Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian

I hate to do this to you all, because this book does not come out until October, but there are certain books  you simply have to talk about.

NOTE: This book is gritty, and would at least be rated R, as a film, so this post will be using some colorful language to discuss it.

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian, from Carolrhoda Lab, provided to me by Editor Andrew Karre is quite possibly the best Young Adult Novel I have ever read. It's definitely the most memorable.

Evan Carter starts out as just the kind of little bitch whose ass I would have kicked in high school. He's so self-centered, and cares about nothing outside his own pleasure, and his own sexual conquests. He doesn't really spit the best game, but he does have pretty good radar for the kind of girls that say Yes. Basically, he's just the kind of guy who would get your girlfriend drunk and then trick her into having sex with him. A real piece of shit.

Except he isn't, actually. He just thinks he is.

And, reading his story, told from his first person point of view in the most authentic teenage voice I have ever read, I couldn't help but sympathize with him. Especially since he annoyed the hell out of me in the beginning, but by the end, I was pretty much in love with him. A total literary bro crush. The story all begins when Evan does actually get his ass kicked, badly. So badly, in fact, that he has to have his bleeding spleen removed, and there are criminal charges for his tormentors.

But Evan doesn't have to worry about that too much, because his father is a distant, nomadic finance guy, who lets his laptop lead him and his son to a new condo in a new town every six months. Instead, Evan has to worry about how the attack has inextricably linked, both mentally and emotionally, the two most potent kinds of physical contact in the world: Sex & Violence, which of course lands him in therapy.

Personally, I went to six different high schools when I was a kid. For different reasons than Evan, but still, I get him. I know what it feels like to be The Fucking New Guy. I know what it feels like to be so utterly alone in the world that you just don't give a shit about anything, especially yourself. I know what it feels like to mostly hate your father, and to miss your mother, may she rest in peace, so much that you're essentially always, at the very least, Almost-Weepy.

But this book isn't about me. And it isn't the fact that Evan and I have so much in common that makes it so powerful. What does make it so powerful are its characters. Evan Carter. Baker Trieste. Tom. Collette. The Beauchant Brothers. Jordan. Even Jim and Taber. Hell, even Evan's dad.

I don't know that I've ever read more authentic teenagers. They smoke, they skinny dip in the lake outside their cabins, they have sex, they drink Cherry Lick, and they don't really know how or if they fall in love. But they sure as hell know that life is a horrible, incredible, confounding, passionate, apathetic, and ever-changing, constantly cyclical thing, and they live it like there's no tomorrow. They're scared of each other. They're scared of themselves. They're scare of being alone, and they're scared of being together, but they aren't afraid to feel.

Like the ethereal call of the Minnesota lake bird, the Loon, I don't think I can really even put my finger on exactly what it is about this book, these characters, this writing, that is so incredible, but I will say that as a writer, this is one of those books. You know the kind. The ones that when you're maybe a third of the way through, you get really depressed, because you just know you will never write anything this good, but then by the time you're nearly done, you're back to your manuscript after reading every couple chapters, because never before in your life have you been so inspired to write. Because this is what's great about storytelling. When stories take you back to some tragic or triumphant moment in the hazy history of your own life, a moment which made you feel something so intense that you were convinced no one had ever hurt or loved so hard, and suddenly, you realize that you are not alone. That someone else has felt exactly what you have felt, and you are not, despite your better judgment, crazy.

Sex & Violence is Mesrobian's debut novel. It releases in October 2013. Here is the jacket copy:


Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan Carter. He has a strategy--knows the profile of The Girl Who Would Say Yes. In each new town, each new school, he can count on plenty of action before he and his father move again. Getting down is never a problem. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.


After an assault that leaves Evan bleeding and broken, his father takes him to the family cabin in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota, so Evan's body can heal. But what about his mind?


Nothing seems natural to Evan anymore. Nothing seems safe. The fear--and the guilt--are inescapable. He can't sort out how he feels about anyone, least of all himself. Evan's really never known another person well, and Pearl Lake is the kind of place where people know everything about each other--where there might be other reasons to talk to a girl. It's annoying as hell. It might also be Evan's best shot to untangle sex and violence.

