04/30: This week I’m …

love-poster-1
Reading:

  • Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP
  • Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Listening to:

  • Winner
  • Yoga Lin
  • Niel
  • B1A4
  • X-Files Files
  • Giant Bombcast

Watching:

  • Hawaii Five-0
  • My Love From Another Star (completed)
  • Bridal Mask
  • Ex Machina
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Wednesday Four (04/29/15)

Today’s links want you to binge watch, I think you should just marathon. Also, as an aside, there’s a link here from Vice and while I’m not a huge fan of the site, this article is actually quite interest.

  • HBO to Netflix: Bring It On How HBO’s quest to win the streaming wars becamse a binge-worthy drama as juicy as Game of Thrones. (Fast Company)

I would be interested in HBO if they included TBS, TNT and TCM content — except for two things. The first is that, as of launch, it will only work on Apple device (which means I can’t watch it on my computer, tablet or TV) and it costs $14.99 a month — which I find to be a ripoff. Sure, I’d like to get the content, but I can get two difference services (Hulu+ and Netflix) for only a couple of bucks more. That’s not to say that I don’t pay for other services, I do (Dramafever and, at some point, I’ll start paying for SoompiTV again), I’m just saying that $14.99/month is way too much (even Prime’s $99/year is cheaper, when you break it down). C’mon, HBO, make it cheaper, you won’t regret it.

Need Book Recommendations?

Originally posted on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 at ROPL.org.

Stumped on what to read or listen to next? We’ve got the answer! ROPL subscribes to a service called Novelist Plus (kids and parents can get recommendations through Novelist K-8 Plus, which is provided by MeL and the State of Michigan).

What is Novelist Plus?

NoveList Plus is the premiere database of reading recommendations, available through libraries around the world. It is a comprehensive source of information about books that includes expert recommendations, reviews, articles, lists and more. You can these and other online resources through the library’s website Databases page.

For more about Novelist, check out the video below.

April is for Camp Nanowrimo and a Short Essay on Fanfiction

Some of you may have heard of Nanowrimo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is a worldwide thing that people, including myself, do for all of November. Basically, you write a 50k (or more) novel in one month (November). I’ve done Nano over the years (2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014). My first two years I wrote partial novels that were 50k but will probably never be finished (that’s for the best) and the remaining years I wrote fanfiction (yes, fanfiction and no, you don’t get to know the fandoms). Last year J, a very good friend of mine (and a partner in writing crime, of which I have two, both of whom are lovely amazing people) asked me if I was going to do Camp Nano. I had no idea what that was — it turns out that it’s sort of like a mini Nanowrimo.

Camp Nanowrimo takes place twice a year, once in April and once in July — and you basically pick your own word count (10k or more) and writing something (a novel, like in November, or something else). I completed both Camp Nano sessions last year (writing two 10k+ fanfics) as well as regular Nanowrimo. When J asked me if I was doing Camp Nano this year, I said sure, why not and tried to think about what fanfic I wanted to write. Except, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to try writing some original fiction again. So, I’ve started (though, as of my writing this, on April 7th, I’ve written only 1891 words of my 20k).

I’d forgotten, though, how hard original fiction is. Now that I’ve outed myself as a fanfic writing (and technically I’ve been writing fanfic since 1997, if not earlier — before I knew what fanfic was), I’ll talk about that a little.

A quick google of fanfic gives you a link to a popular website for posting stories (I don’t post there) as well as definitions of fanfiction and some articles. A lot of articles you read about fanfic dismiss it as a waste of time, a bastion of poor writing or something that teenage girls write their fantasies. I would agree that it is probably all three of those things — but none of them are actually bad. Fanfic is no more a waste of time (writing or reading) than original fiction, nonfiction or watching TV. But it is a way to waste time, you can lose the same amount of time reading that 77k fanfic that you would if you were watching a couple of episodes of a TV show or reading a novel. And, to be fair, you’d probably get the same amount of pleasure out of any of those things (I am speaking from personal experience).

