More of the Perfect Bathroom Reading

Awhile back (2013 actually), I wrote a post on the pastime described in the title. Yes, I decided to go there again. (Get it? Go there? Okay, I really should let that go. Ha ha! Aren’t you glad I stuck around four years as a blogger?)

87feacc4658527cbfd578847ab340db8

Anyhow, the subject came up again recently, and since I have a blog, I decided to discuss it here. No subject is too inane for me to write about. Perhaps you wish some were. Well, it was either this subject or a discussion of what I had for lunch (grilled ham and cheese—see, not much to talk about).

So, what makes for good bathroom reading? Need it be waterproof? What are the criteria? Have they changed in the last four years? Good questions. Well, I’m still very particular about my bathroom reading. As I mentioned in a previous post, novels (non-graphic novels) don’t really work for me, unless the novel is something for which putting it down is next to impossible. But if it’s that impossible to put down, I would remain in the bathroom for hours, reading. (Not a bad thing, really, if you live alone. With a family sharing a bathroom, however, this would be a bad thing.)

I prefer something I can flip through, and perhaps quickly read a section. That’s why, at least for me, magazines (the extent of my nonfiction bathroom reading), alumni newsletters, fun catalogs, and graphic novels still make the perfect bathroom reading. (Nothing much has changed in the last four years.) I love the blend of images and text, which makes finding an interesting place to land very easy. And for the most part, I don’t “cheat” by taking my reading material out of the bathroom to finish reading later. Like I said, this is bathroom reading. It remains on the shelf in my bathroom.

This is what I currently have in my bathroom. Yes, that issue of Entertainment Weekly is as old as dirt. But it’s still fun to look at. And that’s definitely not the latest issue of Game Informer. I usually pass those on to some friends as soon as I finish them. Somehow I managed to hold on to this one.

img_4255

I also have this series, written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi (books 3 and 7):

img_4261

For more about this fantasy series, go here (the author/illustrator’s website):

Maybe a month ago, I read a great article on the work of Sir Fraser Stoddart, a professor at Northwestern University (see photo below left) who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year. Now, an article of that depth took several sessions to read. Took over a week to read Game Informer’s article on the three doctors who founded BioWare, the videogame developer. (That was a long article.) An article on George R. R. Martin (bottom right) took a few days to finish.

stoddart-186x232  george-r-r-martin

But I guess the point I’m making is that I love my bathroom reading. It’s just as special to me as my bedtime reading, though the time I spend doing it is a bit shorter. 🙂

Do you keep reading material in your bathroom? If so, what?

Bathroom image from somewhere on pinterest.com. George R. R. Martin photo from christianpost.com. Sir Fraser Stoddart photo from chemistry.northwestern.edu. Other photos by L. Marie.

Advertisements

Writing with Abandon

I’ll reveal the winner of Like Water on Stone by the amazing Dana Walrath in just a minute. But first . . .

greg_berlanti_headhotToday, I finished reading an article by Tim Stack in Entertainment Weekly (Dec. 5 issue). The subject: Greg Berlanti, the co-creator of The Flash and Arrow, hit shows for the CW. I could mention how an article like that is the perfect bathroom reading, but I wrote a post on that subject before. So I won’t go there now. (You get it? Go there? Okay, I hear you. Some puns shouldn’t exist.) Anyway, Greg is not only involved with the above mentioned shows, he has another hit show on NBC (The Mysteries of Laura) and is developing a show about Supergirl for CBS. If that’s not enough, he’ll be the head writer for the next Oscars broadcast. And that’s not all. The guy has a long list of projects for which he’s either a writer, co-creator, or executive producer. Just reading the article exhausted me. But after reading it, I realized that Berlanti exemplified what I’d discussed in my previous post—writing with abandon. Thanks, Greg!

The following quote struck me:

Berlanti has been a huge comic-book fan since he was young, and seeing him at work is like watching a kid play with his favorite superhero toys. . .except these action figures will be life-size when production starts. (44)

Love for what he’s doing seems to be the key to Berlanti’s quantity of projects. (That and opportunity.) Another plus in Berlanti’s favor is a testimonial from Chris Pratt, who was part of the cast of one of Berlanti’s past shows, Everwood: “He’s capable of showing real heart without being melodramatic.”

