Friday, May 25, 2012

Good Fridays: Who Will Run

Whovians might've heard that Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor from the BBC series Doctor Who) will carry the Olympic Torch in Cardiff on Saturday. This has caused a stir of olympic proportions in the fandom (as I saw on Twitter when the news was announced). Die-hard fans of the Tenth Doctor David Tennant clamor that he should be the one to carry the torch - mostly due to this Doctor actually carrying a torch in the episode Fear Her. If it was all about the Who storyline, then I'd agree with them. But Matt Smith is our current Doctor and that's the topic of this Good Fridays.

I understand that Whovians great and small get very attached to certain Doctors. I feel the same, but my stance is, if you love the character, then you love all of his incarnations. The first Doctor I ever saw was Tom Baker. He was a crazy-eyed, nutball of a timelord who always wore a hat and very long scarf. I suppose, now that I think of it, I'm fascinated by Matt Smith's version because he reminds me a lot of Baker. Crazy-but-brilliant looks good on the Doctor.

That's not to say I didn't absolutely love David Tennant. He had a brooding, snarky, tragic quality that was terribly appealing - particularly to the female fans. When he was sad he was a puppy in the rain, and when he was angry he was a raging inferno. His moodiness struck a chord with fans and we just couldn't forget him. It helped that he played the role longer than either Christopher Eccleston (the Ninth Doctor) or the newcomer Matt Smith.

Another reason so many loved Tennant as the Doctor was that he had sex appeal a lot of other Doctors didn't. When I first saw the show with Tom Baker, loving him as much as I did at the time (bear in mind I was a kid watching reruns) I thought I'd like the show a lot more if the Doctor was better-looking. Life happened, I drifted away from Doctor Who and nearly forgot about it. Then voila! Years later they bring the show back from the dead and (after Eccleston) the charismatic David Tennant lands the role. (All I can say is "Oh yes!") I fell in love with Ten right then and there.

Here's the catch. I saw the seasons with David Tennant after Matt Smith already had the role, after I'd already seen The Eleventh Hour. That's why the end of Ten was almost too much for me to bear. I hate sad stories and losing beloved characters. I hate end-of-the-world, bleak, doom scenarios. More than that, I hate when writers treat the end of a season as if it's the end of the series, leaving fans numb to the episodes that follow it.

I wish I could block out seeing The End of Time, because it always makes me remember Ten in a negative light - tragic, desperate, falling apart, even though he knew he could regenerate. This was not the Doctor I wanted to remember.

That's why Eleven stuck in my head like a favorite song. He was refreshing and upbeat in a way Tennant's Doctor could never be. So when Ten regenerated, I was ready for a change. I needed new hope. I needed a new hero. I needed Matt Smith.

The Eleventh Hour paired so many things I loved - the larger-than-life Doctor Who legacy, a child Amy Pond with her imaginary friend, and most of all - the younger, better-looking wacky replacement for Tom Baker who I'd loved as a kid.

That's why I love Matt Smith's Doctor, and why I wish the rest of the fandom would give him a chance.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Good Fridays - Three Great Things

Good Fridays is my platform to share a good thing from the week. And this Friday I have more than one good thing.

First off, a wonderful lady by the name of Alyson Larrabee said she showed her middle-school English class my blog (particularly my Dance Mix for Rejection and my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and they loved it! I don't think she or her class realize how happy this makes me. So I'd like to thank her class for the compliments and for reading my blog. Thanks, Mrs. Larrabee's class! You rock!

Second, my friend from the 238 Group on Facebook, Andrea Berthot has signed with an agent! She and I were entrants in the Writers Voice contest. Neither of us got picked by the judges, but for different reasons. Andrea received an offer of rep that prevented her from participating. (Best reason to drop out of a contest ever!) Congrats again, Andrea! You can read her story here.

Third, I got a phone call today asking me to come in next week to test for the library job I've wanted! I'm a little nervous (how hard is this test going to be?), but I'm excited! I've been bothering those poor ladies for a very long time. Working at my local library in Summer should be lots of fun, with the programs they have for kids, the reading contests and events.

So there are my three great things. Time to party!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roadtrip Wednesday: Dorrie Days

This week's Roadtrip Wednesday topic: 
What book brings back memories?

