The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Luv Ya Bunches

Scholastic reversed their decision!

So, it's been a bad week for this blog -I posted, what, once? :( Sorry. I have strep or something a lot like it, so I've just been trying to keep my head above water more than anything else. It sucks, but it is what it is.

Tomorrow I'm going home. Halloween at OU is not my cup of tea. I don't drink, I hate crowds and drunk people frighten and annoy me...the population of Athens doubles and then some for Halloween, and almost everyone is drunk, crowded and in costumes.

Right now I want to talk about Twitter and writing.
It's awesome.

If you took a bunch of cool, mixed it with some brevity and then gave it to people who know how to get the word out there, you'd get the writers and editors I follow on Twitter. They are some of the most brilliant, creative, talented, informative, funny and caring individuals I've seen on the internet. I argue a lot on the internet, so coming across an arena where everyone is building one another up as opposed to tearing them down is really cool.

I busted into the Twitter writer seen in my usual way -blindly and without much forethought. I started hastagging* things about Leaves & Flowers and before you knew it, my follower count started growing (and, to my knowledge, has continued doing so). I don't know these people, I'm obnoxiously self-promoting and yet they're spreading the word for me, offering me awesome links to check out, making me laugh and improving my writing skills all at the same time.

Who are these people?! They are so cool!

Seriously, if you use Twitter and you're a writer, you need to start following other writers. It is an immense help to your craft, your network and your state of mind.

*Hashtagging is this: #amwriting

If you put a hashtag and follow it up with a word or phrase sans spaces, it becomes a link that allows you to search for other people using that hashtag. #amwriting and #writing are some of the best to check out for good writers to follow (I'm not handing out names because you can all do your own grunt work, or just check out who I follow and jump on my bandwagon).

Twitter got me more than half of my submissions for L&F, and in addition to that, I made new friends. That is super cool.

Next time around I'll be talking about Twitter chats (and I will, eventually, be writing that Golden Compass article I promised. Just not yet).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Short one today

I love Fizzgig. He is the best.

I appear to have developed the flu (dun dun DUNNN), but don't worry -I'm recovering quickly. I spent yesterday in bed with a ridiculously high fever and finally got some Motrin (thanks again, Laura!), took a long nap and woke up feeling only crappy, instead of thinking I was on the edge of death. I've continued taking Motrin every few hours, and right now I'm only feeling yucky -sore throat, earache and wooziness. Much better than yesterday, when I couldn't even get out of bed to get a bottle of water without needing a 45 minute nap afterward. Yesterday was awful. Today I have felt good enough to go get food and coffee, despite having everything be really weird tasting and sounding. It's sort of like I'm in an aquarium -everything is echoing and tinny. Blah.

Okay, enough about that, onto books.

How many of you have heard that Scholastic books has asked an author to rewrite portions of her book before they'll consent to sell it due to offensive material? How many of you know what that offensive material is?

One of the main characters has lesbian parents, that's what.

Here's what the author, Lauren Myracle, says about it:
“A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn’t be ‘cleaned up.’” says Myracle, adding that the book fair subsequently decided not to take on Luv Ya Bunches because they wanted to avoid letters of complaint from parents. “I find that appalling. I understand why they would want to avoid complaint letters—no one likes getting hated on—but shouldn’t they be willing to evaluate the quality of the complaint? What, exactly, are children being protected against here?

“Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents, just like Milla. It’s not an issue to clean up or hide away,” says Myracle. “In my opinion, it’s not an ‘issue’ at all. The issue, as I see it, is that kids benefit hugely from seeing themselves reflected positively in the books they read. It’s an extremely empowering and validating experience.”

I'm pretty appalled at Scholastic. For a group that aims at getting kids to read, censorship seems way out of line. If a kid's parents don't want them reading about gay people, don't let them buy the book -but an author should never have to change their work because someone is afraid of getting an angry letter. That's censorship, and it's ridiculous. I give mad props to Myracle for standing up for her work.

There's a petition, which you can sign here (although the site's been down for about an hour, probably due to large numbers of people trying to get in on it since it's all over Twitter right now), and I encourage you to do so -even if you don't support gay rights, at least support an author's right to write what s/he wants to without fear of being censored for it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Regular posting will resume tomorrow or Monday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The best and strangest day

Shoes. This will all make sense soon.

I am having the best and strangest day, seriously. First off, I'm still a human as far as HvZ goes (well, and as far as being human goes, as well). No kills as of yet, but there are 430+ people playing and only 20+ zombies. I also feel like someone spent all last night trying to tear my legs off, because running around campus for all hours of the night makes me very sore. I'm out of shape. It's a beautiful fall day here, and I'm hoping it will be warm-ish again tonight.

On another note, a more footwear related I note, I won a beautiful pair of shoes! I'm not sure how many of you read A Cup of Jo, but I suggest you start reading her stuff yesterday. She's awesome -I do most of my blog reading in the morning before I go to class, and ACoJ is always a nice way to start out the day (generally with a cup of Joe in hand as well). Every Wednesday she does a giveaway of some really nice products, too, and I just so happened to win this Wednesday's. Since I'm a Shoemaker by name and a shoe lover by nature, I fell in love with the shoes on sight and I'm unbelievably excited to wear them around campus once they get here!


Book time.

I wanted to write a little bit about the act of writing. Why I do it, why you do it, why it matters, etc.

In all honesty, the best piece of writing advice I've ever received was pretty simple: "You want to write? Shut up and write." I couldn't tell you who said it, but that statement hits me over the head like a frying pan every time I start thinking I have writer's block, or I'm too busy to write, or blah blah blah excuses. None of that -you want to write? Sit down, shut up and put words on a page.

