Reading, Writing, &; Creating

For as long as I’ve been a writer, I have had some trouble with reading on any kind of regular basis. My reasoning has always been, I’m writing, as if somehow this precludes me from needing to read in order to help fill that creative well. It isn’t that I’m not reading anything. I read tons of articles in a given week, but none of these are novels. None of these are necessarily long form stories. They’re just general articles, sometimes about writing but more often than not about things totally unrelated to writing.
Lately however, as I notice myself struggling more and more to actually write anything that isn’t either a script note for a vlog/podcast or a blog post, I can’t help but suspect my lack of consistent reading is partly to blame for this. So that’s why I’m going to be setting a reading goal for the rest of the year. Thus far I’ve read 2 books (that come to mind).
  1. Carry On
  2. And We’re Off
I’d like to get that up somewhere to like 15 or 20 (more) by December 31st which gives me four months. Periodically I’ll update this blog post with my track record.
Next Up: 
3. The Possessions: 
In the meantime: What are you reading currently and do you struggle with reading?  
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Reacting to Old Writing

What was I thinking?

From the moment I sit down, I’m nervous. This was a bad idea. My mind is racing with a million thoughts. INTP—the logician—a thousand and one thoughts at a time. My life for years—at least I have a name for it now. I’ve already pressed record and I’m already made up, and my mother is with me, and there’s no backing out now. This was my idea after all.

It’s been years since I’ve looked at it. The cover is as cute as I remember, and I’m almost impressed that at 12 I was able to put this whole thing together. It has my old name and I’m bothered by that, but my attempts to grab masking tape to block it out are thwarted by the masking tape all but being glued to the roll. I give up—and introduce my mother, then begin the way I always do.

“I’m your host, not for possession, Narcissa Deville… and Welcome to Hell,” I’ve added a flourish to the end, all the more dramatic. I’m glad I’m wearing makeup because I can feel my face getting redder by the second as we introduce the book and I begin to read. This is going to be harder than I thought, I realize. But then, that was the point. 2017 has been a year of challenging myself. To move outside of my comfort zone. It’s why I began vlogging in the first place. So I know that I have to do this. And I know that I have to share it. Because this was the point of all of it.

I barely look at the camera the entire time—but I stick with it.

It’s funny in a way, and almost cute in others… I was so passionate even then. Some things never change—though I know that I definitely write better than I did then. It’s easier to edit than I expect and the majority of our 29 minutes ends up in the final version. I watch it several more times, add the finishing touches and prepare to share it. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime. Or maybe I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone enough for one video.

The Reading List- Prologue

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The other day I had the frankly bizarre idea that I wanted to try and color code the books on my bookshelf (a part of me wishes I’d also done so by height, but that’s another story), because it seemed like it would be fun. But I’ve also decided that as a challenge to myself I thought I would spend this year reading all of these books from start to finish. In color order as follows:

  1. Six of Crows
  2. Behind Her Eyes
  3. The Cuckoo’s Calling
  4. Becoming Steve Jobs
  5. Yes Please
  6. Enchanted Islands
  7. If I Was Your Girl 
  8. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
  9. The Edge of Everything
  10. Settle for More
  11. The Sun is Also a Star
  12. Killing Monica
  13. Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk
  14. The Possessions
  15. Good as Gone
  16. The Wangs vs. The World
  17. The Princess Diarist
  18. The Underground Railroad
  19. Carry On
  20. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
  21. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
  22. Shrill
  23. Swingtime
  24. Pachinko
  25. Fangirl
  26. the Nest
  27. The After Party
  28. Fates and Furies
  29. The Mothers
  30. Why Not Me
  31. The Girls
  32. Celebrity Run-ins
  33. The Nix

I’ve technically already read If I was Your Girl earlier and I absolutely loved it, so I may replace it with another book just to make it a fair/even 33. Additionally I’ll be returning to this post with my progress and crossing things out as I go. 33 books in the year is a fairly small amount, but considering that I’ve been averaging about maybe 2 or 3 a year, I’d say 33 is a great way to play catch-up. I’d like to write periodic reviews on Fridays of my progress with whatever book I’m on, so I’ll be starting the next Fic Fri post with an update on Six of Crows. 

