Saturday, January 24, 2015

National Readathon - Wrap Up

Well, I survived.  There's still about 60 pages left in the book, and I'm going to finish it, if for no other reason than to see if anything actually bloody happens.  A solid two-thirds of this book could have been handled with a single training montage.  There are so many characters floating around that it's hard to keep them straight, or to really care about any of them.  However, considering that it's more of a world-building and intro-to-magic style of book, I can kind of understand why there are so many books in the series - it's easy to keep going that way.

At any rate, I feel like my first Readathon was a success.  Thanks to all who stopped by!

National Readathon - Halfway Point

Current book - still A Modern Witch
Current tea - Honey Ginseng Green
Current snack - none (too many M&Ms)

Well, I admit to being impressed at the turn the romance angle took.  It's still a little too pat and "love at first sight" (literally) for my taste, but it is interesting to see how love at first sight works for a witch with precognition.  I'm just waiting for things to, you know, HAPPEN- I'm 171 pages into this thing, and other than the initial reveal, there's not much action going on.


National Readathon - Hour 1 check in

Current book - A Modern Witch
Current tea - Trader Joe's Spiced Chai
Current snack - plain M&Ms

The book is almost disappointing in that it's not as awful as I expected it to be.  It's not good, don't get me wrong - there are many ways of blending modern technology with magic, and I don't think this author has hit on any of them in a way that makes a lot of sense - but it's not hilariously horrible.  There is an awful lot of head-hopping, though - nearly every page has a different POV character, and I had to go back a couple of times to determine which person this one was, which takes me out of the story.  Otherwise, it continues apace.

National Readathon - the set-up

Here's my set up for the several hours of reading ahead.  Pardon the mess - the library isn't quite ready for prime time yet.  Ramses, in the window, is ready to watch any and all action closely - at least, until he falls asleep.  The Kindle is charged up, the laptop is on hand for updates and music, and the current tea (Trader Joe's Spiced Chai) is brewing.  Let's do this.

Friday, January 23, 2015

National Readathon this Saturday

On Saturday, I will be taking part in the National Book Foundation’s National Readathon Day.  The goal is to raise money for some of the programs run by the National Book Foundation, including programs that help encourage kids to continue reading for fun as they get older.  Seeing as I spent the majority of my childhood buried in a book (or three), I'm hoping to help some other kids learn to ignore the world with a good book.

I’m planning to read at least one utterly ridiculous book (current front-runner is A Modern Witch, though I’m open to suggestions) between noon and 4pm PST tomorrow.  If you’d like to donate, my page is here.  I'm also planning to update this blog with the occasional reactions and progress updates, so you can keep it here to see how long I last with the Modern Witch.

Thanks, all, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - What do you do with a story idea?

Round two of the Writing Excuses Master Class - now that you have story ideas, what do you do with them?  This week's writing prompt may be a little more difficult for me, because my original ideas weren't all that fleshed out:

Using last week's five story ideas (or five new ones):

  • Take two of them and combine them into one story.
  • Take one and change the genre underneath it.
  • Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it
  • Take the last one and have a character make the opposite choice.
Starting from the top:
  • Combining two, we've got the villain press conference and sense-jamming, because who wouldn't be pleased with villains who could jam the heroes' senses?  It's a new technology, and the League of Heroes has to deal with the consequences.
  • Change the genre: the camera shop is a shop of horrors, and the employees are forced to keep the portal open or risk the wrath of their keeper, who maintains the portal in order to keep his power and his youth.
  • Change the age/gender: originally I had thought of the person seeking the love currency as a young-ish man, but now I see it as an elderly woman who's lost the love of her life, and she's searching for enough love currency to keep herself going (love currency ties directly to vitality).
  • Make the opposite choice: "honey blood" is now something people are actively trying to avoid, as people force the potion into others to make them into "spare part" donors, and the rich keep them around to allow themselves to have the kinds of bodies they had when they were young.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Idea Generation

One of my favorite podcasts on writing, Writing Excuses, has decided to do things a little differently this year.  They're treating the year like a big master class in writing, and each week's writing prompt will lead into the next week's, and will help to build different skills over the course of the month.  In the interest of actually doing the exercises (instead of just thinking "That's a good idea, I should do that!"), I'm planning to do these on Friday posts.  This week's prompt:

Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:

  • From an interview or conversation you've had
  • From research you've done (reading science news, military history, etc)
  • From observation (go for a walk!)
  • From a piece of media (watch a movie)
  • From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
Here goes nothing (and for me, 150 words for a story idea is really long, so don't be surprised if these are mostly random phrases):

  • From an interview or conversation you've had - from a random conversation with one of my best friends, the idea of having a press conference for villains, along the same lines as post-game press conferences with football players.  This leads to a world in which "good" and "evil" are determined in a tournament, and after each game both sides have to debrief on what happened and what they can do better next time.
  • From research you've done - the idea of sense-jamming, similar to how bats can jam each other's sonar by sending complementary waves to cancel out another bat's sound waves and thus keep that bat from getting the food or what have you.  What if people could "jam" each other's senses the same way, and what would the limitations and uses for this ability be?
  • From observation - there's a camera store in Portland called Blue Moon Camera that specializes in film cameras and film processing.  The first time I entered this store, I was convinced that it was some kind of time portal that was run either by time travelers or hipsters, or some combination of both.  I wanted to know what kind of equipment they kept in the back that would allow the portal to hold for as long as it has, and how they handle "mundies" coming in, unaware of what they're entering.
  • From a piece of media - I've been obsessed with the phrase "honey blood" ever since I heard it on a TV show, and I want to play with the idea of potions that may change a person's blood into something akin to honey, with the preservation properties of honey, and thus allowing the person to live for much longer.
  • From a piece of music - the song "Wasted Love" gives me images of a setting in which the lyrics are literal - love is something that is tangible, and can be used and wasted like currency.
I'll be excited to see what next week brings, and if any of these ideas pan out into anything.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Series Review - the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Hello, my friends, and welcome to 2015!  Thus far, I have spent the new year fighting off a terrible cold, continuing in my plans to re-read the entirety of the Discworld series (I'm currently on Sourcery, so I've still got a long way to go), and working on a project for my Ravelry swap.  This project may or may not involve sparkly pink yarn and skulls.

This swap, in fact, is based on the Dresden Files, so it seems fair to give them a run-down.  I didn't start reading them until the last few years, but they hooked me pretty well.  My husband's best friend kept insisting I would like them, and curse him if he wasn't right.  (Of course, I got him hooked on the October Daye books, so I think we're about even.)  I'm actually kind of surprised that I like the books as well as I do, because generally, I don't handle books very well where bad things are constantly happening to the protagonist.

Harry Dresden is the only professional wizard in Chicago.  In the beginning of the series, there's a bit of the Humphrey Bogart, down-on-his-luck private eye feel about Harry, especially when you realize that there aren't many people willing to pay someone to do magic, because they don't believe magic exists.  Fortunately, the local police has a detective, Karrin Murphy, who is willing to put a little faith in magic when weird crap goes down.

Throughout the series, Harry gains allies and enemies, builds a family and a community for himself, and then has it all stripped away from him.  Things don't go well for Harry, is what I'm saying.  This isn't the case of a protagonist who has a lot of stuff thrown at them but they, through just being The Best At Everything, manages to survive with nothing more than a bruise - Harry's life gets straight-up ruined a couple of times.  He survives through skill, a talent for making incredibly bad decisions and bargains, and pure luck.

What I like the most is that, over the course of the 15 books in the series, Harry has changed and developed - he doesn't remain static though the experiences, and that part makes him feel much more realistic.  Not only that, but Harry's friends and enemies also adapt and incorporate changes in the status quo, so the next time Harry deals with them, it isn't just a rehash of the last encounter.  We discover later in the series that Harry's allies are capable of handling things without him (not particularly well, but they manage), and that isn't really something you see in a long series centered on one character.

Because so much happens to Harry, I find it hard to marathon these books.  There are some cases where I know what's going to happen, which just makes it worse.  However, they do stand up to a re-read, particularly when you realize that Butcher has been laying the groundwork for some of the later developments from the very first books.

Overall, five stars, and I highly recommend the audio books, narrated by James Marsters - his is the voice I hear now when I read the books, and I'm not complaining.