In which I introduce my boys

You know most of my boys, right? Right? Well, the truth is, you don’t actually know all of them. Many of my babies I keep hidden away, tucked between the pages of a notebook, waiting for the day their story becomes something real. Some of them have fully-written novels in my head I simply haven’t typed out yet, and some are boys I’m in the act of writing even now. I want to introduce you to some of them, tell you a bit about them, and hope you enjoy it!

Rukiel. Rukiel is a silesse, a shape-shifter in my novel Not to Be. He runs a lounge for non-humans called The Diamond Straight and always seems to know more about everything than everyone else. I do love my shifter; he’s got an elegant sense of style, a smoothly snarky sense of humor, and really does care for people, though he doesn’t choose to show it.

 “I’m sure several thousand humans were brought squalling into the world yesterday, but I was not one of them.”

rukielRukiel is a shape-shifter, though most people aren’t aware of it. He has the ability to re-create a form to live in,

and he has chosen the form of a human for convenience’s sake – plus the fact he thinks they’re relatively pretty to look at, like expensive trinkets.

Golden eyes, a razor-sharp wit, and natural authority give him an air of deadly confidence that doesn’t lie.

He’s got quite a few surprises up his sleeve, this lad of mine. Though I shouldn’t call

him a ‘lad’ considering he’s probably older than any of my other boys.  

Theme song: Trouble is a Friend by Lenka (and he’s the trouble, ehehehe)

Skata.  Skata is a member of the Lamia Venator guild – a vampire hunter. The Lamia Venator do not specifically kill vampires, however – they will if the vampire has committed serious crimes against mankind – they hunt all non-human Creatures, kill the beast-like ones and keep the rest in line. Skata doesn’t quite fit in my England – he’s an all-American boy with Western swag and a sawed-off shotgun handy for silver bullets and rock salt.

“Don’t look at me, vamp. You’re the one who’s felled by a piece of cilantro.”

ashleypurdyHonestly, I think one of the things I love most about Skata is his hair.

I mean, he’s got really long, dark hair, shaved on one side, the rest caught up in

a long ponytail made of rope-like twists. It’s quite honestly the coolest

hair I’ve ever seen. He’s got a reputation for being hard-drinking, hard-working,

hard-playing – very much like a cowboy. He has a hot, quick temper that tends to get him into fights, but in his case, his zeal

for vampire-hunting is justified – he’s looking for the vampire who murdered his wife and unborn

child. It’s not an easy thing for a 29-year-old to go through – or anyone, for that matter.

His favorite weapons are his sawed-off shotgun and two blackwood stakes; he fights with one in

each hand, as if they were daggers.

Theme Song: Hero by Nickelback.

Angel. Angel is a vampire, born in the tempestuous period surrounding the French Revolution. He is himself English, though his accent is only very slight. Though people who know him think him arrogant and heartless, Angel’s story is not an easy one. He rarely does what he knows to be the right thing, deciding instead that humanity has done him no favors, but once upon a time he was a good man. And then he was accused, bitten, betrayed, and forced to flee for his life…but who knows? Maybe he’ll prove he’s a good man once again before the book is out.

“I can tell you aren’t a social sort, or I would have offered you a dance.”

aoiangelAngel is elegant, aloof, and has enough acid in his sarcasm to burn a hole to the center of the earth and probably beyond. He feeds energy off anyone he can hypnotize, which is most people.

He’s much older than he looks, having been bitten at the age of thirty-four, and like all vampires, the

paleness of his skin, sleekness of his hair, and lack of physical blemish gives him an otherworldly, porcelain appearance. Though more slender than muscular, he has enough strength to easily break his way through a solid wooden door with a punch.

After She betrayed him (he never speaks her name, he’s forbidden

it to himself) he closed himself off to all affection and decided instead to do without it – but this may change.

Also, he loves midnight blue.

Theme Song: Angel in Disguise by Cinema Bizarre. 

Cassis. Cassis is a half-breed – his father was a vampire, his mother was a human. He’s twice as strong as a human but weakens faster and will only live for a few hundred years. He got the raw end of both deals and is shunned by both humans and Creatures. He helps the Guild by turning in murderous Creatures, but keeps to himself.

“I have no kind. I befriend and betray those I wish to befriend or betray according to my morals. How are humans any different?”

