May 24

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen

False PrinceIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.
The False Prince is the first book in the trilogy and I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d think of when I started.  It was the right genre, but it was more literary than contemporary in feel. However, once I got past the first chapter Jennifer A. Nielsen held my attention. The story reminded me of Disney’s Aladdin and Prince and the Pauper. Trickery and wit allows the hero to survive the danger and save the day.
I must admit I suspected Sage’s true identity fairly early on, though I’m not sure if it was because the clues were obvious.  It could have simply been that I am older than the audience was intended for. But I still had a “What the…” reaction when I got to the reveal of that particular plot point and it wasn’t the good kind. I felt cheated and had hoped the story would go in a different direction. There were also times when Sage’s arrogance annoyed me, but considering his age and his history, his arrogance was realistic.
What didn’t seem realistic to me was how wily Sage was. He did things, anticipated things in a way that seemed almost prophetic. He thought pretty far into the future or made very good, very quick decisions on how to act, which is the case is not explained in any of the three books. But he’s at least consistent in those decisions.

RunawayKingJust weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
The sequel to the series, Runaway King, is decent. The story’s beginning caught my eye much faster than it’s older brother, but I also remember the particular story less than the other two. This one relies heavily on the whole “Prince in disguise” motif with some pirates thrown in.
His arrogance still exists in this book.  And he often sees those older than him as stupid and unwilling to see the truth. Again with his almost prophetic vision, he starts making plans for events that don’t even happen until book three. This book is truly a set-up for the third and final book, and while interesting, does suffer from that “middle book” syndrome trilogies often have in a second book.
Shadow ThroneWar has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.
His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

The finale kept my attention.  However, there were parts where I felt the storyline went on far too long.  Their was a lot of mourning without purpose and a lot of tracking down/chase scenes. The tension was tight though so I was never really bored with the book. His arrogance has dwindled down and he takes advice and help easier in this book.  But this book had the most problems of the three I think.  The motives for a few people weren’t clear until the end, and when the reason Mendenwal joined the war came out I wanted to yell, “That’s it?” King Humphrey went to war because of a lie Jaron’s father told and the fact Jaron challenged him to a sword fight when he was 10 for insulting his mother? The fact that “I promised him half of Carthya as his spoils of victory.” Felt thrown in as well.  Another issue I have: we never learn what happens to Mavis. He was a minor character, but I still wonder did he survive the war? Did Mavis and Jaron ever see each other again?
The three books are worth a read though none of them can be called flawless. And my favorite was the first, which really could have been a stand-alone. The series is male-dominated, but that doesn’t mean women don’t have a role. Imogen, and the princess both fight to protect the kingdom in different ways. Neither of them are trained to fight so a lot of it is with kitchen knives or risking their lives to ensure a plan works.  They both save Jaron at different times, in different ways. Their are also women in the story who prove ferocious, determined to protect their homes.
Have you read the Ascendance Trilogy? What did you think?

March 2

Plans for Extended Critical Essay (ECE)

For my upcoming semester at Spalding University,  I need to turn in a 20-30 page essay referred to as an Extended Critical Essay, or ECE,  Since I imagine three and a half-weeks between each draft wouldn’t be enough time for me to do all my research, reading, writing and edits, I am working on gathering all my information now.

I’m not sure what my topic will be on. I’m leaning toward writing emotion into a story or something on world building.  Maybe I can somehow combine the two…. How character’s emotions can help with world building in YA. I may decide to go in a totally different direction as well. But I’m hopefully giving myself enough time to do the research and come up with a final decision.

In fact, I plan to write mini-essays on the two topics while I am doing the research, with the hope that it’ll help me build material/resources for the ECE I will need to work on. I would love feedback from people as I make progress, differing opinions, suggestions on what other resources to look at, no matter what stage I am in during this endeavor.

