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August 25, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Trying to Write While Moving

Life likes to get in the way of writing sometimes, doesn’t it?

When moving out of our condo, I had to choose between finishing up my writing, or filling up boxes with books and clothes. We put most of our stuff into a storage unit, taking a fraction of what we had to my in-laws’ house, and then I had to figure out how to get my writing done in a cramped space with only a handful of my belongings to rifle through. And now we’re actually getting a house this week, and every time I sit down to write, I have to sit down to sign a new form, look at a new thing.

It’s tiring, it’s frustrating. I haven’t been as productive as I think I should have been.

But. I have been producing. I’ve edited pages, plotted out chapters. I’ve committed to writing blog posts and actually sticking with it.

It’s hard to get things done when outside forces mess up your funky flow. But at least I’m getting something done.

And hey, I’m getting a house, with a backyard and a basement and everything, like real adults have. So there’s that.

August 22, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: Plant Burgers and Disney Cats

The Good Stuff, a Youtube channel sponsored by PBS that I occasionally watch, is doing a series of episodes on the future of food. Right now they have two videos, one on making meat from plants and one on eating bugs (both are far less gross than they sound). They’re really interesting, and now I want to try a Beast Burger.

 

Did you know there’s a whole population of feral cats that live in Disneyland in California? I did. Did you know that there’s a Cats of Disneyland twitter feed that someone updates regularly? I didn’t. But now I do. Now I do.

 

The Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast had an episode on borderline personality disorder. They’ve done a few on different mental disorders, like OCD, and I always find them fascinating. These things are so poorly portrayed, education on them is not good, so it’s nice to listen to something talking about them intelligently and sensitively, and it reminds me not to default to “insane” or “crazy” when talking about how a person is acting, and to not blame someone for being ill since they probably can’t help that behavior. I also enjoy learning about how the human brain works.

There’s some cool stuff I’ve found. What do you think? And what have you found around the Internet and the world at large?

 

August 20, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Kid Lit: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

“Most fish talk,” the fish said, “if you are willing to listen. One, of course, must want to hear.”

On the aWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lindvice of a recently freed goldfish, Minli decides to leave her poor village and find the Old Man in the Moon so she can ask him how to change her family’s fortune. She meets friends along the way, including a dragon who can’t fly and a buffalo boy with a celestial friend, on her long venture to the Man in the Moon’s home, Never-ending Mountain.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Throughout the book, Minli and other characters are told folk tales (which Min Li discovers to be true as she travels) that reveal certain things about the characters, and reveal how everything in Min Li’s world is interconnected. But the regular narration reads like this, too, like a well-loved tale that’s been told again and again, that made me want to read parts of it out loud to myself.

The hardcover I read is printed on thick paper, with beautiful, saturated color illustrations, and with colored line drawings to mark each new chapter.

And Minli is a great heroine. Even though she often needs help, she is not helpless, and figures her own way out of a lot of scrapes, like getting past some vicious monkeys.

As a writer, this book made me think back on a novel I wrote a few years back, but which I could never make work. I realize now that not only did I not get the tone right, but I gave him such a vague, esoteric motivation, so even though I’d plotted out the story and knew where to place him next, none of it ever felt important. Minli’s motivation was simple — to change her family’s fortune — but it gave her decisions weight, and gave readers a sense of where she should ultimately end up. If I ever go back to that story, I’m keeping this book in mind.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a story I’d love to read again, maybe someday in the future when I have a kid who’s old enough, and still wants me to read out loud.

August 18, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Quick Look: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Lately I’ve become a fan of books where the narration manages to be funny without throwing jokes and punch lines at you. Basically, a light, comedic tone, that just makes reading the story feel good. Terry Pratchett achieves this for me. And, recently, Lissa Evans.

After reading the description of her adult novel, Crooked Heart — a lighthearted tale of the London blitz — I had to pick this one up. There were a lot of heartwrenching moments (Noel is an orphan whose beloved guardian has died; Vee is his new caretaker who has never felt truly loved in her life) there are funny bits, too, many of which come from having gotten to know the characters. For instance, Noel’s tendency to speak like a professor, despite being ten, and the uneducated Vee’s difficulty and frustration trying to understand him.

‘…What were you thinking? No, Never mind–‘ He was starting on one of his explanations, and she wasn’t in the mood for polysyllables.