I will grant you that there’s a lot of poorly written fanfiction, but as someone who has read a lot of books and a lot of book reviews for her job, I can categorically tell you that there is also a lot of poor writing in the published and writing-for-money book world as well. Just because someone is written for fun doesn’t mean it’s naturally going to be shitty and just because someone was paid to write something doesn’t mean it’s naturally going to be good. There’s good fanfic and bad fanfic and good novels and bad novels and you get the idea.

For the last point, that it’s just teenage girls? Well … we all have to start somewhere. If you want to understand the value of fanfic, just think about the fact that there are several truly fantastic fiction authors who also write fanfiction. They do it because it’s fun, because it’s a good way to write outside of your own head/verse and because, well, they want to. I’m not going to talk about all the fanfic that’s authorized or what makes something fanfiction or not — or if fanfic is okay (it is). If you want about it, Bookshop’s excellent LJ post is what you’re looking for as well as this great Daily Dot post dispelling of fanfic myths.

Which returns us to the point of this — why do I write fanfiction and why is writing original fiction so hard (but not too hard, mind you). Well, people write for many reasons and all of them are valid. But I write because it’s fun and because it’s sometimes easier to write in a world that already exists — the characters are already there, the setting’s there and you just have to write whatever you want. But what I especially love about writing fanfiction is taking characters that already exist (and that are already familiar to readers) and dumping them in what we (lovingly) call an alternative universe.

But just because I love writing fanfic doesn’t mean I don’t want to write original fiction. I would love to be able to write novels for a living (with a little fanfiction on the side), but first I actually have to finish something. And this month’s Camp Nano is my attempt to start something I want to see through to the end. I’ve already enlisted the help of my sister (she’s very good at proofreading), but now I just have to keep writing. Which is, of course, that hard part I keep talking about.

Wordbuilding is hard. You have to create your own world, characters, everything. You’re not playing in someone else’s world (as fun as that is, though). You’re creating your own world, not taking something that exists and tweaking it (see: all those Sherlock Holmes remakes that we love). This is hard! It’s fun, but it’s hard. But without all my experience writing fanfiction, it would be that much harder to get started with my own attempt at a novel. Not everyone works this way, but I believe that all writing is good experience, no matter how poor someone else thinks that writing is.

By the time you read this post, I’ll be almost done with this novel, or at least close to 20k. Let’s hope that’s the case!

Music Sundays: NIEL(니엘) _ Lovekiller (못된 여자) (feat. Dok2)

There’s a kpop group named Teen Top and while I’m not interested in them as a group, one of their singers, Niel, released a solo album which is actually pretty great! It’s called oNIELy (I know, really) and this is one of the songs off of it. I don’t have feelings one way or the other about the music video, but I like the song a lot.

Book Review: Prudence by Gail Carriger

PrudenceI’ve been a fan of steampunk since I knew what it was, but more recently I’ve come to realize that one of my favorite genres of fiction is fantasy of manners, which is a genre many a series I love fall into. Basically, fantasy of manners is a mashup of historical fiction (often Victorian and Edwardian, among others) and fantasy/magic/supernatural. By themselves, neither genre does much for me. I do like subsections of fantasy/etc (urban fantasy, for example and some straight up fantasy in YA), but usually not and especially not epic adult fantasy/etc. And I’m not a fan of historical fiction in general, either. But when you combine them? I love it!

Prudence is part of the same world that Carriger created with her enjoyable and fun Soulless series. Prudence (Rue) is the daughter of the main character from that series (Alexa). She inherited a version of her mother’s ability (when Alexa touches a supernatural being, they become mortal for the whole time they’re touching), in Rue’s case, she literally takes on their supernatural form until enough distance is put between the supernatural being and herself.

Rue, her best friend Prim (daughter of Alexa’s BFF, Ivy), Percy (Prim’s brother) and Quesnel (he’s the adopted son of Madame Lefoux, a friend/acquaintance of Alexa) embark on an adventure, which make sup most of the novel. Rue’s adopted father (a vampire, her biological father, and Alexa’s husband, is a werewolf — it is all rather complicated, but very enjoyable) sends her to England to secure some tea (they are British after all) and Rue finds herself in the midst of politics and the supernatural, because of course she does.

