Sunday, July 2, 2017

What I've Been Reading -- June 2017

Hey everybody!
I've been a bit quiet, and I'm not sure why.  My blogging mind has taken a nap, I suppose.  Plus, Blogger has been stubborn about saving posts, so a lovely thing I'd written up has entirely disappeared because I didn't realize it didn't save.  However, I've been tagged in a post so you should see something soon!  In the meantime, here are a few of the books I've been reading this month.

The Princess Bride
William Goldman

I grew up with the movie, but I didn't know there was a book until a friend of mine said she'd read it.  It's much better than the movie, with a lot more backstory and scenes the movie couldn't include, but I found that a lot of scenes in the movie were taken verbatim from the book, which made me happy.  The book begins a little oddly and I was confused at first, but after getting a few chapters in things began to make sense.  I loved it, and would recommend it to basically anyone.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

“I’ll tell you the truth and its up to you to live with it.” 

“When this is over we will see who is right, and who is dead.” 

Where the Woods Grow Wild
Nate Philbrick

I borrowed this book from Faith, and when I started reading I thought "well, there's some epic-fantasy style stuff in here, but it sounds like a sweet story about a boy and a girl".  And then it got intense.  There were character twists, all kinds of unreliability, and they were so close to finishing the story so many times, BUT NO, one of them takes the wrong path or follows the wrong clue and they're off again.  There was a delightfully happy ending, and although I was a little disappointed because my evil mind thought one of the characters could be A LOT darker than she was written, I was satisfied, and it was nice to read something light.  It actually reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride, although I wouldn't say they were the same book by any means.  I'd recommend this book to anyone, and to a very broad age range.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors of all time, and The Hitchhiker's Guide series is fantastic, so I was looking forward to reading this book.  It started out a little slow, but Adams' signature weirdness was there the whole time, and the story picked up during the second half of the book.  The characters were quirky and strange, and the plot made about as much sense as I expected from one of his books.  I loved it, and might look into the rest of the series at some point.  I'd recommend it to someone who's familiar with his style, but I wouldn't call it the book to read to be introduced to him as an author.

“There is no point in using the word 'impossible' to describe something that has clearly happened.” 

“He turned slowly like a fridge door opening.” 

“I commend you on your skepticism, but even the skeptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidæ on our hands.”

 “Deep in the rain forest it was doing what it usually does in rain forests, which was raining: hence the name.” 

“The sky which had started out with such verve and spirit in the morning was beginning to lose its concentration and slip back into its normal English condition, that of a damp and rancid dish cloth.” 

“He put some more cold pizza into his face.” 

Ta-Da!  My books.  Sorry this is a day or two late, I had friends over this week so blogging didn't really happen.  The next few posts should be one I've been tagged in by the same Faith who let me borrow her book, and another installment of "You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your ______".  Not sure when exactly they'll be going up, but they will be at some point.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Problems Introverted Writers Have to Deal With

I get really excited every time I begin a post and have no idea why.

I just got back from the ocean!  It was awesome and ocean-y.

So introverts.
We all know at least one.
I am one.
As an introverted writer, there are things that do not come easily for me.  I'm going to list them and cross my fingers and hope and pray that I'm not the only one who has these struggles.  FEEL MY PAIN WITH ME!  I DEMAND IT.

I don't.  Be happy and make some cupcakes.  Send me some, and I might be your friend forever.

1. Gathering character information.
Google is a gift to humanity, but it can only do so much.  There are times when you must speak to an actual human to gather information on a certain character.  And not only must you talk to them, you must initiate a conversation and not bore then to death or take up their precious time or bother them with your questions or put them to sleep with the story idea that you think is really interesting but they must be so bored by now.  Talking to people is HARD.  It's REALLY REALLY HARD.  And as a writer, YOU HAVE TO DO IT!

2. Sunlight and the outdoors in general.
My bedroom is in our finished basement.  It's my Hobbit-Hole, cave, den, whatever.  All you need to know is I only go up the stairs for food, a shower, and to see my family once and a while when I'm required to communicate with other life forms.  I mean, I suppose I could go write outside, but.......whyyyyyyyyyy......

In my defense, it is a REALLY AWESOME BEAR CAVE.  There are very few things which could bring me out of my bedroom.

It doesn't have to be a bedroom though.  Introverts are notorious for shutting themselves up in small, dark places.  Unless they're claustrophobic, but then they just shut themselves up in larger, lighter places.  This doesn't usually directly affect writing, but I have discovered that when I do go for a walk in the woods or spend time with friends, I feel more creative afterwards.

3. Writing workshops and conventions.
Don't get me wrong, there's something really magical about walking into a large room and seeing it filled with writers.  Knowing you're not the only person who struggles with plot development or internal conflict is fantastic.

But then there's the whole problem of it being a convention.  With other people.  Lots of other people.  And you're supposed to "hang out" with them.  And "mill about".  And "talk to them".  And "be social".  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather stay in my bed and read, even if I do end up missing out on conversations with other writers.

My mom is awesome and encourages my writing, but she's an extrovert, and her way of doing that is to tell me about all kinds of conventions and retreats I should go to.  They sound great in theory, but the more I think about them the more I realize I'd probably shut down on day two and just be trying really hard to fake excitement.

