Monday, December 30, 2013

13 Books of 2013

Hey guys!  I haven't done the What I'm Reading Wednesday posts very much this year.  Part of that is that I've written a lot more this year instead of reading, so I haven't read nearly the number of books I did last year.

That being said, here are my top 13 books of 2013.  These are books that I read in 2013, not that were necessarily published this year.

Honorable Mention:
First Test by Tamora Pierce
I read this book at the start of the year.  I thought it was really enjoyable and I went on to read the rest of the series.  Most of all, I loved the main character and the character interactions.  As much as I would love for this to be on my actual list, I have a really hard time supporting this author.  I feel like the first books in her series are relatively clean and lighthearted, only to get trashier with each book.  As a reader who likes the clean aspect, I always feel betrayed by her books, which is why I tend to not read them as often or let myself like them as much.  Either way, I did really like this book and would recommend it.

13. Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
I'm not sure if this book is Christian Fiction, but i really enjoyed it.  This book is a contemporary something-or-other.  I would maybe call it a coming of age or
a romance, but it's not really either of those.  Either way, I really enjoyed it and think you might want to check it out.

12. The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices bk 3)
This book was a great conclusion to a great story.  I love the story of Will, Tessa, and Jem.  I'm firmly on Team Will, but I think that might be because I'm always for the bad boy.  That might not be such a good thing.  Anyway, Clockwork Princess is a great book wrapping up a great story.  I just love Clare's perfect yet shattered heroes.  Give me a Will or a Jace any day.

11. What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang (The Hybrid Chronicles bk 1)
Bonus points, the author of this book is a teen writer.  I really liked the idea of this story and it was generally a great book.  Seriously, this is just the kind of sci-fi I love to read.  It's really great, fresh and clean.  And I think we teen authors need to stick together.  I would highly recommend this book!

10. Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson
This isn't a novel, but a writing craft book.  I found the section on writing useful, but not world shattering.  The section on publishing, on the other hand, is wonderful!  This is a book I would highly recommend to any writer, teen or otherwise.

9. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (Heist Society bk 3)
The Heist Society books are my favorite running series.  Perfect Scoundrels came out this year and it was even better than Uncommon Criminals.  I really liked this book and though it went even deeper into the characters, especially Hale, who is possibly my favorite.  (Although I'm a big Nick fan too.  *see previous comment on bad boys.)

8. The Program by Suzanne Young (The Program bk 1)
I actually got to read this book as an ARC that I won from my library.  It was so good and I was really sad to see the book Slated come out first.  They both operate on the concept of the government wiping teens brains.  In my opinion, Slated isn't as good as The Program and I'm so glad it came out!  I think you should defiantly take a look at this book, if you can.  Plus, don't you love that cover? I can't wait for book 2!

7.Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith (Crown Duel bk 1)
I started this book a few years ago and couldn't get through it.  I think it's a book for a little bit of an older YA audience.  Not that it has mature content, but that it's a little bit of a slower, more thoughtful book, if such a thing can be said of high fantasy.  I'm really glad I read it this year and I am a new Sherwood Smith fan.

6. The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen (The Ascendance Trilogy bk 2)
The False Prince, the first book in this trilogy, was my top pick last year, but I think first books in series tend to be the easiest to fall in love with.  While Runaway King was amazing and fully satisfying, I felt like it was a little more ridiculous, to the point where it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief.  In my opinion, this book cemented the fact that this series is a Middle Grade book, not a YA book.  I would have liked to see it grow older for it's readers, not younger, but that's okay.  I still can't wait to read book 3, but I know I'll be sad to see the series go.

5. Glass Girl bu Laura Anderson Kurk
I got to read this book for free and absolutely loved it.  I talked about how much I love broken boys that are still beautiful earlier.  As much as I do love that, I really loved the broken heroin in this book.  Again, this book isn't my typical fantasy read, but I really enjoyed it a lot!  I would highly recommend it to any high-school girl.

4. The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill (Ellie Sweet bk 1)
Who, that reads this blog, wouldn't love a book about a teen writer?  This book was really great!  One thing I especially loved was how the author used names of actual teen writers that are part of the teen writer community she started in her book.  Any time she needed filler names, she used teen writers.  Who knows, if you read the second book, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, you might even spot the name of yours truly.  

3. Hourglass by Myra McEntire (Hourglass bk 1)
I read this book in the beginning of the year.  I don't remember a lot about it except that I loved it.  Seriously, it's really good.  It's kind of a classic romance meets time travel.  That might not sound great to you, but trust me, it is!  Or actually, don't trust me.  Read it for yourself and decided what you think.

2. The Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith
The last two books have everything I love in a book, magic, princesses, and a good, old fashioned revolution.  I really enjoyed The Spy Princess, even though it's geared toward a 9-12 year audience.  (Don't judge.  We all read JV books now and then.)  I love that this story was a little bit fun, a little bit serious, a little bit far fetched and a lot bit magical.

1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns bk 1)
Finally, my number one pick of the year.  I only read this book in November, but it's SO good.  It's clean and interesting.  It also taught me some things about writing, which I always value in a book.  The characters are real, not some perfect human that never makes mistakes, which I really appreciated.  The plot wasn't exactly fresh, but I'll always fall for the classic rebellion meets magic type of books, which this certainly is.  I liked that this was a book I had no problem recommending to my mom.  I think it convinced her that not all YA books are scandalous.  (The last two series she read were Hunger Games and Graceling.)  All in all, this book is a really well rounded book that's just up my ally.

