Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Sooo close!

I almost didn't make it. It's 23:53PM in the UK. That's seven more minutes before Tuesday is officially over, and along with it Teaser Tuesday! Not on my watch.

First, I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who commented on my last teaser. Your kind and encouraging words will not be forgotten, I assure you. Also, a big thank you to whoever began the AW forum in its entirety. It's the best thing ever. Getting to hang out at a place where so many others share my passion for books is such a relief.

OK, down to business. Today's teaser is a continuation of the scene I put up last week (snip snip!). So you get to spend some more time with my very infuriating character, David. Apologies. However, I can promise that today's teaser ends on a rather stimulating note.


Snippet starts:

*Snip snip!*

Snippet ends.

Hope you enjoyed it. I'm going back to AW to read some more teasers. You lot should do the same after you're done here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Teaser Tuesday

The day has finally come. The day I've been waiting for. Whew!

Okay, this is my first proper Teaser Tuesday, but unfortunately I don't have something that will blow your mind, literally, in terms of plot or action. I wanted to post snippets that contained intrigue or action or suspense or something really interesting, but then I concluded that that's not really the point of Teaser Tuesdays. Sure, the point is to tease, but I want you guys to get to know my story and my characters first and foremost. That way, when I do post the juicy bits, trust me, they will be very juicy. Cross my heart XD

Last week (I think it was last week) I talked briefly about my book, and I even wrote (in thirty minutes) a kind of synopsis, if you will. You can read that post here to get some background info on what my novel, The End is Where I Begin, is all about and how I intend to structure it.

If you don't want to go back and read all that background stuff, it's cool. I'll just reiterate a little.

The End is Where I Begin is about a group of teenagers (sixteen-year-olds) at their college first year in modern-day England who, after a seemingly harmless act by one of them, are thrown into the midst of a tactical and bloody warfare between two extremely powerful organisations.

I can tease you guys a bit by revealing that one of these organisations is actually the Knights Templar, but not the Knights Templar you think you know.

The book will hold three or four volumes, and each volume will contain four to six episodes. Episodes are chapters, by the way, in case you're wondering.

The piece I've posted below is from Episode 1: The Boy King. Now, if you're very clever, you might be able to figure out some of what this episode entails just by its title. For the next couple of Teaser Tuesdays I'll focus on Episode I.

Episode 1 takes place in the future of the book's story, at a time when the consequences of Giaan's action have reared their ugly heads and had their desired effect on pretty much every protagonist. It's not part of volume one (volume one actually starts with Giaan's story in Episode 2, and the plot goes on from there). Its main purpose is to play the role of the trick chapter, or in this case, the trick episode. What's a trick episode, you might wonder? Well, the book is called "The End is Where I Begin", right? Now, what does that even mean – the end is where I begin? Wait. Does it have anything to do with the fact the book begins with an episode whose events occur in the future, which in a way, is the end of the book? Lol no :) But nice try.

Actually, Episode 1 is my way of saying to my readers, 'Look, before you go in, there's something you need to know about my book's title. Listen carefully, cos when you're well into the plot and you've figured things out, you're going to open your mouth and say, "Oooooh, so that's what the title means".'

The title, "The End is Where I Begin," is more than just a phrase, my Teaser Tuesday friends. It's actually a plot device.

Lol I'll say no more.

Today's snippet showcases a rather unusual man, David Reilly, who isn't fond of his wife, Elle. David feels that his holiday plans have been totally screwed up by Elle and he's not happy about it. David is sort of my Easter egg character. He appears occasionally throughout the book, especially when something terrible is about to happen. Poor guy.

Snippet starts:

*snippidy snip!*

Snippet ends.

Before I end this post, I'll just like that add that Elle is in no way as unattractive as she is portrayed from David's perspective. It's a little thing I like to call, beauty in the eyes of the beholder. David obviously doesn't love Elle, and everything about her is just weird and ugly – her arms, her teeth, her lips – everything. Compare that to this snippet from episode 2 where Giaan and Julian run into the couple, who happen to be members of Julian's church:

*snippidy snip!*

Giaan sees Elle as pleasant and pretty. Trust me, if a guy like Giaan sees you as pretty, then you are pretty.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my Teaser Tuesday. Until next time, folks!