There are a lot of books that bring back memories, but it's not surprising I'd pick a children's book, written and illustrated by the same woman - Patricia Coombs. Dorrie the Little Witch, is a book series published in 1968, but I discovered it as a child in the late 80s. It will always remind me of Autumn, elementary school, Halloween, and magic.

"This is Dorrie. She is a witch. A little witch. Her hat is always crooked and her socks never match."

Dorrie lives in a big old house with her mother the Big Witch and Cook. She also has her very own black cat named Gink who goes with her on all her adventures.

Dorrie's life always seemed lonely to me. She had no siblings and was left on her own a lot with just her cat. Because of the lack of adult supervision, Dorrie often got herself into trouble. But she has vanquished bad witches and goblins and solved many problems without help. She once crashed her broomstick in a pond while learning how to fly it and still managed to save the Book of Shadows from a nasty witch gang.

I read the Dorrie books and listened to their audio book versions, but what brought them to life were the illustrations. I was captured by Coombs' style from the very beginning. The black and white and limited color palette has influenced my own illustrations to this day. They gave the books the atmosphere I liked so much - the rooms in Dorrie's house that ranged from high and expansive to small and cozy, her cluttered bedroom, the heavy, patched attire the witches wore, the brick-a-brack in a wizard's den.

I loved the shading technique, the details, and the personality it had. The style is simple, but impresses me a lot now that I've grown up. It's evident that Patricia Coombs really knew her way around a set of artist pens. It takes patience, a steady hand, and a brimming imagination.

Ms. Coombs put the notion in my head to do what she did, and I'll always remember her for it.

What book brings back memories for you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rules for Writers Who Hate Writing Rules
I'm not big on writing rules. My post Are You Guilty of Writing No-Nos? was the last I made on the subject, and it didn't exactly lay out a list of rules you must obey. That's because I hate writing rules. Yep. I said it. I have a hard time with anyone telling me what to do in the creative department. Grammar, punctuation, hard-core English mistakes need correction. Sentence structure sometimes needs correction. But the way you use words to paint your mental picture should be up to you.

A wonderful high school English teacher I had said once you have learned the rules, then it's okay to break them. But when you break them, you have to do it with a purpose and it has to be for the better.

And that's my first rule for writers who hate writing rules. 

DO learn the rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure before you start tossing all of them out the window. Know how to write well within the boundaries first.

I don't hold to the "We're new writers. We're not allowed to break rules!" attitude. It makes me feel insulted and angry. Just because you're new to publishing doesn't mean you're new to the English language and the writing craft. Only you can make the call that something isn't working. Yes, even if you get criticism out the wazoo, it's still up to you to do the editing.

Which brings me around to the second rule.

DO get another set of eyes (you're not related to) to glance over your work. And when they mention something that didn't make sense, take it into consideration. Get as many pairs of eyes as you can and weigh their responses. Then decide what to edit.

Even if you think you're God's gift to literature, it's still prudent to have a proofreader, beta reader, or creative partner (CP) to offer a second look to your manuscript. You can only benefit from a new pair of eyes and a fresh perspective. When we're up to our eyeballs in word vomit, we can't always see the mistakes, the changes of voice, tense, or glaring catastrophes of sentence structure.

The last rule I'll mention is along those lines. 

DO consider what the professionals have to say. You can have a hundred CPs and beta readers, but a trained editor can spot trouble faster and offer suggestions they might not have thought of. Editors can see the bigger picture regarding plot and character development - things your CPs might not want to touch with a ten-foot pole. Use their experience and get your work in front of them whenever you can.

And that's it. Three rules for writers who hate writing rules. Bear in mind, if you don't have a handle on the first rule, you're not ready to move on to the second two.

If you have any Rules for Writers Who Hate Writing Rules of your own, please share them!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Epic Romance of Daughter of Smoke and Bone: A Review

I've been waiting to review Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor ever since I started reading it. I have quite a few things to say about this book, so bear with me.

When I was introduced to Karou, the blue-haired, leggy, gorgeous MC, I was immediately put off. She was too perfect. (Later I realized why, but that's a massive spoiler.) Karou has an almost magical life in Prague, where she attends art college with her best friend and avoids her harlequin-romance-handsome ex-boyfriend.

