Getting slapped in the face by the many pages of thy many books

Recently, the beautiful PM wrote an interesting post on a meme concerning books, and after inviting me to partake in a post of my own, well, who am I to say ‘no’? PM’s interesting little nugget can be found here peeps…http://prinsesamusang.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/walking-through-the-cemetery-of-my-not-so-forgotten-books/

So, without further ado, time to answer some questions it would seem…

Author you’ve read the most books from: Andrew Daddo, JK Rowling, John Whitman, John Saul, William Shakespeare (although technically these were plays and poetry collections rather than actual books)

Best Sequel Ever: I’ll probably steal PM’s answer and say one of the Harry Potter texts – The Goblet of Fire no doubt.

Currently Reading: Floundering, Romy Ash

Drink of choice while reading – I normally don’t drink from fear of spilling it, but if I had to say, either coffee, water or wine

E-reader or physical book: I’m an old dinosaur (not really) and will always go with the physical version. I have tried e-readers and I have never truly adapted to them. I like to feel an actual text – the moving of the pages as I turn them over – being able to close the text and open it again, as though I am temporarily locking the characters up to reveal them again and give them life at a later date.

Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school – Difficult to say, but I will note this, when I was younger and was reading Animorphs, I had a thing for Cassie. Since high school, my taste in women has not changed much, and although I can think of many intelligent women from books, I also have a thing for women with tattoos and piercings, and none of them spring to mind when remembering any books…

Glad you gave this book a chance – the Book of Lies by James Moloney. My mother bought this for me in high school because when I was  a lot younger I used to tell lots of lies and she said she saw this book and immediately thought of me. Glad she did, because this was a really interesting fantasy adventure!

Hidden gem book:  Perhaps Andrew Daddo’s Dacked – his short story collections were so relatable when I was a teenager from the voice of the character to the life experiences, and although they were meant to be funny, I never really laughed that much, but I was certainly entertained, and it was because of this man’s short stories that I began to write a few of my own.

Important Moment in your reading life – perhaps the above mentioned book, because, like I said, this assisted me in taking my own writing endeavors more seriously.

Just finished – Foster, Claire Keegan

Kind of books you won’t read – I once began 50 Shades of Grey for an assignment at university. I was at least 15 pages into it before I slammed my face into my desk in an attempt to end my horrific torment. Since then, I can officially say, that erotic romance is not my thing, and neither is romance in general – unless its poetry – I just darn well love me some romantuic poetry.

Longest book you read – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix certainly felt that way the first time I read it. Then when I went back to it later I thought ‘eh, you ain’t that big!’

Major book hangover because of:  perhaps Terrible Times by Eddie Dickens. This was in I do believe 2003 mind you, but when I started reading this, I simply could not stop!

Number of bookcases you own – 2, both the same height as I, and I am one tall drink of water!

Book you have read multiple times – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, sometimes called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, depending on what country you live in.

Preferred place to read – my couch and my floor – I like being all spread out, funnily enough I have never truly become accustomed to reading in bed though…

Quote that inspires you – Yeah, don’t have one, sorry guys! No, scratch that, I do! ‘so long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.’ William Shakespeare wrote this in his fifteenth sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ which emphasises immortalising a beautiful young woman forever in the art of writing, and to this day I have kept this in mind – when writing about someone I love, my goal is to immortalise them inside a textual piece for all of time so other people may love her too!

Reading Regret – can’t remember the title, it was an Australian book about a football player who was hired by a PR company for an ad that went terribly wrong and his career ended up on the line. It was supposed to be hilarious, and although there were a couple of laughs at the start, most of the book left me shaking my head in disbelief – me and football never did become very well acquainted anyway. Technically that’s not entirely true – during a game at primary school, the soccer ball was kicked by the goal keeper and landed right on top of my head. Not funny!
Additionally, and no offence to the man’s memory, but John Forbes and his Collected Poems – eh, sheesh! Not going to read you again my friend!