I'm really looking forward to reading The Shadow Throne this year, as well as the new Heist Society book, though that might not come out until 2015.  I'm also hoping Hilari Bell, Cinda Williams Chima, and Cassandra Clare all publish something new this year.  That'd be great.

What about you?  What are some of the best books you read this year?  Either leave their titles in the comments or write your own post and leave the link.  I love hearing from you guys!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 23, 2013

{You Know You're a Writer When} Tag . . .

Hey guys!  First of all, just wanted to let you know that posts for the next two weeks will come when I fell like writing them, or possibly not at all.  I'm on Christmas break and all my siblings are home for the holidays, so I might be too busy beating my family in Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Power Grid to write new blog posts.

I was tagged yesterday by Sarah, over at Dreams and Dragons.  I had another post planned for today, but this one just looked like so much fun.  To complete this tag, I have to post four to six signs of being a writer, without knowingly copying anyone else, then tag as many other bloggers as I want.

So . . . You know you're a writer when . . .

1. When you take time away from playing (and beating) your family in a board game to critique a friend's short story.

2. When you buy as many school notebooks as possible at the start of the year, even though you know you'll never need that much paper for school this year.

3. When most of your Christmas wish list consists of novels and writing craft books and you insists they all be bought new so the money actually goes to the author.  (I kept having to tell my mother I'd rather have 3 new books than 5 used.  I'm not sure she believes me.)

4. When you're a little disappointed for Christmas, because it means you didn't finish your novel by your deadline.

5. When you're organizing a Twitter chat for teens everywhere to talk about books.  That right, I'm hosting what I hope to be a monthly Twitter chat.  I'm calling it the Teen Book Chat and the first chat will take place Monday, January 6th at 8:00 PM eastern time.  To join us, just use the hashtag #TBkChat.  For more information, I've created a second blog.  You an find it by clicking here. 

That just about sums it up.  Hopefully on Thursday I'll do a Christmas book haul, but I guess we'll see what Santa brings.

For the tag, I'm tagging:
Julia @ Julia the Writer Girl
Hannah @ Candy Apple Books
Jillian @ Covers and Ink
Lily @ Lily's Notes in the Margins
And YOU, if you want to join in.

Merry Christmas.  I'd just like to leave you with the reminder that Christ is the reason for CHRISTmas and I don't plan on ever taking him out of the equation.  You're welcome to feel differently, but that's how I feel.

Thanks for reading!  If you're looking for something to comment, I'd love to know your twitter handle and/or what you're hoping to ger for Christmas in the way of books.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: Entwinded

Hope you're having a good week!  It's almost Friday, one step closer to the end of the semester.

My library, along with a bunch of other libraries in my state has an online database where you can download a temporary ebook or audio file.  It's one of my favorite things, because I can read books right when I want to, even if I don't have anything good on hand.

The latest audio book I got was Entwinded by Heather Dixon.  Without further ado, here's my six word review of the book.

Who doesn't love twelve dancing princesses?

4 out of 5 stars.

Buy this book on Amazon, B&N, check out the author's website, or add it to your to-read list on Goodreads!

Similar titles include The Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and Enchanted by Alethea Kontis.

Have you read Entwined?  What did you think?  If you could sum it up in six words, how would you do it?  Any ideas for a book I should read next?
See you Monday!  Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Questions for You

Hey guys!  Recently, I've wanted to make posts that are more applicable to you, my lovely readers.  But I feel like I don't know you very well, so I can I make good posts for you?  So here are some questions for you.

  1. I have almost 85 followers, but each post only gets 2 or 3 comments.  So how often do you read my posts?  I'd just like to know.  Do you read most Mondays?  Thursdays?  Both?  Only when the title is interesting?
  2. Are you just a lover of books or a writer as well?
  3. If you are a writer, what do you like to write?  Fantasy, poetry, a little bit of everything?
  4. How much have you written?  Two first drafts, one carefully revised novel, what?
  5. How long have you been writing?
  6. What type of blog posts do you find interesting?
  7. Is there anything you'd like to see more or less of on Inklined?
  8. Do you read books similar to what you write?
  9. If not, what are some book genres and common themes you like to read?
  10. Are you a teenager?
All of these questions are optional.  If you don't feel like answering all of these, just pick two or three that are easy to answer.  If you don't feel like commenting, share on Google+ or something, just so I know you've read this.

Thanks!  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Purple Moon Blog Tour {GIVEAWAY!}

Hey guys!  Today I'm really excited to be part of the Purple Moon Christmas blog tour.  Purple Moon is a book by Tessa Emily Hall.  Here's a little bit about the book:

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Onto the author interview, but first, a little background on Tessa.

Tessa Emily Hall is a 20-year-old author of Purple Moon, her YA Christian fiction novel to be published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.

 How much did you write before your wrote Purple Moon?  

I wrote all the time growing up. Before I could read, when I was 3-years-old, I would tell my mom stories and she would write them down for me. I eventually began writing several “books” in my childhood, which continued throughout my teen years.

 How did you get published?  

It all started when I was fourteen and decided to switch to an online schooling in order to pursue writing. I took a Christian Writers Guild squire course, as well as a creative writing class through my school, to learn more about the craft. I also studied several books on the writing craft, followed writing-related blogs, and read books in the genre I write.

