Archive for May, 2009


Not a Poet (and I Know It)

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Did you know that there are a ridiculous amount of poetry contests ‘out there’ in the great wide world of The Internet? Like, literary journal contests? It’s crazy. I had no idea that people were still writing that much poetry… and reading it, for that matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good poem now and again, but I’ve read an awful lot of bad poetry in the past, and I think that’s put me off of ever learning how to write poetry properly (if there is such a thing) or even go out of my way to read it.

I think it’s just too easy to plop some words down on the page and call it a poem. But, try to write something good – something meaningful – and it’s harder than it seems! April was Poem-A-Day month, and I tried on Day One and gave up. Perhaps not a good reflection of the effort made on my part, but still…

…still I wonder, some of these contests have a goodly amount of prize money, and when you think about it, a poem theoretically takes far less time to write than a short story (for which there are also many contests). Is it worth it to try and churn out a bunch of semi-passable poems and shoot 10 or 15 around in a month, hoping to score a win somewhere, or is it better to sit down and thoughtfully plot out & write a short story (taking perhaps three or four… or fifty times as long to do) and submit maybe one per month, at best?

Where is the time best used? Honing one’s primary craft, or trying to take the easy way out?

I think what might stop people from taking the easy way out is: the entry fees on the contests. These are small literary journals, and I suspect that these contests help them finance their publishing costs during the year, but still, $1000 is pretty decent prize money for a struggling writer.

Of course, you could always work on both. HAH! Who has the time? Let’s be honest, here.

But, if poetry is your thing – or perhaps if you have a few original pieces kicking around in your notebook – it might be worth your while to check out a contest or two and see if they would be right for your style.

Here are a few I came across just today:

Interested? Want more? Head over to Poets & Writers for a whole slew of upcoming contests to enter!

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Book Review: ‘Found’ (The Missing, Bk#1)

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

16) The Missing, Book 1: Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix (Children’s Fiction/YA)

I stumbled across this in the library, and was hesitant to pick it up. After reading most of her Shadow Children series, I figured she had a lot to live up to, and this book looked like part of an attempt to repeat her prior series’ success. But… I read it anyway.

It was good, but not as good as her other work. There were some aspects of the book that felt contrived – particularly the ending sequence, though I understand that it needed to set up the next book – and the writing style and characters were similar to that of Shadow Children. There were some unbelievable parts, while other parts simply surprised me… namely, she doesn’t turn around and give everything a perfectly natural explanation in the end, like in many of her other books. That was good – a bit of a departure, so I appreciate the effort – but I’m not quite sure how it’ll pan out.

That said, I can say with certainty that I’ll read the next book, though it isn’t released until this coming August. I want to reserve judgment on the series as a whole until after I see how she develops the theme and moves the plot. In the meantime…? If you’ve liked her other books, it’s worth checking this one out. If you haven’t read Haddix before, try book #1 in the Shadow Children series first (Among the Hidden).

Rating: 2.5 coffees out of 5




   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Huzzah! I’ve hit 75k and counting! …it’s really quite amazing what a few hours at a coffee shop can do for you. Problem is, the story is going to end before I hit 90k. Hrm. Well, that’s what rewrites are for, yes?

In other news, I’m still attempting to make use of the bulletin board from a few weeks back (refer to previous posts about motivation), but it’s not going so well. Apparently to make it work, you have to actually post new things and, oh… complete some of the ones you already have up there. So far, I have about 50 ‘to-do’ things and maybe 3 in the ‘Doing’ category. Now, I know Holly says to limit yourself to 5 things at a time – ie. only make cards about 5 tasks ahead of yourself – but it’s a very busy time and almost everything on the list is urgent… and ironically, few are about writing. Maybe it’s just the time of year, but it isn’t really working for me right now.

I’m not going to give up yet, though! At the very least, my long term goals are posted on the board, and it’s good to see them over and over… well, except for on certain days when all they do is depress me, but that’s another thing for another time.

Ah well.

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Book Review: ‘Belle’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

15) Belle: A Retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” - Cameron Dokey (Children’s Fiction/YA)

I have to say, I was surprised by this book. It took me a few pages to really get into it and stop trying to urge the story into familiar territory, but I have to say: Dokey knows her craft. She presented likable characters – even Belle’s sisters – which is certainly not traditional in the original fairy tale. I found it to be rather delightful that her sisters weren’t evil or completely self-absorbed (in a manner of speaking… the characters actually grow throughout the course of the narrative, and for the better!), and the family actually acted like… well, a family.

As for the traditional core of the Beast and Belle’s obligation, Dokey puts a lovely little spin on things that keep the story familiar enough to the reader, while also making it a little more believable for a modern-day audience. I’ll admit: the ‘revelation’ scene between Belle and the Beast actually caused me to tear up, it was so incredibly well-written. Maybe it’s just me, but I found the delivery particularly powerful.

