Posted in Library

National Novel Writing Month 2015 Edition

Nanowrimo 2015 participant

It’s mid October. Have you decided if you are going to participate in the annual event known as Nanowrimo?

I’ve been participating in this event since 2006 (though I skipped it last year) and was asked to take part again by a friend that has decided to take the time and bang out a draft. I’m thrilled that she is going to participate in the wild ride that is Nanowrimo. And I will gladly sit in the cheering section and spur her on.

I changed my username to align more with who I am and you can now find me on nanowrimo.org under the name Charlie Baltimore if you want to add me to your writing buddy list.

At this stage, I don’t have a clue what I am going to be writing. I fully expect something to spark my imagination within the next week or so. Deadlines have that effect on me.  I’m not terribly worried about pre-plotting or outlining. This will be a “pants” draft. As in “By the seat of my pants.”

While I haven’t given much thought to what I am going to be writing, I have been giving a lot of thought to how I am going to write. This year I am going to go “Old School” and not write a word of it on the computer. Sure that will make keeping track of my word count a bit harder but I think it will be fun to get back to how I started writing in the first place – in a notebook.

I will admit that I have an ulterior motive for writing this way. It will let me get back to writing consistently with fountain pens (of which I have many)  and all the pretty inks I’ve collected over the last year. My handwriting is actually quite atrocious. It’s a blend of cursive and print that changes every single time I write. Maybe it’s because I am left-handed; perhaps I always struggled to have legible handwriting. I could also just be a poor student. (Did you notice the banner at the top of the post? The nano organizers made one specifically for us lefties!) I could muse upon the reasons my handwriting is horrid for hours if I really wanted to, but in the end I’m not going to let it stop me from using some beautiful ink pens and inks. By the end of November my hand maybe rather colorful. I might even take pictures.

As for notebooks I just ordered two sets plus a one off if needed. Two Clairefontaine 1951 notebooks in black and another two in Raspberry. The one off is a Rhodia notebook. These are by far my favorite brands for paper that is suitable for fountain pens from the few that I have tried so far.  (If you have any suggestions I’d be more than happy to hear from you!)

I will have the paper, pen, and ink all ready for November 1st. How will you be writing your draft?

Posted in Library

Short Fiction – Untitled #1

The wind whistled coldly. A herald for the coming storm that lay heavy in the grey clouds above the canopy of bare branches. The trees had long lost their fiery autumn coat and stood mutely waiting for Spring to come round again. It was a bitter path to walk. Every step heavier than the last, she fought to keep her mind focused. Surely what she was looking for wasn’t much further. Her breathe came out in small white puffs as she made her slow way through the barren forest, the path in front of her barely visible as a track. Once, twice, she came close to stumbling, scraping her hands on the rough bark as she kept herself upright.

The sky darkened even further and the air felt like fire as she breathed. Snow fell. It barely brushed the ground before vanishing beneath the decaying leaves and brush, slowly though, it began to coat the ground in a velvety soft carpet. Still she continued on. Slowly, carefully. She was chilled to the bone, soaked through by the falling snow when she saw it. A light. Shining at first dimly, then brighter as she came closer. Its golden glow solid in its little housing despite the efforts of the snow. A welcome beacon for those traveling a weary road. Blue lips tugged upward into a smile as she passed the lantern. She was home.
                           
Posted in Library

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

At some point during 2014 Patrick Rothfuss announced that he was having a book published during the Fall. Within days of the announcement I pre-ordered my copy of said book. Then waited patiently for several months until it arrived. This wasn’t the next book in The Kingkiller Chronicles. It was about one of the characters in the series, and that was enough for me to want to read it.

Auri is a whisp of a girl that Kvothe meets while attending the University. She doesn’t live at the University. She lives underneath it in what she calls the Underthing. When I first came across her in the pages of the Kingkiller Chronicles I was immediately intrigued by her and wanted to know more about her. I was quite thrilled to learn that The Slow Regard of Silent Things was about Auri.

Even though I received the book when it was released I waited until after the holidays were over to start it. It was worth the wait.

