battle Royale, from the library and sit down to read it. As I got about a hundred pages in, I started musing to myself that this was the sort of story I would like to write, well thought-out, exciting, and extremely well-written. About two-hundred pages in, I was so engrossed it was really difficult to put it down. And by three-hundred pages in I was staying up late just so I could read more! And today I finished Battle Royale, which has officially become one of my all-time favorite novels.

And of course, I had to write a review of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the novel by Koushun Takami, the story takes place in a world where Japan is the seat of the Republic of Greater East Asia, which as far as I can tell is what would happen if Japan had come out much better from World War II as an authoritarian empire. In this Republic, junior high classes are selected randomly throughout the year to take part in survival games in which the classmates must fight each other until only one student survives. The novel tells the story of one particular class, Shiroiwa Junior High Class 3B and its 42 students, selected for the heinous Program and forced to fight each other on an isolated island in the Seto Inland Sea. The novel focuses mainly on the exploits of Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, and Shogo Kawada, three classmates who plan to escape the Program, despite the number of obstacles meant to keep them in the Program (not to mention classmates that are all-too willing to take part in the Program). The novel also looks at the lives of several other classmates, so that by the end of the book you feel you know at least a little bit about a majority of Class 3B.

And the twists and surprises in this story will keep you reeling until the very end. You can quote me on that and take it to the bank.

The author does a very good job managing a very large and diverse cast, giving most of the characters at least a little characterization so that those you meet seem at least well-developed, even those who only show up for one or two chapters. Takami-sensei (as he would be addressed in Japan) also manages to tell a very bleak story with engaging finesse, wasting not a single word. The action sequences are so terrifying you’ll be hearing the climax from Stravinsky’s The Firebird during the climax (at least I did), the musings on life, the government, and the meaning of the Program will pierce deeply, and the emotions of each character hit you pretty hard as you get to know these kids. And when you find out why a government would have a Program like this, you’ll think to yourself the same thing you’ll end up thinking when you read the resolution of the story: “That’s so clever! Scary, but clever!”

There was only two moments where I was dissatisfied with the story. One was I wanted to see more of a certain character that died midway through the novel. The other moment, later in the novel, was I had trouble believing that a certain character wouldn’t get treated for a potentially-fatal-if-let-untreated wound after he sustained it and the danger had temporarily passed. Why wouldn’t he get the bullet out before it killed him? There was time for it!

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story. Even the romantic subplot of the novel was woven in beautifully, and didn’t annoy me like it might’ve in a certain trilogy I could name (oh wait, I did name it! Never mind). The plot was quick-paced, terrifying, and left you with an impression that doesn’t go away.

All in all, Koushun Takami-sensei’s novel Battle Royale gets a 5 out of 5. I haven’t been able to immerse myself into the world of a novel in a long time, and after I was done, I didn’t want to leave because I’d grown to love some of these characters so much and so desperately wanted to see what would or had happened to them.

I’m going to go reserve the movie version from the library now. I doubt it’ll be as good as the book, but at the very least it should be interesting. Maybe even review-worthy (though that could also happen if the movie is incredibly terrible when compared to the book). Unless something else awesome happens tonight, I’ll blog on you later, Followers of Fear. Goodnight.