Monthly Archives: October 2013

Reading, reading and more reading…

Okay – class(es) are in full swing. I think taking the writing class and the anthro class that P wanted to take online MIGHT have been biting off more than I can chew. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the writing class. So fun and interesting and I’m really learning a lot. I fear that my interest in writing and the writing class have overshadowed the Anthro class. I’m trying to keep up – but if I don’t get my homework done with P then I fall really far behind. And – since it is a real college course, they have a lot of homework.

Sigh. I wish I had enough energy for both. It is fun taking a class with P. With NANO and launch around the corner, something will have to give.

That said – still on a reading tear. A little bit at a time, and still 5 books behind making my goal of 52 in 52.  I have a quick flight tonight to LA and then back Sunday  – on which I won’t be bringing my surface so no tv/movie distractions!  I currently have 4 books rolling.  Ender’s Game  by Orson Scott Card) – I know, I know, controversy – Orson Scott – not a nice dude.  But I can’t continue to have my scifi geek card if I don’t read this one), Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, A Memoir on Writing by Stephen King (recommended by my prof), and Strunk and White’s Element of Style (again, and this was recommended by Stephen King).   The latter 3 are all actual books, the first is on my kindle.  I’ll bring two with me on this trip so I can read during take off and landing too! 🙂  Let’s see if I can get through two in three days.

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Kathy has
read 38 books toward her goal of 52 books.
hide

I just finished reading my favorite book of the year – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. He wrote a magical, nerdy, nostalgic book about a geeky gamer who is trying to find the ultimate ‘easter egg’ (gaming term for a hidden code in a video game that gives the player a prize) within a massive open world/mmo video game and win a multibillion dollar fortune. All the 80’s references were AWESOME. And gave me an opportunity to reach out to the author and asked him how he obtained permission for all of the lyrics and other references in the book. It was insane. And written in first person – very fun. I have recommended it to about 20 people as required reading if you are in the gaming industry. 🙂

So on top of all this reading (to hone my ‘craft’ don’t you know…) I also am writing for class and getting ready for NanoWriMo starting November 1st.   This week we got our first homework back – and the prof said after two additional days of lecture and learning that she wanted us all to rewrite our openings taking her feedback in mind.  PHEW.  Having read my piece out loud to P, I wanted to rewrite a bunch of things too.  So that is our homework this week.

One of the things I love about class is that we write each week.  She gives us a topic (week two – write an interview with your main character to learn more about him/her) and we write for about 20 minutes then she asks for volunteers to read out loud for critiques.   She also taught us how to properly critique constructively and positively.  This week’s writing exercise was to write about the catalyst (the point in the story where the ‘hero’ decides to go willingly or unwillingly on their ‘journey’ – think when Luke Skywalker first meets the droids and there is a message for ObiWan that needs to be delivered, then his farm and aunt/uncle are killed forcing him to go on this journey).

My story (for class anyway) has a willing hero going to college, so figuring out the catalyst has been challenging my brain a bit.  In class this week, I wrote the below dialog to help determine what my catalyst is (the protagonist wants to go to college, but does she know where she wants to live yet?  Having spent the past 8 years living on a studio lot, keeping her real identity a secret – would living amongst 50k students be a) overwhelming and/or b) ruin her cover?  Anywhoo – I didn’t have enough time to finish the thought, but I DID volunteer to read out loud in class.  My content is so simple and happy compared to the rest of the epic saga’s  I wanted to get some feedback early.  I did get some good feedback – none really negative though.  This probably means that the story is SO simple they don’t know how to actually say that.  ha!

Oh well – I’m having a good time.

 

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Great Openings and then some…

As I prepared to read and reread and write and rewrite my 3 page opening for writing class, I thought it would do me some good to reread a few of my favorite books openings.

I selected the following for this exercise; The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Rings (Fellowship), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Marley and Me, The Princess Bride, War of the Worlds and Twilight. I was looking for variety in voice, genre, and point of view. I really should find a few more like Marley and Me since of the books I selected, that is the most ‘mundane’ of them (and subsequently the most like my idea for a book for class).

Some notes on these openings; 3 were written in 3rd person POV (Bride, LOTR, Potter), 3 in 1st person POV (Twilight, Marley, and Gatsby), and War of the Worlds almost felt like omniscient while still 3rd person.

4 were more people/character focused (Gatsby, Marley, LOTR, and Princess Bride), while the other three were more environment driven (in my opinion anyway – Potter, Twilight – poor rainy rainy northwest, and War of the Worlds – did you know there was intelligent life on Mars?).

