Monday, January 31, 2011

(Further) Bad Reading Habits of Randomly Effective Writers

I am listening to: We Are Going to Be Friends by the White Stripes

I know I'm a bad reader, but I guess I didn't think I was this bad. It's the last day of January and I've gotten 2/3 through the way of my January TBR Challenge book, A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. This is no fault at all of Ms. Whitcomb. I'm really enjoying the book, but as I've said before I'm a reader of gnat sized attention span.

Piling shame upon shame is the fact that I've already abandoned one book (again, no fault to you Mr. Collins) and that the progenitor of the challenge is on book 1 zillion (OK - he's on his 9th book but thanks for making me look bad, Adam.) I will not accept the possibility of defeat (because I still have eleven months left) but I will accept the fact that I'm sabotaging myself.

The books this month that have gotten in the way of my finishing A Certain Slant of Light:

The Clocks - Agatha Christie (comfort read during a bad patch)
Matched - Ally Condi (heard a lot of hype, got on library waiting list, got book, made it to page 20. Feh)
Greyfriar - Vampire Empire - Clay & Susan Griffith (see above. Made it as far as half way and threw the book across the room. Need to find it and give it back to the library)
The Radleys - Matt Haig (same deal with library waiting list but LOVE THIS BOOK and devouring it. Pun intended)

Let me put this in perspective for you as I think I have two distinct problems when I read. First, I am impatient. When I first read Wuthering Heights, one of my favorite books, second only to Jane Eyre, I hated it. Admittedly, the first few pages are pokey. Not knowing any better I left it unread until years later when I discovered it's awesome. If I don't like it, I don't stick with it - a reverse of a flaw I find a lot of people have - hating a book and reading it all the way to the bitter end. Not me, sister.

Secondly, in any book, even a book I like, there's a part in the book (not always, but usually) when the possibilities are narrowed way down and the outcome is fairly clear. Duh, that's the way it's supposed to be. But I get itchy right around then. Right when the plot tightens up and you get down to brass tacks, because you know what's going to happen. It signals the end of the book and I don't like that. I'm not good with endings. I'm at the last quarter if my WIP and I'm slowing down to molasses, barely registering 1000 words every couple of days and this is why. I hate endings of any kind. I'm obviously stunted in my emotional growth and acting like a juvenile. True dat.

So, can I change my ways? Can I not pick up another book until I read Certain Slant of Light? I'm going to try, dear reader, honest I am. But can I read The Radley's too? Only that's a 14 day library book and I need to know what happens...

Libraries are like candy stores - sigh.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Definitely an E Ticket

My family went to Disney when I was seven and and all I remember is crying over ice cream*. When I hear e-reader or email or even, in an airport, e-ticket, I think of Julie Brown and her song Homecoming Queen Has Got a Gun. I was eleven when that song came out and I thought it was hilarious, the way most eleven year olds think guns are a hoot. So in trying to get my head around electronic readers I have two hurdles: First, my general oldness and luddite tendencies and second, the fact that the song lyric "Definitely an E Ticket" keeps popping up in my head. E stood for 'exciting' in those days, now it stands for things that move faster than I can comprehend Easily.

I don't need to understand technology to understand the allure of the e-reader. I use email, I have an iphone, ipod, imac, I'm lousy with i's. And though I've blogged about my general feelings about e-readers, I find that I need to find out more, because I'm not only a reader, I'm a writer and electronic readers and their partners in crime, electronic books are about to kill/save publishing, thus have a knock on effect, possibly, on my hoped for livelihood.

So I've been gathering some information on the ebook revolution which won't be televised so much as tweeted and occasionally post a Facebook update:

I *heart* Nathan (Bransford) rounds up the doings of 2010 as transitions in this post about the seismic changes that have taken place and are still to come.

Eric at Pimp My Novel reminds writers, gently, gently, that publishing is a business, and market forces rule.

And a nice, in depth piece from the Independent.

Let's get e-schooled together!

* I do also remember "It's a Small World". I cried over that, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday! #3 - Kill. Your. Inner Editor!

My inner editor masquerades around like my common sense. She looks like me, talks like me and what's worse, knows about that time I ended up on the floor of a black cab, completely shit faced from one too many pitchers of caipirinhas, singing happy birthday softly to myself.