Just Writer Things

days6The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve noticed a few odd quirks about myself as both a writer and a reader. I’ve always known that I tended too (mostly unintentionally) mentally edit other writers work as I read it. Recently however I’m noticing an interesting pattern, in more cases than not, I find myself frustrated with the word choices of other authors to the point at which it’s almost hard to read a story, and it seems coincidentally or not, to tend towards male authors. I realized this trend when I started ‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill. I was drawn in from the prologue, and elements of the first few pages, but I quickly began to notice that there were occasionally phrasing choices that frustrated me, to the point I had to put it down for a moment.

It’s an odd thing, honestly. Editing other writers (in your head) is one thing, but being unable to read something because of it, is entirely different. It’s frustrating, because I want to be able to enjoy the story. I want to be able to be taken in enough that I don’t even think about it that way, regardless of the whole read like a writer idea, but some things I just can’t seem to read without being frustrated by phrasing choices. Does anyone else notice this when they read a story? 

What I’m Reading: The Hellbound Heart

READA week or so ago I discovered a novel called Abarat by Clive Barker on Scribd. It was an interesting enough book, and one that had the first example I’d ever seen of a great prologue. The name of the author intrigued me though, it sounded familiar, but there was no way it was that Clive Barker.

I decided to look at his other works and as it turned out the author was the very same, creator of the Hellbound Heart the novella upon which the Hellraiser franchise is based. As a big fan of at least several of the films (I think I got to the one in space before I said, perhaps this is enough), then I watched one about Hellraiser being a video game and I kinda thought you know… this also isn’t necessary.

The novella, as much as I’ve read is actually really good, if a lot different from the film, it seems to follow the same characters, though the cenobites changed a bit from the book to film. Take for instance Pinhead, it’s hard to say if he’s the main cenobite in this story or not. He doesn’t seem to be at least not so far, but it’s also interesting that he is described as having a high voice which is definitely not how I remember him.

All in all I’m really enjoying it, and I think I’m going to enjoy the short story collection from several other authors in the universe (from which I believe the video game storyline for that Hellraiser film was taken) Hellbound Hearts. 

What I’m Previewing: Necroscope

I_transp‘m super picky when it comes to books, it’s part of the reason I don’t read as many as I’d like because it takes a lot of work for me to be hooked enough to actually want to continue reading rather than just spending the entire time analyzing the author’s sentence structure choice and trying to see how I would do better. Needless to say it can be exhausting rewriting every sentence in your head, and honestly if that’s how things are going in the story, I’m probably not going to be finishing the story any time soon. Which needless to say makes it sort of difficult to write about reading every week, and so I’ve sort of missed the past few weeks. th_Thurs

Rather than committing to reviewing full novels, I’m going to review a sample of the novel, provided by Scribd/iBooks to give my thoughts, of the book so far and whether or not I think I’ll be continuing on. This week, Necroscope by Brian Lumley.

Necroscope is a horror/thriller which is about a character named Harry Keogh who can talk to the dead, and who is also meant to be hunting crazy evil vampires…

The Good: Skipping past the prologue might be a good idea here. It certainly seems to get better after the prologue.

The Bad: A good amount of writing advice suggests never starting with a prologue and I’m beginning to see why that may be the best advice for some stories. Prologues can be worthwhile and even interesting, but in far too many cases it seems like a prologue is just an excuse to include a terrible scene in the story that you couldn’t place anywhere else. I feel like the idea of an interesting prologue is almost foreign to most writers, which is perhaps why most readers tend to avoid them. Even the prologue to ‘Wicked’ seemed like a scene that wasn’t really necessary to start the book off with.

The Weird: Necroscope unlike a lot of other books doesn’t actually start the story off with it’s main character, he’s mentioned sort of vaguely in the beginning of the book, but it actually took me re-reading the synopsis to know that he was even supposed to be the main character. I think it’s kind of an interesting idea to start a story with a character who technically isn’t the main character, but it’s a choice that could possibly alienate readers.