A few of them had pretty giant prologues – Bride for instance is almost 1/4 of the book written to explain that this is an abridged version of a classic, but with the boring bits taken out. LOTR has pages and pages of notes on things concerning hobbits and pipeweed and the Shire to help set the setting, and fill in the blanks if you were one of the few people who didn’t read the Hobbit before reading Lord of the Rings. Others, like Gatsby – just jumped right into the the narrative, and really a narrative on that part – as the person narrating is an observer of Gatsby’s life, not Gatsby himself. With Twilight and Potter – I had a bit more time rereading and trying to forget how many times I’ve seen the movies, but interestingly – Twilight (just like in the movie) starts off with the ending where she’s being attacked by one of the rogue vampires, with a quick 1/2 page prologue – thought not sure it’s called a prologue if it’s really what happens at the end of the book during the main conflict.

Some of the books were tiny (WotW was less than 60k words – which in today’s world wouldn’t be considered a full novel really) – but really dense with tiny font and slim margins. Where as others looked dense (Twilight, 130k words) at 500 pages, but used giant font and large margins (probably to not scare off the YA readers it was aimed at). And then there was just giant – LOTR – but that was also because we have the trilogy all bound together (1125 pages – including a glossary and maps at then end and the beginning).

I’ll take a stab at genres:
LOTR – Fantasy (Epic)
War of the Worlds – Sci-Fi
The Great Gatsby – Literature
Marley & Me – Comedy (autobiographical – about a DOG)
The Princess Bride – Comedy (imo – but looking it up it actually is categorized ‘fantasy/romance’)
Twilight – YA/Thriller

All of these things make me question a couple of things 1) if mine is YA – is there a subgenre, and do I even read books like this? 2) I’ve planned a prologue to set the stage of their life before college – but does that become my opening? 3) I’ve always assumed I’d write with a 3rd Person POV – but seeing so many of these that I sampled had a 1st person – including Twlight, was sort of surprising. Come to think of it, I think Divergent (another YA thriller) was first person as well. I wonder if that is common with YA books. Need to investigate further. Potter certainly wasn’t.

Good news – I have 4-5 pages to play with now. Time to refine before the first critique.

Another thing I need to figure out – this book is going to have a lot of musical references, perhaps even some lyrics when my main character is singing along with her favorite songs – what are the copyright rules on things like that? Can you use lyrics in books that aren’t yours? I’ve seen authors reference musical artists or songs in books – though I can’t recall reading lyrics. Must research that as well.

Off with me! (woops – !!, not allowed to use explanation points in class all year. ALL YEAR. I need to be able to exude excitement/anger/anxiousness without using punctuation. I use a lot of !!. Need to start cleaning that business up.

It was a dark and stormy night….

How much trouble do you think I would be in if I used that as my opening line for my ‘novel’ in class?

I pulled myself out of a deep slumber at 5:30am this morning (with a little help from the monsters below who wanted to pee and get their breakie) to do some writing.   Or at least to get an idea of what direction I want to write. monsters

Instead I have now caught up on this season’s Vampire Diaries episodes (anyone else getting Buffy flashbacks – the girls have gone to college), and now The Originals (anyone else wondering why 200 years ago in New Orleans their other “Original” siblings – who have since died at the hands of bad guys in Mystic Falls in this century haven’t shown up? I mean, they were alive back in THAT day right?  and horror the wigs… o vey).the_originals__v_promo_poster_by_ryodambar-d5ypepb  I’ve made it through the first episode and there has been no mention of the what, 2 or 3 other siblings?  The-Original-Family-the-vampire-diaries-tv-show-28896766-750-563 Did I imagine them? I love how on the Originals we now have Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Hybrids AND an unborn who knows what.  How much weirder can it get.  Funny enough though – one of the characters in The Originals (Elijah) is high school mates with my work buddy.  We just happen to be chatting about paranormal and my work mate mentioned it on Friday – not knowing I was a fan.  Now to arrange an intro.  🙂 I do like that they gave Phoebe Tonkin (Hayley) a new home.  She was the only character interesting on The Secret Circle.

Currently I’m torn.  I want to write.  I can’t decide if I want to write normal or paranormal for the rest of the year.  I prefer to watch/read paranormal (my favorite showed this season so far are:  Sleepy Hollow, Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time, and am looking forward to Grimm, Walking Dead, Tomorrow People, and getting into Once Upon a Time in Wonderland – whoa that seems like a lot of TV considering how much I need to accomplish this year).  I even got a steal of a deal on a book on how to write paranormal (there is  A LOT of world creation to be done).  But when I think about the daunting task of actually writing paranormal I get hung up on all of that world creation.  FOR instance, if I wanted to write about an immortal race – what do I do about the young people and the old people?  What do I do about people’s jobs – I mean, honestly, who would want a job in a grueling blue collar job (e.g. picking apples) for over 100 years?  I get bogged down in figuring that stuff out rather than focusing on the actual story and making that good.

