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Wife Unit Literary Influences

March 04, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Setting, The Craft, The Wife Unit  1 Comment

The Wife Unit has a sneaky literary influence on me. She has a penchant for historical mystery novels, or the character-driven historical novel. She introduced me to a type of book I use to by-pass, what I now call the “Über-researched” novel. A story full of show, but you can feel the undercurrents of the setting because the author made it come alive. The details are not in your face, but oozing from the page, taking you back to the time of the setting.

I started to appreciate this type of mystery, and as a researcher, cracking open one of these gems is a special treat.

I have one word for this type of book: NOM!

When I joined Twitter, I followed a few people I exchanged email with prior, and suddenly I had several followers who in turn were following the people I was following who followed me back. Did you follow all of that?

One of these people was Gary Corby. Gary is not a heavy Tweeter, but sometimes he would say something about his work in progress or the novel he wrote previously that would peak my interest. Gary seemed like a researching, fun writer, and his blog was a hoot. I will admit, after awhile, I just wanted to read the damn book. Like now, a clear case of book lust.

Now he has an agent, and his novel I was so interested in makes its way to bookstores in 2010 as the THE EPHIALTES AFFAIR. How exciting! I plan to immediately preorder it and hand it to The Wife Unit to read. Then I can harass her proper, with “Are you DONE WITH THAT YET?” and passive-aggressive husband behavior such as walking into the room when she is reading and delivering a big sigh.

In any event, at the very least, I shall enjoy finding a genre specific book in the Wife Unit Category before she does. These little one-ups keep me slightly ahead of the curve.

Lastly, if you like historical mysteries, bank on Mr. Corby. Five minutes in his blog will leave you drooling for more.

Chapter of Doom

March 02, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, The Craft  0 Comments

Book Project was such a bitch this last month. I rewrote Chapter Fifteen several times, each time I became more frustrated with the results. With two other books under my belt (the first one now stored under the bed), this is the first time encountering this phenomena.

I began to think the preceding chapter was the real issue. I may be the Hack Writer, but I understand the basics of novel writing: a crappy chapter in a good book inadvertently has a bad intro.

This was not the case. I simply failed to set the right tone, the right bit of atmosphere. Chapter Fifteen is all about atmosphere, getting it right from the get-go.

Here is getting it right:

In my mind, I expected a nasty bit of business crawling through tunnels, destroying shielded kill bots one-by-one—like a jumpy horror vid with aliens bursting forth from dark recesses to impregnate Brittney and Tiffany with devil spawns after wiping their personality from their brains, turning them into mindless baby-factories.

Actually, that describes the last years of the war.

I am not going to reveal getting it wrong, ha. Let us just call a truce, Your Little Sister and I. We now return you to your scheduled program of 1500 to 3000 words a day.

The Memory of Scent

December 12, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, The Craft  2 Comments

The house smells so wonderful, with the grand fir waiting for its new tree stand, sitting in a bucket off in on corner.

My penchant for Scrooge-like feelings during the holiday season has slowly been replaced by warm memories of my children’s joy for the season. For young boys, yes, Christmas is a lot about presents. If you are a good parent, if you could overcome the bombastic rampant commercialism, there is an underlying simplicity about the season that can pull at the heart like no other time.

This morning Thing Two came in while I was getting dressed, wanting to know if we could go get Thing One’s Christmas present tonight. How cute is that? I’ll tell you how cute it is, it is a bit of the ultra-cuteness.

Yes there are the presents. But then there is the smell of the tree. The gingerbread house. The decorating. The Christmas cookies. The story of Christmas. Grandpa and Nanna. Daddy’s Christmas Day roast. Santa. The music. The warm fireplace and the happy dog.

Long after those presents are gone, the memories of our close family during this time will linger on. One day my sons will be walking in one of the great national forests around here, and after the morning rain, smell the fresh scent of grand firs. And it will smell like Christmas.

And that will be magical, always magical, even in the dead of summer, it will be Christmas magic.

Dancing with Setting

November 24, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

Bunny Trouble is near-future science fiction book set on the northern Washington Coast. It takes little description on my part to describe the scenery. In fact, if I told you this novel takes place in a small town on the wild and rocky Washington Coast, a town with a lighthouse and a river harbor, bordering the Olympic National Rainforest—I bet in your mind you have a really good idea of what it looks like. It might not match my idea, but when all is said and done, the picture in your mind is going to be better than anything I can describe to you.

Imagine that! I assume you’re a smart person!

The Baby Dancers is neither a contemporary nor a near-future science fiction book. It is Young Adult Fantasy that moves around to different environments, some of them quite different than the world we live in today.

This transition was not easy for me; it was a struggle, actually.

Yesterday I wrote 2,500 words in one of these environments. It felt good, as if I fell into a rhythm. I added a bit of tension, and a whole lot of action. I felt like the scenery description added a nice flare to the atmosphere and resultant action, neither understated nor overdone.

This bodes well. It was really fun, and a joy to write.


Unwind by Neal Shusterman

November 23, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Plot, Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

UnwindMy book reviews are targeted towards novelists (my prior book review can be found here).

Neal Shusterman’s Unwind is a near-future science fiction horror tale that can be summed up in one word: delicious. Quite simply, Shusterman goes where few dare to tread. If you have a love of edgy Young Adult fiction, then look no further. This book belongs on your shelf for several reasons, one of which is the intense questions that get asked, each one more thought-provoking then the last.

For an older gentleman like me, Neal Shuterman’s Unwind can be compared to a John Christopher novel written by Steven King.

