Being a Reader in an Unliterary World

Growing up, it was difficult to find people who loved to read as much as I did. Or people who read at all, really.

I’ve always baffled by people who claim reading is boring, and yet spend hours and hours in front of the TV watching reality television.

“How can you read so much?” they ask. “It’s so boring. Now excuse me while I watch a rich woman I’ve never met before have her nails painted following a fifteen minute shopping spree.”

How…how is that more interesting? How? I do not understand.

I defy you to give me a convincing reason why watching Kim Kardashian breaking down over shoes is more interesting than a young boy wizard fighting an evil order with a leader so terrifying that just saying his name sends people into throes of agony.

What also confuses me is how many people seem to take pride in their illiteracy. They’ll gaze at you with a wide grin and tell you  “they don’t read” or “they don’t have time to read.”

Yeah, they don’t have time to read, but they can punch out an entire series on Netflix in two days. You aren’t fooling anyone. 

Besides I can attest to the fact that if you read for maybe 10 minutes a day, you should be able to finish a full-length novel in a month. Bookmarks exist for a reason.

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People often ask me what the point of reading is. Why would you read when you can wait until the movie comes out and see everything rather than having to imagine it?

Well, for one thing, books are longer than movies and therefore have more time for things like character development, setting up atmosphere, and give you the opportunity to be inside peoples’ heads without the use of half-assed voice overs.

It’s also been proven that people who read novels  generally have more empathy than people who don’t. This makes sense to me since most books now are told through first-person. You are constantly viewing things from the perspective of other people.

But reading makes you anti-social, Rachael!

Pop quiz: how long were you on your phone when you went out to dinner with your friends or significant other? Do you talk to people on the bus, or do you just listen to your music? Do you prefer texting as opposed to talking on the phone because it gives you the power to reply later if you don’t want to talk right now?

Pencils down. Ooh. These results are not good.

I apologize for my saltiness.

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I’ve had to defend my hobby countless times. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to see why I read, or treat it like it’s some sort of ailment  rather than a perfectly healthy leisure activity.

Oh, well. At least Darcy understands.

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Letting My Friend Break My Kneecaps, or Getting Constructive Criticism

I am happy there is someone who is willing to give me their honest opinion of my work. It can be difficult to a) find someone who is willing to read anything, let alone something I wrote and b) find someone who will not pull punches when it comes to problems with plot, story, characters, etc.

I gave one such friend a manuscript for a short-story/novella I am writing and the response I received went a bit like this:

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My characters:

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Me:

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My friend:

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Okay, in all seriousness, it was for the best. Sure, she wrote a diss track on my story, but none of her critiques stemmed from hatred or toxicity. She even told me she liked the story in spite of its many, many problems. Most of the issues she commented on I had seen for myself and agreed with.

I don’t get writers that won’t take any type of criticism. I’ve had many writing classes and in each there is at least that one person who insists they are the next J.K. Rowling and refuse to believe that anything negative said about their work is be true.

The teacher is just jealous or that editor didn’t “get” the story, etc.

This may be condescending of me, but I have a nagging suspicion most of these writers aren’t going anywhere.

How do you expect to get any better if you don’t even know if you’re doing something wrong? Would it be better if your sky diving instructor didn’t tell you how to properly jump out of a plane?

Having a beta reader is undeniably crucial in my opinion. It’s so much easier to see what elements require further explanation, or which characters need more development.

Everything I type comes from my own head so I have the benefit of all that background information. The reader does not.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to saltiness when it comes to remarks made against my babies, but I have learned that most thought-out criticisms have merit.

In the end, it’s worth all of the blows to the ego in order for my story to become the best that it can be.

Research, Write, Repeat: Historical Fiction

I love historical fiction.

Especially novels that take place around the Victorian or Regency era.

I realize I’m romanticizing a period of inequality, poor hygiene, and convoluted social rules, but dammit if they didn’t look good in those waistcoats.

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What I don’t love (well, besides everything I listed above) is all of the research that goes into writing historical fiction.