Passion. Real heart without melodrama. Sounds like a winning combination, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t we all like to achieve that balance? It takes a delicate touch.

008

Jordie hopes that someday a television show is developed about him. He has a cape ready just in case. He’s sure that his story has real heart, and not an ounce of melodrama.

009

His first order of business: mopping the floor with his arch-nemesis: Hello Kitty (code name: HK). Don’t let the cupcake and the bow fool you. She’s wanted in fourteen states for being a supervillain. Coincidentally, she has seen her favorite movie, Megamind, fourteen times. Be afraid.

Megamind

Getting back to Greg Berlanti, whatever he’s doing seems to be working, judging by the many viewers his shows have earned. I’ve been meaning to watch The Flash and Arrow. Have you seen them? I’ll get around to them at some point. But for now, my time would be better spent doing what I’m passionate about: weaving works of a high fantasy nature and crocheting whimsical hats. As I’ve mentioned before, I need to make several hats like this in the coming weeks.

018

Unlike HK above, this hat has no desire to take over the world. . . .  At least not that I know of. Be afraid.

And speaking of someone who writes with abandon, let’s get to the winner of Like Water on Stone by the multitalented Dana Walrath. (See interview here and here.)

                     dana_walrath 9780385743976

The winner is . . . (drumroll, please) . . .

cute-cat-gifs-28

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jill Weatherholt!

Jill Weatherholt, come on down! Please comment below to confirm. Thank you to all others who commented.

Stack, Tim. “The Man Behind the Masks.” Entertainment Weekly. 5 Dec. 2014: 42-46. Print.

Drumroll gif from cutenessoverflow.com. Greg Berlanti from hollywoodreporter.com.

Going for the Heart

Today, I’ll reveal the winner of Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere books. (See author interview here.) But before I get to that, let me get to this. . . .

When I was a kid, Saturdays were for watching martial arts films and Godzilla movies. I didn’t care so much about plot or whether or not a story was emotionally satisfying. Watching two people with a specific skill set fighting each other or watching a crowd running from a huge monster provided enough satisfaction for a kid like me who generally felt powerless.

bruce-lee-bruce-lee-32791998-1200-791

Bruce Lee!

But when I became an adult, a story’s emotional core mattered. Plot and action scenes without heart failed to interest me. And heart is shown through good, solid characters with emotional arcs.

In an article in Entertainment Weekly about Christopher Nolan and his latest film, Interstellar (in theaters November 7), writer Jeff Jensen said of Nolan, “Finding new ways to emotionally engage an audience has become increasingly important to him” (Entertainment Weekly 23).

      interstellar-poster-christopher-nolan CHRISTOPHER-NOLAN-INTERSTELLAR-MOVIE-2014-HD-WALLPAPERS

Glad to hear it. I’ve generally found Nolan’s films to be emotionally engaging. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are two of my favorite superhero movies ever. I love Nolan’s ability to write/produce/direct a film that engages the brain and the heart—not an easy task. So of course, I’m looking forward to seeing Interstellar, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, and involves a wormhole.

          Batman-Begins the_dark_knight_poster1

Charles Yallowitz is another author who strives to engage the brain and the heart with his books. (How’s that for a segue?)

          Charles_author_photo_B&W Compass_Key_Cover

So, let’s get to the winner of his books, shall we? The winner of the Legends of Windemere books is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Andy of City Jackdaw!

Congratulations, Andy! Please comment below to confirm, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide the email address you generally use with Amazon. If for some reason, you cannot accept, please let me know and I will choose another winner.

While you cheer for Andy, please tell me the name of your favorite Christopher Nolan film or, if you like, name something (or someone) a film has to have in order to engage your heart. I’ll start by telling you two words that generally work for me: heroic elves. Now if Christopher Nolan somehow worked them into the plot of Interstellar, he has my loyalty for life.

Jensen, Jeff. “Interstellar.” Entertainment Weekly. 24 Oct. 2014. 20-28. Print.