4. Writing extroverted characters.
Extroverts don't always find it easy to understand introverts, but the same is true the other way around.  Extroverts are confusing.  Are they social butterflies who are loud and outgoing at all times?  Or are they like us, just...more excited about social events?  Now I did a blog post about the care and keeping of extroverts a while back, but it's one thing to know one in real life and another thing entirely to create one.  I can understand the thought processes of an internal processing, introverted, and generally hedgehog-like character.  The bouncy, people-loving, life of the party?  Not so much.  It's hard to wrap my brain around the fact that being by yourself can drain your energy, and that someone might actually REALLY REALLY ENJOY the writing convention I decided not to attend.  They don't just to go parties because there's food, and they don't instantly make friends with the cat.  Although if you're like a certain extrovert I know, the second an animal comes into view they must talk to it for a few least.

And when it comes to writing, well, lets just say that sending an extrovert on a solo trek across an empty desert may not go so well.  Neither would hiding out for long periods of time, or moving to a new location and not having many friends.  Although extroverts tend to remedy that pretty quickly....


5. Promoting yourself.
I don't know about you, but I'm rubbish at promoting my skills.  It involves talking to people, being the center of attention for a moment on at least a small scale, and coming up with reasons why people should focus on you.  All of which are absolute torture.  This can apply to writing, music, or anything that involves self-promotion, and it is the one thing about publishing a book that I am REALLY not looking forward to.

6. Telling people about your writing.
This kind of goes along with the last point.  While I love it when people want to hear about what I write, the fact that I actually have to tell them is...well, it's a bit intimidating.  Verbal communication has never been my strong point, which is partly why I have this blog, so when I try to talk to someone about what I've written, things go a bit pear-shaped.  I've mentioned this once or twice before in previous blog posts, but I feel like it's worth mentioning again and again.

And then, when you've been sitting there for two hours and you're only halfway through the story, you suddenly realize that you may in fact be really boring that person.  So you stop.  And then you think, but wait, should I stop?  or should I finish the story?  But that's got more to do with anxiety than introversion.

So there you have it.  I hope you can relate to this as much as I can (being as I made the would be pretty sad if I made a list I couldn't actually relate to at all...).  Let me know in the comments if there's anything I missed!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Daily Quote Challenge (or: I'VE BEEN TAGGED IN A POST, GUYS!!!)

Hello!  It is the last day of May!  And I've been tagged in a post by the fabulous Maggie @ Maggie's Musings!  Aaaaaand I'm bending the rules.  Which is something I NEVER DO so watch out world here I come.

The Daily Quote Challenge -- What you're supposed to do.
1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Tag three new bloggers every day.
3. Post one quote on your blog every day for three consecutive days.

The Daily Quote Challenge -- What I'm doing.
1. Thanking the person who nominated me.
2. Tagging....some bloggers?
3. Posting a bunch of quotes here because why the heck not.

So first things first: Thank you Maggie, you amazing unicorn and generally cool person!

(this is the point in the story where Grace realizes that the steps are out of order and has a crisis because while she can completely rework the rules for the challenge she cannot follow a numbered list in the WRONG ORDER because that would be a crime to all of humanity.  THREE DOES NOT COME BEFORE TWO)

Have I ever mentioned that I'm weird?

Okay, so here are the quotes.  I'm combining this challenge with something Faith @ Genuine Perplexities did, where she described herself with various internet things.  So basically I'm posting a bunch of quotes that are important to me.

So there you have it!

Quotes that I like.  

Now to tag.

This is the problem with having a whopping total of four friends and only two of them blog.
Not only that but Maggie's already done the post, and tagged Faith.  So.  I highly doubt people will see this but here goes.  

Cait @ Paper Fury
Hannah @ Hannah Heath

And that's it.  Can I tag Faith and Maggie again? Nope.  So basically if you want to do this post, consider yourself tagged, say that I tagged you, and make the post. 

That's it!  Grace out.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What I've Been Reading -- May 2017

These will be happening at the end of each month.  It won't have ALL the books I've read each month, but two or three I pick out as either being my favorites, or the ones I'd like to talk about.  These books will probably not be current, I'm not doing anything like reviewing the hot new summer novels, or whatever.  This is just what I've been up to.  I'll put in my own opinions, and a quote or two from the book.  By all means use this list and my opinions when looking for something to read, or completely disregard it.  I don't care.

And that being said, let's get on with it!

East of Eden
John Steinbeck

I loved this book, and Steinbeck in general.  It follows the lives of a few families, and connects them all in an intricate web.  One of the reasons I like this author is because his characters are extremely true-to-life, and this book absolutely DOES NOT FAIL MY STANDARDS.  Forget Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, this is my favorite Steinbeck book as of yet.  His wording and descriptions are beautiful, I never fail to get a perfect image of his world in my head, and every character has it's ups and downs.  In fact my favorite thing about this book is that it's often hard to tell which characters are "good" and which are "evil".  Seen through Steinbeck's starkly realist point of view, each one is well-developed, and each one makes good and bad decisions.  While it is on the longer side, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone.

"Humans are caught -- in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, and in their kindness and generosity too -- in a net of good and evil.  I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence.  Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any chances we may impose of field and river and mountain, on economy and manners.  There is no other story.  A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil?  Have I done well -- or ill?"

