Finished The Green Rider by Kristen Britain 


I finally finished the novel The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and I liked it.  It wasn’t my favorite fantasy novel ever but it had enough characterization and and action that I forgave some of its flaws. 

According to Wikipedia, this book is a first novel and I could tell.  Not to be disparaging, but there were elements that seemed out of place.  The meeting with sisters early on in the book seemed to exist only to give the protagonist items she would need later on in the story–a la Tolkien.  Her desire to ignore the repeated attempts to get her to believe that she had the necessary talent to be a good “Greenie” based on all that she had gone through was also particularly irksome.  But overall, I’d say it was pretty good.  Will I read the sequels? Probably, just not right away.

Yet, Kristen Britain did in 1999, what I haven’t yet found a way to accomplish yet in 2017.  She wrote, finished, and published her first novel.  This is the goal I’m working towards.  I hope one day (soon) that I can also reach this milestone myself.  Fingers crossed! 😀

Overall Grade: B-/C+

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The Green Rider

greenrider_goodreads

Green Rider Book Cover, Image Source: Amazon.com

So far, I’m about a quarter of a way through The Green Rider and I’m liking it.  It isn’t a favorite like the work of Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams or Elizabeth Moon (my current favorite go-to authors), but it isn’t as bad as I remember it.  I think that I was wanting it (based on the reviews and the way people were talking about it) to be amazing and while it is a good, solid fantasy, it isn’t, for me, amazing.

I suppose I could look it up to see if this is Kristen Britain’s first novel (my computer isn’t actually connected to the internet as I’m typing this so as not to get distracted), even if it isn’t, it seems to have many of the first novel issues.  Just in the first third of the novel, there are pacing issues.  We get introduced to the “big bad” (who apparently is under an even “bigger bad.”  We get a world that is both incredibly airy and light intermixed with one that is incredibly savage.  The main character seems quite unprepared for both–the savagery of the world where she has to fight for her life and the rustic, almost idyllic world of the sisters who offer her respite.

I think this is one of the reasons why it is so hard for me personally to commit myself to writing novels (even though that is what I really want to do as a writer).  I find myself doing exactly the same thing–too many storylines and plot lines when what I want is a coherent whole that doesn’t meander, that doesn’t wander, but tells a compelling story from start to end about a character who starts out one way, but learns about himself/herself on the journey of the novel.  I’m sure that I can learn and master this form as it is the primary form that I read and enjoy, but when I sit down to write it, I find myself doing exactly what is occurring in The Green Rider where I am going down diverse tangents and the story doesn’t seem to have the linearity that I’m looking for and I end up abandoning the project.  Perhaps the lesson The Green Rider can teach me is to finish a rough draft for the project.  Write the whole thing for start to finish and then try to find ways/techniques to revise the story on the paper/page into the one that resides inside my head (& heart).

Henry James, The Art of Fiction, and Me


So this is why studying the old “masters” are important: sometimes their writing can reach across centuries and happened speak to readers  at just the right time.  That is what happened last night when I read “The Art of Fiction” excerpt by Henry James last night.  

James said that the novelist should be concerned with both character and incident.  This is where I err. I’m all about incident and I’m not as concerned with character as I should be.  I like knowing what happened rather than who it happened to.  For instance, when I was a child,my parents used to take me to the local amusement park.  They would often take breaks and people-watch whereas I was there for the rides and people-watching was so boring.

I realize that I’m not really focusing enough on my characters and their characterization. I need to either get better at illustrating my characters in the outlining/rough draft phase (character sketches) or I may need to do a “character pass” in the revision phase to ensure my characters are real characters and not simply “ciphers” for the incident that I want to relate.  Henry James has given me something to consider to help me become a better writer.  Thanks to Dr. Renfroe for assigning him for me to read for class!

Trying Something A Little Different 


I’m trying something a little new with my writing–I’m actually trying to write daily, but since I don’t have my computer (more on that in a different post) I’ve gone back to pen and paper.

What I’m trying now is to write a little bit a day and then over the weekend when I have more time take the writing on pen and paper and transfer it to the computer.

This is actually only the first week that I’ve tried this so I’ll report back here next week on how well I thought it worked out. I’m trying to be a more reflexive writer and be more aware of what works and what doesn’t.

I need to work on my consistency–I’ve known this for a while now, but I haven’t really put any strategies in place to help me, so I’m trying this out in the hopes of becoming a more consistent (and successful) writer.