The plot goes like this: abortion is illegal… on unborn children. During their teen years, parents can decide to send their child away to be “unwound” where 99.44% of their body is harvested.

The book centers on three teens that are now “unwinds”:

  • Connor, chosen to be unwound because he is a rebellious teen
  • Lev, who was born to be unwound based on his parents religious beliefs of tithing
  • Risa, chosen by the state to be unwound simply because they decided that they could not afford to keep her alive

These three escape their fates in a fortuitous freeway pile-up. Now all they need to do is survive until they are eighteen, when they no longer can be unwound. Capture means not death (so they say), because all the parts are reused, the unwind is divided into parts for a cheerfully waiting populous where the art of doctoring is rare but surgeons rule the health scene.

Sound positively hellish? Well it is. The undercurrent of unstated horror is relentless in Unwind and then BAM! It goes from the unstated to the all too real like a punch in the gut. Literally, I felt vaguely ill at the end of the novel. The subtleness of the cruelties with smiles suffered on these children builds to an epic crescendo that cumulates in one of the most terrible bits of sheer creep that I have ever read.

If you care to write edgy fiction, then look to this horror novel because that is what it is. There is little gore in Unwind worth mentioning, oh no. Like a Japanese horror movie, there is a sense of malevolence running through this sick and twisted society that looks so much like our own—yet is so different.

Or is it?

Consider if you will, the teens that were dumped at Nebraska’s hospitals. The mirrored reflection is not a dark twin of our light. Far from it, the parallels in this dystopia are sometimes all too familiar, and all too normal. And that is what makes it a chilling read for teens and adults.

For the Young Adult novelist, this study of unrelenting intensity warrants your attention. There is more here to scrutinize, than just pacing, atmosphere and plotting.

Unwind asks tough questions rarely found in a book targeted for teens. What is the beginning of life? When exactly does life end? What is the nature of consciousness? What are the consequences of anarchy when the law is so very flawed? In a world of villains, who is the true villain?

What are the ethics of compromise?

This, my friends, is a book that never talks down to the audience it was designed for, as the questions posed above compose a heady literary wine. You will be hard-pressed to find an action-packed book filled with such teen reflective goodness.

Another important part of this book is the voicing. Written in the third-person present tense, the word-smiting lends a flare not often encountered. The way the book is crafted lends itself to a sense of urgency; I was dubious going into it, but Shusterman pulls it off with his screenwriting experience shinning through.

If it seems like I am gushing, I guess I am. I do have some minor faults and quibbles with the novel, none really I feel necessary to drag out for the sake of being fair and balanced. If you write Young Adult fiction, it’s a must read simply because it does something rare: For the reluctant teen reader, it is a novel that will draw him in and leave him wanting to read more—because the type of entertainment given by Unwind can be found nowhere else. For the already fan of outstanding Young Adult fiction, it is euphoric lifeblood for the mind. There is not a bit of fluff betwixt its pages.

That’s a win-win combination of awesomeness that deserves your purchase and study. For what better result could there be for an author of Young Adult speculative fiction?

Foundations of light and shadow

September 30, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, The Craft  1 Comment

This morning, Thing Two could not wait to show me his book order catalog from kindergarten. Remember the book order, the magical list of books you could check off? Then your parents would erase most of your choices, and the agony of only picking one or two? The books would someday show up at your desk like magic?

I almost passed out from a terminal case of teh cuteness! He was smiling and showing me the books he wanted to order. Gosh, I love you, you little book lusting squirt.

My boys are little readers and it fills me with pride. Truly, I am blessed. It provides my inspiration, and sometimes when I am alone by myself with my thoughts… I smile.

There are good people in this world.

I see them all around me.

I envision some going on to defeat evil, and triumph over wickedness.

That no matter what the odds, their intellect and attitude carries them across the chiasm.

This is the foundation of the worlds I create in words.

oppressive isolation

September 10, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Characterization, The Craft  0 Comments

One of the best fantasy stories I had ever come across was not from a book. It was a video game.

Myst, in fact.

Myst was the very first fantasy experience that made me feel… alone. How could a video game capture or cause those feelings? You’re walking around, looking, looking and the isolation is oppressive, both visually, but more importantly, through the plot you have to pull up, bit-by-bit, puzzle-by-puzzle. It was magical and it was sinister. There were no monsters, there was a void. The crashing waves. The silence of non-talking. A library of books with more questions than answers.

I played Myst and vowed that I would capture the essence of that aloneness in a novel. Could I use oppressive isolation as conflict? Could I create a compelling protagonist that could grow out of the comforts of silence?

I am not talking about plot, mostly, I am referring to atmosphere and setting (no, not a “marooned on a island” story). I have a character in mind. Now all I need is a plot.

Delerium – Just a Dream

August 03, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere  0 Comments

Walking barefoot on the shore
Hypnotized by the ocean roaring
Thoughts of you drifting in and out
Never fails to calm me down

I still see your eyes when light hits the water
And I’ve never seen a color so beautiful
So blue… Ocean blue

I keep moving to the distant sounds
And visions of you drifting in and out
Clouds mixing with the sand and the sea
Sounds get carried on the ocean breeze

I still hear your voice from across the horizon
And wasn’t that you walking into the shadows?

In time I’ll believe it was just and illusion
In time I’ll believe it was only a dream

I still see your eyes when light hits the water
And I’ve never seen a color so beautiful
I still hear your voice from across the horizon
And wasn’t that you walking into the shadows?

In time I’ll believe it was just and illusion
In time I’ll believe it was only a dream
Till then I will breathe you in from the ocean
And walk with the waves rolling under my feet