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How a Book Lied to Me

I was browsing books at the store when I ran across a book that seemed interesting. It had an exciting beginning. The character was a bounty hunter and it told a gripping tale of how he was waiting for the guy. It drew me in. The story seemed exciting. From the jacket description, it said he was the hunter and now he’s the hunted. (paraphrased, of course. I don’t like giving bad reviews to books.). It sounded like an old school chase novel ala Robert Ludlum or Clive Cussler, but under the science fiction imprint! How exciting!

The first five pages were great and then it came to an utter and total screeching halt. It started talking about his previous wives, his time in the military, his dad, his kid. Everything except getting chased. Hell, they haven’t even found him after 100 pages. He’s still hiding out in an abandoned hotel. He’s squatting. It’s about him being a squatter. Hell, he’s only ventured out of the hotel once. What the hell? Where’s my chase? Then I started wondering if there will be a chase. Maybe he’ll get chased in the last ten pages. Hell, for all I knew, he never gets chased because I’m tired of him whining about his life. Who cares!

Another book said that a pivital character was sought after by the side of evil for their own bidding. Well, 150 pages into the book, not only do the evil-doers not know where she is, she’s still farting around deciding whether or not she wants to get involved. Hello? They are looking for you! You either kill yourself or hurry the hell up and get involved. Seriously. Don’t tell me about your family history and how you’ve had a hard life. There are plenty of people who have lived hard lives and are much more interesting.

I feel like I’m an impatient reader, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve been lied to. It’s like a movie trailer. You show me explosions and running, but when I watch the whole thing, the explosion is a story you were watching on the news. The running was from having to chase down a toddler who has wandered into the street. I don’t want to see a trailer for Clash of the Titans only to realize that the movie is more like Doubt. I want what you promised me. Is that so wrong?

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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One of the things that Chris and I have talked about over the years are things we remember from our childhood. He said that one of his favorite books was Goodnight Moon.

I’d never read that book. But while shopping for a baby shower I found the book at Target of all places. I picked it up and started to read it.

What I like about it is that it’s really cute. And it also rhymed. I liked the thing about kittens and mittens, the chairs and the bears and the house and the mouse.

I stopped halfway through because we were in the store. But Chris said, “You can’t stop in the middle or I won’t sleep good.” So I finished the book.

I have since bought it for my nephew.

I don’t remember any books from my childhood. I remember having to read a lot of textbook-like short stories for children so that I could read English better. I knew no English when I moved here. I remember “See Nan Run” type things.

My first memory of any book is actually The Trumpet and the Swan. I remember the kid cut the webbing off the swan’s feet so it could play the trumpet. If I read it today, I don’t think I would be able to suspend my disbelief that much. A pig? A bear? I could believe they could play the trumpet. But swans? No. Do you know why?? Swans don’t have lips!!

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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This will probably defeat my own chances of getting an ARC, but it’s going to a good cause, so I will post it anyway.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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I’m reading The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. It’s a book that Jennifer Crusie said was a huge influence for her and I am a ginormous fan of her work. So I’m slowly going through it.

The beginning is all about writing struggles and anxieties. Did you know that EB White had really bad anxieties about his writing? He wrote Charlotte’s Web!

And for writers, if it’s not worrying about publishing, it’s worrying that the critics won’t like the work or if it’ll sell or if people think the book is hack work. Basically, there is always something to be worried about.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Writers are neurotic messes. We all know this, we worry about everything. What I wanted to talk about is the chapter about excuses not to write. There was a section about how if only I had the right pen/paper/computer/electronic device/private place to write/nice coffeehouse, I would be able to write. I found this absolutely hilarious because I have fallen victim to this too.

When I was younger, I completely fell victim to this. I was looking for the best portable device to write with. Found a bunch of PDAs and found the alphasmart, which a lot of writers use. I never bought any if them though. But I sure knew a bunch about it!

I sometimes see this on newsgroups too where someone would inevitably ask what the best writing software was and there would be a dirth of suggestions. Then there would be a few people that would say Word, you don’t need anything else! Which is the truth. You could write a whole manuscript in notepad if you wanted to.

These days, I write on the floor in the living room. I lie down on my stomach and I write in a cheap notebook that I stock up on after the school year starts. They are always on sale for 50% off!

I’ve got a huge selection of pens to write with (due to a quest in finding the perfect pen several years ago). But I mostly use my fountain pens at this point. It is my one writerly splurge.

The point of that chapter is that the difference between those who write and those that don’t is that the non-writers will always have an excuse.

