Posts Tagged ‘Books’
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
This is the question on my mind this week. I grew up in a time where I read at least 5-10 books a week, not because I didn’t enjoy watching TV (although with just three channels back then instead of 300, I admit that that played a part in my foray into literary escapism). I adored reading. I read every single night before bed, and if I really got caught up into a good book, I’d read it every spare minute until I’d finished. My parents were both teachers and our house was practically wallpapered in books!
But don’t get me wrong, by no means was I just a book worm, closeted in my room with my nose buried in a book 24/7. I played four varsity sports in high school and graduated at the top of most of my classes. In college, I played JV soccer and fenced. Although the academic demands became a little more stringent, I still made time to read and always carried a novel in my bag. And, yes, I managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude.
I attribute a lot of my success in academia (and life) to reading so many books as a child and young adult. I read anything that I could get my hands on, even books that some would technically classify as “too old” for me. So the point of this blog post is why do I get the feeling that within the young adult sphere, it seems to me that people are constantly trying to “dumb-down” the kind of books and writing that teens should be reading?
I’ve heard that this is an American phenomenon, and the reason why reading is such a problem in our society versus other countries (I’ve lived in 5). Books are meant to expand minds, to make a reader enjoy the journey, but also to make them pause and think, drawn in by a single image, a sentence, a description, a word even. They shouldn’t be intellectually vacuous or flippant. Yes, I agree that there are places for some books of that nature, but shouldn’t teens have a choice on whether they want to read something with a little more gut and a little more grit? And not just be spoon fed a mass-market diet of what someone else thinks they should read (which more often than not translates to the material that makes the most money)? Or are people just so happy that teens are reading, that it doesn’t really matter what they read?
As an American myself, I cringe when I hear the “dumbing-down” analogy. Shouldn’t people be allowed to buy what they want, and not what someone says that they should buy? Publishers are picking books for money, mass market cookie-cutter books, while educators are picking books that have no money in it, for more literary purposes. There is a huge, almost unbridgeable chasm between the two. In much of the rest of the world, the gap between the two is far less, because history and art and culture are integral parts of any literature, even *gasp* children’s books.
The real crux of the matter is that at the end of the day, publishing is a business, a business of book units. It’s a business of what will sell the most copies. No one wants to take a chance on something that could potentially be better than what is currently out there. And if that’s the flimsy flippant books more “geared toward teens” as decided by a corporation’s marketing team assessing “current market trends” as opposed to actual literary educators, then those are the books that will be heavily marketed and pushed toward the teen market. But despite this, I suspect that publishing will soon travel down the route of all other media monopolies, and become driven by user choice. This kind of Choice Revolution is something that is currently having a huge impact on TV, internet, and all matter of social media – people are deciding what THEY want to read or watch or listen to, not what someone in a business tells them is within their ability or maturity level to do.
At the end of the day, shouldn’t teens decide for themselves what kinds of concepts and language are supposedly deemed inaccessible to them?
Say NO to “Teen Fiction For Dummies.”
Monday, October 19th, 2009
Paris was amazing – it was everything I remembered and more. Not only did I visit all of the old haunts – the Latin Quarter, Boulevard St. Michel, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, and even the Eiffel Tower, but I also visited places that I wrote about in my books which was an almost surreal experience – the Tour Areva in La Defense (see insert), the palace and gardens of Versailles, the Tuileries, the designer row of Avenue Montaigne. It was fantastic, breathing life into my story and my characters.
Speaking of breathing life, I did spend at least a couple nights lying in my hotel room wondering…what if, just maybe, vampires did exist and were living just where I’d said they’d be living (like around the corner from my hotel in the 8th arrondissement). It felt more real than surreal in the middle of the second night when the wind blew open the curtains of the french doors off the balcony into the room! Oh, and when I woke up, there were tiny drops of blood on my white bed linen. I kid you not! Well let’s just say those French doors remained closed for the remainder of my time in Paris, overactive imagination or not. Freaky!
Photos to follow.
Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Check out the Bloodspell music playlist that inspired and kept me going while I wrote my novel!
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Houston, we have lift off! My manuscript has now been officially submitted to publishers. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I will be sure to post any progress as soon as I get any feedback. Now, on to the waiting game…tick, tock, tick, tock.
Thursday, September 24th, 2009
I have to say that Graceling did indeed live up to the hype. I finished it last night at 1am. Let’s just say that it’s been a long while since I’ve foregone sleep for finishing a book, which is always a good sign of a “can’t put down” read.
Graceling is set in a fictional world made up of seven kingdoms ruled by seven kings. Here are there, some people are born “Graced” with certain skills or attributes. Katsa, the heroine, born with one green eye and one blue (the mark of the “Graceling”), is Graced with the skill of killing. Her uncle King Randa abuses her gift as his own ends. When Katsa meets Prince Po in a quest to rescue his grandfather who has been kidnapped in a plot of by the Monsean King, it seems like she has met her match. Also Graced, Po is the only one who can fight Katsa. However his Grace is not fighting, he can sense people’s thoughts when they are thinking about him which allows him to be a worthy opponent to Katsa. Their blossoming romance is inevitable. Together they race to uncover the plot and save Po’s cousin and his family from the evil Monsean King, Graced with a terrible ability to control people’s minds.