Bruce Lee photo from fanpop. Instellar images from hdwallpaperscool.com. Batman Begins poster from filmoria.co.uk.

My Cheating Heart

What a week! Here is the lineup: a curriculum deadline yesterday (two grades, which meant the Labor Day holiday was actually a day of labor for me); samples for two other projects also due yesterday and today; a friend’s arrival from Santa Ana, California, which resulted in breakfast and dinner out; and sundry appointments. Oh, and I’m also crocheting kittens for an upcoming baby shower. (We already know a girl is expected, hence the pink ears.)

001

Yes, the kittens have large heads. That’s part of the pattern. And yes, I am reading Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.

This week, I have felt like the proverbial rolling stone. Consequently, I’ve been away from the blog and other blogs for some days. Sorry about that, faithful followers and bloggers. I’ve barely had time to breathe, though I ingested a number of cookies. Each night this week I would fall into bed, still thinking of curriculum activities. Alas, I fell asleep even as I mulled them over.

Ever have a week like that? Amazingly, the more I’ve had to do, the more I was able to get done. Inertia didn’t have a chance with me this week—well, at least in the above areas. I can’t say that’s true of all areas in my life, though.

InertiaMan

I just wish I had had more time for my fiction writing. This week was all about producing curriculum. I have not written even one sentence of dialogue or description in several days. I feel like I’m cheating on my story by hanging out with nonfiction so much this week. Perhaps I should shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” as I walk down the street, because I’ve neglected my story. I miss it though. It’s been at the back of my mind, waiting to greet me like a faithful pup greets its master at the door. And brute that I am, I turn away each time, focusing my mind on something else. So, the little bit of story momentum I’d had awhile ago has slowed to a crawl. You might say inertia has hit there.

Oh, story! Forgive me for neglecting you! I wish I could say I’ll see you later on today, but I’ve got another full day of activities. But I’ll be thinking of you and a new chapter I need to add to you.

Interestingly enough, as I thought about this post, I happened to glance at a page in the October 2014 issue of American Girl magazine. It’s as if the writer knew what I’d been up to this week—flirting with nonfiction projects, cheater that I am. (And by nonfiction, I’m including the kittens project, since crocheting is clearly not fiction writing.) Alas, I cannot change my cheating ways, at least not until the new project and the kittens are done. But when they are, story, it will be me and you again.

      002  tumblr_ldl810jtPA1qztt4eo1_500

Inertia Man from thirdrailbowlingclub.blogspot.com.

The Creativity of Desperation

Loki: How desperate are you, that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?
Nick Fury: How desperate am I? You threaten my world with war. You steal a force you can’t hope to control. You talk about peace and you kill ’cause it’s fun. You have made me very desperate. You might not be glad that you did.—Conversation from The Avengers (2012)

1ad6dc97f8f4a88a8f643e68e0036c40If you’ve seen Marvel’s Avengers movie, you’ll know just the scene in which this conversation takes place. (Click on conversation above to get more of the context if you’re wondering what they’re talking about.) Fury’s words ran through my mind today as I drove home. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

While waiting for a meeting with the pastor at church, I picked up a magazine and read part of an article about a woman in Zimbabwe. With nine kids to feed and no money, this woman knew the meaning of the word desperate as she struggled to put food on the table. She developed innovative ways to grow crops and was soon able to feed not only her kids but others in a similar desperate situation. I wanted to jot down some of the quotes she used and other specifics, but my meeting began, and I had to put down the magazine. I didn’t get a chance to grab it afterward to finish reading the article. But during the half-hour drive home, I thought about how often I’ve felt the ragged edge of desperation.

