Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Making Picture Books Isn't For the Faint Hearted

 Photo credit to Yumi Kimura

So I just read this really cool article, and I really wanted to share it with you. (Sorry, you may have to click Continue To the Document or some such nonsense, but it's totally worth it.)

This article goes step by step through the process of making the picture book Zoom Upstream.  This book is about a cat who goes on an adventure down into the basement and ends up in Egypt. (Hence today's smilin' kitty picture.)

Now, I think this particular article downplays the amount of editing that can go into a picture book. I myself have tried my hand at picture book writing, and I've realized that every word counts and the rhythm of the words is really important, so I did a ton of editing on my picture book. But it's quite probable that author Tim Wynne-Jones is just that much better than me.

But what I found to be fascinating was the crazy amount of effort the illustrator put into his work. (That'd be Eric Beddows, aka Ken Nutt - he's got two names, what a nut! Okay, sorry about the terrible pun.)

Eric Beddows did awesome (and crazy) stuff like build scale models for his illustrations and then take pictures of the models and sketch in drawings over top of his photos. He also used graph paper so that he could consistently get the proportions (and respective proportions) of his various characters correct all the time.

Eric also visited Egypt so he could be inspired for his illustrations, but I'd consider that to be more of a perk/excuse to go visit Egypt than anything else.

Anyway, I thought it was neat. Hope you do too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Point of View in YA Books

Why hello there.

The Revelation

My poor book. I've subjected the very beginning of this book to so many changes. And I haven't even finished writing the first draft yet.

And then last week I was re-reading the Hunger Games, and I was like, "I should just go for it."

"Go for what?" you might ask.

So glad you asked. Go for first person point of view (POV).

My Internal POV Debates

I've shied away from 1st person POV with all my other manuscripts. It's partially because almost all the classics are written in 3rd person. Historically, 3rd person has just been a much more accepted POV. I would like my books to stand the test of time (you know, if any of them ever get published). So I automatically gravitated toward 3rd person.

But that semi-snobbiness wasn't the only reason I was sticking to 3rd person. It wasn't even the main reason. The real problem was that I wasn't sure I could pull 1st person off. You have to get the tone right or you've just made the whole book unreadable (or at least annoying to read).

Now, of course, "right" is very relative, but if you are writing a YA book about a 16 year old, you really cannot have that 16 year old sounding like an 85 year old Grandma. Or like a wooden robot. You know, unless that 16 year old is actually a reincarnated 85 year old robot. And good luck getting that tone right.

But I love the accessibility of Katniss in The Hunger Games, and part of the reason she's so accessible is that you know exactly what she's thinking and why she's thinking it.

So I decided I was going to go for it. That means I'm working on changing the portion of the book I had already written from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV. Talk about a pain in the butt. (Actually, I'm kind of loving it. It is a pain, but I can see so much more of Moura's character. I like her better now, and I think readers will too.)

The YA Point of View

That was when I realized that 1st person is actually pretty ideal for YA books. I mean, don't get me wrong, some authors do absolutely awesome with other POVs. But by the very nature of a YA book (a.k.a. focused on the teenage years), there will be angst and confusion and learning about oneself. Honestly, I think most books have that to a certain extent, but it's pretty essential in a YA novel. The reader has to travel through all that emotional turmoil and still like the main character. To get through all that angst with your MC, I think it's helpful to understand what that main character is thinking and why they're reacting the way they are. And for that, first person POV is awesome!

It also lets you make funny, snarky asides!

So, wish me luck. I've got a lot of revising to do. But I think I'm going to really like the results.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Science: Don't Be Afraid, Be Inspired!

That's me, looking soooooo cool!


Why I Write Science Fiction

So, I'd just like to take a little time to point out the fact that science is super-awesome-cool. And totally under-appreciated. (Not by everyone, just by most people. It's so easy to take for granted.)

I neglect proper science appreciation on a regular basis. I mean, I am sitting here, connected (potentially) to millions of people, writing on a rather small machine that is more powerful than the computers that would have taken up my entire house like 60 years ago. This thing in front of me is AMAZING!

 This ginormous computer is a remake of the WWII code breaker known as Colossus Mark 2.
(Source: Loz Pycock)

Then, there's the fact that if I want to know about something (completely random), I can just plug it into my search bar and, BAM! 
There it is.

You want to know how a real, live fire-breathing dragon would (hypothetically) work? Google. Search.
Dragon Science.

Cool, right?

I don't get those people who complain about the lack of hovercars. I mean, sure, they'd be totally awesome cool (new word of the day!). BUT back when those hovercars were conceived of, we sure as shit didn't have mini little geniuses who lived in our pockets and could tell us pretty much anything we wanted to know (I'm talking about your phone, people, not some genius-bred mice.)

And while I myself am (obviously) quite obsessed with the whole computer/phone/ipod phenomenon, science does all sorts of other awesome cool stuff.

Mammograms. Birth control. (Talk about a serious advance for women who wish to have careers/education/a specific number of children.) Moon walk. DNA Mapping. And I am sure that there are tons of fields I am criminally neglecting here.

This is some pretty awesome cool stuff. Can you believe some kids actually hate science class?
Okay. Yep. I can totally believe it too. I had a really boring teacher who once made me think I actually hated physics.

But that's my point. Cool people like me (uh huh) need to help everyone understand that science is awesome cool (obviously much cooler than me). And that is why I (sometimes) write science fiction.

I write a few other genres too b/c I'm a fickle person (who loves too many things), but today I just wanted to share a little of my appreciation for science with you.

BTW, not exactly sure how creative commons clipart credit works. Maybe I can just use it? But, hey, let's give credit where credit is due. Credit to studio_hades.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dragon Bait: A Work In Progress

This girl is a close approximation for Moura before the events in my book. Post-book Moura would not look quite so happy or care-free.
(Photo credit to Flam)


Working Title:

Dragon Bait.
Although I have changed the role of dragons in this book since I wrote this working title, so this may need to change eventually. But for now, my brain is quite convinced that this book is called "Dragon Bait."


YA Fantasy/Alternate History

Main Character:

Sixteen-year-old Moura Pearce


An alternate version of 1950's United States.

In day-to-day life, this world bears a close resemblance to our 1950's. However, there is an elite dragonmaster race who rules the world. (They have "pet" dragons, of course). The dragonmasters don't deign to dirty their hands with day-to-day rule. They have their underlings for that.

The genetically altered humans called Lamia are strategically placed throughout human government and corporations. No one knows exactly what powers the Lamia or the dragonmasters have, but everyone has seen them use their mind-control on humans.

Lamia Senator Darius McCarthy is leading the hunt against the Communist Reds, and Moura's father just made his list.

Plot Summary:

Moura Pierce's life has just collapsed out from under her. The day Senator Darius McCarthy names her father as a communist conspirator, her life goes up in flames. The destruction that engulfs her social life might be metaphorical, but the flames that destroyed her house were all too real.

Amid the burned out rubble of her home, Moura makes a decision. McCarthy has ruined her life, and she is going to make him feel some of that pain. Ideally, she'd open the world's eyes to McCarthy's lies, but if all she can do is make him suffer, that would be enough. Even that's asking a lot. Moura is just a teenager, and McCarthy has the backing of the Dragonlord himself.

Writing Progress:

Right at the moment I'm about 3/4 of the way through my first draft (this is a complete approximation). And then, of course, I have to edit. And then send to any CP I happen to con into reading my book. And then . . . submissions!

On the plus side, the paragraphs I wrote above are a pretty good jumping off point for a query letter.