In other words, she knows my secrets and she's not afraid to use them. Every time I've tried and failed at something, every time I've been embarrassed, every time I've felt small. I'm assuming she knows about good times too, but she's not talking about those. Her job, she tells me comfortingly, is to save me from any more heartache, by telling me to give up before I get hurt.

She must die.

During NaNoWriMo, there were lots of message boards about how to kill your inner editor. Here are some of my favorite methods:
-Make a play dough IE (inner editor) doll and have cruel things befall her ala Mr. Bill.
-Make a paper IE and burn her in effigy.
-Visualize putting a gag on your IE.

Like the cave paintings in Lascaux, ritualizing what you fear can give you you power over it. So, here's my tip: Take your inner editor out of your head. Look at her. Realize what she really is - just your own fears and negativity dressed up to look like logic. Bringing your IE out of the dark recesses of your mind and into the light will make her seem small, insignificant. Pretty soon, she'll start to fade. She's the one made of insubstantial shadows. She can't stand being looked at head on, preferring to sit on your shoulder like a demented 'lil devil' and steer you towards the only true failure you could ever have - not trying.

For me, besides dragging the little heathen out whenever I hear her rattling around in my head, I like to play Kill Your Television by Ned's Atomic Dustbin, really, really loud. I substitute 'Inner Editor' for 'Television'. It works for me.

So what do you do to muzzle your IE?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I can't remember wining much of anything. I won Foreigner 'Four' at the school Bazaar ring toss. I definitely won and quickly killed carnival gold fish. I think that's it.

I'm not much of a contest entrant, so the idea of 'You've got to be in it to win it' makes sense to me. I don't enter so I don't win - see how this kind of attitude cleverly intimates that if I were to enter, well, all bets would be off...

So, some contests I've come across - don't be a lurker like me, enter! If you win I will buy you a latte. Venti, not Trenta.

at Query Shark:

Win a free registration fee for the Backspace Writers Conference 

at Nathan Bransford

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Wish He Was My Boyfriend

As my daughter and I drive around town singing along to Best Coast, it occurs to me that it's ironic for a woman nearing forty and a girl not yet seven to be belting out "I wish he was my boyfriend!" together.

The other girl is not like me 
She's prettier and skinnier
She has a college degree
I dropped out when I was seventeen
If only I could get her out of the picture
Then he would know how much I want him
Everyone gets jealous* and people who say that they "are not the jealous type" are lying.

But there are two kinds of jealous people - destructive and self-destructive. I guess there might be some kind of hybrid of the two and an occasional Mother Teresa who feels not the sting of the green eyed monster - but I haven't met them. The destructive type sees someone they are jealous of and want to destroy them, the self-destructive type sees someone they are jealous of and want to eat a metric ton of chocolate.

I am, you might have guessed, the latter. I find an author that I admire, someone that I think writes the kind of things I want to write and I get excited. I google them, I look at their blog, their site, their agents' site their publisher's site, articles about them, pictures of them, reviews of their work. Then I feel sick. I've fed my green eyed monster enough grist for the mill so that I can begin to take myself apart. Not good enough. You're fooling yourself. How could you compete? What's wrong with planning events, it pays the bills!

How do I stop this destructive kind of behavior? It embarrasses me that I even feel this way, like a slighted teenager.

I don't really have a good way of getting over this, I just keep going. I know turning on myself this way is asinine, but since when has that logic stopped anyone? I just keep going, knowing I'm wrong, not being able to help it and waiting for the life boat to come along. It always (so far) does, in the form of a comment on this blog, an encouragement from a friend or just a kick ass new idea. But damn, feeding that little mogwai is a bitch.

* I use the term 'jealousy' like I'd use the term 'envy' but there is a difference, as Cliffs Notes reminds us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Short Story Challenge

Today I learned about a short story contest that NPR is having. Don't get too excited, the deadline is tonight at midnight.

I know, day late, dollar short. But I tried it anyway, because as you know, I can't resist challenges that I'm bound to fail. The criteria for this short short story is simple: 1) It has to have a joke in it. 2) It has to have someone crying. 3) It has to be 600 words long (about 3 minutes of radio time) . That's about three pages double spaced. I wrote and edited and made two words into contractions and the lowest I could get to was 830.

