City of Bones Review

Taken from my account on Goodreads.com

When I walked into this I had a lot of preconceived notions about what to expect. I wasn’t a part of the Harry Potter fan community back when Cassandra Clare was, but I remember the rift she caused in it and there’s still some of that same rift going around today. Those battle lines drawn over her Draco Trilogy were never really erased and her version of Draco has become somewhat a staple in the community because it’s more interesting than what Draco turned out to be.

So when I read this I was expecting to hate it and spend my time picking out the similarities between it and Harry Potter. But after about 10% of the book passing that faded. Mundanes were the Muggles of this word, that’s true. And there were other small things, but there was a lot here to suck you in. Clare is a good writer, she can tell a story and it sucked me in and surprised me, really really surprised me in the end and she’s not too scared to go to a place that a lot of YA authors won’t. I won’t spoil any of that, because that’s what got this book that last star…that and the fact I just read Hush Hush and anything is better than the tormenting characterization of some of the characters in that book.

I literally stopped reading the book to write this and tonight, when I get off from work I am going to be reading the second one. 

Reading this it’s not hard to see how she made the leap from this to Fan Fiction. it reads less like a fan story with the numbers filed off and more like someone who wrote so far and realized she had a unique way of looking at these characters and that they weren’t who they had started out being in the beginning of it. What really got me to liking this book—this is a four star review, by the way—was that she took risk and mentioned gender issues and gays and other things that are still somewhat taboo. I have a soft spot for people who dare to tackle things like that.

First Person: Revisited

This is more of a note left here for proof of me doing this. I’m not going to be able to write this current story in the first person perspective, but I’m going to have to make the effort to learn how to do it or at least get comfortable enough to do it.

Over the past several months when I have tried to write anything in first person it seems too unnatural and bogged down for me to get much further than the first few lines. So far reading first person hasn’t done much to help me. The way I see it there’s no point in me not writing anything else at all just because this one thing is giving me trouble.

Literary Ship Has Sailed

I read this post about the death of Literary fiction. Lately I have been having a lot of arguments on the subject of literary versus genre fiction. It’s obvious which I favor, but I think that personal preference plays a very large role here. A lot of times in the academic world you will see professors touting the wonders of literary fiction and the beautifully written prose. But that was never what interested me and that wasn’t what got me into writing.

I’ll never forget discussing my writing with someone who was reading it and having them ask about a chase scene that I had been working on. Another person (who was also a writer) had been nearby and overheard the conversation. He piped up with the snide remark: “I used to write stuff like that, then I grew up” referring to my writing of a chase scene.

This attitude didn’t surprise me and it’s one that I’ve dealt with from family or others throughout my writing. “Why don’t you just write stuff that really happens?” is pretty much the common way I’ve heard it brought to my attention. My answer is that reality tends to be a little boring. It’s not what I like to write, for the same reasons I don’t write Westerns or Erotica. It’s just not what I want to do.

There’s a trend in schools here in the US to discourage the writing of genre fiction. Most creative writing classes actually tell you to shy away from science fiction or crime thrillers or any of that. People write what they like, so when the people who want to write genre fiction drop the class or don’t sign up, what’s left is simply people who want to write for other literary authors.

Sure the genre writers don’t get as much practice with that part of the craft because they’re not in the class for it, but they’re what’s selling and popular. So if this trend is repeated it won’t matter how good your book is if all the industry wants to find is the next Meyer, Fifty Shades of Gray or Hunger Games. If those things are what sell, why would a business model permit them to take chances on something else? The wonder of the digital age isn’t that the gate keeper is removed, it’s that the gate keeper has changed. The industry realizes there’s a place for fan fiction and light (horribly written erotica) and other things that were branded as a no-no previously.

This might sound petty or rude, but in a way I think literary fiction did this to itself. It ostracized itself from genre fiction and to most pretty prose and the human condition aren’t enough to leave their genre of choice behind. Hell, you can get well written prose elsewhere, but most people aren’t looking for a heavy read. Had academia welcomed more genre writers into the fold we might have seen more of a mixing of the two, but it seems with the age of digital information, that ship might have sailed.

Changing Appearances

There’s a bit of inspiration to be taken from all over the place, I’m not really big on sitting out in nature and looking to be inspired. In fact I never really believed in that Romanticized version of writing habits that were common with the likes of Shelly, Keats and Wordsworth.

Instead I always took it upon myself to remember that if you needed to write, that you needed to take it seriously and treat it like a job rather than some passing fancy which you indulged only where there was nothing else to do. You need to do away with any distraction and make yourself actually do the work. Sometimes that means being a little anti-social or putting the phone on silent. It’s easiest to explain to your friends beforehand what you’re doing and what kind of dedication it takes and needs.

But I’m getting away from myself, lately here I have been writing again and this is becoming sort of a reimagining of Keep Austin Safe, rather than an entirely new story or even a simple rewrite. I ended up changing a lot of the larger points in it and even some of the characterization and the look of the characters. I don’t think I have come up with anything ground breaking, but I have decided to represent a wider array of characters in this story.

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned before that Lewis and Holly slipped into the story out of nowhere, which is actually a huge change. But I have actually began to change the other characters in slight ways like appearance and personality and the like. I sometimes wonder about things like this and these kind of small aesthetic changes and wonder if this is something that happens with all authors or if this is just something that certain people do. Perhaps it’s seen as somewhat amateurish?

Then again there are all these stories about characters changing after conception. There’s things like Ed from Cowboy Bebop being a boy before. And then there’s Elaine, who never existed in the original Seinfeld pilot. Obviously things change after the original idea is conceived. That’s editing. That’s just a natural part of the writing process.

