Saturday, February 24, 2007

Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer by Jenna Glatzer

As a freelance writer myself, I'm always looking for books to give me ideas or help me hone by craft. I don't put much stock in the idea that I can become a better writer (or a "real" writer) by reading lots of books about it - in my opinion, that just takes more time away from writing - but there are definitely books out there that contain valuable information. The one I'm reading right now, Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer by Jenna Glatzer, seems to have a lot more (and better!) information than most.

What I like about Glatzer's book is that it contains a lot of "insider's secrets" - tips and tricks that you usually don't learn until you're well entrenched in the business already. However, many of these tips - like what types of stories to pitch to editors when you're first starting out, and how to pitch - would be extremely helpful for beginning writers.

When I'm finished reading the book, I'll give it a more detailed review on my Reading 4 Writers blog.

Friday, February 23, 2007

SOLD, by Patricia McCormick

Unfortunately, I'm breaking with tradition a little bit here and blogging about a book I've already finished: Sold, by Patricia McCormick. I started it last night, and literally couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.

Sold is a young adult book, but one of those that is more deeply moving than most adult novels. In fact, I'm shocked that the book hasn't won any awards - in my opinion, it's on par with award-winners such as The Giver.

Sold is about a thirteen-year-old girl, Lakshmi, who lives a peasants life in the mountains of Nepal. Then her stepfather sells her to pay for his gambling addiction, leading her to believe she is being sent into the city to work as a maid. She is illegally transported out of India and sold to a brothel, but it is not until her first night there that she realizes what has happened to her.

The book illustrates the many reasons why so many brothels are able to get away with this: primarily, the manipulation of the little girls to make them fear trying to escape. If they try and are caught, their hair is cropped close to the scalp, marking them as a runaway - and keeping them from trying it again, for the shame of it. There are also the horrible punishments the brothel owners use to keep the girls in line - beating them with a leather strap, even stuffing hot chili peppers up inside their vaginas. But worst of all is the lies that they make these girls believe - that those who want to help them (i.e. the Americans, the border patrol) will actually hurt them.

Patricia McCormick's book is well researched and deeply moving. I highly recommend Sold to readers of any age.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Note: The image here links to a cheap paperback edition on Barnes & Noble's website.  You can also download the ebook for free from Project Gutenberg.

Amazingly, with all of my literature background, and with all of my fascination with Anne Rice's vampire novels, I've never read Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm now reading the book at last for a book review I'm writing for About.com's Classic Lit site.

I've been surprised by how interesting the book really is. Even though it was written during the height of the Victorian era, the book doesn't seem Victorian at all. The narrative style - the character's journal and letters used to piece together a story in the first person from multiple points of view - is pretty typical of the era, though. (Case in point - Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, etc.)

Of course, the narration is a little wordy at times, but it's still an amazingly dark (and sexual, in parts!) story for the time period.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snadowsky

This book is a perfect example why you should sometimes judge a book by its cover - or, from the publisher's perspective, create a cover that will entice judgment. Daria Snadowky's Anatomy of a Boyfriend has a cover that does just that.

Although by running a cover like that, a publisher risks running the risk of offending some people - notably those book-burners who like to scream and holler about what their children are exposed to - they are also going to generate a lot of interest in their book. Too many book covers look the same - or enough of the same that they all blur together as you walk through the aisles of a bookstore. Lucky is the author whose cover breaks through that trance of sameness and jumps out at the consumer.

Equally important is that the cover is accurate in indicating what the book is about. Just as its cover, title, and genre (YA) suggests, Anatomy of a Boyfriend is about what it's like to be a teen. Snadowsky narrates realistically from a 17-year-old girl's point of view what it's like to dream about, and eventually have, your first sexual experience. The book also demonstrates some of the less pleasant realities, such as how prevalent "hooking up" is among some teens.

I'm only partway through the book - they haven't even "done it" yet - but so far it's a fun read.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The novelization of Serenity by Keith R.A. DeCandido

I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon's series Firefly, and the movie conclusion Serenity. It's so disappointing that the series was canceled, because I could quite happily watch it nightly. In any case, thirsting for more Firefly led me to look into what was available in written form. The novelization of Serenity by Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the items I decided to check out.

So far it's good. It's not one of those novelizations that differs from the movie in fundamental ways, such as plotline. (As a kid, I was horribly disappointed when I read the book Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and discovered it diverged from the movie in several places.) Also, the narration fits the feel of the series and the character dialogue, too - although it's third person omniscient (meaning it's third person but follows many different character's thoughts and feelings), the tone of the narration suits whichever character's point of view is being used at the moment.

In other words, the narration "talks" like the character it's following would in the show, and I really like that. I can literally hear Mal's, or Jayne's, or River's voice in my head as I read. It's definitely not easy for a writer to assume so many drastically different voices at different intervals throughout the book, not to mention to decide which voice is the most appropriate for a particular scene, but DeCandido has done admirably.

This is quite possibly the best novelization of a movie that I've seen (the exception being, naturally, books that were written first), and a definite must-read for any Firefly fan.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Little Book of Plagiarism, by Richard A. Posner

Who better to write a book about plagiarism than a judge?

Actually, I'm rather impressed. Richard A. Posner's The Little Book of Plagiarism is surprisingly short and to the point. Really. It's only about 100 pages long.

For being so short, though, it's chock-full of information. He starts out talking about the scandalous Kaavya Viswanathan case, where a young chick lit author from Harvard was found to have plagiarized substantial material in her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. The book was quickly withdrawn.

I'm only 30 pages into the book (although that is, of course, nearly a third of the way through it). So far, the book has been a pleasant but information-packed ramble into the realm of plagiarism: what it is, how copyright infringement differs, and who has committed these literary crimes. Not even the phenomenon of "paper mills" - companies which hire writers and produce term papers for lazy students - escapes his analytical eye.

This should be an enjoyable - albeit brief - read.