Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Review of The Apollo Academy by Kimberly P. Chase

As the heiress to Titon Technologies, eighteen-year-old Aurora Titon can have whatever she wants—clothes, expensive gadgets, anything money can buy. All she really wants is to escape her pampered, paparazzi-prone life for the stars. Becoming the first female pilot to train as an astronaut for the Apollo Academy is exactly the chance for which she has been waiting. Everything would be perfect if it weren't for her unreciprocated crush on a fellow student, the sexy astronaut bent on making her life hell, and the fact that someone keeps trying to kill her.

The first in a four book new adult science fiction series, The Apollo Academy, is an action packed story of love, discovery, and survival.

 *summary from Goodreads

 My Review**
The Apollo Academy is the first New Adult book I've read. I wasn't sure what to expect from a book in a genre that is still at its heart finding its place in the market. But when I read the summary referencing, astronaut training, female pilots, and hot boys, I instantly knew I needed to get my hands on this book. And I was not disappointed, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zane and Aurora are multidimensional characters from two different ends of the spectrum. But at their cores, they both want the same thing--to blend in. As heiress to the Titon Technologies, Aurora is always in the spotlight, the last place she wants to be. Aurora dreams of being a pilot at The Apollo Academy. However, her goal takes her out of one spotlight and thrust her into another, as the first and only female pilot to enter the program. Despite all the claims that Aurora's father bought her a spot in the program, she is determined to prove she gained entry on her own merits and surpass every challenge laid out for her. Her sheer determination while proving herself time and time again was not only a quality that I loved but also something I identified with as a female engineer.

As an unknown Zane is constantly scraping to get by. He wants nothing more than his status as an unknown to be erased and join society as a normal citizen. Entry into The Apollo Academy is his only chance to make something of himself and elevate his unknown status. Although his strong aptitude for tech might be his ticket into the academy, he faces a different set of challenges. Unknowns usually aren't permitted in the academy and if anyone finds out his real status, it could mean hell for Zane. Not to mention hiding a genetic anomaly that could get him kicked out of training and ruin his chances at a normal life. Despite all his struggles early on, Zane seems to adapt well to his surroundings and is extremely likeable from the moment he steps onto the page. He's a fighter in a much different way than Aurora, and he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the process.

Despite their vastly different backgrounds Zane and Aurora seem inexplicably drawn to each other. Even with their secrets, each sees the other for who they truly are rather than what the rest of the world does. But each stands to lose a lot by getting involved with the other. Aurora doesn't need any additional distractions in her training. It's bad enough that her attractive flight instructor, Sky is always on her case. And Zane has his secrets to maintain too. Not to mention a girl like Aurora would never date a guy like Zane or would she?

The further into training Zane and Aurora go, the more challenges they are faced with. In addition to hiding secrets, Aurora finds her life in danger when several training missions go wrong. It looks like Terra United, an extremist group bent on stopping the moon mining missions, could be behind the attacks but there are others who just think the incidents were simple accidents. Zane's inexplicable need to protect Aurora draws him into the mysterious mishaps, and they both need Sky's help to get a closer look at the situation. But Sky has secrets of his own and no one is sure who they can trust.

As The Apollo Academy unfolds, the reader is faced with secrets, steamy, tension-filled romance, and the excitement of astronaut training. The book is well paced and told in three POV's. Although I'm not sure Sky's POV was needed throughout the story, I still found his voice unique and interesting. That said, I was immediately drawn to Aurora and Zane's stories and the two of them really kept me flipping the pages. Aurora and Zane left me constantly guessing who they could trust, including each other. As an engineer I enjoyed the aerospace and pilot elements tied into the book. I contemplated the science surrounding mining the moon and the potential risks it could have for Earth, but not so much so that it detracted from the story. I found myself wanting to know more about Terra United's side of the story and am hoping it is touched on in future books. All in all, The Apollo Academy is a great book, with a unique setting and premise, characters you can latch on to, and a story that reels you in and doesn't let go. I give it 4 stars.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Each New Book Seems Harder to Write

I never thought the second book I would finish would be harder to write than my first. But now that I've started another draft and it's even more difficult than anything I’ve done before, I often wonder why writing more and more books seems to get harder rather than easier. Of course certain aspects are easier, I know what cliches to avoid, what words to stay away from, how to show not tell and basically how to avoid the "rookie" writing mistakes. But the actual writing of the book, the completion of the draft seems to get increasingly difficult. So I started to think about why that is and came up with the following reasons:

Constantly stretching oneself.

