Government regulations said they had no choice. 17-year-old Philadelphia must stay on Earth in the care of complete strangers while her father is sent against his will to Mars. When a benevolent official allows her to accompany her father, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to Earth. But when a search for her deceased brother’s Bible leads her into a hallway that isn’t supposed to exist, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer – the choice between returning to Earth or destroying it.
Within the first chapter I was impressed by the pace. During the second chapter I realized there was no way I was going to put it down soon, despite that fact the dishes were waiting. And had been waiting. I think I may have honestly told myself, “I’ll just start this new book late at night and then I’ll get to the dishes.”
I put it down half-way through only because I’m attempting to break a habit of staying up past 10 o’clock, and it was 11. I finished the rest the next morning, made a gushing note about it on GoodReads, then went to those dishes.
Pacing contributes heavily to an un-put-downable factor, but pace alone does not keep me stuck within a book’s pages. I must feel with the characters, be there inside their heads. Aubrey’s ability to make even minor characters feel rounded and real. I was fully invested in the main character and her goals and problems.
And the story! I feel like giving much beyond the blurb will be a spoiler, but I found it unique and interesting. While some twists I predicted, many more I did not.
Currently, Red Rain is only the third self-published work I think was worth the read. (I’m noticing a pattern of self-pubbed novellas being of better quality than self-published novels.) Niche genre, niche length, well-edited. I didn’t notice a single grammar or spelling error, when I normally catch a neat handful in the most well-edited self-published works. (Aubrey, I know you’re reading this. How’d you do that?) As a unique trait, every couple chapters there are very beautiful illustrations of a character.
I present to you my attempt at a weekly round up, that is, a conglomeration of good posts from the last week. This will be too long because I follow too many blogs. It will also be too much coolness to handle in its entirety, so just scroll through and open whatever catches your eye. If this isn’t too painful in the creation, you will get more.
- News & Noteworthy
(As if every single one of these links isn’t noteworthy. My headings need work.)
The eye-popper of the week award goes to A Follow’s Not a Book Sale (Though It’s Really Nice), which asks “Does social media affect sales AT ALL?” via The Intern
Pretend you don’t need 3 Ways to Keep Social Media from Taking Over Your Writing Time. Just pretend. I dare you. via Author, Jody Hedlund
- Writing Advice
Here’s something with the provocative title of Writing Multiple Books in a Year– It Doesn’t Take as Much as You Think. via Mystery Writing is Murder
This is about changing the way you view subplots forever and Grey’s Anatomy. via Novel Rocket And to continue mining TV shows, Lessons from Downton Abbey.
We were gifted with two brilliant pieces on Io9: How Not to Be a Clever Writer and 8 Unstoppable Stories for Writing Killer Short Stories.
EditTorrent talks about what three varied writers need to start. Once the push from what you need to start a novel wears off, Janice Hardy has So Where Were We? Finishing Manuscripts. She also has Under Development: Ways to Create Characters.
Nifty little things that have been around since the dawn of time I am only now discovering because I live underneath a rock. It’s dark here.
Solving the “I don’t have the money or the oomph to travel” excuse for not attending writer conventions is WriteCon, an online conference for KidLit, MG, and YA authors. It’s free.
Donna Macmeans has compiled a list of Rooting Interests, the things that get readers behind characters.
I present to you The Michael Hauges Story Concept Template. In fact, this is going to be the All-Important Reader Engagement Moment of the Week. Fill in the blanks with your novel and post it in the comments below so we can see what each other is writing! iva Jill Williamson
My twitter stream was filled by people tweeting their Hunger Names this week. It gives you your precinct, the number of your game, and the way you die, too. Yes, this is under “fun.”
A fellow aspiring writer takes the amusing route in announcing a vacation. Which I should do instead of not posting for a month without notice.
Enjoy. Don’t forget to leave the your Michel Houghes Story Concept Template in the comments so we can learn about each other’s plots!
[A note to my subscribers: this post was originally published in October, but wordpress hiccuped and the post was down within the day. Some of you will remember it and some of you will not. I just now made this re-post.]
Usually, fantasy and science fiction names come easily to me. But for some reason my current WIP does not want anything in it named. I was having a headache of a time, so I decided to do a little research. Maybe you aren’t having as bad a time as I was – you just need a fantasy character named, without the writer’s-naming-block. Well, you’re in luck. Fantasy name generators are a half-penny a dozen on the internet. Just google search, pull up a site, press “generate” until you find something you don’t hate, and presto, fantasy name. Go on. What are you standing around for?
