June 18, 2016

The trouble with time travel


I recently re-watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Near the end of the movie, Hermione reveals that she has a time turner, which she and Harry use to go back in time and fix past situations. That made me wonder why we don't see the time turner again in the series. In the next book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they could've used it on numerous occasions and saved a lot of grief, especially when it came to Harry, Cedric, or Moody. (I'm intentionally keeping it vague in case anyone hasn't read the book yet.) The time turner would've definitely come in handy during the Hogwarts battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Therein lies one of the main problems with introducing time travel in a story. If time travel is possible, why isn't it used more often? And why do the characters decide to pick the moment in time that they do pick to travel back to?

The Terminator series is another example where this comes into play. The first Terminator movie actually did a good job addressing the problem, in my opinion. Kyle Reese explains that the time travel machine was destroyed right after he and the terminator traveled to the past, and that's a credible reason why the plot device is used only once. Likewise, sending the terminator back to kill Sarah Conner before her son is born sounds like a logical plan. The trouble comes with the sequels. Now we know that another time travel machine can be built. Why not send armies of terminators? And why choose the two periods in John Connor's life that Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 chose?

The other big problem with time travel is the paradox that it can create. If the terminator in the first film was successful in its mission, then there would've never been a John Connor. In that case, there wouldn't have been a reason to send the terminator back in the first place, so who would've killed Sarah Connor? It's the famous grandfather paradox where you go back in time and kill your grandfather before your parent was born, which ensures that you'll never be born, so how could you go back in time to kill your grandfather?

Whenever I watch a movie or read a book with time travel involved, I can poke holes in the plot. That's why I stay away from time travel in my stories. Well, except for this short story, which you can read on Wattpad. :-)

June 4, 2016

There are no new ideas: Star Wars/Harry Potter edition

Star Wars (at least episodes 4 through 7) and Harry Potter are two of my favorite series of all time. "Star Wars: A New Hope" was released in 1977, and twenty years later, we got Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for those of us in the U.S.).

I recently started re-watching the Harry Potter movies and noticed several similarities between it and the original Star Wars trilogy. For example, both series feature a trio of heroes. In Star Wars, they're Luke, Leia, and Han. In Harry Potter, we have Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Luke and Harry are the "Chosen Ones." Leia/Hermione and Han/Ron are the sidekicks whose relationship gets off to a rocky start but eventually turn into romance. Then there are the Chosen Ones' mentors, Obi-wan and Dumbledore. Both initially took on students (Anakin and Tom Riddle) who not only turn bad but also acquire second names (Darth Vader and Voldemort). The mentors' later pupils (Luke/Harry) wind up defeating the dark predecessors.

There are other similarities, which led me to think that I couldn't be the first person to notice. Sure enough, I found this post that lays out some more similarities side by side.

The point isn't that I think J.K. Rowling copied Star Wars. I don't think she did. There are only so many unique ideas that certain archetypes are bound to pop up again and again. When I started reading the Percy Jackson series, for example, the similarities to Harry Potter were immediately apparent. (Look, another trio, but this time it's Percy, Annabeth, and Grover!) I like all three series very much because of the way the stories were told, and they tell their stories differently. As a writer, don't be afraid that your story has been told (because chances are, there are elements that have been) or that you've stumbled upon the one unique story that the world has never seen (because you haven't). The key is how you tell your story. It's all in the execution, not the idea.

May 21, 2016

Putting first things first

 Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

For those of you who are familiar with Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," you may recognize the title of this blog post as being habit #3. I recently (re-)learned the 7 habits, and this one resonated with me because it's one that I have trouble with. Putting first things first means that you can't do everything in the 24 hours you're given each day. You have to focus on your highest priorities and say no to the unimportant things. I've written about priorities before, but somewhere in the last few months, I stopped following my own advice. One of the casualties is my writing. I'm embarrassed to say how little I've written this year, even with my idea of writing during my commute.

This is a shame since writing is important to me. It makes me happy, and it helps define who I am. It's time for me to put writing first, or at least ahead of the less important things that I've been spending my time on. This blog post is my way of publicly holding myself accountable to following through on the habit. Will it work? Hard to say, but if I don't write, I hope it's because I'm doing something that's even more important than it.

