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October 20, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Vacation Reading List: Dragons, Magazines, Audios

I’m on my way to Orlando for my Disney trip tomorrow, but before I get there I have to sit through a 3-hour flight. Plus, Disney World closes, so I’ll have to entertain myself at night, too. I’m leaving behind some of my chunkier reading materials (sorry, Walt Disney biography, I was never going to finish you in time) but I’ve got to pack something.

  • I’m bringing my Nook, which lets me bring a few books: A Dance With Dragons, Boy, Snow, Bird, and Salt right now, plus I’ll be able to download new books while I’m down there if I decide I need something different. Super handy.
  • I can’t just leave all paper behind, so I’m also toting along Extras by Scott Westerfeld. I’ve never gotten around to reading that book in the series, so it would be nice to at least start finishing that off.
  • I’m also packing a couple issues of Mental Floss, my favorite magazine, since I’ve discovered that magazines work well with me for travel.
  • I haven’t picked out the exact one yet, but I’ll also be downloading an audio book into my phone, so I’ll have something to listen to when I want to rest my eyes. Maybe a shorter children’s book, or something amusing that I’ve heard before, like Bossypants or a David Sedaris book.

On top of reading materials, I’ll also have my knitting, and the notebook I’m using for my current work-in-progress. Plus my husband’s bringing along the DS, so there’s always video games.

What books did you pack on your last vacation?

 

October 18, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds 10/18/14: Reading & Drawing

Austin Kleon, author of my two new favorite books on creating, wrote a list/manifesto about reading on his blog. I love the whole list, but some I really appreciate are: “I will not finish books I don’t like.”; “I will copy down favorite passages in my own hand, to know what writing the words feels like.”; “I will make liberal use of the phrase “It wasn’t for me.””  He also talks about using a pencil, and massacring a book, an act I’m still trying to come to terms with myself.

Lovely latte from a trip with friends.

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll keep mentioning it until weeks after I’m home again, but we’re going to Disney World in a few days. There are plenty of things I’m excited about, but one thing I’ve never done, but keep hearing about as I read more Disney blogs and “must do” lists, is the Animation Academy, where an animator leads you through how to draw a Disney character. How did I now know about this? Why was I never told before? Anyway, I’m doing this, maybe more than once depending on how our final days in the parks go.

I figured out how to get library ebooks on my Nook Glowlight! So basically I’m going to use the heck out of this thing. I love it much more than I ever thought I would.

So, what’s got you excited this week?

October 16, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Updates, 10/16/2014

I mentioned this earlier, but after getting good feedback on a first chapter/short story (I wasn’t sure what it was at the time) I started expanding it into a full novel. This has been a little outside of my usual genre, fitting more into the “New Adult” category (who knew I had anything but middle school kids in my head) though the supernatural/fantasy bit is still a part of it. I’ve been really excited about how it’s been coming out. I’ve been getting something written almost every day, and even had a few days where I wrote several pages. There are still a lot of holes, things I want to add but not sure how to weave it into the story, and basically just a lot of filling out needed. I have to keep reminding myself that first drafts are never that great, all I have to do is reach the end. Which I think I will. Let’s see what happens.

New Hampshire Fall Sky

I’ve also figured out a story I want to try working on for NaNoWriMo. For now I’m figuring out a plot skeleton (I don’t want to get overly detailed, that only ever kills it for me) and maybe some alternate POVs, since I don’t know that the plot is full enough to last through 50k words. But I’m excited, since I haven’t taken part in NaNo in a couple of years.

For reviews, I’m finishing off a longer review/article on the anime Beck for a series on The Fandom Post. Meanwhile my review for Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan volume 21 was recently posted on the website.

So that’s me. Other writers, what are you scribbling away at?

October 14, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit

This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and Bookish. This week they ask, what places have books made you want to visit? I couldn’t think of ten but here are a few.

Hogwarts. Honestly, I mean, why wouldn’t I want to visit? I want to go to school there, I want to attend their adult education program. It’s too bad Universal Studios is the closest I’ll ever get…

Japan. This should be a little obvious, too. I don’t want to go because I think it’s going to be like going into a manga, or anything ignorant like that. But reading so many stories set in the place has definitely inspired an affection and curiosity about the culture and the food that has only accumulated over the years.

