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?)

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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What Do You Take Seriously?

I’ll bet I know what you want—to know who won Meg Wiviott’s novel, Paper Hearts. If that statement totally confused you, click here to read the interview with Meg Wiviott and get caught up. All set? Can you wait a few minutes while I blather on a bit? Thanks.

Ant-Man-Movie-PosterA friend and I headed to the cheap theater to see Ant-Man recently, having had little time to see it in the previous month. I won’t spoil the movie for you, so don’t worry. Actually, this post isn’t so much about the movie as it is about a quote from Entertainment Weekly’s review of it. And yes, I will not spoil that either. The review, written by Chris Nashawaty, included this line:

Like Chris Pratt, he’s [actor Paul Rudd] smart enough not to take these films too seriously or fall prey to Marvel’s tendency to be morose and heavy.

Smart enough not to take these films too seriously. I could read all sorts of things into that statement. But I won’t. Instead, I’m reminded of a page from my own life—the second semester of my grad program, when I thought I was “smart enough” not to take something seriously. I handed my advisor a 126,000-word fairy tale I’d written before entering the program, feeling a bit proud of myself. She read it and gave it back. I’ll never forget what she said. “I liked some of it. But you need to take writing more seriously.”

I was all, “What you talkin’ ’bout, woman?” like Gary Coleman in the old TV show, Diff’rent Strokes. But after fuming, I realized she was right. I had written a parody of a fairy tale, rather than a fairy tale. With every silly scenario, I showed not what I loved about the genre, but rather contempt instead. I acted as if I was so far above it all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is NOT a slam against parodies. I grew up reading Mad magazine and watching Saturday Night Live. But what my advisor explained was that I needed to learn the hard work of writing a compelling story instead of merely poking fun at stories written by others—a fact evinced by my so-called fairy tale. (More like fairy stale.)

When author/illustrator Grace Lin visited my campus one semester, she showed some of her illustrations. If you’ve seen her books, you’re familiar with her cartoony style. But these illustrations were gorgeously complex like the border of the book cover below. As she explained, she had to learn the hard work of composition, design, and color in order to develop her own style. In other words, she had to take art seriously.

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Charles Yallowitz also comes to mind as I think of someone who takes writing seriously with his Legends of Windemere books. Yes, they have a lot of humor. If you follow his blog at all, however, you know he’s studied the fantasy genre for many years and regularly posts about the craft of writing fantasy novels.

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I took my advisor’s advice. Want to know something ironic? The middle grade book I’m finishing probably has more humor in it than that parody I wrote—the result of taking writing seriously. *shrugs*

What have you discovered recently that you need to take seriously? While you ponder that, I’ll move onto the winner of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott.

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That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Geralyn of Where My Feet Are

Congratulations, Geralyn! Please comment below to confirm and email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail information and phone number for book delivery.

Nashawaty, Chris. “Ant-Man.” Entertainment Weekly 24 July 2015: 43. Print.

Ant-Man poster from fatmovieguy.com. Meg Wiviott author photo and cover courtesy of the author. Grace Lin book cover from Goodreads.

“Too Noble to Be Cool”?

At first I planned to ditch this post, but changed my mind and finished it anyway. So here goes.

Charlie-Hunnam-King-ArthurAn Entertainment Weekly article on Charlie Hunnam, who stars as King Arthur in an upcoming film directed by Guy Ritchie, got my hackles up, especially with comments like this:

Arthur has a bit of a Superman problem: He’s too noble to be cool or dangerous, and he’s rarely conflicted. (Sullivan 23)

In order to make him “cool,” the filmmakers decided to tweak Arthur’s origin story to make him a “streetwise” orphan ala Oliver Twist. I can’t help but notice how making someone “cool” usually involves putting that person in the theft/smuggling trade ala Han Solo, Aladdin, Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled, or, come to think of it, Indiana Jones. He didn’t just “borrow” those artifacts from those temples, y’know. (Yeah, yeah. Archaeology. Blah blah blah. But it really depends on your cultural viewpoint, doesn’t it?)

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For some, a character is interesting only if he’s the bad boy or at least has an edge to him. In other words, if the character is an antihero. I call this the Han Solo Syndrome. Though I have a soft spot for Han Solo, Flynn Rider, Aladdin, and Indiana Jones, I’m wary of the proposed revised history for King Arthur. While the filmmakers have a right to do what they want with this film, an attempt to revamp the King Arthur story flopped in 2004, as the article pointed out. I don’t fully know how Ritchie & Company will adjust Arthur’s back story for this movie. Entertainment Weekly gave only a few hints (like the fact that the new Arthur will be raised by three prostitutes).

According to Hunnam,

You need to see a character grow, and you need conflict. . . . If somebody is walking around with noble aspirations and then they find out that they’re King of England, wonderful, but it’s all a bit boring. . . .

I agree with him about the need for growth and conflict. But the “boring” judgment call shows a sadly one-note view of “good” characters. I’ve written about this before.

