A Tiny Update and Not So Tiny Excerpt (BEASTS: Chapter One)

I’m facing an interesting dilemma.

I feel good. I feel great.  I’m no longer alone. I’m living in a wonderful home with a loving family. Everything’s fantastic!

And I’m hardly getting any writing done because of it.

I’ve read it before how comfort can be deadly. I’m seeing first hand how that can be true. I’m also realizing just how much visualizing and fantasying your dream coming true is also dangerous.

Because feeling like I already have everything I wanted means I don’t feel any urge to do anything to get it, because in my head I already have it. Tricky, eh?

That said, I’m not giving in without a fight. I may have missed a week of blog posts, but I finally finished the first draft of the first chapter of my YA novel, BEASTS, which I’ve been working on since early February.

Needless to say, this is a cause for celebration.

So since today is Monday and that means Excerpt day, in order to make up for my unannounced absence, here is the entire chapter in all its flawed glory.

Who knows how much it’ll change when I finally send it off to agents (hopefully within a decade), but I’m not going to touch it again until the rest of the book is written.

Meanwhile, I’m going to contemplate about the actual benefits of suffering.

At least some amount of suffering. I finished reading War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which was amazing and related to what I’m talking about  so there’s a post in me on what I’ve learned from that book as well.

Until then…

Here is Chapter One of my YA Fantasy novel: BEASTS.

 

Warning: The following is over 3k words long. So take a bathroom break, get your mug of hot coffee and a cookie, sit back, relax and enjoy.

 

Continue reading “A Tiny Update and Not So Tiny Excerpt (BEASTS: Chapter One)”

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Excerpt Day: BEASTS

 

These last few days I been advocating the need for action towards ones goals. One of the reasons I disappeared for three months is because I wanted to finish a chapter for my YA novel and post that as the next post. That never happened cause I never finished it. But I didn’t want to post something else because I was starting to feel like I was all bark, no bite.

I didn’t just want to talk about what I loved to do or wanted to do.

I actually wanted to do it.

I still haven’t finished that chapter, but it’s nearly done. I have a few things in the works.

A nonfiction book based on everything I talked about last week. My YA Shapeshifter novel. And Savior, my superhero noir story that may become a comic.

So today is excerpt day. Proof to myself that I am doing the work and following the dream, not just talking a great deal.

Funny enough, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve shared an excerpt of a WIP.

Perhaps July is just the month of sharing.

Enjoy.

 

 

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Chapter One

Stars twinkled above Nicolai when he opened his eyes and he was struck with a painful longing for the Antarctic sky. The image of a dark carpet of colorful light stretched across the heavens was clear as day in his mind. Then it was gone, back into the abyss with the rest of his lost memories.

So desperate to cling to his forgotten past, Nicolai remained on his back for several more minutes, trying to reimagine the picture. But it was useless. It may as well been a dream for all he knew.

With a heavy sigh, he sat up in the darkness. Sniffing the air, he figured he was sitting in a dank alleyway and that a cat passed by recently and marked his territory on the dumpster he’d been sleeping against.

“Yuck!”

Nicolai climbed to his feet, rubbing his face and grabbing his green knapsack.  Plunging his hand inside, he pulled out a water bottle and dumped the small amount of liquid inside on his face. That woke him up—though he hadn’t been tired to begin with. He couldn’t remember where he was or how he got there. He stood in the darkness for a moment, straining his memory. The last thing he could remember was reaching the Capitol on foot around midday, but that could have been days ago.

He glanced at the sky. It was late. Probably midnight judging by the moon and past curfew. At the far end of the alley, he could make out the faint glow of streetlights. On the other side of the dumpster was a solid brick wall. Great place for a nap…if you can call “randomly blacking out” a nap. He wanted to at least stay off the streets when night fell. Find an abandoned building or something. The last thing he needed was to run into the cops first day in the Capitol. The street would leave him expose. Catching sight of a fire escape just above him, he repacked his water bottle and reached for the ladder.

“Good evening.”

Nicolai froze. He sniffed again. Cat pee – a great cover for an actual cat. His eyes followed the voice and fell on a male figure crouched on the top of the brick wall. The stranger grinned widely, like a Cheshire cat, the moonlight reflecting off a row of sharpened white teeth and large amber eyes with almond shaped pupils.  Nicolai estimated him to be at least a few centuries old.

An Alpha.

“I take it you’re new around here, eh?” The Alpha cocked his head to the side, like a cat eyeing a mouse. “Shall I welcome you to the neighborhood?”

Nicolai didn’t move, but tensed his muscles, ready to bolt.  He inhaled deeply. Was this one alone? No. Alpha’s didn’t hunt alone. Where was his pack? And what species was he? Definitely not a house cat.