If it’s not writing equipment, it’s time or personal life or I had to wash my hair. It’s always something and that root fear boils down to fear of failure. Because if you don’t try, you can’t fail.

And that’s all the waxing I’m going to do today. Cuz I gotta write a new story now that I’ve sent out all that hasn’t been trunked.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of publishers giving away books or selling them for a very cheap price. And I know that others have posted on this before, bit It won’t hurt to post them again.

  • Suvudu, an SF/F portal for Random House, has a list of books for free. One of them is Blood Engines by T. A. Pratt a new author that you may not have read yet. I’m always a big advocate of trying new authors, but I understand that it’s difficult buy a new author without the gaurantee of knowing that you will love it. So this is a great opportunity to try him out being afraid you’ve wasted this month’s budget on an unknown author. He also has another book coming out if you like his work.
  • Baen Free Library has a lot of books from authors that I’ve read, and a ton that I haven’t. Authors include Bujold, Lackey, Turtledove, and Weber. It’s a huge treasure trove of books..
  • One Dollar Orbit is exactly what it sounds like. Orbit books is selling one novel a month for one dollar. This month’s book is Empress by Karen Miller. I’ve seen this book on the shelves, but I wasn’t sure about whether or not to pick it up. I mean, I’m a sucker for stories about slaves who end up being more than that. But lile vampire novels, there are lots of those that aren’t really good at all.
  • Tor.comis currently giving away Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint. It’s a promotion, so it won’t last long. Previous authors were Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. It’s a little difficult to find these books, so do a search for ‘free e-books’. The blog entries are tagged as such.

So try some out. You might find a new favorite author!

Originally published at Samantha Ling. You can comment here or there.

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I’m glad I’ve got one more week of NabloPoMo left. I am completely running out of things to write about. Don’t be surprised if you get an inventory of my make-up drawer. You laugh, but it might be the entry you read about tomorrow.

I’ve recently picked up the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. I’d already read her other mystry novels, but never picked up her Southern Vampire series. I think I was over vampires by the time her novels came out. I was over saturated with all those overly serious angst filled Louis types that I didn’t want to read any more. But her novels have lasted the last ten years, so there must have been some staying power for that series. So I picked it up since it was displayed prominently in our bookstore. Why not, right?

I’m halfway through the first book and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It’s lighthearted and fun and they’re not all well dressed wealthy teens with nothing better to do. I like that Sookie is a waitress at the local bar and that it’s all in a small town. And the great thing about it is that there are several novels in the series when I’m finished with this one. I don’t have to wait forever for the next one. Sometimes authors don’t write fast enough for me. I can’t blame them though. Writing is hard.

Do you have an author you wished wrote faster?

Originally published at Samantha Ling. You can comment here or there.


Nov. 4th, 2008 08:09 am
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Did you know that most people read blogs during their lunch hour? That’s what the NaBloPoMo FAQ says. I don’t really think that’s true. I think most people read blogs the after getting into the office and making sure there aren’t any emergencies. At least, that’s how my old office did it. There was no work once people got it. They’d go to the coffee house and get something to drink and eat first as a group! Man they were slackers.

So last night, we went to pick up my engagement ring. Again. I think out of the seven month engagement, I’d only had it for three months. It’s much more blingy than I remembered, but not having had it for over a month, you sort of forget what it really looks like. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Right next to the jewelers is a Borders. We have a B&N near our house, so we’re always there. B&N always had books on their tables and on their portable shelves. The books were always neatly lined, even the random books single discount books were neatly shelved away. Borders, however, had two empty tables and one empty display shelf. Their remainders table was disheveled, books were laying on their side, on their spine, on their faces. They had super discount books, buy one get one free. They were in boxes that had their tops ripped off. I bought some, of course, can’t pass up interesting books for $3 each. My hands were covered in book dust, which makes my hands swell a little bit.

All those empty shelves and books not being taken care of makes me wonder if they’re going to be closing down these Borders. All these rumors about them not carrying a lot of author’s books looks to be true for local Borders. But I noticed that it’s not just SF/F books, but a lot of romance and mystery books were missing too. They had a lot of popular stuff, things they knew would sell, but it wasn’t as many books as B&N. But what was really funny was that this Borders was going to have a Twilight event for the opening of the movie. I think the employees try to get people in, but the fact that they don’t have a huge amount of books really does hurt them. I’m just glad the B&N here is better and I can get what I want without having to wait and order it. I don’t think I’d buy as many books that way. I buy a lot of them on impulse. Have a good morning everyone!

Originally published at Samantha Ling. You can comment here or there.

