Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just Because

So for the poetry class I took this summer our final paper involved a bit of a hands on creative project. I decided to put one of the poems I wrote about to song. And yes, it's your lucky day and I'm sharing it with you. Special thanks to my daughter for being my camera girl. I messed up and said "choice" instead of "voice" so pretend I didn't okay. I had fun with this song, poem, poet and class. The poem is called "London" by William Blake. You can read it on The Poetry Foundation's website. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Makes a Good Novel?

Good question, right? But really, what does make a good novel? I've shared some thoughts on the topic below. I'm sure this list isn't comprehensive, but it's a good start.

What would this book be without Anne?  She is everything.  The plot is obscure without her, the reasons for writing lost.  And Prince Edward Island?  Who doesn't want to go there after reading this book?  A good main character should be STRONG, CONSISTENT in their actions and voice, and someone you would want for your BEST FRIEND.  The setting should be REAL, VIVID, and LURING.  Your readers should feel like they've been there, and have a desire to go back again and again.

As a reader, if I can predict what is coming next, I am dissatisfied.  Completely.  But take me on an enjoyable journey that keeps me guessing, most of the time incorrectly, and I am a happy reader.  An effective plot should be UNPREDICTABLE, FUN, THRILLING, WEAVING, and at times, IRONIC.

Sometimes all you need is a good idea.  I'm not saying that's all this book is; it has good characters and a fun plot and a great message, etc.  But with this one, I think the leading factor in its success is simply the idea of it.  Brilliant.  Completely brilliant.  A good idea comes from ORIGINALITY and RELEVANCY.

It has taken most of my life to figure out why I never liked reading as a kid.  I hate fluff.  I much prefer books that have underlying profound meanings and that leave a lasting mark by making me think about the ideas and messages the author has placed before me.  I don't remember the names of the characters in this book, or much more than the basic plot.  But the meaning will stay with me forever.  A good message should strike your readers as being TRUTH.

I just loved how this book was ingeniously crafted. Death the narrator, which I totally would have done someday if Zusak hadn't gotten there first. Creative. Inventive. Different. Fun. Smart. I think modern readers can be a little narrow in their preferences for point of view, which is sad.  If you always want to be in close third person, or if you get confused reading omniscient or narrative or anything else, put your thinking cap on and try again.  You're missing out on some great stuff!  Some of the elements of excellent craft are CONSISTENCY, CREATIVITY, and making everyone believe YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

Can you imagine a book where all of these things are put together? Honestly, I can't think of one that stands out in all of these areas irrefutably, but one does come to mind.

 Strong character and amazing setting? Check, except Harry is a little too perfect.
Story? Check, except it's the same basic story in every book. But honestly, did you ever get bored in the battle between Harry and Valdemort? I didn't.
Idea? Check, check. One of the few times an author banked on just aligning all the stars. A lot of ideas are great, but they would be even better at the right time. For Harry, the timing was perfect.
Message? Check, and the reason I loved these books so much. I love me some battling between good and evil.
Craft? It definitely works, and it's definitely done well. Maybe not super stand out or creative, but it is well done.

Can you think of any books that stand out in all 5 of these categories?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Need a Doctor to Diagnose Strep Throat

10.  My tonsils are the size of golf balls.  They create such an obstruction that it's difficult to breath, especially through my nose.

9.  I've stopped talking.

8.  I've stopped eating.

7.  It hurts to swallow, so much so that I try with all my might not to which only makes me swallow more because I can't stop thinking about it.  Don't swallow, don't swallow, don't swallow.  Ouch.

6. My body aches all the way out to my fingertips, even if I'm doing something as simple as running water over my skin.

5. It's over 100 degrees outside but I'm shivering under the covers.

4. The only thing that sounds good to eat are chocolate Creamies.

3. Sitting at the computer for ten minutes is exhausting.

2. I can't formulate complete thoughts.

1. I just know, okay.  So please swab me and get on with writing the prescription!

Don't worry.  I've got the prescription and am on the road to recovery.  I wish strep throat was like the chicken pox--you get it once and you're good forever.  If you don't get this sickness I am happy for you.  If you do, you have my utmost sympathy.  I think I've had it close to 25 times in my life, but never enough in the same year for someone to recommend removing my tonsils.  Lame.  Totally lame.

Here's to your good health!  And mine.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sleep for Thought

Sometimes people ask me if writing ideas come in the wee hours of the night.  (Why are they called wee hours?  They're exactly the same length as all the other hours.)  I tell them that I used to.  I remember those days.  I'd wake up at 1:00 in the morning, or 3:00, or 5:00.  I'd start thinking about this or that and sometimes those thoughts included my current work in progress.  And whammo!  There's something about brain activity in the middle of the night.  Ideas come and come and come and come.  And they're good ideas, too.  I'd reach for a pen and notebook, often annoyed because I was still tired, and sometimes excited because the ideas were plain amazing.  Then I read something somewhere that struck me as being not only a truth, but a hugely important one.  It goes like this:

Nighttime is for sleeping.

Reading that was like being in algebra class in the seventh grade and finally having that moment of 'Oh, I get it.'  Lack of sleep isn't good for most of us, and maybe especially me.  I've learned that lesson well over years of young motherhood.  I need seven to eight hours every night as well as a cat nap in the afternoon to function at my best.  What good are ideas in the middle of the night if you're not functioning in the middle of the day to put those ideas to good use?  I began forcing myself back to sleep.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I would shut my brain down--think of absolutely nothing but sleep.  I'd keep my eyes closed, lay still.  If thoughts came, I'd ignore them.  'Go back to sleep.  Go back to sleep.  Sleep...sleep...sleep.'  It took some practice, but it worked.  I don't ever wake up in the middle of the night unless my kids need me or there is impending danger.  At which point I grab my baseball bat and become absolutely lethal.  (Lethal when there's danger, not when my kids need me.)  I know lots of writers do the writing in the middle of the night thing, but I'm a huge fan of taking care of yourself.  So, turn off the lights--including the light that comes from your computer--close your eyes, rest your brain, and SLEEP.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I have to admit I'm not quite done reading yet, but I really wanted to participate in this blog tour since the awesome author wrote one of the blurbs on the back of Cinder and Ella.

If you like vampires that don't sparkle, this book is probably for you.  Abby is a dynamic character with a past that she doesn't quite remember, which adds tension and gives the book pull because you know that some day all the horror is going to come back to haunt her.  She is married to the only man who can calm her enough to keep her from killing people, which I loved.  And she has a job to do, which she didn't ask for and doesn't want.  I enjoyed the strong-willed sass in this character.

The book is written from multiple perspectives which helped in some aspects, but I think I would have preferred to be in one person's head the whole time.  At first, I wanted Emily to be the main character because she seemed a little more developed and I felt comfortable and like things were in place when I was in her head.  But Abby did grow on me.

It took me a while to get into this book because there isn't a lot of action in the beginning, so be prepared for that.  But the things you know about the characters and the Order and the doom looming over everyone keeps you going until things pick up and the action takes hold of you.

I'm looking forward to more by this author to see how she develops her writing and to see what happens to the characters in the next book because this is a series.  And you should be jealous because I get to read the ending this week.  Visit the author's website for more information about the book, this tour and giveaways.  I'll have my final rating up on goodreads later this week.