I don't write short stories because I'm not a good enough writer. Lots of writing teachers start newbies off reading short stories and writing short stories. I get the reason why, it's easier to manage in a crit class, it's easier to get the word count in, etc. But a short story is, I think, the Achilles heel of any writer who isn't a genius or experienced in the craft.  AKA, me.

My favorite all time short story collection is Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' This book made me want to be a writer and at the same time be very afraid to be a writer. A great combination.
So - the story I wrote, while complete on it's own, I think, is a sort of 'extended' scene from the book I'm writing now. It wouldn't be include in the book, but it's sort of a behind the scene look at some of the main characters. I could be completely fooling myself in thinking it stands on it's own, but it was invigorating to do. It helped me think about my story in a parallel way, instead of forward and backwards, which is usually where I'm stuck. A good exercise. I recommend it.

My short story, called, The White Tea Pot continues after the jump. All rights reserved A.Villasante , yada yada.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #2 - What to do with Criticism.

Nothing. Don't do anything.
When I get feedback from anyone who has read my WIP, whether positive or negative, I don't act on it - at least not for a while.

During our first crit group meeting, while I was shoving cookies in my mouth to keep myself from talking and/or bursting into tears, I was taking it all in. Listening and automatically sorting the feedback into categories: a) WHAT? That's not what I meant! b) OH! that makes it sound better than I meant, followed quickly by c) UGH! That's much worse than I meant. and finally d) I don't agree with that at all.

So, suggestions are made, places highlighted where I should revise. I take notes, Greg and Laura give me notes and I think about it all on the drive home while listening to Ultra Vivid Scene.

Then I put all the notes and annotated handouts in my drawer and stop thinking about it.

This is a riff on what Stephen King, in On Writing, says to do once you finish the first draft of a novel - put it in a drawer and leave it the eff alone. Let it marinate, let it simmer, let it percolate - whatever Food Network-ism you want to use. Just don't DO ANYTHING. Because at this point (either after a crit or after you finish your first draft ) you are vulnerable. And you don't want to make changes from a place of weakness, when you're sore from hearing things you don't want to hear or exhausted from finally finishing the effing thing.

After I finish my first draft, in about 20K words, I'll go back and consider the feedback. In fact, since I probably won't finish it before our next crit in three weeks, the next submission Greg and Laura get will have all the lovely and unlovely things (and some new ones) that they encountered in the first 4k words. But I'll be looking forward to their insights all the same. Soon they'll help me make my book better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The censorship of the 'N' word from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' -changing the word from 'nigger' to 'slave' is not only censoring a word today and for the future by reflecting current norms, but isn't it also revising history? Isn't it, no pun intended, whitewashing it? Should kids and adults who read it now, with the understanding of how heinous a word it is, shouldn't they understand that word's impact? The casual degradation the word imparted (and still imparts)? I guess I'm afraid that if people who've never read the book before see the more sanitized descriptor word 'slave' they might draw conclusions about the time and the people that are too kindly.

There are interesting takes on the censorship question here at Roof Beam Reader and here at The Guardian. There's also a very interesting post by Michael Chabon on the dilemma of reading an uncensored Huck Fin to his nine and seven year old kid. Yikes. I'm not there yet with my kids but I'm getting close. What will I do?

Buried a bit under the debate of Huck's censorship came another tale of censorship: Canada's radio watchdog is banning playing "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits for the use of the term "faggot"

When I was a kid in the late 70's my sister and her friends would tell each other to not be so 'gay.' My sister and I would tease each other and when one of us did something corny or lame the other would say 'you are so gay' and laugh.

Kids don't know anything (or, as my immigrant mom got a kick out of saying, 'their asses from their elbows') but they are eager to try to sound grown up. Calling someone gay at that time, whatever the person meant, was completely acceptable. I went to a catholic school and I'm pretty sure my friends and I called each other gay or gaylord often (as well as 'retard' 'doofus', 'dyke' and other epithets) with never a condemenatory word from an adult in a cossack or habit.