Still here? Good. That means you understand enough to know no generator can possibly supply a quality name, specific and tailored and an enrichment to the rest of your fantasy world. You know a generator can not supply originality or the specific need of your story. Yay!
- Quick: What NOT to Do
I found this humorous piece while researching. In short, it gives a good run-down of how not to make a fantasy name. Since humor does every so much better a job at explaining things (especially why things are wrong), I’ll just link. How Not to Make a Fantasy Name. It’s a quick read.
- Methods of Creation
I found many authors sharing their method of playing with words and sounds in order to come up with something they liked. I suppose this is what I always did before; it just came naturally to throw together sounds. Lots of writers look through baby name sites and then manipulate a name they like. One author said she would take a word, and then change it one letter at a time until she had what she wanted. At first glance just playing with sounds doesn’t sound like a good method, but don’t dismiss it too soon. This mainly relies on your ability to decide on a name that “feels right.” Which comes to my next topic. . .
- Connotations of Sounds
What makes a name “feel right”? It’s not psychic. It’s not random. Sounds have connotations around them. Yes, this is scientific. Think about softer sounds versus harder sounds. S and L versus the hard G and K, for example. When a word, especially a name, sounds like what it means, that’s perfect. So play with sounds. . . but know what you’re doing when you play with them. If you have the time – and I highly recommend you make quite a bit of time if you don’t have it – explore the site at http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/, which deals extensively with this subject.
- Fitting in the Language
Names are part of a language. Names from the same country are going to come from the same language. Grithinlot and Tien are different fundamentally because they do not sound like they come from the same language. Brandon Sanderson, an author of fantasy, detailed the way he came up with different languages in one of his novels, and I highly recommend the source – anything I say would probably be repeating him. http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Elantris/page/35/Creating-the-Languages-of-Elantris. Why do you need to think about an entire language when all you want are character names? Well, what else will you need to be naming? Cities? Animals? Foods? Maybe you need a magical phrase. All words are part of a language, and you can’t ignore that while worldbuilding.
As mentioned earlier, many writers have their own methods for giving their fantasy characters names. What is your method? What is one fantasy name you particularly like? What is your favorite fantasy name that you created?
The first day of 2012 is slipping away – about four more hours left in it for me – and I’ve yet to decide on my New Year’s resolutions. Hold that thought for now.
I’m not sure how many “resolutions” and “New Year’s” posts I read in the past week, but they were all silly or thought-provoking or otherwise cool. I always meant to contribute one. I just didn’t have anything silly or thought-provoking or otherwise cool to share. So I watched the Doctor Who Christmas special (finally!) and baked gingerbread cookies instead, saying I was giving myself time to think.
Have you ever tried to think and not mix up the salt and the cinnamon simultaneously?
Well, maybe I could think and not mix up the salt and cinnamon, but it was only my brain rehashing the coolness I had seen earlier.
Janice Hardy likes to put the chances of her succeeding after each of her (well-organized, I might add) resolutions.
Beth Revis isn’t revealing her resolutions – yet. As she conquers them she will announce her success on her blog.
Jeannie Campbell set up an amazing photograph.
Before we get back to me, click those links. They won’t take much time, I promise.
And Kathrine Roid? Kathrine Roid is floundering, trying to decide what to resolve. I know, many people decided days or weeks ago. This year I am was not one of those people. This year I had guests the past week; directly after a little over a week of Hanukkah. Wonderful guests.
"He who hesitates makes a mess. Now where's a washcloth?" ~ My Pawpaw's wisdom on pouring cream.—
Kathrine Roid (@KathrineRoid) December 29, 2011
"The world can't end yet. We haven't had supper!" ~ My Pawpaw's wisdom on the #apocalypse.—
Kathrine Roid (@KathrineRoid) December 29, 2011
"Your days are numbered." ~ My Pawpaw's wisdom on mortality. Said to the cat. (They have an adverse relationship.)—
Kathrine Roid (@KathrineRoid) December 30, 2011
Who am I kidding? I just didn’t set aside the time to make resolutions; that’s all the problem is. All I have to do it set aside time. *sets aside time* *steals*
First, the regular sort of resolutions, along with the chances of my success, because that was a cool idea of Janice’s. Also, deliberate steps to achieve these resolutions because I have been informed vague resolutions are always failed.
Goal: Start publishing science fiction and fantasy short stories regularly instead of letting them rot on your hard drive after you finish them.
Chances of success: 100% I am extremely motivated and have already looked into markets.
Steps to take: I love writing short stories, but I always tell myself I’m “supposed” to be focusing on my “more important” projects and that I should devote all spare time to my novel. Well, phooey on that. I write decent short fiction and I want to share it.
