Wednesday, December 26, 2012

June Casagrande and Grammar

 June Casagrande has a unique take when it comes to teaching Grammar to writers. She is the autthor of the weekly syndicated "A Word, Please" grammar column that runs in Southern California, Florida, and Texas. She runs the GrammarUnderground.com grammar tips website.  She has worked for the Los Angeles Times' community news division as a reporter, features writer, copy editor.  She currently copy edits Special Sections of the Los Angeles Times and teaches copy editing online for UC San Diego Extension.

 She has also published three books, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, Mortal Syntax and It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences, and I've read all three.

My all time favorite is Grammar Snobs.  I found it years ago, found it funny and informative. If memory serves, Grammar Snobs does focus more on AP style rules than any other style, but the lessons in it are helpful, make rules easy to remember and often funny.

Casagrande does mention her book Grammar Snobs a few times in Mortal Syntax.  Mortal Syntax doesn't have the same amount of humor in it as Grammar Snobs, but it remains an informative reference guide on rules and usage, such as "I could care less"  or "I wish I was taller," or "I rifle through my desk."  She explains why it is or is not correct and if their are better alternatives to the usage presented.

It was the Best of Sentences, seems to lose all the humor that Casagrande had in Grammar Snobs. But the book is an effective source for any writer who wants to improve their writing skills.  On several occasions, Casagrande would start on a grammar lesson that I felt I grasped well, but she'd introduce the topic in a new way and twisted my way of looking at the concept; a different way of looking at without changing the way I knew it work. This book focuses on the sentence structure used, but you're not having to diagram sentences.

Every lesson in all three books are told in short vignettes, making it ideal for a busy writer who has only a few minutes in line, a few minutes in the bathroom or a few minutes in the car to read. An entire lesson could be read in that short time.  The books are organized in a way so that they are great reference books. 

 I recommend all three books to anyone who does any type of writing.  Casagrande can make learning writing rules entertaining, and easily entertaining.  They're all fairly cheap books to purchase as well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Book Cover

I value all my friends.  But I truly worship those who have artistic ability.  Sometimes they can draw something better than I can describe it, sometimes they can convey mood, emotion, and setting with a few clicks of the computer.  This time my friend Cynthia Martinez of YKM Reviews has made a book cover I could never come close to creating myself:


Isn't it gorgeous?  I think she nailed Arabella and Regan in this image and caught the mood of my book. She used the exact same scene my mother used to make me a book cover for the same book. However, Cynthia had a completely different vision of that scene than my mother.

I'm picky and specific so poor Cynthia went through a few drafts to produce this one.  I'm sure she wanted to strangle me a few times but if she did, she hid it well.  The fact we communicated via email probably helped.

This is not an official cover but it could be.  Don't you think?  But so could my mother's.

My book is still being edited. Actually, right now, I'm barely holding onto the precipice of time. I want to start editing my book now, which I'm currently calling The Land of Blood and Sunlight. But I'm holding out, waiting for my self-mandated break comes to pass, December 26. What does it mean when you're more excited about being able to edit a book than opening Christmas presents? Is it old age?

Anyways,  I'll be printing this image out and hanging it on the wall, as I did with my mothers. Hopefully it will inspire me when the writing is slow, when I'm in a "I'm a horrible writer" mood or any other time.  And when the image isn't needed for my writing, it'll look pretty on the wall.

Simply because I think they deserve recognition, both Cynthia Martinez and my mother are willing to do some freelance stuff.  Cynthia is more into designing things on a computer, website, logos, book covers etc.  Mom is more into working at her easel, portraits, scenes, book covers.  They both worked on projects with me through online communication.  If you're interested, I'd be willing to provide contact information for either artist.  Just get a hold of me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another book Podcast

The undead can really screw up your senior year ... 

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year "get-a-life" plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancee. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war - and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

So my friends and I got back together and made another podcast.  This time we did a review on Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. Olivia, Cyna and I also decided to make the podcasts a regular thing. As such, we've come up with Papercuts Podcast."  Stealing from Cyna because she described it so well, i"we'll regularly discuss YA literature and entertainment. It won't always be straight book reviews - we've also got plans for tropes discussions, trailer snark, book vs. movie chats, guest reviewers, and hopefully some interviews in the future, so we're really looking forward to getting this off the ground, and we hope you guys are, too."




Since we're still new to this, we're still trying to figure out how to make this all work.  Any suggestions on improvements or topics you want to see us discuss are welcomed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing is my forbidden fruit

The best way to motivate me is probably to tell me I can't do it.  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, "Forbid us something, and that thing we desire."  My mind has been on Shadowed, nonstop since I forbade myself from working on the chapters.  It consumes my mind and this is what happens every time I take a break from working on any book.  And my body tells me that only by working on Shadowed will I find relief.

I've been trying to work on other writing projects.  However, I can't seem to get past Shadowed.  Shadowed.  Shadowed.  It's created a barricade on my mind, keeping me from putting pen to paper for creative fun.  I know that the demand to work on Shadowed will fade, probably by the middle of next week. At that point I won't have a problem working on another story.  But until then, I'm reading books like mad, writing notes down so that I'll know what I'll be changing when I get back to Shadowed--new notes, not the notes that keep repeating in my head like a badly timed mantra. I clean, and sleep, and work. Waiting for the words to cease so I can work on another book, another story, another project.

It could drive someone insane.

But writing will always be my forbidden fruit.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing Withdrawal and Why I Suffer

My story is getting closer to being done. One or two more run through and I believe it'll be ready for me to start query processes of publication. Who knows though.  I've said that thousands of times over the years.  I could be far from the mark. Despite feeling I'm close to having it done, I've decided, with some urging from friends, that I'll take a break from Shadowed. I won't edit anything on the novel for at least a month, perhaps longer, which, if you know me, is akin to torture.