My first step is to find the resources that will help me write the mini-essays and eventually the ECE. I would appreciate recommendations on:

  • Non-Fiction books/articles on Writing Emotion
  • Non-Fiction books/articles on World Building
  • YA Fiction that is a good example of one or both elements.
  • Any other resources that you think may be of interest/help to me.

Thanks in advance for your recommendations and comments.

November 18

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for the entirety of November.  For those who don’t know National Novel Writing Month is when you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  This happens in November.

The month is over half-way over and I find myself ahead of schedule by a lot. I’ve never been ahead, in fact, with one exception, I’ve never hit the goal in the allotted time. I think the main difference from now and earlier years is that I’m not allowing myself to edit what I’ve written and I’ve wanted to write this book for a long time.

I don’t expect perfection when I take part in NaNoWriMo. When the goal is to write 1,667 words a day, you can’t expect anything near perfection. The goal, for me, is to get as much of the story written as possible by deadline. By not allowing myself to over think what I’ve written my stories develop more organically and I’ll often find more creative solutions to plot issues than if I took my time and thought my way through the issue.

Those are the positives.  The negatives are that I often end up with a lot of material I end up needing to delete and discard, because I didn’t edit and what I have doesn’t actually work well with the rest of the story.  I’ll find a plot hole the size of Wisconsin that needs patched up or eliminated some other way. And I often have a lot of rewriting to do so that I’m showing instead of telling.

My favorite thing about participating in NaNoWriMo is that the hardest part of writing–which used to be the easiest for me–writing the book is mainly done by November 30th.  I then get to start editing it, rewriting it and making it better. Yes, editing is easier for me now days.  Maybe that’s normal for writers–the editing becomes easier than writing new material.

This years novel is actually the beginning of what I was planning on being my sequel. With what I’ve written so far, I’m getting the strong impression that this “novel” won’t actually be long enough to be a novel. That I’ll, in fact, need to add what I end up with to the end of what I have written. Since what I have written isn’t technically long enough to be a novel by itself, this may be for the best. But I won’t know until I actually get everything written and then re-written and cleaned up.

If I do end up combining the two things together than I’ll have a lot of editing to do, including parts of the novel that I have had written a long time, simply because I’ll have more time to introduce concepts that I’m only now touching on in this “sequel” because it wasn’t relevant to what I’ve now written.  It’s amazing how much a few pages of writing, a simple challenge can change your writing.

I also enjoy the community, and encouragement that can be found on NaNoWriMo. There are write-a-thons available throughout the month where you can meet up with other writers to write. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, and potentially new critique partners, friends and resources.  Prizes are given for hitting 50,000 words.

If you’d like to finish a book or see how many words you can reach by Nov. 30th, I’d urge you to try NaNoWriMo. Or, try to start from the beginning next November.

June 20

Princess Bride Review

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? 

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. 

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. 

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. 

In short, it’s about everything

I read the abridged version and judging by what Goldman said took place in the chapters/sections that he took out, I’m glad I did. I don’t think I would have read the entirety of Morgenstern’s story if Goldman’s descriptions are accurate. I don’t read satire often, so I more than likely wouldn’t have even seen those bits as satire. And given up, wondering “What is the Point?” of showing this?

The book and movie have a lot of similarities. They are pretty close.  However you get much deeper character understanding.  Fezzik’s parents started enrolling him in fights when he was eight and dragged him from country to country to compete despite him hating fighting, until they died. You learn of how Inigo lived after his father died, along with the details of his father’s death. Even Miracle Max has an interesting history that’s revealed in the story.

Inigo and Fezzik did not have as easy a time getting Westley out of the Pet of Despair, which is actually called the Zoo of Death in the book.  After getting passed the Albino, they have to get past snakes, bats and other horrors.