Series you started and need to finish – don’t have one yet…

Three of your all time favourite books – Dacked by Andrew Daddo, probably a Harry Potter book and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I have never been too good at valuing which is my all time favorite books because I often find them to be equal if I enjoyed them.

Unapologetic Fanboy of:  William Shakespeare, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Tara Mokhtari

Very excited for the release more of – I have been thinking of George R.R Martin and his fantasy series since I am a major fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, and if I start his book collection, I will have to see it through…

Worst book habit – if someone borrows my books and they do anything, I mean anything to them – break the spine, curl a corner of the page, spill something on it – then that person had better run, else my wrath will reign down upon them – basically, my worst book habit is that I am a book Nazi – do not hurt my books or I will hurt you!

X marks the spot (start from the top left of a bookshelf and go along to the 27th book what is it?) Looks like our winner is Muddle Earth from Paul Stewart and Chris Riddle

Latest Book Purchase – it was, funnily enough, a reader for one of my university subjects called Text Time and Space – truly a riveting read (by the way I am being sarcastic)

ZZZ -snatcher book (last book that kept you up all hours of the night) Hasn’t happened in a while, but it might have been Stephen King’s Misery, but this was a few years ago. I try to do my reading during the day as to not be consumed by it come nightfall. I have some kind of insomnia (don’t ask me which, I ain’t no doctor) and if my mind is too active when I go to bed, that sure ain’t going to help matters either.

Well, thank you to PM for telling me about this meme. Quite a fun exercise ma’am!

Derek Childs parades through the streets, searching for a darn good book

15bzx2Title: Puppet Parade
Author: Zeinab Alayann
(
http://zenscribbles.wordpress.com/)
Genre: Fantasy,
Young Adult/Tween Fiction

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4

Summary: An entertaining magical
adventure that is both satisfyingly
unique and character driven with
moments of emotional greatness,
intellect and excitement.

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but every child believes they can make a wish and have it come to fruition. The sad truth is that such can never be. Author Zeinab Alayan however intelligently uses this as the initial force to cause her text to vibrantly come to life.

Sophie, a young woman who has been locked up inside her own room since she was very young (think Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French), wishes upon a falling star to be released. All her life, Sophie has been told that a sickness which engulfed her body turned her hideously ugly and over the course of the text she is often found wearing a mask to shield the world from looking upon her supposedly wretched face. Ms. Alayan does such an efficacious job at articulating this particular part of Sophie’s character that the readership is unable to imagine Sophie has anything but an internally beautiful young woman. At worse, Sophie does seem to represent characteristics that could make her appear like a prima donna, but she is so genuinely sweet, intelligent, thoughtful, kind and courageous that you cannot help but greatly enjoy her character for the amazing young woman that she is.

Adjunctively, Sophie’s want to not let anyone see her face seems reminiscent of the character Tali Zurah from the Mass Effect Franchise. Tali was a Quarian, a member of a race who were forced to wear suits and masks due to the lacking properties of their immune systems, without which would cause inevitable and almost instant death. Tali was a highly intelligent, resourceful and well trained operative who was also unbelievably sweet, kind and very charming and Sophie’s attitude, not to mention her mask, seem reflective of this completely.

On another note, at the beginning, it is difficult to discern Sophie’s age. For this particular reader, I only realised how old she was not long after she formed a friendship with Oliver, the other protagonist in the story. At this point, before Sophie’s age was unveiled to me, to say that the relationship between Oliver, who had been described as a young man in his early twenties and Sophie, who I believed was younger than she was eventually revealed to be, seemed a little odd.

At the same time, Oliver, a puppet master who creates his own wooden creations wishes for his inanimate objects to be bestowed with life upon noticing the same falling star that Sophie wishes on. One thing I would note however is that Oliver’s voice does not always seem entirely masculine. His character has a very gentle demeanour, along with a formalised attitude that does not always seem to fit the stereotypical male.

