Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dangers of Mutli-tasking

When I was exiting the train this morning I saw a guy who was reading. He walked off the train, climbed the stairs, went through the ticket stile and made his was up and out to the street while engrossed in his book. I tried to see what book it was but could only discern that it was paperback with a colorful cover. Maybe a thriller. It must have been good. There are a lot of tasks I can do while reading, such as eating, stirring a pot of pasta sauce, sitting in the bath, doodling but walking that's one I haven't tried lately. Not since...well, I'll get there.

 I followed the multi-tasker, though not on purpose we were heading the same way. He crossed the street and walked down Locust still reading. The last time I tried to read and walk simultaneously was seventh grade and I was devouring The Lord of the Rings. I was so consumed by the story I read during lunch and offended my friends. I felt my walk to and from school was the ideal time to get some reading in. There is something romantic about reading while walking. This is probably because of every writer's favorite Disney Princess, Belle, who read while walking through her quaint French village and who could have only made me happier if she wore glasses.

My dog Cody reminds me of the Beast, after he gets all lovey, of course.

My village was not as quaint as hers nor was I as aware of my surroundings or my own limbs as Belle. I tripped over my own feet (oh feet, I didn't see you there!) and landed on the sidewalk in front of the city library. The cover of my book tore slightly from the binding but held together. My jeans ripped at the knee and were spotted with my blood.

The damage, more or less.
I limped the rest of the way which was not very far and had to explain to the school nurse, my homeroom teacher, and my parents how I fell. They all told me how dangerous it was to read and walk at the same time. Maybe I needed to learn patience. I didn't, I already knew the dangers, those were my favorite pants and since ripped jeans were against the dress code my parents had to bring me another pair. The pair they brought did not go with my shirt at all. I spent the day sore and self conscious but that's junior high I guess.

Then today there was that guy reading, walking, and showing clumsy 13 year old me up. Maybe now that I am grown up and aware of my body, feet and all, I could try it again? The half an hour I spend walking to and from work could really help put a dent in my to be read list. Then again maybe not.

What about you? What tasks are you comfortable combining? And what tasks should never be mixed?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Whole Week of Giveaways!

This week over at Cambria Dillon's blog she is giving away prizes every day to celebrate her book going out on submission. All of the prizes include a critique of your pages and/or query letter. I think it's wonderful that one writer's success at landing an agent and beginning the next step toward publication can help another writer to perfect their manuscript and/or query letter.

Thanks to everyone giving their time for the critiques and their books as prizes too!

Good Luck to Cam and all the contestants in her giveaway!

Book Report Monday: The Thieves of Manhattan

Title: The Thieves of Manhattan
Author: Adam Langer

Synopsis: Aspiring writer Ian Minot toils in a New York City diner, enraged because he can't get published. His jealousy is pushed to the edge because he suspects the bestselling memoir about drug addiction and being in a gang by no-talent Blade Markham is a fake. Then Ian's Romanian girlfriend, Anya Petrescu, easily finds a publisher for her short stories. Ian becomes the latest author to be embroiled in a headline-making literary scam when he can't resist a scheme in which he passes off another man's novel about a valuable manuscript as his own memoir. The consummate con game takes a deadly turn after Ian realizes he doesn't understand the ramifications of his book nor does he control his emerging career. Part Bright Lights, Big City, part The Grifters, this delicious satire of the literary world is peppered with slang so trendy a glossary is included.

Why did I pick it up?: An editor friend recommended it as a must-read for anyone remotely involved or interested with book publishing.

Favorite Line: "This book was brilliant, Templen said, so raw and so true; when he read one of Blade Markham's prison scenes, he practically palahniuked all over his desk."

Likes: I loved how the story and characters evolved, the book is broken up into three sections: Fact, Fiction and Memoir. A few of the twists I foresaw but not until a few pages before the main character does. I laughed out loud at the glossary of terms in the back. Most of which are authors names turned into nouns and verbs. Even the ones I was unfamiliar with were easy to figure out within the context.

Complaints: The book may not be as entertaining as it was for me to someone with no prior knowledge of the publishing process but it would still be a worthwhile read nonetheless.

Recommendation: It's a fast-paced, entertaining book and only 250 pages. I definitely recommend it to anyone but particularly to bookies.

Next Week: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Comes Book Love

I got this from my friend Ashley who is getting married this September.

Inside she wrote a sweet note and even promised we would "party it up Harry Potter style!" How could I say no to that? I couldn't. Honestly, I was so flattered to be a part of her wedding day I teared up a bit. We only see each other once a year or so. After college Ashley moved away with her boyfriend, now fiance, who is in the Air Force. They live at an Air Force Base in New Mexico. No, it's not Area 51, I already asked.