As writers we strive to do better. Our goals get bigger, which means we tend to take on harder more complex concepts as we go. And with those bigger goals the mind often struggles to keep up. We start to wonder if we are reaching too high, if we’ve gone outside the realm of our capabilities. If we are in over our heads. All these questions can cripple the writing process, which leads directly into the next issue…

The more we write, the more the brain starts to catch up. The worry increases. We wonder can I really do this again? What kind of mess have I gotten myself into this time? Even worse, we think the rest of the world will discover the truth about us—that we have no freaking idea what we are doing. How long can we really fake it, and when will someone stand there with their finger pointed at us saying haha I caught you? The whole idea is completely daunting. All the self-doubt then leads to undue…

Naturally the more we write the more we expect ourselves to improve. In fact, so do our critique partners and our readers. Constantly getting better is important but it's also exhausting. And the thoughts that we constantly have to be better creep into the mind when writing that first draft. Which makes it ever so difficult to write and even harder to finish. We as writers have to step back and re-allow ourselves to have shitty first drafts. We are allowed to suck, and once we remember that it relieves some of the pressure. But with that pressure also comes the drive to…

Strive for uniqueness.
They say every person has a book in them. And in many ways that first book is easy because the ideas just flow. Not that finishing is easy, in fact finishing my first book was the most difficult thing I’d ever done. But the more books we write, the more we have to pay attention to what we've done in the past, and continue to strive for something new and different. We don’t want to keep writing the same characters in new settings or new characters in the same situations that we've written about before. We want to write new characters with new stories and our readers want the same. We need to continue to push ourselves, but again it’s exhausting.

The good news is, we as writers aren’t alone. We all go through this. And once we diagnose the issues we are having, we can usually get right back into a draft. We can continue to better ourselves as writers and stretch our limits beyond what we thought possible.

So what are some of the things that make your writing more difficult and what do you do to carry on?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing isn't Rocket Science... It's Much Much Harder

When I became an engineer and more specifically an aerospace engineer, I thought it would be one of the most difficult things I ever did in my life. I truly earned the pride and joy behind getting to say I'm a rocket scientist. Sure it's super cool to say that now and even more fun to joke about it, but it was a long, long road to get to that point where I could say hey I'm a rocket scientist and I'm smart dang it!

In college, I spent countless hours studying to only get a 32% on an exam which was in fact average. I learned to say D is for DONE in Thermodynamics when I'd never had less than a B as a final grade in a class and in fact I picked up a pair of C's to go with it that semester. I took eight to twelve hours to complete one homework problem, yes one single problem, and no, I'm not kidding! I even struggled to find a way to cope with learning disabilities that I'd only discovered in college. After all that, and countless other road blocks, long nights of studying, and second guessing my major and my life a million and one times, I'm here to say this does not even begin to compare to the journey I've been through as a writer.

In fact, I'm not even sure I should be comparing the two journeys, or if that's even comparing apples to apples. But having been through both, I can say with full honesty that rocket scientists have nothing on writers. This isn't discrediting any rocket scientists out there or even discrediting my day job. There's no doubt in my mind rocket scientists are smart people, geniuses in a lot of cases, that work their butts off. However, the journey as a writer not only tests your knowledge, your brain, and your ability to think and plan, but it also tests your will, your strength, and your emotions. And it's those last three things that separates writers from a lot of other professions. Because along the journey as a writer, you not only discover things about your characters, your settings, and the stories you construct, but you also are constantly discovering things about yourself - which is simultaneously the most wonderful and most frightening thing there is.

Everyday that I write, I see a thousand paths laid out before me and most of them aren't any better or worse than the next. But how do you choose? And how do you know if you are even on the right path? When do you step back and re-evaluate? I've got news for you, while these answers are never easy, they are a million times easier in engineering than they are in writing.

While engineering doesn't always have one right answer and sometimes doesn't have an answer at all, writing has an infinite number of answers. Writing is only limited by the writer's imagination not by the laws of physics. If you can dream it, it's possible. And as much as we engineers like to think that any dream is possible in the real world, physics unfortunately doesn't always cooperate. DARN YOU GRAVITY!

And even though rocket science isn't easy, it is possible. And although writing feels down right impossible at times as well, it too is possible. But it requires a lot of time and strength everyday to keep putting words one right after another on the page. It takes courage and swallowing down your emotions to keep going when your mind is telling you that you're insane and your heart is saying that it's completely broken. And yet we writers keep pushing through and keep going despite all the fences, hurdles, and walls put in front of us. We find new ways to bust down the obstacles.

So writers, give yourselves a pat on the back, what you do may not be rocket science but it also is by no means easy. And anyone that thinks so, is either kidding themselves, or hasn't given it an honest shot. So keep doing your thing writers. This rocket scientist and writer takes her hat off to you!