The Dragon Caves, Outside the Enchanted Forest. If I remember the books correctly, the Enchanted Forest itself is crazy. But if working for a dragon is as cool as Princess Cimorene made it sound, you can sign me up for that.

The Faerie Market, Village of Wall. Again, going into the actual faerie realm sounds a bit too dangerous, but going to the Faerie Market for a couple of days? Awesome.

England. For one more “real” place. I want there several years ago, but it was part of the EF Tours in high school, and while that was a lot of fun it’s not one for taking in the scenery (good for getting me hooked on coffee though, boy).

There’s me. What places have books made you want to visit?

 

October 11, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: 10/11/2014

This week I didn’t find something that particularly inspired me about my writing, but plenty that in some way got me thinking about what I’m working on now, and what I want to work on in the future.

On Kathy Temean’s blog, Erika Wassall wrote a post on the Right to Write What You Write. Basically, that you should write the stories that are truly in your heart, not construct, or reshape, stories in the hopes that THOSE will get you published faster than the manuscript you poured your soul into. This made me think of not only my current struggle with querying, but also a manuscript I started working on. Middle grade fantasy seems to be my snug little hole, and I’ve been researching agents that take that on–but the story I’ve been scribbling out lately fits more into the “New Adult” category, which not all the agents I’m looking into would represent. I could age my main character way down, for starts, but that wouldn’t be true to her attitude and life issues, or even to the themes of the story that keep coming clear as I muddle my way through the plot. So, I’ll keep dealing with this story as it is, and deal with it as an issue if it ever actually comes up.

from Wikimedia Commons

I also saw a raven, though I didn’t take a picture (left my phone inside, silly me). Though I (temporarily?) ditched a certain book idea, I did a lot of research for it on crows and ravens, and I think it was because of that I was able to recognize the bird for what it was: bigger than the crows I normally see, it’s partner flying off in a glide, not a series of flaps, and the weird sound it kept crying out, definitely not a “caw”, more like the “quork” I always read books describe (though in my opinion it was a much more musical than harsh sound). I had to move because my dog didn’t understand why I was standing in the middle of the parking lot, staring, but I watched it call out and ruffle its feathers for a couple of minutes. It was great.

Finally, I may have found a NaNoWriMo project for this year! I haven’t attempted the challenge in a couple of years, partly because getting submissions ready for my MFA was my own personal race against the clock, partly because I was always in the midst of another time consuming project. I probably won’t be done writing the rough of my current project by then, but I’m hoping I can figure out how to fit it all in together. For extra challenge, one of my best friends is getting married RIGHT when NaNo starts, so let’s see how devestatingly behind I am when this thing begins.

 

What’s sparking your imagination this week?

 

October 9, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

My Nerdy Origin Story

This idea came from author Gail Carriger’s blog, where she listed the fandoms that turned her into the nerdy/geeky/dorky person she is today. This encouraged me to think back and remember my own nerdy origins. This may not be everything, but these are the things that distinctly stick out for me.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. My brother and I were oft punished for our epic battles, but one thing guaranteed we’d sit in the same room at peace: children’s action shows. We owned crates of action figures and play sets, would race into the living room to make sure the TV turned on at the proper time, and yelled at the screen in tandem when unimportant garbage like severe weather warnings interrupted the important plot. These shows, along with a lot of others, got me hooked on plot-based character-driven stories with multi-episode continuity where I was heavily, emotionally invested in the outcome. (Power Rangers is also the first example of a show I quit because they axed a favorite character. No Kimberly, no Angela.) Read more…

October 7, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Why I Love Disney World; Or, Being Forever 12

Two weeks from today, I’ll be on an airplane, starting a vacation with my husband and his family to Disney World. We went there two years ago for our honeymoon, and before that took a trip with our friends in college.

I’m lucky in that most of the people I talk to get excited about the idea of going to Disney World, too, but there are a handful of people who have a look that slips over their face, even if only for a moment, even if they don’t voice the opinion I’m sure ringing in their heads: You’re an adult–why are you going there?

And I get it. Disney World is a manufactured place; there are cartoon characters slapped everywhere, including on the food; we don’t have kids, and there are some rides and experiences that are kind of useless without munchkins; it’s expensive, and there are so many other places we could possibly go. As far as I’m concerned, none of that matters.

