Posted in Book Recommendations, Book Reviews

Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Today I’d like to tell you about a book that absolutely blew my mind. Angelfall by Susan Ee.

5/5 stars.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Angelfall has everything I thought I would hate, and twisted it around within the first couple of pages and made me absolutely love it.

Let me first say that I find angels incredibly lame. But this book changed that. We don’t have heavenly angels doing good deeds or saving the world. No. Susan Ee crafted these evil, creepy, malicious creatures that leave you questioning everything. Especially why Raffe, our main male angel, seems to be just as victim to this situation as our human lead, Penryn.

Amidst the whole trying not to die and rescue her kidnapped sister thing, Penryn also falls into a wildly amusing romance. The best part? It isn’t the main focus of the book. It isn’t even large enough to call a focus. Susan Ee does such an amazing job of keeping the focus on the larger problems at hand and weaving just enough romance into the background to satisfy.

Penryn and Raffe’s dialogue is witty and brilliant and both are wonderful characters. They’re strong, smart, independent, funny, and resourceful. I can’t wait to continue on with the series, and I look forward to reading more of Susan Ee’s work.

Full of action, laughs, mystery, and flat out creepy-I-need-to-sleep-with-the-lights-on-ness, Angelfall is not to be missed. Susan Ee’s writing is enjoyable to read, easy to picture, and fast paced. This quick read stays with you long after you read the last page, and I highly, highly, recommend you pick this one up.

Have you read Angelfall? Do you think you’ll give it a shot? Let me know in the comments!

Angelfall is available in Paperback and eBook, is book one in the Penryn and the End of Days Series, and was published May 21st 2011 by Feral Dream. Book 2, World After, is expected to be released November 19th 2013.

Posted in Writing Tips

Dos and Don’ts of Chapter Openings

Chapter openings have a lot of weight on their shoulders. If they’re not interesting enough, readers will put stop reading–or give up on the book all together. Here are some tips to keep your readers hooked chapter after chapter.

Do let us know right away which character’s POV we’re reading from if it’s a multiple POV story. (Don’t use pronouns in the first sentence.)

Don’t start with descriptions of weather.

Do use a sentence that holds a question—makes the reader wonder something enough to want to read on. You should have a hook sentence at the beginning of every chapter.

Don’t use dialogue with no context on the first line.

Do start in the middle of the action. Skip your character’s daily routine. We don’t want to see them waking up, hitting the snooze, or brushing their teeth. Get to the good stuff fast—even better, start right in the middle of it.

Don’t mislead the reader by using a sentence that deceives them into thinking the scene will be more exciting than it actually is. You can’t have a fantastic hook sentence, then a subpar chapter. Set up what to expect. (Though your whole chapter should be fantastic *wink*)

Don’t start with any kind of info dump. I don’t care how interesting your character’s backstory is, or how beautiful the trees are. They don’t belong in any opening.

What others would you add? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Writing Tips

Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Writing

There are a handful of words that somehow sneak past my radar and into my writing even though I know, I know, they shouldn’t be there. They always end up scattered through the pages, anyway–and it’s usually quite a few of them.

Today I thought I’d share a list of the words I have to keep an eye out for when I’m editing. 99 times out of 100, they can be deleted.

  • slightly
  • had
  • just
  • ‘like’ when it should be ‘as if’ or ‘as though’
  • ADVERBS
  • saw
  • heard
  • felt/feel
  • dialogue tags other than said
  • very
  • really
  • almost
  • nearly
  • suddenly
  • only
  • that
  • merely
  • then
  • INFINITIVES
  • a lot
  • as

What words do you give the chopping block when you edit?

Posted in Writing Tips

Determing the best POV and tense for your novel Part Two: Working Backwards

You have the most original plot in the world, thorough backstory planned out, a fresh voice, tons of writing motivation, and hey, let’s just face it, you’re one heck of a writer. So now you promptly sit down before your dutiful computer to begin your masterpiece. But wait. How on earth are you going to write this novel?

Who’s going to tell this story?

A kick butt heroine? Dreamy hero? Underdog? Fearful girl with lots of growth over the course of your story? How do you decide the best protagonist for your story when there are infinite possibilities for characters?

If you’re not one of those people who start building their story ideas off a character, this can be tough. It can be the turning point. You’ve plotted and planned and prepared this novel, but you hit this stage—the decision of all decisions—and decide maybe you’re not cut out for this writing thing after all.

You are.

You can do this.

So how do you determine the best POV (for those of you who don’t know, POV is point of view) for your story?

First, take a look at your story (if you’ve already got a good idea for the plot and where’s it’s going—or if you’ve gone far enough to do some outlining.) Think about what you’re trying to say with this story. What’s the theme? What message are you trying to get across? What kind of arc do you want for your main character, because you know as readers, we want to see some growth.