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I'm reading this book where one of the characters is stupid for stupid's sake. She's stupid in that she doesn't listen to adults and gets into trouble and then she rails against the unfairness of it all. In other words, she's spoiled. But she's spoiled and she's not clever. She's just stupid. It frustrates me and I just skip the chapters in which she is the main character.

Other things that bother me are characters in horror movies (and it's always helpless dumb women too), where they're told to stay put because it's a safe place and someone will come back to get them. So they're left all by their lonesome, but because they're too scared to stay put, they go after the hero and get themselves into trouble and thus the hero as well. Usually this character screams for help and the hero has to come rushing back. It always seemed to me a cheap way to increase drama. Plus the character is selfish when she does that. She isn't thinking about who else will get in danger because of her stupid acts. Who can root for that? She walked right into danger when she could have been perfectly safe elsewhere.

Now if she had been hiding in a safe place and was somehow discovered by aliens/zombies/bad guys and then she had to be clever to get out of the situation either by hiding or outwiting the opponent, I have no objections.

If she leaves her safe room because she's scared to be a long and walks into a room full of zombies and she's armed with a can of Aquanet and a Bic lighter and she uses that to set the zombies on fire, I can live with that. Because she's prepared or whatever. But then she wouldn't be too scared to be alone would she? She'd have to leave safety because someone more helpless than herself was in danger, like a child. Because someone who was too scared to be alone wouldn't be strong enough to fight things off.

The book I'm reading, the girl is told she can't have something, because to accept a gift from this person would lead to situations she's not ready for, and it would have implications. But the girl doesn't listen, thinks the gift is from someone else (her crush), and opens the gift anyway. Now all I want to do is strangle her. Why are these characters so stupid?

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I have a bunch of books that are half read that I will most likely donate in the next Christmas run. Some of them I've even managed to read half the novel, but I wasn't enough to read the rest. If I wasn't interested in what happens to the characters by the time half their story is over, I'm definitely not going to plow through to the end. Unfortunately, that's more books than I care to count. I should really give a book only about fifty pages. But you know, some of them were either acclaimed or by my favorite authors, so I hate to give up before I even gave them a chance.

One of the things that's frustrated me concerns multi-character novels. Let's say we're reading a novel that has Kirk and Picard. They're both men and they're on a space ship. One chapter begins with "He sat in the captain's chair wondering if his ship would make it home." Then three paragraphs later of describing the ship, we discover that it's Kirk. The next chapter begins, "He wasn't sure if the shields would hold for another hit," then a page later, we discover it's Picard. And the novel follows this pattern in which I don't know who's point of view I'm reading and so I'm left feeling in limbo, not sure who to attribute these thoughts to until the author's already described the beginning of the scene. I get thrown out by that sort of storytelling. I can't associate any peril to any person until I know who it is. And when I do finally discover who it is, I have to then bring all the things I'd read and associate that to the character. If the scenes began with a name, I could immediately associate the scene with what's happening. "Picard wasn't sure the shields would hold for another hit." You know what ship, you know the crew, you know the captain. You know who's in peril.

I've read a lot of mystery books that use this style, but it's usually associated with someone the author didn't want you to know. It's usually associated with the unnamed bad guy. We know there is one and that he's planning on kidnapping a victim. We know that someone is going to get hurt. But we can't know the identity of that guy because we're trying to figure that out. But at the same time, we aren't caring about him, we're caring about his victims, who he's chosen next, will our hero or heroine be able to save the next victim before our bad guy gets them. We don't really have any feelings for the bad guy, but we know who he is because his chapters are the only one's that start this way. The characters that we're supposed to care about, their scenes start with their names in the first sentence so we know who they are. The bad guy is never named until the end, but we know right away when his chapters begin.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't write this way. I'm the last person to tell you how to write. But I will tell you this. Leaving me to guess who's POV a scene is in three paragraphs in will make me put that book down pretty damned fast.

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So for Chris' little sister's bday, I managed to get an advanced reader copy of Sherwood Smith's new book by Norilana. (It's good to have friends in the writing industry!) Of course, KT blew through the book and wrote a review for it. Here it is!