The ending is different.  Everyone gets on the horse to escape, like they do in the movie.  However, that’s not where the book ends.  The book ends on a cliffhanger, leaving readers to decide whether and how the characters get a happy ending.  After all, remember, Count Rugen did do a lot of damage to Inigo during their battle. So he’s bleeding badly.  The ‘miracle’ Max performed on Westley is starting to reverse itself, which is reasonable with how it’s written in the book.  Fezzik and Buttercup also get in trouble.  And Prince Humperdink and his men are in hot pursuit of all of them.

The book gives a lot more characterization, details and a few extra adventures than the movie does. In the book you get to meet the Princess of Guilder, Buttercup’s parents and see how Humperdink ended up meeting Buttercup, among other things. I enjoyed this book. However, the movie is a good representation of the book. Or at least the abridged version. Unless you’re wanting a deeper understanding of the characters or the world, you don’t need to read it. But you won’t regret it either.

May 5

Love of Reading

Had to write a few essays and thought I’d share what I came up with.  I could have added a lot more details to this particular one, perhaps enough to fill a book, but decided to focus on words and trigger books, which fit the essay topic better.  Here’s what I wrote:

I learned to read early. I was two when I started recognizing words.  However, several moves and some horrible school systems resulted in me hating to read for several years.  My grandmother sent me a lot of books for my tenth birthday and out of complete boredom I decided to try reading one.  That one book hooked me and my family has never been able to get my nose out of a book for any length of time. 

Shortly after re-developing my love of reading, I started going to my brother’s first grade class during my recess.  I would pull students out of class, especially my brother Drew, for a few minutes and have him or her read books to me.  At the age of ten I found I enjoyed helping people learn how to read more than running around outside. So I took advantage of the opportunity, every chance I had. 

We moved several more times and my interests went elsewhere for a while. However my enjoyment of helping people read never stopped. I gave several people books I absolutely loved, despite knowing some of them hated reading. If they gave the book a chance, they usually started reading regularly.  As I grew older, I seemed to become increasingly skilled at identifying ‘trigger’ books for people. 

I remember going to the bookstore, one of my favorite pastimes. My youngest brother, Cory, was with me, despite the fact you could barely get him to read anything.  He kind of wandered around, waiting for me to be done.  But, following some instinct, I went to the middle-grade books instead of my usual YA or even Adult Romance section.  There I found a book that, though I wouldn’t normally read, I thought Cory might enjoy. 

With that thought I made a deal with Cory.  We’d each pay half for the book, about two dollars each, and share the book.  I’m not sure if I’d made Cory curious about the book enough for him to agree or if he simply thought he was helping me feed my addiction.  I may never know, but he agreed. 

I read the book quickly that night then gave it to Cory to read. I left for school.  Apparently I’d found his trigger book.  The next thing I heard he was reading other books, some were three or four hundred pages long.  He still reads regularly and our tastes have often crossed paths. My mother jokingly complains that she has to spend money on books for Cory now. It used to be just her and me. 

Katelynn was born a few months before my eighteenth birthday.  Thanks to her mother’s recreational activities while she was pregnant, my half-sister was born with disabilities.  She’s now in second grade and in special-ed.  After living with me and her father for a year, I’ve been told I’ve corrupted her. 

When she first arrived in Idaho, her reading level was at a level zero, not even a Kindergarten level. The first day she arrived, I took her to the library and got her her own library card.  I’ve never known anyone to be so excited over having a library card. She really didn’t use the card however, until school started up for her. 

 The school, her father and I have worked with her over the last year. Within three months of school starting, she was reading at a level of someone who’d been learning to read for nine months. She checks out books from the library whenever she can, not just movies. 

I often find that when Katelynn sees me reading, she’ll pull out her own books and read them aloud. The longest she’s done this for was an hour. She insisted on having her own journal after seeing me write with so much frequency.  She does spend some time writing, but she’s still challenged so doesn’t write as much as I think she will once she gets more comfortable with the concept. 

