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!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Debut Author Giveaway Hop - The Fourth Generation

UPDATE: The winner of this giveaway has been randomly selected and has received their free e-book copy of The Fourth Generation. Thanks for participating in the giveaway hop, everyone! :)

debut author hop

Welcome to my stop on the Debut Author Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds! I'm giving away a free e-book copy of my young adult dystopian novel The Fourth Generation. Just leave a comment with your email address below for a chance to win (your email will not be retained nor will it be added to a newsletter).

In the future, no adults exist. Ever since the plague swept the world 100 years ago, no one has lived past seventeen.

Sixteen-year-old Gorin, a collector of curious artifacts left over from the pre-plague civilization, is on the verge of perishing from that deadly epidemic. And his last wish is to find a way to visit the rulers’ reputedly magnificent, off-limits mansion.

Up against the clock, he and his friend Stausha steal into the mansion and discover a secret more horrifying than they ever could’ve imagined—a secret that holds the key to the survival of the whole human race.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop - The Fourth Generation

UPDATE: The winner of this giveaway has been randomly selected and has received their free e-book copy of The Fourth Generation. Thanks for participating in the giveaway hop, everyone! :)

Welcome to my stop on the Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop, hosted by BookHounds. I'm giving away a free e-book copy of my young adult dystopian novel The Fourth Generation. Just post a comment that includes your email address (your email will not be saved or included in a newsletter or anything) on this blog entry, and I will randomly choose somebody to receive a free copy :)

In the future, no adults exist. Ever since the plague swept the world 100 years ago, no one has lived past seventeen.

Sixteen-year-old Gorin, a collector of curious artifacts left over from the pre-plague civilization, is on the verge of perishing from that deadly epidemic. And his last wish is to find a way to visit the rulers’ reputedly magnificent, off-limits mansion.

Up against the clock, he and his friend Stausha steal into the mansion and discover a secret more horrifying than they ever could’ve imagined—a secret that holds the key to the survival of the whole human race.

Here are all the blogs participating in the blog hop:

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Project Alert!

So in the exciting life of Chris von Halle (and it really is quite thrilling), it appears as though I have finally landed on the project that I will be writing next (cue exciting music that inspires both myself and blog visitors).

The ironic thing about my next project is that it is not any of the potential projects I outlined in my last post (I believe there were six ideas total). Pretty strange, huh? Especially since I was so sure the next book I was going to write would be one of them. But here's the thing about hindsight I realize that none of those projects truly spoke to me. Sure, they were all good, solid premises/ideas, and they each certainly had captivating elements that caught my whimsy and fancy (like sparkling butterflies), but at the end of the day I just wasn't "in love" with any of them. Funny how I didn't realize that at the time, since the very fact that I wasn't sure which one I wanted to write went to show that I clearly wasn't riveted by any of them.

But now, thankfully, I have a project that I'm whole-heartedly excited about and ready to dig into. The funny thing about that: the inception of it came from a friend of mine who was randomly spouting story ideas one night recently in our apartment (he's not even a fiction writer, btw). An element of one of those ideas latched into my head - right onto my brain, in fact - and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Within literally two days I had a whole, fairly detailed plot skeleton outlined, and was rarin' to get crackin' on the actual manuscript (that was about a week ago).

Yes, it happened THAT quickly. And that's sometimes how it works. Sometimes projects grow on you over time - you keep thinking of new, fun aspects and twists to add to it, and eventually it becomes (cliche alert) crystal-clear that you want to write that story. But sometimes an entirely different type of approach occurs - a random idea suddenly ensnares you and doesn't let you go until you've written everything down about it in a day or two flat, as in with my newest story idea.

I've also realized something about myself as a writer because of this (over-excitement alert) rather thrilling experience. I realized that my approach to writing has altered a bit yet again. I used to start writing as soon as I had an idea or premise I found captivating (a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy), but now I like to write out at least a semi-detailed plot skeleton, or al least know what the major pieces of the plot are going to be, before I start writing. Once I see the shape the story is taking, it's a lot easier for me to make an educated decision regarding whether it will actually be fun to write. Or whether it will even be a good story in the first place, for that matter.

Looking back, I've definitely started writing projects that just didn't have a lot of potential for captivating  plotting - and it was because I was way too impatient and just wanted to start writing DAMNIT!!!! haha. Ironically, even though I had those six story ideas I outlined in my last post, a few of them I didn't have any plot skeletons for. That goes to show how little they truly sparked my interest, even though there were intriguing aspects about each of them.

Anyway, enough babbling about my writing (or brainstorming) process. For those interested (and because I pretty much want to tell the world), my new project is a young adult science fiction (though it's a bit of a cross-genre tale, too; the other genre - fantasy), and it's currently called The Castle in the Girl. I'm really excited about this one, guys, and I hope it continues to be as exciting on paper (pun intended) as it is in my mind at the moment.

Another "fun aspect" of the new story: It reminds me of some of M. Night Shyamalan's work.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Vot to Write, Vot to Write?

So a few months ago I finished a draft (a pretty edited one, as I'm the revise-as-I-go type of writer) of my middle-grade science fiction book called Picket Town. I've been enjoying a little break from writing so far, but the creative well has been building up again, and I'm finding myself starting to get itchy about writing again (what else is new?). The problem - I once again don't have a story idea that I'm ready to fully dig my teeth into and start writing.

I know what you're thinking - isn't that the same, exact issue I had with my last book - right before I discovered the old idea for Picket Town hidden deep in the ancient recesses of my fabled "story idea doc"? And you're right. Six months after I discovered that artifact - bang! There was a draft of Picket Town in all its glory. But now I am once again without a new story to write...