First of all, Disney is not simply a kid’s place. Epcot’s World Showcase is the best example of that, with stores, shows, music, and food from different cultures. And this year we’re going for the Food and Wine Festival (“wine” being emphasized for I hope obvious reasons).

I also love the food. Again, there’s the Food and Wine Festival, at which I plan on eating conch salad, mussels, and some amazing dessert called a berliner, but there are fun, really delicious treats in the candy shops, really excellent and delicious restaurants in all of the parks (and some of the hotels), worldwide snacks in the Showcase stores, and just your basic–but really well done–fair food, like Mickey pretzels, turkey legs, and funnel cake.

There are the animals. Obviously Animal Kingdom is the place to find the best ones, with tigers and the like in really excellent enclosures, not horrible tiny depressing cages. One of my favorite rides in all the parks is the Safari, because you can get really close to things like giraffes or baby rhinos (!!!) and it brings up a lot of admiration for Disney’s crew, figuring out how to keep the predators separate without making it at all obvious. But there are also the birds wandering around every park, egrets and ibises in the waterways, ducks standing by the fence waiting for me to drop my snack. I love them all.

Disney World makes you feel special. I know the cast members are supposed to smile, but it still feels nice to have someone happily greet you whenever you enter a park or a shop or a hotel. They do special things, like the housekeeping staff that put the Mickey and Minnie dolls my friends and I had bought in a romantic pose in the window, or the guy who gave my husband and me free ice cream on our honeymoon. And a lot of them seem genuinely excited about their jobs when you talk to them, not just ask them for something.

But mainly, I like to go to Disney World because I see no problem with wanting to have the same kind of fun you expect a little kid to seek out. I want to go on rides, I want to eat a candy apple shaped like the Cheshire Cat, I want to wear a pair of ears and run around in a Frozen T-shirt. I want to have unabashed delight in “immature”, goofy things, and Disney World is good for that kind of trip.

Also we’re going to Universal Studios so, you know, Harry Potter.

 

Do you like Walt Disney World? What kind of vacation do you like to take where you are free to be a crazy fan?

I plan to post pictures of food, fireworks, and squirrels eating my churros, so follow my Twitter to catch my favorite shots.

 

Bonus! Another Youtuber I like, T. Michael Martin, has his own video about loving Disney World, and he touches on a lot of my own reasons for loving it that I couldn’t figure out how to articulate here. So if you need more proof (or you like to gush about Disney World) check that out.

October 4, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: 10/04/2014

I’m going to try to make this a (mostly) weekly post, where I post links to things I’ve really enjoyed, or to things that have inspired me in my writing.

Firstly, Three Habits of Highly Effective Blogging over on The Daily Post. Just some basic advice on how to do a better job at your blog. One idea that I want to implement into my disorganized life: an editorial calendar, where I’d figure out not just what days I want to blog on, but what I want to blog about on those days. Maybe I can keep up with it…?

A recent SciShow episode about the science of wildfires was not only fascinating, it reminded me of a story idea that I had set aside a few months back, and which I think I might be able to get back into now. Never mind that this story involves volcanoes, not wildfires…

 

What’s sparked your imagination this week?

October 3, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Middle Grade Novels: The Fourteenth Goldfish, The Greenglass House

I got back into reading children’s books again! As a should, since that’s what I’m trying to write. Here is a pair I recently read, and loved.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie has a hard time starting 6th grade. Her best friend, Brianna, has “found her passion” with the volleyball team and no longer seems to have time for her old buddy, and Ellie has trouble finding her own passion, something that she truly loves. Then her grandfather comes to live with her and her mother — except her grandfather is now 13 years old, having found a way to reverse age.

The science fiction element of the story is enough of a gimmick to snap up a reader’s attention, but Holm refrains from going whole-haul into the genre and allowing this to remain a story about Ellie, her maturity and growth as she understands that while there may be endings, there are also beginnings. Ellie is a fantastic heroine; her grandfather’s suddenly profound presence in her life ignites an unknown love of science (to her drama-teacher mother’s chagrin and begrudging acceptance) and she is actually the driving force behind the plot’s movement, figuring out how to retrieve her grandfather’s age-defying serum (a security guard mistook him for a trespasser) and deliberating on and bringing up the question: is this right? Should people live forever? I really appreciate the way Holm looks at science; right when I thought she was going to present a squeaky clean version of history, Ellie encounters the darker facts of science, like the effects of the atomic bomb and Marie Curie’s cancer brought on by her own research. It’s a balanced take on the pains and joys of moving on with your life, of dealing with loss, and even of science (Ellie clings to her new love of the subject even after learning of the darker side). And I have to admit, I have a tender spot for tales that involve the pain of growing apart from a very dear friend.