Carrie teaches teenagers about writing and books at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. You can find her:

On Tumblr
At her blog

Monday, February 25, 2013

Empty, by K.M. Walton at YA Confidential

I saw two great movies this weekend, which was a real treat, because one of them was in the theater, and I never usually get to make it to the cinema. I'll try to review them tomorrow, but for now, please visit my post at YA Confidential, and read about a powerful book I read recently.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Wanna Devise a Virus

This is via Nerds do it Better

It's Friday, and I was going to review a cool movie I saw last night, but who really wants to do all that work? Besides, I've only got like 50 more pages to finish in this revision, and then this WIP is off to beta readers. Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Return to Afterglow

I'm finally back over at Afterglow Reviews again today, with my reaction to Rouge, by Leigh Talbert Moore. Please stop by, and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy President's Day

Amazingly, today is a company holiday. So I'm not actually here. I'm at home, playing Lego Lord of the Rings with my nephew, in my pajamas. You can be jealous, go ahead.

Anyway, my dear friend, author of Rouge and The Truth about Faking, and co-contributor to The Kindness Project, Leigh T. Moore interviewed me a few days ago, and she's putting the thing up today, at her blog. Please go check it out, and leave a comment there. It should be pretty funny.

Also, I'm announcing my assistants for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge today. Please go visit all these blogs, and make sure you're following my assistants. You'll be interacting with them quite a bit during the challenge, if you're taking part.

I'll be emailing you guys with some more info tomorrow, but don't worry, it's gonna be pretty easy. If you have any challenge related questions, or just want to thank these awesome volunteers, you can do that here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Major Meteor Event in Russia

Apparently completely unrelated to the coming asteroid DA14, this Meteor crash in Russia this morning may have injured as many as 400 people. io9 has a good summary of the story, here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Grateful Quote

“Like fairy tales or folk songs, all versions are true. The more versions there are, the truer it is." - Phil Lesh

Monday, February 11, 2013

Project Mayhem and a Call for A to Z Assistants

First off, I'm over at Project Mayhem today, analyzing some Middle Grade First Lines. Please drop by and share your thoughts.

Secondly, I mentioned some changes with A to Z this year, and one of the first and most important is that we're calling for assistants to help us police the list. We're not just asking you to work for free though. You can find more detailed information at the main A to Z blog, but the reason I'm posting about it here is that my fellow co-hosts have already laid claim to all the volunteers who were people I know! So I need your help.

I really only need a couple people. So if you're interested, please leave a comment here, and let me know.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Five: Princess Mononoke

All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.

1997's Princess Mononoke is probably the greatest animated film ever made, with the possible exception of Akira, which is a topic I could debate for hours, even by myself. If I was pressed I would probably say Princess Mononoke is the best fantasy animated feature, and Akira is the best Sci-Fi. That way, they can both be best. Here's the summary, from IMDB:

On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Where do I even start with this movie? Well, for one thing, Spirited Away may have won an Academy Award, but keep in mind, Best Animated Feature only became an Oscar after 2001. If it had existed when Mononoke came out? The Princess would have won hands down. Or bows down, whatever.

I don't want to even say too much about this movie. It's ... it's that awesome. I'll just say this: the setting is probably the coolest world I've ever encountered outside of perhaps Middle Earth. Technically, the film is supposedly set in the Muromachi Period of feudal Japan, but that's never made clear, and there is no question that other than having a contemporary technology level for that period in Nippon's history, the setting isn't even close to realistic.

Or is it? If you're Japanese, and Shinto, or even Buddhist, you have some very interesting beliefs. You believe in Kami. You believe in Oni. You believe inanimate objects have souls (Obake).You believe gods and spirits walk the earth every day, just an humans do. It's this rich spiritual tradition in Japan that makes movies like Princess Mononoke so deep. The mythology, while original and unique, is still based on a complicated and entrenched system of spiritual history (think how The Lord of the Rings is made so much stronger by the mythology of The Silmarillion).

