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Opening Paragraphs

April 24, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, The Craft  15 Comments

Of every novel I have written (or started to write), except my very first fanatic try-out novel, printed and hidden under the bed. Literally.

Leave a comment on which paragraph is your favorite!

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Ezekiel did not lead a normal existence for a sixteen-year-old. He understood this only when Sister Lucinda made an unusual and quite uncommon announcement at dinner.

“I’m pregnant.”

The Baby Dancers, 1/2 of an outline. But it’s a great 1/2!

Reading a book in his right hand while holding his sword in the ready position in his left, the Gaterunner prepared himself for a rude interruption. At any moment, a Reader could burst through the door and interrupt his reading. Hence the sharp metal pokey thing, poised, ready to take umbrage at a disruption.

–Untitled, uncompleted, outlined

The alien felt sex with humans was addictive as it was necessary, bringing to mind the quaint human expression “having your cake and eating it too.” Humans used sex for fun and reproduction. She thought it funny she occasionally added “food” into the mix. Sometimes, she wondered if some other species in the galaxy took it a step further by adding some other basic function to sex like “breathing.”

Bunny Trouble, 2 drafts completed, book needs work

I should have known it was time to leave the nest at the age of three-and-a half when the human females, my father included, started driving me crazy.

–Untitled, uncompleted, outlined

The man wearing two swords coming through the door was dripping with water, and when the door closed behind him, he stood there, letting the water drip off his travel cloak on the flagstones provided just for that purpose.

–Untitled, ten pages of farting around.

“Andy, you’re in my tree again. People will talk,” Tabitha said.

–Untitled novella, uncompleted, outlined

Wisteria Heights High School students Jerry, Courtney, Davis, and Will, led by Cheerleader Captain Miranda, were putting the final touches on their plan to kill Alexander, the varsity wide receiver, and his girlfriend, Taylor.

–Starflame Pilot, uncompleted, outlined

Cadence Prosper was counting down the days to her sixteenth birthday where she could finally free herself from her body and integrate herself into society.

–The Rat Princess, uncompleted, outlined

When she was three, Anathae came to understand Momma was not like the other village wives when Momma tried to kill Papa with a broom.

Dragonsong, uncompleted, outlined (although that opening paragraph is rough, it makes me giggle)

Commodore Philip Connery eyed the sish in front of him, looking for a hint of weakness as Captain Natalie Belton tossed her cards down in disgust. Natalie was the reigning poker champion, but Heisa, the vampiric sish, was kicking their asses.

The First Casualty of War, completed

Queen Oneesha found the Huntress she meant to kill in a hammock on one of the countless tropical islands on her own planet. Sish throughout known space liked to visit for a romp—their endless white sandy beaches on the bluer-than-blue tropical sea were, in onto themselves, a signature attraction. The Islands of Jephinae also had one other feature sish loved, and that was a preponderance of dangerous predators.

–Children of the Goddess, uncompleted, outlined at one point, but recently tossed. Also: ick.

When Jeanne Flanders came downstairs to leave for school in her ceremonial Pledge dress, her mother dropped her cell phone, placed her head in her hands, and sobbed.

–Startforged Maiden, uncompleted, outlined

“Lexus, your husband is an unmitigated pain in the ass,” says Mitchell, the other husband, as soon as I take the call.

Armageddon’s Princes, completed. Book 1 of the Lexus Toulouse Mysteries

My PTSD therapist told me, before he died and broke my heart, that, despite my aggressive desire for justice and a physiological and pathological need for constant sex, I was a caring, nurturing woman.

The Wælcyries Murders, completed. Book 2 of the Lexus Toulouse Mysteries

Ender, my lover I had a fling with seven months ago, just told me she was pregnant with my child, a pretty neat trick considering I’m a woman.

–Death by Lingerie, work in progress. Book 3 of the Lexus Toulouse Mysteries

While driving to pick up her freshman photographer boyfriend so he could take pictures of her prancing around the Colorado farmlands, Sarah was certain she won the kissing lotto.

The Lightning Giver, completed

Monster Hunter International now on Amazon for presale

November 30, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, The Craft  0 Comments

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International is now available for presale on Amazon.com.

I have the pre-Baen version (which is now a collectable). It’s an outstanding debut genre-stretching novel. One could classify it as military urban fantasy, or near-future science fiction. I loved it thoroughly. Loved loved loved.

The novel has a great voice and the characters are wonderfully developed and three-dimensional. I could go on, but just buy the thing.

