Sorry there are no links today. There’s no real reason – just didn’t surf the Internet a lot this week. Blame Skyrim. And Downton Abbey. I’ve been oscillating between both in my free time, and they’re both addicting. I’ll make sure to have tons of fun geeky links next week.
Matthew thinks you should watch Downton Abbey
You don’t want to disappoint Matthew
My ROW 80 goal is to write 750 words a day on 750words.com.
I’ve accomplished that this week, having written 5648 words. That’s including last Sunday and this Sunday. Obviously I’m satisfied with that much productivity, but to be honest I’m also frustrated because I switched from my novel effort Kill the Last One to a short story called Rainbow Days on Wednesday. I did it because my monthly critique group is going to meet soon, and I promised a beta reader that we would each write a short story once a month in order to improve our writing overall (and by extension, our novels).
I’ve written a lot of Rainbow Days using the scene by scene method (instead of writing chronologically) and I have a lot of good stuff, but it feels nowhere near complete. This is concerning because a) I’m not going to complete it by the end of the month deadline, b) the larger a short story, the harder it is to sell, and c) I want to get back to Kill the Last One. So I’m going to give myself two more days to work on it before shelving the project and submitting the unfinished product to my poor critique group and beta reader. I’ll pick it up later. It’s not my preferred method of handling things, but I also can’t let this project consume me. Not right now. I also think this is one of those situations where I need to let the project sit, and allow my subconscious time to stew and process.
Anyway. How has your week gone, fellow ROWers?
If you’re curious about ROW 80, or want to visit other participants, please refer here.
(If anyone’s curious, my character in Skyrim is a shady mage who handles situations by stealing stuff and running away. It’s a lot of fun.)
I wanted another Downton Abbey picture in here. Isn’t Mary stunning?
More books! To see the first round of book recommendations, please check out Part 1.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Books good enough to warrant a gif (with flickering candles) are just on another level – ’nuff said
- Amazon Summary: Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Um, yeah. If you don’t see what’s attractive about this story, then don’t mind me. I’m just going to hit you over the head with this frying pan. I mean, come on. Feral twins? A ghost? A governess? Topiary gardens? Fires and books and painful histories? It’s like this book was written just for me.
The Thirteenth Tale is also a rare breed, because it’s a story that works on both the sentence and the plot level – too many stories emphasize one over the other. The Thirteenth Tale indulges in beautiful, poetic writing, but also intrigues with a scandalous and suspenseful plot that will have you turning pages while chowing down on popcorn.
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
- Amazon Summary: On another world entirely, a harassed Sector Controller gets a letter from a maintenance team apparently trapped in Hexwood. A small boy called Hume encounters a robot and a dragon there. Ann Stavely, lying in bed with a virus in her nearby home, watches person after person disappear into the old farmhouse and not come out again.
- When she feels better, Ann decides to investigate. She goes into the wood, where she meets a tormented sorcerer called Mordion who seems to have arisen from a sleep lasting centuries. Yet Ann knows she has seen him enter the farmhouse that morning. Nothing seems to happen in the right order. Nothing quite makes sense. And things keep getting stranger and stranger until, long before the end, the strangeness has spread from Earth right out to the center of the galaxy.
I’ll admit it, Internet. I’m hesitant about this one. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, because the plot is confusing as hell. I read it very carefully and I’m still not sure that I understand it. Let’s put it this way – those Amazon paragraphs are actually a simplified summary of the plot. (I think it’s also incorrect? Because I’m pretty sure that the people are disappearing into the woods behind the farmhouse, not the farmhouse itself. But I could be wrong, and technically I’m citing it, so I don’t want to change it.)
Hexwood is strange and confusing, but also brilliant. It all comes together at the end, which seems like a miracle considering how muddled things get towards the middle of the book. But more importantly, it’s one of the most romantic love stories I’ve ever read – and you know that Diane Wynne Jones is good at understated, actually romantic romance – considering that she also wrote Howl’s Moving Castle.
Best gif ever? I think so
Let me put it this way – if you’re not cheering for Ann and Mordion at the end of the book, then I just give up. And raise my frying pan.
Oh, yeah. Diane Wynne Jones dedicated the book to Neil Gaiman, which inspired him to write the following thank-you poem:
There’s a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream,
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who’s dreaming a perfect dream,
There’s a dog in Alaska who danced with delight on a pile of mastodon bones,
But I got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones.
There’s an actress who clutches her oscar (and sobs, with proper impromptu joy),
There’s a machievellian villain who’s hit on a wonderf’lly evil ploy,
There’s wizards in crystal castles and kings on their golden thrones,
But I got a copy of Hexwood – dedicated – to me! – by Diana Wynne Jones.
There are fishermen out on the sea today who just caught the perfect fish,
There’s a child in Luton who opened a genie-filled bottle, and got a wish,
There are people who live in glass houses have managed to outlaw stones -
But I’ve got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me by Diana Wynne Jones.
So that’s another wonderful thing about Hexwood.
Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe
- Amazon Summary: Young Wataru Mitani’s life is a mess. His father has abandoned him, and his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Desperately he searches for some way to change his life–a way to alter his fate. To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world. Wataru’s ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon’s Bane–the key that will unlock the future.
