I'm tackling NaNo!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I finally decided that I'm going to go for it this year. My sign-up is done. NaNoWriMo, I'm gearing up my engines!

I've already added a few people as buddies, but if I haven't tagged you yet, feel free to tag me as one. This should be exciting. I'll be sure to show my progress reports each week, even if they're dismal. My project is loosely titled Broken Destinies set in my husband's homebrew game setting of Dark Messiah. (which refers to a comet, not a person) We've been discussing this story for months, so now I'm going to dig in and see what I can crank out.

Obviously, with all this writing, there will be no reading list for November. But if I do read anything, I'll be sure to tell you about it. Catching Fire and Mockingjay are sitting on the table waiting for me to get through them so they can go back to the library. I guess I know what I'm working the next couple days. ;D

Our (almost) wedding recessional song

Filk Friday is being hijacked to play a non-filk song. I couldn't find one I really liked that was about roleplaying, especially in light of the romantic bit about bringing two people together. You know, to go along with this week's theme. I suppose I will have to write one myself, but that might take me awhile. I write slow. And my music writing skills are waaaaaaay rusty (as in nearly-no-practice-since-high-school rusty).

Since I couldn't find a suitable filk song, and it'll take me too long to write one, I puttered and browsed for some other song to use instead. And it came to me. The two of us have shared from the beginning an appreciation for one very talented Harvard professor who had a way with humorous songs: Tom Lehrer. Chris thought we should pick a one of his songs for our wedding recessional. He even thought he had the perfect one.

I vetoed it. I was not going to go prancing out to the tune of Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, even minus the words. Too bad, so sad, ain't gonna do it.

But somehow it seems appropriate to play it today. (This is for you, darling.)

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

This one is just an extra. It's a sort of joke between the two of us. I don't think we've ever sung it with a straight face.

When You Are Old and Grey

For the love of fantasy

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two years after my first larp event, I got married. October 13th was chosen for one very important reason. Okay two. My husband wanted Halloween, but one of his best friends nixed that idea as they'd had other friends who'd married on that day and then split up. So he liked the idea of 31 -> 13. But my reason for the 13th was because it also commemorated when I met him. Almost exactly.

Remember that fey lord I mentioned on Monday? That was him. So you could say I met my husband on the day he got married. Har har har. Okay, so it's a lame joke growing older every year. Tough. ;D

I didn't talk to him at all that event. He was kept busy by the plot team, but he was memorable. Kinda hard to forget the sight of a big guy in a kilt, especially when he's part of the main plot. But I hadn't really taken any "special" notice of him.

However, he and his buddy, the mage who'd been so surprised during our introduction, had certainly noticed and remembered me. When I posted on the Pigeon Coop, the out-of-game forum for our NERO chapter, about how much I'd enjoyed my first event and was grateful to everyone who'd made it so much fun, the two of them responded by trying to lure me to the Halloween event at a nearby chapter. (I still have a printout of those postings somewhere.)

After the luring part, there was a series of postscripts, the first two being my favorite considering my relationship to them now. Chris is my hubby; J is one of our best friends.
P.S. Chris thinks you're cute. So do I. -J
P.P.S. J wrote this, not me. -Chris
Adorable, right? A very nice boost to my ego, but I didn't make it to the event; I was committed to a conference that same weekend for my fraternity. (a co-ed service frat) In some ways, I regret that I didn't skip the conference, especially since, when I got there, I found out the money hadn't been sent in ahead of time. My frat brother still had it and turned it in when we arrived. (I was so mad at him that I got even by hooking up with friends from the National convention the previous year, instead of staying where he'd arranged. He was miffed, but that's what he deserved for not telling me he still had my check; he knew I'd changed my mind about wanting to go.)

Perhaps if I had skipped out and gone to the larp event instead, I might have hooked up with my hubby sooner. The conference was good, but the stories from the event were better. Werewolves and vampires and succubi, oh my! And the Charlie's Angels pose and the "stopping a troll charge with a Detect Magic spell." Sigh. The things I missed. I'll get Chris to tell you a couple of the stories sometime. So funny.