Book Haul for April 2017

 

books images

I love books and I love reading.  I love going to bookstores and libraries and just walking down the rows of books, pulling out books that look interesting, reading the blurbs on the dust jackets and the backs of the books.  However, I don’t love the modern incarnation/conception of libraries and bookstores with their focus on book “communities,” reading “clubs” (aka reading “circles” or “groups”), and focus on other non-narrative media (movies, audio, and even video games are fine for me because of the narrative aspects of those media, but when start moving into toys, and food and beverages, that is where I lose interest).  However, I discovered that if I’m able to get to the bookstores/libraries early enough in the day, I can recapture some of that joy in cruising the aisles in order discover that special book that I can lose myself in.  So, I thought I write this week’s blog entry on the four books that I bought recently at a used bookstore.  I don’t know if this will become a regular feature of the blog, but it seemed like something fun to write about.  I bought two fiction books and two non-fiction books this time around.

TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT (Book 13 of the Wheel of Time Series) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Towers_of_Midnight_hardcover

I have read this book before.  I have completed the entire Wheel of Time novel series having started reading them way back as an undergraduate when I started my college career at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) before I transferred to U.T. Chattanooga (UTC) a couple of years later.  This series is one that I found with help from a friend from high school who was also attending UTK  (An aside: quite a few of us actually ended up at UTK, especially in that first year and we often talked about cool Fantasy novels that we were reading).  I read this book about a year or two after it was published.  I didn’t read it initially because I concerned about Sanderson’s (or any other writer’s, for that matter) ability to successfully conclude the story that Jordan had been working on for so many years.  However, after reading an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings, I felt confident in Sanderson’s approach that I went ahead and finished the three books the Wheel of Time Series.

WRITING FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: HOW TO CREATE OUT-OF-THIS WORLD NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans, and Jay Lake & the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

Source: Amazon.com

This is one of those books that I simply couldn’t resist based on the cover and the title.  I try to buy only one book in each genre (in this case, how to: writing), but I simply couldn’t help myself when I saw it.  It covers a lot of material that I already know and/or have in other forms somewhere else, but I”m super interested in transitioning from short form Fantasy and Science Fiction into long form Fantasy and Science Fiction and I’m looking for any tips and techniques that I can find to aid me in my process.  It also has a very comprehensive “reference” section that relates to various historical elements that might be useful to a Fantasy writer, in particular and I just couldn’t resist.  I don’t think it will be as helpful to me as the other book on writing that I bought (see below), but it did have a dragon on the cover.  Note to future authors: if you want to pique my interest, just put a dragon or a spaceship on the cover.

BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens

bleak houseOkay, so this is one of those books for “school.”  My program has a fairly exhaustive list of famous/important literary works for incoming PhD students to read and take a test on.  Now I’ve already taken (and PASSED! 🙂 ) this exam, but I the idea of a list of important literary works is a “challenge” that I really want to undertake.  So I’ve made it my goal to finish all the books on this list.  I actually downloaded the audio version of this book to listen to on the drive to and from school, but I really do follow the story better when I can read it, rather than listen to it.  So, I decided to buy this copy and read it during my “downtime” between classes, waiting in lines, etc.  I’ve read Dickens before, but not this specific book, so I’ll be interested to see if I like it as I do all of the other Dickens novels that I have read.

WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL by Albert Zuckerman

Writing the blockbuster novel

Source: Amazon.co.uk

This is another book that I’ve read before–I read it at the Chattanooga Public Library long before I started working there.  It didn’t really make all that much of an impression on me at the time as I was primarily interested in learning “short story” writing.  I wanted to learn how to write short form fiction before stepping up to the “big” works of novels, screenplays, and the like (graphic novels, while around, were not really viable options at that time).  Now, however, I think that I’m ready to learn the lessons of novel writing.  I especially love the fact that point number on the dust jacket in the inside cover is “how to develop and use an outline.”  Anyone following the conversation that I had two weeks ago with a blog commentor named Tom Cordle will appreciate the fact that I like outlines to guide my stories into rough draft stages.  Outlines make sense to me where as just jumping in blind does not.  I can’t tell you how many novels that I have “in my mind” that did not make the translation onto the page because I did not complete a strong outline/rough draft.  I’m hopeful that this book will allow me to produce an outline for a novel over the summer and (fingers crossed) a rough draft for it by Christmas of this year as well.  Well, I can dream big, at least.

Well, that’s it for me.  Here’s hoping you have wonderful, book-filled, week.

 

It’s that Time of Year Again . . .

tourdefrance2016

Source: Letour.fr

Yup, it’s that time of year again–The Tour De France 2016 (aka “my annual 3 week production drop”).  It’s that time of year when my brain goes into “shutdown” mode and I gorge on four hours plus of race coverage for 3 weeks straight (including the “Rest Days” as I end up watching reruns of the previous days race even when there’s not a race on because I can’t bear to be without the race.  Sad isn’t it?  :0 )

I love watching the Tour and I have since the mid-80’s when Greg Lemond was participating in the Tour.  This (after E3) is my unofficial “Me” time where I put most everything aside and just watch.  I’m not a huge TV watcher, meaning that I’ll turn it on , but unless I’m invested in a (sci-fi and/or BBC) show, it is just “background” for me.  The Tour is one of those few exceptions.