Granted, there is so much more to writing than the actual act of it -the more I learn about writing both as an industry and as a craft (which requires patience, work and training) the more I realize I have been charging into the writing world with blinders on. It's a very, very intricate place to be in, and I love it.

Why do you write? Tell me in the comments if you do, in fact, write. If you don't, tell me why not.

I write because I cannot not write. If I didn't write, I would wither up and blow away- a useless and uninteresting husk of a person. Books and words and writing are more vital to me than caffeine. Writing is my center. It also keeps me caffeinated and in school so I can continue learning about writing. (And I should probably just shut up and write.)

Writing is awesome, in whatever form it takes -bad, good, transcendent, puerile -it all has its value. Right now, for Leaves & Flowers, I'm typing up the writing of a group of seventh and eighth grade competitive writers. And I'll be honest, some of it's not that great. It's at or about what I would expect, as a professional writer and creative writing major, but it's nonetheless surprising to me in that I don't remember my writing being bad in the ways this writing is bad (and I mean no disrespect to these kids; they've poured their hearts into these pieces for me, and I love it -as bad as the writing is, it has so much potential).

What I mean is that I don't remember using "feeled" when I meant "felt," and I don't remember starting every sentence but 3 in a two-page story with the word "I." The writing is rough beyond what I expected, but it's also candid in a way that I like. There's not a lot of coy wordplay going on; everything is on the surface. After one or two paragraphs I'm craving some subterfuge on the part of the writer, but there's something nicely disarming about young writers.

It was amazing to me, last night as I sat editing a few pieces (before I went to run around campus carrying a bright orange plastic gun and hunt zombies -take everything I saw with the requisite salt here) that my own writing could have, at one point, very closely resembled the pieces I had before me. I forget sometimes just how much we have to grow as writers -as our vocabularies mature, so does our writing. As we mature, so does our writing. Granted, much of that maturation needs to be self-made, but look at where it can take go once that is done.

One of these kids might write the next great American novel, or one of them might write something in Sharpie on a bathroom wall that gives someone pause and makes them think for a moment, but whatever it is that's done with writing, it's more important than we know.

This turned into more of a paean to writing than I had intended, but hey -it's true. Writing is culturally significant no matter who you are or what you do; language and words will infiltrate every part of your life. Is that positive or negative? Does it matter? It is what it is. Make it what you want. What better reason could there be to write?

/philosophical rant ;)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zombies and a preview

So, I found out last night that Humans vs. Zombies begins on my campus today. For those of you outside the undead loop, HvZ is a week-long game of madness, Nerf guns and pretending to be living in the zombie apocalypse. I won't go over the rules in detail, but basically it's this: humans wear an arm band and carry Nerf guns or balled up socks. If a zombie grabs a human's arm band, that human is dead and has to become a zombie. Zombies are killed when shot with a Nerf dart or hit by a sock. Zombies wear bandannas around their forehead or neck and "respawn" after each time they are killed (once a specified amount of time has passed or a certain point in the day is reached).

It is, hands down, the most awesome game ever in the history of both awesomeness and games. It's played 24/7 and generally takes place during the week leading up to Halloween (not too cold + creepy holiday = perfect).

I am so excited.



Anybody ever read His Dark Materials? Has anyone seen the movie based off of the first book, The Golden Compass? (If you have, I am so, so sorry -I saw it too. I was so upset when I left that I almost threw my cell phone across the movie theater's parking lot; it was a bad movie. Totally missed the point of the book. Daniel Craig did a good job, though.)

Well, recently I found an article written about the movie/books and "arguing" with Philip Pullman and his ideas... I use the term arguing really loosely.

Like I said in the title of this, what you're getting is a preview. I am, at a later date this week, going to be going through that article and ripping it a new one/respectfully disagreeing with basically every point they make (probably at the same time). Before that happens, I need to try to find a copy of said article on the interwebs so I don't have to type the whole thing out for you. Give me a couple of days and we'll get that ball rolling.

In the meantime, if you haven't read HDM, go get started. Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic, Jewish, Pastafarian, whatever -it's a great series. Absolutely one of my favorites. :) Jonah has my copy of The Golden Compass right now or I'd be quoting it at you already.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ebooks and ebook readers

You know what's disgusting? Making a cup of coffee and, after said cuppa is made, realizing that the milk you put into it has gone bad -and went bad several days ago. Curdled milk is gross. Ruined coffee is tragic. But I did go uptown and buy some coffee and soup, so we'll all survive and get on with what I wanted to write about today.


Namely, ebooks and ebook readers. If you've been following along, you know my mom's birthday was yesterday (she claims she's 29. I think she's just bad at math). We got her a Kindle (she lost her shit for a second after she opened it, too; it was pretty cool).

When the Kindle first came out, I barely registered it, and that registering was mostly one of disgust. I didn't think ebooks were going to be anything major, and I thought the idea of an ebook reader was pretty appalling. "You want to take my paper-and-ink books from me? I don't think so, pal." But I was wrong (it happens sometimes. Take note, because this is a very rare occurrence).

Ebooks are pretty much the shit. The future. The next big thing in publishing. And, as I remarked in a writing chat about ebooks, if you bet against're going to lose.

I'm not saying paper books are going to go the way of the dinosaur, however. More like the buffalo -they won't go extinct, but they'll be rare, intentionally cultivated and taken care of and newer, faster, flashier things will catch the international eye. This is neither good nor bad, in all honesty. It just is.