As it was, I got to know J pretty well, before I had a chance to know Chris. J had just moved nearby, so I saw him every week for D&D. He was very easy to talk to, even promised that if I wasn't married by the time my 10-year high school reunion came around, he would be my date. (For some reason, I was worried about that. ;) ) I even had a bit of a crush on him for awhile. In fact, Chris had once thought that because I'd met J first, he didn't have a chance. Shows that sometimes you have a better chance than you give yourself credit for.

Once I did start getting interested in Chris several months later, J helped foster our growing friendship. He even gave me a sprig of mistletoe in encouragement. He was delighted that two of his best friends were hooking up with each other and stood as groomsman at our wedding, though in a kilt rather than the mage robes.

Chris's college gaming friends weren't sure what to make of me at first. They are protective of each other, so when he started making trips to see me, they didn't know whether they should be glad for him, especially considering his previous relationship. Their first picture of me wasn't much help. Haha. Oh, the infamous "duct tape picture." I swear that's just shiny ribbon above the ruffle. He did not tape my legs together to keep me from running away. Honest. Hehe. (Aren't we cute?)

From the first meeting, one of their gaming nights, they welcomed me. It took awhile before I was comfortable calling them "our" friends rather than "his" friends, but that was because I needed convincing that they were serious about me being one of them rather than a hanger-on. Wonderful people.

Though my life has been no fairy tale, fantasy has brought me to my greatest treasures. God bless the dreamers.

From newbie larper to writer

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eleven years ago on the second Saturday of October, I attended my first live-action roleplaying game just one week after my first D&D game. Central Ohio was comfortable to be running around without a cloak. Just a beautiful autumn day, or so I remember it.

My roommate had talked me into giving NERO a try. However, she was on the plot team so would, therefore, be unable to help me much directly. She did help me create my character though, her PC's (player character's) sister: a gypsy healer named Rosa Moonshadow of the family of the Rose. There were only two other gypsies at the event, and they were opposites. Galena Berylstar didn't say much or speak loudly. She didn't have to; people listened to her. Reese Domashay never seemed to stop with the boisterous banter. His voice could be heard over combat. Not the greatest of examples for someone trying to learn the voice.

Due to my underdeveloped social skills, I felt awkward. I couldn't do the accent well, even when I could figure out what to say. Thinking on my feet: not one of my strengths. But I needn't have worried. Most of the players are considerate to new ones, lending their expertise to get newbies involved in the game. Various players came over and introduced themselves; one even took me and another first-timer on a brief adventure. We call it shepherding. Experienced players get new ones involved without overwhelming them with more than they can handle. At the time, I just knew that this big guy actually wanted us to enjoy the game as he taught us a bit about how to use our skills.

Sometimes when the plot shack is shorthanded, they look for volunteers to fill roles in between other mods. I joined a random group to be wolves bounding through the woods for an hour. When we were done and back in our own characters' costumes, one of my fellow wolves joined me at a table. He was playing an elf mage in a bright green robe and a black four-pointed star painted over one eye. With a touch of swagger, he sat across from me and held out his hand. "Greetings, I am Illaren. And who might you be?" Very bold that one. ;)

Now the funny thing is, my roommate had intended to ask this gentleman to shepherd me at the event. They'd known each other for awhile, and their characters had adventured together. However, RM had changed her mind and decided to surprise him, never telling him anything about me. But when the game had been getting started, she'd pointed him out and told me who he was in and out of game. My character didn't still know him, but I did. Part of why I didn't mind grouping with him for the wolf run.

So, with a touch of boldness myself, I looked up at him, batted my eyes, and said, "Rosa Moonshadow of the family of the Rose."

He rocked back. "Moonshadow?!"

"Yes, Moonshadow. Perhaps you know one of my sisters." Bat, bat, bat. I grinned, trying to keep from laughing at the shock on his face. I didn't know I had it in me to be so coy.

He settled. "Yes, I know Kestra. I haven't seen her in awhile. Is she here?" He was still looking at me like I'd turned into something odd. But it was too funny to take offense.

