Description And Subscription

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Everyone here knows how I feel about giving writing advice…however, I do like to share some tricks I use to make my writing more tangible, aromatic, sightly, and (hopefully) believable.

The particular trick I am talking about today I think is an old one, but I also think it makes certain writers feel uncomfortable…

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I occasionally find that it is extremely helpful to richly describe scenery, or food, or even a person when I have a visual. And my number one go-to for visual aides, you ask: travel and food magazines. They provide numerous options for a writer to build a world off of. Think of the transparent teal waters of an island washing on shore as your character eats a lemon-grilled octopus platter served from the food hut north of the beach, or the almost inaudible crunch of a freshly bloomed jade leaf as a marshmellowy black, white, and yellow caterpillar takes its fill, or the burnt amber glow of the morning sun on the tops of a little girl’s cheeks as she sips a glass of milk in the front yard of her farm. You’ve got the story in your head, but maybe you need to picture the right color of the dried grass, or how the herbs lay across the octopus tentacles. Magazine pictures can help.

It’s true that most of my descriptions come from my brain, including the ones up above. And for the most part, I get the feeling writers can be strict about that. Buttttt, I find it helpful in some cases to rip out pictures of places and foods and people who I feel like fit the world I’m trying to build. It can help me with consistency, such as what type of animals are available in each area, so as not to depict a meal or object related to an animal that would be out of place. It can also help with creating characters that mimic real appearance, as opposed to what I personally find appealing. There are a great many types of beautiful people in this world, and some times the best way to be reminded of that is by checking them out.

So my advice is this: if you are trying to build a world with rules and territories, and you want these places to be as believable as possible, check out a couple of worldly magazines from time to time. It will be greatly beneficial.

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Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Grasshopper Jungle

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“We killed this big hairy thing and that big hairy thing. And that was our day. You know what I mean.” ― Andrew Smith, Grasshopper Jungle

I discovered this book by reading the author’s blurb on the cover the not-so-great book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I was a bit skeptical since I could not stand Simon, but the reviews won me over, and I am super glad they did.

Austin is confused. He is confused about his best friend Robby, his girlfriend Shann, his mother, his father, his brother, but mainly he is confused about himself. The unfortunate part is that he does really have time to ponder about it. The story quickly launches into Austin and Robby accidentally breeding massive grasshopper from an old scientist’s chemical compound, and the race to save the planet begins.

The language and movement of the writing are brilliant! If there is one drawback, it is that Smith has this reoccurring theme of Austin repeating things over and over again as he documents his history. It pulls you out of the thrill of bug attacks and mysteries of life choices, (and gets kind of annoying towards the end when you are ready to find out what is happening). Other than that, the book is near impossible to put down.

Buy it here!

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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“Sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.”
Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Albertalli, who comes from a psychology background as opposed to a literary one, penned a very basic teen novel about a gay kid named Simon living his life in Georgia. As per typical story line, a fellow student finds out his secret, and sets out on a plan to blackmail Simon.

What I can mostly say about this book is that it was thoroughly uninspiring. Not only is Simon an unlikable character, but for an author who works with children dealing with similar issues, she seems to have zero idea of what makes a bad situation bad. Simon is never in a devastating situation, yet his world seems to be crashing in on itself, and the whole blackmail plot line was barely present throughout the book. Essentially, the story was about a selfish teenage who dramatizes everything, even though he kind of has it pretty good.

I might take such a issue with the book because I feel like it gives into stereotypes of young gay men. Yes, I know, stereotypes don’t come out of nowhere, but I feel like as someone who works with children in real situations like Simon’s, Albertalli should’ve kept them more in mind. I also know people don’t always want to read downers about LGBT lives, but at least give your character more personality besides whiny teenager. However, if that’s what she is going for, then by all means she achieved it.

I’m not saying to not buy it. It is not written atrociously, and it reads quickly. All I am say is be warned.

Buy it Here!

Motivation: Food and Books

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The truth is this: wonderful books inspire me to write. However, food plays a big role in my writing process.

No jokes, my loves. Food is the foundation of my writing process. It is the unsung hero of word upon word of storytelling. Different foods are useful for different things in my writing process. For example, no matter what time of day I choose to write, (which should be all day, but let’s face, life is wild), I must have a cup of hot tea. I know I’ve mentioned this several times in my posts, but goddamn it is the key. My go-to teas are simple: green, breakfast (black), and/or chamomile. They get the creative juices flowing with all that natural stuff.

As far as food food goes, my recommendation is to say away from fried stuff. It makes your mind/body sluggish. Fried food or fast food is really more of a first draft kind of thing if you have to eat it. I love my greasy food as much as the next person, and I’m not trying to preach here, but it does make for some lazy writing for sure.

What I try to stick to are heartier things. The more natural stuff you have in your system, the longer you feel full and have energy to trek on. It’s the reason I choose oatmeal and raisins on a writing day instead of Fruits Loops.

