Archive for category Reading
I’m not messing around when I said “a quick warning,” because I’ve reached that point again. I’ve got the last few chapters of OTHER THING in my sights, meaning I expect to finish it this week. Huzzah for finishing drafts of books, right? Right.
I’ve given myself a pretty firm deadline to type the “The End” on draft zero, and it’s one I don’t want to miss. As you can see, though, as of the time of this posting, I’ve still got almost a third of the book to yet scribble down. Now, I know that seems bad, but trust me, the end parts come out quickly. It’s the middles where a writer will tend to drag his feet like a kid headed for the dentist’s chair.
Anyway the point is that posts will be light this week. I know, I know, “they’ve been light”, you say. You have a perfectly valid point. I’m sorry. But trust me, it’ll all be worthwhile. I swear.
And by “worthwhile”, I make no specific promises of any kind. Sort of like your typical game show host.
I know, we haven’t talked in a while. It’s, like, I haven’t been around for the past few days or something.
Well, actually, it’s not like that at all. It’s exactly that. I haven’t been. Around, that is. I’ve been in Connecticut. Yes, that state in New England. Because I had to do [redacted].
Truth be told, I’ll probably be playing catch-up with pretty much everything for the rest of the week. Because that’s what happens when you go spend 2+ days somewhere else doing the stuff you don’t usually do.
In a perfect world, of course, there’d be, I dunno, stuff elves that came out when you were gone to take care of the stuff you couldn’t take care of like usual. You know, like the Grimm Brothers’ Cobbler Elves from that fairy tale, but more modern. They’d maybe write a blog post for you, keep you up to date on facebook and twitter, post a few Instagrams (no selfies, duh) , and make sure your daily workload gets done for you while you’re away. File your Status and TPS Reports and whatnot, maybe fill out your timecard. What-have-you.
Then again, it seems like I just described a muggle version of a “house elf” from Harry Potter. No one wants to make poor Dobby tweet for them. And the last thing I want is Dobby trying to keep my daily writing quota caught up for OTHER THING. The whole book would be about socks.
Which is fine, I guess, if you’re into socks. But maybe not this book.
Recently, (more specifically, after this post), I came to the realization that I don’t talk about books enough in general. Writing, sure. I ramble on about my own writing like one those poor, um, overserved* individuals you occasionally see wandering the convenience store barefoot and in search of cheese doodles.
But I don’t mean writing, I mean books.
That said, I actually do it more than you’d think. Talk about books, that is, not the thing about the cheese doodles. Sadly, though, speech is pretty limiting in that you need to be within the physical range of my voice to get any kind of idea what I think or how I feel about what I’ve been reading. That limitation pretty seriously hampers my ability to be much of a book evangelist. Well, unless you’re a co-worker of mine, or a member of my family. But in that case you have bigger problems.
Truth be told, I should have read Dragonflight a long, long time ago. Originally published in 1968, this book has been around since, well, as long as I’ve been alive. Longer, even. It’s one of those books, the ones that anyone purporting to have any semblance of “geek cred” is assumed to have read—and cherished deeply—lo, the many years ago, as part of an assumed formative pre/adolescence. Probably in a small room that served as a place of personal refuge that sported generic flying saucer wallpaper and an R2-D2 desk lamp.
Hello, welcome to Cliché Island. I’m Puddin and I’ll be your host today.
Anyway, somehow, with all the science fiction/fantasy I’ve read through the years, I’ve never read any of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I’m pretty sure that makes me either a bad person or wholly lacking in the aforementioned “geek cred”.
Then again, I’m of the opinion that the concept of “geek cred” is as much utter bullshit as theories that we never actually landed on the moon or that the government is actually in secret negotiations with the aliens from the Pegasus galaxy to provide human samples for experimental study.
Clearly the Pegasans don’t need any governmental cooperation—as if that such a thing even existed. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure the collective governments of Earth couldn’t cooperate to find a men’s room. Read the rest of this entry »
I know I’ve been kind of worthless when it comes to making any kind of sense or producing even a mildly entertaining narrative here this week. Really, though, I swear, that’s over now and I’m going to be good and clean and room and eat all my vegetables and any and all the other kid-who-wants-a-puppy-style promises.
This probably goes without saying, but the thing keeping me pre-occupied all week was Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness novel pitching contest hosted by her and several of her blogging friends. The long and short of it is that it’s intended to get pitches in front of agents specifically interested in them. The point of course being that if they’re specifically interested, the odds of making a match jump up like the striker toward the bell on one of those “Test Your Strength” carnival games.
Not that I know what it looks like when that striker jumps up because, well, I’m not exactly Popeye, but that’s a story for another day.