Looking back, I can see a trail of desperate situations like bad breadcrumbs. Were any of these situations a matter of life or death like that of the woman in Zimbabwe? No. But desperation has many faces. Here are some of them:

My undergraduate years at Northwestern University, A.D. some year (I’m not saying which year): Having partied way too heartily, my GPA plummeted. One afternoon, the dean of my program called me into her office and demanded to know why the school should allow me to remain. Academic probation was a possibility, but that was the dean’s decision, based on how persuasive I could be at that moment and how willing I was to prove myself from then on. How desperate was I to get my act together and avoid expulsion? Very.

bad_gpa_neck_tie-r9ec82e46d8dd4a18a6ed18fc1ec0a6b6_v9whb_8byvr_324

First apartment: My roommate and I weren’t getting along and I had just been dumped by my boyfriend, even after we talked about getting married. I came home one night around midnight to find my boyfriend with my roommate. They were just talking, I was told. But when I said, “I’m outta here” and grabbed a suitcase, neither tried to stop me. In fact my boyfriend asked if I needed help getting my stuff to the car! I spent the night at my old home—with my parents. How desperate was I to move out of that apartment though I lacked the money to do so? Very.

rejected-love-2

Grad school, Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2011: I’d been failing miserably at my essay writing (keep in mind that my master’s program is a writing program) and barely squeaked out 14 pages of fiction, though I was supposed to turn in about 30 every month. My advisor at the time wrote a letter to me stating, “You might feel that the wrath of God has hit you, and it has.” She proceeded to tell me what I needed to do to remain in the program, which included scenes to write (which would total about 60 pages—double the amount I usually needed to turn in) along with new essays to make up for the crap essays I’d handed in the last couple of months. How desperate was I to once again get my act together academically? Very.

October 2012: At the company I worked for, the bosses called a meeting. The news was bad: the whole staff would be laid off before Thanksgiving—the start of the holiday season. No severance pay. How desperate was I to find a job to meet my monthly obligations? Very.

Last year: I submitted a novel to agents for representation and faced rejection not once but 16 times. (And no those were not my only rejections. I’ve acquired many over the years.) Some agents did not offer feedback. How desperate was I to write a novel with a sound structure and a marketable concept? Very.

rejection41

As the old saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” (And this saying might have derived from something Hippocrates said. See here for details.) In each case, I had to overcome my natural reticence, fear of failure, or inertia and get creative about finding a solution.

Desperation still pushes me down the path of creativity. But what about you? When was the last time you felt very desperate? What did desperation drive you to do?

I would’ve stopped this post at those questions, but a discussion in the last post about Bumble the Abominable Snowman from Rankin/Bass’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer prompted me to show a photo I took of Bumble on top of my wardrobe.

002Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston photos from pinterest.com. Bad GPA tie from zazzle.com.au. Novel rejection image from baneofyourresistance.com. Love rejection image from slices-of-life.com.

Worth the Risk

Welcome to the blog! You might be eager to know who won the Shadowfell series. If that statement confuses you, check here and here for the interview with the always gracious author of the Shadowell series, Juliet Marillier. Book 3 debuts on Feburary 25 in Australia! (The U.S. debut is July 9. Check Juliet’s website for more details.)

                   JM_with_Harry_smaller 8452340 

                           Raven_Flight_cover_draft_(424x640)   THE_CALLER_FC_r2_1

Without further ado, the winner is . . .

Sue Knight!

Congrats, Sue! To prove you’re a real person and not a Spambot, please confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide the email address attached to your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or other eReader, and the country in which you live, since that will determine to which Amazon I will head. Because these are highly coveted books, if you haven’t at least confirmed by the end of February 25, I’ll have to choose another winner. Thanks again to all who commented.

On with the subject of this post (and it is a fitting one, since I was just discussing a great author like Juliet): blockbusters.

blockbuster_cut_2453342b

Um, I don’t mean these . . .

17286696

The other day, while reading the March 2014 issue of Game Informer, I stumbled upon a discussion of blockbusters in an interview Matt Helgeson conducted with Anita Elberse on her book, Blockbusters. Who’s she? I didn’t know either until I read the article. (I didn’t read the book.) She’s a professor at Harvard Business School and a marketing expert.

One of Anita’s comments jumped out at me:

[I]n order to be successful, it is probably best for content producers to make blockbuster bets. They should spend a disproportionate part of their budget on what they see as a handful of the most likely winners. But, the alternative strategy also feels intuitive to many people—a strategy in which content producers say, “It’s so incredibly hard to predict what’s going to work in the marketplace, we’re going to make a larger number of smaller bets and spend our resources equally. Then we’ll see what sticks in the marketplace.”