Right now, in between projects, I am writing a story that involves an alien in Victorian England. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to familiarize myself with the time period. However, it turns out this is far more intricate than I anticipated. You see, the Victorian era had quite a few social rules.

By quite a few I mean there are enough to make War and Peace look like a bit of light reading.

Not to mention I have to know the titles of The Help as well as what they did, how much they were payed, where and what they ate, when their day started, how it ended, etc.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, only there isn’t too much literature when it comes to servitude in the Victorian age Most of the information regarding servants doesn’t start until around the early 1900s, a.k.a Downton Abbey era. Most likely because that’s when a lot of societal shifts took place.

I’ve read quite a few Victorian novels but not a lot of them are told from the staff’s perspective. Most likely because no one gave a $h*t about them. With my story, I was hoping to break that mold. In fact, one of the more pivotal characters is a lady’s maid.

Then come the gentry….oh….oh God. The titles.

The titles.

Of course, there’s also the business of what they ate, what they read, what they did recreationally, what happened at their parties, the dances they danced, their courting rituals, spousal relationships, clothes they wore, their morning rituals, their evening activities–

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That’s not to say it’s all bad. Actually, most of it is really interesting. There’s just sooo much to remember. I could write notes for days and not even scratch the surface. It was a very complicated society with each person working as a cog in the machine.

It was also a revolutionary time that paved the way for modern transportation and business practices, one of the many reasons I wanted my story to take place in this period. I will do my best to portray the societal customs accurately.

Nonetheless, I hope my readers won’t mind too much if one of my characters accidentally introduces themselves first to a higher member of society, or refers to the second child as Miss Soandso instead of Miss Jane or Miss Jane Soandso.

We can’t all be Jane Austen.

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The Third Draft of Redemption

It’s not perfect, but it’s done.

After several long weeks, I finally finished that pesky third draft that has been plaguing my every thought.

Remember how a few posts ago I wrote about how a second draft was like a forest fire? Well, this draft was like trying to put the forest back together after the flames and then attempting to make it look better than it did before getting torched.

I kept rereading my previous draft, wondering how I could possibly repair the damage I had wrought without overdoing.

In some cases, I have been able to fix certain errors in my work, however, the result is that it becomes completely sapped of all personality. Personally, I’d rather have a project that’s zanny and nonsensical than boring.

Luckily, I think this draft is neither A nor B.

It’s adventurous!

It’s full of action!

It’s 68 pages long….!

Crap.

Oh, well. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I will relish in the fact that I have stuck with this project for so long and am planning to see it through to the end. Whatever the fate of my story will be, I will not stop giving it the love and affection it deserves!

I Can’t Social Media: A Writer’s Quandary

Writers are told more and more these days that they should have a strong presence online. They should branch out through any means possible; stamp their name on as many social media websites as they can.

However, I have been very remiss in this department. Disgracefully so, I would say.

I love writing for my blog, but I just don’t have the heart for Twitter, Snapchat, Bookface, etc.

For a while, I was gaining a steady Twitter following, but I stopped tweeting once I realized just how annoying it is for a multitude of reasons. For one, I’m not politically minded so I don’t care to tweet about politics. I’m not that funny either (dammit, my secret is discovered!) so I spent a majority of my time trying to think of something humorous to say when I couldn’t think of anything. I’m also allergic to platitudes so I don’t want to post generic life-advice either.

For another thing, I’m just not interested in being bombarded with other people’s opinions 24/7 about politics, religion, the latest social outrage, and so on.

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My reaction after a visit to most social media sites.

Not you guys. You guys are cool. It’s everyone else’s opinions that can be annoying. At least in excess.

I found social media was often a distraction from what I was really wanting to do. You know, write. I was trying to do these things for my writing’s sake when, in reality, it was directly interfering with it.

It clouded my ability to walk through the park or enjoy a sunset without worrying how it would look on my wall. I was more concerned about crafting a humous, yet not offensive post that I realized two hours had passed and I still hadn’t finished that chapter. Keeping up with all the accounts was harder than trying to keep a Tamagotchi alive.

