Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Do We Read?

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times invited 13 authors to share their opinions on this burning issue, and put together a full-page replication of their answers. Since it's about the only part of the Sunday paper I read, here are my highlights:

  • We read to free ourselves from the grind and the misery and big ticking time-bomb questions of life. . . . We all need contemplative time, time away, time in another world altogether. (T.C. Boyle, author of The Women: A Novel)

  • Books have the power to be the light we are seeking at crucial moments in our lives. Reading helps us realize we are not alone, that we can change our circumstances and even achieve the impossible. (Gioconda Belli, author of Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand, a novel of Adam and Eve)

  • The library was where I made my best friends. . . . books are ultimately about stimulating imagination and broadening a worldview. In my South-Central neighborhood, Dickens more than did the job. (Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist)

  • I read because it is one of the very few satisfying escapes from reality that isn't fattening and doesn't destroy brain cells. (Amy Koss, author of Side Effects)

And my favorites:

  • . . . you're sitting right there, reading, and you're anywhere, everywhere. (Veronique de Turenne, blogger, who co-authored Port of Los Angeles: An Illustrated History with Ernest Marquez)

  • [answering the question Why do we read?] . . . the world I found myself in didn't come up to my standards. I was 11 at the time. So I went to the library. . . Now, if my life doesn't come up to my standards . . . I still open a book. (Carolyn See, author of Golden Days and The Handyman)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Be So Good They Can't Ignore You

But you really have to see the drawing to appreciate the sentiment. Click on it. Go!

More on Synopsis Writing

Nothing interesting to say, but I don't want this blog to get stale.

Here's an update: I have rewritten both my one-page and detailed synopses. Like most writing, I whined through the hard part, then rolled around in the grass and revelled when the result begins to show promise.

What had I done wrong that required rewriting? Well, struggling to get all the plot twists in left me very little room for things like themes, motivations, and the like. According to Them That Teach, those things are very important in a synopsis.

So, the FIRST paragraph of the one-pager now states the major life issue confronting our fair heroine, and hints at the theme of the book. A lot of characters and twists got cut away to make room for statements about conflict and emotions. Do I really need to mention the names of her companions? No, but I do need to say that she's devastated by her losses. And I injected more of the tone of the novel itself. All good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recommended Reading When Your Battery Dies

There's nothing like a nonresponsive lights, no nothing...on a day full of planned activities to bring you up short, is there? Creative swearing, while fun, does not solve the problem.

In the end, we can only be grateful that DieHard batteries are relatively cheap (compared to a new alternator), Sears is ubiquitous, and books are more fun than running errands anyway.

The book I buried myself in was
A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3). Book 3 tells the story of the Cowardly Lion, whose name happens to be Brrr.

Brrr is an outcast like Elphaba and Liir, but Brrr is difficult to warm up to. Really. He's not just flawed, but deliciously self-absorbed, smug, pompous, precious, the works. He's a self-pitying opportunist. His word means nothing. Maguire makes him worth reading about, though, with hilarious asides and descriptions that defy description. Here is an example, buried in the middle of the book, of an unimportant place:

The Wend Fallows...beautiful to no one but the stray hermit or mendicant. What streams there were flushed into the mighty Munchkin river, which fed Oz's largest lake, Restwater.

But--martyrs roasting on an open fire!--Wend Fallow was ugly as sin. A fuzzy sort of brown nap coated the hillsides, like a mold that has dried but refuses to stop clinging..."

Wonderful prose. Indulge yourself, before your battery dies, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Books with MY Articles!

So if you want to read about ancient Troy, the Irish Famine, Wyatt Earp, crossword puzzles, sniffer dogs, the Vomit Comet, artificial sweeteners and various other topics, buy this book right away:

If, OTOH, you wish to become informed about Viagra, ancient methods of birth control, sperm banks, electrocution as a punishment, hangovers, whiskey, radio call letters, and 143 other topics, order this volume:

I don't get royalties, but how rare a thing it is to have a first edition with my name and bio under "Contributors." Heavy sigh.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Branding and Complaining

Aha! I am not the only person in a media-oriented city that is thoroughly sick of branding, thank you!

Dan Neil, who has raised auto reviews to a form of high art, includes an aside about branding in his column for the Los Angeles Times of April 10, 2009. He says:

Recently I began writing a column about advertising and marketing for this
paper, a process that has awakened my sense of the ludicrous,
chicken-salad-flavored fertilizer that passes for brand marketing in this

I realize that I sound like a cranky old lady when I whine about trends I find foolish. But when Dan Neil elucidates on the subject, we have . . . gravitas. Breathe it in.

Of course, he's not complaining about branding per se, just the ineptitude of certain car companies' approach to branding. Still, it makes a swell quote and a decent blog entry for the day.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Synopses and Why I Hate Them

They are hard to write. Snivel. Really hard. Pout like Derek Zoolander and say it with me: really, really, really, really, really hard.

(Do you like the mug? I've seen them at a couple of places but you can order them here.)

I have read several articles on writing the synopsis. (A good one is here, at Kathy Carmichael's site.) My problem is that when the article/book/blog inevitably puts up their idea of a good synopsis--the goal, the golden cup, as it were--it sounds like marketing BS to me. It doesn't sound at all like a story I'd like to read.

In fact, these model synopses seem a perfect example of how NOT to write, overloaded with modifiers and clauses and commas.

For that reason I have a difficult time judging the one I must write and rewrite. I guess the synopsis is an acquired taste.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Carnac Museum

I just stumbled across this website of Le Musée de Préhistoire à Carnac which, unfortunately, is not in English. Still, the pictures at the site of artefacts and jewelry are lovely. And it's all just an excuse to show off my own pictures of Carnac anyway.

Here's the Neolithic page, and the Proto-historic, or Bronze and Iron Age page. Scroll down to see the pictures. Iron Age is "L'Age du Fer." This last page includes the Roman period as well. That center picture between the skeleton is a stack of axes, btw.

Large portions of the Carnac stones (there are three fields of them) are fenced off, so if you want to go, compare tours. Some, like Elderhostel, can get small groups in past the fences for a half hour or so.