vamysteryfan: (books)
To-Read Shelf
Coming of Age at the End of Days by Alicia LaPlante
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (About Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
 
Currently Reading
Zoo by James Patterson (there's a CBS miniseries on now)
The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman (nonfiction; it seemed to fit well with Zoo)
 
Finished This Week
It's been a beach-read kind of week. Nothing heavy.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly. A solid police procedural, with roots in the 1992 LA riots and a modern-day resolution
Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb. We know who the bad guys are almost from the beginning. The book is about investigating and pinning down the evidence in a futuristic setting.
Lingo: Around Europe in 60 Languages by Gaston Dorren. If you are interested in words' births, evolutions, and in some cases, deaths, this book is for you. 
vamysteryfan: (books)
 I didn't post much during November.  Most of my writing time went into NaNoWriMo. I didn't reach the word count, but I feel good about what I did. I think I learned a lot this time.  I remembered to stop editing/ self-censoring, which is good. The words seemed to flow pretty well this time. It's good to just have that dedicated chunk of time.

Now the holidays are here and it's harder to justify taking the time. I still want to work on it though.
vamysteryfan: (jeopardy)
 Steve Jobs' Life By Design by George Beahm. This book does not contain the text of the 2005 commencement speech. The author takes that speech as a starting point and tries to illuminate various sections with additional information and anecdotes from Jobs' life. The author is clearly a fan of Jobs and wants to share that enthusiasm. Jobs is undoubtedly a visionary and a brilliant inventor. But learning details about him as a husband and father, I came away thinking less of him as a man. Perhaps it was simply the author's style, with too much of a gloss. Watch the video on YouTube and learn what the man wanted to share from his own lips. 
 
On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays, Explicative and Hortatory by Jacques Barzun. This slim collection of essays ranges from the 1940s to the mid-80s.   His style reminded me a lot of William Buckley or William Safire. He has that same enjoyment of polysyllabic words while preaching plain language. He makes some excellent points in his essay "English as SHe Is Not Taught" on that subject. I also enjoyed his essay on the discipline needed to be a writer. 
 
The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. Did you know there’s a word for unnecessary words in a sentence (pleonasm)? Mark Forsyth knows the words that classify the structures of famous phrases. From alliteration to epistrophe to zeugma, he explains the figures of rhetoric that make speeches and poems memorable. His writing is fun and entertaining. Even the suggested reading list contains one of the best puns I’ve seen in a while. He capped a description of one writer by saying he “built huge rococo sentences filled with trapdoors and secret passages and little subordinate clauses.” It’s worth reading even if you are not a writer for his sheer enjoyment of words.
 
Every Idea Is a Good Idea: A Musician's Guide to Unlocking Your Creativity by Tom Sturges.  The more you understand how others create, the better equipped you are to start your own creative process. That's the basic premise of this book. The title is misleading. I found it a somewhat frustrating read, although it did repay some perseverance. The first four chapters were essentially name-dropping with occasional nuggets of helpful advice. I was skipping pages by the end of the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter had some solid advice. The sixth and seventh chapters discussed the collaborative process that TV writers use. I went back and looked at the opening chapters and realized his examples focused heavily on collaborations there too: Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lennon and McCartney, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Bernstein and Sondheim. I realized the examples he presented had more to do with collaboration than unlocking individual creativity.
vamysteryfan: (Default)
After reading some of [personal profile] thefourthvine's tweets, I have added some and summarized others to reach The Other 10 Laws of Editing.
1. Do not create a phrase to describe your content and then turn the phrase into an acronym.
2. Writing doesn't get easier - you learn how to get through the hard parts better
3. Sooner or Later You Have to Give in and Use a Period. I Really Mean It.
4. If Your Sentence Is 75+ Words Long, the Editor Is Allowed to Tape Your Fingers Together When You're Typing
5. If Your Sentence Extends over More Than One Paragraph, the Editor Will Cry at Her Desk and It Will Be YOUR FAULT
6. I Am Not Personally Responsible for the Differences Between British and American English So Stop Yelling
7. When you have an idea this interesting, HIRE AN EDITOR to check your video's text.
8. If You Use the Space Bar Instead of Tab and Indent, You Will Die Alone
9. A Thesaurus Is a Powerful Weapon and the Editor Has the Right to Invalidate Your License to Wield It
10. If You Change Your Work after Sending It to the Editor, the Editor Is Legally Entitled to Your Lunch Got others?
vamysteryfan: (books)
NaNoWriMo cut significantly into my reading time. For the record, my final word count for November was a tad over 36,200. I'm still working on it - I think there's a good story in there. My Censor kicked in, so I have gone back and edited some more. It's probably shorter but I've advanced the narrative

If anyone has been thinking about memoir writing, Simon & Schuster, the Huffington Post, and AARP are sponsoring a contest. You need to be born before Dec. 31, 1964. Due date for submitting the first 5,000 words is February 15 and the rules are here http://blog.aarp.org/2013/12/23/write-your-memoir-to-win-a-book-contract/

My book count for the year ended at 168, not including a few rereads. To be honest with you, I think that stupid Candy Crush game ate up more of my reading time over the last two months than NaNoWriMo did. I should delete the app.