What transpires aboard Rue’s ship (the Spotted Custard, where the name of the series gets it’s name) is an entertaining romp and return to the world of Soulless. This series acts as a follow up, or sequel series (I guess?) to Soulless but it’s not the only return to this world we’re given. While Prudence and Soulless are very much adult novels (as are the rest of their series), Carriger has given us a truly enjoyable YA series, which takes place as a prequel to Soulless. Her Finishing School series is equally as enjoyable, if not even more so as it follows the story of several girls (a quite a few people we’re familiar with from the Soulless books) throughout their adventures in finishing school and learning the ways of spying, fighting and generally growing up in polite society.

While you can pick up Finishing School without having read Soulless and Prudence would most likely be enjoyable if you’re not familiar with the previous books, I don’t know why you would. These series are all a treat to read and quite a lot of fun — which, to be quite honest, is one of the reasons I love them. So, if you want a bit of fun in your fiction reading, why not check out one of Carriger’s fantastic series! You certainly won’t be disappointed.

04/23: This week I’m …

Reading:

  • Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP

Listening to:

Watching:

  • My Love From Another Star
  • Midsomer Murders
  • Hawaii Five-0
  • NBA playoffs

The Wednesday Four (04/22/15)

Hey, look, some links!

  • The future of loneliness  As we moved our lives online, the internet promised an end to isolation. But can we find real intimacy amid shifting identities and permanent surveillance? (Guardian)

As someone who has a social life divided by the internet and the physical world, I found the first article to be fascinating, if somewhat ill-informed. I truly believe that friendships you make online are just as real as those you make in person. Actually, I don’t just believe this, I know it. I have several very close friends who I only know through the internet. I’ve met a couple of them in person and I was the bridesmaid in another’s wedding. But there are others who I may never meet, as we live oceans apart. This doesn’t devalue our friendships in any way, shape or form.

I believe the crux of the problem is relying on the idea that followers on social media are the same as tangible friends — the ones you talk to (you may email them every day, or every week, month or even once or twice a year — but they are your friends and not just people you happen to know). I have over 100 followers (each) on twitter, tumblr and on Facebook. I would only consider a handful of these to be actual friends and of those, even fewer who are close friends. If you confuse friendship and followers, then you’re missing two things: the point of social media is not to create a super large group of actual friends and friendships cannot be bound or determined by anything other than the relationship between two people. I feel that the author, at the end of the article, came to realize that it is the quality of the friendships, not the quantity of the ‘friends’ that really matters.

Rereading Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic

Back when I was in high school, I somehow stumbled upon Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I don’t know if my parents recommended it to me or I found it while trawling through the shelves of the public library (or my high school library, which had a small, but decent collection of SF/F books). As I grew up, I devoured these books and then passed them along to my sister (she loved them, too). But at some point I stopped reading them. I read Good Omens, of course, which led me to read books by Neil Gaiman (I have since left him behind, too, but for other and often more complicated reasons). But I never really returned to Discworld or Terry Pratchett’s writing in general.

That’s not to say it wasn’t around. My sister still read it and after I became a librarian, we always had his new books in the collection and there are a couple of patrons who read anything he wrote, no matter what it was. And when I started ordering YA/teen books, I was always ordering his newest young adult books. But I still wasn’t reading them. Even when Pratchett announced he had Alzheimer’s and talked about his future as finite, I didn’t go back to reread the books. I admired them, he’d created this amazing world, but I really felt that I’d outgrown the series. And when people asked me why I stopped reading them, that was my answer.