I'm not saying it was right, I'm saying it was history. According to societal norms, that was not wrong. Societal norms are notoriously shitty. Drowning old spinsters who made medicinal teas in the middle ages, otherwise known as 'Not Suffering a Witch to Live' was also a societal norm. Doesn't make it right. Again, I say, it just makes it history.

I've always hated that stupid song, even in 1985 when I was a bit of a Sting fan and those graphics, man they were CUTTING EDGE, so I'd love to say, lucky bloody Canadian's never having to hear it again. But I can't. It's art. It's a song told from a character's perspective and this guy (I think he's the shorter moving guy made out of rhombuses) is a jack ass and a narrow minded bigot. That's who he is. It's no one's job to make art 'good' or 'safe' with a giant Magic Censorship Eraser.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bucks County Writer's group is GO!

Amazingly, it didn't end in tears.
This weekend we held the first meeting of our writer's group. I baked cookies and Laura and Greg and I talked about our work. No one died, except metaphorically, as the person being critiqued is 'killed' so that s/he can't speak during their crit. As you may have guessed, I was the most vocal dead person ever. I suck at being dead. I didn't argue with anyone that they were wrong - mostly because their feedback was insightful and as soon as they said it I was like 'duh! why didn't I see that' - but they had so many questions that I kept shaking or nodding my head and piping up when I was supposed to be dead as a parrot.

One of our members, Laura, posted her experience of the first meeting here - and I pretty much agree entirely. It was fun, motivating and remarkably painless. Cookies are the way to a writer's heart, apparently. I think I knew that. The best thing about it was that a few months ago, this group didn't exist. I just made it up and hoped someone would buy it. It worked (for now). and that's what I love about writing. I am literally making this shit up as I go along and it becomes real. What an amazing scam!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday!

I know, you've all been clamoring for advice from me, since I know about as much as you do, if not less. BUT! As my husband has pointed out to me many times, I can have an opinion - a strong, well thought out, convincing opinion - about anything under the sun, without letting facts or experience get in the way.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, I want to introduce a feature on Thursdays that I call, cunningly enough, Writing Tip Thursday! The secret to a catchy name is, you'll notice, the exclamation point.

Today's tip is about writing a series. I love series books. I am a pretty childish reader in the sense that I don't want books I like to end (except for the Road, I wish it had ended before the scene of the people kept in the pantry like sides of beef, a scene i've tried to scrub out of my memory unsuccessfully, but I digress). I read series books because I can more easily inhabit a world and stay a while. Off the top of my head, my favorite series books: Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (all six of them), The Abhorsen Chronicles. I could go on and on and that's the point. I never want it to end.

I'm writing a YA fantasy series right now and as I go along I realize I have a shed-load of characters and I need to get organized. How am I going to keep everyone straight? Luckily, I have the answer:  You need to create a Series Bible.

OK! I didn't have the answer, but I found the answer, just where Nathan Bransford left it, on his blog. Nathan, who is absurdly smart and funny and unrelentingly positive has pretty much the answer for everything. I will be mostly cribbing from him, with some additional things I thought of myself.

Series Bible
I like excel documents, I know some people hate them, but they are easy to update, sort and you can highlight cells in pretty colors. There are other writing tools that can do all the below for you, but they are usually spendy software. Almost everyone has excel or a similar program.

1) Create an excel doc with character names, nicknames, birthdate/age, and anything significant about him/her. Some writers include details about their characters, like their favorite color or what they dressed up as last halloween, things that never appear in any book, but I don't. I want to know my character so well that I can answer those questions on the fly, I don't want to have imagined him into a corner. Characters need room to grow, through a series and even in the writer's mind.

2) Location - if it's a real place that you don't know well and need to do research on, keep your research here and categorize it according to what makes sense - your character's homes/workplaces, meaningful/sentimental value locations, locations of conflict. If it's a made up world you need to nail it down COMPLETELY. The cosmology you create needs to feel so real and effortless that your reader immediately believes it and makes a little home in your world. If you're making crap up as you go along and something doesn't jibe, your reader will  stop suspending their disbelief, making them unable to get 'into' the story.