Ebooks are fast, convenient, cheap, easily marketed, save on production costs, open up incredible avenues for authors and readers -and they're already taking over. No joke. I'd post the sales figures I saw at one point but I lost the link (if anybody has info on this, feel free to leave it in the comments) -let me put it this way: phenomenal. Unbelievable.

The cost of an ebook is low. Really low (generally speaking). No paper, no ink, no distribution costs to speak of. That takes a huge amount of cost out of making a book. Ebooks are a wonderful answer to technological questions about books.

Ebook readers still have a bit of a way to go, though, I'll be honest. The technology is relatively new and still has some bugs. And, admittedly, there are things a paper book can do that an ebook reader cannot. I would not take a Kindle into the bathtub, ever. That's an expensive piece of equipment. Books can, more or less, survive a bathtub experience -and one book is not 1,500 books, which a Kindle can be. Real books can't get viruses or be mysteriously reclaimed in the middle of the night when a publisher decides they didn't want people having electronic copies of a certain book. Anybody remember that? That was nuts. They can't really do that with physical books.

The main reason I had resisted ebook readers up until recently was that you can't write on the ebooks. If I can't write on a book, I don't want it. Sorry, no thanks. I have to be able to highlight passages, underline descriptions, write awful things about incompetent editing in the margins and generally make my mark on a book to really enjoy it -and now I can. Sony ebook readers come with a stylus and the ability to mark up ebooks.

I'm so sold you don't even know how sold I am. If the devil appeared to me and said, "I'll give you a Sony ebook reader in exchange for your soul!" I would tell him, "Thanks, but I'm waiting for Santa to bring me one. Try me again after Christmas, just in case Santa doesn't come through." That's how sold I am.

Seriously, though. As a writer/publisher/editor/reader, ebooks are awesome.

As a writer, you can write, publish and sell your product directly to the public (which is made vastly larger by the Internet) and make a much greater profit than by going through traditional channels.

As a publisher, you can reach a huge market of people while dramatically reducing the cost that goes into creating a book. Not only does this allow you to publish more (and hopefully maintain a high caliber of talent), you can do it inexpensively.

As an editor, you can work with electronic texts anywhere without carrying huge manuscripts around with you -and that is awesome.

As a reader, you can access a bazillion books cheaply and quickly and without losing more storage space. I want my own library someday, because I'm a book fetishist (not in a weird way), but for practical purposes, an ebook reader will be what I'd use on a day-to-day basis.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Normal posting will resume tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Early mornings

I am usually a fan of them (within reason). This particular morning isn't really one I wanted to make friends with, since I don't have anything going on until noon, when Jonah is picking me up to take me home again. However, here I am, wide awake (well, awake anyway) and preparing to make myself the first of many cups of coffee.

A few more followers have showed up over the past few days, which is nice! I went from 8 to 11 all at once -hi, guys! How are you? Welcome to this corner of the Internet. I hope you know what you're in for. What brought you this way?

Book time:

Anyone else ever read "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens? I told Jonah yesterday that I like it better than I like "Great Expectations" -and that statement means very little. I've never been able to get into "GE." Perhaps this represents a failing on my part as a reader. I liked the Wishbone version, but whenever I actually go to read the book I hate it almost immediately. I'm not sure why.

So, yeah. "Hard Times" is better than that, although I'm still not sure how much or if I really like it. Fortunately, my good opinion isn't actually necessary. As long as I can analyze it effectively, I'm in the clear.

I think it's something about the way Dickens crowds descriptions with almost identical sentences and kind of beats parallel comparisons into the ground. For example, from "A Tale of Two Cities" -most people know "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" and yet how many of us know that the rest of that paragraph is like half a page of that in the same format? It's brilliant -I won't deny that. It's a brilliant paragraph. But Dickens uses that same concept in almost every other thing he wrote (at least what people read academically). I know it's a part of Victorian writing, and Dickens was an amazing Victorian writer, but I feel like I'm reading the same story on repeat when he does that. It's bizarre.

What are your thoughts?

Sorry for the short post, I just got a Google Voice invite thing and I'm busy playing with it! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arguing effectively

Case closed.

In case none of you have ever noticed this, I'm a tiny bit hot-headed. I like to argue, especially about topics that I think are of relevance to my everyday life (for example: writing, grammar, religion, evolution and whether or not Han Solo shot before Greedo [he totally did]). Arguing is a fun and constructive way for me to take out my aggression on things that are worth fighting about -but when I say "arguing" and "fighting" I mean something very specific.

I regard fighting and arguing as constructive things. These are avenues to discussion, exploration of ideas, discovery, research and dialogue. An argument is not one person expostulating at length on their opinion, it is a vibrant and respectful conversation between two or more people (or someone with multiple personalities -I'm looking at you, Gollum/Smeagol). When I argue with another person, I take a very specific route. Since a lot of my arguing is done via e-mails or messages, there are certain writing tactics that play into it. These are important tactics, because when you use them effectively you can win an argument by default (what, you thought I was going to teach you to play fair? Come on).

Example: I came across an article, the subject of which was, "What's wrong with American morality today?" The article's only two points were that pornography and gay marriage are destroying the country and taking everyone with them. My mouth fell open as I read it, and I got pretty hot under the collar. While I'm not a fan of porn myself, making the argument that it's destroying the moral foundation of America based on Christian standards is an extremely weak argument at best -what is pornography? Is it just video? Wouldn't that make a whole lot of Discovery channel shows porn? What about art, music and writing? Those topics deal explicitly with sex, often with the intent to arouse. If you look at the case that establishes the laws surrounding obscenity, you can see that proving something obscene (which this writer calls porn several times) is difficult, if not impossible, especially given his lack of defined terms. (The case, by the way, is Miller v. California, [1973]).