There are plenty of other lines that I probably should have marked off, but I was too busy enjoying myself while I read this book to think of that at the time. Besides, I think this line does a great job of showing what these two characters are like, and the relationship that begins to develop between them.

Are you reading anything that makes you smile? Are there any lines or pages of a book that have stood out strong to you? Let me know!

August 13, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Listening To: Writing and Disney Animals

Here are a couple more podcasts that I’ve been getting into lately.

Writing Excuses. This one’s short, about 15 to 20 minutes per episode, where the four hosts — Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells — give their writing advice on specific topics. I haven’t delved too deep into their backlog, but the episodes that have come up new since I’ve started listening have been wonderful. Last month was a lot of help, focusing on middles and why you need to let your characters fail, since I’m working on filling out the middle of my current work-in-progress. Really, I’ve found them all helpful to some extent, if only that hearing people who know what they’re talking about talk about writing inspires me to sit down and write. Like I said, they’re short and to the point, so if you write at all I would suggest you go listen to them.

 

Radio Harambe. I recently added this to the list of Disney World podcasts I listen to (wow, that’s a nerdy sentence). I’d been hearing it mentioned on other podcasts and my Twitter feed, but I’ve put off listening to it for a couple of reasons: they’re a little long, and besides, they focus on Animal Kingdom, and how much can you really say about one park? But, Animal Kingdom is almost evenly tied with Epcot for Angela’s Favorite Park, so I had to try it. And it turns out, there’s a lot you can say about one park. They pack a lot into each episode, which explains the length. There’s the focal point — where’s a good place to cool down in Animal Kingdom, what they wish the park would do with the big cats (in homage to Cecil) — but that’s just the end. A whole chunk of the beginning, if not most of the episode is taken up by “World News” (All of Walt Disney World and other parks) and “Local News” (Animal Kingdom specific). Because Disney parks always seem to have a lot of news going on (it’s amazing and ridiculous) it’s nice to have a regular podcast that spends so much time talking about it. Also, they regularly play a fun game, How Much Does It Cost, where one of the hosts guesses how much a new tour/package/whatever costs, highlighting how ridiculously overpriced some Disney bonuses really are.

So, podcast friends, what are you listening to?

August 11, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Reading Pet Peeves: How Do You “Mouth” Words??

When a book starts to get on my nerves, my tendency is to stop reading. As I’ve said, why should I waste that time? Well, sometimes it’s such a train wreck you can’t stop (New Moon!!!) or sometimes you don’t realize how bad it is until you’re almost done, and by then you’re in for the long haul. Sometimes you really like 95% of the book, there’s just that one thing that makes you super batty… And sometimes you’ve got to read it for a review, and you’ve got to finish it no matter how much of your brain you’re sure has turned into an overcooked marshmallow. In any case, you start to notice things, they start to bother you, and suddenly you have a new pet peeve about books that will pitch you into a rage every time you see it.

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I’m not going to call out the specific book on this one, partly because I know I’ve seen other books do this, this one just had a particular problem with it. When characters mouth words. This is, as far as i can understand, when you move your mouth as if you are speaking, but you purposely don’t make any sound. Okay. Sure. I’ve seen this, I’ve done it myself in real life. But here, I’m not talking about mouthing “Hello!” to someone when you’re on the phone, or “Oh no!” when you’re expressing fear or empathy to a person across the room. I’m talking about characters mouthing full, entire sentences. I won’t quote anything specific, but it’s somewhere along these lines:

“Oh, hi, I’ll be done here in just a minute, grab a sandwich and wait over there, thanks.”

I feel like it should be obvious why this is ridiculous, but I’m going to break it down just in case.

Firstly. When I picture someone “mouthing” words, I imagine exaggerated mouth movements to make what you’re saying obvious. After a couple of words, it’s just going to look ridiculous.

Secondly. I feel like this requires some skill in lip reading from the recipient of the silent message. How many people can do this well? I honestly don’t know, I just know that I can’t figure that stuff out.

Thirdly. The character tends to “mouth” words when they don’t want other characters to know what they’re doing/saying. But when they do it with such long sentences, aren’t they just drawing attention to themselves? Aren’t the other characters going to be wondering what the heck this person is doing? And how on earth are they paying attention to what else is going on?