May 7, 2016

How to read my stories for FREE

Readers, did you know that you can read some of my stories for free?? That's right, FREE!

Here are four ways:

1. "Drive," the first story in the Driver Series, is permafree. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic YA, this series is for you. Why not try the first installment without paying a cent? You can download "Drive" from the following retailers:
 

2. Sign up for my newsletter and get a Smashwords coupon for a free e-book. There's a link in the top right corner of this blog (see screenshot below) or you can go here to sign up.

3. Last year, I started posting some short stories on Wattpad. You can find them by going to my profile at https://www.wattpad.com/user/hswriting.

4. If you're a book blogger or book reviewer, I'm always happy to send you an e-copy of one of my books for review. Contact me at hsstonewriting@yahoo.com.

April 30, 2016

Anti-social? Who, me?

Before I experienced what it's really like to write a novel, I believed in the stereotypical image of an author cranking out his or her masterpiece in solitude. Think Thoreau at Walden Pond or Jack Torrance in The Shining (minus the homicidal tendencies, of course).

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

While working on a book alone isn't the reason why I wanted to become an author, it certainly has its appeal. I'm in introvert by nature, which means that I prefer to spend my time and energy in the internal world of ideas rather than the external world of people. That might make me sound anti-social, but I have to admit that I am somewhat. The ideal of buying my own island if I had the funds sounds great, if only for writing purposes. If I could lock myself up for days to work on a story (assuming food and a comfortable place to sleep are still readily available), I think I would thrive under the circumstances.

Alas, solitude isn't part of my reality. In the real world, I still work a day job where I interact with people everyday. Even when I write, it's often when I'm surrounded by lots of people, like on the train or at my kids' extracurricular classes. Fortunately, I'm able to block out most distractions (refer to statement above about living in the internal world of ideas) when I write. On the other hand, I sure wouldn't mind being alone.

April 10, 2016

Release announcement: Rescue

The fourth short story in The Driver Series, "Rescue," is now available! For the time being, this will be the last installment of the series. However, I've had a lot of fun writing about Claire and her post-apocalyptic world, so I won't say that this is farewell forever. :-)


You can purchase "Rescue" at the following retailers for 99 cents:

For the first time in memory, there is peace between Claire’s people and the Outsiders. The Drivers and their Protectors now have the gratifying task of spreading that goodwill across the region.

Claire and Shaun head to Half Moon Bay to deliver greetings and gifts to seal the peace treaty with the tribe that lives there. The mission goes smoothly at first, but events take a turn for the worse. Claire soon finds that it’s not just peace that is at risk. She faces the possibility of losing what’s most important to her. 


March 26, 2016

The downside of reading a great book

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com/ramzi hashisho

Recently, I went through a reading slump. For some reason, the books I read just didn't appeal to me. Although they received good reviews, I found them sort of ... blah. I struggled to finish some of them, and, in a couple of cases, I put them down for good, which is rare because I seldom DNF books. It didn't matter what the genre was. It didn't matter what time of day or day of week I read the books. Fortunately, after two or three weeks, I started enjoying reading again.

The reason for my book slump? I read a really good book right before it. It may seem ironic that a great book could lessen my enjoyment of reading, but it did because the books I read after it paled in comparison. The authors of the subsequent books couldn't capture the same magic that the great book did. I kept wanting to feel what I felt when reading the great book, and I was disappointed when I didn't. I know that this is unfair to the books I read immediately after the great book, but I also didn't believe that I should stop reading. What got me out of the slump was getting used to the writing level of the majority of the books on the market again.

I just need to recognize that I will come across a great book once in a while, and while that experience may diminish my fondness for the next few books after it, it doesn't mean that the subsequent books are bad. It just means that they aren't as great as the gem I read before them.

As an author, my experience also makes me nervous about when readers read my books. What if my book is the one they pick up right after they've read what they consider to be a great book? How will my book stack up in comparison? Perhaps I can now chalk up bad reviews to the fact that the readers just finished what, in their minds, was a great book. Yeah, I'm sure that's the reason.