Then there was the gay marriage issue. I am pro-gay marriage. If you're not, I'm sorry. I think your position is wrong and untenable, but in the end it basically boils down to this: if you don't want gay marriage, don't get one. Prohibiting gay marriage is against Constitutional law and a violation of the First Amendment (if that prohibition is based on religious reasons, which it often is). On religious grounds, there is no foundation at all for prohibiting gay marriage. If a church refuses to marry a couple, that's their right -the couple simply has to find a church that will marry them; but on legal grounds, forbidding gay couples from getting married is unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

Back to the arguing -I wrote the guy. I explained that his article was biased, intolerant and cited evidence that had been distorted or misinterpreted. I also told him that I felt that of all the things wrong with the country today, porn and gay marriage are way down there on the list. I received a series of more and more irrelevant, offensive and angry e-mails. What could have been a constructive argument about the respective merits of our viewpoints (which I'll get to in a moment), it turned into him calling me names and deliberately twisting anything I said without actually addressing the point I made.

His defenses were this: gays do not have any long-standing tradition of being discriminated against, and allowing gay people to get married and/or have children is "playing pretend" and therefore violates the sanctity of marriage. Porn causes rape and homosexuality.

Um, yeah. Even for people who agree with the guy on gay marriage, those are extremely weak arguments. Without getting snotty, I replied that:

1) Gay men and women have been discriminated against for centuries, both in this country and across the world. There are still areas, even in America, where being public about homosexuality is dangerous to an individual's health, well-being and livelihood. In some countries, being gay is illegal. How does that constitute a lack of discrimination?

2) So, by his logic regarding gay parents, it would be better for a gay person to marry someone of the opposite sex and, oh hey, "pretend" to be straight for their entire lives? What's the difference, other than the misery, bitterness and lies that will cause? Isn't lying a sin?

3) Since when has marriage been sacred? The Biblical definition of marriage allowed Jewish men to marry multiple women (in the Old Testament) and contained information on how much a woman could be beaten, how much children should be sold for and the ways in which women should be subservient to men. In addition, in America alone, theist couples divorce almost twice as often as atheist couples -and (transitioning to porn), the rates of illegally downloaded pornography, unplanned teen pregnancies and STDs are highest in the Bible Belt, where the "traditional marriages" this man lauded are so highly regarded.

4) Porn does not cause rape or homosexuality; that argument is fundamentally flawed from its premise. No research done on the subject has ever shown a link between those things. Porn is used to generate arousal and satisfy weird fetishes that I really don't want to write about, not to encourage people to be gay or to rape one another.

In response to those points, the guy claimed that gay men and women are "unworthy of civil rights" and claimed that I was calling him a bigot based on the fact that our opinions differed.

At that point, the correspondence totally derailed and I lost all interest in even having a discussion with him (to clarify: I did call his viewpoints bigoted, because, according to the dictionary definition they are -he is obstinately prejudiced against anyone who holds a differing viewpoint. I'm not prejudiced against him, I just don't agree with what he said; he, on the other hand, is prejudiced against those who don't follow his opinions and would like to see them stripped of their legal rights. That is textbook bigotry).

So how does this all apply to writing?

If you're not too steamed by the whole conversation I just outlined, I'll tell you: arguing effectively is vital, whether you're simply writing an opinion piece or trying to defend the Constitution from predation by fundamentalists -or writing a fictional story. Characters argue, they're people too. Check it out.

There are a few things that you need to remember when writing an argument (or even speaking).

-Stay on topic. The guy I wrote about earlier could not decide what information he wanted to twist to use in "arguing" with me. He chose to focus on trying to use confusing terminology and refusing to address the legal and moral points I offered to him. Arguing that way is a great way to troll someone, but a truly awful way to actually make a point. If your topic of discussion is, for instance, Gandhi's vegetarianism, don't start writing about the specifics of the Indian tea trade instead -it's not relevant, so why bring it into an already complex discussion?

-Don't name-call. It's not polite and it makes your argument weaker: if you have to insult someone to get a point across, your point is probably unable to stand on its own legs without the crutch of anger. Passion is vital to arguments; anger becomes a detriment if you don't check it. The guy I argued with resorted to calling me, in essence, a Commie hooker (he didn't use those exact words, but he accused me of being an amoral socialist on more than one occasion) -when I said he was bigoted, I directed it at his arguments, not him. Which leads me to my next point...

-If you need to tear something down, tear down an argument and not your opponent. If you start insulting the person you're having a conversation with, you're no longer having an argument, you're being mean. Your issue is with the points they made, not the individual (in some cases it may be personal, but go re-read the first point). Don't let an argument end a friendship or relationship because you began insulting the person instead of focusing on the issue at hand.

-Support your own arguments before tearing apart someone else's. If you don't have a strong argument to begin with, and you start ripping away at the points someone else made, you have to be able to back that up. If you can't, you just look wrong from the get-go. Come to an argument prepared: know the topic, know your opinion, know some relevant information that you can use (without twisting it or lying, because that's shameful and lame and makes you look shady).

