Thursday, November 24, 2016

Beautiful Books: November 2016

November has proven to be a busy month. I started a new project with a few friends: a high fantasy serial story called Thieves of Bakkaj. Basically, the four of us will switch off writing chapters to tell a story about a handful of heroic thieves. And it's going to be epic. The first four chapters are already available to read, and we'll be releasing a new chapter every week. Check it out and let me know what you think! (Also, I'm super stoked for you to read because this is the project Ryker and Wren are from!)

In addition, I've been rewriting and editing A Girl and Her Dragon for Nanowrimo. How is it going? Well, I'm glad you asked. This month's Beautiful Books link-up is all about mid-Nano progress! Here are the questions. Huzzah!

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
Surprisingly, my mental state is fine. Nanowriomo is actually the calm part of my mental state right now. Overall, it's going splendid, which is not a word I ever thought I'd use to describe the editing and rewriting process. But I'm making progress and ideas are coming together. I'm impressed with myself.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Since I'm editing/rewriting the middle of the draft, I don't have a "first sentence." Instead, I'm going to share a favorite line:

"But here, the books lived and breathed. Here the spines squabbled for space. Here the ink lifted right off the page and danced before Brielle’s eyes."

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Making me pick a favorite character is like picking a favorite pet or a favorite food. It's hard. And I can't choose. Nope, no. I can't. I love them all.

The whole gang

What do you love about your novel so far?
The characters are the heart of the novel. They are guiding this story (which is great except the plot kind of just gets sidetracked at times). I just love that each character is so distinct and their own person without even being real.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
I'm sure I have, but nothing significant comes to mind. Since I'm editing/rewriting, I've been looking over my "baby" draft of this novel, and oh, boy, there are tons of awkward taco scenes that should never, ever, ever see the light of day again. I'll just burn them. It's fine.

This kind of happened also.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
Usually, I like to write beginnings--the thrill of a new story sweeping me away is what I live for. But since I'm rewriting, I'm actually focused on the middle of the story. And surprisingly, I'm enjoying the journey. I like putting in the conflict points and watching the story unfold as the characters grow and learn. It's amazing.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
My writing habits consist of thinking of great ideas at inopportune times when I can't sit down to write, spending too much time working myself up to writing, and also writing late into the night so I'm dead tired the next morning. I don't have a specific snack to eat, but I've learned keeping water nearby is definitely good. (Who knew writing made one so thirsty?)

I've been listening mainly to the soundtrack for Stranger Things, which has been oddly motivating and conducive to focusing. My novel doesn't relate at all to the 80s-style synth music of Strange Things, but it works.

My writing space is pretty much anywhere I can sit down and write.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
It depends on the person. I've been telling a few close friends about my progress, but otherwise, I'm find just barreling through this thing by myself. So maybe more like the Flash then Batman?

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
I guess I keep writing because I want to see how the story comes together. I want that sense of accomplishment when I finish off the draft and know I did the thing. It's also helpful to have people begging to read your story, so you're motivated to do good and not give them a messy pile of writing vomit.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
1. Carve out time every day. Even if it's not necessarily writing toward a specific work or if it's only ten minutes, writing every day gets you into a habit. Habits help get things accomplished. When I don't write, I tend to slack off and then suddenly it's a month and I haven't written anything. Bad.

2. Find time to read. We all know that to be a writer you have to write a lot and read a lot. So make sure you have time to read. Sometimes we need a break from writing--it's okay to do that. Just don't binge-read an entire book series in one sitting instead of writing. Balance is key.

3. Have fun. I know, cheesy. But if you're not having fun while writing, why should you continue? Why should you write? If a story isn't working for you--if you're not having fun writing it--put it aside or toss it completely. It's okay to write something fun, that's the whole point of writing.

Tell me about your NaNoWriMo month below!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

"Children can sail easily over the fence that separates reality from make-believe." -E.B. White

Sometimes I find myself so overwhelmed with a pile of books that I completely ignore the entire pile and go find something else to read. That's what happened when I read Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.

