April 26, 2014

YA dystopian is alive and well... in the movies

I've heard rumors that the YA dystopian genre isn't selling anymore, that readers have had enough and are no longer buying YA dystopian books. I don't know if it's true, but you wouldn't be able to tell it from looking at the movie industry.

Divergent, the hottest YA dystopian property at the moment, opened to a $54 million box office weekend, making it the top movie the week of its release. A month later, it's still in the top 10 among box office receipts and has taken in over $200 million worldwide. Not to mention the boost the film has given to the books, which have been near the top of the bestseller lists for weeks.

The franchise that started the YA dystopian craze, Hunger Games, has done even better. The first two movies in the series were both blockbusters, with Catching Fire earning over $860 worldwide. That's getting close to a billion dollars! With two more movies to go (yes, Mockingjay is getting split into two movies), there's more gas left in the Hunger Games movie tank.

Later this year, two more YA dystopian series get their film releases: The Maze Runner and The Giver. From the trailers, both movies look pretty awesome. Regardless of how well they do, the fact that Hollywood is making movies out of YA dystopian novels is proof that the genre is still alive and well. If these movies are successful, expect to see more film adaptations of your favorite YA dystopian books.

April 22, 2014

Cover reveal: No Return

Zoe Cannon, one of my collaborators on Through a Tangled Wood, is revealing the cover for her newest book, No Return, the final installment of her Internal Defense series.


Every dissident knows about Becca Dalcourt.

They know about the lives she’s saved. About the prison break she carried out against impossible odds. They know she turned a dying resistance into the first real threat Internal Defense has faced in a long time.

And even now, with the resistance under attack from the inside, they know Becca can save them.

They’re wrong.

The conclusion to the story that began with The Torturer’s Daughter and Necessary SacrificesNo Return explores what happens when an ordinary person becomes a legend – and how to choose between who you are and who the world needs you to be.

No Return will be released on May 21st, 2014. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR list here.

About the Author:

Zoe Cannon writes about the things that fascinate her: outsiders, societies no sane person would want to live in, questions with no easy answers, and the inner workings of the mind. If she couldn't be a writer, she would probably be a psychologist, a penniless philosopher, or a hermit in a cave somewhere. While she'll read anything that isn't nailed down, she considers herself a YA reader and writer at heart. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and a giant teddy bear of a dog, and spends entirely too much time on the internet.

Website | Mailing List | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

April 19, 2014

Book review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

One of the boxes that I dreaded in the Reading Outside the Box challenge was the box for "Poetry or Novel-in-verse" because I just don't like reading poetry. It puts me to sleep. So when I heard about William Shakespeare's Star Wars from Alison, who also introduced me to the reading challenge, I immediately knew which book was going to be my "Poetry or Novel-in-verse" selection.

Throughout the book, the Star Wars-loving side of me warred with the Shakespeare-not-so-loving side. There were times when I got a kick out of reading a scene in iambic pentameter, like when Luke first sees R2D2's recording of Princess Leia. However, there were times when the verses put me to sleep... literally.

If you're a fan of Star Wars (which I am) or Shakespeare (which I'm not), you will probably enjoy William Shakespeare's Star Wars. And if you're lucky enough to be a fan of both, you'll love it! Otherwise, if you're just a peotry-phobic reader who thinks this will change your mind about poetry, look elsewhere.

April 12, 2014

Heinlein's Third Rule

In his essay "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction", Robert Heinlein listed five "practical, tested" rules that he recommended writers follow. The rules are:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
  4. You must put it on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

I like those rules. They sound simple enough and easy for me to follow... except for rule #3. Every story I've published has been subject to rewriting. I've even been known to re-work parts of my manuscript more than ten, or even twenty, times! I can't help it. It's the perfectionist in me.

However, I also hate revising my manuscripts. So why should I keep doing something that I dislike? Well, I'm going to try to stop doing it. I just started working on a new novel. This time, I've told myself that I will follow ALL of Heinlein's rules, um, to some extent. For the third rule, I will allow myself one pass at revisions after the first draft to correct obvious problems. Then it's off for editorial feedback. Then, I will make another round of revisions and repeat the editorial cycle until my editor is satisfied. I won't make any more changes unless my editor asks for them.

Aside from disliking the editing process, the other reason why I'm willing to embrace Heinlein's third rule is that I finally feel ready to do so. I'm more comfortable with my writing now. With each successive book, I cringe less and less upon reading the first draft. All of these years of writing must be paying off, or I've become numb to my own incompetence. Either way, I don't think more rounds of revisions will help me anymore.

By editing less, I don't intend to produce an inferior book. On the contrary, Heinlein's advice is rooted in the belief that re-writing doesn't necessarily improve a book. Just because you re-work a chapter twenty times doesn't mean that the twentieth revision is better than the first. I should know. I've been there. If there is a problem with a story, I should be able to catch it on the second pass, or hopefully my editor will tell me so.

In the end, by following rule #3, I hope to still write a great book and save myself the headache of months of editing. It's a win-win!

April 5, 2014

Book review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victorian-English village on a quest for a fallen star in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

When I watched the film version of Stardust about five years ago, I thought it was a good movie with an original story. I hadn't yet heard of Neil Gaiman, who wrote the book upon which the movie was based. It wasn't until a couple of years later, when I read Neverwhere, that I became a fan of Gaiman. Since then, I've read three of his novels and two short story collections, enjoying all of them, but I still hadn't read Stardust. With the Reading Outside the Box challenge, I can now address that omission and check the "Accidentally Watched the Movie First" box too.

Overall, Stardust was a good book. It's a typical, magical Neil Gaiman tale set in a typical, magical Neil Gaiman world. However, as I read the book, I couldn't help but compare it to the movie, perhaps unfairly. Having seen many film adaptations of books, I was prepared for differences between the two. While the major story arcs were similar in the movie and the book, there were two aspects of the movie that I wished was in the book: (1) more interaction between Tristran and Yvaine and (2) the climactic battle in the witches' castle. The story in the book was good, but it lacked the development of the relationship between Tristran and Yvaine. The two sort of fell in love too quickly and inexplicably. Also, the conclusion of the book wasn't as entertaining or suspenseful as the one in the movie. Everything was wrapped up too easily without much conflict, lacking the energy that the movie provided.

While Stardust was a worthwhile read, it wasn't Gaiman's best work. In this rare case, I'd have to say the movie was better than the book.