-Be willing to listen. You cannot, cannot, cannot have a discussion with someone if you aren't hearing what they say and understanding what they mean. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification. I got into another (much friendlier) discussion with the author of an article about why evolution is bad and wrong (a whole other can of worms, that is) and I asked him to clarify what he meant by his claim of being a proponent of intelligent design. There are as many interpretations of intelligent design as there are interpretations of the Bible, if not more, and I didn't want to argue about the wrong issue. Instead of just barging ahead with my points, I took the time to read and address what he had said before I gave my own reasoning. Not only did that prevent me from addressing the wrong ideas and being redundant, it also gave me a chance to really understand what this guy was saying -and it set an intellectual, friendly tone to the entire conversation.

-Finally, and this applies to writers of fiction, break every one of those rules. An argument that begins and ends with the dismissal of one or more of the above guidelines will be much more heated and reveal a lot more about your characters. When people get angry, really angry, they let things slip. Those slips can move a story forward in awesome ways, so break rules like there's no tomorrow when you're writing a story.

Unless you're actually trying to anger your opponent in an argument, however, following those rules will (hopefully) help keep a lid on things.

And remember what I said about winning an argument by default? What if you manage to keep your head on, make your points in a reasoned and respectful manner, support your argument with solid evidence and logic...and the person you're talking to flies off the deep end anyway? You totally won.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back to business

I stole this hilarious picture from Angie the Anti-Theist, whose writings I find fascinating and insightful. Go check her out! The caption for this picture makes me laugh more each time I read it.

I have been gone for a while. It's Wednesday, I know it, and I haven't updated once since last week. For shame. :( I am hanging my head (over my cup of coffee so the delicious hazelnut smell wipes out any feelings of guilt I may be experiencing). I'm back, we're good. Coffee = the solution to 99% of my problems (the other 1% just take a lot more work).

I had a fabulous weekend at home -Jonah and I went to a wedding where I met the rest of his awesome family, watched his mom shake it on the dance floor. And I saw her give a man titty twisters (not even kidding -Jonah's family is beyond cool). Jonah and I busted out some dancing as well -while we certainly weren't Dancing with the Stars quality, I had a lot of fun (and I don't like dancing, as a rule). I also got to hang out with my family and surprise my mom, who didn't know I was coming home on Saturday. :)

The downside to the weekend was that, in order to get back in time to hand in a paper for my business law class, Jonah and I had to leave Findlay at 4:30 in the morning. I consider myself to be something approaching a morning person...I might stand corrected. Getting up at 3:30 is hell. I spent the rest of the day in a good-natured haze, not really understanding anything that was said to me or accomplishing much of worth (except writing 4 articles). It wasn't pretty. Today is much better.

As far as books go, oh boy oh boy!
Jonah brought me a bunch, and I gave him one too (more proof of his good taste: We've both read "The Lives of Christopher Chant" and neither of us know anyone else who has read that book. I gave him my copy of "The Chronicles of Chrestomanci," which contains "The Lives of CC" so he can re-read it and read "Charmed Life" for the first time. Has anyone else heard of these books?). I'm already 170+ pages into "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" -a book I've not read before. I've read "A Wrinkle in Time" but I'd forgotten how much I liked L'Engle.

As much as I dislike being preached to, "ASTP" is doing a good job of not irritating me with its semi-religious undertones (or overtones, depending on how you read it). I like the message of the book, and it's not overly pedantic in nature. It's just a good story.

I also read the book "Weslandia." 3 times. It's a children's book, but it is fabulous. In fact, I'll be writing an Examiner article about it in the next few days, so you'll have to wait and read about it there (and here, again).

I'm still working on getting submissions for Leaves & Flowers. So far I've received 3, and I'm loving them. It's such a fun process. Maddeningly exciting. However, I've gotten about 20 queries and only 3 people have actually sent work so far...I wish I was getting more! I also wish more people were asking for information, but that's just me getting gluttonous. ;) I am quite thoroughly enjoying this process, and if anyone wants to contribute, I'd be more than happy to work with them... spread the word! Bring me work. I'll love you forever and ever, even though I can't pay you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leaves & Flowers and the concept of a book trailer

I love this comic so much.

I'm updating about my literary journal/magazine again. You'll get used to it, I promise. Or you won't, and either way it's not really my problem. I think this is interesting, and I think it translates into the blog, so read it, love it and click on ads. Put me through school that way.

Anywho, I got my first submission (aside from one I got from a Power of the Pen student of my mom's, I don't think I can count that one although I'll probably include it)! The submission was of two poems, previously written that nonetheless still fit the prompt (which you can read here). The first submitter was the lovely Lydia, who runs a website called The Little Fluffy Cat. I'm not sure what it's about, because I've only been looking at it for like 20 seconds, but it seems pretty cool to me. Check it out, give her props for being the first one to get stuff in!
Awesome stuff, I must add (I'm sure I'll be saying that a lot, but seriously, I really like these poems! I can't wait to publish them!!!!)

I love those words, too -that I get to publish things and contribute to someone else's writing career. I can't pay these writers -they are just giving generously of their time and talent to some nobody who's setting up a small journal (which is also why I'm not asking for any kind of publication rights. I just want the opportunity to get work out there -I don't want any claim on it after that. All rights belong to the writer -I'll have a full post on this tomorrow when I have more time to devote to it).

Today I want to talk about book trailers.
Seriously, have you guys started seeing these? They're like little miniature movie trailers...but for books. What?

That is confusing to me. It's a book. Why are we promoting them via video? I get the whole viral marketing/use the technology as it's available, etc. but I still don't understand how that works. Is text being promoted or previewed in this way? No, not usually- for fiction, it's generally a synopsis of the story, although in cases like that bullshit book Find Your Strongest Life, it's testimonials from people who have read it/are in it/get brainwashed by the guy.