I wrote the first version of “Purple Moon” when I was 15, then changed the title, as well as the plot, when I completed the book at 16-years-old. I was 16 when I attended my first writing conference (Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference), which is where I met my publisher. After showing much interest my book, he asked to send him the next chapters. He eventually offered me a contract, which I didn’t sign until several months later, after much prayer and consideration.

Since I was continuing to learn more about the writing craft, I wanted to revise “Purple Moon” a few times before I sent it to my editor. Being the patient man that my publisher is, he was completely fine with this. (One of the many perks of having your first book published by an indie publisher.)

In the summer of 2012, I forced the perfectionist in me to let go and send the manuscript to my editor. “Purple Moon” was then published a year later—September 24th, 2013.

  Do you feel publishing as a teen is harder?  What have you done to conquer that?  

At first, writing a book didn’t come as naturally to me as it did to more experienced writers. I had to study the craft constantly by reading books on the subject, as well as following blogs in the industry. The only thing I don’t necessarily enjoy about publishing as teen is being looked down on by some adults in the industry. There are many professionals who feel as if teenagers are only published because their age.

Of course, I understand where they’re coming from. But I guess I just don’t enjoy the preconception that some adults have given me, without reading my writing first. Sure, other teens may want to be published for popularity—but many teens, such as myself, only wanted to pursue writing simply because it’s a huge desire.

It was also to sacrifice a lot of teen experience—such as attending public school in grades 9th – 11th, or hanging out with my friends on the weekends—in order to pursue writing. But anything worth having is worth making sacrifices for. And although there were many hard aspects of getting published as a teen, it was definitely worth it. =)

 What is your favorite and/or least favorite part of writing?  

Favorite: I love the freedom of being able to create a story from my imagination—and, in the process, minister to others. I also love expressing myself through writing and incorporating some of my own experiences into my stories. Of course, being able to work from home or at a coffee shop is pretty nice too. =)

Least favorite: I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing—so after I complete a book and go back to read it, I begin to have several doubts about the story and my writing. So I guess self-doubt is my least favorite part about writing. I want the story to be the best it can be, which puts a lot of pressure on me. Writing a good book is hard work, and I don’t want to settle for writing a mediocre story.

 What is once piece of advice you'd give to teen writers hoping to get published?

Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of reaching your dream. When I was fourteen, I emailed a best-selling author and asked if she had any advice for an aspiring author. She told me that she wouldn’t recommend that I puruse writing, only because it was hard work and very unlikely to find success.

Although she was right, I do not think either of those facts should hold anyone back from pursuing publication. Of course, I respected her advice, but I obviously did not follow it. Yes, writing is hard work. But since when has any career ever been easy? And yes, it is unlikely for a writer to be published. But I did. And so did all of the authors who wrote all of your favorite books.

I certainly wouldn’t have found a publisher had I followed the author’s advice. No, writing isn’t going to be all fun and games—however, if your passion is big enough, then none of that will matter. People may try to discourage you and tell you that it’s unlikely, or that your work isn’t good enough, or that the pay isn’t good, or even that writing isn’t a real job. Ignore all of those voices, especially if it is your own.

Don’t let anyone—including yourself—keep you from reaching you dreams.

 Tessa Emily Hall has also graciously offered to give away an e-copy of Purple Moon to one lucky commenter.  To enter the giveaway, you must
1) Leave a comment
2) Include your e-mail address in the comment
3) Be a follower of Inklined
4) Bonus Entry*  Leave the link to your Goodreads list with Purble Moon marked as To-Read
5) Bonus Entry* Leave the link to a tweet about this giveaway

Giveaway closes at 11:59 PM EST Monday the 16th.

Thanks so much, Tessa, for coming here today!  And thank you guys for reading.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Make Passive Writing Active

Hope you've had a good week.  Mine was incredibly long, but wonderful all the same.  I wrapped it up watching Catching Fire with some friends, and, well . . .  don't even get me started.  I am in like.

Today I'd like to start with something I recently figured out for myself.  A lot of writing advice books and blogs will include something along the lines of "avoid the word was" or "never use passive writing.  Ever."  Sometimes I just feel bad for the horrible rap the word "was" gets, along with other helping verbs like is, has had, had been, are, and so on and so forth.

As a new writer, I found all of this advice very confusing.  I knew not to use the word "was" or the phrase "had been," but I didn't know to avoid the word in a sentence.  Often, instead of fixing the problem, I just tried to come up with sentences that didn't use the word "was" even if that meant skipping over what I wanted to say.

It wasn't until the past year or so that I've figured out how to change passive writing to active.  One thing that really helped me was what fellow teen writer Nick Hight had to say.  He wrote a passive sentence: "The beach was being sat on."  Then he wrote an active version of that sentence.  "They sat on the beach."  Most people would say the second sentence is better.  Even if they couldn't put their finger on it, they would say they prefer the second sentence.

So how do you do it?  How do you change that passive writing to active?  Here's what I've learned.

1) Figure out who or what does the action.
Take the sentence "The inn was noisy."  This is a fine sentence.  It communicates what's going on in the room.   But it's passive.  We can make it stronger.  To do this, we ask who or what made the inn noisy?  Maybe the patrons, maybe just a few drunk old men at the bar. But saying, "A few drunk old men at the bar made the inn noisy," gives you a lot more information than "The room was noisy."

2) Re-arrange the sentence
Let's use a similar sentence to the one above.   "The room was filled with noise."  Now, put the end of the sentence at the front.  "Noise, the room was filled with."  I think we can agree that's a pretty bad sentence.  It sounds like something Yoda would say.  But it might suggest another sentence.  To me, it suggests, "Noise filled the room."  This sentence says the exact same thing as the first one, but it gets rid of the passive writing.

