Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Day



So in addition to an earthquake shaking us up in New York for thirty seconds, I finished this novel the other day and I want to tell you guys about it, because, as usual, it has spawned an idea. And it's really, really good and you should run out and get it right now.

The book is called One Day by David Nicholls. It is about Dexter and Emma, who meet at their college graduation on July 15, 1988. The book then follows Dex and Em through their lives--their friendship, careers, mistakes, drunken nights, relationships--every July 15th for the next twenty years. So basically, chapter one is July 15, 1988 and chapter two is July 15, 1989.

What I loved about this premise is that there is a great deal of reality, despite the clear fictional structure. Some years, it seems, Dex and Em have been talking and hanging out a lot and so, when July 15th rolls around, they are hanging out together. Other years, they've lost touch with each other or are plain busy, so they are living their separate lives.

I underlined a few lines that I loved (in pencil. I only do this in paperbacks and only in books I really adore.)

From July 15, 1993:

Sometimes, when it's going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery.

I think what I loved about this and really connected with, was the truth of the characters and their adult lives. Emma is a bookworm and an aspiring writer who spends some time working in a truly horrid Mexican restaurant, where it is mentioned that the music there is on a loop. Utterly reminds me of my job, that did. Beyond that though, I felt chills at the simplicity of the writing and it made me think about why I was trying to be so over elaborate in my own stuff at the moment.

I'd been warned that the ending was "something else." Yeah, it really was. It kind of sucker-punched me. I wouldn't say it was as shocking as the ending of Atonement for me but it certainly came close.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Because sometimes it's nice to borrow other people's characters instead of analyzing your own.

So I wrote this after re-reading some old fanfiction on my computer and online. Because sometimes it's nice to borrow other people's characters instead of analyzing your own. 

Author's Note: I want my season 2 of Downton Abbey now. I saw this clip and of course, my mind spun off into directions. Also, I can't remember the last time I wrote a fanfic based on a show or a movie, so….be gentle.
Disclaimer: I don't Downton Abbey. Obviously. If I did own it, it would be the Branson and Sybil show.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The rant about race

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help on cover selection:


I've been thinking about race a lot lately anyhow, but reading and finishing The Help has me ruminating on the topic, so just bear with me for the epic length of this post. A lot of this--most of it--is because of my book, which is not nearly as finished or polished or as complex, as of yet, as The Help. And of course, since The Help is set in the American South in the early 1960s, when Jim Crow was still the order of the day, it's a familiar setting to American readers because we all had to learn about it in school. It's part of American history, one that is still definitely very much felt till this day. 

Remember in 2008, when President Obama was running to become President Obama? Remember the outright racism on the part of some pundits, the inappropriate remarks, the dissecting of exactly which race he belongs to more? (since, after all, President Obama's mother was white). Is he black enough? Is he too black? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I'm sure you've all heard of this book or the upcoming movie starring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone. 

It is about three women living in early 1960s Jackson, Mississsippi: Aibileen, a longtime black maid who has raised seventeen white children; her outspoken friend, Minny, who is just a too opinionated for the comfort of the white ladies of Jackson to employ her as their maid; and Skeeter, a white girl, a recent college grad and aspiring writer, who wants to write about Jackson and its people--but from the perspective of the help. 

I've only just gotten up to the part where Skeeter begins her project by interviewing Aibileen and Minny, but with three different narrators and a beautifully written and detailed narrative--you can literally read the different voices these women have--it's a surprisingly gripping read. Kind of reminds me of The Secret Life of Bees a little bit, but the similarities are really just that it's Southern, the '60s, and about relations between white and black people. 

Entertainment Weekly had a cover story last week on the film, the book, and the reaction to both, since the author is a white woman who grew up in Mississippi and was raised largely by an African-American maid. 

I knew the book was selling a lot, that it was very popular, but I don't often read a lot of more recent fiction and in particular, I don't necessarily read a lot of popular fiction. It's not a literary snobbery thing, only that there is only so much time to read--time that I could be spending writing, of course. 

But reading is important, too. It lets me get of my head and jump into someone else's for a while and see how much more I can improve, how much more in depth I can become. 

Any of you read The Help yet?

Edited to add: I finished it. Loved it. Cried at a few parts. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meet Mr. Tops

Ladies, gents, followers, lurkers and dinosaurs---

I give you, Mr. Tops--the traveling triceratops.

Seriously, Mr. Tops has traveled about extensively in the Northeast. Check out his blog:

http://tritholomy.blogspot.com/

You can look for updates in the sidebar with the other blogs I follow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors

Found this list via Twitter (thanks @NaNoWriMo)


Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors

These authors write non-fiction, so I think their advice on not reading similar subjects while writing may work for them, but doesn't necessarily work for me. I would think that non-fiction, non-memoir involves a ton of notes as well, so I'm ignoring the organizing of interviews and research. I did a bit of work in that direction when I was ruminating over Iggy, by using wikispaces as a more comprehensive way to organize myself so I could really see what I had. 

I'm not normally one to go with advice given by published authors, oddly enough, but I can relate to a few things on this list:


Ben Casnocha
Entrepreneur and author of My Start-Up Life
  1. Shitty first drafts. Anne Lamott nailed it! But with books, it seems to be more like “shitty 20th drafts.” So shitty, for so long.
  2. Develop a very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions. I use an app called Self-Control on my Mac.
  3. Develop a very, very, very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions.
My plan for dealing with internet distractions? Turn the Airport option off on my laptop. And yeah, I write Shitty First Drafts. And Not-so-Shitty Second Drafts. But still shitty.

Interview: Jessica Brown-Findlay and Allen Leech | Radio Times

Oh, hi Sybil and Branson...

Interview: Jessica Brown-Findlay and Allen Leech | Radio Times

For other Downton Abbey cast interviews, click here: Friday Links 10/14/11 or to see a video from a meeting of the Manton Abbey Club, click here: Friday Links 11/4/11

Monday, August 1, 2011

Secret Societies 'n such

So I was reading some stuff online Saturday at PortCities Bristol, trying to see if the Big Traumatic Moment for one of my characters was even plausible in 1800.

The answer turned out to be not likely. But what is likely is that the characters would encounter several fat, rich, self-satisfied slave ships owners in the city and I can twist Big Traumatic Moment that way. 

But as I read, I came across a mention of the Society of Merchant Venturers in Bristol. It started as a guild and ended up largely running the city of Bristol and its port for centuries. They had a huge economic impact in Bristol in that the Society argued against a London society that had a monopoly in the slave trade. 

What I'm trying to figure out is if Miles, a merchant, a successful merchant who has just established a foothold in Bristol's busy port, actually needs to be a member of this society in order to run to his business. Did every prominent merchant who came to settle in Bristol have to be a member? Did they pay something to this society? If they weren't members, did that affect how much they could use the port? 

If he doesn't, then Miles won't be a member--he's not a slave trader and doesn't appreciate those who are--but if he does, it adds another strand to his becoming acquainted and integrated into English rich-people society.