Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dying Passion?

Well it's out. You can read about it anywhere and everywhere and depending on who you are you will be upset, happy, or indifferent. Borders bookstore is closing. No this is not just a regional tragedy this is a country wide loss. And while I am sad as employee loosing their job and find it more difficult because of that fact, I am mostly distressed as a loyal and faithful customer. Clearly books are my hobby, my passion, and my work. I love to read them as much as I love to write them.

The reason I am saddened by the loss of Borders is because it is a loss of an era in a way. People are becoming less and less apt to go into a bookstore and pick up a hard copy of a book to read, as e-books and e-readers are becoming more and more popular. I'm not saying that these are bad things or that they shouldn't be there I'm just saying it's not the same. There's nothing quite like curling up with a good book in front of the fire in the winter, or lounging on the beach with a book, or reading to a child and seeing their eyes light up with wonderment and pleasure. To me there will always be joy found in a paper copy of a book. With a hard copy you can tell how well read it is, you can see the history right there on the page and in the binding.

Also as more and more bookstores either independently owned or corporate are closing you are also loosing a wonderful piece of culture. One of the best things about being a part of the book community is being with other people that share the same passion for the things you do. You probably won't like all the same books as someone else but by talking about them and discussing them you may find something new you like. There is a laid back atmosphere about bookshops, yes even the big ones, where you can browse at a leisurely pace, sit and sample the book to see if it's something you're going to like before you buy it, and in a lot of places you can even sit and have a cup of coffee. It isn't just about the selling of the product its about the atmosphere. bookstores are a place where people can go to take a break from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and escape into another world if even for a little while.

The other day while we were preparing for the start of our liquidation sale one of my co-workers compared what was happening to the closing of The Shop Around the Corner in You've Got Mail. Despite the fact that we are a large company our store especially is in a smaller area and so there are many customers who are regulars who we know and they know us. There is more than just sales people and customers there are Borders Friends and Family. I love when I can be at work and have discussions with customers about favorite books, books we've heard about, writing, etc. It is this sense of community that is such a loss.

However fear not faithful readers and booklovers there is hope. As long as people are willing to buy books there will be books. Keep in mind that if books are something you are passionate about then you need to support them or they will go away. Seek them out, buy them, share them, save them. Books are wonderful things tomes of knowledge, escapes to another world, even just great ways to relax and clear your mind. Books will stay around as long as those who love them are willing to buy them.

As an extra little note I would just like to ask any of you going into a Borders bookstore during the final days and sale days to keep something in mind. We as employees are more than willing to help you and wait on you but we need something from you in return. We need your patience and understanding. There are thousands of people going into all of the stores daily and there are only a handful of us employees there. Please try to bear with us and remember as upset as you are about whatever it maybe the people waiting on you are about to loose their jobs and don't need the constant reminding and sharp jabs to make things any worse. Thanks you for your patience and indulgence in listing to my little rant.


Right off the bat I'm going to admit it I"m awful at editing. Okay, well maybe not awful but pretty bad. I attribute my bad editing practices in part to the fact that I was never directly taught grammar in school. Now when I told a college professor  this she asked me how I'd made it to college. Basically I taught myself, learned from what teachers marked on my papers, and there was a major cram session with my mom before a grammar test. I can sort of tell when things are in the wrong spot or missing but if you ask me to point things out I'm doomed.

Now when it comes to editing for content I'm much better. I"m good at making sure the story flows, characters don't drastically change, etc. This part of the editing I really enjoy, especially in my own writing because it means I can identify parts that aren't working and change them This is part of the editing process is important because what makes sense in our heads as writers doesn't always translate to paper as well. Because this type of editing makes changes to the story I've found that writers, myself included, are a little more resistant to these changes. As long as your changes are honest and productive they're easier to make.

Since I write by hand I take advantage  of this and two edits. The first edit is on the hard copy. I used colored pens or markers and make what grammatical corrections I can. Here I'm not really reading the story as going through line by line. Next I type the piece. As I'm typing I'm reading the story so here I'm able to edit the content of the story. As I type I make changes, then I have someone else check it over a final time.