While Elberse’s statements might inspire a “Duh” from you (or not), they emphasize what I already guessed: participation in the entertainment industry is a gamble no matter what. As Elberse later said, “It’s incredibly risky to make entertainment products in the first place.”

Many experts try to find ways to predict whether a book, videogame, or a movie will be a blockbuster. Don’t we all wish we had a golden formula that would guarantee a product’s success, especially if that product is ours?

While reading the interview with Elberse, I felt discouraged at first. The discussion of blockbusters led to thoughts like this: How on earth do I make my book blockbuster worthy??? and Arrrrrggggggghhhhh! Such thoughts in the past have resulted in my uttering, “What’s the use?” followed by a period of non-writing. I hurt myself once by a three-year, no-writing decision. So this time, I decided not to try for such a needle-in-a-haystack goal as producing a blockbuster (and no, I don’t know the steps for doing so), and instead shoot for a measurable goal: quality. I can produce the best book within my power to do so. Maybe that’s your goal too.

car images clip art-6I don’t need an expert to tell me that life is “incredibly risky” at times. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the statistics for traffic accidents. (Then again, maybe you don’t want to see them.) Does the risk of an accident mean I should stop driving like I stopped writing? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? The risk factor actually spurs me to work toward being a better driver. I can’t control what another driver does. I can only do my part to ensure safety on the road. Such is the case whenever I read articles on the search for the next blockbuster. I can only do what I can do to make myself a better writer.

Theories about how to produce the best product always will abound in times of economic hardship. Such theories might tempt us to panic or doubt our ability to produce anything anyone else might want to read. But we have to believe that what we produce is worth the risk of producing it. Like many other things, producing it begins with love. Do I love what I’m doing enough to keep making the effort to do it, despite setbacks?

Are you willing to take the risk? Do you agree with Elberse, or do you have your own “blockbuster theory”?

lolcatsdotcomf4ds5nboaufkty35

Quality, like this hamster, is only a step away . . .

Helgeson, Matt, “The Blockbuster Rule.” Game Informer March 2014: 14-15. Print.

Blockbuster logo from telegraph.co.uk. Blockbusters cover from Goodreads. Game Informer logo from gameinformer.com/blogs. Cat from LOL Cats.

If I Lived in Middle-Earth . . .

First, happy Martin Luther King Day! Today we pause to remember a man who had a dream of racial equality. He didn’t just think about that dream, he acted upon it—though it cost him his life. (For his “I Have a Dream Speech, go here.) Thanks for paving the way, Martin!

403px-Martin_Luther_King_press_conference_01269u_edit

On with my usual inanity (which is oddly fitting in a way). . . .

I had grand plans of writing a poem about Middle-earth for today’s post, but couldn’t get the rhyme scheme right. I’m not like Andy of City Jackdaw who crafts beautifully sculptured free verse or Charles of Legends of Windemere and Patty of Petite Magigue who love to challenge themselves with different types of poems (tanka, rondelet, haiku—you name it). So, I’m settling for prose.

Why was I thinking about a poem about Middle-earth of all places? Well, the other day, as I read an article in Game Informer magazine about a new videogame set in Middle-earth (Shadow of Mordor), I thought about life in Middle-earth. If I could be any of the beings in Middle-earth, which would I choose, if I could choose? (Slight spoilers follow.)

cov_248_l

As you know, Middle-earth is populated by many different groups: wizards (Istari/Maiar), elves, men, dwarves, hobbits, ents, huorns, orcs, goblins, and trolls, not to mention eagles, giant spiders, and wargs. If I rule out ents, huorns, orcs, goblins, trolls, eagles, giant spiders, and wargs, I’m left with the following choices: wizard, elf, human, dwarf, or hobbit. All have their pros and cons.

imagesOf the people groups, hobbits are the smallest in stature. Hobbits don’t have to wear shoes, because of their woolly feet. That’s a big plus for me, since I don’t like to wear shoes. Hobbits also love good food and drink. Another huge plus. But as awesome as Bag End looks on screen, I’m not sure I’d want to live there or any other hobbit hole permanently. I need more windows and more light.