After I'd given him her "regrets," he departed to go find my RM. I followed. She was busy prepping another mod, but he ignored everyone but her. He mock growled in protest. "You had to make her a Moonshadow, didn't you?"

She gave him the same look I had. "Uh-huh!"

A fantastic beginning to a great friendship. Hehe. He stood as a groomsman at my wedding. But more about that on Wednesday.

The main feature of this event was a wedding between a fey lord and a human-turned-fey. The whole thing was hilarious. A dark fey lord came to interrupt the wedding, since the bride was race-changed, not a pure fey. While the fey lords were facing off, Reese was becoming such a distraction with his gabble that the dark fey lord cast silence on him. Hostilities broke off for a few moments while the light fey lord shook his hand in gratitude. It quickly resumed with them two of them shaking their fingers at each as they said, "Don't make me use this." "Don't make me use this." ("This" being a point-cast death spell.) Eventually, another interruption happened, and while the dark fey lord was occupied, the groom's mother laid the broom down and told the couple to hop across quickly. Wedding over.

Going to that event was one of the best things I'd ever done. I made many new friends and found a "safe" environment to practice social skills. I didn't do much of it that first event, but by being "someone else," I could relax my inhibitions and try out behaviors that I wouldn't normally do, like flirting. Everyone knows it's a game, and flirting is normal for gypsies. After all, the NERO motto is "Be all that you can't be!"

In addition to the friends and memories (like getting suckered into helping a kobold to go find his "long lost brother" and getting waylaid instead), larping also reawakened my creative spark. Roleplaying leads to stories. By going to events and more tabletop games, I was seeing stories from the inside. By creating back stories for my characters and retelling the adventures I'd experienced, I was practicing writing skills.

That led to toying with the idea of being a writer. I didn't know yet if I could do it, or if I really wanted to, but story ideas began to drift my way once my mind opened to the possibility. That sample of "bad writing" from earlier this month was from that first story. I'd started it over the summer, then worked on it some more for my creative writing class. If it wasn't for the fact that I'd had the roleplaying experience and been such an avid reader of fantasy, I might have given up after that class.

But I didn't.

I continued playing NERO, got involved with a few different D&D groups, practiced retelling those stories, and created more of my own. And even though I have yet to finish writing any of my stories, I know I want to be a writer now. I have the confidence to listen to helpful critiques. I study writing techniques. I come up with ideas. And it's all because of roleplaying games.

NERO LARP Introduction
Dungeons and Dragons

Filk Friday: Exclamations!

Friday, October 22, 2010

I've been a fan of the Brobdingnagian Bards ever since I discovered them on one of my meanderings to find new music. These two guys have done some great songs. Exclamations! is no exception. Huzzah!

If you want to find more of their music (especially better recordings), check out their website. You can also find them on iTunes. I'm bummed that they've gone separate ways now, but I can always hope that they might still do an occasional act together again in the future.

Janice Hardy: So You Wanna Be a Writer?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Azuranna is pleased to welcome her first guest speaker to the library: Janice Hardy from The Other Side of the Story, who will be giving us some suggestions about developing as writers. Tea, coffee, and cookies of many varieties are in plentiful supply, so feel free to help yourselves. (I don't recommend the troll biscuits; they aren't really to a human's taste.) Pull up a chair, rock, or cushion whenever you're ready.

Now that everyone is comfortable, the cavern is yours, Janice.

So You Wanna Be a Writer?

There’s a ton of information on the web about writing, querying, submitting, fixing your weak spots and improving your strong spots, but what do you do when you want to write, but have no clue how to get started? Or you’re not sure what to work on next to get to the next skill level? How do you turn it from a hobby to a possible career?

How much writing you’ve done and how solid your fundamentals are will determine how much work you might need to do to reach the professional level required for publishing. Here’s a general outline for gauging your ability and things you can do to get to the next level:

Beginner: You’re not sure the proper use of punct
uation, your grammar is iffy, and you’re not totally sure what the difference is between an adverb and an adjective. The only writing you’ve done is work or email related, maybe a few creative pieces here and there. It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but you’ve done nothing yet to improve your skills. Work on developing those basic skills as your first step. Read a few books on grammar and the basics of writing. Practice your writing so it’s formatted properly and the technical aspects are correct. Write about anything you want, but try to get in both dialog and exposition to get a feel for how it all works together.