Give the gift this year in books. Anyone who likes the great contemporary monster story, this is the cat’s meow.

Buy it. Now. And then wait, knowing that a lucky few got a POD version before Baen found this gem.

Heeeeeee.

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?

Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

October 12, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, Not Exactly Random, The Craft  3 Comments

This book review is for novelists. If you simply have love a reading, John Grant does an excellent review on Infinity Plus.

Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl is an extraordinary Young Adult novel—an entertaining, thought-provoking story and a fine technical achievement. The novel itself encompasses not one or two genres—but three, one for each point of view. From the forward by Lois Lowry:

“How rich a literary landscape is the one that enables the reader to enter several worlds and make a home in each.”

Reviewers throughout the decades have attempted to define this gem as a blend of science fiction and fantasy. This, perhaps, is an incorrect interpretation of the novel. Enchantress from the Stars is a book that deftly switches between three points of view: Elana, the daughter of a field agent from an advanced galactic civilization, Jarel, a medical officer from a space faring race and Georyn, the youngest son of a woodcutter whose life is turned upside-down when the Dragon invades the Enchanted Forest.

The plot is thus: A space-faring race has invaded a planet where the inhabitants are in a primitive, medieval state.  They go about clearing their landing site of their future colony with little thought to the impact of the people already there. The Dragon is a mechanical demolition machine, but to the natives it is a fearsome beast. Above both these two peoples, Elana, her fiancé and her father must try to save the primitive civilization, but they must do so in a way as to not interfere with the cultural advancement of the colonists. Simply, without a doubt, a marvelous bit of plotting.

One point of view in the book comes from Georyn, and as such is “fantasy.” The other point of view is from Jarel, and could be classified as “science fiction.” The third point of view, and the most important, comes from Elana, and is, in my humble opinion, visionary fiction. The three genres come together in a rapturous conclusion that is both harrowing, contemplative and finally, bittersweet. If you do not become misty-eyed, or at the least wistful at the conclusion of the book, then you heart is hardened to the likes of love gained and love lost in sacrifice for a noble purpose.

As a writer this technical achievement deserves your study, for Engdahl carries it with finesse and a unique style that has stood the test of time and is without peer. That is only the half of the reason I recommend this novel.

You will never find me disparaging the Young Adult novels that have reached a resounding success yet never come near the thoughtfulness offered by Engdahl. How many new-writer doors have opened because of Rowling and Meyer? Not just from a commercial perspective, but simply from an audience-building standpoint. This week, there is agent calling her client with a book deal that never would have seen the light of day without the expansion of the teen market. No matter how much the protagonist personally grates on one’s nerves, we owe that literary vampiric mouse of a girl a debt. Would the reprints of Enchantress from the Stars be possible if Harry Potter only existed in an Edinburgh coffee shop? It is not for me to say, but the influence of Rowling’s speculative work on publishers is as obvious as the sun rising each morning.

This is the heart of my review. There is, in my mind, the achievement of this novel from 1970 and the commercial success of the contemporary mega author. Like a greedy child, I want both. I demand both. I want novels that meet the standards presented by Engdahl, while commercially fulfilling the dreams of agents and publishers because their audience is legion.

Enchantress from the Stars explores personal ethics and morality and presents a cosmos that demands personal sacrifice not just for the good of who we know, but also for a greater purpose beyond our immediate universe. The personal growth of Elana through her great efforts, sacrifice and loss was awe-inspiring as it was a heartbreaking journey to behold. I could go on and on about the little gems inside this book, such as the psychological insights offered to the reader on human nature and matters of the heart. Nevertheless, I will not for that is not my purpose in writing this review. What I will do is toss down a literary gauntlet.

Dear writers, this is my challenge to you. If you are a fantasy author, there is much to learn from Enchantress from the Stars in the creation of legend and myth and the personal trials of the human spirit filled with curiosity. As science fiction, it is a wondrous universe filled with more questions than answers. As a Young Adult novel, it is, simply, without equal. Read this novel and then read your work in progress, and attempt to rise to a higher measure.

Firebird reprinted Enchantress from the Stars in paperback. I encourage you, however, to order the signed hardcover edition published by Walker, and send the author a note thanking her for her efforts. If you already have a copy, blow the dust off it. Enter once more a universe that does not talk down to you, assumes you can handle characters that grow and wonder despite hardship and love lost, and, ultimately, expands your mind to new horizons.

