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!