I've been working on some version of this story for years. It's really all I know, and although I'm tired of  working on Shadowed I don't want to leave it alone until the story is finished. I have gone an entire month without working on Shadowed before. I don't like doing it.  The moment I say I will take a break from it the ideas on how to improve the story overflow and I am forced to fight the temptation to do more than simply write the ideas down, and store them someplace safe until the month is up.  For me, going a month without working on Shadowed is like going through caffeine withdrawal.  The most painful process is getting through the first three days, and usually by the first week all my symptoms are gone or so weakened that they are easy to ignore.  By then I've settled into another book or project to focus on to past the time.  I believe the last time I took a break from Shadowed, I completely redesigned my website with help from friends. I don't know what my project will be for the month yet, but I doubt it'll be another website project.  I imagine I'll get a TON of reading done however.

Right now, I'm going on break from Shadowed, already aware of about sixteen things that need to be changed in the story. I know how to fix some of them already.  Others I have no clue on how to fix them, but know it needs done.  I figure that by going on break now, I'll have time to come up with solutions for all of them and see more things that need fixed when I re-look over the story a month from now.  A month usually gives me what I call 'fresh eyes' on a piece of writing.  I get a fresh perspective, more distant look, at my work than if I keep looking at the same thing too many times.

So, wish me luck on my writing withdrawal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien: A different review

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother’s footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve.

Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

So every month, or so, a few of my friends and I get together on Skype to discuss writing, whether we're talking about tropes are critiquing a book we've all read.  This time Cyna of You're Killing Me, Ollie of Olivia's Secret Reading Room and I decided to try recording one of these meetings. The podcast is very rough.  We didn't even introduce ourselves at the beginning but I think it turned out well for a first attempt and we are talking about doing this on a semi-regular basis. The project may become bigger than that, but right now no guarantees.  In the below podcast you can listen to what we had to say about Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien. Let me know if there are any topics you would like to see discussed whether via podcast or written.

And I'm back!!!

I've been gone for a while. Time just managed to escape me but I've had a lot going on recently, some of it too personal to say on a public blog, but others are writing-related.  I also suspected my blogging would die down once I was out of school and will probably pick back up when I'm back in school. I haven't gotten a handle on writing a blog semi-regularly yet.

Anyways, to update you on what I've been doing:

I have a freshly edited draft of Shadowed.  Now I can start working on the changes I realized I'd need to make while I was working through this latest draft of Shadowed. Afterwards, I'll go through the draft looking for other things that need changed or written better.

The story has changed so much during this draft that I no longer believe Shadowed is the best title for it, not that it was perfect for the story before the massive changes to the book..  I've continued looking for a new title for the book though and I keep returning to a phrase I used in my book: Land of Blood and Sunlight. Now whether I call it Land of Blood and Sunlight  or  simply Blood and Sunlight, if I use it, I don't know. Any opinions?

One of my friends, Cyna of Your Killing Me, has been working on making a book cover for my story.  Some of you may have already seen the one my mother made. The picture is a scene from Shadowed, which remains relatively unchanged even with the major changes I recently made to it. This one was made primarily of oils.  And came to life after I gave my mother multiple descriptions and searched the internet for hours for pictures that looked similar to the characters I imagined. A lot of emails and back and forth commentary later, we got the result to the right. She left the title off so that should I change the name of the book, as I'm leaning towards doing, I can simply change the title on the computer.  The title and byline  is  my own work.

Cyna is using the computer to make the cover.  The first cover she came up with was nice, very clean, and much more traditional, less artsy, but it didn't feel right to me. I told her what I would like to see changed, sorted through several images with her and saw the rough draft of the new cover today. I like this version much better.  Their were a few things I asked to have changed and we sorted through images again.   I'm looking forward to seeing the final product.  Once the cover is complete, I'll probably post it here for viewing.

For those who are curious both my mother and Cyna are always willing to discuss the possibility of working on other projects. Both of them have an eye for imagery that I envy and have patience. I may be prejudiced, but I'd recommend either of them for projects.

In January 2013, I become Vice President of Communications for the Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writer's of America. This will be an interesting new challenge for me as I've only had training in communications. I'll also be starting another semester in school in May, which will end in October, and working as many hours as I can at my job, while working toward my writing goals. Phew.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it. But I'm looking forward to it.

Lately, I've been consuming books like chocolate and got together with a few friends to discuss one of them.  You'll see the results of that discussion on tomorrows post.  I hope you enjoy the change in presentation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What are you doing in November?

I've been participating in NaNoWriMo for years and last year was the first time I actually "won".  NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.I participate every year in this great challenge, and though I may not always reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I always have fun participating.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in you can learn more and sign up (It's free) at NaNoWriMo.org.  If you want to add me as your writing buddy go ahead.  You'll find my NaNo page at http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/avikar. I'll do my best to add you to my buddy list.

Right now I'm debating on what to write on for this years novel. Should I work on Lorenne's story?  This time combining the two stories I've written in separate years to make a completely different one and see if this one sticks?  Or should I work on the sequel to "Shadowed," which I have very little planned and nothing written. Or I may try something completely different.  Cockroaches saving the human race anyone? Does anyone here have a preference on what they'd like to see me do? I'd be interested to hear comments you have.

Although I'm not sure of a lot of things when it comes to NaNoWriMo right now, like what I'll be writing, if I'll win or if I'll even be able to start on time, I do know that I believe that a Non-Profit organization that helps build communities in classrooms, coffee shops, libraries, and living rooms all over the world and help the inspiration flow for me and thousands of my fellow novelists will need some funding to reach all their goals and make next year's NaNo even better.  So, for the month of November, I am Fundraising money for NaNoWriMo.   To help me raise money, go to my donation page.


Thanks for your generosity and support.

Also, if you want to help, but want to get something more out of it than a Thank You, NaNoWriMo does sell merchandise that does help them get the funding they need. https://store.lettersandlight.org/merchandise  Be honest, even if you're not a writer, who can resist the prospect of having a 2 GB USB Bracelet?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Slow Down. Breaking down and Setting Time limits

When I'm going to edit my own work, my process is usually predictable and simple.