“What is it? Cat got your tongue?” The Alpha laughed, revealing even more of his sharp teeth. “Oh, not yet, I hope. That’s the most succulent part.”

Nicolai turned his gaze to the tops of the buildings. At least six stood on the edge of the roofs on either side. All male, blond and muscular. One silently jumped down to a fire escape a few floors above him to watch, hands gripping the railing as if to jump.

The Alpha’s amber eyes narrowed as his Cheshire grin changed – less amused, more sinister.

“You’re not welcome here.”

“I’m not hurting anyone.” Nicolai slid one foot back, trying to make the movement as unnoticeable as possible.

The Alpha wrinkled his nose, the grin vanished and his entire face plunged into shadow. “Your stench is hurting my nostrils.”

Sweat slid down the back of Nicolai’s neck. He moved his foot further, watching the approaching cat above him out of the corner of his eye. “Sorry. Can’t really do anything about that.”

“Oh but you can.” The Alpha’s teeth flashed again. “You can die.”

His amber eyes flicked up to the others. Nicolai grabbed the corner of the dumpster.

“Get him!”

The cat above him leaped onto the dumpster’s lid, his boots leaving a dent. Nicolai wrenched the dumpster forward the moment he landed and the entire thing came crashing down. The cat stumbled and smashed face first into the opposite building. The Alpha jumped from the wall, snarling, his clawed hands reaching for Nicolai’s neck.

He ducked to the floor and the Alpha flew over him. The other five cats were scrambling down the buildings. Nicolai quickly jumped onto the dumpster and over the brick wall.

The snarls behind him grew louder, feral and inhuman. Nicolai could guess what was happening, but he wasn’t about to wait and find out. There was no way he could outrun real cats unless he put some serious distance between them, so he ran.

THE HUNGER GAMES: Never Play It Safe

 

Edit March 4th: I take back everything I wrote here. I finished reading all three books and thinking about it, perhaps this book was the way it is for not only set up reasons, but also because it’s the first book of a brand new trilogy. It’s also YA. So playing it safe makes alot more sense in order to get it published. Again I’m just speculating. Regardless, the sequels don’t play it safe. Especially not in the third book, not at the end. But I’ll leave this post so you call see me write about something with such confidence when I don’t really have a clue what I’m talking about.

Enjoy.

 

 

I read The Hunger Games in a single day.

A single freaking day.

Whereas The Hobbit and Unseen Academicals still lay unfinished months after I made their purchase. That should tell you something.

I saw the book and its sequels in Walmart, and I’ve always wanted to read it. With Borders having closed, and thus Puerto Rico’s last decent bookstore gone, I quickly snatched it up.

I started reading it…and couldn’t put the damn thing down.

Cost me an entire day of productivity.

But the worst part was…near Part III of the book, it got really disappointing. I continued reading till the end out of momentum (and I was still craving to see how it ended), but…but….

At some point, the romance or the fake!romance tearing at and conflicting Katniss took over and I was strongly reminded of Twilight or any romance novel (also the last scene of the Games where the last tribute was killed – trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible here— was just…cartoonish, unrealistic and out of place) and this is not what I was expecting.

Before I read the book and just heard what it was about, I would criticize it; say it was just a rip off of the manga Battle Royale.  Thing is, I LOVED the concept of Battle Royale, and wanted to read The Hunger Games because of it.

But here is why I still love and will always return to manga and anime.

They push it.

They fucking push it.

Often, manga goes dark and it gets brutal and unforgiving with its plot. Good people die. People are put through unbearable situations and it never lets up. It’s one emotional, gut wrenching twist after the other.

During chapters 1 and 2 of The Hunger Games, I was near tears. I felt the characters. I was worried for them. They were by far my favorite chapters of the books. In fact, the book was near perfection…all the way until the Games.

Perhaps by this point my expectations were way too high. I was anticipating the worst of the worst for the characters.

Maybe it’s just because I was binge reading and wasn’t exactly in prime reading conditions.

But…I just stopped feeling it. Some characters, Katniss’ competitors were flat, one-dimensional….and also certain elements of the plot were also flat and too simply executed.

A little spoil-y, but I expected more twists or details or something more interesting regarding the characters and their deaths.

More specifically (and whole lot more spoilery, sorry I need to vent)….