Novice: Your fundamentals are good, but when people talk about things like POV and narrative drive you’re not sure what they mean. It’s time to learn the lingo. Writing has its own terminology, and advice is going to come in that language. To benefit from that advice, you first have to understand it. Familiarize yourself with the common terms and what they mean, as well as how to use them. Then try writing a story that utilizing these aspects. Pick one at a time if you’d like to make it easier and allow you to focus on how it’s done. The goal is to understand all the pieces so you can start using them to your advantage.

Apprentice: You understand the common terms and what they mean. Your writing skills are solid. You’ve written stories, but your feedback often contains phrases like, “nothing happens,” or “what’s the point of this story?” This might be a good time to work on story structure and plotting. Read up on things like conflict and character arcs. Explore the components that go into a story, such as how scenes and acts work, what sequels are and how they all string together to form a novel. Study what makes a good beginning, what happens in the middle, and how you resolve the story in the end. Try writing stories with complete story arcs that start somewhere, fulfill a plot, and then end with a resolution of some kind.

Intermediate: Your writing’s pretty decent and you know how stories are put together. You can
create plots and finish a story, but sometimes things feel a little flat. Feedback includes comments like “There’s too much backstory” or “you’re telling too much,” or “why are they doing this?” Try digging into your characters more and studying POV. Read up on character development, motivations, goals and stakes. Understand why they’re doing what they do and why they see things as they see it. Study how characters advance plot. Try writing stories that strive for clear goals and stakes, a solid plot, and character growth of some kind.

Advanced: You write well, can craft a good story and get compliments on your skills. But not every story is wowing folks, and you know you have a few trouble spots here and there to work on. Work on your weak spots, those things that are getting mentioned in any feedback you receive (or the nagging doubts you feel about your own skills. Trust your instincts). Try looking at your pacing and how you feed information to the reader. Study what makes a good story, and not just the mechanics of a book. You have the technical skills, now it’s time to develop your storyteller skills and find your voice (if you haven’t already). Write the types of stories you enjoy and keep writing them. Learn how to revise and polish. Study books on editing and crafting compelling stories.

Naturally, not every writer will fit into this exactly, and some folks will be better at one area that’s higher on the list, and worse at others, but hopefully it provides a general guide to help you decide what you might need to focus on next. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to work on the things that you feel need work. If your plotting skills are strong, work on character development or storytelling. If characters are your thing, work on plotting. The goal is to have a well-rounded skill set that you can use to get those stories down on paper.

Each writer will find their own way of doing things, but every one will still need good writing skills and an understanding of what makes a good story. Don’t feel you have to do it all at once. There’s a lot to learn, and taking it step by step will allow you to develop strong skills at every stage, so when you’re ready to go pro, you have all the tools you’ll need.

Thank you so much for visiting us today, Janice. You are welcome back anytime.

Blue Fire Blurb
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

You can buy this book at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon. If you haven't checked out The Shifter or Blue Fire yet, you should. They are amazing.

Janice Hardy Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Her website and blog
The Other Side of the Story Blog

Tangents and reminders

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sorry about yesterday's lack of post. I had a sick boy (still sick today, poor kid), and I had to go to work still, since my hubby was home. The post I was working on went way off track, and I ran out of time to write what I'd intended. I meant to write about how fantasy brought my husband and I together but ended up writing about my first live-action roleplaying event. Considering that's where I met him, I can see how I diverged. It would be too long to keep as one post, so I'm splitting them into two. They will go up next week, so that I can keep them together.

In the meantime, I hope to see everyone here tomorrow for Janice Hardy's guest visit as part of her blog tour for Blue Fire's release earlier this month. If you haven't been following along, you should. She's covered quite a diversity of topics related to her series and writing, and the month isn't over yet. If you missed some of it or want to reread any of the posts, here's the full itinerary.