To start, I need an organizational system for those rotting short stories. I guess this resolution is another in disguise: organize my folders. Separate the pretty short stories that are ready for submission, the short stories that need polishing, the short stories that are WIPs, and the short stories that should be allowed to rot and be used as compost for future writing skill growth. Create a list of the science fiction and fantasy magazines I am interested in. There are lots of good ones out there, so this will mostly be clickwork. Set aside a couple hours every week to work on short stories. I want to give myself some leeway on this one, though, since I *am* trying to plow through a novel at the moment. Mini goal: start submitting a setting aside those hours by June.
(Oh, side note. If you are a fellow novelist who is either interested or completely not interested in writing short stories, Jami Gold has an excellent post on the benefits of a novelist taking to short stories.)
Goal: Work up to blogging three times a week again – you were doing this before and it was lots of fun, but now you’ve been neglecting your blog.
Chances of success: 50% I’d love to get back to doing this, but with me and my excuses I’m just as likely to fail as to succeed.
Steps to take: They key phrase is “work up to.” I keep at once a week for the first quarter of the year, always on a standard day so I get myself used to some sort of schedule. In the second quarter of the year, twice a week. The third, alternate between twice a week and three time a week. Starting in October I should be at my goal of three times a week. You should all tell me how happy you are to here this…
Goal: Use a notebook to jot down the little inspirational ideas and use them for a plot soup later instead of forgetting.
Chances of success: 30% The problem here is keeping at it.
Steps to take: I’m debating whether I should use an actual notepad and pen, or if I should go with Tumblr micro-blogging, just for fun. I already run to my Twitter if I ever get a <141-character thought, or at least keep a hold of that thought until I can run to twitter, so using Tumblr is entirely possible. Once I decide that, I plan to use the time I used to use journaling to jot down my muse tidbits.
(Another side note: I've had a neat journaling exercise going. Every day I take the time to write down in three sentences three things that happened. I can never right down something negative or unhappy. It takes five minutes a day too get you focusing on the proper things!)
Next, the back-up plan. I read the most interesting post under the provoking headline “Resolved: Ban New Years Resolutions.” It is a very convincing argument that it easier and more productive to meditate on a single word all year long rather than create lists.
My theory for why New Years resolutions are so famously abandoned: we have no back-up plan. No safety net. When we fall, we tumble all the way down. Not me! *hangs net*
Now, the three secret-resolutions. Written on notecards like Beth’s, only multicolored notecards. ^_^ Why are they secret? Well, some people would call them dreams and point me toward a few handy-dandy articles on the difference of goals and dreams. I also freely admit they are impossible, and we all know how our resolutions are supposed to be feasible and attainable. Problem is…. I’ve just downloaded this wallpaper from Dieki Noordhoek.
“Impossible” is only an excuse.
So I’m putting these resolutions on notecards and flipping them over maybe only to get them out of my system… but we all know I hope I’ll be blogging about one of these sometime this year.
Blue, yellow, and pink notecards, if you were wondering. One color for each impossible resolution. *pets impossible resolutions*
Finally… nope, I’m afraid I can’t steal from Jeannie. I could never photograph something that cool. I just had to share what she did with everyone. But, as a treat to my fellow Whovians, you do get this:
The Doctor is right. Fairyland looks like the inside of my oven with gingerbread men all in a row.
Happy New Years,
P.S. If you aren’t a Whovian, try watching the 2011 Christmas special.
I received an ARC copy of The Scorpio Races a couple weeks ago. I am ever so glad I got my hands on this book.
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He loves the sky and the island and his horse. Horses and racing are his job. Sean races to win.
Puck Connolly is different. She joins the races as a desperate move to keep her older brother on the island a little bit longer. Puck races to survive.
The premise grabbed me, and the story didn’t let go. This is a tale of courage and carnivorous water horses. The island of Thisby is a salty place like the sea. Here, and only here, do the bloodthirsty Capall Uisce come to shore. They’re the menace of the island, claiming lives both from sheep and loved ones, but if you capture one and train it you have a mount of liquid lightening. The November sea stirs a Capall Uisce’s blood more than any other month. In November they are the most dangerous, the fastest. So in November the Scorpio Races are held.
Sean and Puck live separate lives. Sean is quiet and serious. If he has any doubts he keeps them to himself. His one love and fear is Corr, his water horse – except Corr is owned by the island’s breeding tycoon and Sean’s employer.