In case you missed it, word on the street is that Pope Benedict XVI, who rocks a not-unimportant role in the view of the world’s one billion Catholics, woke up yesterday with a bit of a case of the Mondays. But where the rest of us have to deal with the start of a new work week by playing hooky a bit via an early lunch and hopefully scoring coffee from (circa-1996) Jennifer Anniston, the Pope did the other thing we’d like to do when Monday rears its ugly head.
He put in his two weeks’ notice.
Of course, everybody everywhere, upon hearing this news, immediately went, “Wait…whut? Resigned? Popes don’t resign. Can he even do that?”
Many of you have asked about the space I had waiting for A Memory of Light since I made such a big to-do about having my Wheel of Time shelf on the bookcase complete. There didn’t see to be a ton space there, did A Memory of Light fit? Or did it have to be wedge in there like a jeans model? How does it look now, fully filled out?
I fully intended to write a real post today. But then I went to my local Joseph Beth Bookseller at lunch and bought something. Here it is, sitting on my desk this afternoon.
No, I wasn’t reading it at work; that would have been unprofessional. But, as I said yesterday, I’ve been waiting for it for more twenty years. At this point I’m afraid that if I don’t keep a constant eye on it, the thing might vanish into thin air.
Speaking of vanishing, Read the rest of this entry »
I just thought that everyone – yes, dude, even you there hiding in the corner, acting like you’re not paying attention, you too – needed to know something about today. It’s apparently a very special day. What makes is special, you ask? Well, not only is it National Poetry Day (shut UP, poetry is too cool), it’s also National Taco Day.
Seriously? Poetry and tacos in the same day? That’s craziness! But, oh, my friends, oh! That’s. Not. All! It’s also National Vodka Day.
I’m just gonna let that sink in for a minute.
I know, right? Poetry. And Tacos. AND Vodka!
The only thing I can possibly think to add to that is: FTW!
In honor, then, of the serendipitously simultaneous confluence of National Poetry, Taco, and Vodka Days, clearly a limerick is required.
There once was a writer name Jay
who would gladly eat tacos all day
But tequila made him baaad
So vodka tonic’s what he had
And when he woke up he didn’t need to pray!
Now then, go forth and read or write some poetry and… what? Oh, fine. If you’re that worried about being called a sissy over it, go with something epic, like in the style of Beowulf or The Iliad. Nothing panzy about those. Where was I? Oh yeah, so make with the poetry while getting your taco and vodka on.
Sounds like a pretty cranked-up Thursday night, if you ask me.
On second thought, let’s pretend I didn’t just say that.
At long last, I finally finished George R. R. Martin‘s latest book, “A Dance with Dragons” a week ago in one of those sort-of-regrettable-but-fun reading binges that ends at 3 AM on a Thursday night. Truth be told, I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me as long as it did, both to finally get started with it and to finish it.
Granted, it is over a thousand pages. Which makes it worth at least two or three normal books. So, see? I wasn’t completely slacking. It was slacking on par with, say, a 9 year-old not wanting to clean his room, not like teenager-sleeping-until-4-and-going-back-to-bad-after-Lucky-Charms or anything.
The book, the fifth installment for the A Song of Fire and Ice series (the basis for HBO’s wildly successful “Game of Thrones”) was years in the making (literally, six of them; the previous book in the series was published in November, 2005). In other words, we’d been waiting for it for a looooong time; I should have jumped on it with enthusiasm of a toddler cranked up from a sugar-laden visit to grandpa’s house the moment it came out last July (yes, a year ago, in 2011).
But, well, that didn’t happen.
I’ll argue that for a while I wasn’t reading much of anything, as finding time for leisure reading was overrun with spending most of my much-too-infrequent free time pummeling my own novel into shape.
Thankfully, I’ve since come to realize that I have to make time to read regularly as well as write if I want to be a well-rounded writer. Plus, it’s probably helpful in avoiding the “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” kind of situation that ends, rather poorly, with a hatchet in the hedge maze.
Anyway. ANYWAY! I finished “A Dance with Dragons” last week, and feel, mostly, well, pretty meh about it. I should be all a-quiver with longing for the next volume in there series, “The Winds of Winter.” Seriously, in my younger days, I’d no sooner set a finished book up on the self than I’d start hopping from toe to toe frantically, like a kid with a full-to-nearly-bursting bladder on Christmas morning that can’t choose between peeing or going to check out what Santa left.
But, for some reason, I’m just…not.
The thing is, I guess I’ve been through this before, but I hadn’t learned the important lesson yet. A decade or so ago, I was smack in the middle of The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan‘s epic 14-book series* that started with “The Eye of the World” in 1990. Books 7-11 of that series sort of felt as though I was trudging my way through a knee-deep snow storm, and I constantly wondered if we’d ever reach The Big Dramatic Ending. In the late 90′s and early 00′s**, a new novel came out every year other year or so, and I’d pour myself into it, only be unsure at the end how much, if at all, the main plotline hade really moved forward.