As of this writing I’ve apparently read 29 (of 612) pages, (funny it seems like more), and thus far it’s hard to say that very much has happened, although it just occurred to me that I was currently in the prologue which may be why the book doesn’t start with the main character.

Consensus: Honestly, having skipped ahead to the actual first chapter I’m going to say sure… at least to a 100 pages or so. I was prepared to say no, but when you actually get past the prologue it becomes far and away more interesting, so I think I’ll take the chance.

About That Literary Fiction Study

days4 copyJonathan Franzen and company must be salivating at the recent ‘study’ that apparently finds literary fiction makes you more empathetic, and maybe that’s in some degree true. Except, why does it have to be literary fiction specifically? I’ve read a few books that are considered literary fiction, the Corrections, The Casual Vacancy, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and of the 3 of them Mr. Penumbra’s was the most interesting, yet the Casual Vacancy had the most character depth as far as characters that might theoretically make one empathic to others, and yet in spite of all of this J.K.Rowling’s other books, Harry Potter are often most cited as having made the generation of kids who read them more empathetic over all and more inclusive of other thoughts and ideas. Begging the question, what’s literary fiction got to do with it?

Slate pointed out another interesting question too, are we really going decide whether or not a book is worth reading based on how good of a person it could theoretically make you? I can’t imagine picking up any novel thinking reading it is going to somehow make me a more empathetic person, you read because you love books, because you want to be taken somewhere else. But the idea that somehow there are good books to read and bad books to read is a little elitist wouldn’t you think? And who’s to even make that judgement?

I don’t like particularly Twilight or Fifty Shades but does reading either of them make you a bad person? Probably not. Do I think people who love books should diversify their reading as much as possible, certainly. But I can tell you, of the literary books I have personally read, I don’t feel any different for having read them, and honestly in a lot of ways I don’t feel any different for having read non-fiction or genre books either. How they’ve changed me versus others who didn’t read them is such a strange question. I’m not even sure you can really accurately measure empathy based on a persons’s reading habits anyway, there are probably plenty of outliers and certainly every person is different. It must stand to reason then that some people were taught empathy in the home and these stories may have added to it?

I’m no scientist, (except for my Bachelors of Science that says I kind of am, in graphic design) but I remember the scientific theory from grade school, and when you come up with a hypothesis that would almost be impossible to accurately measure, you create an experiment with very limited parameters. And really we have to ask ourselves why does it matter? Far be it for me to question anyone’s scientific exploration but is this really the question we need to be asking ourselves in 2016? There’s still so much scientific work that needs to be done on diseases and medicine and yes I realize that the study wasn’t done by those type of scientists, or any if I recall, but even then… there are better scientific questions of a literary nature surely.

The Books That Pull You Through

days4 copyOver my vacation I stopped into a thrift store in Southern California called Out of the Closet, which was featured in several episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race (arguably one of my favorite reality shows). The store happened to be right down the street from the hotel my mother and I were staying at in Long Beach and we decided we absolutely had to pop in. The clothes were actually pretty cute (though I didn’t find much in my size) but the real treasure was practically mint condition audiobooks for the second, third, and fourth Harry Potter books, which were like $6 and $8! Naturally we snatched up two and four without a second thought, and we started listening to the audiobooks in the car. We had purchased the Deathly Hallows audiobook the year it had come out because we were going to be going to California that night and my mother who to this day has never read any of the books, wanted to at least hear the latest one while I read along with the book at hand. So to be listening to this book, all these years later, in California no less, was wonderfully comforting.

This trip proved enlightening on several fronts, but one thing I realized was how much I had missed the stories, and how much hearing them again really inspired me to want to get back to my own writing.

For me, the Harry Potter series had come to me, at not the altogether greatest time in my life, and yet, it continued to make me feel great again and again. It was my escape into another world and as I have always said it was the reason I started writing to begin with, what I remembered through these audiobooks is that at our toughest moments sometimes all we need is a good book to make us feel something like normal again, and if I could ever be that for someone else, that would be a dream come true.