I've seen some good ones (click the fiction link, it'll show you one-I do actually want to read the book, but not because of the video). That's the part I don't get. These videos aren't really contributing any desire to want to read a book for me. I don't need a video to tell me why I should want to read a book. I want to read a book because I think it looks good, usually from reading a sample or the dust jacket/back cover.

My concern is, I think, that we might be relying too heavily on promotion of books to get the word out -by which I mean, if you need a video to promote a book, what's wrong with this book that it needs a video?? I realize how bad that sentence was -it's making a point. Roll with me, here. This is my immediate reaction to seeing a book trailer: why is this necessary? Who puts all of the time and effort into creating a high-quality trailer...for a book? And that is not in any way to mock or take down books -I think books shouldn't need that kind of leg up.

Then I look at the people around me and it all kind of hits home.

You want your book to have to get the word out any way you can, whether you're Neil Gaiman or Joe Nobody. If that means marketing by spending time on creating a video to promote a piece of written text, so be it. If people read it because of that, then hey. Go for it.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quick Update, some shenanigans and all the rest

This makes me chuckle. (It came from some scary place online)

All right, all right. I skipped yesterday and today I'm coming on late. So sue me. It's a busy week and I'm grumpy (people who take too long to give me my coffee and then forget to ring up the cinnamon roll I wanted after making me wait in line for half an hour can be blamed). But anyway, I'm here now.

Update time:
The deadline for Leaves & Flowers, unfortunately, has to be moved up a bit to November 5. Due to some scheduling conflicts, I have to have the whole shebang finished by about the 8th-10th at the latest. However, that's still plenty of time for photographers, writers and other artists to send me stuff! The lovely Renda Dodge (about whose book I wrote last time) has already stepped up to the plate, as have Shelby Campbell and my mom (nepotism ftw). I have 10 or 11 others on my list, and I'm hoping to snag several more in the next week or two, so we'll see where this goes.

I'm still very excited and optimistic about the whole thing. :)

Book time:
Has anyone else heard about the whole "bloggers have to disclose when they receive books to review because it's considered compensation" snafu? It's causing quite a hullabaloo right now, and given the double standards that are present in the FTC's 'explanation' for it, I can see why. A book is considered compensation when it's sent to an individual blogger (who may or may not review it in a positive light) and yet not when it's sent to a newspaper/magazine to be reviewed. The guy interviewed says it's not a problem if the blogger discloses the compensation or sends the book back, but his logic and reasoning seem pretty flawed to me. It looks more like blogs and advertisers are being targeted, in some ways.


Here's another ringing endorsement for my man Christopher Moore: I gave my copy of A Dirty Job (one of my favorite books) to Jonah, and he loves it. Now that I've said that, I'm not sure if it's more exciting because it confirms my opinion that ADJ is awesome, or because it just reinforces how cool my boyfriend is. Either way, high fives all around for ADJ!

As for my own writing, I've been drawing more than anything lately (which is weird, because an artist I am not) -however, that drawing almost inevitably leads me into some sort of creative writing thought process. It's working out nicely. I wrote a weird little narrative poem/story/thingie the other day that I might read at my writing group tomorrow night and, after it's been critiqued a bit, we'll see what I do with it. It's nothing I'd publish, so I might slap it up here and see what you all think.

There are only 24 days left until National Novel Writing Month, so when that hits, you'll all see me do some serious writing.

Who else is doing NaNo?

One last thing, just out of curiosity. What do you all think about the idea of rating books (click the link for more info on what that means)?

Monday, October 5, 2009


Gasp! Exposed flesh! I'm surprised her ankles aren't showing, the little hussy.

No, for real though -that's me. There is, I promise, I reason I am baring my pale and tattooed ribcage at you. I like my tattoo. That's not the reason, I just thought you should know. I kind of want another one (don't freak out, Mom, it won't be happening anytime soon). :)

The reason I'm showing off my little Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired piece of body art is that I'm going to be writing about a book that hasn't even been released yet.

It's called Inked.

It was written and self-published by Renda Dodge, using (the same place I'll be using to publish Leaves & Flowers when the time comes) and it. Looks. Awesome.

The basic gist of the story -I'll let it speak for itself in a moment -is that Tori Liddell has an undiagnosed psychological disorder that she deals with by getting tattoos as her lifestyle and personality change, "but when her widowed mother reveals her battle with AIDS Tori returns to small town Oregon to facilitate her care. At her homecoming Tori faces her own mortality, the inevitable loss of her mother and her new enigmatic neighbor's interest. Tori also confronts the realization that things and people are not always the way she remembers as she searches for the meaning of home in the rubble of her past."

Cool, amirite?
(I am right)

You can even read the first chapter by going to Renda's website, which is awesome (the first chapter and the website both).

The most encouraging thing about Inked to me (aside from the fact that it looks like a good read) as an aspiring author/editor, is how professional this book looks. The cover art is fabulous, the PDF of the first chapter not only has all of the usual information you'd expect from a book, it also has some artwork to introduce the story and it just looks damn good.

For years, big publishers have derided self-publishing as a way for people who couldn't get published to do so anyway. In many cases, that's true. But, but but but, in many (perhaps many more) cases, that is no longer true. Self-publishing is a way for authors to retain greater control over their work -its design, its marketing, its sale -and while self-publishing can have its limits (professional editing can be an immense help to a book), it is quickly becoming a viable and respectable way to publish.