Anyway, look, like all Miyazaki films, I could go on about this one forever. The bottom line is that this movie is a must-see, especially for any writer of speculative fiction, in which building entire living, breathing worlds is key.

And now that this series is done, let me point you to some related entertainment:

Honorable mentions by Hayao Miyazaki:

NOTE: I have not personally seen Porco Rosso, but I'm told it's wonderful.

Honorable mentions from Studio Ghibli:


And all in all, that's it. I hope you enjoyed this series, and were exposed to some new things. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Four: Spirited Away

All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.

Based heavily on the Japanese religion, Shintoism, 2001's Spirited Away is possibly Miyazaki's scariest film, but it may also be his most unique. It is his only film to win an Academy Award (2003 Best Animated Feature). 10-year-old Chihiro is a precocious little girl, whose curiosity gets the best of her when her family, during their move to the suburbs, takes a wrong turn and accidentally discovers what they think is an abandoned amusement park. From IMDB:

In the middle of her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.

This is probably the most Japanese of Miyazaki's films as well. Inside the amusement park, Chihiro's parents are trapped by their own greed, and transformed into pigs. From there begins a harrowing adventure in which the young girl must attempt to escape from a bathhouse which serves as a rest stop for the spirit world. From the witch Yubaba and her sister Zeniba, to paper shikigami, to spider yokai, to a dragon named Haku/Sen, to a stink spirit, Spirited Away is filled with the most strange and wonderful cast of characters of any animated film that I have ever seen.

Though on the surface this is a story about a young girl, it's a very mature and nuanced tale. The liminal journey she takes is almost ritualistically psychedelic in nature, and I could imagine small children being quite scared by certain aspects of this film. When Yubaba steals Chihiro's true name, the innocence of her childhood is essentially left behind.

Nonetheless, this is an excellent movie. The animation and artistry alone make this one of my all time favorite animated films. An absolute must-see.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Three: My Neighbor Totoro

All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.

1988's My Neighbor Totoro may be the most adorable animated movie ever made. It's especially enjoyable for families with young children, because its innocence and curiosity mirror the vigorous interest of young minds, but its mystery and underlying themes are sophisticated enough to keep even the most discerning parent entertained. From IMDB:

When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.

Totoro is a simple, quiet film, full of adorable spirits, and fabulous creatures, which I find absolutely endearing, even if my friend, Adam, is creeped out by Catbus (follow those links, Adam, you'll love the last one). That said, there are some serious themes at work as well: conservation, the environment, the fear of moving into a new place, and imagination in general.

All in all, I think this quote from Roger Ebert sums it up well: "one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki ... My Neighbor Totoro is based on experience, situation and exploration—not on conflict and threat ... it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls ... It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Two: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.

1984's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is one of the first Science-Fantasy tales I ever came across (as in guns, motorized gliders, giant-airships, but also knights and swords and monsters). Technically, it's actually a post-apocalyptic setting, but you wouldn't necessarily know that unless you'd read the manga. From IMDB:

Warrior/pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet.

Nausicaä is a young princess, who rules the Valley of the Wind, and spends much of her time researching the mutant giant insects in the poisonous jungles surrounding her homeland. When the kingdom of Tolmekia invades, and tries to use ancient technology they don't understand to destroy the jungle, Nausicaä must convince them of the errors of their ways.

Set in one of the most fabulous landscapes, and containing some of the most iconic creatures ever to grace the animated silver screen, including the gigantic, armored caterpillars/trilobites called Ohmu, Valley of the Wind is Miyazaki's second feature film. And though it is not technically a Studio Ghibli production, it is considered by most the spiritual antecedent to that studio's rise to fame.

Upon it's English re-release, the film continued in the Miyazaki tradition of casting famous actors to voice the adaptations, and included such heavyweights as Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Mark Hamill, and Eward James Olmos.

