Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Stupidest Angel Review

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas TerrorLooking for a good adult comedy for the holiday season? Look no further than Christopher Moore's, The Stupidest Angel. Subtitled 'A heartwarming tale of Christmas terror,' this Christmas story takes you through the life of a small coastal town during its festive season.

The story centers around a young boy who knows that Christmas is hosed when he witnesses the death of Santa. But riding to the rescue is the town's hippie sheriff and his B-movie actress wife (who was once know as the 'Warrior Babe of the Outland'). The story has strong tendencies towards the Christmas short story, 'The Gift of the Magi,' but with the excessively humorous twists and zombies... well...

The Good
Christopher Moore's word play always amazes me and highlights his truly skilled talents. But more than this, the structure of his stories are dazzling to behold.

The Stupidest Angel has a thrilling climax that harvests a hilarious story that has been littered with key elements throughout. Each of these elements pay of in the climax, but incredibly, there is a plot twist that emphasizes how each element progressed the story.

The Bad
There is quite a bit of language in this book, but Christopher Moore gives the following warning at the start of the book: "If you're buying this book for a grandma or a kid, you should be aware that it contains cusswords as well as tasteful depictions of cannibalism and people in their forties having sex. Don't blame me. I told you."

The language is probably the worst thing about the book since the sex is well placed and not gratuitous. 

The Spin
If you're easily offended by language or nudity, don't pick up this book. But if you can tolerate the little amount there is, you'll love sarcasm and word-play. You'll love it even more on audio since the narrator (Tony Roberts) has a rich voice that conveys the humor and style of the story.

So pick up The Stupidest Angel, it'll lighten your humor during the holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Assessing Your Performance

Winner badge 120x240The dust has finally settled from 30 days and nights of National Novel Writing Month's literary abandon. Some of us made our goal of 50 thousand words, while others took a valiant stand and fell a little short. But wherever your final word count, now is the time to take a serious look at your writing style and the lessons you learned about yourself in the last month.

Assessing Your Style
Here's my take on some of the important questions you should be asking yourself:
  • Where was your most productive place to write?
    Did you find a new place that you like to write this year? It's important that you feel comfortable in your writing space regardless of where it is. But you also have to remember that you're there to WORK. The greatest, dreamed up writing space is useless if it distracts you from your daily word count.
    Each of us have our own temptations and yours will obviously be unique to you. I listened to a published author's interview once where she said she wrote in her laundry room because her family knew work got done in there and went out of their way to avoid it.Another author said she would tell her family that she was going to the grocery store, but then end up at the park, writing in her car for an hour.
    Probably not very comfortable, but productive.
  • What was your best time to write?
    Some writers have to write in the mornings, while others can only do it at night. But what you need to remember is to make time regardless of when it is. If you want to write, MAKE time. And if that time just happens to be when all your synapses are firing, so much the better. Just make your time count and don't forget the authors that get up at 5 A.M. just to get their writing in before they go to work.
    Find a time and make it yours.
  • What was your best creative time?
    My best creative time is between about 2 P.M and 6 P.M. For some reason, during those hours, my brain crackles with fresh ideas. Unfortunately, that's when I'm at my day job, so I'm forced to work around that hiccup.
    I carry a little mule-skin notebook with me and a collapsible pen, because I learned that if I wait until I get home to write the note down, the idea is gone and I usually can't get it back.When a cool idea or word pops into my head, I grab my notebook and write down something, QUICK!
  • What was your greatest distraction?
    For me, it's snack food and checking my word count. Oh, and Facebook... and Goodreads... sometimes Twitter. Geez... and the blog always needs something. Laundry needs to be done and the dishwasher needs to be loaded now that I think about it too. And it's November, I need to hang the Christmas lights before it snows. And that means I need to winterize the yard.
    There's always going to be something. The greatest help I found for avoiding distractions was short word sprints. See, I joined the iWriteNetwork on Facebook and on their website and they have an awesome chat room. You can ask all sorts of writerly questions, but most of all, you can sprint with other writers there and see who can nail down the biggest numbers.

    Doing word sprints, with other authors, kept me motivated and was a lot of fun. I found out I actually got my word count done quicker when we were sprinting.

    Not to mention I had experts on hand when I needed to learn how they classify 6 inch heels... in metric using countries.
  • What was your favorite scene to write?

