The Lost Prince: ARC Review

Thanks to Egmont USA for the ARC of Seaborne: The Lost Prince, by Matt Myklusch.  The real thing comes out next May.  (Is it worth the wait?  Read the review, but the short answer: yes.)  Of course, this review will be spoiler-free.  Here’s the synopsis:

Dean Seaborne is thrown off his ship by the Pirate King and given one last chance to redeem himself before he meets Davy Jones’s locker. He has to spy on the Pirate King’s biggest rival, Gentleman Jack Harper, and find the treasure hidden on the mysterious island of Zenhala.

Once on Zenhala, Dean finds that the inhabitants of the island think he is the lost prince who went missing 13 year ago. In order to fulfill his mission for the Pirate King, Dean undergoes intense and fantastical trials to prove he is the lost prince. But the longer Dean stays on the island, the more he questions his mission.

I had a blast reading this book.  Matt Myklusch is one of my favorite local authors, and while his books aren’t that well known, everyone who has listened to my recommendations has enjoyed them.  (I have already reviewed the first and third books of his Jack Blank trilogy.)  Based on previous experiences, The Lost Prince does not disappoint. (more…)

Interview with Matt Myklusch (2/2)

Author Matt Myklusch was kind enough to let me interview him a while ago about his books and writing in general.  While I meant to keep things short, I had so much fun asking questions I almost couldn’t stop.  Thus, the interview had to be split into halves, the first of which can be found here.  Today we cover all topics from writing style to keeping a sense of progression through a story.  I hope you enjoy it.

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With first drafts and interesting concepts you want to explore, it’s easy to just have a string of scenes you want to see in your story, with almost no connection between them except the main character.  How do you make sure you are writing a cohesive story instead of simply writing an anthology of short stories about this character? (more…)

Interview with Matt Myklusch (1/2)

This has been a long time coming.  Last fall, I met author Matt Myklusch face-to-face.  We talked a lot about his books and writing in general, but I wanted to do something for my blog.  He agreed to do an interview.  In December, I asked the questions.  And now, I finally post the interview.  I’m great with this book blogging stuff, aren’t I?

Matt Myklusch is the author of the Jack Blank Adventure Trilogy: The Accidental Hero, The Secret War, and The End of Infinity (all highly recommended).  I enjoyed all three, along with the author’s podcast, where he interviews established and new authors about their books, writing, and other awesome stuff.  In my interview, I focused mostly on writing craft, getting straight to the nuts and bolts of story crafting.  I let the interview get pretty long, so I’ll post it in two parts; this half deals with character- and plot-driven stories and rewriting, while the next includes more scattered topics.  I hope you enjoy it. (more…)

Sandwiches, Gollum, and Maybe a Llama

Character motivations are a tricky business.  You know what the character wants– the latest MacGuffin, closure with his estranged son, a sandwich– but why do they want it?  “Because that’s what moves the story forward” is not the right answer.  Why do characters want what they want?

Why do people want what they want?  It’s never “just because”.  They have a need that must be filled– the original definition of “want”.  They are missing something, just like everyone else in the world.  The same goes for characters.

Let’s say you have a villain.  (I know, I’m assuming a lot, but bear with me.)  That villain wants the exact opposite of what the hero wants– world domination, perhaps, or just a checkbook of her own.  Obviously, this villain needs to want that thing, or we have no story, but if you want a good villain, you’ll have to do better than that.  Why does she want a checkbook?  Why world domination?  Why Bill’s sandwich? (more…)

An Amazing Podcast

Today, author Matt Myklusch published a podcast containing five tips on writing that don’t include “Believe in yourself.”  Since I gave him this challenge myself and since he mentions me, I thought you would like to listen to it as well.

Writing Advice: Part 1 | The Other Side of the Story Podcast.

I know I just posted a short post full of links, but this one is too awesome to ignore.  It’s only fifteen minutes.  Go listen.

The Age-Old Question

No, not whether or not to put ketchup on your ice cream.  Seriously.

I don’t outline.  I’ve said this before.  I feel like outlining takes all the fun out of writing.  Why outline?  It tells you what’s going to happen before you write.  Where’s the fun in that?  It’s like reading the script of a movie before you actually see it.  (I’ve done that with Shakespeare, but never mind that, my lad.)  It’s like… it’s like reading the recipe before baking a cake!

