Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snippets: This is becoming a regular thing

I need some kind of relevant title for these posts. There are too many cool things on the internet to let them all slip by. This is my effort to spread the coolness around.

Writing by Danielle Steel. There is no replacement for hard work. It's always nice to hear this from someone who has churned out so many books. Well-known writers (including Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson) who tour the world giving talks and are always in the spotlight still have to sit their asses down for hours on end in a room by themselves and get the writing done.

Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summaries. I've been following the reread (whenever I catch a link on Twitter) but I somehow missed the speculative posts about Day Three. The connections readers can make are just unbelievable. I've only read Wise Man's Fear once so far, but I've been itching to do it again for a while. I'm trying to hold out for the mass market paperback, but that won't be out until next March at least. In any case, I'm pretty sure Rothfuss is one of the smartest people alive. Did you know that he mostly holds all his ideas in his head as he writes? How is that freaking possible?

Literary vs. Genre Fiction by Lev Grossman. A really great (although lengthy) response to the New Yorker's recent genre bashing. I agree with Lev Grossman completely, and haven't I been saying this all along, that the Mainstream Fiction section gets the Genre books when they feel they are "literary" enough? Please explain to me how The Name of the Wind or A Game of Thrones is less literary than Shopaholic Takes Manhattan solely by the section it's placed in.

18 Rules I Learned by Myke Cole. All the reasons why writers should throw the rulebook out the window (in one convenient post).

This is what I want to be when I grow up. A book princess.

For anyone else who thinks Seanan McGuire is one of the coolest people in the world (she is on my list of people I want to meet) she's done two interviews recently. The first is at the Sword and Laser podcast, and the second on Wired's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. I actually really enjoyed the Geek's Guide podcast more, because giving McGuire the mic and just letting her do her thing gives you a really good podcast (no offense to the hosts of Geek's Guide, but McGuire is awesome).

A fantastic list of original Sci-fi/Fantasy upcoming movies. (With a few book adaptations thrown in.) 

Books to replace your favorite cancelled TV shows. What's with io9's new comment system? Every article I see the comments are off. Do I have to sign in somewhere to comment? I haven't really looked. But I would mention Redemption Falls and all the Ketty Jay novels by Chris Wooding. Pretty much Firefly fan-fiction written by a professional writer.

Do you know how hard it is for a perfectionist to write a first draft of a novel? It's a very particular and special form of torture. - Caroline Carlson

Just finish. Let that first draft be messy. If you don't know how to deal with something, don't get on Twitter and talk about it, don't get bogged down. Write the question into the draft and keep moving. Murder doubt. Murder distraction. Murder perfection. Just finish. - Leigh Bardugo

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dramas and Characters

Because I am the all-knowing television god. Actually not, since I don't watch TV and something has to be completely awesome for me to get into it. There are a lot of great shows out there, and great reasons to watch them with a critical eye. I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while. TV (and movies) are a great way to learn something to apply to your writing, be it plotting or character development or dialogue or how to believably portray a platypus-bear, quickly and efficiently. Because of the longer form (the seasons) the characters are able to grow so much more and that makes them dynamic, REAL people, instead of just archetypes. TV is better than movies, in this way. Why else should you be watching them? Because I like them, and I think your life is incomplete without them.

Psych. This show has every thing. Humor. Characters. Snappy dialogue. The plot is only mediocre compared to other crime shows, but this one is just hilarious. Anything that makes me snort because I'm laughing so hard is a good thing. And, previous seasons are available to stream on Netflix, which increases the awesome.

As a writer, I watch it for a) the dialogue, and b) Detective Carlton Lassiter. Lassiter is the most complex character on TV right now, and I think it's interesting he's in such a goofy show. He's the straight man. The law-above-everything-else man. At first glance, you think he's arrogant and wants to take all the credit for himself. But as the shows unfold, you realize he wants to solve the case, no matter what, even if that means teaming up with Shawn and Gus (which he is lathe to do), even if it means putting himself down. He builds these insane barriers around himself and then he gets over them to help other people. Shawn and Gus are funny, but this show rocks because of Lassie.