Once you see where your character needs to finish, work your way backwards to see where they need to start.

Is this a tale of finding courage and confidence in yourself? Then you should probably start off with someone with a healthy dose of fear in them and insecurities. Perhaps you’re serving up some humble pie. So give us an arrogant son of a gun with drop-dead good looks but just a dead personality.

Ever heard the saying that life can only be understood backwards, but you have to live it forwards? Well, luckily, that doesn’t apply with your characters. You get to see how their story ends (or if you’re going for a depressing book, how their life ends). Once you know how they’ll cross the finish line, plot backwards to get yourself to the starting point. What events are going to shift your character’s personality traits? What is going to have such an impact on them that they grow as a person? And what components of them need to grow? What are their flaws?

Let’s be honest. Readers love some seriously screwed up characters. They’re the most fun to read about, and make us feel a little less screwed up ourselves. So give us a beautifully flawed character who can navigate your story in a fresh way.

This will be a different process for every story. So let your ideas sit in your head for awhile so they’re fully cooked, then work your way backwards to figure out what kind of lead your story calls for. I guarantee the character will come to life on the page for you if you know your story well enough.

The most important thing to remember when picking a POV character is their involvement in the story. This character’s life needs to change because of the inciting incident in your plot. Their path is thrown off course, and therefore they have to navigate through your story. Make sure the character you choose is affected the most by your conflict.

How do you like to create your characters and decide on the right POV for your story? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Posted in Writing Tips

Your Fancy Names Are Not Welcome Here

name-300x225One of the first things that turn me off from a book are names. I hate when I have to stop, pause, and try and sound out a name in my head. And it doesn’t get easier. I spend the entire novel pausing every time that name comes up, trying to figure out how the heck to pronounce it.

God forbid it be your main character and you’re writing in third person. That would be enough for me to set the book down all together.

Word to the wise: Don’t give your characters outrageous names no one can pronounce. You might think it makes that character edgy or unique or whatever, but please give them a nose piercing or green hair if you must make them original. Just give me a name I don’t have to spend twenty seconds stumbling over twice every paragraph.

Do difficult names bother you in novels?

Posted in Writing Tips

Determining the best POV and tense for your novel Part One

When you first sit down to start writing, do you ever pause and wonder, do I want to write in first person, or third? Past tense or present? One POV or multiple? To me, it’s a big commitment for whatever you start off with, because then you have to commit to it for the entire novel. (You can always go back and change it, but let’s face it, that’s a pain in the butt.)

Most of the time, my gut instinct is good. I just sit down and start writing the story in mind and it comes out as a certain tense and POV. And it’s not always the same. I have some manuscripts in third person past tense, some in first person present, some in first past, some in third present. I don’t know why, but some stories just demand certain accommodations right off the bat. Sometimes, however, my initial choice doesn’t work well and I have to rewrite the entire manuscript *sigh*.

 But if that’s not working, and it just isn’t coming to you, let’s explore the different benefits of each, and when you should choose them.

First, identify your genre. Are you writing contemporary? Fantasy? Sci-Fi? Urban Fantasy? Western? Romance? Whatever it may be is fine, just make sure you’re clear on what it is—that’ll be important not only to pinpoint the best POV and tense, but to also to keep your novel focused as you write.

 

First Person:

Generally, if you’re writing a character driven story—like contemporary or romance—your best bet will be first person. Your novel thrives on your character’s relationships and emotions, and your reader will feel closer to your character, feel more empathetic toward them, and give the story more emotional impact.

However, when done right, first person can be a great tool for action-packed stories so your readers are right along with your characters as they fight for their lives. Just keep in mind, first person is limiting. And when writing big battles or dramatic scenes, you’ll have to stay focused on the character’s immediate surroundings and their thoughts and feelings, because you’re in their head. This makes it difficult to write about the rest of the battle and characters.

 

Third Person

Third person can be used for any genre. Things to keep in mind are that third person will give the reader more distance from your character. Unlike first person, the reader isn’t automatically in their head, picturing themselves as the main character. This can be a positive and negative element—as you give yourself a broader audience since some guys don’t like picturing themselves as a female protagonist and vice-versa. But you also make it more difficult for some readers to connect with your character.

Third person is also easier if you plan to have more than one POV. It’s easier for the reader to keep straight whose perspective they’re reading from since they’re seeing the character’s name instead of “I”.

 

Past or Present Tense

Tense is a little less tricky. This one’s all about preference. Do you want your novel to be happening in the moment, and make it feel immediate to the reader? (generally good for action-packed, edge of your seat stories). Then your best bet is present tense.

If not, past is commonly used, and a good companion to third person writing.

You can always write a few pages both ways, compare, and decide which you prefer.