It’s a small book and a quick read… but well worth it.

Rating: 4 coffees out of 5

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Book Review: ‘Inkheart’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

14) Inkheart – Cornelia Funke (Children’s Fiction)

I picked this one up in anticipation of the film release this coming Friday, as I really prefer to read a book before seeing the movie. I’m not really sure what I expected from the book, but I can say that it wasn’t what I thought I was getting into… and yet, I still enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it was wonderful, because I did think it had several lulls in the plot, but for bibliophiles, it’s certainly worth the read. It’s very book-oriented, perhaps in a way that only bibliophiles can really appreciate, and there is one scene that would make anyone who loves their books blink back a tear or two.

Perhaps most telling is that I do plan to read the next two books that come after it, though I don’t feel compelled to do so immediately (the first book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, yay!). All said, I’d recommend it, but don’t expect a high-tailed fantasy adventure through literature – it’s more subdued and, well… book-focused. But that’s a good thing. :)

Rating: 3.5 coffees out of 5

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Content vs. Craft

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

It’s a busy day, so I don’t have a lot of time to write a long post… but I thought I would throw up an idea, courtesy of Writer’s Digest‘s ‘Tip of the Day’.

Today’s tip is: “Ultimately, content matters more than craft.

The brief article on the website mentions Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook as an example of a book where the writing would be passable in middle-school at best, but whose success was enormous simply because readers connected with the characters. It was a good story: the content mattered to the readers. I’d also argue in this case that the movie helped sell a crapload more books, but that’s neither here nor there. It hit #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list, and the writing was horrendous. Good example.

But I can think of an even better one… and I bet you’re all going to nod with me. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Yes, indeed. Crap writing, but many people absolutely adore it. It’s quite the unsolved mystery, but evidently there are people who connect with the content, even while admitting that the writing isn’t very good.

Does that mean that we should crurn out halfhearted manuscripts if we think we’ve got a great idea? No, of course not. You always want to do justice to your great idea, but think of it this way: If you have a great story to tell, tell it. Don’t be afraid to “do it wrong”, just write it and get it out of you. Great ideas produce good stories, and you never know… someone might connect with your third draft and whip it off to the publishers. But don’t be so paranoid about “getting it right the first time” that you never let your Very Good Story see the light of day.

Let’s face it: How can you know if you have Great Content until you try?

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Book Review: ‘Breaking Dawn’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

13) Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer (YA)

I’ll do my best not to give away spoilers for this one, which means I won’t review it as fully as I might like… but I don’t want to give anything away for someone who still plans to read it. A friend loaned this to me so that I could finish the series and get some closure, and I was dreading the investment of time it appeared to need…

Well, 750 pages is significant, but it moves quickly. I think what shocked me most about this book is that… I didn’t really mind it. A quick summary: I loved the first book (read it several years ago), hated the middle two, and this one, well… it wasn’t half bad. However, I’ll admit that I knew two of the key plot points before starting the book (a newspaper article gave them away last year because they didn’t include a note saying there were spoilers in the article… I was not happy), so that may have influenced my judgment in the sense that what occurred didn’t seem quite as ridiculous as it might have to other readers.

Regardless, I honestly think Meyer took more care with this final book, to an extent. The negatives I have to say are: I never connected with the “new” character (those of you who’ve read it will know what I mean) because I don’t think this individual was fully developed (though arguably, that’s the point until the end?), and I thought what was supposed to be the climax of the whole thing was rather… well, anticlimactic. Okay, I have to do this:

I wanted a fraking battle scene! I wanted a fight, or at least a skirmish of some sort! I think Meyer copped out on that one, perhaps out of cowardice for killing characters off, or maybe she just isn’t experienced enough to do so. I don’t know. But I think it would have been far more believable at the end if everyone fought – at least for a minute or two – before Bella got control of her gift and saved the day. Arrrgh. I found that very unsatisfying and frustrating.

Okay, you can start reading again.

All in all, it was closure to the series, and for that I’m glad I read it. After all, if I want to intelligently discuss it with other people, I can say I really did read the books and therefore am able to form informed opinions – until some people (*ahem*my brother*ahem*) who simply like to say “they suck” and that’s that.

Mind you, I don’t think Bella is a good role model for teen girls, because love certainly isn’t like that. She’s fairly helpless for the first 3 books and keeps needing to be rescued, which was slightly frustrating, but you know what? That’s another discussion for another time. Rant over. Book finished. If you started the series, don’t be afraid to end it here. Let’s give it: 3.5/5 and be done with it.