At first it was difficult, cause I seriously (very seriously) love junk food. However, the result of my work is super important to me, so I am willing to forgo taste (in some instances) for longer writing stamina. The thought of being able to continually type without crashing is very inspiring to me. 🙂

Here are a couple of good sites with recipes in case you’re interested in trying out food motivation:

Breakfast!

Lunch/Dinner!

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(image courtesy of http://www.healthyfoodforliving.com/)

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Of Love & Other Demons

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“For you was I born, for you do I have life, for you will I die, for you am I now dying.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Of Love and Other Demons

This man needs no introduction. Garcia Marquez has written some of the greatest books in translation. Love in the time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, just to name a few, are timeless literary classics. Something to also take note of are his smaller novellas which seem to fall under the radar compared to his larger books. Packed into small amounts of paper are some of the best stories I’ve read.

Of Love and Other Demons follows the life of young Sierva Maria. She was born to uncaring parents, and raised by the slaves on her father’s land. Known to be wild and uncivilized, Sierva Maria finds herself torn from the people she loves and thrown into a prison of sorts that is run by the church.

Father Cayetano Delaura has heard of the long-haired crazy girl. But not only has he heard of her, he has dreamed of her, and knows it is up to him to tame her savage soul. A man in his late twenties/early thirties (I can’t remember exactly), he shocks himself when he realizes he is in love with this child. Obviously, there is a great deal of controversy when it comes to a relationship between a preteen and a man in his thirties, and everyone desperately tries to keep them apart.

You will have to read to find out how it ends, but I found the plot to be really intriguing, and unashamed of the subject matter. I feel like only famous, established writers can get away with writing something involving that type of relationship without being condemned by society. It must be the combination of being well known, and writing the story so elegantly it makes reads want to swoon. Beautifully executed.

Buy it here!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

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I’ve been in a serious cleaning kick since last semester ended. I’m sure everyone gets to that moment when they feel like they have too much shit cluttering every piece of space in their room/apartment. I’ve thrown out clothes, old electronics, and–here’s the kicker, my peeps–I’ve decided to throw out my old writing journals from middle school and high school.

Blasphemy! I know. I know. In a perfect world I would have endless amounts of space for all of my writings, but this is most definitely not a perfect world. My plan is to either type out what I’ve written in the journals, or scan the pages into a folder to be saved. The work will not be lost forever!

To be quite honest…as I am rediscovering the things that I wrote 15+ years ago, I am kind of impressed by myself, hahaha. I’d like to share a little bit with you from a notebook I was using in, goodness, probably eighth grade. Here it goes:

“The Lambish Tiger” (by Sidney McEntyre)

I thought you existed for so long,

Even when life seems so wrong.

I loved you when I was poor,

Like you closed a window and opened a door.

I dreamed of you While I lay in my my bed.

I sang songs about you with your visions in my head.

I went to your house when I was young,

Listen to incantations about hell while your lovely son hung.

Then, one day, out of the blue,

Fate happened because of you.

I loved you, yet everything was done.

Suddenly I realize you were gone.

My days were gray, my nights black.

I trusted you, but you cut me no slack.

I went to your house, but you were not home.

I never turned my back on you.

So why did you leave me alone?

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(Volland Mother Goose and Old Old Tales by Frederick Richardson (1862 – 1937))

 

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Swordspoint

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“Every man lives at swordspoint.” – Ellen Kushner

I discovered Kushner’s book at the discussion concerning transgression in novels at Book Culture. (The same one C.S. Pacat was at!) She was the moderator, and one hell of a smart woman. It was a pleasure to listen to her writing process, and an even bigger pleasure to read Swordspoint.

Like most early novels in a writer’s career, there are pros and cons to the storytelling. As many of the writers in Kushner’s panel repeated over and over, writing takes huge amounts of practice even after an author has been published. Kushner’s first novel, containing the fantasy worlds of Riverside and the Hill, are not excluded from that rule.

There are two worlds living side by side: the low-life, dangerous scum and swords for hire live in the decrepit Riverside, while the rich and respectable nobles reside on the Hill. Swordsman are welcome around the nobles when they are hired to settle disputes between the powerful on Hill, and the most popular among the hired help is the young Richard St. Vier.

The novel starts strong with a man dashing away from the scene of a double murder. We quickly meet a cast of important politicians, easily offended nobles, and lively rif-raf. As if St. Vier’s lover isn’t enough to handle, he also has to try hard to stay away from the drama and politics of the Hill. Unfortunately, the highly sought out swordsman is unsuccessful.

The story in itself is intriguing. It would appear to have that old world charm of swordsmen and chancellors, but where it falls flat is intertwining revelations. The language is very passive, making the climatic parts lack excitement. If you are expecting the twist and turns often involved with political dramas, you will be disappointed. However, if you are a lover of all forms of fantasy novels, I highly recommend the book with that disclaimer. It was overall an enjoyable read, even though it missed some razzle-dazzle.