With her I don’t imagine I’ll need to find a trigger book.  But I don’t think she’d have made as much progress in school if it weren’t for me spending time breaking words down into simple letters, or using tricks that helped me when I was learning to read.  Sometimes all she needed was to see the word upside down to figure out what a certain one was. Sometimes she needs a more complicated trick to help her figure it out. And I enjoy seeing her pride when she does recognize or figure out what a word is.

I still love helping people with words. However, outside of working with Katelynn, I don’t really have the opportunity any more.  The majority of my friends are avid readers now.  Drew, my oldest younger brother, does not have an interest in reading or getting into the habit and his daughter, as cute and sharp as she is, lives 2,000 miles away and is a little young to focus on teaching her how to read yet. But the moment she’s old enough and Daddy’s back is turned, I plan on corrupting my only niece with the love of words like I have so many others. 

March 23

Good Things Can Make Your Writing Stronger Too

As a writer, I know the importance of receiving a good critique from an honest eye. I appreciate the comments I get, the suggestions on how to make my work better, perhaps too much.  When I’m receiving critiques, I often find myself skipping over the complimentary stuff, almost ignoring it completely and focus on the “may improve” suggestions.  That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the occasional “Good Job” written on the manuscript, but it’s a secondary desire to improving my writing.

This, unfortunately, has caused problems for me, mainly when I try to critique someone else’s writing. I try to give those I critique what I want most–ideas on improvements. I will, on occasion, put a “Great Job” on the page, but those are extremely rare, mainly because I understand that the best way to improve is to get critiques and work on improving the area of confusion. This has left some people disheartened, even some who I believe to be talented writers.   As an MFA student, I am required to give critiques to classmates–a mixture of good and how to improves.  Although I’m good at identifying what needs improved, I really have problems thinking up the positives in the work to mention.  I’m not sure why, other than I’ve never really focused my attention on the positives I received during my reviews.

I can absolutely love a story but when I write something up, I’ll start listing the negatives, what bothered me about it and what I thought needed changed–even if what I’m reviewing has already been published.  This works out for me as well, since that lets me know what kind of things I need to avoid if I’m going to write a book in a similar genre.  Then, when I’m done, the  few positives I listed  beside the (possible) super-long list of negatives appear miniscule, pitying and/or may be invisible.

Recently I’ve read a book where the author pointed out that identifying the positives and negatives in a work can be beneficial to ones writing. The negatives I’ve already mentioned, will let me know what to avoid, what I don’t like, etc.  The positives, however, will let me know what I need to do more often.   For example, I nailed a description on page 32.  By knowing that, I can try using the same method used to get that description to create other great ones.  In that way, I’m improving skills that I’m already decent at, not just improving things that I’m poor at.

With that realization, I’m hoping that I can write up a more balanced review/critique every time I write one.  I don’t imagine this will be easy.  I’m almost blind to the positives in someone’s work, especially if the piece isn’t something that makes me go  “BEST BOOK EVER!!!”  But I think that learning to balance the positives and the negatives in a review or critique will serve both the writer and I better.  I may need help reaching this goal. And if my dear readers have time, I would appreciate a nudge whenever I focus too much on the negative. Remind me that I want to try thinking up more positives.  Lately, I feel like the latest books I’ve reviewed have come across as negative, when in fact I may have enjoyed the book.  And if you have any questions as to whether I liked a book or not, let me know.  I’d be more than happy to clear that up.

So, don’t do what I’ve done for years, ignore the positive and learn from the negative.  The positives in your writing could make you a stronger writer too.

What about you?  Do you focus on the negative?  The positive?  What about when the comments are from someone else and directed at your own work?