The Maiar/Istari/wizards have tremendous power, which sometimes corrupts them (Saruman and Sauron, for instance). But they get to say cool things like, “Fly, you fools” and “Annon edhellen, edo hi ammen! Fennas nogothrim, lasto beth ammen!” (366 of The Fellowship of the Ring). The latter means, “’Gate of the Elves, open now for us! Doorway of the Dwarf-folk listen to the word of my tongue!” Lest you think, Wow, she’s awesome, ’cause she knows elvish, here is my source: http://www.arwen-undomiel.com/elvish/book.html. Wizards also wield a staff. I’d love a staff!

Gandalf1

The drawback of being a wizard is that some don’t have a settled place of residence and/or are often chased by orcs and other unpleasant creatures (looking at you, Gandalf). Or, they live in a fortress/tower that exudes evil because they’re megalomaniacs (looking at you, Sauron and Saruman). Radagast the Brown, however, seems very sweet, and his house is a haven for animals. But I wouldn’t relish the thought of hundreds of mice taking refuge in my house.

AragornMoving on to men (and women), they can be found in Dale, Bree, Gondor, Rohan, and many other places. There are many noble people in Middle-earth. For example, Théoden, Éowyn, Éomer, Faramir, the men of Númenor (including Aragorn, who smolders at the right), Bard, Beorn, and others. Éowyn, Faramir, and Théoden are among my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings, so being human has its advantages. But not every human is noble. Some are jerks like the Master of Lake-town (The Hobbit) or sadly flawed like Boromir and Denethor (The Lord of the Rings).

The-Hobbit-FiliAccording to The Silmarillion, dwarves (like Fili here) were created by Aulë, one of the Valar. (For more on Aulë or the Valar, go here or here.) They’re exceptional smiths and miners. Dwarves are shorter than the men of Middle-earth, but taller than hobbits. I can relate to their reputation as fierce fighters, since I’ve had a few fights in my day. Unfortunately, dwarves like to live deep underground. A con for me.

King_Thranduil_portrait_-_EmpireMagElves, like men, were created by Eru Ilúvatar, the one God. Like the Istari, they are tall (a plus) and often lauded for their beauty and grace (another plus). They also have a killer wardrobe (triple plus), thanks to Peter Jackson’s movies, and are great warriors (bonus points). But elves can be pompous (looking at you, Thranduil [photo at the right]). Still, I wouldn’t mind living in the forest of Lothlórien, home of Galadriel (Elrond’s mother-in-law) and Celeborn. It’s a wondrous place, thanks to a special piece of jewelry worn by Galadriel.

IMG_7060Elrond is an interesting blend of elf and human, being the descendant of a human-elf pairing. He has the long lifespan of the elves and the understanding and compassion of the human existence (though he chose the immortal life). Best of all, he has an awesome house—Rivendell/Imladris—that owes its awesomeness to a certain item of jewelry Elrond has.

Turducken_easter06If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d prefer to be a Middle-earth version of turducken (photo at the right)—a combination of different groups. I would be an elf-human-hobbit—tall, beautiful, enigmatic, but with woolly feet. I’d live in Rivendell—the “last homely house” (51 of The Hobbit) and occasionally hang out in Hobbiton and Lothlórien. Best of all, Aragorn and Legolas would drop by for a visit. Hey, like Martin, I can dream too.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Ballantine Books, 1955. Print.
__________. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, 1966. First published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. in 1937. Print.
__________. The Silmarillion. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1977. Print.

Turducken photo from Wikipedia. Hugo Weaving as Elrond from somewhere online. Lee Pace as Thranduil from lotr.wikia.com. Ian McKellan as Gandalf from tolkienpedia.wikia.com. Martin Freeman as Bilbo movie poster from somewhere on the Internet. Dean O’Gorman as Fili from moviecultists.com. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn from middleearthnews.com.