David Weber Channeling Anaïs Nin

October 07, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  4 Comments

Super Ken writes:

“But, I’m in the mood to raise some angst… So, how many 90,000 word (or higher) projects have you completed? I’m not worried about quality or whether or not it was published, but simply how many of you have even gone the distance… Once.”

When I sat down to see what kind of novelist I was, I picked someone else’s intellectual property and decided to write an epic story around one of the characters that struck my fancy. This certainly was not fan fiction, for I will not post it anywhere, ever. Indeed, I do not intend to show anyone the novel. Well, The Wife Unit could ask and get it (there are, after-all, benefits to being married to The Hack Writer).

In other words, I decided to write a novel purely as a writing exercise. In that regard, the work was a resounding success. It validated my plotting style, defined my characterization and established my distinctive voice.

The story was a grand tale of 150,000 words. I am very fond of this novel. The prose is wanting, but the story telling is very entertaining. You could describe the style as “David Weber Space Opera meets Anaïs Nin Hot Lesbian Sex”. It is a pure science fiction romp and very sexy to boot.

Book One can never sell, sabotaged on purpose. I owe a lot to Book One. Book One, I salute you and your service!

I do not suggest my kick-start method for everyone. I am however, right there with Ken. Write a book. Then go post around the interwebs.

* * *

Disclaimer: I am nowhere near David Weber or Anaïs Nin, that’s not even remotely what I was suggesting kk thanks.

my next novel is…

September 15, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  3 Comments

Good morning!

Sunday ‎July ‎6, ‎2003, I wrote Chapter 1 of a YA Fantasy novel and gave it the working title The Baby Dancers. A warm and thought-provoking story, I was enamored of the theme and setting.

2003 was a dark time for my writing ability. I wrote outline after outline trying to kick start The Baby Dancers, never realizing the outlining process I employed was the wrong process. I set it aside, along with all the other failed novels. Baby Dancers needed solid characters–not plotting–and now I know how to do that.

Today I thought through the book end-to-end and have a clear path. I am poised to begin anew, and very eager to get cracking.

I am setting aside my Gaterunner project. It is a interwoven story, and in my heart, I do not want to write a novel similar to the plotting I did on Bunny Trouble.

Working Title: The Baby Dancers
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Current Word Count: 720
Est. Word Count: 80K
Started: 2003 (!)
Est. Draft 1: January 2009

Such fun! Such a dramatic departure from my last novel!

Draft Uno

September 02, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, The Craft, The Wife Unit  2 Comments

First draft, finished. 

I wrote the epilogue during my lunch break and am quite enamored with it.  It is a heartfelt and a depressing bit of writing, true to the theme of my novel and ultimately a great tie-end to the next part of the story. I don’t coddle my readers, and at that point they shouldn’t be surprised if I take the darker path. 

I started Bunny Trouble a little under six months ago, it took me twice as long to write it as my first novel, not too shabby for a 152,000 word manuscript. As my first draft, I am very pleased with the way it turned out. 

My next steps:

**I am going to proofread Bunny Trouble for glaring grammatical errors.
**Then I give a copy to my wife and wait for feedback.  Can it pass The Wife Unit?

Assuming she likes the book and doesn’t beat me over the head with own manuscript, I will then outline the book. It is one thing to have an outline in your head and write a novel, quite another to see if after the fact I can assemble a coherent outline. It is a trick I leaned and suits my writing style perfectly, a great way to expose logic issues and unnecessary plotting. Then I am off to: 

**Tighten the book
**Expanding my feedback circle to five of my friends
**Find an editor

Those things don’t have to happen in that order. I’m a man who likes efficiency after all. Some tasks were designed to run in parallel.

Wow. What a fun and interesting journey this has been. What should I write next? The choices, it hurts!

Weeeeeeee!

This teaser is for David

August 22, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, The Craft  3 Comments

Being the sixth reader of my blog has it’s perks!

In refeence to this post:

Terrance leaned back in his chair. “This case needs to go by the book and we need a conviction. Because this case will piss off my guy. I’m not sure a death sentence is necessary—there is suffering in rotting away as a living reminder of the Dendel family failure. Nevertheless, if we don’t get a conviction, then I will turn Mr. Fallujah II loose and he will be the Hammer of God. I will then let free my own honest fury.”

Bill opened his mouth to say something but Terrance continued.

“No fuckups Bill. Consider this. You’ll be hard pressed to find two other living people on this planet with more experience in raw, righteous killing. I need your help Bill.”

Terrance looked out at the ocean.

“I need you to remind me to be a member of society.”