It reminded me of my trip to the UK and how everyone seemed more interested in having an interesting Snapchat story than relishing in the fact that they were in frigging Europe (before you say anything, this was before the Brexit vote so, technically, they were in the EU). I took a crap load of photos too, but I tried to learn when to put the camera down and actually enjoy life.

I am amazed that so many writers can post a million things on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook and still be able to publish a full-length novel by the end of the year. Some of them while working other jobs. I observe from the sidelines like “How do?”

Hell, I’m a writer. I don’t even know what I would take a picture of. Oh, look, here’s my desk. Here’s a pen. Here’s a book. Here’s a manuscript I promised I would finish by the time I graduate and haven’t touched in two years. Perhaps I require a social media consultant. A Henry Higgins-like figure who will shape me from a socially awkward pariah into something palatable for the masses.

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I don’t hold out much hope though.

Although I may get an Instagram.

Oh, wouldn’t that be loverly?

My Thoughts on “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl”

WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK.

Keep in mind I have not seen the Youtube web series that this book is based off of. My judgement is based purely on the novel itself.

Read synopsis here.

Buckle up, guys, this is going to be a long one.

My reading of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. One minute I’m completely enthralled by the characters and storyline. The next, I’m bored by YA tropes and tired clichés.

Pros: 

The pacing. I, personally, think the pacing is the book’s greatest strength. The only part where it lags is when Nolan tries to convince Sunshine she is a luiseach. I, and I’m assuming most readers at this point, have seen this done a million times so it bogs down the momentum the story is building up. More on this later.

Sunshine and her mother. I like the uniquely intimate relationship Sunshine has with her mother. In most YA ,the parents are either brushed aside, or made out to be complete jerks so it’s nice to see a change of pace with this story. It also makes her mother’s possession all the more devastating.

The romance. THERE IS NO CONVOLUTED LOVE TRIANGLE!!

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I also appreciate that the writer (or writers) is taking their time with developing the relationship between Nolan and Sunshine rather than just shoving them together or forcing an unnecessary third-party into the mix. The main focus stays on the demon possessing her mother as it should.

Atmosphere. Atmosphere is one of the central components in a horror book and helps set the tone for what is to come. I was deeply engaged throughout the author’s descriptions of the house and found myself easily able to map out each room. More impressively, the writer was able to do this without slowing down the pacing.

Victoria Wilde. I can’t think of why, but Victoria was one of the most believable characters in the novel for me. You can sense with every scene she was in just how tired and aggrieved she was by what had happened to her and her family. I honestly wish there had been more about her.

Cons: 

Sunshine. At the beginning of the novel, I adored her. I loved the strange name she gave her taxidermied owl (Dr. Hoo), I loved her strange glass unicorn collection, I loved her relationship with her adopted mother, and thought her narrative voice was compelling.

Then, without warning, her character falls down the rabbit hole into Tropeland and she becomes less and less like a real teenage girl and more like a fanfic version. I know she’s supposed to be more into old things than the normal person, but it was really off-putting to hear a 21st century girl say “gollly” or “gosh” unironically.

Also, I’m sorry, but Sunshine is a stupid name.

There, I said it. They explain in the book why she was named this, but I’m sure there are plenty of female names that mean “sunshine” or “light-bringer” so actually naming her “Sunshine” makes it sound like her mother was a hippie. Which, if you’ve read the book, is very much not the case.

Nolan. I like Nolan, but I can’t help feeling he is criminally underdeveloped. I appreciate that he isn’t your traditional hot jock, or jaded loner, but I wish there was more to him. Most of what we learn about him revolves around his grandfather in some fashion. We don’t know what his home life is like, what his hobbies are, what his social status in relation to his peers is, nothing.

Also, I groaned a bit when Victoria reveals Nolan is destined to be Sunshine’s “protector” now so they’re forever bonded. Can’t people just be people who do things because of their own motivations and character rather than because of “destiny”?

Yer a wizard, Sunshine. Unquestionably, the most annoying part of the book is when Sunshine fervently denies being a luiseach, prompting a completely unnecessary argument between her and Nolan.