PS: I don't know how college works in America, but in England, when you're sixteen, you can choose to go to college for your GCSE's and A-Level's, and then enrol into a university at eighteen. I just thought I should mention that in case the American readers amongst you guys thought, 'Hang on, how can the characters be sixteen and in college?'

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

So there's this new thing called Teaser Tuesday going on at Absolute Writers, the oh-so-awesome site where writers such as myself gather to cause great mischief. Basically, authors (published and unpublished) post snippets of their WIP (Work In Progress) every Tuesday for all to read. I just found out about it and I'm pretty excited, because I want to join in the fun. Unfortunately, it's Thursday, so I'll have to wait until next Tuesday before putting something up. This is going to be the first time I've ever posted anything from my WIP on my blog for public consumption, so I'm quite nervous lol.

As for now, I'll just stick to talking a little bit about my WIP. I haven't sat down to properly write a synopsis or a query, as I'm still a long way from finishing the book, but I think I can manage to pull something out of the proverbial hat.

Book Title: The End is where I begin.

What it's about:

Giaan Taran leads a double life.

In one life, he's a popular, brilliant sixteen-year-old who lost his parents and older brother to a ghastly car crash; he lives with his perverse, socially awkward uncle; he dates one of the most beautiful and wealthiest girls at school; and he commands both devotion and respect from not just his friends but most of his classmates.

In his other life, he's a frightened, depressed sixteen-year-old whose brother and mother were murdered by his father, the most wanted and dangerous man on earth; he lives in constant fear of one day getting killed by his menacing uncle; and what he wants more than anything in the world (besides his girlfriend) is to leave his uncle, his father, his dark family history, and disappear forever – start a new life free of fear and violence. In a week's time, he'll be able to do just that.

But before Giaan can fulfil his dream, calamity in the shape of his father befalls him.

Through his uncle, Giaan is ordered by his father to carry out a mission. A mission so vile it could well mean the death of many innocent people. Giaan is terrified. He can't turn to his friends or his girlfriend for help, because this is the part of his life he has kept hidden from them. This is the part of his life he has determined they would never glimpse. So he turns to the only other person he can trust: Julian Foster, a pastor and a father figure.

However, Giaan's decision to confide in Julian instigates a chain of terrible events that has the entire of Britain gripped with terror and pits Giaan and his friends in the midst of a battle between two powerful organisations that has raged on for years.

That took thirty minutes to write, so please forgive me if it sucks :S.

The book is meant to encompass three or four volumes, with each volume made up of, at least, five or six episodes. Yeah, episodes. Not chapters. I opted for episodes because Giaan isn't the only character I focus on in detail. Each episode tells a story, starting with Giaan's, and as the reader delves deeper into the book, they unravel the mysteries of the plot. Also, all characters are linked to one another in some way – that is to say, characters either know each other intimately or they've met briefly or they've never met but know the same people.

For example: episode three, entitled 'Requiem for a Dream', spotlights Madeline 'Maddy' Atwood. Maddy is best friends with Aletea, who happens to be Giaan's girlfriend. Though Maddy and Giaan are classmates and friends, you won't find Maddy running to Giaan for advices or help with anything serious, because they're not that close, which is perfectly normal. I share that type of relationship with some people, as do you.

Sure, there are books that centre on more than one character and are written in chapters and not episodes, but I thought in my case, using chapters would clutter things a little bit. Plus, I thought writing 'Episode I' was way cooler than 'Chapter I' XD lol.

Some episodes will centre on multiple characters and their respective stories.

