Book Challenge: Bricks, Melville, Shamelessness

What's On the Bookshelf?

Day 16: Longest book you’ve read

I’m actually not sure what the longest book I’ve read is. Its either one of the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books (I’ve only read the first three or four) or Victor Hugo’s epic Les Miserables.

I read an unabridged translation of Les Miserables back in December/January. It took me six days (that’s a LOT of reading). I started a reread (different unabridged translation) back in May. I’m still reading it on and off, but as you can see, I’ve read a lot this year.

Let me just say, this book weighs a ton. When I bought my paperback copy, the cashier asked if I wanted a truck to bring it home in. I replied that mortar would be all I needed–I was going to use it as the cornerstone to my house.
Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read

A children’s book, probably. I’m sure I read some 24 pagers in my childhood, but I can’t recall any of them. So, shortest adult book that I’ve read? Herman Melville’s Billy Budd. I hated every minute of it, and was extremely happy it was only 90 pages long.
Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

I have no shame whatsoever in books I read. Roald Dahl’s children’s books? Love them. Harry Potter? My generation, baby. Tolkien? Lewis? Lloyd Alexander? No shame.

I take great pride in making the librarians look shiftily at the books I check out. The more atypical, the better. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Les Miserables, Band of Brothers? I relish in the shocked expressions. Clearly I look like the sort of girl who would be reading scores of chick lit and other, more typical young woman sorts.

What a cabbage!

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Languages have such wonderful little idioms. For example, in Italian when you want to say “damn!” you say “che cavolo!” That’s literally “What a cabbage!”

English has some quaint expressions as well. In New England, “wicked” is positive. “Wicked good” is several notches above good, and “Wicked awesome” is about as good as you can get.

For example:

Mike: “Did you see the Sox game last night?”

Jim: “See it? I was there! Beating the Yankees 12-0 was wicked awesome!”


In creating different cultures (I’m looking at fantasy and sci fi writers specifically), keep in mind the strange things that might not be translated literally. It could be very interesting to have a character translating from his language to another, or even from one area of the country to another, and having a complete miscommunication.

Inspiration strikes at the weirdest hours

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Early yesterday morning (at about 1:30), I started to write. Its a compulsive habit. I need to before I go to sleep, otherwise I’m all thrown off.

Strangely enough, my mind was rather clear. I started to plan out my next novel. I should be working on See My Way (the current one), but instead I decided to write up a quick background on the political situation in The Other One. No, that’s not the working title. It has nothing to do with the story. I’m just rather guarded about the topic.

But it is futuristic speculative fiction.

I’ve never tried my hand at speculative fiction before. I don’t think I’ve read more than one or two stories in that genre.

But I’m trying something different with this one. I’m going to plot everything out to begin with. With an outline. And pre-created characters (with their own character sheets!).

Sometimes inspiration attacks at 2 am. I guess I have to listen to my muse.

On fantasy

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

I’ve always loved genre fiction. When I was in middle school, my walls were lined with fantasy books of the most mundane sort–you know the kind. Sword fights, dragons, damsels-in-distress (and sometimes notso), and of course, the typical medieval, pseudo-Tolkien setting. When I set about my first serious attempts to write novels (more correctly, longer stories), they all had the bland faux-medieval England setting.

As I grew older, I began reading more varied books. High school came around, and with it, Bruce Alexander’s wonderful Sir John Fielding Mysteries. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin Series followed shortly thereafter. I had enjoyed historical fiction a great deal, but these books through me into the genre even more.

The two genres began to twist about in my head. What if the characters from my typical fantasy story got bumped up to the early  or mid Victorian era? Neither of the series I mentioned take place in that era, but the idea of a hidden society in that stiff period could be interesting.

Which threw me into one of my favorite things to do. Research. I’m not being sardonic, I truly enjoy researching things. More on that in a later post.

Research in fantasy books (at least, amateur ones, and I’m certain some professional ones) is a rareity. We have this set idea of what stereotypical fantasy is in our mind, and we run with it. As a result, we get bland, typical stories.

Even though I am female, the “woman warrior” bothers me. Swords are heavy. Even just using a stage fighting sword for a couple of hours aches and those things are light. Archery isn’t easy (speaking from experience). And shooting multiple arrows at once like Legolas is never a good idea (speaking from observation). The arrows never go where they’re supposed to, and more than one arrow at a time can damage the bow.

Break free from the bonds of convention and have fun.