Step one: Print the entire manuscript out.
Step two: Mark each individual chapter with post-it notes so chapters are easier to identify. 
Step three: Break the book into 4ths--to the nearest chapter ending. So if the 1/4 mark is on page 60 and the chapter doesn't end until page 63, the first quarter will contain 63 pages.
 Step four: Use paper clips to keep each fourth separated and together, except for the quarter I am working on. I do not always order the quarters in chronological order, though I am only allowed to work in one quarter at a time.
Step five: Edit an entire quarter.
Step six: Transfer notes for quarter edited onto computer.
Step seven: Start on next quarter
Step eight:  Repeat step five, six and seven until the entire manuscript is edited.
Step nine: Incorporate final notes and clean up final passages from edit.


During my first semester in Spalding's MFA program, I've already seen a change in my editing processes, mainly due to needing to get my requirements throughout the semester, but the new procedure seems to have a much stronger effect on my novel than my original way of editing.  I can see and feel the changes in the novel almost instantly, whereas I may need to go through the above process three or four times before I truly noticed a consistent change in the draft, sometimes in entire chapters.

What is this new, more effective way of editing? It's simple really.

I've been breaking the novel into sections for my packets. About 40 pages each--to the nearest chapter ending. So if I'm on my third pack of 40--with the packet supposed to end on page 120--but the nearest new chapter ends on page 119, I'd break it a page short. I work on the forty page section for three weeks. I am not allowed to work outside those 40 pages during those three weeks.  If I make all the major changes to the draft before my three weeks is up, I start at the beginning of the forty pages and do a deeper edit, grammar, sentence structure, smoothness, general clean up.  If their are changes I still want to make at the end of the three weeks, I make a note of it and MOVE onto the next section of forty pages.

How is what I've been doing, different from what I've started doing? Honestly if you break my novel down--at least before I started editing it, I'd have only had 5.5 sets of 40. So, I'd only be adding a section and a half to my original idea, which can't make too much of a difference right?

I think the difference is the forced three weeks to work on the section. By setting that time limit, I force myself to slow down, to really look at my writing, no matter how much I may want to be done with the round of editing. Without the time limit set, I would push through the entire novel at my pace.  I'd make notes to make major changes, however I missed a lot of the changes that were also needed in that same section because I wasn't looking closely enough.  This also works to keep me motivated, focused on working on my story, so that I can make sure all the changes that need to happen can be made, instead of delayed for another draft.

If you're needing a new method of editing, this one may be worth trying.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tenderness Critical Review


Almost any writer can tell you that the three act structure consists of Set up, Confrontation and Resolution.  However there are more ways to write a story then the three act structure.  A book could be written with three, four, five or even six acts. Robert Cormier provides a strong example of the four act structure in his novel Tenderness.
According to Larry Brooks the first act of the four act structure “introduces the hero in his everyday life, sets a hook to keep readers reading, establishes the hero's stakes (what he cares about that will be endangered later), and foreshadows later events. It also introduces the changes in the hero's life that propel him toward the First Plot Point.”
Readers see the first act in first 100 pages of Tenderness. Readers are in the first Act of the story. In this act we meet Lori, learn about her fixations and see how she gets rid of them with Thrash. Afterwards, while watching the news, readers see her develop another fixation on admitted killer, Eric Poole.  Unwilling to leave town before she gets rid of her fixation on him, Lori finds a temporary refuge at Harmony House.
Eric’s past is revealed through an interrogation by a police officer. He then foils the officer’s plans to keep him in prison. On one of his last days in prison, Eric develops his own fixation on a girl, Maria, who fits his victim profile.

In The Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote the following about act two, “Everything the hero cares about (and readers came to care about in Part 1) is in danger. The hero is usually just reacting to what happened at the First Plot Point—not being proactive. She might try to save the day, but if she does, it doesn't work yet.”

From pages 100 to 140, readers are in act two. Eric stays at his Aunt Phoebe’s house. While waiting for the media to lose interest in him, Eric thinks about Maria and slowly grows tired of biding his time. He wants to kill Maria. Meanwhile, because Eric avoids the media watching his aunt’s house for him, Lori is unable to see Eric, much less remove her fixation.  She is stalled, non-active beyond keeping a vigil on Eric’s house in the hopes of him coming out.
Eric however has seen Lori through the back window of the house.  She looks familiar to him at first, but he eventually remembers that she was a potential witness to one of the murders he committed years ago and wonders if she might be a lose end he has to kill to maintain his freedom.
Concurrently, one of the girls at Harmony House is trying to get Lori in trouble and Lori recognizes she can’t stay there any longer. Giving up on removing her fixation on Eric, she leaves Harmony House to return home. Before she leaves, however, she swings by his house one final time to say a silent goodbye.
 Act three, according to Larry Brooks, is when “the hero becomes proactive, and begins to seriously fight back against the antagonist. He also starts to fight against the inner demons that are holding him back.”
From pages 140 to 214, readers are in the third act structure.  In this act, Lori and Eric finally meet or are reunited as the case may be.  However Eric is suspicious of her and wonders if he needs to kill her. They spend some time together, during which Eric decides Lori isn’t a threat to him and Lori manages to get rid of fixation of him. By then she has grown to care for Eric though and realizing he has not been freed of his fixation on Maria, Lori encourages Eric to go after her. Maria is a trap however. Lori realizes this and stops Eric from hurting Maria, before he has done anything the police can arrest him on. The police threaten to arrest Lori for interfering and she runs into the woods to escape them.
In the Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote that in Act four “Everything in the previous three parts comes together in a final climax, in which the hero shows that she's overcome her inner demons. After that, there's a bit of time for tying up loose ends.”
From page 217 to 229 readers are in the fourth act. Once Lori and Eric find each other again, they decide to celebrate their near escape and rent a canoe in the park. They trust each other, are fond of each other and feel they may be together for a while.  However Lori falls out of the canoe and into the river.  Eric tries to save her. However Lori dies and Eric is sent to prison for her accidental death. In prison, Eric mourns for the loss of a living creature for the first time in his life, which ends the four act structure.
            Cormier is a master storyteller, who uses the lesser known four act-structure to tell the story of a serial killer and his would-be accomplice.