So if you're like me and lack skills in editing it pays to have two things. One, a supply of books like Elements of Style and Painless Grammar on hand. And two, friends who respond to facebook pleas for editors with no pay.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This can be a very scary word for writers. I know it was for me for a very long time. I would try to write poetry and it would end up sounding stupid and really cheesy. In my head poetry was something that rhymed and everything had a deeper meaning to it. So in other words I was thinking too much and now I've come to realized that the best poetry doesn't require anything you just go with it and feel it.

The first poem I wrote that I was really happy with was called "Lost Innocence" and I wrote it just after my great-grandmother died. I was a sophomore in high school and one day after I found out about my great-grandmother's passing I sat in my room and put pen to paper. I've gound that when something really emotional has happened I tend to deal with it through my poetry.

I don't write poetry consistantly, but when I do write it I feel it. That's not to say that I haven't written more light hearted poetry but I do that less. I have only ever written two love poems and both were at the request of friends for their weddings. I was a nervous wreck about it but the finished products speak for themselves.

There is one poem that I've written that I have committed to memory. On the last day of my creative writing class my sophomore year of college our assignment was to write four lines of iambic pentameter. I put pen to paper and not even five minutes later I has this:
               I like the rain most of the time
               Except when I am forced to rhyme
               My feet are wet and I am cold
               But I will always do as told
               So here I sit and try to write
               Four lines of rhyme with all my might

The moral of the story is poetry is not something you think but something you feel. Have fun with it enjoy it, and remember poetry doesn't have to rhyme.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#46 Disturbance - Jan Burke

Irene Kelly is back! After years of waiting newspaper reporter Irene Kelly is back with more trouble than ever. Like most newspapers, the Las Piernas Express is in trouble and Irene's life as a reporter is threatened. To add to her stress level is serial killer Nick Parrish. A few years before Irene encountered Parrish when she was part of a group led into the mountains by Parrish to show where the bodies were buried. After narrowly escaping with he life Irene could rest a little easier knowing he was behind bars and paralyzed, and she could go back to her life. But all that's about to change.

Jan Burke has created a wonderful character in Irene Kelly that keeps readers hooked. The other characters are alive and come right off the page. To compliment the great characters is a plot that leaves you hanging on and staying up "for just one more chapter." The description makes you feel like you're right there with Irene going through the same thing. Burke's dialogue is sassy and smart.

A great part of this book is that Burke incorporates what is going on now in the real world with what is happening in the book.  Some authors create their stories and put what they want in without consideration for what is really happening. The newspaper business, like so many others is struggling and ignoring this is unrealaistic when you're main character is employed at a newspaper. This does of reality makes the story and the characters more believable.

There is no doubt that people will enjoy this book, I did. It is well written and entertaining.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#45 Kingdom Keepers: Power Play - Ridley Pearson

It's true what they say, you're never too old for Disney. (on a side not as I type this I'm listening to my Disney Pandora station) In his Kingdom Keepers series Ridley Pearson tells what what happens when Disney World shuts down and the characters come to life.

In the fourth installment of the series the Kingdom Keepers must foil the latest Overtaker (Disney Bad Guys) plan to control the parks and the magic in the parks. With Malificent and Chernabog under lock down the other overtakers are plotting a jailbreak. The Kingdom Keepers have to figure out what the plan is and put a stop to it before Malificent and CHernabog can get free.

The thing I love about this series is that is takes the Disney Magic we all grew up with and brings it to life in a new way. It's the character of Disney mixed with the ideas of "Night at the Museum" We all wonder what it would be like if the Disney parks came to life, Pearson lets us in.

Even as a twenty-three year old with a tendency to lean to toward mysteries I love these book. The characters are believable. They're not superheros who continually save the Disney parks from Malificent and the like, they're just typical high school kids dealing with everyday problems and have to use their abilities as DHI's to save the day. Pearson has created a wonderful world where Disney Magic really does exist and the characters we love and villains that scare us come alive.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Did You Say? Dialogue

There are some really great writers out there who have amazing stories and wonderful characters but the dialogue is flat. If you're writing and what you're characters have to say is dull or unrealistic your readers are going to give up. If you want your characters to come alive for your readers you need to make sure what they're saying is believable.

