Friday, September 27, 2013

Three ways a first novel is like a first baby

If there's anyone out there who still doesn't know, I had a baby a couple months ago. So far he's pretty all-consuming, and since I like to keep family life private I haven't had much to blog about. But I thought maybe it was time to venture back into the blog, so here's a baby/writing compromise...

Three ways a first novel is like a first baby:

1. You can't sleep.

This is probably about the biggest cliché is the world: newborn = no sleep. But it's so true. I heard a statistic the other day that in the first year after having a baby, the average woman loses 41 days of sleep. I can believe it.

Writing a first book isn't nearly comparable, but there is still some sleep loss. Whether from lying awake because you're too excited about the plot twist that just jumped into your head, or from telling yourself "just one more scene" late into the night, sleeplessness happens.

2. You have no idea what you're doing.

People say all the time that "babies don't come with an instruction manual." Well actually, I have several sitting on a shelf, all by different well-meaning authors. But they all say completely different things. I guess each parent has to muddle through somehow.

Writing fiction is much the same. Advice doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow at an astounding rate online. And again, the advice is often conflicting. Fortunately, with a little experience and a lot of help from critique partners, your writing can improve. Maybe not in time for the first book, but you can always write more.

3. Everything is a mess.

To preserve my dignity I won't tell any specific stories, but I'm sure your imaginations (or your own experiences) will supply the relevant details. With a newborn, nothing stays clean for longer than two seconds.

A first novel is bound to be the same. Either the pacing is off, or you use too many adjectives (or not enough description), or your dialog sounds forced. The whole thing is a big, beautiful mess. But you're having too much fun to care.

And I guess babies are like that too. They may be messy. They might be awake when all you want to do is sleep. And you probably have no clue what you're doing. But that baby is yours and you love him no matter what.

One way books and babies are very different? You can go back and edit the novel. With parenting you only get one draft.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: Ultraviolet Catastrophe

A while back I wrote a review for Jamie Gray's first published short story, Princess for Hire. Today I have the pleasure of doing a review for her first NOVEL. Ultraviolet Catastrophe comes out tomorrow! I'm so excited for Jamie, and I wish her and her book all the best.

Here is the review:


Lexie Kepler is smart... but not abnormally so. She's an average girl from an average divorced home who goes to an average public school. Even her ADHD is normal. She's nothing special.

Or that's what she thinks.

Turns out her ordinariness is completely contrived, all thanks to the drugs her parents have been pumping her with for years. The ADHD drugs? Not for ADHD. Instead they've been suppressing her intelligence. Without them, Lexie's IQ would be off the charts.

Dangerously so. Brains like hers make her a target for those who would use her for nefarious research purposes. And now all her parents' efforts to hide her are failing.

Lexie's only choice is to take refuge at Quantum High, a secret school for geniuses. Unfortunately for her, the lingering effects of the drugs make it hard to fit in. Add in a super hot crush, a new discovery that could either create a wormhole... or maybe cause an explosion worse than an atom bomb, and the death of a scientist under suspicious circumstances, and Lexie's ordinary life may not be quite so average ever again. Assuming she lives long enough to have any sort of life at all, that is.


"You know your life is never going to be the same when your mom pulls a gun at the shopping mall."

From the very first sentence, Ultraviolet Catastrophe by Jamie Grey is an action-rich adventure. It's a novel for geek girls everywhere, particularly those who like a little danger in their plots and a large dash of romance.

The charm of this book is in its unashamed affection for all things sci fi. Quantum High (along with the town it is set in) is an absolute delight. Ultraviolet Catastrophe is one of the few novels that makes me wish I could live in its setting, a place where robot librarians have a personality and hoverboards are an everyday affair. All the geeky details of Lexie's life made me smile, from the Albert Einstein action figure to the Dr. Who cookie jar to the nerdy t shirts worn by her crush, Asher Rosen.

I love the plot of the book as well. I was hooked by the idea of a wormhole machine that could, just maybe, be a weapon in disguise. Thrown in a murder mystery on the side, and this story is just the sort of fun adventure I'm looking for. The last few chapters are gripping, complete with suspenseful countdown.

And Jamie Grey does these things very well. Any time Lexie or someone she cares about is in danger, I'm riveted to the story. Not only that, but Jamie deftly escorts the reader through the tricky bits of physics without any bit of confusion. Anyone could tell just by reading the book how much she loves science, and her enthusiasm is catching.

The book does have a few flaws. For me Lexie's relationship with Asher was too much a focus of the book and detracted from the rest of the plot. Lexie spends most of the book distracted by Asher's good looks, but determined to avoid a relationship, which comes across as playing a long game of hard-to-get. This dynamic may be too familiar for some readers.

Likewise, Lexie's sullenness toward her parents and general flare for drama were a little too expected. She certainly had good reason to be angry, but at times her attitude felt overdone.

Nevertheless, the book is an engaging romp through the fields of quantum physics. I highly recommend it. It's a strong debut, and I look forward to many more novels to come from Jamie Grey.