If you are looking for more insight into the Kvothe and his story you won’t find it in these pages. No, you won’t even find a story about Auri. What you will find is Auri.

The tone, the words, everything…it just is Auri.

It’s hard for me to find the right words. I can tell you that I woke up at 4 in the morning over the course of reading this book and my first thought was of Auri. Seriously. 4 a.m. and my eyes popped open as if I’d been awake for hours and my first thought was not ‘Oh I need to pee.’ It was one word. One name. ‘Auri’.

Rothfuss is keen to say that this book is not a proper story. As a writer, I can see how he arrived at that conclusion. As a reader, however, I must disagree. Everything in Slow Regard is in its proper place. Auri wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted in Library

2014 Reading Challenge – Completed

There’s this thing I do every year. Well, every year since 2011 at least. I set a personal goal to read a number of books for the year. I keep track of the books over on GoodReads. (I actually think they started this challenge in 2011. I could be totally mis-remembering this though.)

In 2011 I challenged myself to read 30 books. This was a considerable number given that I think I may have averaged 10 books a year for recreational reading. And that’s perhaps being generous on my part. I managed it though.

I read some good books that year. The first two Patrick Rothfuss novels in the Kingkiller Trilogy (Name of the Wind & Wise Man’s Fear), Ready Player One by Earnest Cline; and one of the few non-fiction books, The Calculus Diaries at the top of that list.

For 2012 I challenged myself to read 40 books. I managed 30 so 10 more shouldn’t be an issue. And it wasn’t. So much so that I ended up reading 57 books.  I dubbed this the year of Young Adult books. I read several series : Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross, Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger, Guild Hunter by Nalini Singh just to list a few. I also read The Hunger Games trilogy in 2012.

According to GoodReads I only read 40 of the 50 books I decided to challenge myself to read. However, it didn’t take into account that some of the books I listed were in fact omnibuses – multiple books bound together. So technically I did read 50 books, I just didn’t take the time to list them all separately. I peppered 2013 with more  non-fiction books to balance out all of the YA books I read in 2012. I read Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Jenny Lawson. However my favorite book in 2013 was a work of fiction. Neil Gaiman released Ocean at the end of the Lane and I happened to be able to go to a reading of it. There’s just something about hearing an author read their work.

So this year I challenged myself to read 50 books again. Diligently I kept track of what I read on GoodReads. I logged a whopping 54 books. It’s always fun to be able to look back and see what I’ve read over the year. 2014 was definitely the year of the Comic Book. I did read “traditional” works, but graphic stories outweighs them by quite a bit. This may have to do with the fact that I started to collect a few series this year. Harley Quinn, The New Suicide Squad, Pretty Deadly, and Lazarus.

Harley Quinn and  The New Suicide Squad were obvious to me – I adore Harley Quinn and these are the two comics that she is featured in. For the most part the story-line in Harley Quinn is solid which is what keeps me reading because I’m beginning to dislike the line work I am seeing. The New Suicide Squad is just fun to read.

I picked up Pretty Deadly because the art work intrigued me. It doesn’t follow the typical layout of graphic story. And I was totally blown away by the story itself. I picked this one up as a collection because I missed out on the single issues. Now I am patiently waiting for the next collection to come out so I can continue reading it.

Lazarus was whim. It looked interesting. It’s a Post Apocalypse story-line and gripped me from the very first page. I can’t really explain it without totally screwing it up. Let’s just say I am really glad I picked it up.

I picked up a few other collections. Mad Love (Batman) because it contains the closest thing to the original origins of Harley Quinn and most recently I picked up the first book of Gotham City Sirens.  I was quite impressed with it.

Other books that I read this year that I really enjoyed: Fever by Mary Beth Keane, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, and The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. (I gifted Amanda’s book to 4 of my friends shortly after reading it.)

I think 50 is a good number. I already have some books lined up to read starting in January when the holidays have ended and things settle down. My comic collecting may slow down a bit, perhaps only getting the collected versions instead of monthly issues. I’m not going to make that decision just yet.

What did you read this year?