March 8

The Things They Carried Critical Review

 

The Great Descriptions They Carried

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carriedportrays the Vietnam war through numerous short vignettes. Some stories are fiction others non. In his short story, “Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong,”a story in which O’Brien admits he’s not sure if the story is real or not, Tim O’Brien reveals through internal and external description how war can rob a child robs of their innocence.
The story starts with Lt. Mark Fossie arranging to have his girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell, brought to Vietnam for a visit.  Medic Rat Kiley, who narrates the story to his companions, describes Mary Anne upon her arrival to the Song Tra Bong outpost as follows:

The cute blonde—just a kid, just barely out of high school—she shows up with a suitcase and one of those plastic cosmetic bags. (…)  She’s got on culottes.  White culottes and this sexy pink sweater. (90)

Kiley provides a pretty picture of Mary Anne Bell with three sentences, and readers see the words Kiley didn’t say: innocence, an innocent girl.  By using the term “kid” to describe Mary Anne, Kiley gets readers to immediately think of the innocence of childhood.  The mention of her being “barely out of high school” has connotations of her still growing up and having little or no experience out in the world.  The plastic cosmetic bag is an interesting detail.  By itself, the detail can attest to her vanity and naiveté.  Here she’s brought a non-essential item into a warzone, a place where people are too busy fighting for their lives to worry about their appearance or how someone else looks.

According to wisegeek.com, Culottes are “a form of split skirt. They are usually made full or calf length, and consist of a pair of loose, flowing trousers which strongly resemble a skirt until the wearer engages in vigorous physical activity.”  In other words, a fashion accessory that is like the cosmetic bag: useless in a warzone, pretty, but impractical. The fact they are white easily refers to purity, the untarnished innocence that white is often associated with.  The pink sweater returns readers to Kiley’s descriptor of “kid,” which is when the favorite color of girls is most often pink.
Mary Anne Bell’s innocence in reillustrated a few pages later when readers are given the history between Mary Anne and Mark Fossie:

Mary Ann Bell and Mark Fossie had been sweethearts since grammar school.  From the sixth grade on they had known for a fact that someday they would be married, and live in a fine gingerbread house near Lake Erie and have three healthy yellow-haired children and grow old together and no doubt die in each other’s arms and be buried in the same walnut casket. (94)

This description shows the idolized life Mary Anne sees for herself.  O’Brien chose his words carefully to convey that this was a fantasy she had, without actually saying it out right.  He mentions they were “sweethearts since grammar school.”  Grammar school refers to a time of innocence and a lack of expectations.  The fact she would get married “someday” instead of a specific date also indicates she’s thinking of a vague concept of time that can easily slip through her fingers.  There is no basis of reality to the assumption yet, no date set.  The “gingerbread house” is possibly the strongest evidence that this is a fantasy, as it refers to the “Hansel and Gretel” fairytale told to children, which links readers back to the “grammar school” reference.

O’Brien also shows Mary Anne’s loss of innocence with descriptors in the story.  Changes in Mary Anne start to show around the time she starts helping treat injured people and saving lives. She also learns how to use M-16s. Within weeks of arriving:

 

There was a new imprecision in the way Mary Anne expressed her thoughts on certain subjects.  Not necessarily three kids, she’d say.  Not necessarily a house on Lake Erie.  “Naturally we’ll still get married,” she’d tell him. “But it doesn’t have to be right away.  Maybe travel first.  Maybe live together.  Just test it out, you know?” (99)

The new imprecision shows her dreams and plans have changed.  She’s gone from the childish certainty that she will marry and have three kids, to a more adult attitude about maybe this wasn’t what she wanted; a realization that there is more out there than marriage and motherhood.  She could do other things with her life, like travel.  Mark Fossie noticed other differences about Mary Anne:

He couldn’t pin it down.  Her body seemed foreign somehow—too stiff in places, too firm where the softness used to be.  The bubbliness was gone.  The nervous giggling, too.  When she laughed now, which was rare, it was only when something struck her as truly funny.  Her voice seemed to reorganize itself at a lower pitch.  (99)

The description of Mary Anne being “stiff in places, too firm where the softness used to be,” is a metaphor.  The softness and flexibility of her childhood has faded, and became hard, adult, tarnished. The bubbliness, and the nervous giggling, are often associated with childhood as well, innocence.  The fact her voice reorganized itself at a lower pitch is another indication of her growing up, stripping the childish innocence she arrived with. All these changes occurred as she learned more about war, saw more of the war: learning how to shoot, how to live like a soldier, learning how to treat wounds.

