Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Stranger Game "Review"

Image result for the stranger game cylin busby
So I just finished reading a young adult psychological thriller called The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby, and I honestly have to say this is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. It was very tough to put down, and I literally had to read the last 100 pages or so in one day this past Saturday (which is unheard of for me - I rarely read that much in one day, and I'm a very slow reader at that). The book just commanded that I finish it.

In any case, for those of you who are wondering, here's a bit about the book: It's plugged as "Gone Girl for teens" (incidentally, I read and enjoyed Gone Girl recently, too, although I think I enjoyed The Stranger Game more due to the faster YA-style pacing), and it's about a high school girl name Nico whose older sister mysteriously disappeared for four years, and then is found by authorities and rejoins Nico's family. However, there are some major and mysterious (there's that word again) discrepancies between the sister Nico remembers from four years ago and the one who has returned. I won't say more than that, except that the story is predominantly told through Nico's eyes with sporadic flashes to her sister's perspective while she is "gone", and there are many great plot twists galore throughout the book. All in all, a very eerie, but very satisfying read.

On another note, I've found myself reading and enjoying psychological thrillers more and more. It's interesting...throughout my writing career I've been into and written horror, space opera, alien science fiction, epic fantasy, "straight-up" science fiction, dystopian, and I've even written a humorous superhero book somewhere in the mix, but I'm starting to think the next genre I'm going to write a story or book in is psychological thriller.

Also, I think I'm going to review a book on my blog every once in a while to add a variation to it, and I think it's a nice way to "give back" to the writing community, too. So, yeah, bottom line of this post: I highly recommend The Stranger Game, and I'm the last person to say that lightly, so go out and buy it and read it now!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stuck Stuck Stuck in a Rut Rut Rut

I've been hard at work on my latest book, a young adult science fiction time-travel novel, but unfortunately I've been stuck in a rut as of late. I really, truly, absolutely hate it when this happens, but it seems to happen at least once per book (if I'm lucky) - I simply get to a point in the story where I don't know how to progress, and that happens to be where I'm at right now.

In this particular case, I've made it a whopping two hundred pages through the draft without a hitch (well, for the most part). But for some reason I'm just not sure what should happen next (similar to what happened with the last book I scrapped, although this one is much farther along). Funny thing is, since I'm somewhat of a pre-plotter, I had a pretty well-realized idea beforehand of where I wanted to go, but for some reason the story simply isn't cooperating with my initial plan and I have no idea why. Right now we're talking more than two straight weeks of not being able to continue with the story at all. I've been brainstorming like crazy, bouncing ideas off friends, writing buddies, and even the ficus in my backyard, and have even tried revising some of the ideas we've come up with into the book itself (well, the ficus didn't have much input), but so far nothing has solidified itself as a worthy fit.

Talk about a serious "ARGH!" Haha.

Oh, well. At the end of the day I might need to put the book on the back-burner for a little while, get some distance from it so I can return to it later with fresh eyes, but it's definitely a doozy. I have one friend who's been right there with me every step of the way these past two weeks trying to help me crack this one, and even he is stumped.

But have ye a little faith - I'm positive I'll get through this rough patch at some point. It's just a little frustrating, that's all, made even more frustrating due to the fact I'm stuck at a spot close to the story's conclusion (this book will be more on the slimmer size length-wise, but then again what else is new with me?). Hopefully I'll eventually solve the riddle, finish the book, and it'll be out in the world for people to enjoy. In the meantime, wish me luck cracking this one! I'm going to need it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Website is Now Live

I'm very excited to announce my new-and-improved author website has just gone live (check it out at www.chrisvonhalle.com)! It's got the same background pic as before, but now it has a new layout, a new "About My Writing" tab, and revamped bio and contact pages, among other things. Concerning the "Contact" page, you can now join my mailing list to be updated about any new releases or exciting announcements. Yay! So if you get the chance, feel free to stop on by and check it out. Until next time, happy reading and/or writing!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Back from Hiatus & New Website

So some of my health issues have at least subsided a bit, and I’ve been back in the groove of the writing thing. I’m working on a new project, too. I wound up scrapping the young adult science fiction novel I was working on before. I’d made it to about 30,000 words (for those of you who aren’t publishing-industry-insiders, that’s a little over a hundred pages), and now I’ve started a new YA sci-fi book.

Why am I scrapping the old one? Well, quite simply, I don’t know where to go with it. Sometimes this happens with us writers. We pour loads of time and effort into a project, and it winds up just simply not working out. (Sounds like some other things in life, eh? Like my quest of beating all the cups in Mario Kart 8 on 200CC mode. Just kidding. Well…I wish I was.) I got about halfway through the story, but it was too short, and I couldn’t think of a way to extend it that’s both original and compelling enough to me personally to write. And, believe me, it’s VERY important that I find my own stories compelling enough to write hehe.

Anyway, I’ll keep the story file on my computer, of course, in case I ever have a burst of revelation in the future as to how to continue it. You know, a subconscious one that’s sure to happen when I’m eighty years old and am watering a ficus in my backyard and – BOOM! – I realize I can add a vengeful, mutated ficus into the second half of the story, woven among a brilliant plot line, of course, that’ll extend the story to a natural conclusion. OK, I’m being ridiculous, but you get the point. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll have a random light-bulb moment, and I’ll be able to continue the story. But for now, it’s in my best interest to put my efforts into a new tale, which, coincidentally, is another YA sci-fi. This one has to do with time-travel, though, whereas the one I scrapped is an alien story.