“Project Storm”

openboat

Source: learningenglish.voanews.com

Surprisingly enough, this year I’m actually still producing work.  I just started a new short-story tentatively titled, “Project Storm.”  For those who are interested, it was inspired by “The Open Boat,” by Stephen Crane.  I’m less interested in the actual plot of the story and more interested in some of the comments/thoughts of the men.  More on the genesis of the story in an Author’s Note when I finish it.  This one may be one of my shorter works–I’ve finished Section 1 and I’m thinking there’s only going to be 3 sections, but that may change.

Outlining Longer Works — “Project Skye”

 

A few posts ago, I was bemoaning the fact that I’ve not outlined anything any of the longer works that I would like to work on and summer break is quickly coming to an end.  So, with that in mind, I grabbed my notebooks and began going through them looking for ideas that I could use for Chapter Headings/Titles.  I put down around 60 or so possible chapter titles (whew!).  I’ll start whittling them down and then I’ll see if I can put a sentence or two description about what happens in each chapter while watching the Tour.  Who knows, if I’m really lucky, I might have a novel outlined by the time race concludes in 3 weeks.  How cool is that?  Wish me luck!  🙂

Goal: to have an outline finished by Summer 2016 so that I can start writing chapters in my (rare) downtime, so that by the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I have the “rough draft” of my first novel completed!

 

Nulla Dies Sine Linea (No Day Without a Line)

SpaceShip_MaurizioBarabani

NO DAY WITHOUT A LINE”

It’s summertime and school is out!  As I write this, it is Memorial Day, an American Holiday to remember those who have served (or are serving) in the military and who have been willing to sacrifice themselves in defense of the nation!  Go Troops!

It is also the “unofficial” start to summer in the U.S. and for most teachers, it means that school is out until the fall and that the next 2-3 months are our own.  Usually, that means housework/yard work that we have put off during the spring months to concentrate on finishing off the school year strongly.  While I have my share of yard work and housework to do, I also have decided that summer should be a time to recharge/refocus my writing.

To that end, I’m going to follow the latin line: Nulla Dies Sine Linea (“No Day without a Line”).  Everyday, I’m going to write something.  A paragraph for “Project Light,” or plan out a chapter for “Project Librarian,” or something similar.

Now that I know that my writing will fail without proper planning, why not use the time time that I’ve been blessed with during the summer to make sure that I get the ideas, plots, characters and projects down on paper (in the computer, tablet, or notes) and make sure that I have plan for everything that I want to work on during the upcoming Fall.

HAVE POSTCARDS, WILL TRAVEL

To that end, I’ve broken out my old standbys: unlined postcards.  I used to use these in graduate school for jotting down/taking notes for some of the more esoteric philosophies of various rhetoricians and tracking the arguments of various orators.

They’ve also served me well when I wanted to work out the basics of a plot outdoors (I don’t live in a neighborhood that’s conducive to showing off your possessions.)  Postcards are extremely portable and as long as I have a writing instrument, I can jot down notes/ideas as they come to me (something that I’ve been using my phone/tablet to do lately).

I’ve jotted down a character idea that’s been floating in my head for most of May and on the back, hopefully a story idea (aka plot) will present itself.  If so, I’ll jot it down along with a quick rough draft of the story and then move on to the next idea.  If I can consistently do this for the next 2.5 months before school begins, I should have an outline of quite a few short projects and a COMPLETE outline for a few longer projects.  So far, I’m batting 1 for 1 as I’ve already completed my postcard for today (Yay me!)

PATROL SHIP “FIRE ANT” IMAGE BY MAURIZIO BARABANI

So, when I was looking for an image to illustrate my title, I stumbled across this spaceship image that I found pretty intriguing.  I decided to investigate and discovered that the image came from the website of an artist.  While it looks like he mostly does contemporary art, there are some genre pieces in his Portfolio.

The artist’s name Maurizio Barabani.  I’m linking to his Website/Porfolio Page, his Facebook Page, his Blog, and his ArtStation Page.  It looks like he’s Italian.  Man, looking at some of his genre work makes me wish that I could speak Italian.  It would be awesome to work with him on a Graphic Novel of some sort.  Anyway, give him a look and perhaps a “Like” on his Facebook page.  He’s doing some awesome work!