Works Cited

Brooks, Larry. "The Four-Part Structure." Squidoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. .

Cormier, Robert. Tenderness: A Novel. New York: Delacorte, 1997. Print.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

City of Bones: Critical Review


City of Bones opens at a dance club called Pandemonium. Inside, a demon searches for prey among the dancing humans. By slowing this scene down and choosing the correct words, Clare turns a simple walk across a crowded club into a sort of dance that also raises the tension in her novel.  This is seen in passages like:

His hand tightened on the blade he carried and he had begun to step out onto the dance floor when a girl broke away from the mass of dancers and began walking toward him. (…) She smiled, passing him, beckoning with her eyes.  He turned to follow her, tasting the phantom sizzle of her death on his lips. (3)

Despite the demon’s unsavory intentions, this passage has a clear flirtatious feel to it, at least from the girl who is later identified as Isabelle. She is acts almost predatorily with the way she moves around him, makes sure that he sees her and he watches.  We know she’s constantly moving but readers may not realize how much it’s mentioned because Clare wisely chose her words carefully. Instead of several “walks” and “moves,” readers instead encounter “step out,” “broke away,” “neared him” and “passing him.”  Keeping their constant movement from feeling repetitive as it would have if Clare had used the same set of words repetitively to tell the actions.
On the next page, the constant walking continues with the following passage but Clare’s choice of words only adds to the tension that the author has already started to build:

The girl was a pale ghost retreating through the colored smoke. She reached the wall and turned, bunching her skirt up in her hands, lifting it as she grinned at him. Under the skirt she was wearing thigh-high boots.
He sauntered up to her, his skin prickling with her nearness. (…)
A cool smiled curled his lips. She moved to the side and he could see that she was leaning against a closed door. No Admittance—Storage was scrawled across it in red paint.  She reached behind her for the knob, turned it, slid inside.  (…)
He slipped into the room after her, unaware that he was being followed. (4)

Here the words that Clare uses to show the girl’s movements up the tension in the same way that simply slowing the scene down does. The word “retreat” has conations of fear and prey attached to it.  However the word sauntered is the opposite. Someone who saunters is confident, perhaps even a predator. And as readers are aware that the boy/demon wishes to make a meal of the girl, the tension is raised with those word choices.
In two pages, with the two above passages, Clare describes the boy and girl walking at least ten times and only actually uses the word walking once.  Instead Clare uses descriptions like “retreat,” “sauntered,” or “pass” to add more tension and keep redundancy at bay.

Works Cited
Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. Print.

Monday, October 1, 2012

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

I felt...wronged by this book. It started off with so much potential and then it backslid, reverting to already popular storylines to tell the rest of the story, namely Harry Potter and Star Wars. It made the book entirely too predictable for my taste. However, the way this first book is written, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the plot lines established in this book are reneged on later,  "Oh, yeah.  We told you that.  But it wasn't true.  Surprise!", which would suck and I really don't like books that do that to you.

I did enjoy the banter found in the book. However everyone in the story seems to have been blessed with a repertoire of witty comebacks, which is a bit unrealistic but I was willing to let it pass. The action scenes had a lot of potential, but I don't think they moved along fast enough or had enough tension to really keep my interest.

There were a lot of plot conveniences. Clary's mother is kidnapped, kept unconscious but otherwise, from what readers are shown, left unharmed. In effect, Clary no longer has an adult she needs to worry about.  The information her mother could have provided her is  revealed until a more dramatic moment. There really weren't any adults in the book.  One is stuck inside the Institute forever and the Brotherhood does basically nothing. Lupien...I mean Luke (that's his real name. But he also has similarities to Skywalker and to Snape) "saves" the day after being absent for most of the book.

At one point, Jace takes Clary to a restaurant and they discuss the menu.  "That food is for werewolves, Kelpie, Zombies, vampires, Sirens."  Honestly what was the point of that scene? As far as I could tell they were naming every mythological creature they could to show they were a part of the world Clare built but some of the creatures listed are so rare, I'm sure not everyone would know what they were talking about and there was no explanation for the creatures they named. So if you didn't know what a Kelpie was, well, look it up.

A lot of Clare's similes and metaphors are awful.
"Leaving the Institute was like climbing into a wet, hot canvas bag."
Um.  How does one fit into a canvas bag, wet or otherwise?
"Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat."
I think there would be a lot more vegetarians out there if raw meat stung upon contact.  I could be wrong, however.

Clary is whiny and, other than complaining and getting mad at other people, doesn't seem to do much. She does manage to find the cup everyone is looking for but that doesn't help her case much as it was a small thing. She does punch and hurt a few people, but considering they were all on her side can't really be attributed to her doing something in the book. She got credit for killing a demon but a frightened two year-old could have done what she did. So apparently ravener demons aren't that hard to kill.

Very few of my friends would find value in reading City of Bones. It's very much an introductory novel that could have been significantly trimmed down and a little less Star Wars-esque. If I read any of the sequels to this book, it'll be because I'm hoping the storyline gets better. However, if you don't mind a do-nothing-female protagonist and a predictable storyline it may have some entertainment value.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

End of Semester is Coming

So some of you may already be aware that I am working on my last packet for this semester.  I won't be able to attend school for the fall semester, which starts in November.  However, I plan to attend the next spring semester--late May.  By all appearances, second semester students are strongly encouraged to try a different focus for a full semester.  So, instead of taking in YA next semester, try memoir, poetry, screenplay, playwright, adult....  I'm leaning toward Screenplay.  I've just heard a lot of great things about that program and it would be different from what I currently write.  I think Adult writing would be too much like YA for it to show me a different way of writing in a significant way.  So I thought I'd ask readers to recommend books or screenplays to me.  Partially so I can keep posting reviews on this blog.

Any genre will do, though I would prefer YA novels for books.  And I have no idea what I'd want Screenplay-wise so I leave that to readers to suggest.

