Random Ruminations

Unfinished books

unfinished-books072012 from shelf-awareness dot comLast year when I was working on my dissertation, I only managed to read something like eleven “fun” books, and two of those were at the very end of the year after I had deposited. For myriad reasons I was incredibly excited when I finished my degree. One of those reasons was that I would be able to read “fun” books again. I had missed being able to cozy up in bed or on the couch and just read. Of the books I read last year, very few of them held me captive. I had missed staying up until the wee hours of the morning or standing up to find my legs cramping due to having been in the same position for hours, because I was so into a book that I forgot the rest of the world existed.  Mostly, I read a little before I turned the light out to fall asleep. It was more habit than insatiable thirst.

Well, it is almost March, so presumably I have consumed many books and have been able to scratch my reading itch, right? Well, let’s evaluate. Of the books I have finished, one of them was a non-fiction book (which. truthfully, was rather captivating) and the other was a graphic novel. Yes, that is correct: So far this year, I have only finished two books! Continue reading

Categories: Book Reviews, Random Ruminations, Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nook Books and Cyber Writers

That was my attempt at rhyming.  That was the best I could do.  This is why I don’t write poetry.

I just got a Nook!  And I love it!

Originally, I resisted the e-reader.  I was considering it mostly for school, so that I could use it for articles, because I HATE reading things on the computer.  Not websites and blogs, but PDFs or stories.  Unless it is an exceedingly long article, I usually print out the articles I use for my academic work.  I realize this can be construed as a waste of paper, but it is the only way I can force myself to read them.  This way I can highlight, take notes and feel like I am engaging with the material.  There is something about being able to sift through papers, the feel of flipping to a new page.    This is also why I am convinced the physical book will never die, despite the convenience of the e-reader.  And nothing smells quite as comforting as an old book.

Well, none of the e-readers seem to support the functions I originally wanted in one.  (The possible exception is the I-Pad, but that is far too expensive for me at the moment.  One day, maybe.  You know, when there is something far cooler available that I still won’t be able to afford.)  This is probably because the e-reader was not designed for the academic, but for the more general reader, something of which this world has far more.

I would also like to point out at this time, because there are certain stories I can’t help but tell, that my 10-year old self was prophetic regarding the e-reader.  First, to give you some idea of how long ago this was, going to the movies cost less than $3.00, you could fill up your car with gas for about $15.00, the U.S. president ate jelly beans, and the future was Back to the Future.  My 10-year old self started writing a story called, Escape?  Descriptive, huh?  Anyway, it took place in the future.  There were aliens and spaceships and…electronic handheld diaries, in which the main character stored all her books, reference materials and wrote in her diary.  She lamented the loss of the feel of a paper book in her hand, but as her family was to embark on a long space voyage, there simply wasn’t room for physical books.  Yeah, I suppose it was inevitable that computers would get smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, I like to think it was prophetic of my 10-year old self.

Today, many years later, I finally have my own handheld diary…except, I can only read on it.  I decided to finally cave in and buy one because my interest in its capabilities have changed.  Ever since I decided that, once I am done with the Ph.D., I need to start working on my creative writing again, I have been thinking about the self-published e-books already available.  I have come across a variety that I want to read, but like I said above, I HATE reading on my computer.  I can’t snuggle with my laptop in bed.  So, my reasons for wanting an e-reader shifted.  Instead of wanting one to aid in research, I started wanting one for its intended purpose: fun reading.

I was also thinking that I should probably know what kinds of things are being self-published, because, when the time comes, chances are that, if I want my book published, I will have to do it myself.  Today, this is a much more exciting prospect than it was 10 years ago.  So, just like “writers read,” I figure “self-published authors read self-published novels.” And I’m having a ball so far.  SO much interesting stuff available.  It never ceases to amaze me the depths of people’s imaginations, even with a story that has been told time and again.

Which leads me to my next point: Cyber Writers.  You guys are awesome!

This is the first blog I’ve started that has had a well-defined theme involving a subject to which I am dedicated.  It is also my first blog to have actual readers.  Before I started it I was convinced that no one wanted to read yet another blog about writing.  There are so many out there already.  What I failed to consider was that it does not matter:  writers write and writers read, and writers write and read about writing.  Just in the couple of weeks since I’ve started this, I feel like I’ve learned so much.

And my eyes have been opened to the writing community.  There are so many of us, from those with several books already under the belt to virtual beginners like myself.  And it seems like there are so many supportive, encouraging voices out there.  Such a wonderful community.  I really appreciate that and I thought I would let you all know.

Y’all are awesome!  Thanks!


Categories: Miscellaneous, Random Ruminations, Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hello, my name is Marilyn and I am a Vampire Addict.