People like Renda Dodge who know their stuff -maintaining a good blog, having a professional website, networking in beneficial and supportive ways -find opportunities to successfully publish a book that would be indistinguishable from one that was worked on for a couple of years before ever seeing the light of a bookstore, if it ever even got that far (seriously, the more I learn about the publishing world as it is today, the further I fall in love with small presses and self-publishing).

I've already ordered a copy of Inked. It comes out the 20th of this month and it's reasonably priced. For a debut novel, self-publishing is a leap of faith -but for somebody who knows their way around the social networking sphere and has a quality piece of work to offer, I think it's fair to say that faith is justified.

Additionally, Renda is writing for Leaves & Flowers!! How awesome is that? I'm really excited to be working with someone who has used the same tools I'll be using and produced something that I can't wait to read. Here's hoping L&F turns out the same way. Be supportive of us both -order a copy of Inked and find more people to write, draw, paint, sculpt or take pictures for L&F. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Shameless self-promotion

It's been a while since I subjected you all to a list of links to my articles. Unfortunately, that time has come again. I've built up quite a list and some of it's pretty good stuff (and some of it may not be. You tell me.).
Click around on stuff. Click some ads, read stuff, leave me nasty comments -whatever floats your boat.

Here we go:
Sartre, Kierkegaard and Heidegger
Weight Loss Tips for Teens
Choosing Font for a Tattoo
Taking Ashwagandha as an Herbal Supplement
Proper Cell Phone Etiquette
Where the Wild Things Are
White Ink Tattoos
Fun, Inexpensive Fall Activities
Starting an Online Business
Taking Care of a Tattoo
Web Comics are an Important Art Form
Literary Tattoos are a Big Trend
Geek Tattoos
Simple Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids
Advantages of Dental Inlays and Onlays
How to Choose a High Quality Tattoo Parlor

Ebooks and ebook readers
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Banned Books Week
Mackenzie Phillips' memoir High on Arrival
The Prestige
Find Your Strongest Life
Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett
American on Purpose, by Craig Ferguson

Is abstinence-only education just?
How to deal with writer's block
What are the benefits of ebooks?
Evolution and how it affects us
How to care for your new tattoo
How to read best-selling books electronically

That's it for me for the weekend, guys and dolls. I'll be back on Monday with some more interesting stuff than lists of articles I've written. Get to clicking! ;)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Writing on a Friday

So here it is, 4:46 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. I'm a college student. Every time I leave my room, I hear people talking about the parties they're planning on going to. I even looked over the shoulder of the girl standing ahead of me in line at the coffeeshop, hoping to learn something interesting. I found out that Travis told her about a four-kegger somewhere tonight. Considering it's raining, 55 degrees and yucky out, I hope Travis and his four kegs are inside somewhere.

I'm currently writing my eighth article of the day, with no plans to stop or even leave my building again for perhaps as much as 24 hours (although I'll definitely need to get milk and coffee asap).

I don't understand the culture of drinking that pervades college life. I have a friend who parties pretty regularly upwards of 4 days a week -parties, in this case, means getting absolutely trashed. He's not 21. He and his roommate (who is also not 21) built a bar in their room (I am not kidding). He's reached a point where he can drink about 10 beers and not feel them. He's started drinking as early as 10 in the morning.

That looks, to me, a LOT like alcoholism. His excuse? "I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a college student."
And I wonder how that makes it okay.

Drinking to excess isn't something that I imagine being fun, or cool, or exciting. It's certainly not healthy or safe. Wandering around a college campus at night while intoxicated, especially alone, and especially for women, is sometimes very dangerous, as the recent spate of sexual assault reports on campus have proven. I've dealt with enough drinking/drunk/hungover people my age to realize that it's not as cool or as fun as the media or other people make it out to be.

I've been made fun of more than once for staying in on weekends (this is not me boo-hooing, by the way. I can't remember the last time I actually was upset by someone who made fun of me). Mostly, I think it stems from people not understanding what I do all alone up here in my room (and wouldn't they like to know! That sounds so much dirtier when you don't know I'm about to tell you exactly what I do).

I write. I'm making money. I'm making good money, as it happens. Not enough to buy me a Porsche anytime soon, but enough to keep me fed, caffeinated and in school. I'm working. This, people, is my job. And I enjoy it. I would rather stay in my room all weekend getting eyestrain from staring at a computer screen and writing so much that I can't identify a red pepper (I kept calling it a banana). That, to me, sounds like SO much more fun than getting shitfaced, making a fool of myself and not remembering any of it the next day.

Writing is my passion, though. It's my excuse for being anti-social, and more often than not, also my excuse for being social. I don't know how people who don't write occupy their time in many cases, but that's just because it's such a huge part of my life. I guess I should modify that -I don't know what people who don't have a passion do with their days. Maybe that's why kids go out and drink on weekends, because they don't know what else to do with themselves or where to look.

Personally, I think that's sad.
Right now, I am surrounded by people who are preparing to go kill off brain cells, injure themselves and spend the next 2-3 days feeling like they're going to die. In some cases, this is because they just don't know what else to do. How depressing is that?

Granted, I go to the #4 (or are we #5?) party school in the nation, so the whole culture of drinking is much bigger here.

That doesn't mean it's excusable or should be encouraged.

I've had people try to convince me to drink by saying, "All writers are drunks or druggies. You have to give in sometime." My only response to that is to shake my head and sigh, and think of Stephen King (one of my favorite quotes of his deals with treating alcohol like a road to creativity -to him, that's just an excuse to be a drunk. I agree). I've got better things to do with my time.