Puck is a stubborn orphan managing with her two brothers, the older of whom is tired of the island. She joins the races in a wild attempt to keep him around long enough to change his mind. She is the first girl to join, and will use her regular island pony instead of the much more capable Capall Uisce, partly for principal – the Capall Uisce killed her parents, – and partly because money leaves her no other choice.
Do I need to explain how these two characters’ interaction is marvelous?
Sean and Puck meet each other with mutual admiration and wariness and forge and unlikely friendship. The stakes rise, and they both find the things they hold dearest depending on the race, but only one of them can win. Right up until the last few pages I was unsure of how Maggie Stiefvater could take her story to a satisfying conclusion, but she did.
The Scorpio Races is the only book I’ve read that I could call “slow and gripping.” The pace is slow, with only a few tense actions scenes scattered about until the climax. Even they seemed slow. But the story and scenes are gripping, literally; I have a tendency to shift my weight around and grip the sides of the book when I am excited. Part of this are the skillful POV switches between Puch and Sean.
Maggie Stiefvater’s eye-opening description and phrases also pulled me into the pages. Her craft is flawless, and a beautiful model as well as an exciting read. The one thing that could have made The Scorpio Races more perfect would have been the use of past tense instead of present. I’m one of those people who finds present tense distracting. But in all, The Scorpio Races earned itself a place on my favorites shelf. I’m going to step out on a limb perhaps shakier than my twitter branch and say I see The Scorpio Races enduring time and becoming a classic.
Recommended for ages 15 and up for mild gore/violence and language. 5/5 Stars
It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die.
Well, your least favorite genre out of those listed. Yes, I intend for this to be a difficult decision.
September’s poll is closed! See the results.
For more polls, ongoing and closed, visit my polls page:
What is a Mary Sue?
There are several definitions of a Mary Sue. Usually a character that makes people say, “Mary Sue!” has some combination of the follow characterizations:
- A Character Based Off Yourself
Named after you, working at the job you wish you had, possessing all your good qualities, dressing, thinking, and acting like you, this is the beginner’s Mary Sue. When I first started writing as a teen all my protagonists were copies – maybe idealized copies, but still copies – of me. Trust me, this is a bad idea. You will get too attached to your character, not allow them to grow and 3D-ize naturally, and will squish the story to fit the character, instead of the other way around.
- A Perfect, Unbeatable, Fantastic Character
She is gorgeous. She will whip anyone in a fight. She can not lose. She gets all the guys she wants. If she’s got a fault it something like “a little clumsy when not on the battlefield.” She’s a Mary Sue. These are the characters that annoy people. Unfortunately, these Sues also tend to masquerade as Really Cool characters. And it’s really temping to make your favorite character Really Cool.
- A Character With Cliche Qualities, Backstory, or Plot Points
She was abandoned by her parents, has strange eyes that see into your soul, and will die in her lovers arms to be brought back to life at the Crucial Moment. If you’re wondering how you could possibly write a character this terrible. . . well, maybe not that terrible. But letting “little” cliche attributes pile up is easier than you think, especially if you are not well-versed in cliches.
Despite the female name, Mary Sues do not have to be girls. Guys can have the qualities too. Now, whether you call a male Mary Sue a Gary Stu or Murray Sue or Marty Stew is subject to some debate. For the sake of simplicity, however, I will only use “she” in this post. Substitute “he/she/it” in your mind.
A Little History
Originally, Mary Sues referred to original fanfiction characters. Even more originally, it referred to original Star Trek fanfiction characters. A short story mocking the abundance of young, perfect, attention-stealing insert characters coined the term. It is viewable here: http://www.fortunecity.com/rivendell/dark/1000/marysue.htm The term “Mary Sue” has lost a lot of its meaning in fanfiction due to general overuse and definition fuzziness, but plain fiction writers have happily adopted the term.
How can I tell if one of my characters is a Mary Sue?
Well, the easy way is to try a Mary Sue test on the character. Now, in no way is a simple yes/no test perfect, but I’ve found such tests very useful. I’ve compiled links to the tests I’ve found most useful. They are intended for straight fiction characters (many tests you find will be intended for fanficiton characters).
- The Original Mary Sue Test for Fiction Characters
[Note: the original original Mary Sue test which the above test was based off of was for fanfiction characters.]
- The Exhaustive, Recommended Test [Slight language and references to sexuality. For a PG to PG-13 audience.]
[Note: on the same site is a Mary Sue test for created races.]
- A Shorter Test
[Note: the "summary" after the test is humorously unreliable, but all the points are something to think about.]
Oh dear. How do I fix my Mary Sue?