She is a girl raised by 'monsters' with no real family to speak of, so she is lonely, left wondering about her past. This is the first sympathetic glimpse we see in Karou. Otherwise, she lives the perfect life - she's in a magical, romantic city, free from the shackles of mundane responsibility. She lives on her own in an apartment, the only burdens on her time the errands her monstrous father figure Brimstone sends her on (to exotic locations where she gets to dress up like a sexy bond girl).

I stopped identifying with her after the art school part.

What saved this book for me was Taylor's writing style, her descriptive phrases and almost poetic prose that made Prague and Marrakesh come alive. Her style has color - whether it be muted winter grays or spicy oranges and yellows, it's undeniable and enveloping.

Then there's her mythos and the major conflict taking place outside of our world. That was awesome. It was intriguing and curious and epic - which wars that span hundreds of years tend to be. The supporting characters were fun and well-developed, although a couple of them didn't get as much attention as others. They were colorful too.

Unfortunately, the story didn't continue like this. Around the middle of the book Karou's love interest was introduced and it became a Romeo and Juliet story. The twists to the original idea were good, so I didn't resist the slide into romance. But the romance didn't stop.

I must be dead inside because I haven't experienced the soul-surging feeling Karou did with her strikingly beautiful love interest. He's even more beautiful than Karou herself. This beauty, combined with the bigger-than-life love they shared was too much. We're talking epic romance - the kind of romance that's dazzling and overblown, that makes two people go supernova when they barely brush each other's fingertips, and satisfies every physical, mental, and spiritual need they will ever have.

Call me a realist, or practical, or even dead inside, I don't believe a love interest - handsome or not - can do that for you.

What kept me reading this book was the writer's style and the plot that broiled with the two clashing races. It was compelling enough to keep me reading through the romance.

It's my impression that as soon as romance happens in a book, the plot begins to unravel. This book doesn't unravel when the romance starts, but it begins to lag. The MC's interest fades from everything else to focus on the guy. He is the center of her universe, the sun in her sky, the earth to her moon, etc. It took me a bit to realize that their romance was the kernel at the center of the whole story. And, like I always do, I felt cheated by a romance cloaked in the guise of an adventure. Thank God for the bigger picture! - for the wars and the secrets and the action that I crave in a really good book, otherwise I would've stopped reading.


To summarize, I thought Daughter of Smoke and Bone had lovely description and some wonderfully-crafted phrases. I could read this book for those alone. Laini Taylor painted amazing word pictures throughout the first half of the book, but when the romance started, I began to tune out. I had a hard time swallowing the too-beautiful MC and her even-more-beautiful star-crossed boyfriend. Their epic love was unbelievable, but the bigger story was interesting.

I would've been content to divide this story into two halves - the part with the interesting creatures, the secrets, the mythos, the surreptitious errands Karou ran, and the second part that was pretty much all romance and remembered romance. I would've read the first part and left it at that.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. But with the stipulation the reader must either love romance or skip over the romantic parts when their interest starts waning. And take Karou's looks with a grain of salt. It's hard being blue-haired, gorgeous, talented, and misunderstood.

 [Being a child of the 80's, I couldn't help picturing Brimstone a little like this.] ---> 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Good Fridays: Sweet Sweet Indulgences

Good Fridays is a weekly spot about a good thing I did or discovered during the week. These are things I'm thankful for, and sometimes they're as simple as a trip to the grocery store. 
My Good Friday item today is candy.

I'm hypoglycemic - which means I have low blood sugar (not diabetic, though). It's manageable, but it can really screw up my moods and my body if I don't watch it. In high school I frequently felt ill in the mornings because of it. Back then I didn't know what it was. I just knew I would get faint and nauseated during the first period of class and I'd have to be sent home.

Most people's blood sugar is low when they first wake up, which is why breakfast is a really good idea. For me it's essential to have protein for breakfast. (Too many carbs are not good for hypoglycemia.) If I'm feeling shaky, I have juice first. 
Low blood sugar can mimic emotional disorders - specifically bipolar. I found this out when I started researching it. When I'm hungry, I drag around, get angry for no reason, cry easily, and blow simple problems out of proportion. After I've eaten, I'm energetic, talkative and confident. Things that got to me before don't have the same effect.