I could not actually find an official trailer, because this movie is old and somewhat rare, but this one will give you a good idea of the tone of the film:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part One: Ponyo

All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.

So, today is about my fifth favorite Miyazaki film. 2008's Ponyo is the quintessential Miyazaki film. Set in a contemporary Japanese coastal town, it features his well known mix of realism and fantasy. From IMDB:

An animated adventure centered on a 5-year-old boy and his relationship with a goldfish princess who longs to become human.

This movie is absolutely adorable. The relationship between Sosuke and Ponyo is brimming with adventure, and that tender kind of love that only comes with first friendships. There is an underlying environmental theme, but it's subtle, and the magic that occurs throughout the tale feels just right, with only a hint of the seriousness of it all hovering beneath the surface.

I could go on forever about this film, as I could for all Miyazaki features, but I'll just leave you with the trailer, so you can all get back to your days:

NOTE: If you're here from A to Z, please be sure to follow, and you can grab the badge and the header for your own blog, from the A to Z blog. Thanks!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Patricia Moussatche's Current Query Critiqued

Welly well, readers. It's Friday, and you know what that means! Patricia's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

Here we go:

Dear [Agent Name],

David and Catrine, top governance I don't understand this word in this context. graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day she kisses him on the way to their proposal defense. Proposal defense? Is that the name of a class? Some assignment they have to complete? It is the kind of kiss that makes a guy forget his speech. So the proposal defense is the speech? I'm not sure I'm clear on that. Catrine steps in to salvage their pitch, and earns for herself the directorship of the new program they proposed. Which is?

Except for some minor vagueness, and a few details that need to be clarified, this opening isn't bad. It improves on the strengths of your old version, and clues us into David and Catrine's relationship with more oomph, I think. The only thing is, you need to think about your inciting incident. Generally, it should be the hook that concludes your final paragraph. I suppose you could argue that the kiss is it, or even the directorship, but I think the key to the premise of this story is really the tattoo, and what it means as far as the potential to splinter David and Catrine's relationship.

When David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath Catrine's hair, he is convinced she is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. David is appalled by the discovery that a single family has been ruling Demia in secret since colonization. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

I wouldn't change a thing about this paragraph. You've taken your premise, stakes, and inciting incident, and distilled them down into a very succinct summary.

As the utopia he has always cherished crumbles into a school-boy’s fantasy, fantasy or nightmare? David realizes his parents want to institute marriage on the planet by wedding him to Catrine. So, no one got married before? I'm not quite clear on that. They want to crown him the first king of Demia. If he exposes the ploy, David will ruin both his and Catrine's chances of ever governing their planet. He can only hope his governance degree will be worth something at the other end of the galaxy. This comes a little out of left field presented this way. The way you had it written in the old version is actually a little better. But Catrine cannot forget him, nor does she believe Demia can prosper without him. And she might just be the bait to lure him back home.

This final paragraph isn't bad, but I think the whole third paragraph is actually worded better in your earlier draft. If you combined that with the first two from here, you'd be in great shape.

THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 86,000 words, is science fiction with romantic components. I would prefer the word elements to the word components, but I suppose that's just semantics. LEGACY has a literary bent and was inspired by Plato’s Republic. It will appeal to those who think Jane Austen should have penned 1984. This kind of comparison sounds cool, but I have no idea exactly what you mean. I kind of like it anyway, though, even if I'm not sure why.

Okay, in summary, I really think you're getting close here. Tweak the first paragraph with my suggestions, which should be:
  • Clarify what the proposal is, what it means, and whether Catrine's directorship means David is out.
  • Characterize your protagonists a little more. One word of personality can go a long way.
  • Consider introducing David by himself at first. I realize this is a dual POV story, but queries tend to work best when they open with one character for us to care about.
Then, once you've got your opening paragraph tightened up, I think optimizing this query would be very easy. Simply use the perfect middle paragraph from this version, and the perfect final paragraph from the one I critiqued last fall, and there you go - query magic!

That's it!

What do you all think? Be sure to read the old version for comparison. Otherwise, have a great weekend!