Fixing Mary Sues isn’t too hard, as long as you’re not too attached. What exactly you need to do to fix your Mary Sue depends on what is wrong. But first, let me define “fixing.” I do not mean going, “OK, maybe I can cut that out,” and de-checking boxes on a Mary Sue test until you are down to a reasonable score. I mean taking a grand look at your character, picking up the worst problems one at a time, and figuring out what should be there instead.
- Copy of You
So, she’s actually you, huh? Here’s a quick tip: change her (or his) name. I mentioned above that all my first protagonists were coppies of me. Well, one of those protagonists has since been rewritten (along with her accompanying story line) into someone else entirely who can carry a novel on her shoulders. The first step was to change her name. Then figure out how much of your storyline was pandering to the fact she’s you – and cut it. Leave her alone for a few months. Come back and figure out who she really is.
Backstory is perhaps the easiest to fix, and it’s even easier to fix if you’ve yet to start writing (this is why you test for Mary Sues in the development stage). Just. . . change their personal story. If you’ve already begun writing, you may need to add or delete scenes, but trust me, it’s for the better of your novel. This only gets tricky if you have a bad backstory giving a character their motive or something for integral to the story. In this case it’s back to the drawing board: your character is underdeveloped. Decide what is really causing Mary Sue to act.
- Character Traits
Ditch the purple eyes and raven hair and the out-of-time-and-place clothing. Make sure she has a real character flaw – or three or five. Realize she is not going to stay calm and collected no matter what, and certainly not when everyone else is panicking. Take a look at your character arc: how has she changed by The End? Or did you make her perfect at the beginning and leave no room for development?
- Cliche Development
If you just realized that Mary Sue easily switches from being an apothecary to leading the rebel army, if Mary Sue never gets honestly beaten or makes a mistake (without a reasonable excuse), if Mary Sue develops amnesia, and becomes royalty. . . hopefully you’re only outlining. Take bad plot points out and figure out a better way to get from the A before the point and the B after the point. Add good plot points (your character receiving the consequences for being a smart alec, for example). Think carefully about realism, since many Mary Sue plot point borderline the fantastic.
If you find that a character is just too deep a Mary Sue to keep alive and just can’t make it in your story, that’s OK. Sometimes its easier to start over from the beginning rather than try to revise the unrevisable. Just last year I scrapped a complete draft and started over from the beginning. It was that bad.
Things To Remember So You Don’t Huff And Ignore Everything I Just Said:
~Those tests are for symptom of the disease. Not every point is to be avoided like a hurricane; Mary Sue characteristics – when used with restraint – can be done well. See below.
~Yes, it is possible for you to see Mary Sue qualities in a character from your favorite or a classic book. If you are a really, really good writer, you can pull off a great story with a Mary Sue. And I mean J. K. Rowling good (try doing a Mary Sue test for Harry Potter).
~Every writer has made a Mary Sue in their day. You will too at some point. You are not J. K. Rowling. If you think you are, there’s a name for that psychiatric condition.
This is the first post in a serious on characters. You see, in my planning for NaNoWriMo, I’m fleshing out my main and supporting characters. So it’s all in self-interest. May you never write another Mary Sue again! (I wish the same for myself.)
A list of prompts has been floating around on the internet – I was told it originated on DeviantART – and after having successfully used the prompts, I share them with you. You pick a list (I have two right here) and write something for each theme. Poems, drabbles, short stories, journal entries, anything. A group of us from Holy Worlds are using the list to outline an entire novel to be written for NaNoWriMo. I just finished my outline today. You would be shocked to find how easy it is to create an entire, round, detailed plot just by using each theme to create a scene.
The Original List
3. Making History
12. Dead Wrong
13. Running Away
15. Seeking Solace
20. My Inspiration
21. Never Again
25. Breaking Away
26. Forever and a day
27. Lost and Found
33. Seeing Red
34. Shades of Grey
39. Out of Time
40. Knowing How
41. Fork in the road
43. Nature’s Fury
44. At Peace
45. Heart Song
48. Everyday Magic
51. Troubling Thoughts
52. Stirring of the Wind
54. Health and Healing
56. Everything For You
57. Slow Down
58. Heartfelt Apology
62. Irregular Orbit
63. Cold Embrace
65. A Moment in Time
66. Dangerous Territory
68. Unsettling Revelations
70. Bitter Silence
71. The True You
76. Summer Haze
78. Change in the Weather
80. Only Human
81. A Place to Belong
86. Picking up the Pieces
90. Nowhere and Nothing
Find your key emotion; this may be all you need to know to find your short story. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Emotions List
Do you take the challenge?