BUT - this time around I have  a few potential ideas. Six, to be exact. None have declared themselves the official winner yet in the competition for what I will write next, but I think they are all pretty fun and solid ideas, at the very least. Interestingly enough, I've brainstormed each of them quite a few times, and have already worked through a significant amount of the plot skeleton for a couple of them. An aspect of just about all of them had been born as long as a few years ago, and I have since built on each of them here and there, adding them to the story idea doc as I went. Anyway, here's a little snippet of each, if you're curious (but I can't give away too much, as that would spoil the fun).

1. A dark middle-grade fantasy that's also somewhat of a science fiction story (I guess it's really a cross-genre tale). This one is my latest obsession, and it involves fairies, pixie dust, advanced technology, and a physically dark world. It's currently called "The Faerie Slums."

2. A middle-grade science fiction that involves a generation spaceship's trash unit, mutated humans, and a massive, ferocious monster that lives in a chemically polluted lake. I first conceived of this one about three years ago.

3. An adult campy comedy in which rabbits have taken over a future Earth. (OK, this one is admittedly not at the forefront of my consideration, but there's something about it that's kind of amusing/captivating to me.)

4. A young adult science fiction that involves a polluted future Earth, a time machine, and a love triangle between the three main characters (that last part certainly makes this one a unique story for me). I have actually brainstormed most of the plot skeleton for this one. Definitely a front-runner.

5. A middle-grade fantasy/science fiction involving kids with superpowers. I really love the villains (twin twelve-year-olds) of this potential tale.

6. A humorous epic fantasy middle-grade (lots of middle-grade around these parts) that pokes fun at epic fantasy tropes. Has a great stock of humorous characters, including the narrator, who is actually not the protagonist nor even appears in the story. I've had this idea for at least four years now and it keeps rearing its head every time idea-hunting season comes around. Maybe this season will be its time to shine...or be hunted...or whatever is an appropriate metaphor given the situation.

So there you have it - the six ideas I'm currently considering. Every one of them has something that captivates or amuses to me, but, again, none of them have declared themselves the official winner yet. I'll be sure to post the one that eventually makes the cut, if indeed one of these does at's that for a cliffhanger?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mystery in Fiction

Today I want to talk about mystery in fiction, and I'm not referring to the genre of fiction, mystery. The fun thing about stories in general is that each one is kind of like a mystery, in a sense. Each deals with the [typically] very slowly unveiling of information, one piece at a time, that continues to illuminate the bigger picture of the story. Therefore, a good story purposefully poses captivating questions that readers wants to know the answers to. That's what keeps them reading the pages or watching the movie or TV show or what have you.

To that, I wanted to point out, well, a couple pointers (how's that for a suave turn-of-phrase?) that I'd been thinking about lately. The first one is that I realize that I personally want to keep the questions, a.k.a. the mystery, going all the way to the very bitter end of my own stories. I've noticed that, over the years, when I'm reading a book or watching a movie, unless it's a comedy I sometimes lose interest in what's happening toward the end. Now that I've thought about it, I think part of the reason is because the writer hasn't included a question to keep my interest. Sometimes at the end of the second act of a story I'm reading, the overall story question basically boils down to, "How is the protagonist (and perhaps her friends) going to get out of all of this NOW?" And that's a fine question, for sure. In fact, it's necessary for a good story, as far as I'm concerned. But I personally want a little more. I want another captivating question that I want to know the answer to, even if it's just a small mystery that doesn't necessarily impact the plot in a major way. Again, as long as that question is captivating. Because of this realization I've made (at least about myself), I now strive to have a small mystery like that toward the very end of my own stories (again, if it's not a comedy). Or, barring that, at least some kind of plot twist. I think it just makes for a stronger, more arresting story.

The other thing pertaining to mystery in fiction I was thinking about recently deals with always trying to put yourself, as the writer, in the eyes of the reader. Okay, that might sound obvious enough on paper, but as writers we tend to get so carried away with the world and characters we've created (I know I'm personally more likely to get lost in the fantasy worlds I invent) that we sometimes forget to take a step back and try to view our stories through the lens of the reader. When I'm in the throes of creation (a.k.a. writing, for the layman), part of what makes the story fun for me is that I, as the writer, know what's "really going on it" in my story. Oftentimes I even know exactly how I'm going to throw the reader's perception of my entire world itself on its head (if that particular twist happens to apply to my story, which it does sometimes as a science fiction/fantasy writer). However, that doesn't necessarily mean that that fun is going to translate to the reader. Since they don't know what I'm planning, they need a little something to keep them going. A little something extra. They need a little extra something special called mystery. (Okay, I'm sure you saw that coming from a mile away based on how I was building up to it in those last couple sentences).

To go into the matter further, there needs to be something in the plot or world that makes the reader think, "Hmmm...I wonder what's up with THAT?" Or, "That's odd. I wonder what THAT has to do with in the story." Ultimately, you want them to wonder about "what's really going on," to keep them reading until BAM! You hit them with the next big plot twist. Of course, you don't want them to figure out that twist in advance, so there's that difficult balance to strike, but that's part of the fun for us writers, too! Bonus points if you can drop some red herrings in there (those can be quite fun, indeed).

Anyway, those are just some of my recent thoughts on mystery in fiction and how I've employed them and intend to continue to employ them. It's tough, of course, and you never want to be predictable, but if you can pull readers along with perfectly planted little nuggets of mystery, make them think something different than what you've got planned, and then - BAM! - hit them on the head caveman-with-a-club style with a twist that both surprises and reveals more about the story, I can think of few things more satisfying as a writer.

Now, off to think about more nuggets of mystery to infuse throughout my current story, including toward the very end.