The one thing I must avoid is writing an entire episode that features a boring character. Alas, while all my characters are interesting in one way or another, not all of them warrant an episode. I like to think that I've picked the best characters to focus on:

In episode three, the reader finds out that sixteen-year-old Maddy has a big secret, like Giaan. She kills people for a living, and she does so without emotion and with amazing and terrifying dexterity. The idea is to get my readers wondering, is Maddy a monster, an eternally broken child or is she doing the right thing, macabre as it may be? None of Maddy's friends know of her extracurricular activities, and she strives to keep it that way.

Amina Moore gets her own episode as well. She's no friend of Giaan or Maddy, but she does attend the same school, and she's quite the popular girl. In her episode, things aren't going too well for her. Her mother is slumped in the passenger seat, bleeding profusely from the neck, while Amina drives as fast as she can to save both their lives from a crazed murderer who seeks a scientific document he believes Amina's mother possesses.

It may not look like it, but the events that occur in every episode (both the ones I've mentioned above and the ones I haven't) are linked by a common thread – powerful people, clandestine organisations, ancient artefacts. And a seemingly inexorable chaos that threatens the lives of everyone – Giaan, Maddy, Aletea, Audrey, Amina, Jon, and the rest – begins the instant Giaan discloses the true nature of his mission to Julian.

I'm going to stop here now, because I don't want to reveal too much. Next Tuesday I'll post a snippet for your pleasure.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Pain Merchants/The Shifter Review

The Pain Merchants You thought I forgot about you, didntcha? Ah – tut tut, but I never forget.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you, The Pain Merchants by Janice Hardy. I got an ARC of Janice's debut from Janice herself after I came second or third (can't remember) in a competition she hosted. It arrived a week later, and I devoured it in four days. Then I bought myself a retail copy from Borders when it was published.

Right ... Let's take a minute to delve into Merchants, shall we?

Fifteen-year-old Nya dwells in Geveg, a onetime beautiful city devastated by war, its people battered into pathetic semblances of what they once were – affluent, vibrant, and happy. Enemy soldiers forever patrol the streets of Geveg, inculcating order, constraining the locals to a life of servitude while foreigners take their wealth, food, homes, lands and pretty much everything that is rightfully theirs. Sometime during the war, Nya lost her family save her younger sister, Tali. This heartbreaking ordeal compels our heroine to slaving away at odd, sometimes dangerous jobs (one of them has her at risk of losing her limbs to crocs) and having to rely on petty thievery for food when these jobs are in short supply.

In Geveg, you either fall into one of three general classes of people:

[1] A Baseeri, which suggests you're rich, you've got food, a roof over your head, and little to worry about – after all, your army invaded Geveg.

[2] A Healer, which means, even though you're of Geveg heritage, you get to spend your apprenticeship days at the League, good food provided three times a day, and a nice bed to sleep on.

[3] An ordinary Geveg, which means, well, you're screwed – you'll probably work at the docks and lose a large chunk of your butt to a fat crocodile. Tough, mate.

Fortunately, Tali is a Healer. This makes Nya's day-to-day survival antics a little less demanding and crazy, as she only has to look out for one stomach – hers. And sometimes Tali aids Nya by sneaking food from the League to her when she comes visiting (Healers are rarely allowed beyond the League grounds). Still, the stomach is renowned for being a demanding and greedy baggage, especially when it belongs to someone living in a city that has little money to offer. Little money = Little to no food. Your math teacher must have mentioned that in class at some point.

Nya's voice is cleverly fashioned and engaging, and you immediately get a sense that she's the type of person who looks at bad situations through a window of mild humour and opportunity, a somewhat rare attribute encompassed by most YA characters today. Usually, characters in Nya's position – orphaned at a young age, had to look after and provide for her baby sister, is almost always hungry every day – are portrayed as rigid (I don't care about the world. I care about me and me alone), or regretful (I hate my mum. How could she die and leave me all alone?), or vengeful (I'm going to slaughter my enemies my awesome powers! Raaaaaaaaaaar!), or whinny (What am I gonna do? I hate this food. It tastes like wee-wee. I want Kelloggs Cornflakes. I don't want wee-wee!).