Wistful Website Wishes

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

This site is, in theory, supposed to serve a threefold purpose:

  • to chronicle my writing journey
  • to serve as a professional point of contact for new clients
  • to be a second place to post my book reviews (Librarything is place #1)

So far, I’m getting back into the swing of things on #1, failing miserably in #2, and sort-of getting #3 done. As I move into a more regular writing schedule (cross fingers), the chronicles of my writing journey will hopefully become more regular and, *gasp*, hopefully more useful to others. I wish my site hadn’t been hacked last year… I had some good posts on there, but they’re long gone. Oh well. That version of the blog was getting more personal than anything else, really.

In terms of posting the book reviews, you’ll notice I have a review scheduled for every 4 days. This is fine, except that I didn’t start doing this until last month… and since I’ve actually read 46 books this year so far, and reviews are only up to book #12, there’s quite a way to go. At this rate, I’ll be posting my books from 2009 well into 2010, and always run behind. This is something I’ll have to figure out myself in the near future, and it may involve back-dating a number of book reviews just so I can get them all in this year. So don’t be alarmed if there are suddenly a pile of new reviews you haven’t read, or if they start getting posted closer together. Never fear, I’ve got it under control… I hope.

As for my second point there… well, I’m failing miserably. Ideally, I’d like to use this site as a point of contact for business references and new clients, and I’d like to be able to hand out business cards (or the like) with this site’s address on it. Then, the potential client could come here, view some samples of my work, and contact me to discuss their project. Currently, the state of this site makes it impossible. In fact, all I have right now is a pretty amateur-looking blog. Ugh. Not good. Fortunately, my husband runs a website design company, so at least I have someone to turn to for help… though a personal project obviously falls under the ‘non-urgent’ list of things in their book, so I have to move at their schedule.

So, my point: hopefully over the next few months, you’ll begin to see some changes around here… for the better. I’d like to get the title up at the top of the site, maybe with a funky little book-sandwich graphic next to it. I have a number of widgets I’d like to install (including, but not limited to: a writing contest widget that scrolls through current contests, a Librarything widget that displays random covers in my library, a wordcount widget for my WIPs, etc), and I’d like the boxes on the right to be organized better. I want the navigation to stand out… and… and… and…

Yes, I have big plans. My hope is that they’ll pan out slowly… so again, don’t be alarmed if you show up and things look different. Better website = more productive writer… RIGHT??? Heh…

Anyway, if I’m doing professional work – and am married to a man who runs a website design company, for goodness sake – I really should have a professional-looking website, with this blog as just one of the areas of focus. All in due time…

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Book Review: ‘Forgotten Scripts’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

12) Forgotten Scripts: Their Ongoing History and Decipherment – Cyrus H. Gordon

Although a little dated (it was first written in 1968 – thankfully I had the revised & updated edition, which I believe was released in the 80s), I found this book enjoyable and easy to read – and I think anyone interested in the history of languages in the ancient world will probably feel the same way.

First, there is a look at the basic principles of cryptography and how it can be used to ‘unlock’ ancient unknown scripts. Then, Gordon introduces a number of the world’s ancient languages (Sumerian, Hittite, Linear B, etc.) from both a historical standpoint and linguistic overview. He breaks down the core principles of each language’s decipherment, but doesn’t include so much as to overwhelm the layperson.

I also thought the book was helpful in the sense that it traced how each language may have influenced the others, ie. potential cases of borrowing or assimilation. However, when you read this, keep in mind that 25 years of scholarship has passed since the book was updated, so there are many new discoveries/decipherments/breakthroughs on the languages that have come since then.

But, it’s a worthwhile read! And he ends it well: there are sample translations from Egyptian/Hurrian/Sumerian/etc. texts in the last chapter, from a myth to a folktale to a legal document, and so forth. It’s a good breadth of examples, and interesting to boot.

Rating: 3 coffees out of 5

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Almost, Almost…

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia

…to 70,000 words on WIP #1. So close… and yet, so far to go even after I hit that target. All things considered, it’s not too bad – 70,000 words is still 70,000 words to work with, and with another 20k tacked onto that, I’ll have a full-fledged first draft to rip to shreds. It’ll be great. I already know several areas that are targeted for complete and entire rewrites, but I know that if I go back to them right now, I’ll spend too much time trying to polish and not enough time actually finishing the darn novel.

Finishing is step #1. Tearing into it like a ravenous squirrel is step #2.

That said, I’ve had a few “oh crap, only 500 words” days in a row, but at least it’s something.

Still not entirely sure what the final scene will be, or how I’ll wrap it up neatly, but that’s not really a concern for draft one. Or so I keep telling myself. Then again, I also keep telling myself I don’t need any more coffee, but has that ever stopped me?

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