Both Sophie and Oliver’s dreams shortly after come true, which inevitably cause them to stumble upon one another that same night after Oliver’s puppets, now very much alive, decide to flee to experience the great wide world. Oliver’s quest to reacquire his escaped puppets is the driving force of the story, with Sophie quickly deciding to join in on the adventure.

The banter between the characters is incredibly entertaining, with Sophie and Oliver’s friendship being reminiscent of ‘will they or won’t they commit to a romanticised relationship’, which is reflective of Bo and Lauren in Lost Girl and Richard Castle and Kate Becket in the self-titled Castle. On top of this, the author additionally articulates feelings the likes of jealousy and attraction which the lead characters do not properly understand as they feel them, yet the readership does. This technique is especially well orchestrated and allows the reader to know things even when the characters do not, emboldening the reader with a great deal of information. This is further exacerbated with the use of the puppets, who, although are wooden creations mind you, provide the text with more humanity, each one embodying a certain character trait, whether that be politeness, religious values, crude humour, violence, et al. Additional emotions the puppets display, from hugging their master, to feeling legitimate fear, loathing, anger or happiness is additionally well executed.

The lead characters, Sophie and Oliver, and the relationship they share, has been very well articulated. Over the course of their adventure, their friendship grows stronger and stronger as they reveal more to one another. Much like in a conversation when a person gasps and giggles in all the right places, the same is done here, Ms. Alayan beautifully conceiving the conversations and revealing hidden truths at all the right moments.

At the same time however, the characters themselves are flawed in their behaviour, which does not seem real at all. On many occasions the characters become shocked by supposedly obscene crude humour and sexual references, which I did not find at all offensive; in fact, they were unbelievably tame and the idea that one could possibly take offense at such sentences is utter folly. This is quite possibly where the text is perhaps at its weakest.

The author appears to have some very loyal views and values and appears unable to be rude or blatantly sexual in her textual nature, instead being considerably polite, sweet and well mannered. This is very admirable; however, in a text where some of the characters are indeed supposed to be sexually rude, this is not furthered with the use of their vocabulary, which maintains a strict PG tone. In a time when texts are more often than not paved with four letter words and often sexual expletives, the fact this one does not require such profanity is indeed a welcome relief, however, at the same time, it is unfortunate that a reader such as myself has become quite accustomed to the indecent swearing found within literature today.

On that note, although the decency of the text works really well, at times I could not properly assimilate into such a world because I had been corrupted by prior texts where that particular author was, on occasion, unable to write a single paragraph without coating every line with vulgarities. Now, I may sometimes argue that a number of these words in texts are unnecessary. Growing up in a country the likes of Australia, where on average, at age three you already know every foul word in the English vernacular and from that moment onwards frequently use such expletives in everyday speech, I have unfortunately become accustomed to having my pieces paved with profanity.

Perhaps in the author’s part of the world swear words do not play such a mandatory role in conversational ideologies and if that be the case, then that is quite honourable and respectful. At the same time, the reason why this text may be self published and not published by a major publishing house is because many an audience outside of the author’s home country may not have been able to thoroughly enjoy the text as much as they should due to its overall genuinely nice nature. If that’s the case, then such is a rather sad conclusion for a text deserving of attention.

The puppet characters too are just as effective in their lines, but at the same time just as courteous. Harold the Hare and Boris the Brutal Bear for instance don’t quite sound the way one might typically believe. I imagined both of their characters having these thick, almost unintelligible accents and yet after conceding this view, the characters began to show other traits; like grinning and smiling, which seemed ill-apparent in the original postulation of such characters.