3) Hunt down your -ing words
Something I tend to do a lot is use a sentence like, "The girl was running." Often, I find that when I use "was" with a word ending in "-ing" I can get rid of both the "was," and the "-ing" and have a stronger sentence.  In this case, "The girl ran."  Sometimes this don't work, but it does for the most part.*

4) I had had too many had's
Recently, I found a pin on Pinterest.  It said something like, "I love English.  This sentence makes perfect sense.  'The faith he had had had had no effect.'"  While that sentence is grammatically correct, it is not something I would want to find in a printed book.  Often, we use too many "had"s.  For instance, earlier in the post, I typed "I had wanted to say."  Then, I read the sentence over and realized I could take the "had" out and the sentence read exactly the same.  "I wanted to say," is still a past tense sentence that still makes perfect sense.  Although avoiding or deleting the extra 'had' won't boost your word count during NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, it makes for better writing when you have to take a red pen to those extra words.

*) The exception that proves the rule
Sometimes, you need the word 'was.'  It helps you describe an action that is ongoing.  The sentence, "She was string the pot as we walked through the kitchen," means something a little different than, "She stirred the pot as we walked through the kitchen."  They are similar, put in this case sentence one makes you think she stirred the put the entire time they walked through the kitchen, while sentence two makes you think she gave the pot a stir as they walked through the room.  In a case like this, I would say using the word 'was' is excusable.

(Just a note, the example in that paragraph was borrowed in part from a writing book I highly recommend, Go Teen Writers by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill.  The e-book is currently on sale for $0.99, but I think that only lasts a short while longer.  I happen to own both versions, and I can't sing it's praises loud enough.  And yeah, it's signed.)

Hope this helps.  No one is perfect.  In my 'closest I have to a finished,' novel, I have used the word 'was' just under 500 times. I could do a lot better.  There are times I use the word 'was' because I don't like the flow of the revised sentences.  I'm not saying you can never use passive writing, I'm just showing you how to make it active, should you chose to do so.

I'm planning on writing another post for Thursday, but we'll have to see how my week goes.  I will definitely see you on Monday.

I need your help with an upcoming blog post.  What are some of the best books you read in 2012-2013?  And what genres were those books?  Are there any genres you love but can never find good books in?  Please leave a comment and let me know.  I love hearing from you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Few Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

Hey guys!  This is more of a personal post than I'm trying to do, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting or at the very least entertaining.

NaNoWriMo is something I participated in this year.  I hope to do so for a long time to come.  In my opinion, it's a very good idea for writers to try their hand at.  The only time I wouldn't recommend it is if you've never written a novel before, but you think you want to become a novelist.  Because if you try it then, you might get burnt out.

This year, I wrote a high fantasy a little bit like the Septimus Heep books by Angie Sage.  The first draft is not finished, but I won NaNoWriMo on Friday, November 29 with 50,130 words.  This is my fourth novel and something that I think is really cool is that with each book I write, I feel like I get better at something.  Maybe that's just because I'm at the start of my writing learning curve, but I hope not.

I'm writing this book to the oldest audience I've ever written a book for.  My first book's main character (MC) is fourteen at the start of the book.  In The Thirteenth Wizard my MC is only fifteen at the start of the book, but I fell like you can tell this book isn't for children.  Although I say I write YA, my other two books are more middle grade (MG) or even juvenile (JV.)  This might just be because I'm the oldest I've ever been when I wrote a book, but maybe it's just because I'm getting better at rising the action and the themes, and I don't want younger kids or teens reading such intense stuff.

Another thing I learned during NaNoWriMo is that I can write pretty quickly.  If you give me 2 hours, I can churn out about 3K.  I have to turn my music up and my wi-fi off, but I can do it.  That's something new for me.

All in all, NaNoWriMo was pretty wonderful and I'm really glad I did it this year!  My story has flaws.  I need to raise the stakes, because right now, if my character fails, it doesn't really matter.  I need to tighten the writing, because I used the word "was" 518 times in 50,00 words, which is not good.  But I think I have some good things going for me and I'm pretty excited for what this book can become.

What about you?  Did you participate in NaNoWriMo?  Did you win?  Did you finish your novel?  Do you feel like you learn something new or get better at something with each draft you write?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

See you on Monday!

P.S. I thought some of you might like to see the birthday cake I made for my little brother.  He's a big LotR fan!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Know Your Market: How to Dig Into Your YA Genre

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I did.

Last Monday, I talked about How to Dig into the YA Market.  Today, I'm going to talk specifically about genre.  While it's important to know your general market, I think it's far more important to understand your genre.  Some people would say YA is its own genre, and while that's kind of the case, on a basic level I disagree.

The genre I'm going to use as an example is high fantasy, because that's what I write.  When you Google high fantasy books, you'll see a lot of the same titles.  For me, some of the big names in High Fantasy are Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones.  Both of those authors write great books and they do it well.  A few other hallmark books include Eragon, Lord of the Rings, and  Chronicles of Narnia. (People would argue that all three of those aren't true high fantasy, but I think they're close enough.)