3) How things work - again, especially in fantasy or a made up cosmology, you need to have rules. The rule can be that vampires can only come out at night, or only when it's cold or that vampires sparkle and look like Cedric Diggory, whatever the rule is make it consistent. Not just a rule like 'No more cupcakes for you little girl!" but make it a LAW of PHYSICS. If you break the laws you make, your world will become unreliable and fall apart.

4) Keep track of the gun on the mantle.
Chekov said "The gun that is placed on the mantle in the first act must be shot in the third act." If you've set things up, whether it's a showdown between two characters, an unsolved mystery (big or small) or something that a character needs to overcome - and this gets tricky when you're dealing with lots of characters or some key minor characters - you need to close the deal. I don't mean that there can't be things left unsaid, that everything needs to be resolved in a neat little bow, but if you put something significant to the story in motion, you need to make sure it's addressed. I'll give you an example that probably won't be too much of a spoiler if you haven't read the Hunger Games Trilogy - Haymitch. He starts out as a drunk, goes through some stuff (understatement) and in the end, he's still a drunk. My husband and I talked about whether it's a good thing that his problem didn't get resolved or a bad thing. Ultimately, I think it's a good thing. Not everyone's problems are solved at the end, not even fictional everyone's. Keeping Haymitch an alcoholic was realistic and true to his character. Having him kick the booze would have seemed out of character.

To keep track of my 'guns' I keep  a running list of things that have to be addressed and next to each I put a progress report - where it's addressed, if it's 'dead' as in completed, or if it needs to be addressed again.

5) Sometimes, the build up to the ultimate crisis in a series is so effing huge, it can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. The temptation to employ a little deus ex-machina is irresistible. BUT RESIST!
Deus ex Machina is an old greek-style war horse plot device whereby god/gods swoop down into the quagmire you've created and make everything magically delicious again. If you've ever read a book where the heroine is in dire straits, all options have been exhausted, she's just going to have to become someone's love slave to save her consumptive sister when, POOF! out of nowhere appears a rich, kindly aunt you've never heard of to save the day, you know how completely unsatisfying that is. It's a gyp. Don't do it.

OKAY! That's all I've got. Was it helpful? Do you have any writing tips that help you? Or anything you're struggling with that my paltry tuppence might help with? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Epic. Victorian. Fail

An inauspicious start to the TBR Challenge. I must stop reading the Woman in White. I'm not saying that I won't go back to it, I'm just saying it was a mistake to start with a convoluted Victorian Era 'sensation' novel that, while original at the time of it's publication (1859), has had it's plot 're-done' re-purposed and re-ripped off so many times that I can see what's coming up behind me, even as I run through the trees, trailing my long skirts and petticoats, seeking to escape my oppressive husband to no avail.

Ahem, sorry, got carried away. Again, not saying it isn't atmospheric, interesting, colorful and lots of other good things. It's just not the read to get me started on this challenge. At this rate, I could still be reading about Count Fosco's waistcoats in March. SO! I'm not giving up, I'm giving Wilkie a rest.

And now for something completely different. Next is A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. Hoping I get schooled in some creepy YA fantasy.

PS. Is Count Fosco's Waistcoat a good band name? I'm smelling indie gold.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Born Liar

It was probably after class but before I had to be at whatever awful job I had at the time. I was sitting on a bench along the Thames reading a book. It was nice-ish weather and I'd walked across Hungerford Bridge after buying a bunch of violets wrapped in newspaper from a flower seller outside Embankment tube station.

A guy came up to me. He was cute though not my type. He smiled at me and started chatting me up. In the course of the chat up he asked me my name, what I was doing, where I was from. The usual.

But what came out of my mouth wasn't even remotely close to the truth. I swear a fever came upon me and made me say things that were patently untrue. I'm not talking about giving the guy the cold shoulder or lying about a previous engagement so I could politely move on - all absolutely legitimate ways of getting rid of unwanted attention - no, what I was telling him was a complete fabrication, and not for any other reason than, at that moment, I could.

I told him I was Canadian. I told him I was an drama student studying in a summer program at The Globe. I told him I was single, that I was leaving in two weeks and that I'd never been to London before. We talked for a good half hour. I don't remember what he told me, except, for some reason that he was a bike messenger. I was too busy concentrating on my made up life. When he asked for my number, I had no trouble giving him my number with two digits off. I waved him goodbye and kept reading my book until it was time to go.