Filk Friday: Hey There Cthulhu

Friday, October 15, 2010

Doing this feature has forced me to hunt for new songs. I now have another singer added to my favorites list: Eben Brooks. He not only has a great voice but he can sing well. Even though I'm not much of a fan of the original song "Hey There Delilah" (or HP Lovecraft), this parody is brilliant. I love the maniacal laugh at the end.

Anniversary time

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yes, I just had my blog anniversary a couple weeks ago. But today is a bigger one, my nine year wedding anniversary. I was going to write a long entry about how fantasy brought the two of us together, but since I didn't get it done ahead of time (changing up the blog layout instead), and I've got things to do today (wink, wink), you'll get it tomorrow. Have a great day!

Blog updates under way

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First step: new layout. The blue was pretty, but I wanted something with more flavor. Out of the ones I found, this was the best fit in layout and theme. It only took a few hours to choose and then customize the font colors. It might change again if I find a look I like better (dragons and books perhaps), but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. I hope you like it, too.

Next step: add/update features. I'm thinking a page of treasures for collecting pictures and poems. I might also shift all my labels to their own page. Stay tuned. :D

First Contest Results

Monday, October 11, 2010

I received three entries for my first contest. I'd hoped for a bigger turnout, but maybe next time. :D For being off-the-cuff, all three are great poems. In the order I received them, here they are.

By Jai Joshi
Moonlight glinting off scales,
teeth shining like stars,
they sail through the air
watching the world.

Wisdom of ages
resides in ancient minds.
Passed on to humans
Deemed worthy of knowing.

Air whispers their names,
Wind brushes their bodies,
Flames of inner fire,
lighting the way.

From whose mouth is it spoken?
Who dares tell the truth?
That we are students of the flames
that watch the world.

By Kaycee Looney
Dark eyes etched with grace and wisdom.
Regality apparent in every slip of scale.
Arise from the shadows of myth,
Great beasts of lore, and claim your place
On imagination’s rugged landscape, where
None can equal your prowess and
Sing your victory to the realms of fantasy.

By Rebecca Hart
Azuranna's Library

The great blue dragon, Azuranna said to me,
come into the library, and you will see
magical stories of myth and lore.
Be you young or old,
there are adventures galore.

Just open a book and let your imagination run,
so many places to go full of glorious fun.

But never forget as your adventures unfold,
what intelligent words Azuranna once told.

Stay in school, do your chores, and read a lot,
and maybe someday the mighty dragon will reveal her story's plot.

Aren't they wonderful? I think I love them too much to pick a single winner. So all three of you ladies will get a bookmark with your print. Just email me your address and what color bookmark you'd like. It'll take me a few hours to make each one, so the sooner you tell me the color, the sooner I can make it.

Reading list update: I've finished The Iron King and First Rider's Call. Both were fabulous and make me want the next books.

Filk Friday: This Summer (The R2D2 Song)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quick reminder: last day to turn in your dragon poems. So far I've received three entries. That's only three party favors going out. Come on. Give it a try. This is no uber serious contest. Just have fun. I'll be reposting all poems on Monday along with the winner.

For today's filk I give you This Summer (The R2D2 Song). I actually meant to share this last week when I discovered it, but the video kept locking up halfway through. Since it is playing fine now, I'm posting it. Mia has a great voice for her age (I'm guessing 8 or 9), and her tiny Leia buns are adorable. Her whole performance was adorable, actually. The working R2D2 gave it a nice touch. In the video notes, Claire Mix posted the lyrics and said that if anyone wants to perform the song, they just have to ask and she'll send the music. (It's her song.)

The City versus Forks

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And the winner is...Oops. I can't open the envelope yet. You've got to hear how they performed before you get the ratings. Silly me.

The City and the City won the coin toss to perform first. Only reviews put this contender in front of me. The cover does nothing to call attention to it. Nor do I read many mysteries. However, I was vaguely curious about the overlapping cities concept. I wondered if they were partially out of phase to each other somehow. After all, how could it be possible that two cities could really be that overlapped and not interact with each other unless they were partially intangible to each other?