Dollhouse. A Joss Whedon creation of awesomesauce. Like Firefly, this show is full of all kinds of characters, plots, and an interesting setting and premise, and was unsurprisingly cancelled by Fox. The show follows Echo, a doll without a personality who is imprinted with different personalities to serve different needs, as she become self-aware. The show is slow for the first five episodes because you don't know enough of the big story, but stick with it because the payoff is so good! I'm currently watching the series for the second time, and it sucked me in right from the beginning. Every character, even the dolls, have their own motivations and quirks, and the show has hilarity (Topher!) and badassness (Boyd!) in spades. This show is also available to stream on Netflix.

Sherlock. My goodness, if anyone didn't watch the second season of the BBC production of Sherlock, you deserve to be hanged. The actors and the writers do a stupendous job making these characters absolutely amazing. The characters have so many dynamics (are you noticing a pattern here?) and they play off each other better than any other pair on TV. Season Two was especially awesome (Irene Adler! MORIARTY!!!!), but I highly recommend you watch the series in order to really get the character development. By far the best Sherlock and Watson out there. (Also, hilarious people in RL... Did you know they make a hobby out of swapping the most outrageous erotic fanfic they can find? That's just hilarious. Also, there is a shitton of Sherlock-Watson erotic fanfic, for those of you who are interested.)

Suits. A new USA show that premiered last summer, the second season just started. Another show you should watch from the beginning (actually, I think you should always make an effort to watch a series in order, so let's just go with that). What makes this show stand out is Harvey, one of the senior lawyers. He is cold, calculating, and hits you where it hurts. He will do anything "for the client," even when it may not be the best thing for the firm. But on the other hand, he protects his own. To the death. He is fiercely loyal, even when there is no need to be. And he is awesome. He helps his friends without seeking validation or thanks, but simply because they are his friends, and why wouldn't anyone else do the same? His coworkers are everything to him, like anyone who devotes their life to their career, and that's a bit lonely. Also, he's downright sexy (he's the one on the left, OBVS).

Legend of Korra. The new spinoff series from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This one is a little different than the others because a) it's a kids show, and b) it's a cartoon, which means you lose all the subtlety an actor gives in their performance. The first Avatar was an amazing story, and had just as many grown-up viewers (if not more) than it did kid viewers. Why yes, we did rush home from our college classes on Friday afternoons to watch this cartoon. What of it? Korra is the Avatar after Aang (the star of the first series) and the way the writers interweave the old characters with the new is great. Part of being the Avatar is having all your past lives behind you. This show wasn't afraid to write a smart, meaningful, emotional plot for the kiddies. And that's why it was so successful. In other words: Don't dumb down your shit. Research and careful planning will make your story deeper. Don't be afraid to do something different, because different is way more awesome when you pull it off.

What do all these shows have in common (or, the moral of this post)? Each show has characters with distinct personalities and motivations. A wide range of emotions (funny and sad each have their place!). Characters may act differently depending on who they are with. The characters serve as foils for each other and cover the gaps the others may leave. All in all, stories are important because of the characters who tell them. Why do you think history textbooks are so dry and boring? Because there is no emotional value in just stating what happened. People care about other people. Make your readers care about your characters, really CARE, and they will be with you to the end.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Schizophrenia

During my first draft of Malevolent Soul, the main POV character was schizophrenic. She saw and lived with people no one else could see, running a business and getting swept up in some crazy crime. I'm now working on an offshoot of that story, following the other POV character in the mafia. I love them both, but I think they are two different stories and I am separating them to give them the screentime each character deserves.

I recently discovered this story about Jani, the seven year old girl with a severe SEVERE case of childhood schizophrenia. Here are the videos to the Oprah interview, it's really something that needs to be seen instead of me, as a layperson, trying to explain it.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I have schizophrenia in my family, but it is no where near this level. This disease is fascinating. And you can tell, Jani is SO intelligent, it's just (understandably) impossible to differentiate between her two different realities. She's doing a damn sight better than I could ever do, I have a hard enough time with one reality.