 

~~~~~~

The characterization of Thresh, Foxface and the nameless cripple boy. I was expecting all these to have small but more important roles and deaths than the ones they were given. We don’t even get to see how Thresh died and I was so sure it was going to be a plot point, to fan the flames of Katniss’ hatred for the Capitol (I could swear they killed him with the rain because he was too strong).

Also, Rue’s death seemed weird too. Well, not the actual death scene, that was beautiful. But if she was hard to catch, how did they catch her? I wanted to know. I thought maybe the boy did something clever and would have been a tribute to Rue’s character that she didn’t get caught easily. It felt anticlimactic when it happened.

I was kind of glad that the writer put in some heartless, cold, one-dimensional characters so I wouldn’t be so pained when Katniss had to kill them. But…at the same time, I was disappointed.

I wanted it to bearable, but not…TOO bearable. I expected this to be an emotional roller coaster and it really wasn’t at all. When Peeta foreshadowed not wanting to become a monster, I truly expected them in situations where they might have to act like one…but that never happened. Katniss’ choices were too easy, her actions too noble. I mean hell, she only killed 4 people and three of those were not directly. I wanted her in a situation where she had to kill when she didn’t want to. Where I didn’t want her to kill because I liked her opponent. Like put her up against Thresh or Foxface, who I really liked.  I wanted to feel conflicted. But that never happened.

And Peeta.

When they introduced him with Katniss’ flashback, I loved him instantly. I also loved him throughout the entire first part of the book. But then…suddenly his character sort of took a nose dive for me.

I had all these theories and expectations of his selflessness. I wanted to be shown that he went for the Cornucopia specifically for the bow, to get it to Katniss, because he already knew he wasn’t gonna survive and his plan was basically to help her in any way he could. His selfless love for Katniss is what made him shine in my eyes and I wanted to see more of it.

But it was all very much skimmed over. I suppose it’s a result of the POV, since Katniss wouldn’t notice such things, but still at the end when they watched the highlights of the Games, I really expected something to turn up, some new information we hadn’t known before.

A twist. Something. I was shaking with anticipation. Some last twist. Some last thing I couldn’t think of.

But no. Nada. Nothing.

It doesn’t help that Peeta’s personality sort of deteriorated as time went on. He went from this thoughtful kind boy with low self-esteem, worried about his identity and state of mind before the Games, to just a boy in love. This one note almost made me lose my love for him. He became…boring.

And I think that’s it. The moment the book had that long period of just Katniss and Peeta sitting in that cave and it sort of became more of a romance than a fight for survival, I got bored.

I loved the added element of romance at first. I loved the whole love triangle thing. But…I didn’t come for that. That was just an added thing to spice stuff up.

I came for the Games.

And they were kinda disappointing.

~~~~~~

 

 

But why were the Games disappointing?

They were too SAFE.

They didn’t push it!

They needed to push the cruelty, the savagery, the unfairness. All that despair I felt during the parts of the book speaking of District 12 should have been brought into the Games…and intensified.

These are children made to fight each other for entertainment. Make it more real! More…ridiculously unfair and horrible, cause it is!  I wanted to see more shades of gray, more difficult choices being made.

The mentions by Katniss of past Games were more dramatic than the Games she played.

I wanted her more traumatized, more….changed at the end of the book (think Ender by the end of Ender’s Game). But I didn’t feel she changed much. I mean other than the whole thing between Katniss, Peeta and Gale which will most likely dominate the next book…which is also what is hesitating me from getting the next book.

I was SO SURE that Katniss would have done something more against the Capitol or plan to by the end of the book (I mean she sort of did, but I was predicting something more intense and complicated).

But I suppose she is a true practical survivor from beginning to end of the novel, which I didn’t like, the fact she didn’t really change.

The book was still good…just not as amazing as I originally thought it to be.

But this just motivates me to not make the same mistake of pulling my punches in my own novel.

To push it.

To relentlessly make my readers squirm.

To not play it safe.

And make it real.

 

So um…have anyone else read The Hunger Games? What was your reaction?

 

~~~~

(And on a side note…to those who read the book and are wondering how I feel about the love triangle…

Katniss and Gale are soulmates. Peeta is just unfortunate, despite how much I adore him, and will probably end up like his father. But I’ve been wrong in my predictions before in this book, so I could be wrong.

EDIT: Wow, was I WRONG. But then again, how was I suppose to know the things that were going to happen in the sequels. I had no clue. It’s one of those instances where I’m glad I’m wrong, so live and learn.)

 

(On a side side note, the movie trailer for the movie looks freaking awesome! It’ll probably not be as good as it looks, but if they show more of the fighting than what it is in the book, I’ll be pleased.Edit: The movies will never capture the true soul of these books. Not if they hollywood it to death. So with that in mind, I’ll see it knowing it’ll pale in comparison to books and just focus on whatever does work.)

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