No, they really were fully tangible. People just unsee the people and buildings of the other city. Though more science-fictiony, being out-of-phase would have been easier for me to wrap my brain around, more plausible. Go figure. I spent the first half of the book trying to puzzle how the how and why of such an existence. It wasn't the, "How could the brain be able to be trained to ignore so much information?" It was the, "How could the brain know which information to discard?" And, "Why would you have to or even want to live that way?" Many of the citizens were happy with the divide. I'm still not sure I fully understand the why part, but I did finally get enough information to answer the how. Sort of. But don't ask me to explain it, because I'm not sure I can. I certainly couldn't picture it.

The story follows Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Besźel Extreme Crime Squad. His murder investigation of a young woman's death leads him through both Besźel and the neighboring (overlapping) city of Ul Qoma to discover something that could disrupt both societies on a fundamental scale. Check out Amber's teaser and review on SF Scrivener.

I almost gave up several times in the beginning. It's got that sort of gritty noir/old detective movie vibe going on, stories like Dick Tracy and whatever those other ones are you sometimes catch on Turner Classic Movies. Not much emotion from the detective but plenty of tenacity. Not really my thing, but I know some people like that style. That combined with confusion about how the cities even functioned made the first several chapters difficult to keep my interest. I stuck with it, because I'm tenacious myself when it comes to reading. I seldom give up on a book, and those cases usually involve emotions a good deal warmer than boredom and confusion.

Once I got the hang of the rules and Borlú was digging deeper into the underlying issues involved behind the murder, my fingers no longer reached for a bookmark. I didn't exactly enjoy it, but I couldn't leave Borlú's side until he solved the crime and learned what it would cost him. Even when I turned the last page, I still wasn't sure. But it's been a week, and I still find myself drifting back to the streets of Besź and Ul Qoma. The City and the City may have been hard reading, but I feel like I learned something from both the story and the storytelling. Maybe I did actually like it, just on an intellectual level rather than an entertainment level.

Then there's Twilight, the book I've been avoiding as best as humanly possible when you work in a bookstore. Vampires: not really my thing. I mean really not my thing. Especially when you add teenage angst. But if I'm going to despise a book this much, I should read it so I know the details of why. If you think I get too psychoanalytical, feel free to blame it on watching too many episodes of Bones, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Rissoli and Isles.

I avoid sitcoms and soap operas. The melodrama and deliberate overacting make me flip channels faster than getting a clean diaper on a baby boy before he sprays. (So glad to be long past that part of parenthood.) Twilight read like a continuous sitcom, and Bella like a typical "star" of one. In other words, implausibly annoying.

She deliberately, and on her own, chooses to leave a place she loves to go someplace she finds depressing. Ok, maybe plausible. She was attempting to build a connection of sorts with her dad. But it would have been better to make that clear with the first sentences about how much she hates Forks and would rather be in Phoenix. I didn't want to be wondering that long about why she chose to make such a distasteful move.

She's seventeen or just turned seventeen and she's still that completely a klutz? That's the sort of gracelessness you hear about with young teens during growth spurts. Once past that point, they usually gain back at least some of their coordination. These days, if anyone was that severely lacking in coordination, they'd be checked out for some sort of inner ear imbalance or mild physical disability, thereby giving them a medical excuse to not do most gym activities. Plus she'd probably be medically supervised about the kinds of activities she should and should not be doing. Such as no walking in the woods without a cane or walking staff. If she was choosing to go without such devices despite doctor's orders, that's her own idiocy and pride, but there was nothing in the story to even suggest that she'd been examined for the cause of such extreme uncoordination or that her parents couldn't afford such an assessment. Not a single mention of the possibility of medical impairment. Normal gracelessness can be trained away, but did anybody ever bother to try help her get over that? No.

She should certainly get that drop-of-a-hat tendency to faint checked out.

Let's move onto the plot for a moment. Besides reading like a teen sitcom, Twilight also read like an attempt to create a modern edgy version of Tuck Everlasting, with vampires creating the immortality rather than a tiny fountain of youth in the woods. Think about it. Family of immortals. A normal girl getting romantically involved one of them. Discussion over ethics of her becoming immortal just to stay with her interest.