I had plenty of other books to read, but my mom told me I should at least look at this book and put it on my list to read some day. Instead, I sat down, opened the book, and read through it all in two sittings. It was definitely worth it.

Surprisingly, I didn't know a whole lot about E.B. White's life. I knew he wrote Charlotte's Web, but I honestly didn't even know if he was a man or a woman. I had no clue he wrote Stuart Little or that it was banned from several libraries when it was released in 1945. Or that he wrote for The New Yorker and had a snarky personality or contributed to The Elements of Style (which I have either read or heard of frequently in college). I didn't know when he was born or when he died or what his life was like. The only thing I knew was that his name was printed on the cover of a book about a pig and a spider that I must have read at some point in my childhood.

So Some Writer! was a pleasant surprise for a number of reasons. The dedication to documenting this beloved children's author was astounding. There were pictures from when E.B.--known as Andy--was a baby until the last years of his life. There were letters and drawings and manuscripts of his work collected in this book. It was fascinating to see it all collected together.

In addition, the book was set up differently than most biographies. It was kind of like Melissa Sweet did an art journal of his life instead of just regular chapters and paragraphs. So there was cool backgrounds and art collages and all sorts of knick-knacks thrown across each spread. The detail of what Melissa Sweet did to bring E.B. White's history, writing, and imagination to life was touching. There were moments I paused to admire the small, intricate details she perfectly placed on the pages. (Can I please be paid to do this for an author? Because it's so cool.)

The actual narration/story of E.B. White was interesting. It, obviously, focused on the writing aspect of his life, but it also revealed details of how and where the stories came from. It was interesting to read, and I found myself easily relating to this man who was born in 1899 and died years before I was born.

It's not often that I enjoy non-fiction, but Some Writer! swept me away. It was an interesting take for a biography, especially of a man that had so much to offer the world. I want more biographies like this. And now I want to read all his children's books just like the book suggested.

Have you read anything by E.B. White? What is your favorite biography?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Audiobook Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

Ever since Star Wars: The Force Awakens released in theaters, I've thought about reading Star Wars books again. I did a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away?) when I was young. I demolished all the Jedi Knight and Jedi Quest books. I read tons and tons of the children's Star Wars books. But there are so many. So a few months ago, I started at the beginning--the chronological beginning--and told myself I wanted to read all the books under the "Legends" heading in chronological order. It was a terrible decision, but I'm going to keep trying.

But I took a break from that list--that forever long list--and decided to read the novelization of The Force Awakens. I've been told it contains a lot of interesting scenes and bits of dialogue that weren't in the movie. (*peers around suspiciously*) But sometimes I have too many books to read. So, I checked out the audiobook from my library.

I've listened to quite a few audiobooks in the last year, and almost none of them have music of special effects. (No, the weirdo songs in A Series of Unfortunate of Events does not count!) So it was delightful to pop in the first CD and hear not only familiar Star Wars music, but special effects from the film such as BB-8 beeping or ships flying or lightsabers humming. It was brilliant. Maybe all Star Wars audiobooks are all like this and I'm just missing out.

While the writing isn't the most stellar, it was still fun to listen to (especially on an eight-hour drive). The narrator, Marc Thompson, was great. He did iconic voices fairly well but also had his own voice for the narration parts. I enjoyed his voice-acting ability.

There was a lot of moments--dialogue, scenes, etc.--that made me stop and clutch my car's steering wheel with excitement. There are things that are enlightening about this book and the theories fluttering around the Internet. I am considering reading the print version just so I can see these moments with my eyes. (And maybe take pictures or make notes or do research or something. You know, nothing huge. Or crazy. Nope. No.)

Overall, the audiobook of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an exciting, enjoyable ride. It follows the movie, obviously, but also reveals a few other tidbits as well. I think it's worth your time if you like Star Wars as much as I do. (Which is a lot.)

Also, from here on out, I should just listen to Star Wars audiobooks instead of read them. It's much more thrilling.

Which Star Wars books are you favorite? Do you like to listen to audiobooks?