Why did she mention Harry Potter in her adorable wedding related note? Ashley is one of my Harry Potter friends. During English 101 we decorated our journals for extra points. I covered mine in HP stickers. Ashley was in my class and made a mental note of it. This was when we were still waiting on Half-Blood Prince to come out and I was in the height of my HP love.

The following semester we had another class together. One day she said, "Monica, you read Harry Potter, right?" and I said I definitely read and re-read them and then she said the magic words which changed our relationship forever: "I have a Harry Potter question for you."

It started casually enough. While Ashley read the books for the first time, she'd ask me a question before or after class. I was full of theories and could regurgitate certain lines (or paragraphs) verbatim. During Order of the Phoenix she ran to my dorm room in tears because of Sirius. My roommate looked terrified and excused herself. Before our second semester was over we were more than book friends we had become actual friends.

Ashley (Gryffindor) and me (Ravenclaw) at one of my HP Parties.

Ashley credits me for making her love the series so much. She says it was our long talks, my detailed theories and ability to recall practically any fact from the books on command which fed her passion. Be careful kids, book love is contagious!

Even though the last book has been out for years and the final movie installment is due in July our friendship born from fiction will continue on in the real world long after the lines at the theme park subside. I know it's dorky but this is the power of a really great story, to bring people together. First you're bonding over books and baking pumpkin pasties and before you know it you're putting on a bridesmaid's dress.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daily Rituals

 St. Patrick's Day is only two days away and some people already started celebrating over the weekend by going to parades, eating Irish meals or just consuming food that's been dyed green, and of course drinking Guinness.

This got me thinking about my own rituals. I have some weird ones. Particularly when it comes to writing.

Despite my paranoia that some other commuter might read over my shoulder I enjoy writing on the train to and from my day job. It's a 25 to 30 minute ride and I can usual pump out 400 words or more in that time. I credit this to not having Internet access during that time and also having other people around. I would be very aware of myself if I sat there with my Netbook on my lap staring into to space. So I work, I write whatever comes to me. I get a lot of plot development done this way. Also, to block out distracting conversations I listen to music.

At home, I prefer silence when I write. Where do these rituals begin and why do they change?
In High School I always listened to loud music when I studied. In College I ate Double Stuffed Oreos while I contemplated difficult math problems or read textbooks. There were always chocolate crumbs stuck between the pages.


I wish I could get myself into a ritual to go to the gym more often but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Though I do foresee a possible return of the Oreos to my cabinet.

What are some of your everyday rituals?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Report Monday

Always an avid reader I once read two or more books a week. Now I spend a great deal of my free time writing but I still manage to read a book a week. I am going to make an attempt to post a review every Monday of the prior week's read. Hopefully this will entice me to read more. Without further ado, here is the first week's report.

Title: The Witch of Portobello

Author: Paulo Coelho

Synopsis: "The story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by many who knew her well-or hardly at all." The book is framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens. Athena learns to harness the spiritual powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she searches for her own solace in peace or love and acquires a teacher and disciples as she and the book speed toward a spectacular end.

Why did I pick it up?: The cover and the title were enough to have me snatch it off the shelf. I was intrigued by the main character's name as well, having already christened one of my own characters with the pseudonym Athena. I guess I am an easy sell.

Favorite Line: "Because the hand that draws each line reflects the soul of the person making that line."

Likes: I loved the way the story read like a regular narrative and not like a collection of firsthand accounts, which it was. The story switches hands naturally and the five main story tellers have beautifully distinct voices. Though each time the reins were passed on the teller's name was listed I eventually did not need to know because their voices told me who they were. Also, the dialogue was engaging and provoking. Through dialogue is the only time we know what the main character, Athena, is thinking and feeling. The conversations are very focused on spiritual understanding, the meaning of love, life's purpose and a myriad of similarly hefty topics but the characters' views and opinions come off as believable and not heavy handed or forced.

Complaints: The first set of interviews (or the first 14 pages) felt like interviews. Wide statements are made about Athena and the mystery surrounding her death. While it did serve to entice my curiosity about the woman and her story, I worried the whole book would be filled with out of step rantings. However Athena's mother takes over and the story flows chronologically from then on. So, it's a very small complaint, but the quality of the last 254 pages made the beginning 14 feel disconnected.

Recommendation: I loved this book. Anyone who loves a good story, appreciates beautiful writing, or who is interest in Wiccan or New Age Ideology would enjoy this compelling story.

Next Week: The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer