in which we have reading and writing adventures

Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)
Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, circa 1941. Courtesy of The Commons, Flickr.

Dear Internet,
It’s a long, lovely holiday weekend and I’m digging into my stack of books, aided by hot tea, for entertainment. Since my own book has stalled, I thought it would be a good time to take notes on the books I’m reading to see what worked and what didn’t and apply it to, hopefully, jump start my own writing as well to see what makes me happy reading. (AKA, these notes are mainly more for me than you, but hey, if you get something out of it; Awesome!)
The number one rule you’ll see anywhere on writing is, “read more,” but is that all? Yes and no. Below are some of my notes from chewing through a few books this weekend.
If influenced by a particular era, do the research. In reading a book set during the Belle Époque (France’s version of the Edwardian era / American Gilded age), the book should have a feel for that period. This one did not and it felt what details were made available were slapped on from Wikipedia. Just no.
Alternating POV should move the story along, not show the same scene from different prescriptive.  Thus far, I’ve finished three books this weekend, of which two used alternating POV as a story device. One used it well to advance the story, spending less time on recreating the setting, while the other not so much. In the second, I felt as if the author was slapping my hand for not getting something right so they had to tell me again.
Chapters are not always necessary. Yes, they break up the scenes and action, but if done stealthy, the shift between could remain seamless without the use of chapters. Chapters may be like periods, pauses to break up the scenes, but are not necessary. Terry Pratchett was the king of lack of chapters. In one of the books I read this weekend, the switching happened with the alternating points of view and was so seamless, it took me half the book to realise there were no chapters.
The length of a book, by page number, does not necessitate how good it is. The ones on the longer side are more than likely just like to hear themselves read. Get it? (They all can’t be winners.) One book I’ve read recently, and was quite good, was a slim 150 pages. Another book that was pure dreck clocked in at 400. Length does not mean everything, as much as we like to believe.
Give the book an old college try and read the first 50 pages. I’ll go out on a limb and say this applies to writing as well; if you can’t make the story palatable within the first 50 pages, neither will your readers. And readers? There are too many good books for you to read terrible ones.
If heavily using phrases of a language that isn’t your primary language or the colloquialisms of a particular thing, include an appendix of sorts. It’s presumptuous to think your readers are going to have the same breadth of knowledge on the same topic you’re writing about. An aforementioned book set in the Belle Époque period heavily used ballet terms and dropped French like it was ice cream sprinkles. This makes sense because this was the subject matter, BUT if you aren’t familiar with ballet or spoke even rudimentary French, a lot of what was happening with the characters would be lost on you. Yes, I get it, we learn by reading outside our comfort zone but there is a difference between needing to look up “demagogue” and wondering what in the hell is “battement développé” and having translate.google.com by your side.
There were a few more main things I forgot to write down, but this is the gist of it. So it is true, the more you read, the more you learn. Hrm.
x0x0,
Lisa
P.S. Last winter I decided to put together a newsletter for those who read my stuff but can’t be arsed to check it out daily (no worries, I get it, I do!) so this is a monthly round up. I’ve decided to resurrect it again! Called Skaldic Press Presents, you can check out the archive here (http://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator/archive) and subscribe here (https://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator).
P.P.S. There are GIFs involved!

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2014, 2000, 1999

Collection of Cunning Curiosities – July 4, 2015

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A weekly compendium of things that delight my fancy.

Dear Internet, You can follow this collection on Pinterest. x0x0, lisa

Fanciful Delights

As many of you know, I have a mild fascination with the middle ages. Youtuber thatoneguyinlitclass has just increased that obsession as he has put together a series of four videos on how to speak Middle English and it is awesome. He goes through on pronouncition, vowels, constants, and how the language was spoken however you damn well please. Great stuff for language geeks and role playing nerds.

venusdemilo There is much to said for art, in that it opens your world to new experiences and culture you may not have an opportunity to enjoy or see. But what if that piece of art was turned into a plastic figurine and improved upon? The Table Museum, a company that does that exact thing, has recently released a poseable Venus de Milo. Having seen the original at the Louvre, this one is way better.
mapnecklaceCartography is my jam. When you can get the entire world (mostly) as a necklace, color me in! I first saw this piece via another blog and knew I had to have it. It matches my compass tattoo which I got a few months ago. With this necklace around my neck, I feel like I can conquer the world! Literally.
missfishervideogameMiss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Netflix, Acorn), after the eponymous book series, has become a surprise hit in Australia and abroad. There is something to be said of a 1920s female James Bondesque character who, with her naive companion, solve mysteries in and around Melbourne. The success of Miss Fisher was thought to guarantee a third season but the Australian channel ABC kept fans suspense of “will they or won’t they” close up to the third season premier. With the fan base growing, Every Cloud Productions and The Man Games have opted to release a choose your own path video game based on Miss Fisher’s adventures (available in iOS, Android, PC, and Mac), which will be coming soon. I don’t know about you, but this should not only please the super fans but also push ABC into continuing the series. Huzzah!