But I think it’s silly to think that any change like that doesn’t have a rippling effect. Even changing the hair color of one of the characters could change how people perceive them. Look at how society thinks of blondes as opposed to brunettes. Or how a bald man is seen differently from a man with a ponytail. A lot of authors seem to think that appearances don’t mean much, but how often do we judge others based simply on what we see of them?

True, it’s naïve to write using clichéd appearance traits to try and describe the personality of your character, but it’s probably just a naïve to think that appearance counts for nothing in a society where beauty products for hair alone are a billion dollar a year industry. 

In an attempt to make things more sensible I am going to shy away from idealized characters and more toward realism. Of course realism isn’t going to be the thing people associate most with fantasy writing, but in a way it still needs to be. Things need to be realistic for the world that they exist in. There’s some kind of boundary or place for this in every fantasy world.

I try too hard not to concentrate on these things, I got stuck in that trap before and never stopped building the world and the characters—it seems like now I just need to write.

Perspectives

I have been trying to resume something resembling a regular writing regiment. It’s significantly more difficult now that I have writer’s block and an active social life. So far I think I am managing to get somewhere. Two thousand words have been done since my last post.

There are some characters in Keep Austin Safe that appear in other places in my writing. Some of them go by different names more of the time. For instance Lewis and Holly from the novel are more often referred to as Agents Reynolds and Prescott in the Keep Austin Safe. It wasn’t a conscious choice I made to do this. When I started writing it just happened that way. I guess it really is perspective that dictates things like that.

It’s interesting to note that in Aurthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series it is very rare for Watson or Holmes to ever refer to each other by their first names. This is just odd, when you think about it by today’s real world standards. Which is probably why in the BBC Sherlock they pretty much only refer to each other by their first names—the same way you and I would. It’s a small change really and one you might not even notice because the use of first names is so common, it’s just how we do things.

My reasoning behind using the last names of the characters in Keep Austin Safe is kind of the same. Normally when someone else refers to an authority figure like a police officer, judge or Federal agent they would do so by last name. Since the story doesn’t really belong to Lewis and Holly in this instance I think that it’s appropriate to refer to them in that way.

One of the other characters I refer to differently is one I can’t discuss at length because in her case it’s actually because she pretends to be someone she’s not in the novel and the name would give her away. There’s no pointing in spoiling stuff in my narrative if I don’t have to.

Blocked

There’s something to be said about the difficulty involved in just writing. For it to be something that I thoroughly enjoy it is so hard for me to do. But when I am working on a story, whether it be short or long, I feel truly at peace and ease. A lot of the time in answering the question of where to go from here I surprise myself and there’s an excitement in that which is hard to really explain.

I haven’t seriously written anything in months save for planning and tightening up of plot and characters. The decision to scrap the old opening that featured the Angel of Death was one that I made very recently and plan to stick by for now. The opening seemed to perfect in some ways but it left far too many pitfalls for me and too many things unanswered in a bad way.

There’s a bit of anxiety when I think about writing now, that is something that I used to never have. So I need to stomp that out right away before it becomes something that takes root and keeps me from being productive. I have spent a lot of my time as a person who could pump out several thousand words a day. So it’s scary to be on the other side of the coin and it’s hard to describe until you truly feel it, much like the excitement that comes with writing.

So here’s to me, pushing back and hoping like Hell that I get somewhere.

Coal Black

It’s always made me laugh that people will claim that this world is now racism free. Though I don’t think I have heard anyone claim it’s free of it for long…I have heard multiple claims that the United States has a black President and we’re not hanging blacks or forcing Asians to build our railroads anymore—so we must be done with that whole racism kerfuffle. After all, how many times to rappers have to use the word nigger as a term of endearment before it’s level as a conversation piece is reduced down to that of the word bro?

Of course racism is not dead, while things have gotten better it’s still there. Though a good way to really see how things have changed is to take a look at this review by Nostalgia Chick, some of you might be shocked to know that Warner Brothers ever made such a thing.

Nostalgia Chick: Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs Review

Looper

I decided to check out Looper this week. Back when the movie came out I was interested in seeing it, but I rarely make the trip to the movies. I didn’t go see the Hobbit and I still haven’t seen the Amazing Spider Man movie. The way I see it, I hit all of the biggest ones and I eventually check out the others on Bluray or DVD. Recently I managed to see Men in Black 3 and Brave—I was satisfied with both of them. But I took my sweet time seeing them.

People are always telling me that I need to see this or that so badly, but no one had mentioned Looper. So when I finally made the effort to check it out I was shocked it was so good and at the same time I was even more shocked that it had managed to get a 94% (as of this date) on Rotten Tomatoes. They’re usually pretty hard on these type of movies and even though I loved it and checked the reviews after out of some kind of sick curiosity, I was glad to see that the critics had liked it too. Not them disliking it would have made me change my mind.

I would recommend Looper, because it has interesting ideas about time travel. They’re not new ideas, but the way they’ve set up the story and shown the rules was well done. They weren’t really stuck in this endless exposition—they showed a lot of the things that normally would have been told to us. Showing versus telling is something that really shouldn’t be an issue in movies, but it still is. Movies have much easier time showing us things and they sometimes insist on telling.

Probably one of the best things about the movie is that it’s a very localized story, though there are hints of things under the surface; a television in the background showing a message about these events across the world with a splash of a word that we will remember from earlier in the movie. The movie doesn’t treat us stupid. It doesn’t spend all of this time trying to show you parts of the world you don’t need to see. It tells it’s story, hints and shows what you need to know and pushes right alone.

In an odd turn of things, the more I reflect on it the more I like it. It’s definitely worth checking out.