Monday, November 28, 2011

This blog will be back soon...

NaNoWriMo winner 2011You may have noticed that this blog hasn't been updated as frequently lately.  Part of that was because I was focusing so heavily on my novel, especially with November being National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

I'm happy to say that last night I got to my goal of 50,000 words in November.  I'm almost done with my novel, too — I figure I have perhaps 5k left to write, and then I'm going to set aside my novel for a month or so before I start the first round of revisions.

What this means for you is that my book review blog will soon be back in full force.  I'm debating on whether or not I want to work on another project before I start revisions, but if I don't, I will have more time to read again — which would be a good thing!

Stay tuned for more great book reviews!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Theories on Jane Austen's demise

I read this interesting article today:

Did Jane Austen die of arsenic poisoning?

I had no idea that it used to be common to put arsenic in medicine.  What a scary thought!

How famous authors died always seems to be of capital interest.  The younger two Bronte sisters died of consumption, which seems to have been fairly common back then, and Charlotte Bronte apparently died of complications during pregnancy (though that was such a delicate — read: avoided — subject in the Victorian era that it's hard to know the entire truth of what caused her death).

The possibility of Jane Austen having died from arsenic in her medicine is very interesting, though of course very tragic.

Which reminds me — I did intend to read some of her books this year.  I will have to get to at least one soon — the year is almost over!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

iconiconI saw this book featured on NPR, and thought it looked like it would be funny, so I picked it up.

It was.  Sometimes.

On the whole, though, it was a much more serious book than I was expecting.  I thought it was going to be kind of tongue-in-cheek — the title makes you think of those humor posters that state "Everything I Know about Life I Learned from My [insert animal here]".  They aren't very serious, except perhaps the parts about sleeping instead of stressing out, and I was expecting this book to be kind of the same thing — especially since the author is one of the famed bloggers on Smart Bitches Trashy Books who exposed Cassie Edwards for plagiarism in her books.

I'm sorry to say that the book wasn't at all what I was expecting.  It was actually a rather serious look at how women learn to manage relationships by reading romance.  Wendell is essentially trying to disprove the idea that romance novels cause women to hold unrealistic ideas about love and relationships, and while I agree that that's a faulty argument (do those who read crime novels go out and commit crimes? do those who read fantasy novels run around with swords and cast spells on people who hold up the line at the grocery store? WHY do we think that only romance readers — read: women — are this weak-minded), I didn't much enjoy the book.

Most of the examples she gave involved learning what not to do in a relationship, what not to look for in a man, etc., because it doesn't work out very well for people in romance novels.  I do enjoy the occasional romance, but reading all about the "what not to do" lessons had me wondering why I like this genre so much!  On the whole, romance is much better now than it was when I was initially reading them in the 1990s, but I still get annoyed with weak heroines, ridiculous misunderstandings, and all the freaking angst in many romance novels.

The one thing I don't think this book addresses is the way that romance makes it seem like you have to be in a relationship in order to be whole and complete.  I was reading an article about genre novel guidelines the other day, and it said that romance novels always have to have a happy ending.  Of course they do, but this is partly why romance makes people focus on a relationship as being the center of their life and the sole requirement for happiness.  And it's that idea that leads many people to stay in relationships that are unhappy or abusive or just not good enough.

Of course, I think the romance genre is the product of society, rather than the other way around.  It's society that tells us (especially women) that our value is determined by whether we are in a relationship, and romance novels are simply catering to that desire that has been instilled in us.  Just for once, I'd love to see a romance novel in which the heroine falls in love, has glorious sex, and then when the conflict arises, decides he's not good enough for her and breaks it off.  Why does a happy ending always have to mean that they end up together?  Personally, I think with some of these fools, I'd be much happier riding off into the sunset all by myself!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

iconiconYou might remember when I read I am Number Four, and posted about who the author was: James Frey.

Turns out that's not quite true.  When I got The Power of Six from my library, I started doing a little more research, and quickly discovered this expose about James Frey's Full Fathom Five, a book packaging company that produced these books.  The ideas were partly Frey's, but the real author of the first book, an MFA graduate, also helped developed the plot and the concept for the series.

You may also remember that I didn't really like the first book.  The movie was excellent, but I didn't really care for the writing style in the book.  The frequent incomplete sentences irritated me so much that I was pulled out of the story.

The Power of Six was better, and I'm glad I did read it, even though my husband questioned why I was bothering.  The writing style was much better (different writer this time), and I liked the story.  Things are heating up, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.  I feel almost dirty for saying so, since I'm supporting James Jackass Frey, but I must confess, I am interested.  I just don't know which would make me happier — his book packaging company crashing and burning, or reading the rest of the series!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Barnes & Noble gift card promotion!

Barnes&Noble.comI remember when Barnes & Noble did this promotion last year.  It's a great deal, and one of the only ways to save money when you buy ebooks, since the membership discount doesn't apply.  Getting the free $10 gift card essentially gives you 10 percent off of all ebooks you buy, if you load all $110 of gift cards into your account.  Or you could be greedy and give some of the gift cards to your friends and family for Christmas, and keep the freebie $10 gift card for yourself!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Nook!

Barnes & Noble announced their new Nook Tablet today — basically the Nook Color with some substantial improvements.  The new Tablet has more tablet capabilities, instead of being held hostage by the B&N software.  It has things like Netflix, for streaming media, and it's also lighter and has an improved battery life.  All this for $249, same price as the Nook Color used to be!

Sounds like a great deal, right?  I'm excited, but I'm also excited about what this means for the prices on their other devices.  The Nook Simple Touch is now $99, down from $139, and the Nook Color is $199, instead of $249.  If you don't need the improved capabilities of the Nook Tablet, you can take advantage of this opportunity to get one of the other ebook readers for a good price!

In other news, Barnes & Noble is also rolling out an update for the Nook Simple Touch.  I'm hoping this will fix the freezing problem it was having — people were having problems with it freezing while they were swiping to turn the pages, as well as some other problems that may or may not be related — as I might eventually get one if that problem has been resolved.  I like the small size, though I do rather prefer a few things about my Nook 1st Edition — larger internal memory, removable back cover, and color touch screen among them!

It'll be interesting to see how the Nook Tablet does when it's released.  Although it's pre-order only right now, it'll be available on November 17th — a mere week and a half, and in plenty of time for the holidays!

7 free ebooks on writing

This month is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and just like the previous 5 years, I am participating.  Unfortunately, that means I probably won't be reviewing as many books in the month of November, since I am focusing on my own novel.

I did, however, want to share these 7 freebies on writing.  (Coincidence that they came out during November?  I think it's unlikely!)  I haven't read these, so I'll include the book description instead of my normal review.  I hope you'll find something useful in here!

iconiconGet advice from the best in the business on every part of the novel writing and publishing process!

In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 2nd Edition, you’ll learn from the invaluable advice of established writers. Discover new ways to generate ideas, implement intriguing techniques, and find the inspiration you need to finish your work. This fully-revised edition includes a revamped marketing section that covers the unique challenges of today’s publishing market and the boundless opportunities of online promotion.

Inside you’ll find expert advice from dozens of bestselling authors and publishing professionals on how to:

· Master the elements of fiction, from plot and characters to dialogue and point of view

· Develop a unique voice and sensibility in your writing

· Manage the practical aspects of writing, from overcoming writer’s block to revising your work

· Determine what elements your story needs to succeed in a particular genre—science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, inspirational, romance (mainstream and Christian), or historical fiction

· Find an agent, market your work, and get published—or self-publish—successfully

You’ll also find interviews with some of the world’s finest writers, including Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, Brock Clarke, Cory Doctorow, Dave Eggers, Elizabeth George, Jerry Jenkins, Stephen King, Megan McCafferty, Audrey Niffenegger, Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk, James Patterson, Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut. Their words will provide you with the guidance and encouragement of your very own writing mentor.

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing is your one-stop resource for everything you need to know about the craft and business of creating a bestseller.

iconiconThe road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It's just that simple.

In Hooked, author Les Edgerton draws on his experience as a successful fiction writer and teacher to help you overcome the weak openings that lead to instant rejection by showing you how to successfully use the ten core components inherent to any great beginning. You'll find:

Detailed instruction on how to develop your inciting incident

Keys for creating a cohesive story-worthy problem

Tips on how to avoid common opening gaffes like overusing backstory

A rundown on basics such as opening scene length and transitions

A comprehensive analysis of more than twenty great opening lines from novels and short stories

Plus, you'll discover exclusive insider advice from agents and acquiring editors on what they look for in a strong opening. With Hooked, you'll have all the information you need to craft a compelling beginning that lays the foundation for an irresistible story!

iconiconThe Secret to Good Writing

When asked by the Paris Review what compelled him to rewrite the ending of A Farewell to Arms 39 times, Ernest Hemingway replied, "Getting the words right." His answer echoes what every successful writer knows: The secret to all good writing is revision.

