January cold, warm lips
January mingling

Some books

Part of my New Year's readjustment on priorities is more reading, not just more writing. As Stephen King says:

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or tools to write.

I think it's a quote from his book, On Writing. He makes a good point, you need to read a lot to know what good writing looks like. Focus on your genre by all means, to see what works for others, but spread your scope too. And read critically, as you learn what should be in a good book, if the one you've just started doesn't grab you, analyze why. Then move on - time is too short for mediocre books. So, I'll jot down in here some notes on books I've just read, am reading, or will read. Or have written.

After finishing NanOwRiMo in November I borrowed On Writing from my nearby library - read it, loved it, bought it, and am now re-reading it. It's part autobiography and part how-to-write, although King claims it's "a kind of curriculum vitae - my attempt so show how one writer was formed". It was recommended by a number of online writing sites. I found a lot of good ideas in it on plot, structure, characters, publishing, etc. He also includes a book list - with the caveat that he's not Oprah, it's not a book club, these are just books that he has enjoyed in the past 15 years or so. Quite a formidable list, it's mostly fiction, almost 200 in total.

I recently read The Manitous - The Spiritual World of the Ojibway, by Basil Johnston, for background material for my novel, and am skimming it now to pick out some details to use. I also read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson - I'd heard so much about it I had to try it. And I liked it, so put my name on my library's list for the next one, The Girl Who Played With Fire. I just got it this week, I was way back on the list but suddenly I was number one. I guess it helps that they buy 100-200 copies of these for the Ottawa libraries to share, so even being 500 on a list moves along in a few weeks. And some may cancel when they get tired of waiting and head to the bookstore instead. Not me - after that book purge I did before moving I'll be more selective on what I buy. And of what I keep. I was into BookCrossing a few years ago in S'Norleans but didn't find - or release - many books out there. Now that I'm a downtown person I should try it again. As for using the library, I like the online "hold" concept they have, just login, find the book, click on the hold button, and when it's in your local branch - Rosemount for me -  you get an email to pick it up. It seems a popular feature, as whenever I go there I see several shelves waiting for people, plus a few carts full. I've several on hold now - some on writing, as well as The Moon's a Balloon (funny) - by David Niven, The Orange Eat Creeps (intriguing and creepy) - by Grace Krilanovich, The Weird Sisters - by Eleanor Brown, The Lost Gate - by Orson Scott Card, The Guardians - by Andrew Pyper, and of course, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - by Stieg Larsson. I'm number 545 on the list for that last one, but they have 263 copies in circulation - some on the express read shelves but many available for hold.

I also read some books lately for a Science Fiction book club I'm in, the latest were by Connie Willis. It was actually a two volume set, titled Blackout and All Clear respectively. Historical fiction about people in England in World War 2, and a group sent back via time travel to observe history. And hopefully not interfere with it. It was a good thing I knew was to be a two-part story, in the first one the author introduced a host of characters, without indicating who we should actually pay attention to. We eventually focused on a few, and a followed their trial and tribulations to the end. A good story, very good attention to historical detail, but as it got to the last few pages, a reader would be wondering what happened to all those other characters, and if all the plot issues were going to magically be resolved in the final two pages. The ending was a definite cliff hanger, leaving one of the main characters in the midst of an bombing raid. Nothing on the book jacket hinting there would be a "stay tuned". First half was released by Random House in February of 2010, the second one not for another 8 months, by which time many said online they had forgotten where they were and who was on first. The author also said online that it was originally one book of 1100 or so pages, split by the publisher. Our sci-club, after reading both parts, felt it was too long - could have been pared down to one good book we thought, as the middle had a lot of extra wandering and worrying by the characters.

I've also a few ebooks on the go - on my iPhone. Some free, some from my local library. I have the Stanza app on my phone, with a number of free books - such as the Jeeves series by P. G. Wodehouse. I also have The Book Of Negroes on there via iTunes and a free Ottawa Citizen promotion. I enjoyed that, although reading on an iPhone 3 screen can be tedious. A "pad" device might be next - I like the look of the Asus Transformer - out in April I think. Not compatible with Apple apps, as it's Android, but that app market is growing fast. And, of course, some of those ebooks are from the library, downloaded via the Overdrive app.

In between all these reading, and browsing of web sites on writing, I'm editing my novel too. Hard copy, red pen - old school. It does give a different and better perspective than on the screen, but there's a lot to transcribe now. Which will go slowly, as I'm a hunt and peck typist. Maybe the to-do list needs to have "learn to type" on it. For my spare time.

Speaking of which, I called Rogers to cancel my cable to save both time and money, and ended up picking a 20% monthly discount. Damn them.    





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