URUHAVAMPgorrrgOut of all my characters, Cassis is one I feel the sorriest for. He can’t help what he was born as, and he tries desperately to do the right thing without getting in anyone’s way.

Even his helpful actions are taken as hostile by humans, and he doesn’t fit in with Creatures and non-humans either.

 Shy, elusive and quiet, Cassis refuses to feed off of anyone’s energy until he’s at the point of complete exhaustion, and even then he only does it with permission.

He causes something of a scandal when he takes in Emily, a young woman with a child born out of wedlock – but that’s the sort of person Cassis is. Half-breed though he may be, he’s more human than most.

Maybe he’ll get a happy ending – I hope so, I really do.

Theme Song:  My Immortal by Evanescence 

Jake. Jake Shandy is one of those guys your mama told you to stay away from – although in this case, Esme’s mother is across the post-apocalyptic nation and there’s no way she can get from Hawk’s Forge to Eerie Gamut by herself. Jake’s a guide – he can get you from anywhere to anywhere and keep you in one piece, if you pay him enough.

“If you want to survive, you’ve gotta be selfish. It’s the only way you’ll make it anywhere. You want to go and be all ‘noble’? Fine. You want to make it to Eerie Gamut? Fine. Pick.”

Tough, hardened, and callous, Jake seems much older than his twenty-three years.

andybiersack235He’s seen enough and lived enough to harden a man three times his age. He fights hard, rarely loses a bet, has an eyebrow raise to counter anyone’s and knows what to do in case of Walkers, wolves, scavengers, freezing cold, quicksand, and any general bad thing you can think of that might happen to you while walking nine hundred miles in two directions.

He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, he doesn’t try to sell his talent, and he speaks his mind without really caring whether it will hurt your feelings or not. He’s not a sociable, cuddly person, but if he takes a liking to you, you’re more likely to survive than 97% of the population.

Also, he has a soft spot for children, knows every dirty fighting trick in the book, and has only cried twice in his life.

Theme Song: In the End by Black Veil Brides.

Genesis. Genesis is a first generation Cybernetic human. Saved by an experimental scientist when he was dying of a flesh-eating disease, Genesis is, to quite Star Wars, “More machine now than man.” The scientist saved his life, but at the same time turned him into something that doesn’t really fit anywhere, even in a scientifically advanced world. Because of this, he lives in the station with the man who created him and the man’s granddaughter, Cilla. Cilla dislikes Genesis because she feels he took her grandfather’s affection, but Genesis has no idea why she dislikes him because, now that his brain is so cybernetic, human emotions are much harder to grasp.

“I’m sorry you don’t like me, miss. Is there anything I can do for you? – besides damaging my circuits?”

humanoidBecause of his inhibited emotions, Genesis often comes across as sarcastic when he’s actually genuinely curious about something.

This does not endear him to Cilla, as she’s a sharp, sarcastic person herself and thinks he’s battling wits with her. Genesis is as helpful as he can be, follows every order, and has been told he has no feelings to hurt so often that he mistakes actual hurt feelings for malfunctions, which he blames on himself.

Nothing is anyone else’s fault, and he is eternally grateful to the scientist who gave him his life back – though he doesn’t realize that it’s no longer his life. He’s a trophy and servant and bodyguard, not his own person. Since he played with Cilla when they were small children, he does not understand why she hates him so much now, and since he doesn’t sleep, he often puzzles this over while guarding her at night.

Theme Song: Humanoids by TVXQ

(Note: The picture looks like a girl. I’m sorry. It’s the only one I can find of a humanoid with blue eyes and black hair. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO FIND PICTURES OF CYBORGS THAT LOOK RIGHT??)

 

In which I write about The Kneebone Boy and the author has a chat with me

The Hardscrabble children are odd. Lucia can’t not speak her mind. Max is clever and likes to sit on rooftops. And Otto, the oldest – well, he hasn’t spoken since their mother disappeared. And he never takes that scarf off… When they are sent to stay with a relative who happens to be gone, they hurry to their next-nearest relative’s home. Great-Aunt Haddie happens to live in a castle – or at least a castle folly. Nobody’s sure who lives in the real castle. And there are rumors of the Kneebone Boy who lives in the nearby woods…

thekneeboneboy

I can’t tell you quite how much I loved this book. I fell in love with the cover the second I laid eyes on it, and once I finished I was thoroughly grateful to Michelle Black, who told me I should read it. The writing is thoroughly British, dark and suspenseful enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, funny and quirky enough to keep you laughing, and good enough to keep you reading too late at night. Also, I just completely fell in love with Otto. It’s A Series of Unfortunate Events meets The Penderwicks in a novel that’s better than both of them. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should read The Kneebone Boy.