 

Deciding between first and third person is a personal preference. Which do you think will best fit your story? How close do you want your reader to your main character? And if you can’t decide, write the first two pages both ways, and compare. See which one you like better. Look at your favorite novels. Are they in first, third, present, or past? Is there a theme? Do you generally enjoy third person novels more or first person?

In Part 2 we’ll explore POV—how to decide which character’s perspective to write from, how many POVs you need, and how it relates to the tense you chose and your story.

 

What do you think about POV and tense? Do you prefer writing in third person or first? Do you prefer reading in third person or first?

Share your thoughts!

Posted in Writing Tips

What Writing Bad Manuscripts Has Taught Me

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I’ve learned many things over the years as I’ve completed, revised, and trashed multiple manuscripts. Today I have three general lessons to share with you about deleting your work, word count, and dialogue.

1. Deleting gets easier.

My current WIP started off at 92,000 words. I went through about six drafts, cutting and trimming each go, and it currently sits at 85,000 words. Because of my inevidable anxiety issues when it comes to deleting those hard earned words, I copy and paste into a new file  (giving me one unblemished version in case I change my mind later, so I never delete anything for good.) and hack away. At first I was trimming 500-1000 words per draft, (after I finished with major revisions) but by the sixth draft, I wasn’t as attached to my work. Instead of debating over every little sentence I thought was brilliant when I wrote it, I could almost immediately recognize when something needed to be cut.

It gets easier.

And you have to delete.

I threw out a lot of passages that I thought were beautiful and showed off my skills as a writer. And that’s why I had to cut them. My novel isn’t about bragging about how well I can write. It’s about the story. Those frivolous passages were not furthering my story; therefore, they got the axe.

2. Word Count: Who Cares?

Don’t look at your word count or page count when you’re writing. It doesn’t matter. You can deal with the technicalities when you’re finished, but for now, don’t write for the sake of words or pages. Write what you need to tell the story. Worry about length later.

3. Dialogue: Go with your gut.

By the time I sit down to write, I know my character so well that I’m one of those crazy people who hears voices in her head. I can hear my characters clearly, and I know exactly how they talk and what they’d say in certain situations. I never have to force my dialogue. I don’t force them to have dialects or use slang that they wouldn’t use to give them a unique voice. I let their conversation flow, and let the characters say what they want to say with no forcing on my part.

If you’re having trouble writing realistic dialogue, spend your time on character work—really getting to know your characters—and then try again. Don’t try to force natural conversation. Voice is not something you can force.

What have you learned about writing through trial and error? Share your thoughts!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Woes of No Air Conditioning

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I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been pretty hot around where I live. It was around 104 degrees just the other day. And unfortunately for me, my home does not have air conditioning.

And I don’t do well in heat.

So. I’ve had to come up with some creative solutions to beat the heat.

Otherwise I’d go insane. Though I’m not entirely certain I’m not already there.

Anyway, here are three methods I’ve found to help beat the heat, no air conditioning required. (Or, you know, you could just leave and go someplace that has air conditioning).

1) Scoop a generous amount of ice cubes into a zip lock bag (using two bags to prevent leaks). Strap to back beneath shirt using duct tape.

2) Find a room with a ceiling fan. Proceed to acquire three freestanding fans and position them in a triangle below the ceiling fan. Turn all four fans on high, lie face up on the floor (preferably hard wood floor), and enjoy the wind tunnel.

3) Stick head in the freezer.

How do you like to beat the heat of summer?

Posted in Writing Tips

Are YOU understanding the EMPHASIS in my writing?!

When I read something, whether it be a book, a novella, a blog post, or just a Facebook status, I cringe at the overuse of emphasis. Yes, I see what you’re trying to say. Yes, I understand that this moment or spurt of dialogue is immeasurably important, but that does not mean you must bombard me with ALL CAPS, italics, bold, and—god forbid—more than one exclamation mark!!

Please don’t do this. Especially not in your writing.

Ever heard that you get to use one exclamation mark every 100,000 words? When I first heard that, I kind of laughed, but now, I couldn’t agree more. By italicizing and bolding and EXCLAIMING PASSIONATELY everything you say, you’re actually achieving the opposite effect. You’re not conveying the importance of your phrase or word or whatever—you’re jarring me out of your story and, quite frankly, annoying me.

I mean, isn’t this ANNOYING to read?!?!

This is more of a rant than anything, but the point is: Don’t OVERUSE emphasis in your writing!!!!

There is a time and place for everything, so if you must use italics or exclamation marks, use them sparingly. (There really is no excuse for all caps or bold.)

What are your thoughts on emphasis in writing?

Posted in Food for thought Friday

Food For Thought Friday!

Today I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite quotes.

Here’s one writing related:

Yes, everything has been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible.

–Alexander Chee

And another just life related:

When the tides of life turn against you, and the current upsets your boat, don’t waste time and tears on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.

–Anonymous

Hope everyone has a great Friday night!