Close friends have witnessed this change when they sit with me at restaurants. It's a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. I get so giddy when my sugar goes up that I laugh and become an amazing conversationalist - not that I wasn't before, but it's like the light's been turned on in me.

This brings me to the topic of today's Good Fridays. Candy.

Having low blood sugar makes me crave carbs and sweet things. They aren't good for me, but as long as I eat healthy food alongside them I seem to do fine. Sometimes just one swedish fish will satisfy me, and other times I'll eat a handful of dark chocolate M&Ms. I go through trends where I'll favor one kind above another. (right now it's the swedish fish - and Twix.)

What I'm thankful for is that I still can eat candy. The doctor hasn't told me to give it up completely and I hope that never happens. I'll just keep piling on the veggies and the protein and getting as much exercise as I can.

What are you thankful for this Friday?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Behind the Blog

In March I posed the question "Why do you blog?" and I got some great responses. Now, finding myself on a Wednesday with no blog topic, I thought I'd revisit that idea. But this time, I'm digging a little deeper.

Some of you already shared the reasons why you blog, but now I want to know what you blog and the influences and interests that led you to it.

Behind my blog:

I've technically been on blogger since 2008, but I didn't blog regularly or reach out to other bloggers until 2011. Before blogging, my online writing outlet was chat roleplay which I did for over 8 years. I RPed for social interaction as much as for creative release. Eventually, I realized it was sucking my creative energy and giving me nothing but countless RP logs that would never be published, so I returned to the writing I'd loved in high school and college - short stories. Only, my years of RP had given me a taste for bigger world-building, longer storylines, and more developed characters. I was ready for novels.

In 2008, I began that first novel. It sprang from drawings I'd done of the two main characters from as far back as 2003. Lividia and her Boogeyman have been cerebral denizens for a very long time. They, along with many others, have stories to tell, and I feel a great compulsion to tell them.

After I wrote the novel, I prowled around for writerly websites to help me on my journey to publication. When I stumbled across I got nudged toward starting a blog. So, I dug up the blog I'd already created and revamped it. Now, my blog has taken the place of RP for online social interaction and creative release. Sometimes it fills that role nicely. When it doesn't, I still have plenty of other outlets, and my novel writing is finally getting the attention it deserves.

What inspired you to start blogging?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quick! Act Like You Know What You're Doing!

If I had to give advice to writers who are trying to get 'out there' - be it face-to-face exposure or online networking, that would be the first thing I'd tell them. But there's a second. Study up, so you actually do know what you're doing!

Have you ever seen a writer who really didn't know what they were doing and it showed? If it was in person, they stammered, laughed nervously, or weren't able to describe their book very well when asked about it? If it was on a forum or blog, they bragged about being a writer, but seemed ignorant of terms they should know, insecure in the presence of other writers, or were blind to mistakes in their own work?

We all have to start somewhere, but imagine if that writer were on a book tour, or being interviewed. Pretty awful, right?

I think writers forget that when they publish a book, they're putting themselves in the public eye. Whether we're going indie or big six, traditional or e-book, when we take that first step into publishing, we're out there. People can see us and we have to make sure they like what they see.

When we're new writers we make big fat hairy mistakes - a lot. I broke a ton of rules when I queried for the first time. (if you want to know, I can refer you to the blog post where I confess them). And when friends of friends asked what my book was about I mumbled something about a Victorian girl and faeries. Since then, I've gotten a lot better with both, but I'm not published yet.

Right now, I'm studying up. I'm learning the business. I'm networking with writers, editors, agents (when I get the chance), and trying to absorb as much as I can. That's what I'd suggest to any budding novelist or potential author. Learn your trade, know what's out there, rub elbows with people who might be doing things a little differently. You'll definitely learn something.

It's alright to not know what you're doing at the beginning, but when you step out there, you better have your game face on. You better be able to smile and tell me what your book's about - not the one you wrote in junior high or the one you're working on now that you're super enthusiastic about. I want to know about the one right in front of me. The one you're trying to sell. (It should be easy after you try to sell it to agents and publishers with your query.)

If you can do that, and be genuine and gracious and charming even when you're not sure how to answer me, you'll definitely look like you know what you're doing! And even if you don't really know, I won't remember. I'll remember how nice you were, and how great your book sounds.
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