In other news, I’m planting a ficus in my backyard. Just kidding – I’m working on a new author website (a revamped version of the existing site - www.chrisvonhalle.com). It’s going very well, thanks for asking. In all seriousness, it’s going to be bigger and better and more fun. It’s not quite ready yet, but I’ll be sure to post when it is. Until then, back to watering that ficus!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


So it's been a while since I've last posted and that's because, well, life has taken a couple unexpected turns that require pretty much all of my attention at the moment. Because of said turns, I have been on a bit of a writing fiction hiatus as of late. Other than the fact I need to focus on a couple things (and unfortunately one of those is health-related), this hiatus has actually been a bit refreshing. I think I needed a break to replenish the ol' creative juices and perhaps gain a little perspective on the whole writing journey in general (and perhaps even the whole life journey as well).

In any case, I hope to be back in the writing chair as well as posting more regularly on this blog at some point in the near-ish future, but I'm still not anticipating that being anytime soon. I haven't been TOTALLY absent, however, as I've been doing a tad bit of writing-related work here and there, but it's been quite sparse, and there hasn't been any actual drafting or revising of manuscripts or anything of that more fiction-nuts-and-bolts-type nature.

Anyway, until next time! Hopefully I'll be back here with more updates and kernels of writing-related awesomeness soon-ish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Short YA: Potential Change of Plans

Ha! Well, looks like after only a few days of writing that last post, I'm having a bit of a change of heart regarding The Castle in the Girl, and the reason for that is twofold.

One of them is that, upon doing more research, I've discovered that a 30K-word YA book might really not be allllllll that marketable. I mean, there are definitely fairly short YA books on the shelves, but The Castle in the Girl is VERY short for speculative fiction (it's sci-fi). If I leave it as planned, I might more accurately be looking at a novella versus a novel.

On the other hand, I just had a random idea that would extend the length of the book a considerable amount. If it indeed winds up making sense and working out, then that means that what I THOUGHT would be the entire book is really only Part One, and the new idea I had would constitute Part Two. I think it only makes sense, overall, not only in terms of beefing up the length of the book, but also in terms of the story.

It's funny how stories work. Just when we think we've got one all figured out - or mostly figured out - something comes along and surprises us, giving the story a whole new/different trajectory. And usually when we least expect it. I feel like that's happened to me at least once per book I've written.

Anyway, so that's the new plan. I'm going to have to do a lot of brainstorming to flesh out Part Two and see if it truly makes sense and will work, but I have a strong hunch that it will, and that my story will be all the better for it.

So, if you need me for anything, I'll be brainstorming - so BUG OFF!!! JK. But I'll definitely keep you in the loop on The Castle in the Girl's evolution. Given its sudden departure from the original plan, there may yet be more twists in store...(How's that for a cliffhanger?)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Short YA

So I have been plugging away on my new novel, a young adult science fiction currently called The Castle in the Girl (it's an eerie sci-fi with a bit of an M. Night Shyamalan feel to it). It's been going pretty well so far with very few hiccups (knock on wood!), although there's still a good deal of the first draft left to be paved. And of course that's all before another human being - be it a beta reader or critique partner - even lays their fresh pair of eyes upon it and lovingly rips it to shreds.

In any case, I am just encroaching on the 20K-word mark, and it has suddenly occurred to me (although I admit I suspected it all along) that this is going to be a pretty short book. In fact, I'd be surprised if it ebbs its way much past 30K.

[a collective gasp]

Wait - was that just a collective gasp from all of you that I just heard? I'm pretty sure it was. After all, I know what you're thinking - "A young adult book - only 30K words long! That's madness, I tell you. Sheer madness! Is that even......possible?"

Well, I believe it is. Sure, YA books run between 45-80K on average, and can even push a bit beyond that, especially in the speculative area. Heck, my own debut YA dystopian novel, The Fourth Generation, clocks in at a hearty 76K. But YA books can also run on the slimmer side as well. I did a little research just to be sure (and to stop myself from freaking about the marketability of my book) and discovered that some published YA books have indeed been as low as 30K or even somewhere in the 20Ks. And it looks like my new book is going to join that very exclusive, very celebrated (at least in my eyes now that I'm writing one around that length) crew.

The thing is, my book's not nearly as epic as The Fourth Generation. It's a lot quieter, though still packs a punch, I think (I hope!). The bottom line is the story really doesn't call for more than 30K words, and, really, it's all about what the story calls for, right ("Yes, it is," I can hear you all say collectively).

So, there you have it. A short YA. (See what I did there? I just put the post title right in the middle of the post - pretty cool, huh?) Of course, now that I've said that, the story will probably completely surprise me and demand to be much, much longer and more epic, but I severely doubt that. But, as we all know, stories have a way of both surprising us writers and telling us what it truly needs. So, well, I guess I'll be figuring that all out for sure before long. And, on a side note, I plan on posting its working back-cover blurb soon on the blog to really whet the collective appetite.

Until then, have a very collective day!