But since Pratchett’s death, I’ve begun to wonder if that was the case at all. Ever since discovering audiobooks, I’ve come to realize that the problem is not with the books themselves, but with me. For those who know me personally, I harbor a strong dislike for comedy — especially comedy where people do dumb things and thus make me feel embarrassed for them (called secondhand embarrassment: Urban Dictionary definition and a short, but interesting, article on the topic from Jezebel). This extends, to some extent, to fiction, but not always in the same way. It’s far easier to read through it then to watch it — but I still don’t like reading a lot of comic fiction — either because I don’t find it funny (and instead find it dumb) or I just don’t get it.

I figured out a way to get over this and that was through audiobooks. I discovered this by accident, actually. I’d tried to read some of Wodehouse’s Jeeves & Wooster series, but couldn’t get through the books. But then I picked up an audiobook version and found it utterly hilarious. I’ve listened to several other books that would otherwise leave me unable to finish (including more PG Wodehouse, but also some Horatio Hornblower). I’ve often thought that had I listened to Jane Austen, I might actually like her writing — but that ship has long since sailed. That being said, there are plenty of SF/F novels that I want to revisit (including, but not limited to, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I cannot stand in book form). Of course, I wasn’t sure this was going to work, because not everything translates well into audio, but once Pratchett died, I thought why not give it a try.

And, guys, it totally works. It’s been so long since I read any Pratchett that I’m sure my lack of memory has something to do with it. But I remember enjoying the books — I just don’t remember finding them so incredibly entertaining. Man, audiobooks are awesome and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong (or, you know, can’t listen, but that’s a different issue). Not all audiobooks are created equally, but these Discworld ones are turning out to be fantastic.

I decided, as with my reading of Murakami’s books, to start at the beginning. I picked up the audiobook version of The Colour of Magic (shout out to the Berrien Springs Community Library for sending me both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic on CD through MeL) for my recent trip to Cleveland. I was astounded on several counts, the first of them being how enjoyable the narrator’s voice was. But what really blew my mind was how utterly hilariously entertaining the book was.

There are a couple of textual features to Pratchett novels that I wasn’t entirely sure would translate properly to audiobook format — the voice of Death (represented in small caps) and all of the fun and amusing asides (depicted as footnotes). Both of these were dealt with quite well using a bit of voice distortion, or something like that, I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. Without any hang ups left, the books are very enjoyable — at least the first two (as I write this, I’ve just started listening to Equal Rites).

The Colour of Magic introduces us to the Discworld itself through the eyes of a failed wizard, Rincewind, and the tourist, Twoflower, he unluckily comes upon, as well as one of the most memorable characters (after Death) in the Discworld universe — the Luggage. Together, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic work hand-in-hand as a very long road trip around the Discworld.

Twoflower wants to see the world and Rincewind doesn’t want to, but ends up going with him anyway (he has little choice and it’s very amusing). Along the way, the two characters make friends — especially in The Light Fantastic and by the end of the second book, they’ve both grown as people and we, the readers, have fallen in love with the world they live in. Pratchett’s love for the world he created is evident from the first page of this series onward.

The adventures that make up these two books help to keep me interested, but what really makes this novels go is the humor. It’s everywhere! As I said to both my dad and my sister, I couldn’t believe how funny these books turned out to be. Sometimes I’d giggle, sometimes I’d chuckle and sometimes I’d just laugh out loud. It’s actually quite enjoyable to drive in the car while listening to something so entertaining. The Colour of Magic lasted me to Cleveland and back again, plus a day or so beyond and The Light Fantastic lasted me to visit my dad and back again, plus a day or so beyond that. I’ve managed to track down copies of the rest of the series and I plan to listen until I get tired of it or want to listen to something else.

If you can find copies of these audiobooks, I cannot recommend the first two enough. And, based on my first half hour of listening to Equal Rites, I’m enjoying that one as well. I play to write reviews, probably not this long, for all of the Discworld novels that I listen to.

Music Sundays: 타블로와 꿈꾸는 라디오 – WINNER – Different, 위너 – 디퍼런트 20140925

I’ve (recently) starting fangirling YG’s newest (soon to be second newest) boyband. They were the winners of a YG reality show called Win. The group’s name is Winner and I really like their music. This video is from a performance of theirs and includes Different, my favorite of their songs.