Does this make me a bad person? Everything is pretty much the way I remember it (although, the violets wrapped in newspaper was an artistic detail, I did used to get violets from that flower seller, when she had them, but I don't think I did this time.) So I'm not lying to you now, but how can you be sure?

Everyone lies sometimes, and often a lot of the time. That's not what bothered and fascinated me about this event in my life (and it became an event as I tried to analyze myself and my motives). The interesting part is how it sprung out of me out of opportunity. Here was someone I didn't know and would probably never know (witness how many decades have passed) and he was asking me about myself. And I could lie and it wouldn't make a difference. It terrified me to think that I had this rogue thing in me that could enjoy the experiment of lying at will, without consequences, that I couldn't feel it was wrong. But it was also exciting, just that once, to safely tell lies.

You probably can see where I'm going with this. Writer's are sanctioned liars, it's what we do for a living, or in my case, do despite not making a living at it. But how do you tell lies honestly? That's what I'm struggling with now. Making things up, check, not a problem. But making my characters speak truthfully, even when I don't like what they're saying, when I don't like them? Much harder. There really is an inherent truth, as corny as it sounds, to every creative work - or there should be - and it's agonizing when you can't find it, or lose it half way through. I have to delve back into the first two sections of my wip and have a stern talking to with several of my characters. I have to threaten pink slips, disciplinary action and beat downs for ones that have slacked off and sound like cardboard cut outs. I have to revise, damn it.

Pimping ain't easy, that's for sure.

Two links to posts that relate to writing and lying:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Will Not Eat Them, Sam I Am

My grandmother used to make calf-brain raviolis and I used to eat them. It's not like I didn't know what was in them, because I'd go with her to the butcher's shop. We'd walk to the feria, the open air market in town and on the way back stop by the butcher's. I'm pretty sure I remember the brains being on display in the window. This being Uruguay and the 70's there were no screen doors or air conditioning so the doors were open and you walked through a colorful curtain of rubber strips meant to keep flies out. If you are wondering, she sauteed the brains with cheese and hand made the ravioli. It was yummy, tasted like scrambled eggs.

But I will not eat lamb. Never, ever.

I consider myself an omnivorous reader. There's very few things I won't read. I mean, there are specific books I won't touch with a barge pole (George W. Bush, I didn't care what you thought when you were president, I care less, if possible, now). But genres, I will read them all if they sound interesting. Biographies, Romances, Science Fiction, Chick Lit, pretty much anything is a possibility. That's the great thing about a book, any book. Until about page 10, you don't know, you may be holding your next favorite read.

If pressed, I guess there are types of books I won't read. I don't say (like the lamb) that I'll never read a Western (though I never have) but I can't think of a way that it would be interesting. Can you? So, here's my short list of books I won't read. Maybe you can persuade me to try?

-Anythingb y Glen Beck
-True Crime (have read some, always feel icky afterwards, even In Cold Blood)

What about you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bucks County Writers Group - it LIVES!

It's real because it has a logo.

Thank you awesome husband and design god. Now, should 'writers' have a possessive apostrophe? Crap, I don't know. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Failure? Impossible. TBR Challenge

Thanks to Laura Miller's post on I have been sucked into a new challenge that I have a good 65% chance of failing - the To Be Read reading challenge being held by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader.

I say that I have a higher than even chance of failing because I'm going to be honest. The books on my To Be Read pile (or more accurately, 'piles' since I have one next to my bed, one next to my armchair and a whacking one in the incongruously named TV room) are there for a reason. For the last so many months/years, I've chosen another book instead. These books are the wallflowers, the bridesmaids, the uncoordinated last kid to be picked for kickball - these books ARE me. Strangely, when I look at the list, these aren't any kind of dogs - they're from authors I love or books I'm convinced I'll like, but for some reason, have passed over (except Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - that one is on my pile because my sister gave it to me and everyone says I should read it. If you want me to jump off a bridge, too, just ask.)

So, I need to dust them off and give them a chance. As Linus says "it's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love." Well said, blankie toting kid, well said.