Several people have compared this book to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer but I would only agree in terms of its target audience and to some degree, its romance. The writing was simple, eloquent enough, and flowed well. My overall feel for the novel was for some reason one of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” I absolutely fell in love with Prince Po – what a great character, a perfect foil for the “wildcat” Katsa who is feisty and independent and headstrong. It was great to read a book with a strong female protagonist. Once a tomboy myself, I identified with Katsa’s Grace and thoroughly enjoyed her ability to pound someone. On the flip side of that, her struggle to come to terms with her Grace as well as the crimes she has committed for her uncle, is poignant and heartfelt. I love that she doesn’t want to get married or do anything that girls are supposed to do – she wants to live on her own terms. Definitely gives you something to think about. Great heroine!
I’d highly recommend this book. 5 stars!!! Check it out at Amazon.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Nothing is ever perfect, nor is it really ever going to be. That doesn’t mean however, that you can’t get close to perfection. In the case of manuscript perfection, the key is in editing, as in good “improve your manuscript” editing. Prior to agent submission, I did most of my own editing and also had a good dozen people proofread my book. I was also lucky to sign with an agent who believes in my manuscript enough to contribute her own line by line edits. Not all agents will do this – in fact, some may send you to editors (and yes, you’ll need to pay them), in some cases, with no guarantees that they’ll take on your book post-editing (and post ‘you’re-now-out-$500′). That, of course, is your choice. However, it’s my opinion that while a good editor may indeed make your book better, it’s still a “subjective” process as that editor’s vision may not be in line with another editor, publisher, agent, or even yourself. So think wisely. I’d say that if a lot of people are saying “it needs work,” well then you’d probably be better off getting it professionally edited if you have the money, and see where that takes you. Otherwise, you can take a stab yourself as a first step. Here are some books that helped me along the way with the self-editing and writing process.
1) Self-editing for fiction writers – Browne & King
2) How I write – Janet Evanovich
3) The first five pages – Noah Lukeman
4) Bird by bird – Anne Lamott
5) On Writing – Stephen King
Monday, September 21st, 2009
I started reading The Strain on Saturday and finished it yesterday. Let me start by saying, these are not my kind of vampires. I tend to lean more toward the dark, sexy, and mysterious type of vampire. So if you’re looking for that kind of vampire story, this book isn’t for you.
While Blade II was one of my favorites of the Blade movies action-wise, I can’t say that I ever liked the “Reaper” vampires – the jaw-opening, tongue/stinger-thrusting monstrosities that were ‘mutated’ vampires in this installment of the series. In The Strain, the vampires are very similar to the Reapers in Blade II (also directed by Guillermo del Toro), with the addition of more back-story (the Masters) and the carriers of the vampire virus, the creepy blood worms.
I found the writing to be fast-paced with hard-hitting and incisive imagery, which I expected given Del Toro’s vision and flair for the dramatic as he demonstrated with Pan’s Labyrinth & Hellboy. Some of the descriptions/feelings were so incredibly well-conveyed that I felt the characters’ responses in my toes.
With its standard vampire fare of coffins, soil, feral minions, and lots of gruesome blood sucking, I’d definitely recommend The Strain to people who’d enjoy more horror-driven vampire fiction. Overall, an exciting read, but would I say it’s my cup of tea….er….blood? Probably not.
The Strain is the first book in a planned trilogy. I’d rate it 4 stars.
Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Someone recently asked about authors who inspired me. I guess that’s a fair question since it’s not really the same as a favorite book, which while enjoyable, may or may not have had any effect upon my own writing. I’ve included some of those authors/titles in an earlier post. Let’s see. I love Tolkien – his ability to envision cosmic settings and translate that vision to his readers is unmatched. I’d also have to say Lee Child. I adore his Reacher books – not only does he usually have a gripping, fast paced plot, but his details are so relevant to everything that is happening, and so well tied in, that they make his stories incredibly plausible. I love L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series – I can still read those books as an adult and enjoy them every time. Historical romance, hands down, Judith McNaught. I enjoy Mary Janice Davidson‘s witty dialogue in her Undead Series, especially the first four books. Betsy speaks like I would. Definitely J.K. Rowling – pretty much everything there, especially her ability to tell a continuously evolving story. Growing up, I’d probably have to say Enid Blyton as a child and V.C. Andrews as a teenager. High fantasy, without a doubt, David Eddings.
Sunday, July 12th, 2009
A few of my classic and more recent favs:
- Tolkien: Lord of the Rings trilogy
- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter series
- C.S. Lewis: Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, Narnia series (7 books)
- Phillip Pullman: His Dark Materials trilogy
- Holly Black: Tithe, Ironside, Valiant
- Melissa Marr: Wicked Lovely
- Christopher Paolini: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr
- Stephenie Meyer: Twilight saga
- Cassandra Clare: City of Bones, City of Glass