Adjunctively, on occasion the narrative becomes rather stereotypical of other texts generated today. There often seems to be this implied stigma in texts where women require men to protect them, which seems rather misogynistic as it degrades the female characters and prevents them from becoming the individuals they ultimately should. A number of times the character Oliver unnecessarily reasserts his masculinity by saying how he will protect Sophie’s character, when in fact it is revealed on many an occasion that she can take care of herself. This is reminiscent of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, where the character Katniss is shown to be an incredibly strong willed and capable young woman. Peeta however is seen to hold her back with his borderline chauvinistic attitude when he later emphasises his need to protect her, or, as it so often seems, dominate her. Heroes very rarely need another individual to rescue them, so why is it in texts that often a heroine needs a man to come to her rescue? Women are just as capable as being heroic as men and ought to be able to express their powers of strength and intellect without being overshadowed by dominating men, and at times I thought it would be great for Sophie to venture out from the protective shell that Oliver unnecessarily casts upon her.

Moreover, there are a number of incredibly powerful moments in the text that Ms. Alayan wondrously orchestrates. The few action scenes are well paced and keep your interest from beginning to end, preventing you from stopping even for a fraction of a second. The violence that takes place during these particular scenes is often incredibly blood thirsty and, if anything over-exaggerated to the extent that younger readers should probably be barred from experiencing such content until a more suitable adolescent age. This seems almost ironically contradictory. It feels at times as though the author can barely bring herself to write the word ‘crap’ in her text, but Ms. Alayan has no problem with articulating blood thirsty scenes with rampant violent fighting. This is adjunctively heightened, for instance, in a region dedicated solely to violence, when she meticulously articulates the weaponry used in one particularly gruesome scene, adjunctively using accurate terminology to describe what takes place, all of which is very effectively promulgated.

Moving on, the story begins in the town of Silver Lakeshore, a fictitious community which could be internationally unanimous across a wide number of countries for it is universally symbolic of the stereotypical residential environment. This is a great tactic by the author for anyone in the world can read the text and immediately feel at one with the original textual location before the adventure begins. The story sees the two central characters move from one fantastical realm to another, each land comprised of a central community, dedicated either to religion, scholarly intellect, magic, violence, et al, each one coming equipped with their own unique laws and regulations. These particular lands seem reminiscent of the worlds in Enid Blyton’s the Far Away Tree franchise, each filled with suspense and magical mystery.

Of course, all of this is shrouded by a menacing force located in a desolate region of the fantastical lands. To avoid giving away any plot twists, this reviewer will simply state that the antagonistic force is represented as having powers of persuasive indoctrination, reminiscent of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatches.’ The author does such a great job at developing this evil realm over the course of the storyline with a significant build up of suspense, that Ms. Alayan becomes a victim of her own success, because from this moment on I was hooked, wanting to know more and more about this evil dimension, the information about such a land often being relatively slow coming from its original unveiling.

The ending of the text is something that the reader will in all likelihood not see coming, with a number of very convincing twists that continuously keep one’s attention. At the same time though, there was at least one answer I was longing to acquire that did not seem to be adequately provided.

However, even with this said, by the end of the text I was very satisfied to have had the opportunity to read this unique fantasy novel and to share in the many adventures with the characters. Clearly Ms. Alayan is an author worth looking out for in the future.

GIFT or CURSE? A piece about WRITING, PUBLISHING and UNIVERSITY

 

Contains some coarse language.

Plan? What plan? Talk to the architect if you want a plan! Yep, that’s right – if you came here for advice, you are sadly mistaken, cuz here, you will find anything but…

…Going to a university after college/high school/whatever it’s called, is all well and good, but are there repercussions to this as well?

As a person who wanted to work professionally in the writing field, I found out the hard way that employer’s do not take people seriously who do not have valid credentials in the field they wish to enter. Now, by writing, I meant a professional, who worked on pieces from prose to poetry, through to novels and screenplays. Yes, I suffer from delusions of grandeur, but a dream is a dream until it is proven to be 100% unachievable, and I am yet to reach that unfortunate stage.