TONIGHT on TLC, the original "Born Schizophrenic: Jani's Story" airs at 8pm EST, followed by the premiere of "Born Schizophrenic: Jani's Next Chapter" at 9pm EST. And now for some links: Michael Schofield wrote a book about his daughter, to be published August 7. Here is his blog. The Jani Foundation's Twitter and Facebook.

And on the fiction/lighter side (not to take away from the seriousness of January's story, but this is, after all, a book blog) The Hollow City by Dan Wells is coming out July 3rd, and I'm super excited. Wells wrote a great sociopath in the John Cleaver books, so I know he's going to do a good job with a schizophrenic protagonist. He does a great job of balancing the fragility of mental illness with the unique strength and insight it can give its patients.

Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do if some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Random Stuff

Go from 2k to 10k words a day. The biggest thing I need to try is getting excited about my work every time I sit down to write, and if I'm not excited, TRASH IT and figure out how to make it better. I'm very guilty of slogging through scenes just to get them done.

Nova Ren Suma's blog. I don't know why I haven't mentioned this before. I've been following her blog for a while now, but I'd never linked to it on the side. A fantastic blog with lots of author interviews. (I found the first link on her blog.)

I've realized POV doesn't matter in the first draft. Write one character in third, one character in first; this paragraph in first and the rest in second person cinematic, for fuck's sake. Do whatever is most comfortable for that very moment you are writing. Figure out later what the final decision will be. I want to stay passionate about my story. To tell it only for me. The past few days have been very dry, with dry characters and dry writing. Well, if your characters suck no one is going to give two shits about the story. Changing the perspective from third person to first helped immediately. Oddly, it's still easier to write the male characters in third person. Perhaps because I'm not a dude in real life.

Floundering about in writing and real life is affecting my reading. I can't stick with anything past the first or second chapter. Epic fantasies or sci-fi's require too much concentration, but on the other end of the spectrum teen books are starting to bug me. I can only handle so much emo. I should start rereading again. I would read Feed over, but I only have it in audiobook, and that's not what I want. OH DARN, I have to go to the bookstore.

Something heart-wrenching and beautiful.

I finally have all three shirts in the Unstealthiest Ninja series! They are just too awesome. Woot currently has a Pirates vs. Ninjas sale where they brought them all back. They make me laugh. Go buy them, so DoOomcat will make more.




And now, back to writing people. Write because there's no way you could live without writing. I leave you with some quotes:

I had always wanted to be a writer, but was impeded by the belief that to be a writer one had to be extraordinary, and I knew I wasn't. By the time I was ready to give up my academic career I had realized that whilst books were extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else. - Diane Setterfield

I love to write because I love to read. And I love the idea of creating stories that people enjoy. To invent the stories that people take to their hearts is, I think, one of the most wonderful things one can do. - Avi

Pretend to be someone who can do it. - Neil Gaiman

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My favorite movies

Because I feel like telling you. In no particular order.

The Mummy
V for Vendetta
Inkheart
Casino Royale
Stranger Than Fiction
Harry Potter (5 and 7 mainly, but all of them)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Inception
Haunting in Connecticut
The English Patient
In Bruges
Titanic
Gran Torino
Blood Diamond

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The List

After months and months of waiting (seriously... months) The List by Siobhan Vivian was finally available at the library. I couldn't help but be interested in the concept: eight girls at Mount Washington High are picked as the prettiest or the ugliest girls (two girls from each year) and ranked on this list that comes out the Monday of homecoming. The story then follows the girls through the rest of the week. I really only read teen fiction anymore if there's something about it that interests me in particular, and I really wanted to see how the book would work as a character study.

A synopsis, from BN:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.
       It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
       This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

I read an article that the book was originally about only one character, Jennifer, the girl picked "ugliest" for all four years, but was then changed to follow all the girls. I think this was a good decision, because all of them would obviously be affected, but in turn we saw so little of each of them. The book flew by, but I don't think the premise would have been strong enough to make it any longer. But as the book stands, I really enjoyed it.