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The chapter “Why Are We Fighting?” was very aptly named as I couldn’t find a single justification for it. It’s not even an actual fight, Sunshine just hurls unwarranted abuse at Nolan and he deflects. Evidently, the answer to the chapter’s question is: Because the writer says we’re supposed to.

I can’t think of an explanation as to why she would dismiss Nolan’s claims either. Hell, they have proof that ghosts exist and are capable of manipulating the living’s environment and even possessing people. Taking all of that into consideration, why is the fact that she’s a psychic so hard for her to believe?

Honestly, the logical gaff isn’t what gets me with this scene. What bothers me is that I’ve seen this a million times before, and it’s not even done well in this case. The writer makes no attempt to disguise the fact that the only reason they are having this argument is so she can get Nolan out of the way for a chapter or so.

When they finally reconcile, Nolan all but blows the event off like it was never that big of a deal. I thought this was a wasted opportunity to give him some character development. I guess their fallout really did happen for no reason. Well, damn.

Final thoughts: 

Based on this lengthy diatribe, you probably think I hated this book. I didn’t. Actually I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just wish I would have liked it more. If I were to give this book a grade, I would say somewhere between B and B-.

I recommend this to anyone looking for something to read on a cold, rainy day.

I Can’t Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul

Out of curiosity, how many of you guys write from home?

Because I can’t.

I’ve tried but, for whatever reason, being at home just feeds my addiction to the internet.

I boot up my laptop, game face on and notes in my hand, only for my Facebook page to pop up on the screen like-

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Next thing I know, I’m on Youtube and watching videos on how to survive a nuclear fallout.

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In order to get down to business, I must journey to a coffee shop or restaurant and spend two to three hours typing away while mindlessly nibbling or sipping their wares.

This isn’t always a convenient arrangement as sometimes the weather is not favorable for travel, or sometimes I don’t complete my daily responsibilities until later when these places are closed.

Oh, that’s fine, I say to myself, I’ll just get some writing done at home. 

Internet:

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The answer seems simple: disconnect from the WiFi.

However, even if I do that, I will become distracted by something else. I’ll watch a movie I purchased on iTunes. I’ll look through my photos I took on vacation. I’ll edit a silly video I made on iMovie.

There’s a cornucopia of possibilities for mindless activities.

I suppose I’ll just have to consider these places my office for the time being and respect my inconvenient habits.

I suppose it’s better than not writing at all.

Nostalgia Goggles: Torchwood

Have you ever looked back on a series you used to love and finally see all the problems it had? Well, recently this happened to me with a little BBC program called Torchwood.

When I was in my teens, this show was my jam. It was dark, gritty, and way more mature than Doctor Who. Or…so I thought.

Here are some of the things I discovered upon revisiting this show from my teenage years:

Everyone is incompetent. You would think earth’s last line of defense from alien menaces would be…I don’t know…not completely useless. Nonetheless, the Torchwood gang feel that the best strategy is no strategy whatsoever. There is no protocol, no planned course of action. They simply rush into the situation half-cocked and lose their every-loving minds when something goes wrong.

Seriously, freaking Paw Patrol is better organized than Torchwood.

Also….

 

That’s not how you shoot a gun…that’s not even close to how you shoot a gun. I get that the UK is more ignorant when it comes to firearms because they aren’t used as often, but would it have killed the BBC to google?

An adult wrote this? I don’t mean to offend teenagers with this, but it’s an inevitability. The truth is, nobody in Torchwood acts like an adult. They act how teenagers think adults act. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this series was ghost written by a moody adolescent.

It would explain everything: why the characters have sex all the time, why everyone is a complete jerk for no reason, why there’s such a grim outlook on life, why nobody ever plans out anything in advance and completely falls apart when the slightest thing goes wrong.

Wow. It all makes sense now. Maybe Torchwood was originally meant to star teenagers and the casting director didn’t get the memo.

That probably would have made this show infinitely better. If for no other reason than to justify the agents’ juvenile behavior.

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All of the angst.

Overuse of nihilismOkay, I like a heathy dose of grim and angst. However, Torchwood takes it…well…not a step too far, more like a 4K and a walk home too far.