Also, I know, I owe a book review on City of Bones still and two more critical reviews.  Those will be coming shortly!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tenderness by Robert Cormier

Eighteen-year-old Eric has just been released from juvenile detention for murdering his mother and stepfather. Now he’s looking for some tenderness—tenderness he finds in caressing and killing beautiful girls. Fifteen-year-old Lori has run away from home again. Emotionally naive but sexually precocious, she is also looking for tenderness—tenderness she finds in Eric. Will Lori and Eric be each other’s salvation or destruction?

This was an interesting book. I was expecting this story to go down a different route, to have a different focus than it proved to have but it was still an enjoyable read.

Both protagonists in this book are anti-heroes, and anti-heroes, especially female anti-heroes are extremely rare no matter the genre. For that alone this book is worth a quick read.. But structurally, there are several reasons to do so. I had twenty pages left to read of  Tenderness when I realized that the book switched between third and first person throughout the entire novel, which is something I normally notice immediately. But it never jarred me making the switch between the different personages.

This book however did not sit well with me in several ways.  Both Lori and Eric felt older than they were in the book. I would have believed Lori closer to 17. Eric felt more in his 20s. However, the plot wouldn't have worked with the characters those ages.  Once you read the book you'll know why. I don't want to spoil anything.  But...I don't know, it rubbed me wrong.

Other than that, I really didn't have any issues with the book.  It was a bit on the dry side for me.  And it will probably never be a book that I have on my must keep shelf.  But it kept my interest the entire way through, which is always a good sign.  I would recommend this book more for the structure and the story than the entertainment value.  But that's my taste.  I know some of my friends will completely and utterly love this book.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Holes: A Critical Review

No Holes in Emotional Arc

Louis Sachar's Holes is about fifteen-year-old Stanley Yelnats, who is falsely accused and charged with theft. He is sent to Camp Green Lake instead of a Juvenile detention center where he endures and survives inhumane conditions. Sachar gives Stanley a strong, and believable emotional arc through the entire story.
When Stanley first arrives at Camp Green Lake he is overweight, he has no friends and no self-confidence. He's miserable at this term of his life and at the circumstances that brought him to Camp Green Lake.  Despite his emotional dislike of himself, Stanley does still feel sympathy for the guard and bus driver that took him to Camp Green Lake, which is conveyed after the guard grumbles about the return drive: "Stanley thought about the long, miserable bus ride and felt a little sorry for the guard and the bus driver (13)."
However Camp Green Lake is hard on Stanley.  Digging Holes in desert heat, Stanley begins to grow physically stronger, and loses weight. His body, like his personality,  begins to harden due to the harsh conditions of Camp Green Lake.  This is perhaps best demonstrated when Zero, another camper, admits he can't read or write and would like Stanley to teach him.  Stanley's reaction is unsympathetic and unkind:

After digging all day, he didn't have the strength to try to teach Zero to read and write. He needed to save his energy for the people who counted.
"You don't have to teach me to write," said Zero.  "Just to read.  I don't have anybody to write to."
"Sorry," Stanley said again. (82)

Later, Stanley gets in trouble when one of his fellow campers steals a burlap sack of sunflower seeds.  Stanley takes the blame for it and is sent to the Warden's for the theft.  When he returns to finish digging his hole, he finds that someone has nearly finished digging his hole for him. He realizes that Zero, who hadn't been involved in the theft, had done the work for him. Zero's act soften's Stanley toward him. He agrees to teach Zero how to read. From this point on Zero and Stanley begin to grow as friends.
The hardness Stanley developed earlier does not completely disappear though.  It's just changed into a different kind of hardness--he becomes less sensitive, more confident in himself and as a result, willing to stand up for himself and others. On page 138, the Warden tells Stanley that he can no longer teach Zero how to read. Instead of accepting this as he would have at the beginning of the book.  He stands up to the Warden.  "'Why can't I dig my own hole, but still teach Zero to read?'" he asked.  "What's wrong with that?" (139)
Thus completes the emotional arc of the story. Stanley starts at an emotional low at the beginning and concludes the arc as a strong, confident and emotionally empathetic guy.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

How I Live Now: Critical Review

Same Person, Two Narratives

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff is about a girl who is sent to live with her cousins in England. While there England goes into war against an unnamed enemy, sending Daisy on a journey of survival. To tell the story, Meg Rosoff forgoes the traditional English standards of writing to distinguish the story's present from the narrator's present.
Though the character who narrates the story is the same person throughout the book, there are two distinct narrators in the story: fifteen-year-old Daisy and Daisy as an adult.  To distinguish between the two I'll refer to adult Daisy as Elizabeth--which is her birth name but she is only called that once in the beginning of the book.
With Daisy's narration, bad grammar is the norm, which is demonstrated when Daisy meets Edmond for the first time:

I'll take your bag, he said, and even though he's about half a mile shorter than me and has arms about as thick as a dog leg, he grabs my bag, and I grab it back and say Where's your mom, is she in the car? (3)

Daisy doesn't use quotation marks, she doesn't always create a new paragraph when someone new speaks, nor does she always separate the dialogue from the would normally be the previous or following sentence.  Readers biggest clue that someone is talking are the dialogue tags and the capitalization of the first letter of the first spoken word, which some readers may find disconcerting the first few times they encounter it. There is a comma where a question mark should be and it is all a run-on sentence.
Using traditional grammar, the paragraph above would be at least three sentences long and broken into multiple paragraphs. However, applying the traditional rules to the text would have disrupted the ebb and flow that Rosoff has set up for the novel. Daisy's grammar also suggests numerous things to readers and any number or combination of those implications could be the reason for it.  The run-on sentences give readers the impression of a long-winded teenager or someone emotionally distraught.  The bad grammar could be because the narrator is uneducated or someone who is stream-of-conscious writing and not worrying about grammar rules.
However, in Elizabeth's narration proper grammar is used as is demonstrated with the first paragraph of chapter one:

My name is Elizabeth but no one's ever called me that. My father took one look at me when I was born and must have thought I had the face of someone dignified and sad like an old-fashioned queen or a dead person, but what I turned out like is plain, not much there to notice. Even my life so far has been plain.  More Daisy than Elizabeth from the word go.