Posted in Library

The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Image via goodreads I first heard Amanda Palmer’s name when I mentioned to a friend that I was going to a reading being giving by Neil Gaiman to a friend a little over a year ago now, I think. The two were married I was told. I thought that was really neat. It was also the first time I heard mention of the Dresden Dolls. Given the time period of the Dresden Dolls, I am surprised I hadn’t heard of them sooner, especially from my friend…

Neil talked about Amanda during the reading. Just listening to him talk about her made me think I would love to get to know this woman. So, I started following her on Twitter. Off and on I read her blog. And then she announced she was writing a book based on a TED Talk she had given in 2013. It was fascinating and enlightening to watch her progress over Twitter. The creative endeavor (regardless of form) has always held my interest. (I love reading/watching works in progress.) The day she tweeted that the book was done I cheered and applauded out loud. It startled my two cats. And I knew that I would buy the book the moment it was offered to the world.

I think it was a few days after its release that I saw it pop up on Amazon and immediately purchased it. I didn’t realize that Amanda had published with an imprint of Hatchett until the next day when she mentioned something about it on Twitter. Normally I would have noticed that right away, but I was so excited that it slipped by. I was already 20% in to the book by then…

I’ve read plenty of non-fiction books, but nothing so raw and so open as this book. It truly is hard to put into words. Amanda voiced all of my own fears as a creative, as a person, as a human-being in this book. There is a section in the book, it takes place in Scotland (if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I am talking about. If not – have tissues ready), I fell in love with Amanda when I read it. I connected with her on a level that was unexpected and I hadn’t even met her in person.

Amanda talks a lot about artists in her book, but the premise expands to all of us as humans. The connections she talks about is the essence of community, and at the core of it, communities help. No one should be afraid to ask for help. It shouldn’t hurt to ask for help. One of my favorite sayings is: What’s the harm in asking? The worst that can happen is they say no. It’s true at face value. And yet, there is so much more going on. Even though I believe in this simple statement, I still find myself hesitating to ask for help on many occasions.

What Amanda has done, at least for me, is give me the awareness to stop and think about why I am afraid to ask for help. To examine the issues that exist and to deal with them. To know that I am not alone in this endeavor. To stop making excuses and value myself as a person. To See and Be Seen.

Should you read this book? Yes, absolutely. Go read it right now.

Posted in Library

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

Geekomancy (Ree Reyes, #1)

I tried to like this book. I really really did. Geekomancy had all the markings of a book that I would enjoy according to the blurb:
Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comic shop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

By the time I finished reading it though I felt like I had been hit over the head with Thor’s hammer and walked away from the book feeling like I had overdosed on every fandom in the universe. It was just…too much.

It was amusing at first. I do enjoy a good geek reference but a little less than halfway through the novel I found myself gritting my teeth at the mere mention of a fandom regardless of the context. Geekomancy became a whole hell of a lot less enjoyable to read. Which in the end is unfortunate, as there seemed to be a lot of potential for the actual story.

Posted in Library

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)

Where I picked my copy up: Through the Humble ebook Bundle offer in the fall of 2012.( Humble Bundle )

It would seem like an odd coincidence that I ended up reading this book shortly after having a discussion about John Scalzi and his body of work at a dinner not too long ago…In reality, it was the next book on my Kindle.

This is the first book by John Scalzi that I have read – though I am familiar with other books. (Red Shirts, Agent to the Stars)

Old Man’s War is a truly enjoyable read. For me, this is achieved by a truly relate-able and very likable character. The character John Perry lends a very humanistic view to a very alien landscape. (Even if he does come dangerously close to being a Mary Sue – which is oddly enough mentioned, though not using those exact words.)

The concepts in Old Man’s War are classic science-fiction. The human race is trying to carve out a place for itself in the larger universe using technology – technology that they didn’t necessarily invent.

The concept of the “Super Soldier” has been explored throughout science fiction. Most often I’ve seen it explored through serums and augmentations. I liked the transfer of consciousness approach. I appreciated the underlying question of what makes us “human”.

I can certainly see myself reading more of Scalzi’s work in the future.