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

This book wasn't bad.  I was fairly hesitant starting out, the book doesn't open in a particularly exciting way, but once you get past the first chapter or so things begin to pick up.  While the book as a whole isn't something I would read again, the character development was EXCELLENT, and without a doubt the best part of the whole thing.  Dorian Gray's character in particular was very well done, but his good friend wasn't neglected by any means.  In fact, I think his friend, Lord Henry, was a more interesting character than Dorian, despite Dorian being the one going through the greatest changes.  While I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, if you enjoy Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, you will probably want to add this one to your list.

"All I want to do now is look at life.  You may come and look at it with me, if you care to."

"One has a right to judge of a man by the effect he has over his friends."

All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr

This is the first book I've read in a while that's given me a solid book hangover.  I have a slight weakness for books set during WWII, but after reading this book I'm almost afraid to read others like it, in case this one spoiled me.  The author added a lot of science to the story -- one of the characters is interested in radio, the other in seashells -- but instead of bogging it down, it made the characters and the events so much more interesting, and added meaning to things about those characters that I never would have thought of on my own.  The structure of the book is unique as well, and something I did not expect at all.  The story almost works backwards.  That's the best I can do, it's incredibly hard to explain the layout of this book.  All I can say is it's magnificent.  I would recommend it to anyone, but be warned, you will feel things.

"Stones are just stones and rain is just rain and misfortune is just bad luck."

"He is being loyal.  He is being what everybody agrees is good.  And yet every time he wakes and buttons his tunic, he feels he is betraying something."

"Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever."

So there you have it!  My three books from this month.  What have you been reading?  Let me know in the comments!  I'd also love your recommendations, if you want to give them to me.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Strong Female Lead

Welcome to the sixth "You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your ___________"!
Yes this is late.  I'm not terribly sorry.

Maggie at Maggie's Musings helped me brainstorm this post!  She's really awesome, you should check out her blog.

Strong female leads:  In all honesty, out of all the tropes I've done so far this one is the least bad, in my opinion.  Yeah, it's full of stereotypes and overused in the name of feminism, but the concept is good.  I'm all for women having as many great and glorious adventures as men.

So if they're not that bad at all (and even good), what is it about them that I don't like?

One: girl is an emotionless abyss.
See, people have this idea that if a girl is strong, SHE HAS NO EMOTIONS.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  This is either because things have happened to her which have made her try to cut them off, or because she doesn't understand them because that's just who she is as a person.  And if she does have emotions, they come in the form of ONE MASSIVE BREAKDOWN WHICH POSSIBLY RUINS EVERYTHING AND CONFUSES A LOT OF PEOPLE.
*cue ugly crying*
The problem with this cliche is it just isn't true.  While there are girls who don't have strong emotions and solve problems logically, there are lots of other girls who are on the other side of the picture and are extremely emotionally driven.  And then there's girls like me, who are in the middle, and let their heart and their head work together to solve problems.  Instead of girls being really mysterious and feeling nothing, LET THEM FEEL THINGS!  Make logical characters, but make emotional characters too!  And make characters who can never decide anything because their heart tells them one thing and their head tells them another and their intuition is telling everything else to just SHUT UP AND LISTEN ALREADY I AM HERE but yet they don't follow their gut and then everything goes haywire!

That was a run-on sentence about my brain.

Writing me as a main character would be an absolute nightmare.

Two: girl is good at everything but insecure.
*stunningly gorgeous girl and stunningly handsome guy are talking*
Girl: I'm so uglyyyyy....
Boy: No!  You're beautiful!
Girl: No I'm not, I'm ugly!  Don't lie to me!

Girl: I can't shoot a bow and arrow!  I have such bad aim!
Boy: Here, try this one!
*girl hits every target ever and also an apple on the rooftop of a house in Spain despite her being in America*

Girl: I can't lead, I can't fight, I can't cook, I can't make speeches, I can't stand up for what I believe in.........
*girl leads entire army into battle and wins on the first try*

So yeah.  This is waaaaay too common and needs to stop.  Maybe it's true that there are people who have talents they don't know about or don't recognize, but REALLY?  EVERY SINGLE GIRL IN EVERY BOOK IS UNWITTINGLY GOOD AT EVERYTHING!  It's really getting on my nerves.  Can I shoot a bow and arrow on the first try?  No!  Can I lead an entire army into battle with terrible leadership skills?  No!  

(also about the bow and arrow: why is it that's all girl's ever use as weapons?  why can't I see a girl wielding a sword as big as she is, forged from the blood of her enemies?)

Three: girl is pretty (but not too pretty).
Lest we mistake her for a movie star or a toad, it must be specified that she is NOT UGLY, but she is NOT DROP DEAD GORGEOUS EITHER.  Nope.  Always the happy medium.  Always floating right in between, a happy cloud of not-too-prettiness.  I guess this is because we can't have ugly main characters, but we also can't have characters that look better than our readers because that's not normal.  Even though we know the actress that plays her in the film is going to be 839,294,000% better looking than all of us lowly worms.

Oh, and we always get this information while she's looking at a mirror contemplating her life and pitiful destiny.  You know, that scene in the first chapter of the book where she talks about her ordinary life and is thrown into a tumultuous plot immediately afterwards?  Yeah.  That scene.  