In contrast to Daisy's writing, Elizabeth's good grammar appears older, more sophisticated and more emotionally distant from the events described, which is probably true as Rosoff states that Daisy wrote her entire experience down shortly after being rescued.  And then implies that years later Daisy read over the experience, added her comments and published the book as written.
This combination allows leaders to get a sense of how Daisy saw the events shortly after living them and how she viewed they a few years later when she looked over her account of the events.  And allows readers to see how, years after the major story took place, things went for her when she saw her cousins again after the war.
By combining bad grammar with good grammar readers get a unique story that allows the story’s present and the narrator’s present to be viewed within the same scene from two different periods of time.



Works Cited
Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now. New York: Wendy Lamb, 2006. Print.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Girl Meets Boy: Critical Review

Please note: This is a critical review.  A overall review will not be provided for this book.

No Clue, Aka Sean by Rita Williams-Garcia is the companion piece of Sean + Raffina by Terry Trueman and vice versa.  Through these two short stories, readers can see the point of view of the boy and girl as they try to start a romantic relationship. In a few short pages each, Williams-Garcia and Trueman reveal a lot of information through voice.
According to Julie Wildhaber, "Voice is the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work." Voice is often conveyed from a mixture of things, namely word choice and sentence structure. Williams-Garcia and Trueman have developed very different voices. Even though the narrators are talking mainly about the other person, reveal a lot of information about the narrators.
In two paragraphs we know that Raffina is a confident, black teenage girl who is perhaps a bit aggravated with her love interest:

What a bug-out. Here I am watching you pretending not to watch me.  I'm not turned off by shy, but shy will get you sitting by your lonesome. Shy will get you watching from the sidelines while I'm stepping out with some other guy.  Come on, Sean.  Let's get in the game.  Say those two words as only you can say them: Hey, Raffina.
I have to admit the whole shy thing is part of the appeal.  Sean's a complete switch from what I'm used to dealing with.  A girl can't eat a hoagie in the caf without some playa rolling up, trying to get those digits. Now that's a turnoff.  Guys assuming too much, too soon.  It's not just because I'm fine--which I am, but because I'm Gary's sister.  The Highlander Hero. Holds the state record for the most triple doubles in a season.  Scores thirty-two points on a slow day. So you know what that means.  Everybody's scouting. Recruiting. Rubbing up on him, trying to get to know him.  Yeah. Even if they have to go through me to be in with Gary. The guys want to part of the entourage.  The chicks want to be the girl in the prom picture when ESPN takes a look back on the life of Gary Frazier. (p. 103)

Outside of what Raffina actually tells us, we learn a lot by how the narrator speaks, thinks and the vocabulary she uses. Words like "bug-out", "stepping out", "caf", and playa" all let us know she's a teenager.  Lines like Come on, Sean, lets readers know of Raffina's discontent with Sean. There is also a rhythm to the words that mimic the African-American cadence.
With Sean we get a totally different voice. In two paragraphs we have the same affect, learning more about the characters than they are actually saying through voice:

Her name is Raffina, pronounced "ruff-eena." I'm not even sure I'm spelling it right.  Maybe it's spelled Ruffina, but I don't so.  I glanced at a homework assignment she turned in for Human Relations 2, and I'm pretty sure it was an a not a u.  Whatever, it doesn't matter what her name is, or how she spells it anyway--what matters is that I wanna hit on her, and I'm not sure if I should or how to even start.
She'll be the first girl I've tried to ask on a date since I got TKO'd in the seventh grade.  That's if I ask her.  I'm not sure about that yet.  If you'd been coldcocked by a petite blonde when you were thirteen, you might hesitate to think of yourself as God's great-red-hot-lover-boy gift to girls too.  I owe my nondating history to Debra Quarantino. (p. a111)

The reference to homework and the slang, like "wanna hit on her" and "TKO'd", let us know that Sean is also a teenager. The minimum rhythm to the sentences makes it read like a caucasian is the speaker in this one.  He isn't as aggressive as Raffina comes across, nor aggravated with his love interest.  He just seems, as Raffina accuses him of in her story "shy." 
With the help of word choice and sentence structure, Rita Williams-Garcia and Terry Trueman create voices that convey a lot of information by letting the narrators’ voice speak louder than their words.
Works Cited

Crutcher, Chris, Joseph Bruchac, James Howe, Ellen Wittlinger, Rita Williams-Garcia, Terry Trueman, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Sara Ryan, and Randy Powell. Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story. Ed. Kelly Milner Halls. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle, 2012. Print.


Wildhaber, Julie. "Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing." Web log post. Grammar Girl :. N.p., 1 July 2010. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .



Friday, September 7, 2012

Researching for Books

Even with all the advances in technology and all the material out there, researching a particular subject can be difficult.  Their are simply some things that don't translate well on the page, which makes learning the material difficult and not everyone can afford a trip or a class on the subject they are researching. I do a lot of research online.  I ask random people if they know anything, sometimes they'll surprise you. and have answers you never considered.

For example, I wanted my next scene set in France.  Not Paris.  I posted on Facebook asking for suggestions.  And I got a great one.  Reims, France. With that lead, I started a basic search, history, pictures.  I liked what I saw so I dug deeper.  Maps, both virtual and real, books, websites.  This was all made difficult by the fact a lot of the websites were in French. And their are some things you either have to guess at or be really lucky about finding. For example, what does Reims smell like?  Grapes? Champaign? Chocolate? Perfume? River?  Something else?  What does it sound like?  Chatter in French and English? Trains rolling by? Tolling bells? Really I can only guess.

Figuring out what to have my characters specifically do there, while the non-location related event happens has been a challenged.  What would be interesting for readers to see?  What is unusual but potentially new?  I kept returning to tour barges in Reims. Because touring old buildings I haven't been too didn't seem right, and since Arabella is basking in the sunlight sending her into a Champaign Cave seemed cruel.  But those are the things that are most advertised as happening in Reims.

