Challenger Deep

My family and I recently took a little trip to L.A. While the intent of the visit was Universal Studios (which was very cool), we also stopped at some watch shops, quilt shops… and book shops.

They were independently owned book stores that my mom researched before going, like Book Soup or The Last Bookstore. At Book Soup, I picked up a book called Challenger Deep. And I believe it could very well be one of my favorite stand-alone books I’ve ever read.

 

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Basic Summary- Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

 

My Thoughts- That’s the summary that the book came with, and I really liked it. A summary that gives a little more away is that Caden has a mess of mental illnesses, most prominently schizophrenia.  Neal Shusterman did a masterful job of showing a thought process eerily similar to my own in a way that is both poetic, but also deeply connects you to the character. Neal managed to make me feel like Caden, which is a connection that the neurodivergent community desperately needs.

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

Tackle the Big Stuff

I’m not going to lie to you. Challenger Deep goes deep. Mental illness is not a joke, and while this book has its humorous lines, it knows that. They cover topics as simple as wanting your family to understand you, to the issue of suicide. This is a difficult book to read from that standpoint.

But it proves an important point. These are the things that people need to be reading. Whether it’s to know that they are understood by the world, or to show someone how to understand another person, these are topics that have been ignored by far too long for the majority of the world.

Schizophrenia is a joke, depression is misunderstood, bipolar is taboo. This book tears that all down and proves that it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be that way. Those are the kinds of strong, world-changing points that I wish every piece of writing to make.

I Understand Nothing

 

On a less deep note, this book makes zero sense about 90% of the time. As a reader, you have to just sort of accept the fact that it will make sense eventually. And when it does, it’s both mind-blowing and poignant. But my complete lack of understanding–while overdone for most books–urged me to keep reading.

Mystery, mystery, mystery. It’s not an action scene that makes someone keep reading; it’s the wondering if the character will survive it. It isn’t the romance that keeps a person involved in the story; it’s the burning desire to know if it works out in the end. Mystery is one of your most valuable tools. Learn how to wield it wisely.

 

Overall

 

This book was amazing. It could be a struggle for some readers, either from the dark tones or the sometimes confusing plot. (Or the slightly slow beginning, I’ll admit.) But it’s a thrilling ride that opened my eyes in many ways, and proves that no one is beyond being understood, and everyone is capable of being saved from drowning.

My Forever Library

My Forever Library

My dad joined the military when I was six years old, and we’ve been moving from base to base ever since. This might horrify a lot of people, but staying in one place for the rest of my life is equally horrifying to me. I can’t imagine being stuck in a single town, in a single state, and in a single country for the rest of your life.

But there are plenty of people who disagree. At one base, we met a family who talked about a “forever home.” It was the house that they were building that they would live in after he retired from the military.

Naturally, I wrote it off as a “Never Home” in my case. If I can’t move again in three years, no thank you. But my mother, as she always does, found a practical application for my life. A Forever Library.

I loved the idea and started right away.

It’s a meager thing now. A couple books sitting along the top of my desk.

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And each one has a story behind the book itself or how I got it.

The Giver helped me learn to see things from a different point of view. From something as simple as the miracle of color or as complex as the possibility of authority figures being wrong.

Percy Jackson and The Lighting Thief was the first book I read that really made me go, “Oh my goodness books and reading are the bestest to ever best.” I used to be a little upset that I didn’t have the series with the lovely covers featuring Percy’s New York skyline, but now I’m glad to have the covers that I grew up with.

That tattered Pilgrim’s Progress was a gift from one of my oldest friends and mentors, Chaplain Gilbert. He gave it to my dad, and my dad gave it to me in turn. He used to read it out loud to us at night.

The Jane Austen compilation was picked up by my parents at–of all places–a Costco. I’d been a fan of Pride and Prejudice, but I really wanted to read Sense and Sensibility. I loved Emma as well, although I still need to read Northinger Abbey. It awaits me in the Forever Library.

Then I have a Reader’s Digest with The Scarlet Pimpernel (one of my favorite classics), Tom Sawyer (one I believe I’m required to like as a Southern Person™), The Good Earth (as suggested by my mother) and Robin Hood (who doesn’t love Robin Hood?)

Next is the obligatory Tolkien tribute. A beautifull illustrated Atlas, an equally beautifull illustrated The Hobbit, and a lovely faux-leather bound LOTR.