Four: girl is the one telling the story.
Now I've got nothing against first person present tense.  


I'm not joking.  It feels like every book I've read with a "strong female lead" has the girl telling the story as it happens.  Why can't we have a different perspective some of the time?  WHYYYYY!??!?

Five: girl is caught in a love triangle.
This is just like, standard, factory-made stuff now.  Of course there's a love triangle.  Why wouldn't there be?  It's like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no jelly.  


For a further rant on this topic please see a previous post.  There will be a link at the end of this one.

Six: girl wears fitting, figure-enhancing clothing.
Granted, this is much more prevalent in films than in novels.  It still frustrates me, though.  In my opinion, the only times it's okay to give a girl a form-fitting, skimpy outfit are:
1. If there are also men in tight-fitting outfits and it's for a purpose.
2. If her job has something specifically to do with wearing clothing like that.
3. If her character is the type of person who would enjoy wearing that kind of clothing.

Star Wars has done a FANTASTIC job with practical clothing:

Jynn Erso from Rogue One

Captain Phasma from The Force Awakens

You see that armor?  You see how it looks almost identical to the rest of the Stormtroopers' armor?  It's just on a woman.  That's it.  Everything else is the same.  It's not hard to figure out.  And it's much more practical.  Instead of a skintight leather suit, or armor that only covers the midsection, try FULL ARMOR, or try loose, flexible clothing.  

So there's my rant.
If you know of any YA books that throw away these cliches, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!  I would love to read them. 

The Love Triangle Post (and the first one in this series):
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Love Triangle

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Working Through My TBR: Is the Way I Read Weird? WHO CAN TELL????!!!!!!

So now that school's over for the year, I have the mental energy to dive into my very long To Be Read list.  I don't have a physical pile, because I'm getting them from the library, but I do have a very very very long list.  Considering I only started the actual list a few months ago.

A few things I have accomplished since the end of the school year:
2. Read a whole book in an evening.
3. Put a massive pile of books on hold at the library.

Which brings me to the bulk of the blog post:

How I Read Books

I read a little weirdly, according to some people I have spoken to on the subject.  

How, you ask?

I stress read.

Yep.  I stress read.  Sort of.  Like, I enjoy reading and find it relaxing (although I'm usually a pretty chill person anyway so it's just more relaxing which can end in and in fact has ended in sleep), but I don't often feel particularly motivated to read unless I have A MASSIVE PILE OF BOOKS STARING ME DOWN AND DARING ME TO FINISH THAT ONE AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT.

This is partly why I started the whole "read some books and blog about them" thing, which I haven't actually done.  It starts this month, though.  Officially.  Because I've actually done enough reading to justify writing about it.

But anyway, unless the book is really good and COMPLETELY SUCKS ME IN, I often don't read it unless I HAVE TO in order to move on to the next one.  Because if I read more than one book at once the world will collapse inward and kill us all.

There's also anticipation that goes along with that whole massive pile of books thing.  I want to read them AAAAAAALLLLLLL but I have to finish the one I'm on first.  I imagine Belle often feels the same way.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a little survey, because surveys are fun, and see how y'all read things.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

10 Things About Being a Writer that are REALLY Annoying

So there are some things about being a writer that I love!  Like the character building, the plotting, and (usually) the writing itself.  But there are some things that make me feel like pulling my hair out.  Maybe not everyone's the same, but here are 10 things that drive me up a wall when it comes to writing.

1. When I'm writing by hand and get a cramp.
BECAUSE NOTHING SHOULD COME BETWEEN ME AND THIS STORY IDEA.  It always happens when I'm on a roll.  Always.  And then I rest my hand, shake it out, rub it, and the cramp goes away.  I start writing again and five seconds later....
In case you hadn't noticed, it makes me mad.  And I'm very strongly right-handed, so I can't switch hands.  I suppose I could learn how to write with my feet...or my teeth...but in the meantime I'll use a laptop whenever I can.

2. When I'm doing well keeping up my word count and then....nothing.
This happens to me every time I try any kind of NaNoWriMo event.  In fact, my stats from this April reflected that.  Basically I'll write really steadily on something for a week or so, and then for the next two there will be nothing coming out of my brain.  This isn't because I forget about my story, but because I have no desire to write anything, despite knowing I have too.  Even when I'm not tracking my word count, I write in spurts.  

What makes this a frustrating problem is that I know once I start writing I could write two or three thousand words in one sitting.  I just have to get started, and the first page is always torture, and I feel like I'm writing while I'm half asleep.

Real footage of me trying to write after taking a break.


4. When what I'm writing on changes my writing voice.
I usually write on my laptop, but I also use a typewriter or a notebook.  The only problem is, I sound different with each thing I use.  When I'm writing by hand, it sounds flat and more like I'm recording a series of events with no emotion than writing a story.  When I'm using the typewriter, I take on a more formal and old-fashioned voice.  I can't really describe my laptop voice, although it's my favorite, which is why I use it the most.  

As a result, I can't easily write the same story on different mediums, and I can't usually type up what I've written on paper and continue on my laptop.  I have to rewrite it in a different style.  I'm working on this, though, because it would be really nice to have a universal sound. 