I have an idea, at least a scrap of an idea for a paranormal book.  One thought is for class I go with the more mundane college girl YA story to get the basics down, and then for Nano and along side work on this paranormal thing.  That way when I get frustrated with the world building, I can take a break.  perhaps.  BUT – how does the mundane stack up against my fellow students?  I would say 75-80% of the class was going fantasy/sci-fi, and of those almost 100% were YA.  I guess mundane might be a nice break, or could just ostracize me from the real discussions.  Nah… that won’t happen.  I’m a nosy type A person who won’t be left out of the discussions.  And the discussions will actually  help me with my paranormal idea.  I’ve been noodling the ‘two fer’ idea since class last week and I think that is what I’ll do.  Start up the paranormal for Nano in November. I know it will create double the work – plus Paul is committed to this Anthro class we’re taking through EDX.org – so I’ll have that to worry about as well.  Hopefully I can manage.  We don’t have any travel in November and many of the football games will be away – so that means weekends will be ripe with catching up.

One final thought before I get moving… Why the heck do they think the Vampire Diaries/Originals audience would be interested in buying the first season of China Beach?  blah.  Give me Buffy or Angel or heck even that crappy Kindred show before you give me some MASH knockoff.  lordy.  Bad target marketing WB on demand people.

The Rubber Meets the Road…

Okay – my University of Washington Popular Fiction course started last night.   The class is broken into three quarters and she is going to use them to work on the beginning, the middle and the end of our books.  We will write and critique in each class, and then work on rewrites after class as homework.  We will have one on one time with her to discuss our novels as well.   I liked the instructor.  She had spunk and enthusiasm and seemed to know what she was talking about, she interjected lots of examples into the short lecture that weren’t about her own stories.

As our introduction to the class our instructor, author Pam Binder, had us each write our name, book title, genre, and a synopsis of our book on a 4×6 card.  We then went around the room – introduced ourselves and talked about what we wrote on the card.  This shit just got real.  EEEEEEK!   (sorry to be crass mom – love you).

Everyone in the class seemed to have a pretty decent idea of what they want to write about.  I faked my way through my synopsis riffing on an idea that I’ve been mulling over – but after hearing everyone else’s ideas I started rethinking mine.  It seemed so pedestrian.  My idea was to write about a new college student who’s previous life had been lived as a famous pop star/actress  – sort of a Hannah Montana – except more disguised so she can start a new.   Nothing super natural or fantasy or sci-fi about it.  I always assumed I’d write something paranormal and interesting.  That is (mostly) what I like to read – but alas, every time I try to head down that path I chicken out because what I write seems so dorky.

Yes.  I just used the word dorky.

Today I had coffee with a colleague who has recently published a book and has plans for 8 (!!) more.   It was very inspirational.  We talked about plot points, how to get started, how he manages his time, what lessons he’s learned already about what he learned after being published about nasty reviewers.   We also talked about the importance of an ‘opening’ and hook for your book.

My homework for this week is to create an opening for my book.  Which means I need to get serious about what I want to write.  Bubblegum YA or something more fantasy/scifi adult… I would love to do the latter – I just am not sure I have the depth to get there.  It has to be about 3 pages, double spaced, Times font, and with proper structure. Oh and, we can’t use an exclamation point the entire year! (that was a deserved ! for sure! Don’t you think?!). But ready….set… go.  Need to just get rolling.  AND decide.

Two people today recommended the same book to me “Ready Player One”.  On the SAME day.  Spooky.  Read the synopsis.  Looking forward to reading it once I finish my instructors romantic fantasy.

ReadyPlayerOne

Also – I’m on a major Person of Interest tear.  Have now watched 4 episodes this evening on demand and almost finished with season 1. This was a show recommended by my dad two years ago, and I finally have time to catch up and it is really fun to watch.  And hey – Caviezel is a fellow Husky!  (turns out we probably hung out in the same circles in school – one year difference, living about 4 houses away from each other).

thCAEITLFW

One thing I like about our instructor (and the instructor from this summer) was that they use lots of TV and popular book references to make her points.  She pointed out the opening and closing from Pretty Woman (and encouraged us to watch it again because we’d talk about it later in class).  She talked about the incredible hooks in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And recommended The Originals to my friend to help him understand immortality and the fantasy genre.  She’s batting 3 for 3 with me!  🙂

now I just have to get writing…

Deliquency and Dragonslayers…

Okay… Japan took me DOWN.  (but was lovely and WARM WARM WARM).

japan

Not only was I too tired to focus on reading, all of next week I felt like I was catching up on zzzzzzz and didn’t blog (though I did at least finish some books).  I am now going to write three quick reviews of these books and discuss what’s next…

Book 1) – mostly read while in Japan and on the plane to and from (when not zoning out to tv or movies)  Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich 13coverpaper

While this Stephanie Plum book was still humorous, I think I might have been too tired to truly appreciate it.  This time she was plagued by her ex-jerkasaurous husband Dickie Orr, when he is discovered missing after she threatened to kill him over a picture he had on his desk that riled her up.