In her newest book, A Stranger to Command, Sherwood Smith effectively links her Crown Duel characters to the Marloven warrior society of her Inda series. The story centers around Crown Duel character Vindanric, the Marquis of Shevraeth, who has been sent to study at the academy in Marloven Hess in order to escape the oh-so-convenient accidents that occur to any potential threat to the corrupt King Galdran. The storyline takes advantage of the odd couple pairing of the elegant, refined courtier Shevraeth with the often brutal warrior world of the Marlovens. As Shevraeth begins his warrior education, he must adjust his previous ideas of what is barbaric and what is civilized, adapt to the ways of a new culture and manage his ways around unwritten, ‘invisible’ rules. The books flows with an easy, effortless pace that belies the ambitious sweep of the storyline (Shevraeth’s entire teenage years are dealt with), in much the same manner as Smith’s Inda series. Unlike the Inda series, however, the focus is less on the broader political perspective and more on Shevraeth’s development as an individual. As a result, the storyline sticks closely to the smaller events of Shevraeth’s day to day life. This focus becomes frustrating at times, such as the moment when the Marloven political story line is left unresolved at a key moment in favor of following Shevraeth on his travels instead. But overall, fans of Smith’s other works will no doubt enjoy another glimpse into her detailed world. As is the case with her Inda series, A Stranger to Command reveals an intricate, deeper history beyond the main characters, which gives the story a realistic heft to it. The immediate story is rooted in a greater chronology that weaves in and out of Shevraeth’s struggles to fit in and ultimately to learn command.

As usual, Smith excels in deftly creating fully realized characters. The boy king Senrid makes tantalizingly quick appearances periodically throughout the novel, providing glimpses of Senrid’s violent past (detailed more fully in another book), giving a greater sense of depth to this preciously intelligent boy who is also capable of all too real jealousy. Another standout character is Senelac, Shevraeth’s first love. Senelac is a prickly, bracingly realistic young woman who defies the usual stereotypes of a damsel in distress. She loves Shevraeth, but is afraid that he will leave her, so she does her best to keep a safe distance from becoming emotionally involved with him. As for Shevraeth, he finally gets a chance to come out from behind the blank-face court mask to reveal a wonderfully human, intelligent, and ever-questioning person. As he struggles to maintain command over the younger boys while maintaining his sense of pity and kindness, he becomes a truly noble character, and a worthy hero. Fans of Smith’s Inda books will love another look at the Marloven’s fierce military society, which functions as both a strength and a weakness, while Crown Duel readers will be interested to see how the story behind the Marquis de Shevraeth.
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Over the past few years, I've been mostly reading mysteries and chick lit with an occassional foray into romance. Although SF/F was my first love, I just couldn't find anything to sink my teeth into. I guess part of it was the idea that I had to read the higher concept books. Books that I don't enjoy reading, but everyone says is either fantastic or mind blowing. I know it's a stupid thing. You should always read what you love. So I think that's why I stepped away from SF/F for a while.

But the other day, I was at Borders and saw that they had a buy two and get one free deal. It was one a couple of SF/F books. So I picked up a couple of them, one of which was Patricia Briggs' Blood Bound.

Even before I'd stepped away from the genre, I'd long since been jaded by the plethora of books involving vampires. So I don't know what made me pick it up. I usually read the first few pages to see if I liked it and I did. It turned out that I liked it so much that I bought the previous book, Moon Called and the sequel, Iron Kissed. I'm reading one upstairs and the other downstairs. Hey, I started in the middle. Reading them together won't reveal anything I don't already know.

I like this series because the character is strong and vulnerable without being sappy and angsty. A lot of heroines to me have faux strength. The author says she's strong willed and independent, but everything she does makes me cringe because she's not only submissive, but very dependent on an alpha male.

Not this heroine though. She may be confused and in a love triangle, but she's not letting them lead her into something. She's trying to figure it out herself and she's making it very clear to them that she doesn't want to get into a relationship with any of them.

She also manages to kill werewolves and vampires too, but she's not a bounty hunter or a slayer. She's a mechanic who happens to have incredible things happen to her.

I like the character a lot, which also shows the power of how a character can pull you into a story. I don't want the books to end because I know there aren't any new one's waiting for me on the bookshelves. But I'm glad that I picked this one up. I feel like I'm returning to the genre again and I'm enjoying it immensely.

Do you feel blah about the genre sometimes? What brought you back? Or are you staying away still?

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Facebook has a Virtual Bookshelf in which you can add books that you've read, that you're reading, or that you want to read. But I think Virtual Bookshelf should have an option for "Never Finished". Because you know there are books out there that start out with a great beginning, but fizzle out in the middle and you don't have any interest of finishing. Or there were books you started and decided to read more because you wanted to give it a chance. In either case, you never finish those books. I'm not sure what to do with one of the books that I've got on the Virtual Bookshelf that I've listed as I'm reading. Really, they should have a rating that's "Not Good Enough To Finish". Because I'm reading one of those right now. Do I just remove it? Consider it read? Eternally keep it as "Reading" even though there's no chance that I'll get to the end?

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Samantha Ling

August 2013

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