Book post

Nov. 18th, 2013 03:39 pm
vamysteryfan: (books)
NaNoWriMo is going fairly well but I don't think I'll hit 50,000 words. Still, there's almost one-third of the month left. Is it normal to rewrite this much or should I leave that alone for now and concentrate on quantity?

I haven't been reading much, but the local libraries are pretty nice places to write. How much do I love that this library is on Book Hill? A lot. I was walking around Georgetown, hoping to photograph some nice autumn leaves. I got a cute picture of the ice rink opening. It's going to be in the Washington Post Express after Thanksgiving. That's pretty cool too.

Elric, Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock. It's a weak three. I will confess, I read it in pursuit of completeness. I had read at least one book by every SF grand master except Moorcock. I figured out why while reading this. The style does not appeal to me. it seems pretty dated. Not that that's stopped me before, but dated in a very 60s way. Oh well, at least my list is complete.

Simple Genius by David Baldacci.I'd call it a weak three. It's part of the King and Maxwell series. There's encryption, hidden treasure, the CIA and other spies, and rendition and torture. In the main story. About one third of the book deals with Maxwell's attempts to deal with trauma from her childhood. That's a lot to pack into one book. Still, it was a fun read.
vamysteryfan: (books)
For a few weeks prior to the start of NaNoWriMo, I was thinking about the writing process. I read a couple of books by well-known authors about their approaches and a couple of books with writing exercises so that I could limber up my mind and fingers, as it were.

Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. The book collects a series of lectures he gave in 1927. It's a classic: he analyzes story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm. The story appeals to our curiosity, the plot to our intelligence, and pattern appeals to our aesthetic sense. Values come from people. I loved the way he took chronology out of his analysis. The image of all those authors gathered in one room was highly entertaining on several levels.

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood. An interesting book. She explores who writers are writing for, why they do it, and where it comes from. She concludes that writing is about entering the darkness and illuminating it. She doesn't cover the hows or wheres but why. She has interesting things to say about the role of the reader and also about the role commerce plays. This is also a compilation of lectures she gave.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. A collection of short essays on writing. She covers a wide variety of topics including where to write, exercises to get started, writing buddies, and the importance of listening. There's some repetition but it's helpful overall. I also enjoyed her occasional discussions of Zen practices.

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. This book is very specifically about the writing process. At the end of each short chapter she has writing exercises. I liked the examples she drew from her own life and the insights she had into the writing process. I like the way she rooted her process into her locale.
vamysteryfan: (books)
So, decided to do the NaNoWriMo thing. I've been resisting putting pen to paper on the actual project but I have ideas firmly in mind. For the past three weeks I've been doing various writing exercises to limber up my mind and get ready.

Who knows if I'll be able to carry it through but I want to at least try.
vamysteryfan: (books)
19 jokes only grammar nerds will understand
http://www.buzzfeed.com/aj8/19-jokes-only-grammar-nerds-will-understand-cfe3

Not really - some of them are pretty obvious. Love the accompanying photos!
vamysteryfan: (books)
These books include the 300th one I've posted at Goodreads. I've been posting there since January 2012. Nice.

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood. She is a multifaceted writer. This book seemed a little out of character for her but it fit in with some of her themes from In Other Worlds. She had interesting ideas about the nature of debt and what is owed to whom. There's an interesting discussion of Faustian bargains and Scrooge. I also liked the discussion of trust as an element of debt. The final chapter talks about the real costs of our actions on the earth and the price to pay/the debt that will come due.

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood. This book collects a number of her essays on speculative fiction and how she defines it apart from science fiction and fantasy. The essays cover her work as a child/adolescent, a writer, a reviewer, and as an academic. She's a riveting writer with an interesting viewpoint. Well worth reading.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. A very useful book. It has tips for becoming a more mindful reader as well as a better writer. He moves from the nuts and bolts of writing to techniques to useful habits for writers to develop. The tools are all very practical with workshop questions at the end of each short chapter.

Book post

Aug. 26th, 2013 07:00 pm
vamysteryfan: (books)
Nightingale's Lament, Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth, Hex in the City, Agents of Light and Darkness, and Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green
I went on a Nightside binge this week. The books are quick easy reads. The series features John Taylor with a magical gift for finding things and an attitude about authority. The books are urban detective fantasies, set in an alternate dark London. The plots are pretty basic. The first few books in the series are connected as Taylor tries to find out about his past, especially his mother. I like the secondary characters more than the main one. There's an interesting assortment of minor gods and demons and the people who follow them. Not as nuanced as the Dresden books but in that family.

Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron. One of her Judge Knott series but Sigrid Haraldson makes an appearance. Well written, good characters, interesting plot. Interesting victims who at one point seem to be connected but aren't. Clever motives too. A good entry in the series.
vamysteryfan: (books)
The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book

This is a really interesting and useful summary. It lays out each step and the associated costs, s well as some links to people who can help you do it.
vamysteryfan: (books)
A Glancing Light by Aaron Elkins. A new protagonist - an art expert. Still has the interesting characters and great locales plus some oddments of information I expect from Elkins. Lots of twists in the plot. I like this one. I hope to see more of him.

Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg. A book on writing fiction by a romantic author. I had mixed feelings about it. Some of the chapter were really interesting and helpful, others not so much.

And I was massively disappointed by Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.I had high hopes for it because he wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's not worth wasting a minute on.
vamysteryfan: (Default)
"Amazon Publishing Introduces “Kindle Worlds,” a New Publishing Model for Authors Inspired to Write Fan Fiction—Launching with an Initial License of Popular Titles from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment"

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1823219&highlight=

What's the betting? It will crash and burn? Amazon and the licensors will go after other fanfic communities? One big yawn?

Book post

May. 13th, 2013 02:39 pm
vamysteryfan: (books)
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Writing. Short, sweet, and to the point. Pithy advice for writers, with cute cartoons and writers who have earned the exceptions.

The Body in the Piazza by Katherine Hall Page. Nice descriptions of food, somewhat sketchy descriptions of ambiance and scenery. Which is odd because it's Italy after all. Nice puzzle though, so that gets bonus points.

Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri. A good entry in this series. Montalban is feeling introspective after an injury. There is a kidnapping but the resolution is telegraphed early. Still enjoyable t read the unwinding.

Dearie by Bob Spitzer. A biography of Julia Child. Nicely done. It explains some of her foibles, her relationship with her husband, but most of all how she wrote her cookbooks and created the TV shows. I didn't know she was somewhat homophobic but overcame it late in life. She had a complicated but good relationship with Jacques Pepin and she and Madeline Kammen had a lifelong hate going. I got a good sense of her joy in life too. The author sometimes used rather too colloquial words or jarring slang but that's a small quibble. I liked learning about her career with the OSS.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. This purports to be the last book in the Sookie series (but I'd bet there will be some novelizations from the show). It ties up some loose ends. I thought it etter than a couple of her more recent entries. We revisit a few old friends to see how they ended up.
vamysteryfan: (books)
They say to be a better writer, one should read good writers. So periodically I pick up "Best of" collections. I just started reading Best American Travel Writing of 2012, edited by William Vollman. The first essay grabbed me: "How to Explore Like A Real Victorian Adventurer" by Monte Reel. He uses our beloved Sir Richard Francis Burton as the anchor. He makes wonderful points about being mindful and how and what to observe and then applies it to a mall. He recommends a number of books that are on the Internet. I'm going to look for John Ruskin's The Elements of Drawing. It sounds fascinating.
vamysteryfan: (books)
The Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd. A cleverly executed combination of archaeology and the fantastical. It's based on Schliemann's discovery and excavation of Troy. I loved the characters and milieu he created and the quotes from Homer and Virgil. Well worth reading.

Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly. I've previously enjoyed a number of Barbara Hambly's fantasy and historical fiction books. Here she writes about the first four First Ladies of the US, with Sally Heming appearing instead of Jefferson's late wife. She skips about in time and space and character point of view but she carries it out very well. It's easy to look back on American history now and forget that the new nation faced a host of problems. It was a good read by a good author.

Liars All by Jo Bannister. I've seldom been so disappointed in a writer or a book. The main character, a "strikingly beautiful" woman with two men in thrall - one stereotypically brawny, the other brainy - has been done often and better. One "friendship" is more like Stockholm syndrome. Only in fiction would anyone get away with such nonsense. I've tried three of her books but I'm done.

Flight of Aquavit by Anthony Bidulka. On the other hand I enjoy this series. This book is set early in the series. The setting is unconventional for a private detective - Saskatoon - but that adds to the enjoyment. He's gotten better as the series continued but this was a good entry. I like his characters.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty. It's been done better. It's a good refresher course but I've read some articles lately that were just as useful. The breezy tone undercut some of her points.

And I can't exactly say I'm reading Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler. It's more the kind of book you dip in and out of but find endlessly fascinating. Instead of the meaning of words he discusses usage. The first edition in 1926 was groundbreaking. His entries on elegant variation, slipshod extension or really any and all of them are still right on point. It's great browsing if you love words.

I think what my book reviews tell me is that I need characters and good locales to enjoy fiction.
vamysteryfan: (Default)
Via twistedchick: Usage peeve bingo! http://tinyurl.com/bbqaqt2 With helpful links at end. I like this one about a copyeditor's approach
vamysteryfan: (Default)
Marvelous article on the use of the serial or Oxford comma here http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/06/30/137525211/going-going-and-gone-no-the-oxford-comma-is-safe-for-now

The Bachelorette examples were particularly funny. "It's perhaps not surprising that a comma that can singlehandedly create human beings can also get people pretty wound up."

But this was the best (capslocks in original post):

AND NO THAT DOESN'T MAKE "IRREGARDLESS" OKAY AND STOP USING "LITERALLY" TO MEAN "FIGURATIVELY" I AM BEGGING YOU.

I need to share this link with the fandom grammar people. It is made of awesome.

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