For more than twenty years, Getting the Words Right has helped writers from all professions rewrite, revise, and refine their writing. In this new edition, author Theodore Cheney offers 39 targeted ways you can improve your writing, including how to:

create smooth transitions between paragraphs

correct the invisible faults of inconsistency, incoherence, and imbalance

overcome problems of shifting point of view and style

express your ideas clearly by trimming away weak or extra words

You'll strengthen existing pieces and every future work by applying the three simple principles—reduce, rearrange, and reword. Once the secrets of revision are yours, you'll be able to follow Hemingway's lead—and get the words right!

iconiconTake Control of Your Destiny!

Bottom line: You want to get published. You want to control the future of your manuscript and your writing career.

Best-selling author Marilyn Ross and publishing expert Sue Collier show you how to make your own success —whether you're a published author, entrepreneur, corporation, professional, or absolute newcomer to writing. In this expanded and completely revised 5th edition of the 'bible' of self-publishing (over 100,000 copies sold), they empower you to publish your own work with minimal risk and maximum profits. You'll find:

* Complete step-by-step guidance on publishing and marketing a book
* Ways to leverage social media marketing to build your platform and make yourself stand out from the crowd
* A thorough explanation of the difference between POD self-publishing, subsidy publishing, and true self-publishing—and how to decide which is the best option for you
* Practical advice on making the decision between offset printing and print-on-demand
* How to leverage the Internet to create 'buzz' and promote your book with killer PR
* The latest information on e-publishing
* A detailed marketing plan and timetable to keep you on track
* Proven marketing strategies to get free publicity, reach nontraditional buyers, and sell books
* Information-packed appendices with marketing contacts, organizations, and vendors, complete with names, addresses, and Web sites
* Valuable case studies and examples of how other publishers excel
* Dozens of tips and resources for publishing and selling books in Canada
* An in-depth discussion of exclusive distributors, plus coverage of the most recent changes in bookstores and the book-selling industry
* Thirty-one creative ideas for generating capital to launch your publishing company

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is the one book you need to take control of your writing career. Read it. Believe it. Do it. Your future depends on it.

iconiconBuild a Timeless, Original Story Using Hundreds of Classic Story Motifs!

It's been said that there are no new ideas; but there are proven ideas that have worked again and again for all writers for hundreds of years.

Story Structure Architect is your comprehensive reference to the classic recurring story structures used by every great author throughout the ages. You'll find master models for characters, plots, and complication motifs, along with guidelines for combining them to create unique short stories, novels, scripts, or plays. You'll also learn how to:

* Build compelling stories that don't get bogged down in the middle
* Select character journeys and create conflicts
* Devise subplots and plan dramatic situations
* Develop the supporting characters you need to make your story work

Especially featured are the standard dramatic situations inspire by Georges Polti's well-known 19th century work, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. But author Victoria Schmidt puts a 21st-century spin on these timeless classics and offers fifty-five situations to inspire your creativity and allow you even more writing freedom. Story Structure Architect will give you the mold and then help you break it.

This browsable and interactive book offers everything you need to craft a complete, original, and satisfying story sure to keep readers hooked!

iconiconAthletes practice. Musicians practice. As a writer you need to do the same. Whether you have dreams of writing a novel or a memoir or a collection of poems, or you simply want to improve your everyday writing, this innovative book will show you how to build your skills by way of practice.

Through playful and purposeful exercises, you'll develop your natural aptitude for communication, strengthening your ability to come up with things to say, and your ability to get those things into the minds (and the hearts) of readers. You'll learn to:

1. Train and develop your writer's powers—creativity, memory, observation, imagination, curiosity, and the subconscious

2. Understand the true nature of the relationship between you and your readers

3. Find your writer's voice

4. Get required writing projects done so you have more time for the writing you want to do

5. And much more

Empowering and down-to-earth, How to Be a Writer gives you the tools you need, and tells you what (and how) to practice so that you can become the writer you want to be.

iconiconFrom the foreword by Maya Angelou:

"[T]he joy they promise in their prose makes me glad that I and other writers have been willing to make good writing our aim, and even great writing our dream."

"How do I get my book published?"

Good question. Lucky for you, publishing insiders Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark have laid out the blueprint for what you want--your book. From transforming an idea into a manuscript to finding an agent to working with an editor to marketing your book, BookPage's Author Enablers are here to assist you every step of the way. And they've brought some backup with original insight from literary superstars like Stephen King, Amy Tan, Rita Mae Brown, and more.

It's everything you would ever want--and need--to know about the industry from the inside out.