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Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur

“Too noble to be cool”? “Boring?” The issue seems to be with the notion of the heroic archetype. I’ve seen this archetype challenged more and more in our so-called “enlightened” age. When I was a kid, we used to call a virtuous person a “goody-goody” if we wanted to make fun of him or her. If we don’t believe anyone can be that selfless and noble, we might say the same. But what’s really needed is a better understanding of the strength and complexity of good.

Since the EW article focuses on a guy, I’ll concentrate on guys. I know some really good guys—men and teens with faith and ideals. But not a single one of them constantly walks around humming and thinking “noble” thoughts about kissing babies and rescuing puppies. All of them struggle with temptation, fear, doubt—the usual stuff. None of them claims to be perfect. They make mistakes. Yet they strive to be good husbands, good dads, good friends—good people. Doesn’t sound boring to me.

Would anybody call soldiers, fire fighters, police officers—people who rush into danger and protect others—“a bit boring”? Yet the people in these professions work toward what’s good. Many have a strong sense of justice and a need to help others. Yes, there are some bad apples according to current events. But for the most part, you’ve got people who put themselves on the line for others. Many of us know people in these professions. We see their foibles as well as their bravery. Good fictional heroes can be like this. (I’m thinking of Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and Luke Callindor, Charles Yallowitz’s hero in Beginning of a Hero.)

An author’s job is to develop characters a reader will find compelling. I grew up loving the story of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. When I was a kid, I read T. H. White’s book, The Once and Future King. I never found it boring nor did I find Arthur “too noble to be cool.” He made mistakes and sometimes doubted his leadership; yet he strove to do the right thing. I find that compelling. But the filmmakers seem to think he’s not macho enough, and hope that Hunnam and his hotness will make Arthur an action hero. (Okay, the photo on the magazine cover makes a convincing argument.)

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The jury is out on whether or not I’ll see the new King Arthur movie. I’m not sure when it’s due out. The actors are still in the process of filming it. The only question I have for anyone adapting the story of an existing character is this: If you find that character to be boring or uncool, and have to make a whole bunch of changes to make him or her more interesting, why adapt the story in the first place?

Sullivan, Kevin. “The Sword and the Stone-Cold Fox.” Entertainment Weekly 31 July 2015: 20-27. Print.

Charlie Hunnam from hypable.com and femalefirst.co.uk. Flynn Rider from tangled-wallpaper.blogspot.com. Harrison Ford as Han Solo from solidsmack.com. Once and Future King cover from Goodreads.

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.

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

“That Inner Furnace”

I could use a furnace right about now to melt some of the snow still on the ground here. But this post isn’t about my snow complaints. It’s about two book giveaways based on recent interviews with Charles Yallowitz and Andra Watkins, an announcement about a delayed third, and a guy who has “that inner furnace.”

If you missed the interviews with Charles and Andra, you can find them, here, here, and here. Now, ready for the winners? Let’s get to them, shall we?

Here are the first three books of Charles’s fantasy series, Legends of Windemere:

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The winners are . . .

Phillip McCollum and Kate Sparkes!!!

The winners of Andra’s historical suspense novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, are . . .

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Sandra Nickel and Professor VJ Duke

Congrats, winners! Please confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide the email address attached to your device (Kindle; Nook; iPhone; iPad). If for some reason, you do not wish to receive the book you won or already have a copy of it, please email me and I’ll choose another winner.

As for the third book giveaway, the winner of Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell series turned out to be a spambot (what an age we live in), so I will choose another winner in the next day or so. I’ve been remiss in doing that, because of the back-to-back interviews I’ve posted.

industrial-furnace-fireplaceNow, about that post title: ever read a quote that really resonated with you, but you didn’t know why exactly—at least not at first? The title of today’s post is a quote concerning British actor Theo James, one of the stars of the movie adaptation of Divergent, a young adult dystopian novel written by Veronica Roth. Doug Wick, one of the film’s producers, said this of James in Entertainment Weekly: “Some people have it, that inner furnace.” I’m guessing he means that elusive, movie star quality or just plain sexiness. Sara Wilkomerson, the author of the article, also mentioned, “The camera flat out loves the guy.” Both predicted great things for Theo James, who is not yet a household name here in the States.

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Theo James, the furnace guy. Watch him smolder. . . .

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That inner furnace. An intriguing notion. I can’t help wondering what characteristics that would mean for a character in a book. That’s the challenge I’m facing as I revise: how to convey my character’s inner furnace in a non-cliché way, so that a reader might say, “I flat out love this guy.” After all, there’s a huge difference between seeing an actor on screen and “seeing” a character through a book. An author has to use a frame of reference a reader can readily understand and, hopefully, find appealing. But so many qualities are subjective. What’s appealing to me might be repulsive to you. (I can only hope that’s not the case.)

I know I shouldn’t overanalyze. I have a tendency to do that. And genuine chemistry can’t really be analyzed, can it? It has to be experienced. But how to convey it??? That’s what I’m puzzling over. And staring at James’s picture above just doesn’t cut it. Guess I’ll head out to see Divergent when it opens. 😀 But getting back to “that inner furnace,” is it a particular glint in the eyes? The smile? The walk? The words? I dunno. But I’ll find out. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject. Is there anyone you know who has “that inner furnace”? Would that person mind traveling to the Midwest? We could use some heat here!