Mr. Jordan, I’m sad to say, passed away in 2007, after being diagnosed with a rare disease, cardiac amyloidosis. He was kind enough, though, to assemble materials so that another writer might complete the series. His wife (who was also his editor) selected Brandon Sanderson, another up-and-coming fantasy author, for the task.
Ironically, Mr. Sanderson, in addition to currently working diligently to complete Mr. Jordan’s work, published “The Way of Kings” in 2010, the first volume of his own epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive. Incidentally, he has said he expects this new series to span ten novels.
FYI, the first one clocks in at 1007 pages, so um, yeah, we’re looking at 10,000 pages of new fantasy series.
And I still haven’t read it. I have it. A signed copy, even. I stood before Mr. Sanderson’s signing table in the fall of 2010 and tried not to spew rambling word vomit like some tweaked-out librarian (because, if you’ll recall, that’s what I do at signings) while he autographed it for me with my favorite writer’s quote. But for some reason, I never got farther than page 20.
For two years, I’ve been wondering why that book’s been collecting dust atop my desk, wedged neatly between my pair of Buddha bookends***. Now, after finally closing “A Dance with Dragons”, I think I might understand why.
I think I’ve got Epic Fatigue.
What I mean by that is, epic fantasy nowadays appears to be predicated on gigantic series that have to be, at a minimum, 10 books long and not less than 900 pages per book or, well, you’re just reading baby fantasy.
And I kind of have a problem with that. The original fantasy series, The Lord of Rings, the one that started it all, was pleeeeenty epic, and Tolkien was There and Back Again (see what I did there?) in just three books. That’s right, a hobbit chronicled the rise of the Age of Man in Middle Earth in just a wee little trilogy. Not seven books. Not ten. Not fourteen freaking deadly-blunt-force-object-tomes! Just. Three.
And it’s a damned good story, too.
The first Dragonlance series, Chronicles, was only three books long as well. Granted, there are more Dragonlance books now than hobbits in the Shire or Oompa Loompas in my basement, but that’s okay because they aren’t all part of one seemingly-never-ending plot. It was Dragonlance that hooked me on fantasy in my younger days, and I’d bet I could re-read that first series in a month if I wanted.
In contrast, rereading either The Wheel of Time or A Song of Fire and Ice would likely take me the rest of the year, respectively.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe the big-name modern epic fantasy authors all made a bet over a game of Magic the Gathering and are now knee-deep in a pissing contest to see who can publish the most words in their respective lifetimes without ever writing those two little famous ones: “The End”?
Okay, okay. I’m kidding. Mostly. Still, how come everything these days has to be ridiculously long to the point of feeling kind of bloated? Can’t we tell good, in-depth stories with meaningful characters in a trilogy, or at most, five action-packed volumes anymore? Do we really need every last detail about the frayed lace around someone’s pale green tunic or a blow-by-freaking-blow of every single dish served at the Great Summoner’s Feast of Antioc? I mean, this isn’t a fantasy food blog we’re talking about here.
Look, I’m tired. I’m tired of needing a spreadsheet to keep track of a list of characters (with unpronounceable names, mind you) longer than my arm. Tired of trying to remember each of their last known locations. Tired of trying to remember who hates whom, and whether it was character A that betrayed character B, or character B that betrayed character C while character A looked on and soiled himself in fear three books ago.
Mostly I’m tired of wondering if I’m ever going to get to the end of the story. Because, no matter how hateful of epic fantasy I sound in this post, I’m really just frontin’; I love all these series. I really, really do. Most of the characters, the main ones, anyway, mean something to me. And I can’t stand to think that there’s all this journey with them, only to find out that the end never comes, or barely comes with a whimper.
I don’t need “happily ever afters”. I have to have sunshine and rainbows and flights to the second star on the right.
But I do want an ending. Preferably one that satisfies, with a great big bang and a hefty dollop of emotional investment.
Because, in these days of seemingly interminable epic fantasy, I’m afraid I’m feeling all too often like Mick Jagger.
So tell me, am I alone here? Is it just me that kinda, sorta wishes maybe some of these series didn’t drag on forever? Is “Hells yeah! Longer, more, better!” generally the way you roll?
*Well, it’s only 13-books to date, but the 14th, and final, volume, “A Memory of Light“, is due out in January. And yes, there will be MUCH rejoicing.
**It’s fun to say “aughts.” Say it with me now…”aughts”…”Aughts”….”AUGHTS!” Ahem. Sorry.
***Sweet band name. I’m just sayin’.