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2014, 2011, 1999

wishlists

Dear Internet,
It’s the night before our country’s big anniversary weekend and I’m spending my time organizing my Amazon.com wish lists, but there is a reason for my staid evening. But first let me tell you a short story: TEH and I went walking around downtown today as we ran errands we’ve been putting off for a week or two. One of those errands was getting our local library cards (I now have 13 library cards from various academic and public libraries. Yes, I am a nerd.), which then necessitated we needed, or I did, to get books. How else was I going to know what to read? By going to my Amazon wish lists, of course.
Since my day to day information gathering spans across RSS feeds, social media, and other sources, as well as podcast listening, project prep, and personal recommendations from friends, my book lists come from everywhere. In order to keep track of it all, I started organizing the lists by topic on Amazon.
(Bethums once pointed out she thought it was adorable that I organized things to an OCD level, but hey, if I am not anything but a librarian?)
There is a reason to my madness and that is Amazon is my list of lists.
The lists serve as reminders such as hey, I may need these things when I get my own place or birthday/holiday ideas, which TEH and my brother found extremely useful.  There are books on particular topics I want to know more about, music I need to check out or DVDs I need to buy.
But as I organized my lists this evening, for things have been bought and or no longer wanted, I noticed patterns erupting.
I like gadgets and geegaws. Everyone needs silicone and bamboo salad hands, a set of 10 nibs, or a professional grade laser hair removal device don’t they? Of course they do!
My interests are varied, which probably owns up to my ADHD. I have things on knitting, clay molding kits, calligraphy, to books on linux, user experience, fairytales and viking poetry. I was surprised to find I had many non-fiction books as I did fiction, on a wide variety of topics such as cartography, biographies, and how things are made as examples.
I like fictional and non-fictional tales about women, primarily those who rejected the ideals of their times. Courtesans, serial killers, scientists, artists, or royals; it doesn’t matter. If there is a tale about a woman, in some form or another comes off as a rebel, I want to know who she is.
I like knowing how things are they way they are. If there is a book about the history of paper, on racial politics, the creation of gender, the history of the breast, the story of the great flood, and the lost art of letter writing or everything in-between, I probably have a book on it in one of my lists. (We totally cannot forget The Library: A World History as what kind of librarian would I be?)
I like to research. My current book, the Edwardian mystery, has stalled and I can’t seem to jump start it but of course I have a list for that. I found similar genres such as decopunk (speculative fiction subset of dieselpunk, which is a subset of steampunk) that incorporates the aesthetic of Art Deco with diesel engines just as steampunk splices Victorian era with steam technology. Decopunk is so specific, Amazon only has a few books that claim that genre, but it piques my interest. Of course mythology, Vikings, and middle ages have me in raptures. Any period that predates post modern seems to be my mainstay though I tend to dip into contemporary novels here or there.
I don’t read as widely as I should. Over the years my tastes have regulated itself to particular authors (Terry Pratchett and Kate Atkinson as example) or genres such as mystery, period, or speculative fiction. I do read mainly women but I’m definitely lacking in books by people of color or translations from countries where English is not the primary language (though Paulo Cohelo and Umberto Eco are excluded but everyone reads them). Or books from other countries, period.
I don’t think I’m that well read but I’m much further than most, I suppose, and I really want a lot of things. Though, I could do a lot better by NOT adding so much stuff to the damn lists but hey, you just never know. It might go on sale.
xoxo,
Lisa
p.s. If you think this is a bit ridiculous, you should see my RSS feed organization.
p.p.s. If you visit the site regularly, you may notice some changes. I took the justification off since it is a design no-no, changed the font to a more pleasing one, and swapped out my header which I am using with permission from Forgotten Heritage Photography.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 2003