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Vilkomerson, Sara. “Diverge & Conquer.” Entertainment Weekly. 7 March 2014: 28-55. Print.

Theo James photo by zimbio.com. Furnace image from socatherapy.blogspot.com. Legends of Windemere and To Live Forever book covers courtesy of their respective authors.

Don’t Know What I’m Doin,’ but I’m Doin’ It

The other day I was reminded about an upcoming milestone: the one-year anniversary for this blog, which will take place next month. Time has flown, hasn’t it? I suddenly realized that I need to come up with a grand plan to commemorate this event. Guess I’d better add that to my to-do list. Though I have an iPhone with a notes app, I usually jot down important things to remember on the backs of old receipts or bill envelopes. That way, I’ll remember them. I’ve come a long way since college, where I had a habit of writing important things to remember on my hand or arm . . . which indirectly reminds me of a post I read a couple of days ago.

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Um, I didn’t write on my arm to cheat like this person.

I won’t say where I found it or who wrote it, but the gist of the post was a suggestion that pantsers stop writing by the seat of their pants and put some effort into outlining. According to the post, “pantsing” probably is a bad habit some writers developed.

Instead of being encouraged, I came away wanting to punch a wall. I feel like that whenever someone tells me what I ought to do, especially if what that person thinks I ought to do fits that person’s plans or personality more than it fits mine. I also feel like punching a wall when someone insinuates that my process is somehow “bad.”

pantser1In writing, I fly by the seat of my pants quite a bit. I start with a character and let the story flow. This, however, does not mean I never give any thought to story structure or the need to research and plan. Nevertheless, I usually don’t start with an outline. 

Another aspect of flying by the seat of my pants involves goals. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time (a week should do it) you’ll notice that I haven’t posted any writing goals like other bloggers have done. I greatly admire them for that. They’re organized and probably live in nicely vacuumed houses where the back issues of magazines are regularly culled. (Last year, I finally got around to throwing away the 2009—2011 issues of Entertainment Weekly.)

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My housekeeping could stand some improvement obviously. And perhaps someday I’ll get around to thinking of goals for writing besides finish this novel and get it to beta readers. After all, for the first time ever, I went the outline route for my current novel, which proves I can pull one off. But that doesn’t mean I will always go that route or should always do so.

Another aspect of flying by the seat of my pants is this here blog. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I maintain this blog because it’s fun. If it begins to feel like work, I won’t do it. Interviewing authors, writing posts about the inanities of my life and the videogames I play or the movies or animated shows I watch—that’s fun. You can expect more of that and maybe a few surprises along the way. For example, I’ve been dying to host an ice cream giveaway. I just have to figure out how. And I wouldn’t mind dabbling into some flash fiction or creating a game readers can play (with prizes) if I feel inspired.

8442457The contents of this blog have always pretty much been a guessing game. I’m reminded of a quote by director David Fincher, which comes from an interview in Entertainment Weekly about his upcoming movie, Gone Girl (based on the mega-bestseller by Gillian Flynn). Perhaps you know him by the films he directed, which are Fight Club; Se7en; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher quips, “All you need to do is look at my filmography to know that I have no idea what people want” (21). That pretty much sums up this blog. I don’t know what people want. But I know what I want: to do things my way, warts and all.

If that doesn’t scare you, then welcome to my world. Hope you enjoy your stay. And now, I’ll leave you with this.

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Lee, Stephan. “Gone Girl.” Entertainment Weekly. 17 Jan. 2014: 18-22. Print.

Gollum cat from LOL Cats. Gone Girl cover from Goodreads. Inked arm photo from spotonlists.com.

The Perfect Bathroom Reading

toiletI don’t know about you, but I like to have a selection of reading materials in the bathroom. That’s probably more information than you wanted to know about me, but I’m telling you anyway. I keep a stack of Entertainment Weekly and Game Informer magazines there. (Probably time to weed out some of those.) But my latest discovery is a Star Trek: The Next Generation graphic novel. Its episodic format makes it the perfect bathroom reading. I couldn’t be happier.

Now with a post like this, I run the risk of someone taking my words out of context and mistakenly believing that I equate the content with the . . . er . . . occupation. Nope. What I am saying is a certain kind of reading is relaxing enough to warrant a spot in my bathroom. I think of it as comfort reading. Like comfort food. You just crave it.

So, what doesn’t make good bathroom reading, at least for me? Ignore what you see in the picture above. Longer, print novels or nonfiction books don’t work for me. I get too caught up in the story . . . or not sometimes.

If you’ve read this blog before, by now you might be thinking this is an analogy about writing. I’ll finally get to the meat of the post right about now. We should strive for the literary equivalent of comfort food—right??? Write what’s comfortable or comforting? That’s what I really mean, right?

I would never presume to tell you what to do. (Though, you should floss regularly.) I’m just saying this isn’t an elaborate analogy. This is just a post about the perfect bathroom reading. Now, isn’t this time well spent?

Gotta go. Thankfully, I have an Entertainment Weekly waiting. . . .

What constitutes the perfect bathroom reading for you?
Take this poll or comment below (or both).

Toilet photo from viewgoods.com.