But, why a writer? So many people these days want to be teachers and shrinks and work in PR. Well, I could that writing has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, but I think that Australian author Michael Hyde, who was my lecturer for my introduction to Creative Writing class during my first semester of University put it best. Now, I hope to write this properly, but it has been a couple years since he explained this, so I might not be entirely accurate in my words – if he happens to read this he’ll probably shake his head at me. Dr. Hyde (yes, doctor, not mister!) explained how he was once teaching at this school. There was a student who could write very well, but to impress his friends he did his best not to focus on writing as much as he did sports and drinking, and other usual Aussie bloke stuff. Anyway, this literary competition is held at the school, and Dr. Hyde asks this student to submit his piece. For further encouragement, he explains how women like writers – they find men who write absolutely irresistible. The student is quite unsure; his friends laugh at him, believing writing to be the kind of thing done by losers and nerds – not by stereotypical Aussie blokes. Anyway, after much convincing the student decides to enter his piece into the competition – and wins! But, the morale of the story has not yet come to pass…the following morning, Dr. Hyde is walking down a corridor – and he sees the young woman who every man in the entire school had been lusting over embracing the student who had won the competition – yes, the same student Dr. Hyde had encouraged to enter. So, walking over to them, Dr. Hyde whispers into the ear of the student ‘told yer so.’ So, there you have it…the reason why I want to write – to gain the attention of all the foxy ladies.

Besides, in regards to other avenues of study…in relation to PR, 1) I’m no good at communicating with the general public, and 2) I’m no good at communicating with my relations, so how the hell could I ever be any good at Public Relations? And as for teaching – often has good opportunities for economic compensation, but other than that…besides, students usually freak the hell out of me, so it’s one of those thanks but no thanks ventures. Some people are scared to fly. Some people are frightened of the dark. I’m terrified to students. Moving on…

…Between the ages of thirteen and fifteen during some of my spare time I completed three short story collections, each containing six pieces. However, by the end the word ‘short’ may have very well been the last word I would have used to describe them, with the shortest piece indeed being 7 pages in length, whilst the largest was 102, and the average was 60; not exactly the definition of the term ‘short’ now, are they?

Unfortunately for me, at the time I had no literary agent, and only a very small per cent of Australian publishers are willing to accept unsolicited content; Penguin and their subsidiary Puffin, Allen and Unwin (at the time at least), Text Publishing, just to name a few. However, these publishers may say ‘we will accept unsolicited material’, but never is there a clause that expresses ‘we will publish unsolicited material.’ I learnt very quickly that every single publishing house had a problem with short stories; unless you were a known quantity in the industry, then this notion did not apply. I remember reading on the MacMillan page that they did not publish short stories, yet in the exact same month I read that known Australian author Andy Griffiths, most notable for his ‘Just’ franchise, had another of his short story collections published by their company! So, the rules are rules, unless you are a published author, in which case none actually apply to you.

Unfortunately for me, on the first occasion I happened to submit something, I mentioned my age, which at the time was 14. After almost half a year, in which I had given up waiting for this particular publishing house and had sent pieces to a couple others, I was notified in the mail whether or not I was successful. Of course I wasn’t, as depicted by the general tone of the paragraph. Did they supply a reason? Yes, amazingly enough…they explained how a 14 year old writer could never be taken seriously in the industry, and if one is writing short stories aimed for a young, adolescent audience, then they cannot be members of that readership – they need to be older, and more experienced in age and life, for nobody would ever want to read the work of a teenager. Safe to say I never mentioned my age in a cover letter again.

Anyway, long story short (pun included?) I contacted a literary agency, and after a few months was able to successfully converse with one of their employees about how short stories were not a popular market – in which I found out that they actually are! True, short stories never sell as many copies as novels, but they are especially well enjoyed by younger audiences because of their general length. It’s that publishers do not want to take the risk with a short story collection. On occasion, these collections have gone belly up for publishers, which is why they are after something more – a novel. Luckily enough for me, at the time I had an idea for a science fiction novel which I had been developing for some time.