WARNING!!! Be careful when writing your dialogue that you don't fall into the stereotype traps out there. When you're writing about characters that are from a specific area you want to make sure that the dialects match bu it's easy to make everyone sound like the stereotype. A good example is the Maine accent. A lot of people who write about Maine give all of us Mainers that thick Maine accent with no "r's" and a lot of auyhs. It's true we say these things but not all of us and not everywhere. This accent is strongest Downeast and with an older generation. So just be careful that you don't stereotype.

If you're having trouble gtting your dialogue to sound realistic there's a good trick to try. Go somewhere, anywhere where there's people and park yourself. Once you're settled just listen. One of the best ways to write good dialogue is to listen  to how people talk. If you are writing about a specific area listen to how they talk and write it the way you hear it. by writing certain words phonetically rather than correctly you help your readers make the characters come alive. 

Also remember when writing dialogue you don't always have to put "said Joe," "Joe said," etc. that's what quotation marks are for. if you d this to much it becomes repetitious and will bore your readers. Keep in mind too, to add some description because your readers may not pick up on some of the subtleties like sarcasm, anger, and other emotions. Even though you want to make sure you don't over use said and other like words you also want to make sure that your readers know who's talking so they're not constantly having to go back and reread passages to keep the dialogue straight, it's a tricky balance but gets easier the more you practice.

Dialogue is tricky but if you just listen t people it'll get easier to pick up.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (well books actually)

Here are some of my favorite books and why.

Little Women This classic tale has wonderful characters that everyone an connect to. You follow the lives of the four March girls and their ups and downs. My favorite character is Jo. Jo is a strong independent woman with a passion for reading and writing with a Tomboy streak a mile wide (can't imagine why I like her). Alcott's writing style is easy and wonderfully descriptive so that even a person in the 21st Century can feel like they're in the 18th.

Mary Russell Series: It isn't easy to take a classic character and story and throw in a completely new concept. King manages to keep the integrity of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (and other characters) while creating a new partner for him, the perfect match a younger woman. the Russell-Holmes partnership seems natural and flawless. It's classic Holmes with a new spice.

Home Repair is Homicide Series: The cozy mystery series is set in Eastport Maine, just 20 minutes from the hometown of Calais Graves has wonderfully fun characters and mysteries that are compelling and enjoyable. One of the great things about Graves' book is the familiar setting and the feel of home.

Walker Paper Series: These books have an unusual blend of Native American folklore, Celtic mythology, and mystery. Joanne Walker is a Police detective in Seattle who was given a choice to die or become a Shaman. These books follow Joanne as she battles the every day bad guys as well as the supernatural ones.

Temperance Brennan Series: I love these books because they combine mystery and science. Reichs uses her profession as a forensic anthropologist for her books. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who has a knack for getting a little too involved in some of the cases she works on.A great blend of humor, science, and mystery.

What are your favorite books?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Taking the Block out of Writing

Like probably just about every other person who has ever written anything I get writers block. I will sit and stare at something trying desperately to come up with something, anything to get me writing again. Sometimes this goes on for days or longer and all I get is endless frustration. Over time I have found ways that work for me to get over the writers block and back to doing the thing I love to do.

1) Write By Hand: This probably won't be an option most people will like or use but it works for me. I find that if I am holding a pen or pencil or whatever in my hand and writing that I am more likely to keep writing and less likely to hit a road block. If I try writing something straight on the computer most of the time I sit there and stare at the blinking cursor willing myself to write and all I end up doing is hitting a bunch of random keys typing nonsense. For me writing is what happens when I put the pen in my hand and then pen to paper.

2) Take a Break: If I hit a point in a story where I'm completely stuck I'll stop writing for a while and go off and do something else. I'll hang out with friends, go to a movie, take a walk, just do something to get moving and give my brain a rest before getting back to writing.