That is not to say that most YA characters aren't properly rendered (they are), and I'm not suggesting that Nya laughs at every single bad thing that happens to her. She's just a girl with a big heart who tries to make the best out of anything, good or bad. And as for being funny, it's not like she does it on purpose. Ever had a friend who did or uttered something amusing without meaning to? Yeah, that's Nya.

Take for example: the book opens with a rather hilarious scene that depicts Nya showcasing her not-so-impressive pilfering talent. She tries to steal some eggs, and less than six brief paragraphs into the story she gets caught. Now, whenever Nya finds herself in a sticky situation she recalls an adage her grandmother told her, one that fits her current dilemma and can offer a possible solution. Sort of like when you were a kid and a stranger walked up to you and you thought, Mummy said never to talk to strangers, and you were suddenly on your guard. In aforementioned scene, Nya recollects: 'As Grannyma used to say, if you're caught with the cake, you might as well offer them a piece,' and proposes to her captor, 'Join me for breakfast when your shift ends?' She wasn't trying to be funny; she honestly did want to offer some of her spoils, because she reckoned, hey, if I give him some, maybe he'll let me go.

The young, dashing guard rejects her kind proposition, though not without a smile, and is forced to apprehend Nya. Of course, Nya has no intention of doing time in jail. She bolts. He chases. Then things get very interesting when the guard falls and injures himself, and Nya, out of compassion, shifts his injury from him and pushes it into Heclar, the horrid owner of the eggs Nya tried to steal. And here lies, perhaps The Pain Merchants strongest appeal.

Nya is a Shifter (or Taker). Now, Shifters are a lot like Healers, the main difference being that Healers can only shift pain from person to pynvium (enchanted metal with the capability to store pain), while Shifters can only shift pain from person to person. Healing as a power in YA fiction is nothing new. Healing as presented as such is something that hasn't been done in a while. Everyone's too busy writing Twilight lookalikes they forgot to think for two seconds and give creativity a chance. If I could, I'd give Janice Hardy a gold statue.

You might be wondering: if Nya can shift pain, why isn't she at the League with Tali, where she doesn't have to steal and do ridiculously hard labour? Well, you see, Shifters are quite useless when it comes to the healing business, which is actually a massive, thriving business in Geveg and all over the book's world. People come to the League and pay ample sum of money to have their injuries and pains taken from them. Healers put the pain in pynvium, and when a strip of pynvium is exhausted it is sold to the Pain Merchants. The Pain Merchants go on to forge weapons out of the pynvium – like a sword that has pain stored in it. I stab you and you feel not only the pain from your wound, but also the pain stored within the pynvium blade. Yeah, you know what that means – sucks for you, mate.

Moreover, and more importantly, Shifters are very, very rare. They are as rare as dinosaurs. So, imagine you're a dino and you peak out of your hiding place, exposing yourself to the public. Imagine the public scrutiny that would follow – scientists clamouring to carry out a myriad of tests on you; the government seeking to utilise you as a weapon. Yeah, imagine that. Just imagine. Are you imagining? Good.

OK, you can stop imagining now.

Thus, Nya must keep her ability hidden. But The Pain Merchant wouldn't be a cool book if word about Nya's unique skill didn't slip out, right? Her act of compassion exposes her secret, and soon dangerous people are after her. Even worse, her sister mysteriously vanishes and it could be Nya's fault.

When it comes to character development, Janice Hardy is at her best – a true master. I would expect nothing less, considering her blog is peppered with intellectual advises on writing. Nya is that wonderful friend you have that would rather risk her neck to save lives than commit any wrong, except when absolutely necessary (like stealing eggs to eat). But stealing eggs is a petty crime, acceptable even, when you examine Nya's circumstances. The real test of will and character begins when Nya is asked to use her power to commit acts so grievous they make her literally sick. The flip side? Not only will said acts provide her with enough money for months-worth of food, it would also help her find her sister.

