Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gossip Time...Goliath

By the time the last book in a series finally releases I find that I usually have to re-read the entire series so that I can get myself back into the story and truly enjoy the final book. I didn't have to do that though for Scott Westerfeld's Goliath, the final book in the Leviathan trilogy. The main characters in this series never left me.

Westerfeld gets things rolling in the first book, Leviathan, with the murder of the Archduke of Austria and the initiation of World War I. In this alternate history the world is divided into Darwinists and Clankers.

Countries that are Darwinist, such as Britain, embrace evolutionary biology to create their airships, vehicles, and communication methods. Their technology is grounded in the manipulation of biology. Countries that are Clanker, such as Germany and Austria, thrive on technology built on iron, steel, and other metals.

But this is more than a story about war and opposing technological views, but the tale of the recently orphaned, on the run, Prince Alek of Hohenberg and Deryn Sharp. Deryn wants nothing more than to fly. But unfortunately, being a girl is a problem as the British Air Service does not enlist females. When she disguises herself as a boy, Deryn's path crosses with Prince Alek's and together they begin an adventure on the Leviathan, a massive British airship.

I listened to Leviathan (book 1) and Goliath (book 3) on audio book, but I read Behemoth (book 2). The narrator, Alan Cumming, does a phenomenal job giving each character a unique accent--with such a multicultural cast this is quite a feat. It wasn't until I read Behemoth that I discovered all the amazing illustrations by Keith Thompson I had been missing out on! So whether you read or listen to this series, you are in for a treat.

Once you finish the series, check out Scott Westerfeld's blog, where he has posted a pretty awesome bonus chapter that takes place at the end of the trilogy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Empathy for a Character

I think as people and as readers we gravitate towards characters we can identify with. Last night, when I was watching the movie Larry Crowne, I found myself empathizing with Tom Hank's character, Larry Crowne, who is middle aged, divorced, and works in retail.

Am I middle aged? That's debatable. But, I'm not a divorced man and I haven't worked in retail since I was a teenager. But, I have worked in an unforgiving, harsh corporate environment where it didn't matter how hard I worked or how much good I did--there just wasn't any respect for me as a person or my abilities.

So when Larry Crowne is fired for a ridiculous reason at the beginning of the movie from a corporate position he's passionate about, I was hooked.

I loved how this movie showed Larry Crowne prevail over a bad situation and essentially restart his life.

Of course, this movie made me think about writing, and the need for not only characters, but situations a reader can identify with. Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gossip Time...The Scorpio Races

I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing. Her words are poetic with unique young adult voices. I haven't even finished listening to The Scorpio Races yet, but I just had to blog about it. This novel is so unique. I don't think there isn't anything else like it out there. It has been awarded the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award Honor and the audio book (which is one of the best audio books I have ever listened to)  earned an Odyssey Honor from Scholastic Audio.

Every November the seas surrounding the island of Thisbe fill with blood thirsty water horses. The locals catch the horses and ride them in the Scorpio Races. Sean Kendrick has always had a special connection to the capaill uisce (water horses) and wants nothing more than for Corr, the water horse he has ridden for years, to become his own. Puck, in a last ditch effort to keep her brother from leaving the island, signs up for the races, becoming the first girl ever to ride.

Prior to this book I had never heard of the Celtic legend of the capaill uisce. The legend alone hooked me as I read. Maggie not only creates a cast of characters that you find yourself rooting for, but the island of Thisbe is a character itself with it's craggy cliffs, violent seas, and gray rainy weather.

There are good books and there are great books. The Scorpio Races is more than great, it's spectacular, and I can see it becoming a true classic.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meeting My Critique Partner

When I received an e-mail on April 22, 2010 asking, would you like to trade first chapters?, little did I know that the one chapter would turn into hundreds, and that in less than two years I would become very good friends with the sender.

After having an amazing time at the SCBWI conference in New York, I trekked farther north that I've ever been to meet my critique partner, Diane Magras, and her husband who is also a writer, Michael Magras, and their sweet five year old. I almost didn't make it because I fell asleep at the gate at JFK, waking up by sheer luck when they made the last call for passengers.

The northern land where the Magras family lives was blanketed in snow and absolutely picturesque. This place looked like winter. Dark black, leafless trees, bodies of water covered with ice, snow boots, and frosted windshields. Not at all like Alabama where one day it can be seventy degrees and the next day thirty five. Winter had a permanent beautiful hold in these northern parts.

Before I left to meet the Magras clan, I told my aunts that I was heading north to meet my critique partner. They exchanged worried looks.

"You're going to someone's home that you met on the internet? Are you sure that's safe?"

I explained the best that I could that Diane wasn't some internet stalker, but that I truly knew her, and considered her my friend. When you share your writing with someone, you get to know that person on a level that you don't get to know the average person on.

I didn't just feel at home with the Magras family because they are honest, sincere, lovable people, or because Diane is an awesome cook and always kept my tummy full just like my Mom does when I'm at home, but because I suppose (I can't quite find the word for it) it felt right being around people that enjoyed writing and books like I do. We talked about our current projects, future projects, assembled legos, read a book about dinosaurs (let me tell you there are way more species than the basic T-rex, triceratops, stegosaurus, and brontosaurus that I knew as a child) and drank plenty of British tea.

It was a short but memorable visit and I left wishing we didn't live so far apart. But, five year old is eager to meet my cats, so I know I will be seeing the Magras clan later this weekend via skype.

Here's a picture of Diane and me, all bundled up for winter, saying good-bye at the bus station.

When I started blogging three years ago, I had no clue how awesome the writing community truly is, and how much it would change my life.