And if you don’t believe me yet, just read the interview I was fortunate enough to get with the authoress, Ellen Potter. Grab a cup of tea, settle down, and enjoy.

Otto became one of my favorite characters within the first few chapters, and I have read/watched/written THOUSANDS of characters.
Was he inspired by anyone? I can tell you really loved him, and so do I. He’s going to stay in my brain for years to come.

      Otto was inspired by a boy whom I had a mad crush on in high school. He always wore a scarf and was quiet and mysterious. I loved trying to figure out why Otto wore that scarf in the book (although I’m quite sure the boy in real life had a very different reason)
 
Does your writing style change from book to book, or not?
    Definitely. It changes to suit the story, absolutely.
 
 Who was your favorite character to write in The Kneebone Boy?
     I did like so many of the characters in that book, animals included. But I suppose Otto was my favorite, in part because he was so maddeningly elusive.
 
 What are your five favorite books?
     Hard to say, but among my faves are Holes, The Harry Potter series, Harriet the Spy, the Gilda Joyce series, and most of Roald Dahl’s books
 
 I couldn’t help but notice that the cover matched PERFECTLY with the book, as covers so rarely do. Plus I love the Japanese style it was done with –
did you have a hand in picking the cover artist?
    No, the publisher chose him and I was very lucky with Jason Chan. He’s incredible! I felt he captured those characters as if he saw them in my brain.
 
 Do you ever think you’ll write about the Hardscrabble siblings again?
    I’d like to and so many people have requested a sequel. I don’t have any immediate plans, but you never know . . .
 
  Do you have any advice for aspiring authors or any quotes that have helped or inspired you along the way?
   The very best advice I have for young writers is to write every day and read a ton of books. I co-authored a book with Anne Mazer called Spilling Ink, A Young Writer’s Handbook, which might be helpful to aspiring writers.
 
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
  Hang out with my family, play with my dogs.
 
Have you written a book you love that you have not had published?
  So far I’ve been lucky in that all my work has been published.
 
 
 What does your workspace look like?
    I’ll work anywhere, any time. On my couch, in my bed, at McDonalds, in a boat, in a closet. Really!
 
 Do you keep notebooks/folders specifically for writing purposes?
      I do but I’m wildly disorganized, so I’m not sure how helpful they are ultimately.

Thank you so much for the interview, Mrs. Potter! I can’t wait to read the rest of your books.

 

Lessons from Cassandra Clare (on what not to do)

A few nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. So I picked up one of the books I’d checked out at the library and gave it a whirl, hoping it would keep me occupied until I could finally shut my eyes. The book was City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, a New York Times bestseller soon to have the aformentioned book made into a movie. (I’ve seen the preview. It looks relatively neat except Lily Collins looks nothing like Clary and Jace has no snark. What?)

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series has been a smash-hit among the Young Adult fantasy-loving crowd, and I was curious to know why. It sounded like an awesome idea – I mean we’ve got hunters, Silent Brothers, vampires, werewolves, villains, and the supposedly swoon-worthy Jace. I had heard a lot about Jace.

This book let me down. In fact, it let me drop about a thousand feet from the top of a cliff without a safety rope and with no mattress/trampoline/moss bed to catch me. After everything I’d heard, after all the raving reviews, City of Bones was so bad I didn’t even finish it. Not because the content was so horrid, though I did have a few bones to pick. I didn’t finish it because I didn’t want to. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a big surprise.

City of Bones was worse than Eragon. It made Eragon look like a piece of classic literature. It made the characters in Eragon look deeper than the Mariana Trench.

Let me break it down for you exactly why I disliked this book so much – and how you can avoid falling into so many of the traps Cassandra seemed to enjoy hanging around in.