It was a little hard to keep track of all the girls, and I found myself flipping back constantly to the copy of the list in the front of book. Thank god to whatever editorial decision put that there! Not only were there eight girls, but eight groups of friends and eight dilemmas.

A bit spoilery: The most fleshed out storyline was Bridget's, the prettiest junior and the girl with the eating disorder, because her story was the one that crossed over with Abby's, the prettiest freshman. My least favorite of the girls was Sarah. She was so self-hating and obviously the most damaged of the bunch, but we didn't find anything out about her! There was such potential for backstory and to really flesh her out and make her a complicated character, but the structure of the book couldn't allow for that. She could have carried her own book. But because she didn't get the time she deserved, she felt cardboard and boring and I was really thankful for the one chapter of hers that was only two pages long. My favorite girl was Candance. She had the biggest arc, and I loved seeing her change from total bitch to an actual, true friend. That made me happy. And I was glad Margot was miserable at the end. And I thought Jennifer was no better than Margot for doing what she did.

This is one of those books that I want more high school girls to read. Along with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. And the Stupid Girls song by Pink. Girls are completely oblivious to how cruel and superficial they can be, and I know even I was guilty of this when I was in high school. My group of friends changed dramatically when I went to college and when I moved back home, and I feel that I'm more honest with my friends now than I ever was. Some of those friends are the same, some are different. But I know more about myself, more about who and what I want to be, and that is the inherent problem with high schoolers. They don't know who they want to be yet, and they can't figure that out until they start thinking for themselves, which is near impossible between the strict curriculums, the teachers and the prescribed classes, and parent's ideals. College is great because it finally lets kids think for themselves.

I'm getting away from myself now. I like to see books like this, teaching kids to have an open mind. Everyone is so full of judgement these days. I hate books like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars because all they are doing is promoting a superficial society, where handbags and cell phones denote your status and your friends, and where secrets reign. Whatever happened to being nice to someone for who they are? For keeping friends who have the same interests as you and make you feel good about yourself, instead of keeping up an appearance and a social standing? Try to be nice to people. Try to teach your kids to be nice to people. See the good in people, and don't give in to the cruelty in people. And for godsakes, don't be a stupid bitch.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Codex

Codex is the first book by Lev Grossman, written and forgotten again way before he was famous for The Magicians. It was revamped with a new cover because of his success with the fantasy book, but this book is shelved in the mainstream fiction section, and I think the only people who would go looking for it are the fantasy fans who read Magicians. That, and people who love to read books about books because they are book nerds and will go hunting for it.

A synopsis, from BN:
About to depart on his first vacation in years, Edward Wozny, a hotshot young investment banker, is sent to help one of his firm's most important and mysterious clients. His task is to search their library stacks for a precious medieval codex, a treasure kept sealed away for many years and for many reasons. Enlisting the help of passionate medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codex-to understand its significance to his wealthy clients, and to decipher the seeming parallels between the legend of the codex and an obsessive role-playing computer game that has absorbed him in the dark hours of the night.
       The chilling resolution brings together the medieval and the modern aspects of the plot in a twist worthy of earning comparisons to novels by William Gibson and Dan Brown, not to mention those by A. S. Byatt and Umberto Eco. Lev Grossman's Codex is a thriller of the highest order.


In the first two chapters, I kind of hated Edward Wozny. He's a work-80-hours-a-week kind of guy and all he did was complain about the two weeks of free time before a big move to a London firm. How can anyone be that miserable about a vacation? But he became much more interesting very quickly, as he finds himself getting completely absorbed in cataloging an old library (which would be so much fun!) and just like that I like him.

And honestly, how could I not like this book? It's about books, and it speaks to my nerdy heart. It's compared to Dan Brown in the description, but it's nothing like Dan Brown. For one thing, it's actually good. But it does have a "quiet thriller" aspect to it that keeps the pages turning quickly. I still don't understand the significance to the video game.

Not really much to say about it. It was good and definitely worth reading, but I didn't love it love it. I'll recommend it to all my reader friends and fellow bookworms. And if you also like books about books, like Among Others or The Rule of Four or IknowI'vereadothersbutcan'tthinkofanymore, you'll like Codex.