Brave Story is uniquely structured, in that it’s basically two books pasted together (and I mean this literally; Brave Story is rather long at over 600 pages, making the two halves of the story about 300 pages each). The first half of the story is about Wataru’s life falling apart, while the second half focuses on Vision and the archetypal fantasy quest contained within. Each half is fully realized enough to be its own book, with a detailed world and vibrant cast of characters. Ultimately, the two parts work together to create a meaningful and satisfying whole.
To be honest, I’m extremely fond of the first half, because Miyuki Miyabe writes with incredible incision about the impact of divorce on children; she’s great at getting into the mindset of children witnessing a divorce. For this reason, I found Wataru to be infinitely sympathetic, and my heart broke for him.
Tonally, the second half of the book is quite different. But not in a bad way. In the second half, the story becomes more concerned with the events occurring in Vision; you might have noticed that parts of Vision sound cliche, what with towers of destiny and goddesses of fate and elusive gem stones and all that. In my opinion, Brave Story surmounts the cliches by embracing them so wholeheartedly that the story eventually breaks through to the other side, becoming original simply because most stories don’t dare to be so cliche. Brave Story doesn’t try to dance around the fact that the fantasy elements are a parable for finding inner strength – and behind the fairy dust, there are some dark consequences and raised stakes, not to mention moral dilemmas.
Brave Story is translated from Japanese, and was made into an animated movie in its country of origin. I’ve never seen the animated movie, but I think it’s important to point out that not all books receive their own movie, nor are they translated into other languages. (Especially when you consider the fact that Brave Story is the size of a small tome.)
In other words, Brave Story is good stuff.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? If you haven’t already, would you be interested in reading any of them? Finally, any book recommendations for me?
SUNDAY LINK LOVE
- Kait Nolan makes an argument for deeper explorations of more interesting villains. I agree a lot with what she says here, maybe ’cause I’m studying psychology.
- Nicole Basaraba gives us an an excellent post about longhand, and the writers (some famous) who use it.
- Ari Susu-Mago gives me another gem on Twitter:
Can you find Wall-E?
- I’ve seen the Ira Glass on Storytelling meme circulating on Tumblr ad nauseam, but that’s usually via poster. I love the video version, which you can find here.
- I thought Kiersten White’s post about a night in the life was hilarious.
- Need some inspiration and encouragement, fellow writers? Saundra Mitchell’s post You Can Always Walk Away is one of the best of its ilk.
- Remember how Chuck Wendig wrote about 25 things writers should stop doing? Well, here are 25 things writers should start doing. Also by Chuck Wendig.
- I loved (emphasis *loved*) Claire Legrand’s post on first drafts and the wordiness they inspire, and how that’s okay. Definitely what I need right now, as I draft the heck out of my WIP.
STYLISH BLOG AWARD
The Stylish Blog Award requires a list of 7 random things. I’ve already given the Internet many random things about myself, which you can find here and here. Otherwise, I’m afraid that I’m randomed out.
Time to pass it on! I’m pretty sure that my chosen blogs have already received this award, because their blogs are the pretty. But what can you do? As usual, feel free to treat this as the most momentous occasion ever, or as blog chain mail. Either is fine with me.
- Jennifer Johnson: Love the blue and the simplicity.
- Ghenet Myrthil: The colors are easy on the eyes, and the book-themed header is both elegant and perfect for a writer blog.
- Natalie Hartford: One word: pink. Seven more words: guess what there is never enough of?
- Sommer Leigh: Um, everything about this blog. Starting with the fact that she’s identified herself as a writer adventurer. The bold stripes. And the pirate ship! Just so much love. So much.
ROW 80 UPDATE
- Goal recap: write 750 words a day on 750words.com.
This week was great! So far, I’ve plowed through 4739 words. Not bad, if I do say so myself. (And I do.) There’s no reason I won’t make my 750 quota today.
I’m starting to wonder if I’m weird, though. Because I’m so not writing in order. Not even a little. I’m not just talking about jumping between chapters, but jumping between scenes. And I’m… not sure that this is the best way to write a novel? Probably not. It’s working, sort of, I’m drafting at least, but it’s also kind of terrifying because scenes keep going in completely different directions than I originally intended (they’re telling the outline to talk to the hand, basically), and when you’re spending half your time writing future scenes that are dependent on earlier scenes working out a certain way…it’s um, well…unnerving.
Which has made me think a lot about Claire Legrand’s post that I included in the Sunday Link Love. Because while I might not be sure that I’m keeping all of these scenes – or that they’re even going to make sense once I organize them into chapters – they’re not completely meaningless either. No! I’m glad I wrote them. These scenes are helping me flesh out important story qualities such as character, emotion, theme, stakes, ect. They’re useful.
And for the most part, they’re viable places for the story to go. Writers often compare writing stories to childbirth, and in that vein, I feel like I’m telling my future novel (aka prospective child): “You can grow up to be this, or this, or this.”
Anyway. Those are my thoughts for today. How did your week go, fellow ROWers?