5. When my characters all morph into the same person.
This one makes me so mad.  I have a hard time writing faults into my characters, so they all eventually end up morphing into the same gentle, understanding, compassionate, and happy person.  They can always see every side of a problem and willingly talk through a problem and listen to other people's opinions.  They always respect different points of view, and take the time to help other characters who have it rough.  

So basically all my characters are perfect angels and IT IS SO VERY VERY VERY FRUSTRATING.  There's only one character who's really avoided this, and that's mostly because he's only about as deep as his sarcasm.  I tell myself I'll fix the others in the second draft, and his supporting character, who's morphing into Mr. Sweet Nice Guy, is going to turn back into Mr. Bored Posh Sloth as I write, which is going to result in a very confusing character for my poor friends who are reading my first draft.  Thankfully, those friends are REALLY GOOD at writing flaws into their characters, and give me advice when I need it.  

6. When my story brings out my dark side.
I'm not a bad person.  I don't want to kill people, I don't betray my friends, I don't do a lot of bad things in general.  But when I'm writing a story where bad things happen, like stabbings and murders and death and lies and betrayal, that little part of me wakes up and says "BUT WOULD'T IT BE SO COOL IF THIS PERSON ACTUALLY HAD TO KILL THIS INNOCENT CHILD THAT WOULD JUST RIP EVERYONE TO SHREDS AND THEN THEY'D HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES".   Or maybe "WHAT IF SOMEONE BECAME DEATH, Y'ALL, THAT WOULD BE COOL!" I'm not a psychopath, guys.  I'm a decent human being.  But I'm also a writer.  I have no problem killing off characters, torturing those characters, or making those characters do dark and murderous things for the sake of moving the plot forward, but when I'm done writing I'll bake you cookies.

So yeah.  That's a mild problem that I'm pretty sure every writer experiences.  

7. When I have 500 loose ends and plot holes in my story but can't be bothered to correct them.
How will James close the gate and kill the alien without killing any humans?  But then how will he have the guilt of letting someone die follow him around for the rest of his life?  What if he dies?  But how then will he be the narrator for the end of the story, because I don't want to switch to Orion's voice.  But it would be so saaaaaad if I switched to Orion's voice.  He would be so beautifully saaaaaad if his best friend died (what did I say about a dark side??).  BUT JAMES CLOSES THE STORY!!?!??

Also there's the problem of how on earth Andy knows about the alien if that alien's the only one who got through the crack?  Why did that alien choose to take over a four year old girl?  Why is Andy dead?  That was unintentional.  How has Phoebe's family not noticed that an alien is taking over her body?  
"But," you say, "this is YOUR story, isn't it?  Aren't your readers the ones who should be asking the questions?"

Obviously I should wait until I get to the part of the story with the problem to actually fix the problem.

8. When I get a fantastic story idea, but it doesn't go anywhere.
This might be because I don't plan things out.  I mean, why would I want to do that????  But seriously, 99.9999999999999999999%* of the time I get a brilliant idea for a story, it dies within the first two chapters.  Or it doesn't even get a full chapter.  It just sort it's own failed good idea-ness.  And then I think, "oh, I'll get back to this later".  

*not actual math

9. When someone asks me to explain a story to them.
"So there's this guy, but I can't remember his name so I'll call him Jack, and there's this girl I haven't named yet, and they go off to do this thing...I think.  They might not.  But anyway there's this guy I can't remember the name of and this girl and they do this thing but the thing doesn't work so they die?  And then their ghosts rise from the grave and plot something but they're not actually ghosts, there's like this sciencey thing that retains their consciousness in the air so they seem like ghosts.  So anyway the girl and the guy do this thing and it doesn't work so they die and become ghosts who aren't actually ghosts and they make this plot to do this other thing, but then they meet this kid who is named Jeremy and Jeremy thinks they're ghosts and wants them to help him clean his room but they aren't actually ghosts so they can't because they can't move things they can just think and talk but I haven't worked that bit out yet.  So anyway there's this sciencey thing that happens and Jeremy dies and is a not-a-ghost too and then they kill the president.  It's cool, I promise."

10. Finding the perfect name for my characters.
Because no name is absolutely perfect.  This takes me FOREVER.  I scroll through name after name after name after name, search all kinds of meanings (because OBVIOUSLY that is important even though it's never going to come up ever at all), sort through the ones that don't sound like the character's personality (because gentle people should have gentle names and cool mysterious assassins must have cool mysterious assassin names. There's a law about that somewhere), and when I finally find a name I sort of like, ONE OF MY FRIENDS HAS ALREADY USED IT BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY HAVE.



And then I worry about my precious literary children not liking the names given to them, how I'm going to change their names to work in a different timeline or universe, and who's going to give them what nicknames.  AND IF I EVEN LIKE THE NICKNAMES.

There's also what the names remind me of.  If I know about a character in another book or movie or someone in real life who has a certain name, and I don't like that character or person, I obviously can't name my character after them.  Or if a name reminds me of a food.  I can't give people names that remind me of food.  

The biggest one though? 


And that's all!  10 things that really annoy me as a writer.  Do these apply to you?  Is there something else that annoys you more?  Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Small Victories and My Excuse

As you can see, I'm still alive.