No. Sorry, that's a fail. Winnie actually learned something about herself and life by the end. Bella was exactly the same klutzy spastic angsty teen who got her own way. Spoiled rotten. I thought less of her by the end than I did when I started. I can give a character some leeway in the beginning, because I expect events (the plot) to instigate changes, forcing them to evolve in order to cope. For a character I'd supposed to sympathize with, she should have become a better, stronger person by the end. But no, she was just as helpless and spoiled.

Edward, who is supposed to dazzle, just made me mad. He complained about having to rescue Bella all the time, but he never taught her any moves to make her less helpless. He reinforces her inability by blatantly telling her she's helpless. Defeatist. If that had been me, I might have smacked him, even if it hurt me more than him to do so.

Then there is nothing substantial to their relationship. The only thing holding them together is pheromones and selfish desires. Every time they started to get a glimmer of something worth more than vampire sparkle, such as a discussion of music tastes, it gets drowned under the sludge of "Oh Edward is so hot. I can't live without him. I want, I want, I want." Gagtastic. That's the stuff of erotica, not real romance.

Here we are with the final scores.

The City and the City: hard to read in one sitting, dry and serious, complicated world/political situation, solid world building, and plot that maintains logic even through its intricacies.

Twilight: a fast read because I didn't care if I missed anything, primary characters with no admirable traits, almost no plot until the end, and an overdose of teen melodrama.

And the winner is...

...The City and the City! Congratulations, Inspector Borlú. I think I'll travel with you again sometime.

Old list, new list

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wow. A couple new folks around here. Welcome. Make yourselves comfortable in the nooks and crannies of the dragon's library. I hope you'll participate in my little anniversary contest to write a poem about dragons. A handmade bookmark for the winner and a dragon print for everyone who submits an entry. Contest ends this Friday. So far I've only received one entry. You can either post it in the comments of the original post or email it to me.

Ok, the results of my September reading list.

Books I finished and their ratings out of 5 stars (3 means I liked it):
Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson {2.5 stars, meh}
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins {5 stars}
Stardust by Neil Gaiman {3 stars}
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke {3 stars}
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke {4 .5 stars}
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner {3.5 stars}
The Art and Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis {3.5 stars}
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card {3 stars}
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale {5 stars}
Auralia's Colors
by Jeffrey Overstreet {4 stars}
The Princess Academy by Sahnnon Hale (wasn't on my list, but I read it anyway) {4.5 stars}

As you can see, I didn't get anywhere close to the number read I'd wanted, so all the leftovers are going toward October's list. Plus I added a few. Some are already checked out. Here's my goal for this month.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
The Mermaid's Madness (Princess novels-book 2) by Jim C. Hines
Wired by Liz Maverick
First Rider's Call by Kristin Britain
Dust by Elizabeth Bear
The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson
Fantasy Lover (Dark Hunter series-book 1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse series-book 1) by Charlaine Harris
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip
Blue Fire by Janice Hardy
Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (not waiting until Nov for book 3)
Red Hood's Revenge (book 3 of Princess novels) by Jim C. Hines.

These two I just read this weekend, so I'm counting them toward
October's list. I'll be commenting on them Wednesday. You'll have to wait for their ratings until then.
by Stephanie Meyer
The City and the City by China Meiville

I don't know how many of these I'll actually get through. By the end of September, I was starting to reach book overload. But, at least I tried several new books and authors. The few old favorites I squeezed in were comfortable relaxers.

Filk Friday: I Had a Shoggoth

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here's another Tom Smith gem. I Had a Shoggoth might be one way to introduce kids to various monstrous creatures such as werewolves, zombies, and vampires. Oh yes, and of course, the Shoggoth of HP Lovecraft.

Copied from the video description:
A kids' song, written for The Funny Music Project, and performed live at MarCon 2008. ASL signing by the amazing Judi Miller, who had no idea what was coming.

Song and video © 2008 Tom Smith. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike license.

Downloadable audio available at http://www.thefump.com


Judi's signing makes the song extra funny. Even Tom was entertained. "That was worth diamonds, man." Then again, he gave her a great song to start with. Enjoy!