Of course, something always gets in the way, right? Well, in this instance it was plain ol’ me…I finished the novel in December of 2009 after working on it for roughly six whole years. I took one look at my finished product and thought ‘what a piece of shit.’ Okay, honestly, it may not have been all that bad, but there was more I wanted to develop within the story in regards to the centralised characters and the lead antagonists. Additionally, I leant a lot whilst writing the story. The one thing I took away with me from high school was this; it don’t matter if you are writing a story set in the past, present or the future, if you do not have themes, or if you do not discuss pertinent issues that are reminiscent of today’s society, you will not gain a very broad readership. So, what are strong themes or issues transpiring today? Well, there is gay marriage, war, especially the one in the Middle East, racism and terrorism. There is love and sexism and rights for women. Safe to say, one can develop a piece with futuristic themes and such, but only the writer will really be privy to such a fantasy. The reader needs something that they can understand and clearly relate to, else you ain’t gonna succeed.

Additionally, I thought another aspect of writing on my lonesome, which Michael Hyde further discussed in his second lecture. What is this you might wonder? Well, at the beginning of my first novel (the term ‘beginning’ is loosely used – basically means the entire first half) I dominated my characters. I ruled over them with an iron fist! I wanted each and every one of them to live up to the notions and developments that I had conceived in my mind, and nothing was gonna get in my way from having them end up the way I wanted them to. However, by the second half of the piece I had altered my train of thought and relieved my characters of my ruling and allowed them to run free across the page. What did I learn from this experience? If you sit back, your characters will do everything for you – all you need to do is write it down. The freedom my characters had from this point onwards guaranteed them change from my initial plan that I had scheduled for their futures and changed many of the conclusions I had initially conceived.

I also happened to unfortunately find when I tried to publish this first novel of mine that I had just chosen to write in the one genre that I probably shouldn’t have. Yes, sci-fi is a very well rounded and broad subject that is enjoyable around the world; the problem? At least half, if not more Australian publishers are scared shitless of publishing sci-fi because it could blow up in their faces! Why/how did I not know this when I first began? SHIT! Anyway, instead of giving up ion such a genre or reinventing parts of the novel, I decided to move onto the development of another sci-fi oriented piece – which I am still developing to this very day.

True, probably not one of the most intelligible of things to do since I knew what to expect from the industry, but there was one more thing I was counting on; the experience I had been told that was a necessity for me back when I was fourteen…I was, and still am, attempting to acquire it. I’m in my third and final year of my undergraduate university course, but I have no intention of stopping there. Next, I wish to complete my masters, and then my doctorate, and then I can be Dr. Naughty Nefarious! However, what I am really aiming for is plain and simple professional courtesy – if I have gone all the way to gain a doctorate (that is if I succeed, which I hope to do so), I am hoping to look pretty darn respectable. I mean, how many people in total within Australia have gone on to gain doctorates? I don’t mean to seem pretentious or egotistical, but I am hoping this may provide to me a bonus, as to allow me to stand out from the other hopeful writers of tomorrow.

In the meantime though, what can I possibly do? Well, that is where the Gift/Curse part of the headline comes into play…one can gain a university degree, or go on to complete their postgrad, but all of this comes at a price. And I don’t just mean economically, although that is gonna be one helluva issue whine it comes time for me to pay off the rotten bastard of a tab that I have wafting over my head like a dark, angry storm cloud. No, I of course mean professionally. If one is after a job after attaining such qualifications and is unable to gain one in their intended industry, what next? That is the problem, because ‘what next’ is a great, big puddle of utter nothingness. Employers not in the field of study one has accomplished want NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU! Why not? One, you are too over qualified. Actually, that is basically the one and only point. Due to this, you will constantly be searching for another occupation – one in your chosen felid that you explicitly studied for, and once you acquire that dream job, you will leave the one you currently have. Employers don’t want to put time and investment into a worker who will inevitably leave – no, they want someone they can train and bend to their every whim like to an able pet. So, gaining one’s dream educational qualification is all well and good, but it will ultimately prohibit oneself from gaining an employment- anywhere but in their chosen field, and if the job you seek is not hiring, well, to be blunt – you’re fucked!

Naughty Nefarious, signing off!