I blame finals.

Which don't actually happen until next week but I'm being a good student and not cramming it all in the day before.

As a result, my blog has been taking a nap.



But in the meantime, I have a small victory to celebrate with y'all.  Are you ready?  ARE YOU READY????? (I'm yelling much more than I normally do and for this I apologize but all my bloggerlyness is spewing out of me in great waves so I don't think I'll stop yelling anytime soon)

(if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here)

Now to be fair, my word goal was only 10,000 words, which isn't a whole lot to write in a month.  But I struggle.  So celebrate with me!  

So that's what I wanted to tell you guys!  And after this week I should be back blogging again.  And reading.  Which I haven't been doing.  

Grace out. *mic drop*

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Social Realism in Literature: In Defense of Steinbeck

So the one book I've managed to read this month (which you'll get an update on later) is East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.  It's a big book and I had a busy month, which is why you're only getting one.  In fairness, if I wanted to, I could probably finish it in a few days, but that involves doing nothing but reading and while I'd love to have the time for that, my life* got in the way and said "HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING GRACE YOU HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES YOU CANNOT JUST READ YOUR LIFE AWAY DID YOU DO ALL YOUR ASSIGNMENTS AND YOU CANNOT DO ANYTHING ELSE UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR ASSIGNMENTS"

*I should probably clarify that by "life" I mean "my mother" who does very well at keeping me on task but THE LITERATURE IS CALLING.

That being said, I have two very good friends who, once they heard I was reading Steinbeck, wrinkled their noses in disgust and asked me how I could read such terrible books.  "They're so dark!" they said. "There's nothing good in them!" they declared.

As I am still reading Steinbeck, obviously I have blissfully ignored them and gone on with my merry life, but it got me thinking.

See, they were right, in a way.  Steinbeck did not write happy books.  He wrote about dust and dirt and the useless efforts made by humans to create a good life in a broken world.  He wrote about plowing fields and chasing after fleeting hopes that vanished into thin air as soon as you'd caught them.  My friends weren't wrong.  His books are very bleak.

So why do I read them?  And more importantly, what do you get out of reading something like that?

John Steinbeck wrote from the perspective of Social Realism, which basically means he looked at the everyday life of people with no sparkle or shimmers added.  If anything, he made it a little bleaker.  But I like them!  They make you think.  I'm not going to force them down your throat, but I'm going to point out a few things to try to convince you to at least appreciate them.

1. Steinbeck takes the time to examine humans.
His books don't have massive, epic, and fast-paced plots.  It can make his books seem very slow and long, but he takes the lack of plot and uses it to look at humanity under a magnifying glass.  Each of his characters is well-developed, deep, and multilayered.  You think you know someone, and five minutes later you're not so sure anymore.  The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden both do this really well.  Instead of a fantastic quest or huge battle, you get real people who question themselves, make good and bad decisions, and interact with other people who are going through the same process.

2. All his characters in a book are different.
This sort of goes with the first point.  Not only are each of his characters realistic and well-developed, but they're all different, with their own goals and methods.  East of Eden is doing this splendidly.  Just like in real life, no two people are the same, and not only are they different in theory, but they feel different to the reader as well.  This is very difficult to achieve.

3. He cultivates empathy and lets you see someone else's life.
If you've talked to me or read some older blog posts, you'll know that empathy is very important to me.  The ability to see someone else's life from their point of view, or, as Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, to "climb inside of his skin and walk around in it".  Steinbeck not only encourages you to see things from someone else's point of view, but forces it on you.  You have no choice but to empathize with his characters, and because you've done it while reading a book, you become better at it in real life by default.  Not only that, but he portrays people so that one reader might agree with one character's point of view, and another reader might support another.

4. Instead of a shining and glittering world, he gives you an appreciation for real life.
The extend to which he goes to develop his characters and the way he portrays their walks through life not only gives you a peek into someone else's world, but shows you that your ordinary life and the people that enter and leave it can all be weaved into a story.  His stories point out that every event shapes a person, and both good and bad events can become important in the grand narrative.  Even small events are important in Steinbeck's world.

5. His writing style is amazing.
I have fallen head over heels with John Steinbeck's wording.  It's something you need to read to experience, but it's beautiful.  Take my word for it, pick up one of his books, and believe me, if you hate everything else about his writing you will at least appreciate his beautiful phrases.

6. The stories (especially his endings) prompt thought.
The ending to Of Mice and Men especially got me.  If you asked me what I thought I would have said IT WAS A TERRIBLE ENDING THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED HOW MUCH MORE DEVASTATING COULD IT POSSIBLY HAVE GOTTEN.  Once I'd calmed down, though, I started thinking about why he'd ended it that way and what he was trying to do.  I would argue that there's something in every chapter to make you think.  Whether it's a character's personal philosophy, an event, or an interaction, my brain has something to keep it turning looooong after the book is over.

So there you have it.  Why Steinbeck has become one of my favorite authors.  As someone who analyzes people for fun, his books are the perfect opportunity for me to do that.