My list of 12 for the TBR challenge:
1) The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
2) A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
3) The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson
4) The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
5) Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter
6) The Secret History - Donna Tartt
7) Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
8) Little Black Book of Stories - A.S. Byatt
9) Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire
10) The Death of Bunny Munro - Nick Cave
11) A Certain Slant of Light - Laura Whitcomb
12) Fool - Christopher Moore

1) The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
2) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We're Not Candy - Even Though We Look So Fine and Dandy

Completely flying by seat o' my pants with this writer's group thing, our first meeting is January 16 and I don't really have game plan yet. It almost seems excessive to start one in this day and age when there seems to be a group for everything from stamp lickers to lint collectors. All I can say, Headmistress, is that I did try to find an existing group to belong to and it just didn't seem to exist. Sorry, I've got 'headmistress' and repressive boarding school atmosphere on the brain as that's where I'm revising in my current ms.

I'll be honest, I'm a little frightened of my WIP. It's just been so much easier to write than my first book (which is still waiting to be rescued, in beautiful little broken pieces, under my desk) that I'm waiting for the disaster to hit. The huge plot hole or the hero turing out to be a complete douche bag. I definitely hit a bump in sections two and three, where the story gets more complicated, but still, it seems so real to me, the world so accessible. That kind of ease is obviously telling me that something is wrong. My husband says I'm being ridiculous, it's a great story and I'm just being negative. OKAY. He actually only said the 'great story' part, I'm just imagining the other things because I'm so negative. Am I the only one who finds it hard to deal with when things are going well? I'm trying not to jinx it, trying to enjoy it, but I keep looking up waiting for the other Doc Marten to drop and hit me in the head.

PS. Title of this post has nothing to do with this post. Have just had that song from that 80's drug PSA stuck in my head all day.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bad Reading Habits of Randomly Effective Writers

Happy New Year!

I am a bad reader. First of all, I'll read anything. I can't be without something to read and If I ever have to commute for more than 10 minutes without reading material, I tend to start biting my nails. So if Tim leaves a Dennis Wheately book lying around in the laundry room and I've got six minutes left on the 'drain & spin' cycle, I'll get stuck in the morass of a sentence like this:

"An appetite in keeping with his mighty frame had enabled Van Ryn to do ample justice to each well-chosen course and, as was his custom each time the young American arrived in England, the Duke had produced his finest wines for this, their reunion dinner at his flat."

I can't help myself. If it's a book, pamphlet or cereal box in a language that I semi-understand, I'll read it.

My second bad reading trait is that I can't read only one book at a time. Unless it's a fast-paced book (like the Hunger Games trilogy which actually had me feeling as if I'd really done some exercise instead of just sat in my armchair letting my tea get cold.) I will read two or three books at once. Take for example what I'm reading now. The light bodied read - a book I've read before: Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, the medium read - a book I've not read before but one that can be put down and picked up again without any problem; The Fool, by Christopher Moore. And the HEAVY read - the book I feel I ought to be reading: Until the new year this was The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, but I've given that one up for now and picked up The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. We shall see if I ever find out what the ef is up with Count Fosco.

Okay, here's the other bad habit I have about books. I lie. I don't always do it on purpose, for example there is another book I'm currently reading, I guess you'd call it the stealth read: Tithe by Holly Black. I forgot I was reading it and just picked it up again. I haven't figured out if I like it or not so until I do we'll have an on again-off again relationship. But I also lie when someone asks me what I'm reading. How can I tell them I'm reading four books at once. So I usually lie and say "I'm thinking of reading GWTDT" which I am. Thinking about. One day.

I do long for the kind of brain space, time and quiet it would take me to read Bleak House (which I've tried, numerous times to get through) because I know close, careful reading has it's rewards. But my bad habits won't let me.

So, here's my New Year's resolution: Read no more than two books at a time and keep track of what I read. I got one of these from Farley's bookstore in New Hope to keep track and keep me honest. It's like a readers version of a weight watchers points system. Man, I hope I can keep to it. Maybe the number of books I try in the year will go down, but hopefully the number of books I finish and enjoy will go up.

What are your reader resolutions? What are your bad reading habits? Any one got any suggestions for me?
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