    For me, it was a particularly gruesome scene where my villain takes over a secret organization. He was arrogant and cruel. Nothing like writing a great bad guy! But what it taught me, was that I had fun writing horror. The chapter was a great rough draft and gave me a creepy start on a tension building chapter.

    Look at what your favorite scenes were to write. Which ones did you have the most fun with? Which scenes seemed to flow out of you with the least amount of effort?

  • If you had to choose something you do well in writing, what would it be?
    I think I'm pretty good with descriptions. Some of the folks in my writing group are great at dialog while others are better with characterization. Either way, you will have some tools in your toolbox that you are better with than others. How can you build on this success?
  • If you had to choose something you need more practice at in writing, what would it be?
    Lately I've been getting into 'Talking Head Syndrome' (THS). For me, THS has taken on the aspect of several pages of dialog with little or no tagging or description. All this will be cleaned up in revision... right?
    When you look back at what you wrote during November are there any chapters that stick out? What could you have done better? What can you do to turn your weakness into a strength?

  • Looking at your daily word count during NaNoWriMo, what is a realistic, yet challenging, word count goal?
    I'm keeping my goal at 1,000 per day / 5,000 per week. As you can see, I'm giving myself a little wiggle room because I learned that I write less when I'm consistantly not making my goals, so I have to give me a good chance to succeed every day. Sure there will be times when I blow my goals far out of the water while some days they'll sink deep, but a goal should be challenging yet attainable.
    An Honest Review
    Having participated in NaNoWriMo now, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at your work. You spent the time to become a better writer, so now you owe it to yourself to take a long look at your results and make some important decisions about improvements. Like any good boss, you need to check up on your employees and YOU are a company of one. Consider the following questions as part of an employee evaluation with yourself.

    That said, do not beat yourself up. Nobody likes having an ignorant jerk for a boss. Be understanding and look for honest ways to improve your work and help yourself succeed.

    • What would you say was the most important lesson you learned about yourself from this years NaNoWriMo? 
    • Name three things you plan to do to overcome your NaNo failings?
    • If you tried a new genre this time, is this genre for you? Why?
    • Did you enjoy this genre enough to write in it again?
    • If I asked your writing group, would they say you work well in this genre?
    • Do you work better in another genre or are wasting your talents in this one?
    • If you could give one piece of writing advice to yourself, what would it be?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cinder Review

Cinder is a gifted mechanic in a dystopian world where humans with useful skills are usually lauded.

But Cinder isn't human.

She's cyborg and her implants rate her as nothing more than a second class citizen, less than that in the eye's of her cruel adopted mother and sister.

Weaving an exciting Young Adult tale of political intrigue with the hope of romance, Marissa Meyer has crafted this traditional fairytale into a compelling read that will keep readers guessing.  

The Good
Marissa Meyer did a great job of taking the traditional story of Cinderella and turning it into something fresh. While she uses several of the traditional story's elements, she uses them in interesting and unexpected ways that help develop the story while avoiding anything that comes off as a glaring neon sign.

That said, I have to admit that I was a little worried about just how much of the Cinderella story was going to be brought into Cinder. I'm happy to say that Ms. Meyer is enough of an artisan that nothing was out of place and the story was well-written enough to stand strongly on its own merits. Those not familiar with the Cinderella tale will find an exciting read, while fans of the character will discover treasured elements scattered throughout the book like Easter eggs.

And one more thing, I actually almost cried reading this one. If I hadn't been at work... Without going into a huge rant over how much I think Cinder's mom needs a good slapping, Marissa Meyer did an awesome job of conveying the frustration of Cinder's status in life. Cinder constantly gets the short end of the stick but keeps fighting for something better.  

The Bad
I thought Cinder was a stand-alone story. If it was... I'd be more than slightly 'cheesed off.' Let's just say, there's plenty more of this story left to tell and I'm eagerly awaiting a sequel. Book two, titled Scarlet, is expected to be released in February of 2013 with two more planned novels (Cress & Winter) coming out in 2014 and 2015. So the only thing about Cinder that I'm having a tough time with, is waiting to get my yearly installment.  

The Spin
If you like YA books like I do, you're gonna LOVE Cinder. There is absolutely nothing stale about this Cinderella reboot and it has the potential to consume readers as much as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games ever did. Cinder gets high marks for an exciting story with a light seasoning of romance.

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