I should probably point out (possibly in my defence?) that I don't really like watching the movie versions of his books.  I don't mind reading them, but to see them on a screen can be a bit much.  I've only seen The Grapes of Wrath in movie form, and I don't really want to see any others.  There's also the problem of plot.  Because there's not a lot of action, it can seem even slower on screen when you don't have his descriptions and wording to carry you from one event to the next.  Overall, the feel of the books don't tend to transfer well.  So I'm arguing in defense of the books, not the films.

Also: If someone likes a book, insulting it is not the right thing to do.  I mean, you might love avocado but I'm not going to sit in front of you and talk about how disgusting it is, right?  That would be mean.  Appreciate varied tastes in literature, guys.  If we all read the same things, life would be boring.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beautiful People: March 2017

This month is not a good month for this blog, and I should probably specify a few things.
1. You will be getting a book review.  Of one book.  The only book I read this month.
2. I don't think I'll be doing a "you want to go home and rethink".  I'll just move everything I had planned for this month onto next month.

The reason for these things is this: SCHOOL.

Yup.  I had a research paper due, and then my brain decided to go on vacation without me over spring break, and then I had midterms, and now the month is nearly over and I have nothing.  SO I'M FILLING OUT A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS AND CALLING IT A BLOG POST.

This is hosted by Cait at Paperfury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.

The character I'm going to do?  JAMES!  James Camelot Tucker, from my (hopeful) Camp Nano story.  We'll see how this goes.

1. What's their favorite book/movie/play/etc.?
James likes Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He's also seen smatterings of Doctor Who, but probably wouldn't list it among favorites.

2. Is there anything they regret doing?
As much as he's tried to erase all regrets from his life and take charge of his here and now (which he would say sarcastically), he regrets not making musical recordings in high school, because he doesn't have the money or equipment now.

3. If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?
He would take care of himself and the guy he shares an apartment with, Orion (the epitome of dry British sarcasm), would make sure he's alright while grumbling about it.

4. Is there an object they can't bear to part with and why?
His guitar.  Playing it is his escape from life, and music means more to him than he'd ever let on.  It was also a high school graduation gift from his parents, and is a pretty good quality instrument.

5. What are five ways to win their heart (or friendship)?
           1. Take him food.
           2. Listen to his music.
           3. Listen to him rant about how people never leave him alone.
           4. Pet his cat.
           5. Leave him alone.

6. Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.
No hat, a plain or band tee (with a hoodie on cool days), comfortable jeans, and canvas sneakers.  Very casual and unassuming.

7. What's their favorite type of weather?
Bright and sunny, but cool enough to keep you from sweating, with a few white, puffy clouds in the sky.

8. What's the worst fight they've ever been in?
Right before he moved out, James had a massive fall-out with his parents about college.  He didn't want to go, and they were pushing him to apply.  It resulted in him getting an apartment in the city where he lives now.

9. What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?
His mother used to call him Jamie, but he never let anyone else call him that, and refuses to let anyone use it now.  He's always been extremely adverse to nicknames.

10. What makes their heart feel alive?
Music.  Real, genuine, from-the-soul music.

So there you have it!  Ten things about James Tucker!  Maybe you'll get some other posts from me before this month is out, but I don't know, I've been pretty dead to the world.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Little Bit of Fun

So as I was taking a short study break, I realized two things.
1. I have not posted anything this entire month.
2. I don't know my readers!  AT ALL!

I mean, I know my mom and like, two other people read this blog.  That's it, as far as I know.  So I thought I'd get to know ya'll with a fun little survey.  It's nothing serious.  Mostly about books.  It's a little long-ish, but it shouldn't take more than five minutes.  I mean I just kinda wanted to make a survey, so this is my excuse.  Answer whichever questions you want.  Or all of them.  Have fun!

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Writing Life in Gifs

As I was sitting here on this comfy sofa, looking at my blog, I thought "you know, Grace, you've got a nice even number of posts here.  Six for January, six for February.  Such a nice even number, and so consistent!"

And then out of some dark recess of my mind, came this thought: "WRITE ANOTHER ONE".  Because there is a part of me that likes to drive my perfectionist self completely bonkers.

So here I am, writing a blog post.  About my emotions as a writer.  I got a small part of the inspiration for this post from something I helped the fabulous Maggie at Maggie's Musings with earlier this week.  Check her out, she's an awesome person.

Anyway, I'm going to show you once and for all how I feel using GIFS!  I LOVE GIFS!  THEY MAKE ME SO HAPPY!  If I missed something, let me know in the comments!

1. When you're forced to tear yourself away from a half-finished idea to interact with other humans:

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2. When people ask you to tell them what you're writing about:

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Or you'll be completely bored because I'll stutter and lose my place 500 times.

3. When you have 500 story ideas and none of them actually get off the ground:

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4. When someone criticizes your writing really harshly:

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Talking puppies make me happy.  Don't argue with me.

5. When you're researching for a science fiction novel but you don't understand science:

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Time travel is infuriatingly difficult and full of contradictions.

6. When you reread your old writing:

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Destroy all evidence.

7. When your characters are being cute and adorable, even if it's not supposed to happen in the story at all:

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8. When you wake up one morning and realize you haven't written anything in a month:

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Where did all the time go???  I'm still a writer...right?

9. When you come across a plot hole but can't figure out how to fix it, no matter how hard you try:

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I will NOT rework my entire plot to accommodate this!