3) Work on another piece: This is probably not an option for some people but I find that I always have at least two pieces I'm working on at the same time. though it sounds confusing it's actually very helpful for me to be able to take a break from one piece that I'm having trouble with and working on something else for a while. When I do this I'll get my creative juices flowing again and be able to go back into the first piece with a new perspective.

4) Read: This is pretty my my solution for everything but if you're having trouble writing this is really a great way to get back into it. What better way to feel the spark to start writing than to read some great writing. Whenever I finish a book that was really enjoyable I always want to go and start working on something of my own. I will issue a caution with this, however, if you do choose to read something try and make sure what you're reading isn't something along the same lines as what you're writing. This is an easy trap for writers to fall into you read something and then subconsciously add it into your own story. So be careful.

5) Plan it out: If you're stuck on  trying to figure out which way you want to go with a story try stopping and writing out different ways it could play out. Take a sheet of paper and make a simple flow chart starting with different situations and see where it leads you.

6) Talk about it: Find a friend, a relative, or the person next to you in line at the coffee shop and talk to them. Get their opinions about what your have and what you're thinking. If you can explain to them why you're stuck they might have suggestions about what you can do to fix it. If they're willing have them read it and then talk about it you might be surprised at what a fresh pair of eyes can see.

7) Free write: Just start writing something anything. Don't think just put your pen to the paper or your fingers to the keys and go. If you just stop thinking and just start writing you may find that something you've writen is helpful in what you've been working on.

8) Sleep on it: Put the piece down for a while take a nap put it down for the night and go to sleep. Sleep is a wonderful thing it allows you to work out subconsciously what you're brain is preventing you from consciously when you wake up you may start writing again and find that you're not having the trouble you were having before. If you just relax and let it work itself out you may find what you need.

9) Join a Writer's Group: If you go through a period like I did where you weren't just stuck on one piece but just could write anything at all try joining or starting a writers group. I found that when I joined the writer's group that I found my inspiration again and got moving. These groups are great for bouncing ideas off and getting those creative juices flowing. If you don't have anything to write then there's usually a suggestion assignment that you can use to get back to writing. The difference between this and just asking anyone is that these people know what you're going through and have been through a similar thing, there really is no better place to find some help with any writing issue.

10) Exercise: Find something physical that you like to do and do it. I swim. When I go swimming I get a chance to just relax and let my mind refocus and do it's own thing. After I'm done I feel better physically and mentally and I'm ready to get back into work.

These are only 10 suggestions and things that I've found have worked for me. Ultimately you'll have to find something that works for you. If you find something and let me know I might give it a try when I hit my next writer's block.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing Is My Drug

It's the first thing I think about in the morning, the last thing I think about at night, and if I go without it too long I get pissy. I don't remember exactly when I started writing but I do know that I've been doing it ever since. I know I loved books even before I could read because I used to carry around a suitcase full of them. My dad used to tell me and my brother stories at bedtime that he'd made up and my mom has a stock pile of children's stories she's written buried somewhere, so I guess I come fell into writing naturally.

If an idea hits me no mater where I am or what I'm doing I have to write it out. This need to get what's in my head onto paper has led to many sleepless nights and many stories on napkins and receipts. One day when I was working in the first drive thru window at McDonald's I wrote then entire parody to a song on a strip of receipt paper. I've even written story ideas up and down my arm because I didn't have anything else.

I don't sit down and force myself to write something, actually I can't do that (with the exception of school essays). I had a friend ask me to write a poem to read at her wedding two weeks before the wedding. At first I went into panic mode trying to think of how I was going to come up with something and then I just relaxed. One week before the wedding at midnight, with no glasses and having just woken up I started writing. My hand didn't leave the paper for almost twenty minutes and when it did I had the poem I would read.

Writing keeps me going. It is my go to when I'm sad, angry, depressed, frustrated, or whatever I may be feeling. I write. When I write I'm some place else. I go somewhere where I can find myself. I write because I want to, because I have to . I write because it's my addiction.