Last are two little known books. One is The Secret of Ms. Snickle’s Class, and the other is Zoo School. While considerably younger than my other books, these two helped cement my love of reading. And I so, so wanted to attend a zoo school myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a messy reader. I turn down corners, I read while eating, I turn around the covers of paperbacks to hold more easily when I’m in public. I can hear some of you screaming in agony right now, and I apologize for my horrible treatment of books.

But I do love a nice set of books. And that’s what my Forever Library is for: the immortalization of some of my favorite books.

So what books would you like to have in your Forever Library? Do you already have one? Let me know in the comments, or email me at j.a.apricity@gmail.com!

Query Shark

Query Shark

I’ve always been one to put the cart before the horse. Planning things is just so much fun. And sometimes I forget to actually do the things I planned about.

In any case, this week’s Procrastination Tool is Query Shark. I skimmed literary agent Janet Ried’s blog a year or two back, but this time I did the full dive into the shark tank. I read every single query, all of her comments, and read (and reread) her rules for submission. I don’t know if she plans on taking any in 2017, but I plan on giving it a shot.

Obviously Beast needs a ton of editing, and I wouldn’t dream of sending in a query to The Shark before Beast is as polished up as possible. But here’s what I’m thinking so far:

 

Dear Query Shark, 

Belle never planned to love the monster who took her as payment for saving her kingdom. The Assassin never planned for anyone to love him again in spite of his bloody past and shattered mind. 

And his curse never planned on Belle’s true-love kiss causing her to take it upon herself. 

Belle runs before the curse forces her to massacre a kingdom. The Assassin makes a deal with a former employer: if she helps him track down Belle and the curse, he’ll help her take down an evil queen. 

As they play games with hearts and magic, someone else is playing games with their minds and monsters. 

BEAST is a 72,000 word fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Its sequel, QUEEN, will soon be complete at 80,000 words and continues the story of the curse through a Snow White retelling. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely, 

Jane Apricity

 

Paring down the plot and trying to make it as enticing as possible has also helped my writing not just for the query’s sake, but for editing Beast as well. I’m getting back to the basics of the plot, the feel, the tone and underlying themes that are important to me.

In essence, I’m going back to good old fashioned storytelling. Which, in the end, is exactly what I’m trying to do as an author.

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

I’ve had this book on my wishlist for quite some time. What book lover wouldn’t adore it? The title is riveting, and the cover alone could give me shivers of ecstasy.

 

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Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

 

Basic Summary- The Great Library (*more happy shivers*) controls everything in this world. It is forbidden to own books. In fact, everything is centered around books, which are gathered up and taken care of by Scholars. Jess, the loveable MC, comes from a family of book smugglers. They sell books to anyone with enough money, from Inklickers (who eat books to prove they own them) to Burners (who burn books to prove the Great Library is evil and that human lives matter more than books.) Jess is chosen to become a worker of the Great Library, but learns that there is much more to his world–and his heart–than smuggling books.

 

My Thoughts- That summary, of course, does nothing to really capture this book. It’s a stunning work, and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. (Paper & Fire, another fantastic title.) Caine writes quite unlike anyone else I’ve read before, which made reading Ink & Bone an experience not just for the riveting characters, world-building, and story arcs, but for the writing itself.

 

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

 

Don’t Stress So Much About Your MC… But Do Stress About the Minors 

Jess is nearly perfect MC. Not because the person himself is perfect. He has plenty of faults, all of which work perfectly in the story. But he doesn’t have a show-stealing personality or center-of-the-attention-all-the-time actions.

Minor characters had a major role in Ink & Bone. Each of them was distinct and unique, and had as much say in how the plot progressed as Jess himself. That’s not to say that Jess was replaceable. He was very much the main character, and not just a narrator. (I’m looking at you, Nick of The Great Gatsby.)

But likewise, the minor characters weren’t replaceable. This is an aspect of writing that is much glossed over. I’m so happy with Rachel Caine’s portrayal of all her characters.

 

Pacing? What Pacing? 

Caine’s pacing was unlike anything I’ve seen before. At first, it irritated me about. She flew by what felt like weeks of important world building as Jess and the other Postulants studied. Then I realized that it was irrelevant to her true plot, which then blew me away.