10. When you're plum out of ideas but you've determined to finish this novel if it kills you:

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They're at the swimming pool for three chapters for a reason, I promise!

So there you have it, folks.  My writing adventures in gif form.  Let me know if you guys relate, or if I'm the only writer in the universe who feels any of these.

Right now I'm a combination of 3 and 10.  SOO MANY IDEAS!  AND THEY ALL FLOP AFTER THE FIRST CHAPTER!  Mostly I'm having trouble coming up with an actual conflict because my stories can't consist solely of number 7.  There has to be struggles.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A New Idea: We'll See if I Can Make This Happen

Growing up, my mom never had to convince me to read a book.  She had to convince me to stop reading and actually go outside or eat something or speak to people.  I've always read a lot, and I've always really liked it.

Recently, though, I've had trouble actually sitting down and reading a book.  I read a bunch over Christmas break, but after that it took me an entire month to read Of Mice and Men, which is really short.

So I have decided to fix this lack of literature by holding myself accountable to all you lovely readers.  Every month I'll read at least two books from my TBR list, and then at the end of the month write a blog post with a short review (only a few paragraphs at the most) of each one and a rating on a scale of 1-5.  I love sharing books with people, so this will give me a chance to do that as well as motivate me to crack open that book I got from the library in December (our library allows you to renew books for one year, so of course I procrastinate).  

What do y'all think of this idea?  Is it good?  Do you promise to yell at me over comments if it's the 30th and yet you see no book post?  Thank you, you're all darlings.

Oh and I should probably say that this is starting in March, because February is nearly over and while I have been reading, I haven't been doing it with this goal in mind.  

Check out my Goodreads profile (link in the sidebar), as that's where I'll be keeping a list of these books.

Friday, February 17, 2017

You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Universal Language

Ah, the universal language.  What would we do without a way for our characters to communicate perfectly with each other?  How would we write our stories?

Not very well.  Welcome to the FIFTH!  YES THE FIFTH! installment of "You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your _________".

The rest of the series:
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Superior Race
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Chosen One
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Redemption Arc
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Love Triangle

And onward to the universal language.

This is terribly overused.  It seems like every fantasy land or space story has ONE language that EVERYBODY speaks, and there are little to no exceptions.  The one guy they need information from right that second or the world will blow up probably doesn't speak the universal language (and they left their translator at home) probably can't speak the common tongue, but he's only included for suspense.

Basically my problem is this: Universal languages are used constantly, and only discarded to build suspense or create drastic misunderstandings and dramatic irony.

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So allow me to suggest situations where it's fine to use a universal language, and ways to improve this trope when you do use it.

1. You can have a mostly universal language if the country it originates from is the center of power.
Let's take English, for example.  Many countries start teaching their children English from the time they're very young because that is the language spoken by many powerful people who at some time or another controlled a large part of the world (England's former empire, anyone?) and the business that went on in that world.

So if your "universal language" exists because one country or planet has taken control of a lot of what goes on elsewhere, or if one people group has formed an empire, it's fairly justified in it's existence.

2. Not everybody will jump on the bandwagon.
That being said, bear in mind that there are going to be quite a few people groups who either haven't been or refuse to be influenced by this empire, and these people are either not going to speak the language, or speak it very badly.  And they're not just going to show up to add suspense.  If your characters are going on a quest or leaving their home for any reason whatsoever, they're probably going to run into at least one person who doesn't speak their language.  These people could be hostile or friendly, but whatever they are, they exist and should have a place in your story.  Oh, and I should point out: JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT A PART OF THE EMPIRE OR ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE COMMON LANGUAGE DOES NOT MEAN THEIR INFERIOR.  Different and/or unique people groups are fine, but do not write them as inferior just because they aren't a part of your grand collective.

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3. People will still retain something of their original language/culture.
You know how people who don't have English as their first language speak with an accent?  THE SAME IS TRUE IN FICTIONAL WORLDS.  Unless your characters are part of a controlling society in which nothing but the common language is allowed to be spoken, your various people will have accents and cultural differences.  Especially if the language is only spoken because of trade or business.  Actually, shoot that.  They'll probably have accents anyway.  And it's fine!  It makes them unique!  It shows that the world is big and many different people inhabit it!

4. Don't forget how vast our planet is.
Something people forget when writing about other planets is that they're not the same as a country.  NOT.  AT.  ALL.  Countries can have one people group and only one or two types of environments, but planets, especially ones capable of sustaining human life, should not have one of either.  There should be different countries, governments, races, languages, terrain, environments, animals, and so on and so forth.  Remember, our planet is HUGE, and VARIED.  Making other planets one-shot wonders counts as cheating in my head.

5. Try having translators instead of one language.
Instead of having everyone speak the same language, have a computer that can translate most known languages or a person on board your ship or part of your team who can understand a bunch of languages.  For example, in Star Trek they use universal translators, a handheld device which can translate alien languages into the language of the user.

Having translators instead can actually eliminate the need for a universal language, but to make them realistic they shouldn't be able to translate EVERY language.  There are going to be dialects or languages completely unknown to the creators of the translator, so unless it figures out languages itself (in which case humanity beware because technology is about to take over), you'll still have the same problem you get in point 2.

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So there you go!  How to use a universal language so it doesn't sound like there's no variety in your story.