– Jace –

The boy every girl was supposed to fall in love with at first sight. The boy who was supposed to sweep the entire female species off their feet. The boy who was said to be as sexy as all get-out. Okay, my first peeve – the guy is sixteen years old. Sixteen. I’m almost nineteen, and having a sixteen-year-old constantly described as hot or sexy or swoony made me feel practically creep-worthy. This book is popular among the 14-20-year-old range, and all I could think about was his age.

Also…um, I got 7/10ths through the novel and Jace never did anything remotely hero-like. He was, in fact, a jerk. The entire foundation of his character was his sarcastic, snarky wit – which he pulled out every time he opened his mouth. Clare tried to give some deepness to him, but it fell flat and he ended up being a smart-aleck teenager who has supposedly had a tough life we’re supposed to sympathize with and who can’t say anything nice. Seriously, the nicest thing he does is take Clary to the greenhouse on her birthday to show her a flower.

Uuhhh. I’m sorry. But Jace’s character had little to no substance. While his snappy remarks were entertaining and funny, a person is not entirely made of rapier-wit. Jace lacked everything but a sharp tongue and gold eyes.

– Predictability –

Excuse me, Ms. Clare, but your plot twist is showing. Or was that supposed to be a plot twist? One thing that super annoyed me about this book was the way she ‘foreshadowed’ things (and I use the term ‘foreshadow’ in the very loosest sense). It was as if she assumed the reader was stupid and could not figure things out for themselves, so she would dangle a five-pound ‘hint’ in front of them and say “HEY LOOK DOESN’T THIS SEEM LIKE *WINKWINKNUDGEWINK* IMPORTANT? DOESN’T IT? HUH? HUH?”

What were supposed to be clever ‘leads’ were actually signposts giving away every plot twist before it happened. Oh, your mother was married to Valentine? That’s nice. Oh, Simon likes Clary? Yeah, we could see that from the first page. Oh, that dude’s a vampire? Really? Shock. No way.

– The Political Correctness –

I should be expecting this more in YA literature, but it the gay-friendly movement still takes me by surprise. Now, I don’t hate gays, neither am I a homophobe. But I do believe that homosexuality is wrong – and so having the good guys be gay irritates me and turns me off to books. Depending on how blatant it is, it even completely turns me off to the novel (I know homosexuals in real life and I enjoy their company. We talk. We have fun. This is a ‘love the person, hate the sin’ situation.) So while I could have dealt all right with a homosexual villain, having one of the main good guys be discovered as a homosexual was a gigantic “Oh, come ON, just NO” to me. It was pretty soon after this little ‘discovery’ that I just put the book down.

– The similes –

I like similes. Similes are cool. I have fun writing similes.

I do not stick them in. every. bloody. paragraph. in. which. a. simile. could. possibly. be. squeezed. in.

– The spiritual side of things –

So I was okay with the demon thing here, because the demons weren’t actually demons. In this novel ‘demon’ is a term given to any creature that is not human – any dark creature that the demon hunters like Jace and Isabella are supposed to track down and kill/send back/what have you.

But then you go and find out that the demon hunters are supposed to be part…angel? And there’s a Cup you can drink of that had angel blood in it with which you can make more demon hunters?

…Whaaat? Okay. I can see the author was just trying to be creative but as a Christian, this was just too incorrect. And then Jace, who is supposed to be part angel, says he doesn’t even believe in God.

….I’m trying to compute this, but I suppose it’s the way a liberal author deals with angels and demons without wanting to mention or give credit to their Creator. Definitely seems like the hard way to go about things, but maybe that’s just me.

*rubs temples and sighs*

This book was, as I said, a disappointment and I’m fairly surprised that so many people love this series. The writing style itself wasn’t bad – in fact, it had some very nice moments – and the snappy dialogue was entertaining. But City of Bones read more like something fresh out of NaNoWriMo – unpolished, lacking plot, dialogue-heavy, and by all means unfit for publication – than a real hot-off-the-presses novel. I don’t hate the author or anything like that. And I do completely adore the covers for her books – seriously, they’re pure eye candy and they’re some of my favorite book covers in YA literary history. I know this post probably came across as a bash-fest for Cassandra Clare – and honestly, I think she could do better. A LOT better. But I don’t hate her.

I hope that one day she will improve, and I hope that other writers can learn from her mistakes. Thank you, and goodnight.