There is a lesson to be acquired from this book, and it is everybody has a price. I don't care how good you are. I don't care if you're the bloody pope. Everybody can be bought at some time with something.

There is a budding romance in Merchants, but it doesn't grow as much as I think most female readers would like. Nothing like that Edward-Bella stuff here, guys. In a way, I'm happy. I think it's realistic. Nya has so much to do that it would make no sense for her to constantly droll over the lead male. There's no love-triangle as well. Thank God!

Janice's writing is graceful, flowing from point A to point B and onwards with no problem at all, and she ramps up the action with every passing chapter. Merchants is structured almost to flawlessness: there is a great opening that grips you, a middle that throws you around, and an end that shatters whatever theories you thought might explain certain things. I won't go as far as saying Janice Hardy is JK Rowling. But I will say, like Rowling, Janice puts excellent plot and character development first, and does both of them justice in the end.

Now all that's left is for Janice to complete her trilogy in style, and not to do a Harry: make Nya win simply because she's the heroine, like Harry beat Voldemort because he was the hero and not because he was better or qualified. Yeah, I said it. Voldemort was the better magician. Voldemort would kick Harry Potter's ass any day. But in the end, through some lame-ass technicality Voldemort missed (which was a total cop-out by Rowling), Voldemort commits suicide – he fires a killing curse which ricochets off Harry's Expelliarmus and kills him. I want Nya to defeat the Duke by sheer intellect and strength.

Of course, no book is perfect, not even The Pain Merchants. My reasoning for this is, when I was a kid my dad told me that all human beings are flawed, and as such, our creations inherit our flaws in one form or another. Some people will love Janice's debut, some will not. That's why it isn't perfect. As for me, I'm totally sold. I loved The Pain Merchants – loved it from the very moment I read its first words, and I love it still.

I'm holding my breath for the next instalment.


Characters: 9/10

World Building: 9/10

Prose: 9/10

Plot: 9/10

Final Score: 9/10

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Notebook Review

TheNotebook For many years my girlfriends have been begging me to watch this movie. They said it was awesome. They also said Twilight and New Moon were awesome. I'm starting to lose faith in what women consider "awesome" these days, man.

The Notebook. I discovered the ending to this movie before I got halfway through the movie, and I really didn't like that. They could have done a better job at concealing the identity of Ally in the retirement home; it would have been something for me to discover, at the end, that Duke's story was about the woman he was telling it to, and that Duke was in fact Noah. So much potential, this movie had.

I can see why women love this Рthe romance is clich̩ at best, but it's got that "I'll love you forever, through thick and thin, through heaven and hell" message that women love to read about in their M&B's and Silhouettes. It's the ultimate girl fantasy, this Notebook.

Oh well.

Rating: 4/10

As for the romance, Rating: 20/10. I ... I cried when the movie ended!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Reading Monster, that’s me!

So, of late, I've been really busy catching up on my reading, at the steep cost of temporarily abandoning my WIP, and I've got to say, I'm impressed with myself. Yeah, yeah, I know, I should be focused on finishing my book, but I can't complain. You cannot imagine how much I've learnt from these books – their authors' styles, techniques, manners of presenting twists and turns, etc. The Demon's Lexicon, Catching Fire, Life as we knew it, The Pain Merchants, The Time Traveller's Wife – these are the books I've devoured in the past couple of weeks, and I can't stop myself.

I'm currently reading Aprilynne Pike's Wings, even though I said I wouldn't because of that dreaded love triangle which has invaded every goddamn YA book out today. When I'm finished with Pike's debut, I'm going to read Kristin Cashore's Fire. Then I'm going to turn my sights on Carrie Ryan's Zombie fest, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Oh yeah, I haven't forgotten you, The Dead and the Gone.


Someone, give me a cookie. I'm on a roll, son!

Of course, in between all this, I'll be writing my book. Can't forget that. It's 2010 and I must finish this WIP by March. Must. After all, I've been on it since 2007.