The last time Kiley says he saw Mary Ann Bell was after she’d disappeared for weeks with the greenies, special force members, and Mark Fossie, after waiting a long time for Anne Mary to come out, goes into the special forces building:

It took a few seconds, Rat said, to appreciate the full change. In part it was her eyes: utterly flat and indifferent.  There was no emotion in her stare, no sense of the person behind it. But the grotesque part, he said, was her jewelry.  At the girl’s throat was a necklace of human tongues. Elongated and narrow, like pieces of blackened leather, the tongues were threaded along a length of copper wire, one overlapping the next, the tips curled upward as if caught in a final shrill syllable. (110-111)

The eyes are known as windows to the soul.  Those who are innocent, tend to have a playful spark in their eyes, a sense of life and wonderment. But in this description her eyes are perfectly flat and indifferent, no emotion in her stare, no sense of the person behind it, a sign that any innocence she once had has now been killed. She has been corrupted by the war and the person she once was has been murdered.  The jewelry she wears is also a sign of who she has become.  Instead of the jewelry being sexy, cute or pretty, it’s grotesque.  The tongue necklace shows she has nonchalance about the lives that have been taken, a lack of horror, and is a sort of badge of what she’s done and lost: her innocence.

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, possess a short story titled Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong. The story is narrated by Rat Kiley, and through O’Brien’s word choices and descriptions effectively show how Mary Anne Bell and how soldiers lost her innocence by going to Vietnam.

Works Cited

O’Brien, Tim. “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway, 1990. 89-116. Print.
Smith, S.E., and Bronwyn Harris. “What Are Culottes?” WiseGeek. Conjecture, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

March 7

The Things They Carried

They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul

I knew right off I wouldn’t like this book.  I haven’t found a war-centered story that I do like, at least not a historical one. I also remembered hearing book reports about The Things They Carried when I was in high school and not feeling an inkling of interest toward it. However the book was required reading for my second semester of graduate school so I sat down and actually read the book.

The book did not bore me to the point its cousins normally do. The book was focused on war but it seemed to be more than what a war-story is. I’m not sure how to explain it. The story has several short stories in it which allowed the author to address the aftereffects of war, the choices made before one went to war and the horrors that may be seen during the war.  Some of the stories are true, others are admittedly fictitious. The author spoke to the reader in parts, discussing how to write a good war story, his opinions on life and war and what inspired some of the stories he wrote. He has some interesting views and insights, but nothing in the book made me want to go: “I must buy this!”  I can see why it’s so popular, why it’s seen as powerful, but in the end I was glad I got my copy from the library.

Since I’m not into war stories, the biggest compliment I can give it is that the book didn’t bore me to tears.  I managed to read through the book without dreading having to read more.  The chapters were normally pretty short.  But I imagine those interested in true, historical war stories would probably find this book enthralling.

My critical review on this book will be posted on Friday if you want a more…academic view on the book.

December 26

June Casagrande and Grammar

June Casagrande has a unique take when it comes to teaching Grammar to writers. She is the autthor of the weekly syndicated “A Word, Please” grammar column that runs in Southern California, Florida, and Texas. She runs the GrammarUnderground.com grammar tips website.  She has worked for the Los Angeles Times’ community news division as a reporter, features writer, copy editor.  She currently copy edits Special Sections of the Los Angeles Times and teaches copy editing online for UC San Diego Extension.

 She has also published three books, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, Mortal Syntax and It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences, and I’ve read all three.