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

Milo’s adoptive parents own Greenglass House, an old house at the top of a hill in a smuggler’s town that they operate as an inn. Christmas break is usually a time free of guests, but then suddenly a whole handful of them show up at once. Each of these new comers seems to be seeking something within the house, which once belonged to infamous smuggler and town hero Doc Holyoak and holds more secrets and treasures than Milo or his parents imagined.

Milford’s writing is what drew me in initially, as she evokes clear, beautiful scenes of Milo relaxing in his house before all the trouble starts. Milo and the cook’s daughter (who he meets for the first time that day) Meddy decide to investigate the house and its surprise guests, in a unique way that Milford handles beautifully. Meddy convinces Milo to create an Odd Trails (think Dungeons & Dragons) character, and “play” as that character while he searches for clues. He creates the blackjack Negret, who is bolder, sneakier, and more observant than Milo, and he takes on the character fully as he plays, to the point where the third person narration refers to him as Negret, not Milo. Milo figures out some of the clues a tad too easily, with a few things left to chance (like overhearing a key conversation) but he also pieces things that he’s picked up from his increased observational skills as Negret, as well as the knowledge he holds as a lifetime resident of the house. I enjoyed the other characters as well, and would have gladly read a story about Clem and Georgie, but they never came out as clearly to me as Milo and Meddy, partly because there are so many of them, and they all have their own very involved story that doesn’t get told deeply enough. A pair of big twists at the end really did catch me by surprise; one in particular elevates the story and adds a nice bit of shock. Things get a bit too sappy at the end, and more is revealed to the wider population of the house than I feel was necessary, and there were some big things that are just left hanging, like the significance of the gate. Still despite the bumps and a bit of fizzle at the end this was a book I devoured with a few big bites.

October 1, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Saving Shelves: Weeding My Book Collection

Before I moved to New Hampshire over four years ago, I took a long hard look at my book collection and realized, profoundly: I don’t want to deal with that. So I sold some things online, carted a few to the library, and got a good chunk of change trading others in at the comic shop.

Still, I came to my new home with an admittedly excessive amount of books, so that even after installing three different sets of shelves I had to double stack. Then I started working at a bookstore, and for I time I was a soul lost.

I’ve gotten rid of relieved myself of some books since then, but I never seem to be able to match the pace of what I take in. Recently, it’s just become too much. I get a bit of anxiety over the excessive amount of stuff I have, not to mention that we’ll eventually move again — what’s really worth carting around to yet another house?

With that in mind, I’ve started the biggest weed of my private collection of books I can remember doing. I have manga pulled from shelves, novels I will never read again waiting in stacks to go to the library. A few weeks ago I dragged over a couple bags of nearly 50 books (plus some DVDs) to the library I work at, and plan on bringing an even bigger amount of manga to my town’s library (they actually put a lot of it on the shelf) soon. And there’s still more I know I could ditch, if only…

Aaah, that’s much better…

You see, the big problem with getting rid of belongings is, I’m a very sentimental person. I put a lot of emotional worth on the items I own, to the point that one of the primary emotions I feel when ridding myself of them is guilt. Added to that is nostalgia (remember when I read that with so-and-so??) and a nervous fear that I’ll want to read those books the moment they’re out of my hands. (Not to mention, once again, those hypothetical-nonexistent-children that might want to read their mother’s comics someday! They won’t, Angela. They just won’t.)

It does hurt to get rid of them, and if I think about one for too long I’m likely to gave and shove into some spot on the shelf again. But when I get over myself, arrange the books in a bag and give them to a library, or sell them to a comic shop, or pass them on to a coworker’s kid just discovering how much he or she loves comics, I start to feel good, a little more free. A little more like my collection represents the reader I am now, not the reader I fondly remember being.

 

How often do you weed your books? Or do you let them pile around you, like a hardbacked paper fortress? What do you do with the books you no longer want?

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