Okay, perhaps not so much, but you get the point.  I write the same way that I read.  I like to discover everything as I go, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”  Occasionally, I’ll have goals in mind that I’m working toward, but once I put them down on paper, I feel almost as if I’ve fulfilled my purpose.  What am I?  A writer.  What am I trying to do with this story?  I’m trying to write it.  What did I do as I outlined?  I wrote.  What is the outline?  It’s the story.  Therefore, I wrote the story.  QED.  Unfortunately, that’s insufficient for obvious reasons.  I’m not just trying to describe what happens in the story– I’m trying to tell it in the most stylish and entertaining way. (more…)

I Did Not See That Coming

At every point in any story, there is a plan.

“We have to get to Mars to negotiate the release of the most awesome person in the world, who is the only person that can stop the end of the world!”

“We must manipulate events to cause the asteroid to deviate from its current trajectory that it might not squash a cheese factory in Wisconsin.”

“I need a sandwich!” (more…)

Why Middle Books Sag

In many trilogies, the first book is great, the third book is just about perfect, and the second book is horrible.

When you think about it, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence.  The first book has a powerful theme– “Ah I hate the Hunger Games because it’s so horrible and Peeta keeps making things up and I’d like to kill him but for dramatic tension I’m not allowed to.”  (The Hunger Games.)  “I’ve found a dragon egg in the forests of the Spine and now the Ra’zac have attacked my house and I’m off adventuring with my crush who’s an elf and who also happens to be asleep all the time.”  (Eragon.)  “I got swallowed by a hippo and accidentally almost pushed people off a waterfall and got caught up in this quest for a magic word that isn’t abracadabra!”  (Beyonders: A World Without Heroes.)

The third book must tie up this enormous conflict, so if the author is competent the third book will be awesome.  But something happens to the second book. (more…)

The End of Infinity, a Review

This is a spoiler-free review for The End of Infinity, by Matt Myklusch.  First off, I’d like to recommend the series (which begins with The Accidental Hero– I reviewed that here).  Why should everyone rush out and read the series now?  Because it’s good.  And that’s enough of a recommendation; on to the review.

All his life, people have told Jack Blank what his future holds. He hasn’t always liked what they’ve had to say, but there have been times when he’s wondered if they were right.

As the Imagine Nation’s final battle with the Rüstov draws near, Jack’s future is almost upon him. He and his friends will each need their unique powers and abilities to help stop the Rüstov and win the war. But are they prepared to use those powers against the most terrifying and dangerous enemy of all—the one inside of Jack?

The time has come for Jack to choose his path and discover for himself if he will become the hero that the Imagine Nation—and the world—needs him to be, or the cause of its total destruction. (more…)

On the Importance of Humor In Writing

Humor in books– especially children and teen books– is crucial.  It is the most important thing you could ever have– barring a plot, literacy, a minimum of one character and possibly a functioning mind.  But you can get by without most of those– you cannot get by without humor.

Kids see things as funny.  They see the world as funny.  They have a knack for pointing out the ridiculous and the silly.  There is no greater comedian than the child.  They don’t understand why something should be structured– so they do whatever, whenever.  They don’t understand what exactly the point of a conversation on one particular topic is– so they spout out whatever pops into their heads.  This is the basis of randomness.

Barry Cunningham, editor for Cornelia Funke, Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, former editor of JK Rowling, and founder of the Chicken House publishing company, put it the best way in an interview:

“I think humour is so important in children’s books and you find children laughing when they are scared and crying when they are happy. And I cannot think that there is anything in life which is not essentially humorous. Life and death and everything else. That is the central portion of the child in me. I absolutely believe everything comes as part of something else. Like everything serious is funny as well, everything sad is funny as well, everything scary is funny as well.”

“Humor is so important in children’s books…”  So why are there so many dry, boring children’s books?  The reason I like Rick Riordan, Obert Skye, Matt Myklusch, Brandon Mull and John Flanagan so much is because of their humor levels.  Chris D’Lacey, Cornelia Funke, Christopher Paolini, and Gordon and Williams all attempt humor– but don’t always make it quite there.  I still like them because of their creativity, but they aren’t naturally funny writers. (more…)