One of the first exercises Chris Baty has you do in the beginning of No Plot? No Problem! is to draft two “magna cartas.”  One should be composed of all the things that you personally like in the books you love to read.  He says to be honest, even if it means admitting that you like books with a lot of white space because you do not like reading large blocks of text.  The other “magna carta” should be the opposite list – all the things you find boring in books.  Again, he encourages you to be honest with yourself, even if it means admitting that you really hate books about old people or love stories.

I did this exercise, although I have not yet hung them up by my desk like he suggests.  I will not post them here either, but I do want to take this opportunity to be honest about the kind of book I want to write, based on the kind of book I like to read.

I am a genre reader.  I love me a good urban fantasy.  I also enjoy straight-up fantasy, science fiction (both soft and hard), apocalyptic dystopias, some steampunk, and the occasionally mystery.  Add to that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and John Donne, and that about rounds out what I prefer reading.

I also LOVE vampires.  Love them…I get all feisty with people who try to disparage my beloved vampire and I feel the need to spout long diatribes, explaining their importance as archetypes of the human experience.  I will spare you that spiel here.

Bela Lugosi's DraculaFirst of all, I would like to concede the fact that the current state of literature is filled to the brim with vampire stories.  Well, I don’t care.  This first manuscript (and probably the  second and the third) is just for me.  I need to get in the practice of writing creatively again.  I need to experiment with story-construction, from beginning to end.  The first manuscript I write, edited or not, is probably not going to be publication-worthy.  I am okay with that, which is why I decided that one of the main characters in my first manuscript will be a vampire.  It will not have to compete with the market and that is what I want to write about, so that is what I am going to do.  So there!

Secondly, I just want to mention something that I find ironic.  I love reading and I love vampires, but, honestly, I cannot think of a single book about vampires that I would give five out of five stars too.  I am not entirely sure why.  It just seems that even if I enjoy the story and the characterizations, I always end up disappointed – as though the author could have treated the vampire mythology just a little bit better.  Of course, I have not read every single book out there with vampire characters, and I am sure there must be at least a couple that would become favorites.  Nevertheless, my experience to date cannot provide me with such a book, with the one notable exception of Dracula by Bram Stoker himself.  However, Dracula works for an historical setting (today anyway), but I like my vampires to feel a little closer and that involves a contemporary treatment.

If I may momentarily set the novel aside, Joss Whedon is my hero and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (along with Angel and the irrelevant-to-this-discussion Firefly) is, in my opinion, one of the best shows every produced for television.  I wish I could find that in a novel.

I believe part of my desire to focus on the vampire is that the part of my brain which has never been introduced to my internal critic thinks that maybe I can do it “right.”  When I say that out-loud (or the written equivalent), however, that little guy takes note, glares at me and shames me into believing that I could never do that.  My inner critic’s opinion is irrelevant, though, since he is barred from reading my first manuscript.

Well, there it is… *Whew!*  I have come clean.  I like vampires.  I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest.  Now you, dear reader, know what you are getting yourself into and I can no longer be held accountable for leading you down a dark path that leads to a genre you hate.

My name is Marilyn and I am a vampire addict.

Categories: Pensive Ponderings, Planning, Random Ruminations, Reading, The Process, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Writers write. Writers read?

In a comment to an earlier post, Eric reminded me that in addition to writing, writing, writing, becoming a better writer involves reading, reading, reading.  With which I wholeheartedly agree.  It makes perfect sense, right?  A writer needs to be familiar with her craft, with what is currently being produced.  Moreover, why would someone who is not an avid reader want to be a writer in the first place?

Nevertheless, something has been bothering me about this axiom.  What exactly about reading will make me a better writer?

Let me clarify; is there something specific I should be concentrating on while I read?  Because, if a book is well written with an engaging story, I usually become so wrapped up in it that I forget to pay attention to how the author constructs the tale.  Heck, this is the case even if it is not terribly well written – as long as the story is interesting enough.

Like I say, it makes sense that reading is an essential element of the craft of writing.  What I am concerned with are the particulars.  How can I ensure that I am fully extracting the benefits of the process of reading?  Should I be dissecting the dialogue?  Analyzing the plot?  Critiquing the characters?

I suspect that the answer will become clearer once I am in the trenches with the actual writing process.  At the moment, apart from my academic writing, I have not really gained any momentum with my creative writing.  First, I must finish my dissertation.  *sigh*  (However, I am interested to find out how my academic writing skills will translate to a creative mode.)

Part of me wonders if it works a bit like osmosis: I read and subconsciously absorb ideas, techniques and suggestions.  None of which I will notice until I am actually writing.

I welcome any thoughts, ideas or pointers on this concept.  In the meantime, I have decided that one method that may help me is to review the books I read once I have finished them.  Perhaps this will force me to be more reflective regarding the manner in which the author engineered his or her story.  I have never really done this before, so it will definitely be a learning process – attempting to critique from a writer’s perspective, but hopefully this will aid in making me a better writer.

Categories: Random Ruminations, Reading, The Process, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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