I looked deeper into the barge idea. Where would the boat take passengers?  Where could and would it stop?  What would passengers see from the barge?  How big are these things? How expensive?

Wait, what's this? While searching for "What's outside of Reims?" I find Hot Air Ballooning? Really?  Hmmm. My search starts anew.  What does Hot Air Ballooning involve?  How many people can fit in a basket at a time? I found the option of going Hot Air Ballooning in Boise and experiencing it for myself.  But for the price I'd be required to pay...well, lets say that under my current circumstances I'm more likely to see Satan Ice Skating in the South Pacific before I can afford that experience. It sounds marvelous though.

Research reveals that normally the pilot will take no more than three people up with him or her at a time.  I've only seen prices offering to take two people up.  So I'm wandering if their is a reason why a single person can't go up with just the pilot or if that is such a rare occurrence they didn't bother listing it as a price on the website. If their is a reason why more than one person needs to go up with the pilot, then the idea of making Remy a pilot is thrown to bits and I'll probably need to find another form of privacy and entertainment in one that's non-traditional.

Again, I was stuck wandering, where would my characters land if they went up in a hot air balloon?  Could it be somewhere in the mountains, in the woods?  And what would they realistically find there? Considering my characters abilities I'm not too worried about them finding their way home.

Research takes a lot of time to do properly.  I've emailed both a hot air balloon company about the information I need. And asked for the tourism department of Reims for help.  If I'm lucky, I'll have answers in a few days. Until I get the responses I'll work on finding them all online. Hopefully, I'll have some hair left by the time I finish this scene.

What do you do for research on things you can't experience? Or learn on your own? Do you know much about Reims France or Hot Air Ballooning?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Signs I'm about to hit the "I am a horrible writer" stage.

  • I'm making dedications for my book
  • My house receives a face lift, including reorganization of furniture
  • I've grown obsessed with dissecting or critiquing other people's work
  • I look up quotes and cartoons about writing
  • I want to chat and not about writing
All but one have happened so far. And I have a feeling that last one will be happening tonight.

Next is the actual "I am a horrible writer" dump.

Be warned.
Usually I shed the worst of it in two days.
But it clings for a week or two.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing Madness

If you've been following me on my facebook account, you probably already know that I'm making big changes to my current WIP.

I'm sticking to the plot I originally had, but the biggest changes are Silas' role and the timeline. These two things require a lot of changes throughout the novel in itself, but I'll, hopefully, be able to keep a lot of my scenes intact. I'm not so much as changing the story plot-wise--not this one at least--as much as I'm emphasizing new points and de-emphasizing others. And I like the consequences of most of those small changes.

As I told a friend, this draft is really a spaghetti test. For those who don't know, that's when you throw spaghetti against a wall and see what sticks.  Some things I already know won't stick.  Other things seem pretty solid to the wall.  But I keep eyeing the noodles that dangle from the wall threatening to plummet to the floor. I probably won't know if it'll collapse or solidify until I'm much further in the re-write.

A lot of the time I feel like I'm floundering. I keep hitting blocks that appear so easy to fix once I figure out the solution, but I keep getting caught up with how it was originally written or with what I originally intended to happen. The changes I've made will make a lot of the things obsolete, but it's also opening up a lot of possibilities in other areas.

Right now my rewrite stands at about 14,000 words. By September 11th, perhaps sooner, I hope to be at 30,000--about half-way through the draft. I'm pulling a lot of scenes out of this draft though, so I'm losing a lot of words. If I were to keep what remains of my original draft just as it is now, and added it to the new changes I'd only have a 59,600 word novel, which is closer to a novella, I believe. It could be straddling a Novella and a Novel, depending on the source.  And I know some people say that 50k is the minimum word count for a YA novel. I do have more scenes and sequences I need to remove to make the book work with the new changes, but I also have things I need to add, change and expand on.  So, I'm sure my word count will get up where I want it/need it to be. Once I get through this draft and start cleaning up the spaghetti on the walls and floors.

These changes make me feel like my novel better fits the description I wrote for it.  Strange, isn't it.  The book is changing for the description, not the other way around? The description was close but I think the book had less focus on the plot points than the blurb suggested. Now, I'm not sure I can say that. So I, at the moment, don't believe the description needs to change. The title probably does, but I've long suspected that.  And as I write this story I tend to have weird phrases pop in my head--they might work for titles but I think their are things inherently wrong with them.

Right now the title that pops in my head the most is: Serendipitous Pain.

That might work for an adult novel. Not sure it would work for a Young Adult novel.  And if I stare at the words long enough, I start seeing a bondage porno thing playing out. Not at all the image I want for a YA novel. I don't know why I bother trying to figure out titles though.  I don't seem to have a knack for coming up with them.  Other titles I came up with include:

  • Political Reprisals
  • Wayward Games
  • Depraved Politics
  • Seasoned Spoils
  • Shadowed Descent
  • On First Appearance
  • Died at the hand of Shadows
  • Vampires Befriending Slayers
Okay. I think I'm done embarrassing myself. But simply calling it Regan Strommen seems too lazy. And some of my oldest titles, like Playing Deadly Games  or All Our Secrets Are The Same probably won't work. So, for now, it's going to remain Shadowed.


Recommendations are always welcome on anything writing related--novel changes, book titles or story descriptions. Do you have any? And how is your own writing going?

Write well, even if it sucks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Holes by Louis Sachar Review

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption. 

I remember that Holes was popular when I was a teenager but it just didn't interest me enough to try to read it at the time. Left to my own devices, I still probably wouldn't have picked it up for myself.  Surprisingly the story has a lot of elements to it that I've always enjoyed--magic, friendship, a historical timeline--at least part of the time, and society values and perspectives, mixed in a modern, realistic world, or what was modern when the book was published. I am a multi-genre lover after all.