I wish other people did, too.

Some books on this and similar subjects:
Dying to Drink
College Drinking

I know I presented a brief (well, actually it's pretty long. Mostly it's rambling) and unspecific look at college drinking, but it's my blog. I'll do whatever I want. Seriously, though; this is just a glimpse at some of the things I've seen and experienced as someone who is within the college culture and yet looking at it from a pair of eyes that isn't seeing things quite the same way a lot of other 20somethings are.
What do you think of all of this? Am I too hard on other people?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Plessy v. Ferguson -and a book I'd throw at a wall

Anybody know that case? That was the case that was overturned by Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Plessy was the case that established the "separate but equal" doctrine endorsed by law for years -the law that continued and enhanced segregation. When Brown v. Topeka came along, the Supreme Court ruled (thank goodness) that a "separate but equal" doctrine is inherently unequal.

So imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail today that seemed to raise this issue, albeit in another sense. Those of you who follow my blog know that I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist; however, for whatever reason (laziness), I still haven't unsubscribed from a conservative Christian newsletter that I used to follow closely, about 6 years ago. I'll leave it unnamed for propriety's sake.

Today, I got another e-mail from this newsletter that I was going to delete without reading, since that's what I do with 95% of the e-mails I get anyway...but something in the subject line caught my eye. It was this: "Ladies, you CAN have it all. A DIFFERENT kind of all!"

.....My eyebrows about hit the ceiling. What kind of all, exactly, are we talking about here? And why is this directed at women?

So I decided to check it out.

There's a book out, called "Find Your Strongest Life" that, from the descriptions and the book trailer (something I'll discuss in a subsequent post -basically a movie trailer for a book), seems like Plessy v. Ferguson all over again.

The general idea seems to be this: Women
  • "CAN have it all" -apparently "all" is a career, education and independent lifestyle
  • BUT women are "less happy than they were 40 and 50 years ago"
  • BECAUSE what women need is not what men need (i.e. a career and equality)
  • THEREFORE women should start staying home and devoting their lives to Jesus/their husband/the kitchen.
The message of this book is that what "all" should mean for women is a return to the 1950s era housewife. Give up dreams of an education or career and just get married and spend your time, energy and intelligence working on making your husband and god happy.

I'm pretty sure I'll be picking up pieces of my own skull off the floor and ceiling of my room for weeks, because my head exploded when I read and picked up on the message of this book. Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

In what world does "different" mean "just as good as"? Look at the result of Brown v. Topeka -separate is inherently unequal, and unequally weighted in favor of one side. The exact same thing applies here: "different" in this case implies that women should just give up the fight for equality that's been going on for decades and return to the kitchen and go to church on Sundays wearing a little hat.

"Different" in this case means that women should consign themselves to goals within the walls of the home and let men go out and bring home the bacon, because jobs are making women unhappy.

I think it's fitting that this book was written by a man. I would really like to know where he came up with his numbers, too, because the whole concept of this book is screaming BULLSHIT at the top of its lungs.

For the record, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with stay at home moms (or dads). My mom stays at home (and has a very successful career as a writer online), so I know firsthand that there are a lot of benefits to having a parent at home. But (and that's a but so big it should cover the whole entry) claiming that women shouldn't enter the workforce because "it's making them unhappy" and they should instead spend all their time discussing their at-home roles, worshiping god/their husbands and submit to a male-dominated power structure that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers worked like hell to get out of is complete and total hogwash.

Men and women want different things -that's true. But not all women or all men want the same things, so claiming that women should strive for a "DIFFERENT" (religiously motivated) "ALL" than the "ALL" men strive for knocks us back into a time when "separate but equal" was an acceptable idea.

I sent an e-mail to the man who runs the newsletter that expresses my feelings pretty clearly:


I find myself offended by this e-mail telling me, as a woman, that I should strive for a "different" kind of "all" than a man. Claiming that a woman can have "separate but equal" happiness in whatever sense -religious, business or personal -harks back to the era of Plessy v. Ferguson. Separate is not equal -it is in fact inherently unequal in profound and fundamental ways.

I agree with the idea that men and women often want things out of life that may not be identical, but claiming that what women need to be fulfilled and happy is "different" from what men need automatically implies a lessening of the female role in society.

As a strong, independent and intelligent woman, the ideas presented in this book are extremely offensive to me, as was the way the e-mail came across.

Bailey Shoemaker Richards

What are your thoughts on this book? Does it have value for some? Sure, I think it could. But is its message also motivated by a deeply rooted sexist way of thinking based in outdated and intolerant religious ideals? Absolutely.

Books and coffee

I live on those things. Coffee especially. It's kind of a symbiotic thing...without coffee, I can't concentrate long enough to read or write, and without reading and writing I wouldn't exist so I wouldn't need any coffee. Not the best example, maybe, but it's true.

So this morning, when I got to my usual coffee spot to find that the line was out the door (and it was 35 degrees out), I wasn't happy. I was even less happy when I found out that they had no espresso left, and only decaf coffee.

I'm sorry, what? Blasphemers. I went elsewhere.

Then I came home and wrote about dental veneers...super exciting stuff, no? No, I guess not. At any rate, it's up there, along with several other articles about everything from Thanksgiving crafts for kids to literary and nerd tattoos. Cool stuff.

As far as books go, I'm still reading Clive Barker's's fantastic, and I'm delaying over every page because I don't want it to end. It's dark and spooky and sad and beautiful -very much like Barker. Fantastic stuff. :)

What are you reading?