So, yup. There’s something that bothers me way more than it should! What about you all — what’s bugging you in your books?

August 7, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: Fangirl-y Excitement

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Am I talking about Steven Universe too much? I don’t think so (obviously), though you probably do. At Comicon last month they showed an extended version of the new opening. It’s got more solos by the Gems, and shows little Steven growing up, as well as a shadowy figure… (YELLOW DIAMOND?!?) Is it part of an upcoming episode? Just something wonderful the Rebecca Sugar team made? I don’t know. I DO know that I love all the screaming fans in the background.

Through talking about food in her book, Rainbow Rowell reminded everyone on Twitter that Carry On, the fanfiction of the made up HP-esque Simon Snow fantasy series written by her fictional character in Fangirl, is coming out in a few weeks. I got really excited and now it’s on hold for me.

 

Do you remember: I have a new blog? Well, I wrote a couple of actual posts, so please go check them out! I failed this week, but I’m trying to make that at least a once-a-week thing.

What have you found this week?

August 4, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings I’ve Read

This post is a part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme on The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog for other lists!

Cinder, Scarlett, and Cress by Stephanie Meyer. I started reading Cinder and the other books in this series last year, and I was immediately super impressed that Meyer follows the basic story of the fairy tales, while making it her own thing entirely. In particular she blew my mind with Cress, her retelling of Rapunzel, when she seamlessly integrated some elements that I had forgotten occurred in the fairy tale.

Dearskin by Robin McKinley. I first read this book, a retelling of Donkeyskin, in high school from my school library. Honestly, I think that book was in there by mistake, since a big part of the story involves incest and rape, but I’m so glad it was there. It’s an excellent, emotional book, and I’ve read it a couple of times since.

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block. This is an anthology of fairy tale retellings.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It’s Snow White, but figuring out which character is the princess, and which one is the evil stepmother, is part of the fun in this one.

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. Obviously this has to be on here.

There’s five for me! There are probably others that I’m forgetting, or others that I forgot/didn’t know were fairy tales to begin with.

What fairy tale retellings do you love? Let me know, and go to Broke and Bookish to add your list!

July 28, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Reading Problems: Quitting on Them Books

Sometime last year, I came to a decision that’s changed my reading: I was going to let myself give up on books.

I’ve given up on books before. Three separate starts couldn’t get me through The Count of Monte Cristo, and I just could not handle the third Shopaholic book. But it was always with a lot of hemming, a lot of guilt. How could I leave this book unfinished? How could I abandon this story?

Here’s how. My Goodreads list of books to read is in the hundreds. And even that’s just the mountainous tip of the book pile. There are books that I forget to add, new novels that don’t make it to that list, and all the other books, kid’s lit and nonfiction, that I just pick up on a whim and begin. When I’m reading a book that I wasn’t in the right mood for, or that I honestly don’t like, I think of all those books that I could be reading, that I’d rather be reading.

So why don’t I just read those instead?

I have more books on my list than I could read in a lifetime. I shouldn’t feel obligated to waste more of that time than I have to.

Do you abandon books? Does it kill you inside, or are you fine with it? Or maybe I’m just spouting blasphemy as far as you’re concerned? Let me know, and tell me some books you’ve ditched!

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)Here are some recent ditches of mine, some because I just didn’t feel like it as much as I thought I would, others because I just could not enjoy myself, at all (you can guess what’s what!):

  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • Kafka by the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Dodger by Terry Pratchett
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
July 19, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds

You might know I’m planning a Disney World trip this fall, so I’m excited that the Epcot Food and Wine Festival menu has been released. I’m done planning park days and dining reservations, so now I have something else to obsess over while I wait to plan Fast Passes!

Steven Universe had another Steven Bomb (five days of episodes) this week. Ugh, you guys, this show is so good, I can’t even. This is my face the whole time:

Steven Universe Pearl "Cry for Help"

A recent Stuff Mom Never Told You episode focused on Judy Blume and her books. It got me wanting to read her books again, so while I wait for my name to come up on the list for her new adult book In the Unlikely Event I’m reading some of her kids books. Some I’ve read before (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) others I don’t think I ever got to (The Pain and the Great One). Maybe I’ll have some posts about them soon.

What got you excited this week?

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