My all time favorite is Grammar Snobs.  I found it years ago, found it funny and informative. If memory serves, Grammar Snobs does focus more on AP style rules than any other style, but the lessons in it are helpful, make rules easy to remember and often funny.

Casagrande does mention her book Grammar Snobs a few times in Mortal Syntax.  Mortal Syntax doesn’t have the same amount of humor in it as Grammar Snobs, but it remains an informative reference guide on rules and usage, such as “I could care less”  or “I wish I was taller,” or “I rifle through my desk.”  She explains why it is or is not correct and if their are better alternatives to the usage presented.

It was the Best of Sentences, seems to lose all the humor that Casagrande had in Grammar Snobs. But the book is an effective source for any writer who wants to improve their writing skills.  On several occasions, Casagrande would start on a grammar lesson that I felt I grasped well, but she’d introduce the topic in a new way and twisted my way of looking at the concept; a different way of looking at without changing the way I knew it work. This book focuses on the sentence structure used, but you’re not having to diagram sentences.

Every lesson in all three books are told in short vignettes, making it ideal for a busy writer who has only a few minutes in line, a few minutes in the bathroom or a few minutes in the car to read. An entire lesson could be read in that short time.  The books are organized in a way so that they are great reference books.

I recommend all three books to anyone who does any type of writing.  Casagrande can make learning writing rules entertaining, and easily entertaining.  They’re all fairly cheap books to purchase as well.

November 20

And I’m back!!!

I’ve been gone for a while. Time just managed to escape me but I’ve had a lot going on recently, some of it too personal to say on a public blog, but others are writing-related.  I also suspected my blogging would die down once I was out of school and will probably pick back up when I’m back in school. I haven’t gotten a handle on writing a blog semi-regularly yet.

Anyways, to update you on what I’ve been doing:

I have a freshly edited draft of Shadowed.  Now I can start working on the changes I realized I’d need to make while I was working through this latest draft of Shadowed. Afterwards, I’ll go through the draft looking for other things that need changed or written better.

The story has changed so much during this draft that I no longer believe Shadowed is the best title for it, not that it was perfect for the story before the massive changes to the book..  I’ve continued looking for a new title for the book though and I keep returning to a phrase I used in my book: Land of Blood and Sunlight. Now whether I call it Land of Blood and Sunlight  or  simply Blood and Sunlight, if I use it, I don’t know. Any opinions?

One of my friends, Cyna of Your Killing Me, has been working on making a book cover for my story.  Some of you may have already seen the one my mother made. The picture is a scene from Shadowed, which remains relatively unchanged even with the major changes I recently made to it. This one was made primarily of oils.  And came to life after I gave my mother multiple descriptions and searched the internet for hours for pictures that looked similar to the characters I imagined. A lot of emails and back and forth commentary later, we got the result to the right. She left the title off so that should I change the name of the book, as I’m leaning towards doing, I can simply change the title on the computer.  The title and byline  is  my own work.

Cyna is using the computer to make the cover.  The first cover she came up with was nice, very clean, and much more traditional, less artsy, but it didn’t feel right to me. I told her what I would like to see changed, sorted through several images with her and saw the rough draft of the new cover today. I like this version much better.  Their were a few things I asked to have changed and we sorted through images again.   I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.  Once the cover is complete, I’ll probably post it here for viewing.

For those who are curious both my mother and Cyna are always willing to discuss the possibility of working on other projects. Both of them have an eye for imagery that I envy and have patience. I may be prejudiced, but I’d recommend either of them for projects.

In January 2013, I become Vice President of Communications for the Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. This will be an interesting new challenge for me as I’ve only had training in communications. I’ll also be starting another semester in school in May, which will end in October, and working as many hours as I can at my job, while working toward my writing goals. Phew.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But I’m looking forward to it.

Lately, I’ve been consuming books like chocolate and got together with a few friends to discuss one of them.  You’ll see the results of that discussion on tomorrows post.  I hope you enjoy the change in presentation.