These are the building blocks for your search.  Once you have some books that are similar to what you write, one of my favorite things is to find that book on Amazon and Goodreads.  As an example, let's use Eragon, because most people have at least heard of it.  If you go to the Amazon page for Eragon and then scroll down to the Customers who Bought this Item also Bought: section, you'll find a lot of good, similar, high/epic fantasy.  If you scroll through the pages, you'll find some similar books, including Inkspell, Divergent, Magyk, and Airborn.  All of those books are great speculative fiction not set in the present day.  They are good books to check out.  Goodreads has a similar function.

Another thing you can do is look for author connections.  If you're favorite genre writer starts mentioning a book a lot or she mentions another book or author in the acknowledgements of fantasy books. check the new author out.  Do the authors thank and other authors?  What to those authors write? One thing I noticed was that Cinda Williams Chima tweeted at Rae Carson a lot.  I respect Chima's second series and after I read Girl of Fire and Thorns, I also respect Carson.

Keep an eye on the best seller lists for your genre.  I talked about best seller lists last week, but they are truly one of the best fiction resources for writers.  Just skim them over once or twice a week.  See what books in your genre are on the lists and read them.

You can also find lists of books in your genre.  Once again, I recommend Goodreads, because the lists on there are voted for by people, so the most loved books are at the top of the lists.  Using the example of Eragon, if you go to the Goodreads page and scroll down, you'll see a section marked Lists With This Book.  Click the more lists button to see what lists include Eragon.  Some of those lists include Best Epic Fantasy, Dragons, Fantasy Books of the 21ts Century,   Most Interesting Magic System, Most Obvious Tolkien Imitators, and The Best Fantasy Books.  After taking a quick look at these lists, I can tell you there are going to be some books that are in your genre that people consider good high and/or epic fantasy.

And perhaps most importantly, find people who also love your genre.  Find an exclusively high fantasy review blog.  Share titles with friends who also love high fantasy.  Find a high fantasy forum, share latest good titles with your Lord of the Rings loving friend.  Word of mouth is still the best way to find good books.

This is less concrete then last week's post, because genre is harder to pin down, but I felt it still needed mentioning.

Thanks for reading.  How do you find other great books within a genre you're loving?  Are you looking for some titles to read in your genre?  If so, let me know what genre you want to read in.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Happy Thanksgiving!  Although I hope you're not reading this on thanksgiving.  If you are, close your laptop, turn off your phone, and go organize a friendly game of cards with your family.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It's definitely my favorite non-religious holiday.  As such, I thought it would be a good day for my first six word book review.  I posted awhile back that I don't like book reviews, but I still love authors and helping good books get out there, so I decided to write six word books reviews for a few books a month.  This is the first one!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
6 word review by Sarah Faulkner
Among the greatest high-fantasies I've read!

5 out of 5 stars.

I also really appreciated how clean this book was.  If it had been an audio book, it would have been one I wouldn't have minded listening to with my little brothers in the room.

You can by the book on Amazon, B&N, check out the author's website or Twitter, or put the book on your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Similar titles include The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima and Soulboud, by Heather Brewer, both of which I also recommend.

Happy Thanksgiving/Black Friday.  Have you read The Girl of Fire and Thorns?  What did you think of it?  Are you going Black Friday shopping?  What are some or your favorite Thanksgiving foods or traditions?  Let me know your answers to some or all of those questions
in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

P.S.  NaNoWriMo is still going well.  Hopefully I'll get to 50K soon!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Know Your Market: How to Dig Into the YA Market

Guess what?  It's Monday.  Guess what else?  Thanksgiving is only a few days away, if you're reading this within a few days of me writing this.  If not, I apologize for reminding you about how much longer you have to wait before one of my favorite holidays.

I'd like to talk about two things: Getting to Know Your Market and Getting to Know Your Genre.  Unfortunately, that second one will have to be saved for next Monday.

So, your market.  We'll be talking about the YA or young adult market.  This market is for books geared to kids ages 12 to 18.  I would say it's really more for 14-18 (high school students) but some would argue.

If you want to publish in the young adult market, you need to pay attention to it.  I have a few tips for you.

1. Get to Know Your Librarians
     In my library, I know almost all the children's librarians by their first name.  I love this!  Not only do I know I'll have at least a half dozen people reading my first book when I get published, but I get the scoop on all the good books of the season.  In my library, the YA section is separate from the JV section, but the YA librarian has her office in with the rest of the JV librarians.  We talk about new releases, good authors, and the latest book news.  It's wonderful.  If your librarian has some books she recommends, at least go read up on them.  If they look good, check them out, or better yet, buy them!

2. Follow Publishers on Twitter
     I'm just starting to learn the ropes of twitter.  It keeps surprising me when publishers have twitter accounts, but they do, so go follow them.  Now would be better.  Here's a list of some YA publishers twitter accounts.

3.  EpicReads
     Epic reads is an online book community for YA readers.  It is owned (so far as I can tell) by HarperCollins, but that doesn't mean it just promotes those books.  It's a general hub for all things YA books.  The website is here, I would also suggest following Epic Reads on Twitter, and tuning in to their weekly Tea Time, which is about a 45 minutes live broadcast where two bookworms on the EpicReads team talk about the books they're reading, give away books, and generally help you stay on top of the YA books that are selling well, (or that HaperCollins wants to sell well.)  I've only been following EpicReads for a few weeks, and I've found it very useful.   Sidenote: TeaTime was the number 2 twitter trend on Wednesday, when their live broadcast is.