In every episode we must be reminded there is no God, or afterlife, and everything is pointless. Well, actually, the narrative is a bit inconsistent on this point. See They Keep Killing Suzie.

There is virtually no break from the overblown angst. It’s constant pain and suffering to the point of being a self-parody.

I remember one episode where Gwen tried to reunite a mother with a son she lost and she actually wound up making things worse by doing so. The mother actually told her she would rather believe her son is dead than have him as the broken shell she was presented with.

Well…damn.

What’s the message of this episode? Don’t bother? If so that leads me to my next point:

What is the incentive to work for Torchwood?  I’ve rattled my brain for an explanation, but nothing comes to mind.

Why would you constantly dangle yourself in harm’s way if everything is pointless? Especially when there’s a drug you could take that would make you forget all the horrible things that have happened to you while on the job, no strings attached.

It’s like when Gwen started sleeping with Owen because what she saw at work was just too horrible to comprehend and she couldn’t tell Rhys. The whole time I just thought, Woman…just quit! They aren’t holding you hostage. You can leave anytime you want to. Why are you still there?!

Suzie blathered on about how much she loved this job, yet we haven’t seen a convincing reason why.

It would make sense if most of them felt a strong duty towards the rest of the humanity, but for the most part, they’re narcissistic jerkwads that don’t seem to care about anyone else. Only Gwen gives a crap about people, and even she is a terrible person for running around on her fiancé.

Thanks for the memories, Torchwood, but I don’t think I’ll be buying any of your Bluerays anytime soon.

I Write Slowly

I will be the first to say I am not always the most productive human being. At least when it comes to writing. This, however, is not entirely due to my proclivity to procrastinate. I just happen to write very, very, very, very slow.

My typing isn’t the issue. I can actually key words relatively quickly. It’s just for, whatever reason, it takes an act of God for me to write more than five paragraphs on a good day.

I’ll be happy, writing away, and think off-handedly “Wow! Two whole pages already! I wonder how long I’ve been at this. Oh, six years.”

It’s like if I ever want to actually get anything done, I have to seclude myself in one of those Dragon Ball Z hyperbolic time chambers.

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Minus the heavy gravity, temperature fluctuations, and dense air, obviously.

Forget the Scrivener, that would be the best invention a writer like me could ask for. However, I would need at least two years inside there before I could finish a major project.

Hey, it takes a while to get the dialogue and action just right. There is also the issue of rewrites along with new ideas that need to be explored.

You can’t rush these things.

Enough With The One-Word Book Titles!

Is anyone else getting tired of one-word book titles?

They’ve exploded in popularity in recent years and seem especially prevalent in YA lit. Particularly with covers that feature attractive female teens wearing extravagant ballgowns and holding their hair up promiscuously.

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I realize there are many good book titles with a single word or name, but it’s becoming more obnoxious because people are using less imaginative and eye-catching words.

More and more I’m seeing books titled things like Skating or Dancing.

That tells me nothing and doesn’t encourage me to find out what the book is about.

Think about it. Would you do that in this sort of situation?:

Co-worker: Hey, Bob! How was your vacation?

You: Turquoise.

Co-worker: …….

See? Turquoise is a perfectly nice color, but it isn’t that compelling.

Compare this to The Woman In Black. When you see a title like this you’re forced to speculate. Who is this woman? Why is she wearing black? Is she going to a funeral? Is she a ghost?  I wonder what this book is about.

Same thing with The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Nighttime. What was the incident? What did the dog do? I’m interested.

I don’t get that same reaction from a single word, unless it’s a person’s name or not commonly used in day-to-day speech.

I’ve heard the argument that it’s often used because people have low attention spans, but I personally think that’s crap. How lazy are you if you can’t take the time to read three words? And if you happen to be that lazy, you probably aren’t the type of person that reads books anyhow.

Think about it. Would you rather read a book called Maze or Maze Runner?

A book called Fahrenheit or Fahrenheit 451? Okay, that’s technically a word and a number, but the number at least makes you question what could be cooked at that temperature. It sends your mental gears turning.

All I’m asking is for one more word, publishers. One more word and I’ll be happy.