Their weren't really any surprises anywhere in this book for me. But I can't say whether or not all of it was because I picked up on the clues, I'm too old for the book, or because I have very vague memories of listening to six or seven book reports on the book as a child.

Stanley is an interesting character--not something I normally ran into at that age. He's heavy and tall, which gave him the nickname of "Caveman" while at Camp Green Lake. However he is bullied in school, and by a kid smaller than him...a fact that confuses his teachers. He starts with low confidence but slowly finds his voice and who he is at Camp Green Lake, despite the degrading circumstances he finds himself in. It's a coming of age story that feels realistic. Some of the stuff stretched the coincidental line.  I would rather have seen Stanley or Zero somehow get out of the mess with the warden and the lizards instead of having both of them saved by a patent lawyer. But, I believe, in the end every character got what they deserved.

The book was a quick read and something I would recommend reading, especially to those around ten or eleven years old.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff Review

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

I'm going to open by saying I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. It's short and a quick read. Despite the unconventional writing style, I was interested in the story. I think the main thing that bothered me about this book was the consensual incestuous relationship in the book. The sex wasn't my problem. I just would have preferred the couple to not have been related--and no matter what the authors suggests, both characters were old enough to know their intimate relationship should be avoided.

The book doesn't focus on the relationship the teens are involved in, that's just one element in the story. Daisy is, probably what is considered, an anorexic. The kids are forced to survive on their own. The main focus was the war and how it affected the lives of all those involved. It's told in Daisy's point of view, so you only find out what happens to some of the characters at the end of the book. Everyone starves, and everyone has to find their own coping mechanisms to survive the war--even after the war ends.

This book could have been more powerful. But it was an interesting mix of what past wars were like, coupled with what those wars would be like in modern times. It was an interesting world that Rosoff created. I read through it all quickly, compelled to learn more to see what happened next, but I wanted it to be more. And I think why it didn't have the impact it could have was because Rosoff was trying to address too many issues at once--living alone without parents, incest, starvation, anorexia, family relationships, death, war and terrorism. That's a lot to chew.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Packet 4 plans

I'll be turning in everything for packet three later today. The critical essays are difficult for me to write, mainly because I have problems picking out the elements. I'll get stuck on one thing, whether it actually qualifies for what my essays need to be or not, and have a hard time looking for something else that would fit the assignment better.  I think I did a fairly good job with this packet's critical essays and I'm hoping my next essays for packet four will be a little easier.

For packet four I'll be reading   Holes by Louis Sachar and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I trust the people who recommended them to me and looking forward to reading them, though they probably aren't books I would have picked up on my own.

Have you read either of these books?  What do you think?  Is there something the authors did particularly well with the books?  Or something in particular you want me or recommend I focus on as I read through it, like dialogue, description, characterization, time, etc.?  I may write about it when I'm done reading.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Catching Attention with Catching Fire: A Critical Review

Suzanne Collins wrote a wonderfully compelling book about a girl who has unintentionally fueled and become the symbol of a rebellion she isn't sure she should stop. Readers are immediately drawn into Catching Fire from page one because Collins raises questions while providing answers through details. The very first paragraph in Catching Fire opens with Katniss Everdeen sitting in the woods:

I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.  My muscles are clenched tight against the cold.  If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor.  I should get up, move around, and work the stiffness from my limbs. But instead I sit, as motionless, as the rock beneath me, while the dawn begins to lighten the woods.  I can't fight the sun. I can only watch helplessly as it drags me into a day that I've been dreading for months. (1)

Collin’s descriptions and word choices build tension. Clasp is indicative of a tight grip on an object.  The word “clasp” frequently has connotations of being in distress. This gives us a hint as to the narrator's emotional state, which makes readers ask the question, "What is wrong? Why is she upset?"
Since flasks are usually insulated and the tea is cold, readers can infer that she has been out for a long time, since the once warm tea is now cold. Readers also know that the weather is freezing. So they begin to wonder new things: Where is she? Why is she outside? Along with the original question: What has her distressed? These questions only become more demanding, with the next sentence, "My muscles are clenched tight against the cold," while re-affirming what readers have already guessed: it's cold and the character is miserable. Readers know their inference that it is cold was correct. The word clenched also suggests Katniss is uncomfortable, possibly in pain.
The next sentence, "If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor" brings new details to the readers attention and new questions.  Readers know wild dogs are native where she is and they are a threat to human life. Readers immediately wonder, where exactly is she?  Is she in the mountains? Are there no domestic dogs? When this sentence is compounded by  the fact she thinks "I should get up, move around, and work the stiffness from my limbs" ,  readers suspect she may have had to climb trees before for to escape wild dogs before. This suggests the threat, the possibility of attack, is familiar to her. And readers must wonder: why is it familiar? And is it the same for everyone where she's at? Or is she upset because she's in a dangerous place where that's a possibility?
Collins follows up with the mention for Katniss' need to move with, "But instead I sit, as motionless, as the rock beneath me, while the dawn begins to lighten the woods." This statement lets readers know several things.  Due to an internal conflict or problem, not because she was hurt, Katniss is incapable of moving. She's sitting on a rock and watching the sunrise, which seems like a mundane thing to do. However Collins has already set up that Katniss is upset about something. When we loop back to the implication that Katniss has been out for an extended period, readers know that she's been outside for several hours before dawn.  Again, readers wonder, "Why?"
The statement "I can't fight the sun," lets readers know that she doesn't want the sun to rise, hinting at the reason for her distrust. But the next statement provides clarity: "I can only watch helplessly as it drags me into a day that I've been dreading for months." Readers know for certain that something is going to happen today that Katniss dreads. Again, readers wonder, why? What is going to happen today that is so bad?  Fortunately, Suzanne Collins knows that she can't keep that information from readers much longer and the next paragraph, she starts explaining what has distressed Katniss: the beginning of the victory tour.
Suzanne Collins then slowly reveals what bothers Katniss through the same technique of revealing and withholding information. This structure keeps readers engrossed in the world Collins has developed, as they seek answers to the questions Collins has raised through details, and word choice.