4. Read Books on Lists
     Have you heard of the New York Times Bestseller List?  While it's not exactly an accurate representation of the books selling the best in America, it is still a great list.  Go to the Young Adult List, here.  Bookmark it.  Check it every Monday morning.  If you write for people more of in a 10-14 age rage, also bookmark this.  If there's a book on the list and it's been on the list for more than 10 weeks, read it.  As I'm writing this, The Fault in our Stars, The Book Thief, and Looking for Alaska have been on the list for almost a year.  That means you should read them.  They are what's selling in YA right now.  They're getting attention.
     Also check out the USA Today's Bestseller List.  You can select the "Youth - Older" genre to get an idea of what YA books are on that list.  Once again, if the book has been on the list more than 10 weeks, read it.  Or at least Google it and read the back cover blurb so that you know what genre it is (because no matter what USA Today says, 'Youth - Older' is not a genre) and have a general idea of the book.
     Other good lists can be found on Goodreads.  A list of upcoming YA titles or 2014 might have 600 titles, but they're arranged in order of popularity.  If you haven't read the first book in the series of the top 5 most anticipated books of 2014, you might want to think about that.  The most comprehensive list so far for 2014 can be viewed if you click here.

All of this might seem intimidating at first, but it won't stay that way.  Because not all the titles on these lists change every week.  I wish they did, but they don't.  Some of the books, like The Hungar Games, you've-hopefully-already read.  Some of the books, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, might be something you took one look and and decided never to open.  I'm not saying you need to read every book on every list
, but you should at least know what genre they are and have a general idea of what's going on in them.

(No, I haven't read all of the books on the lists, but I'm working on it.)

In my opinion, this is a great start to having a good handle on the YA market.  The bad news is, there's always another book for you to read, but that's the good news, too!

What do you do to make sure you know what's going on in the YA market?  I'd love to know!

Hopefully I'll see you next Monday with a post on getting to know your genre.

P.S. I wrote almost 5K for NaNoWriMo yesterday.  I've never written that much in one day before.  I also broke 40K.  Only 10K left to go.  We can so do this!

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Well Do You Know Your Characters?

Happy Monday!  I've been thinking about characters a lot.  Let me ask you something.  If your book could only have one thing, Great Characters or Great Plot, which would you pick?  Now think of some of your favorite books.  Which do you love most, the characters or the plot?  Without reading the rest of this post, go put your answers to those to questions in the comments.  I'll wait.  Seriously go do it.  While you do, I'll check Twitter.
Done?  Wonderful.

In my opinion, characters are far more important.  Sure, you need a good plot for a good story, but unless the characters going through that plot are interesting, engaging, and compelling, no one's going to care if they evade the serial killer who uses an elephant for a murder weapon.  (Yes, that is the most interesting plot I could think up that I don't plan on writing about. Sue me.  But seriously, don't do that.)

As a MG/YA high fantasy writer, I've always hated character sheets.  Character's Job: Um . . . minor.  No.  Not miner, minor.  City: Caravan of traders?  Pets:  There's barely enough food for the family.  Seriously?  Why waste money on pets.  Sports Played:  I'm done.

So worksheets have never helped me.  Something that has helped me is asking a few questions, two specifically.

1)  For what would this character die for?
   For instance, would the mother die for any child?  Or only ones she knows?  What about the child that hurt and bullied her children?  What about ideas?  Would she die for her religion?  Would she give her life to help an animal in trouble?  Would she die fighting for justice?

This question looks at what is, ultimately, important to the character.  In my opinion, the character that has more items on this list has a stronger moral compass, but you could flip that idea on it's head.  You could have a character who believes strongly in a cause that generally considered wrong, like eugenics.  Or a good guy who believed in a thieve's right to steal if he can get away with it.

Generally, the good guy will die for almost anyone.  The good guy has a strong sense of empathy.  This is why so often the villain could kidnap anyone off the street and threaten to kill them and the good guy would walk right in to the trap.  That's just how your typical hero is.

Your villain, on the other hand, might not die for anyone.  He might let his daughter be killed before risking his life to save her.  That kind of selfishness is a hallmark for villains.

2)Who would this character kill and under what circumstances?
       Now, I know that this isn't a question you want to ask about your hero, but try to be honest.  For instance, if someone was threatening my life, I don't know if I would kill them.  I'm a Christian.  I know where I'm going when I'm dead.  (Heaven, in case you were wondering) So I hope I wouldn't kill them.  But if they were threatening my little brothers' lives?  That would be a much harder call.

Find these lines in your characters.  Would they kill anyone to protect their vulnerable siblings? Would they kill a young mother with a newborn baby?  A child the same age as their siblings?

Would your character kill at all?  Is there someone your character would never kill?

There are two TV shows where this is explored really well, in my opinion.  The first is the show Once Upon a Time.  It's on ABC and you should watch it if you write fantasy.  Really you should watch it either way.

*SPOILERS from SEASON 2, Once Upon a Time*

In this show, the main couple, Mary Margret (Snow White) and David, (Prince Charming) vow to never kill.  They always find ways to defeat their enemies without death.   This is stated several times in the series.  But then Snow finds out the evil sorceress in town in responsible for her mother's death.  She orchestrates the death of the sorceress, and it is a huge character development.

The other show is Robin Hood, the BBC show.  This is another great show I highly recommend.