Stephanie is getting braver and is taking more risks in these later books which I like. It’s not always up to Ranger or Morelli to ‘save’ her.  I like that aspect.  She is always dragging Lula or her Grandma into these scuffles as well – and they add much needed humor.

This one wasn’t a bad one – just not one of the more funny in the series.  But again, I please the jet lag fifth in the event that others found it a hoot.

Book 2) The Game On! Diet: Kick Your Friend’s Butt While Shrinking Your Own by Krista VernoffAz Fergusonbook

Hi-freaking-larious diet book.  I read this in preparation for participating with a friend and her group who use this ‘diet’ competition every other month.  It took roughly 3 hours to finish all told – v. easy reading.  Combination of random health thoughts from Az, tricks, tips, and instructions from Krista (written in a very cheeky humorous manner) and real health considerations from several different health professionals. Krista is the executive producer, former writer for Grey’s Anatomy (which I stopped watching after Denny died in the first season because it was too damn sad – and who needs to cry that much while watching TV?!!) – I did not expect her to be so funny and real.  Granted the book needed some editing, which she admits up front and she and others do let the expletives fly – but who of us that have dieted DON’T let the expletives fly when dieting…

Having had to watch my weight my whole life, what they were telling me in the book wasn’t new or surprising.  Their whole premise is more energy output (exercise) less energy input (stuffing your face).  Duh.  The cool twist though is that you group up into teams and work on beating other competing teams for the most points each week – working towards an agreed upon grand prize at the end.

The points come not just from losing weight, but sleeping well, eating well, exercising, dropping a bad habit and picking up a good habit and *gasp* no snacks except for cucumbers and celery… Each team member combines then averages their point total for the week and at the end of the month the team with the highest point total is the winner.  easy right?

Well – November is when I’m going to give it a try with an experienced group of ladies that compete every other month and usually have great success.  Can’t wait to see how it goes.  I do like competitions team and individual.

Book 3) The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

lastdragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer was so so delightful.  I read several of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series about 6 years ago and really enjoyed them, but after the third book needed a break from his fantastical literary world.  Literally a literary world – everything revolved around books and literature.  Instead of sports figures and rock stars being idolized authors and librarians were the tops.  I recommend his Thursday Next books for sure and do want to read the rest of the series at some point.

I actually downloaded this book after I saw a pop up ad on this very Good Reads page.  Go figure – it’s starting to figure me out.  When I saw it was Fforde, and read a few solid reviews I gave it a try.  Once you get back into his quirky (or quarky shall I say…) writing style it was a fun little story.  So imaginative and fun!  I can’t wait to read the next one.

I can’t tell if this is a YA book or an adult book.  It’s heroine is an almost 16 yo girl, which generally tells you that it’s written for a younger set, but Jasper writes with such complex prose that I would think my 8 yo cousin would get a bit more lost in these than he does with the Harry Potter novels.  But who knows, maybe I’m just getting dumber… 🙂 I recommended it to him nonetheless – he is a SMART kid.  All is well though – super cute little book.  QUARK!

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Kathy has
read 34 books toward her goal of 52 books.
hide

So – three books in two weeks.  Did that catch me up on my quest to read 52 in 52?  hmmmmm maybe not, according to my handy little widget I’m 10% or 5 books behind in my quest.  EEK.  I have (yet) another plane ride coming up, to NYC this time.  Should be able to stay awake and focused the whole time, plus I’m flying Alaska and I’m pretty sure they make you purchase their video gadgets to watch movies, which I won’t be doing – so it’s all reading (and perhaps a FEW episodes of Person of Interest on my surface!).  Just started the second Odd Thomas book, and will move onto the paperback by Pam Binder (my professor for my upcoming UW class).  I’m a little nervous to read it – what if I don’t like it?  Will I think differently about her as a professor?  For 9 months??  We’ll see.  She does have several published books -so that is definitely saying something!

Writing class at the  University of Washington (4-0 go DAWGS!) begins next Wednesday – very exciting!!!