Caine spat in the face of most pacing I’ve seen, and did so pretty eloquently. I stand in awe. I’m still struggling to see how I can apply this to my own writing (and horrible pacing) but I believe that the ultimate lesson is play around. Don’t stick to a strict formula. You might find something amazing.

 

Overall

This is bloody fantastic. I loved every word, and tried to savor it as long as I could. (A struggle for a speed-reader. And a reader who has the tendency to fly by multiple pages without comprehending a word when the plot thickens.) I absolutely loved Ink & Bone and look forward to the sequel.

 

Have a favorite book you’ve received this Christmas? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

 

 

The Images of Writing

While I’m definitely not my sister, I’m a relatively artsy person. Which is incredibly handy for worldbuilding. Example:

 

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I swear I’m a mature author.

Okay, okay, not really. But in all honesty, a map can make the writing process so much smoother.

This is a real example of the map above, which will be used in KISA/Legends of Galdre/Sorcerers Familiar. (My trilogy that is in desperate need of a unifying title.)

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It’s still in the works, obviously, but it’s coming along pretty nicely. And I love that I could use Skelside Tower as the Compass Rose.

(For anyone interested in fantasy maps, I used this book by Jared Blando, which is also free on Kindle if you have the right cred. I promise I make no money off of telling you this.)

I’ll be making a map for Tale soon as well, and want to make more detailed maps of individual countries on each.

World building isn’t just restricted to mapping it out, however. This sketch of Naiporl, an important city in Tale, was a blast to do. I got to have fun portraying the architecture based a little more on the Middle East, which is an important part of Naiporl’s–and a lot of the world of Tale’s–identity.

 

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I have part of the Delumbrum (religious center for the Clergy) on the left, and the “Black Market” straight ahead, under the silk canopies. The mosaics and statues of saints become more intricate the closer you get to the Delumbrum. The windows and doors of the buildings are open air to elleviate heat, but are secured by grates.  

 

This is my first attempt at a cityscape… I really enjoyed it! I’m going to try sketching the Assassin’s castle next, and am working on a map for this world as well as touching up KISA’s.

I also want to try sketching the characters, although that’s really more my sister’s area of expertise.

I used to try and avoid doing anything other than writing because I felt like it was cheating. It was time spent not writing, and shouldn’t I be able to express it all in words anyways? I’m an author, not a storyteller.

Oh… right.

In any case, I no longer give myself grief for taking the time to build up my worlds a little more in multiple mediums. If you guys do the same, I’d love to hear about it! Link me to some pictures below, or just blab to me at apricitydefine@gmail.com

Blessings!

-J.A.

 

Christmas Books

I write, therefore I read. 

I think this should be posted somewhere. Granted, it isn’t always true, but I struggle to think of a situation in which a writer is excused from all forms of reading ever.

Regardless, I adore reading. So it comes as no surprise that books made up the majority of my “Christmas Haul” this year.

 

How To Train Your Dragon (Book 12)

I read the first one just after watching the movie for the first time, but I often forget that I saw the movie first. I adore the book world even more, and the scope of the story is so much more endearing and epic.

And plus, tiny dragons.

And really, really huge dragons.

 

100 Deadly Skills

Of a SEAL Operative, no less.

 

Krav Maga

I happen to like the idea of being able to defend myself.

 

Igraine the Brave (In German)

I’m by no means fluent, but I thought perhaps a kid’s book would help. I have a German picture book, and a German version of Lord of the Rings. One I’d mastered and one… well, reading it in English can be a challenge.

 

Space Case

I loved Spy School and the subsequent novels, and space is so darn cool. I had to give this a try.

 

Ink and Bone

I have no idea what this book is about, but that title is irresistible.

 

Wheel of Time (Book 1)

I feel like such a bad book person for taking so long to read Wheel of Time. I had it on my Amazon wish list for forever, but no one seemed interested in buying it for me, and I could never find book one anywhere. I finally stumbled across it at a thrift store. So it technically wasn’t a Christmas gift, but I’ll throw it in just to celebrate finally getting it.

 

Now to make sure I’m not a bad book person for neglecting my own! I’ve been picking up steam with writing again, although I have yet to touch Queen. For some reason, it now feels daunting. (Probably because I left off right before the very important bit of the final building stages of the climax.) But it will be tackled tonight! Wish me luck, and let’s put on the kettle.

-J.A.