*SPOILERS from SEASON 2, Robin Hood*

In this show, Guy of Gisborne is in love with Lady Marian.  She is pretty much the only person who can still reach Guy on any level of humanity.  She doesn't return his feelings, but leads him on, sometimes, to manipulate him so that she can help Robin Hood.  Through a series of events, Marian tells Guy she won't ever love him.  He kills her.  For me, that's when Guy turned from a misunderstood character who might still find redemption to a true villain who can no longer relate to humanity.  He lost his empathy.

*end spoilers*

Do you see how the creators of both shows found the limits of their characters and then found what could make those characters go past their limits?  That's good character development, in my opinion.  That's how characters and plot should interact.

Maybe you're not writing stories on a life or death scale.  Maybe you write contemporary romance.  This stuff is still good to know.  It can really help you understand your characters.

Don't stop here.  Keep finding the lines of your characters.  Because when you find one line, you have a character that looks like this:_________________
But with two lines, you can add a second dimension.  Your character can become a silhouette.(left)  And when you add a third line, you gain that third dimension.(right)  And when you keep exploring, and you keep poking to see how far your character will go, can go, that's when you start to not just see the character, but hear them, feel them, and smell them.  That's when they leap off the page.(bottom)

So keep poking your characters.  Ask: how far they'd go to get their way; how far they'd go to protect their most firmly held belief; how far they'd go for a stranger; what happens when their lines meet and only one can stay unbroken; what would they do to protect the antagonist?  If their kitten and the antagonist were both falling on a cliff, who would the hero save?

Hopefully after you think about this for a while, you'll have a better understanding of your characters, what their lines are, and what they'd cross those lines for.

Let me know if this post made you think.  How do you get to know your characters?  What are some things they would never do?  I'd love it if you let me know.  Also, if you have any posts you'd like to see, let me know!

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some Important Updates

Hello, dear lovely readers!  There have been some new things going on around Inklined lately and I just wanted to make you aware of them.

This is a bit of a long post, so here's what we're talking about, Readers Digest version.

  • Now using only un-copyrighted photos
  • New Blog Banner and Button
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Guest Post Call-Out
  • Six Word Book Reviews
  • Debut Author Spotlights
  • Agent Stalker Saturdays
  • How to Pronounce Inklined

First off, a new pledge.  I recently read a post about copyright and it moved me.  I'm a creator of content.  This is an idea that's been floating around YouTube for a while now, the idea that we're all content creators.

As a content creator, if someone were to use my content without my permission, I would be very frustrated.  Because of this I've decided to not use any images in this blog that I don't have permission to use.  From now on,  all images posted here will be images I own or images published under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain.  (This excludes book covers, as they are used in a promotional way.  I have heard from authors that thy don't mind you using their covers on your blog.  Many welcome it.)

Along with this came the need for a new blog banner, because my old one used pictures that were copyrighted.  I really liked to old banner, so this one is still very similar.  You might not have noticed the change at all.  You still might not see a different.  That's okay.

A few months ago, I made a Pinterest board for Inklined.  I only pin things there that I think you guys would like.  It's mostly links to blog articles on writing and the occasional funny writer meme.  If you want to check it out you can click here.

I also have a Twitter and Google+ account if you want to give those a follow.

I'd really like to change some things around my blog.  Right now, it's kind of a journal of what novel I'm writing at the moment, and while that's interesting to me, my big sister, and my grandma, I doubt post after post of it is interesting to you.

I'd like to focus more on you guys, my lovely readers.  I want to build a community, start a conversation about the things I love a lot, reading and writing.  Because I'd like to get to know you better, I'd love to do one or two guest posts every month.  If that's something you're interested in, leave a comment or e-mail me.

My goal is to post every Monday and at least every other Thursday, with guest posts probably on Thursday.

Also, I recently posted about why I don't like book reviews.  You can read that post here.  But I do like promoting books and giving my brief opinion.  Have you heard of 'six word memoirs?' It's an idea started by Ernest Hemingway (according to literary legend).  I think I'm going to try six word reviews along with how many stars I give the book.  What do you think of that idea?

I'd also really like to bring back both Debut Author Spotlights and Agent Stalker Saturdays.  I think those blog features were some of my best/most helpful posts.

One more thing.  I've seen the name of this blog written all sorts of ways.  Ink Lined, Ink Lined Writers, ect.  My address is Inklinedwriters because Inklined is registered to some blog that hasn't been updated in 9 1/2 years.  The actual name of my blog is Inklined, which is pronounced just like the word "inclined."  Hope that cleared up any confusion.

That's it for now.  I'm really thankful for all my lovely readers!  You guys rock.

Let me know what your favorite kind of content on Inklined is, what you like to see in guest posts, and what you think of the changes?  How have you been pronouncing "Inklined" in your head?  If you want to do a guest post, let me know!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mirror Characters

Mirror characters aren't a concept I've read about before, but I wouldn't be surprised if this idea is out there somewhere else.

This is a thought I've been tossing around for some time, so I Googled it the other day.  Because that's what teens in the 21st century do.

According to WikiAnswers, a Mirror Character is,
"A character through which a narrative is told. You see through the eyes of the mirror character, perceiving the world in the story like they do."
 They're talking about the POV, or point of view, character.  That's not what I'm talking about.

Let's use an example, because authors love examples, right?  We'll use the the movies and books Lord of the Rings.  In this book, you have two characters on a similar path,  Frodo Baggins, and Smeagol.

Both of these characters are hobbit like, both find the ring.  The ring starts working on Smeagol (a.k.a. Gollum) right away.  He murders his friend withing hours of discovering the ring.  It turns him into a poor, pitiful, half-human creature.