Buy it here!

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Short Stories Pt 2

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I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

This story is basically autobiographical. Olsen added a few things here and there that don’t line up with her life, but the overall tale mimics the issues she endured with her eldest daughter.

Told in first-person narrative, the story begins with the mother explaining that she can no longer be held accountable for the things her young adult daughter does. The story begins with someone telling her that she must do something about her daughter’s behavior, and she listens while ironing. The narrator then starts running through all of the things that went gone wrong during her first child’s upbringing.

After being left to raise her first daughter alone, our narrator had no choice but to send her away several times in hopes of a better chance at life. However, this backfires, resulting in her daughter developing many social and abandonment issues. The narrator accepts that she cannot change the past, remaining unapologetic. Yet, she marvels in the silver lining of what comes out of her daughter’s problems: comedy.

Olsen, a pioneer of her time, wrote the story in 1961, and any reader can feel the feminine power behind it. The fact that her character, and Olsen herself, refuses to feel guilty about things she can never change when she had good intentions, was ground breaking for women at the time, and just a joy to read.

Good County People by Flannery O’Connor

Although the story itself is not autobiographical, O’Connor’s tale of mother and daughter has some reminiscence of the situation she had with her own mother.

Unlike I Stand Here Ironing, O’Connor penned a mother-daughter relationship that isn’t perfect, but its imperfections make it hilarious. Mrs. Hopewell is an eternal optimist who has the pleasure of taking care of her cynical, college educated daughter. The story will make you laugh as it pokes fun at people who think they know everything just because they hold a degree. More than one time, the reader can easy imagine Mrs. Hopewell trying hard not to roll her eyes at her daughter’s nativity. Common sense wins over stubborn pretentiousness in this tale, and a wooden leg makes it no less interesting.

O’Connor, who was diagnosed with lupus at a young age, moved back in with her mother after completing her degree. The funny jabs and pokes between a mother and her child in many of her short stories is clearly the result of living with her family. The dynamic made for great reading material for us!

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Short Stories Pt 1

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Been a while, friends. You’ll be happy to know I’ve closed this semester with straight As. Woot!

Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin

Most of you may know Chopin from her most popular short story, The story of an Hour, which exposed the inner workings of a woman’s mind after the death of her husband. Her crusade to reveal the lives of women in the nineteenth century continues in Desiree’s Baby.

A woman of unknown origin is adopted by a well-off family. She grows up and eventually marries a man of status in the region. The young couple are deeply in love–that is until the birth of their child. This particular child resembles some of the other children on the property: the African-American children. How will it all end?!

Chopin writes her stories in masterful form! I absolutely love how smart and useful every piece of information shapes the story, and adds to the injustice of the outcome. In her time, Chopin ripped off the veil of social norms involving women, and, sadly, her point is still prevalent in today’s world.

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Just like Chopin, Hawthorne plays with similar themes in his stories. Everyone knows his timeless classic, The Scarlet Letter, which involves the disgrace of a Puritan woman. Young Goodman Brown also deals with disgrace and Puritans, but from the side of the accuser.

Goodman Brown is out to chase sin. He is a devout Puritan who cannot resist the temptation calling him to the man who waits for him in the forest outside Salem, Mass. Leaving behind his wife, Faith, Goodman Brown travels into the woods and is driven mad by what he finds there…

Hawthorne, whose ancestors were Puritan persecutors of witches, clearly struggled with the history of his religion. His symbolism seems clear from the beginning, but read deeper into the story to see the hypocrisy of religion leaves in Hawthorne’s mouth.

 

Post On the Run

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I was asked by Aya from BookLoveBabbles to give some advice about how to write a quick post with quality. I like to keep my readers involved even if I don’t have a whole lot of time (like when I’m in school), so I usually will post small updates on what I’m doing, and what is coming.

I have a couple of different ways I can explain how to create a post that is short, but has all the information you need to get across to your reader.

  1. If you are a writer, think of the post as a synopsis. You can’t write the whole story, but you need to get the main plot points laid out to A) get people interested, and B) keep people interested. Figure out what your main points are and tie them together.
  2. Think in terms of time: your mother or best friend desperately want to catch up but you have two minutes before you have to be somewhere. What are the important things you need to tell him/her in that two minute span?
  3. Remember those times you ask someone a question, and they tell you their whole life story? The kind of people you just want to yell “Get to the damn point!” at? Think of those people when you need to write a quick post. You want all the information, and you want it fast.

Most of my posts are not very long, unless it’s a short story I post in pieces, so I tend to always get to the point. Now a days, I think in terms of how people read blogs in the first place: they don’t want to read a novel unless they are reading a novel, so tell them what you want to tell them and do it fast. But remember to add your voice into the piece as well so nothing gets lost in terms of what you are bringing to the table. I like to add my lame humor and Simpsons references in abundance.

Happy Writing!

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(Photo courtesy of Jane Friedman)