Frodo, on the other hand, didn't make that initial choice of greed, instead it is a war within him for the entire series.  This leads to some really wonderful things, as far as Frodo's internal battle.  On one hand, the power of the ring is very alluring to the young hobbit.  On the other hand, look what that power did to someone very similar to him.  This fight is the main internal battle of the series, and having Gollum around just capitalizes on that.  It allows Frodo to show his fear of becoming a monster, turned by the ring.  He is frequently very kind to Smeagol, always hoping for a chance to redeem him.  Because if Smeagol can be redeemed, than so can Frodo.

Three other brief examples are Ender and Peter in Ender's Game, Eragon and Murtagh in Eragon, and Patrick Jane and Red John in The Mentalist, (both are sociopaths.)

Basically, mirror characters are two sides of the same coin.  We see them everywhere in fiction.  Mirror characters have something in common: a shared experience that shaped them differently, a common goal that they go after using opposite means, or a personality trait in common that one embraces and one squashes down.

These can be some of the most powerful characters, because they are both so real and so human.  You can't love one without having your heart strings pulled on by the other.  These characters conflict your reader.  And a conflicted reader is one who will burn the midnight oil to get to the end of the conflict.

Thanks for reading!  What do you think about Mirror Characters?  Can you think of other literary examples of them?  Do you have them in your writing, or have you never thought about it before?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Why I Don't Do Book Reviews

Sorry for the few weeks without a post.

I'm four days and 6K into NaNoWriMo, so the posts for the next few weeks might be few and far between.

Today I'd like to talk about book reviews.  You might have noticed I don't post many book reviews, especially for a book blog.  That's because I really don't like reviews.

I feel like people reading reviews come to them from one of two paths.

1) They haven't read the book and want to know what you thought of it.

2) They've read the book and want to know if you agreed with them about it.

If I've never read a book, I want to know pretty much one thing and one thing only.  Is it worth my time?  You can generally get a feel of how well a book is loved by its advantage rating on Amazon or Goodreads.  If I'm on the fence about a book and it's in the 4-5 star range, I'm going to read it, probably.  If it's 2-3 stars, I'll move on to the next title.

There are some other things I'll want to know.  Is it clean?  Is it appropriate?  But those questions are easy to find the answer to on many Christian websites.

Once I've found this information, I'll purposely stop reading reviews.  I don't want to know how the story ends.  I don't want my attention drawn to it's flaws.  I notice enough of them as it is.  Once I've decided to read a book, there's nothing more I want to know about it then what's between its covers.  And I'd rather figure that out by just reading the book.

If I've already read the book, I might read a review to see what other people took away from it.  If I didn't like it, I'll want to know if that was just me.  I'll want to see what so many other people loved.  If I did like it, I'll want to know if others loved it as much.

There are two problems with this approach.

1) I have to feel very strongly about the book, one way or another.  I have to either love it or wonder why it ever got published.

I don't feel this way about very many books.  Like, maybe five a year.  And of those, I maybe only look at the reviews on one or two of them.

2) The review changes the way I feel about a book.

This almost never makes me like the book more.  I'll feel alright about a book, read a few reviews, and realize I really hated that character that died on make 57, and I forgot how much sordid language there is.  I skimped over that poorly written scene and I hadn't realized the dark foreshadowing in chapter 3.  All in all, the bad book review convinces me that I didn't enjoy the book nearly as much as I thought I did.
(This happened most recently when I read a book review for The Boy in Stripped Pajamas, which I thought--and still think, mostly--was a splendid book.)

So I have a really hard time getting behind book reviews.  I know they help authors, which is about the only reason I sometimes write them.  I do my best to avoid reading them whenever possible.  I would much rather make up my own opinion on a book.

For me, I prefer to just rate the book out of 5 stars and move on.

What about you?  How do you feel about book reviews?  If you read them, what do you get out of them?  If you don't read them, is it for other reasons?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy NaNovember!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Start Reading Early. There are Books for Everyone.

Good morning!  This post is part of the Teen Read Week Blog Tour!
Today we're talking about starting on books young.   Ahem *indoctrination* ahem.

I talked a lot about how much I was read to as a child.  I also listened to loads of audio books.  My library had a limit of 15 audio books at a time, and I frequently maxed out.  (Now I hit the 75 book limit more often.)

I think that reading books by the ton as soon as possible is one of the best things you can encourage a child to do.  My vocabulary had immensely benefited from books.  Reading for school is easier for me.  And I always have time left over on the reading section of my PSAT practice tests.
(I've also become and novelist and bookocholic, but my fellow teen writer support group tells me that's normal.)

All in all, books have given me a community, a dream, and a passion for words and characters.

Now I encourage you to go encourage a child.  One who might not have fallen in like with books yet.  One who doesn't belong to a family of bookworms.  One who is in danger of becoming afraid of squiggly black letters on white pages.  Give them a book.  Take them to a book store and give them a $20.  If they're too young to read, read to them.

I'll leave you with some book recommendations.  Some general ones, and some more specific.

Books every child should read:
Mrs. Piggy Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears

Books for young-ish boys that don't love reading:
Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Books for young-ish girls:
Dealing with Dragons by Patrica C. Wrede
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen

And these are just the tip of the ice berg.  If you're looking for a more specific book, let me know what you're looking for and I'll poke

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour!

Emily Rachelle Writes--9:00 AM
Lily's Notes in the Margins--1:00 PM
The Ramblings of a Young Author--6:00 PM