Tag Archives: books

A Halloween Homage to the King

As a belated Halloween post, I thought that paying homage to the Master of Horror, Stephen King, seemed fitting for one of his constant readers. Maybe not consistent in the amount of books I have read over time, but definitely in my dedication to his work.  It was only after reading this wonderful post What Stephen King Isn’t by Joshua Rothman from The New Yorker that I truly realized why I love Stephen King so fiercely.

He is not simply one of the best American horror writers to earn his way onto the shelves and into the Kindles of thousands of people. King is one of the best American authors of our time, and to the dismay of plenty of critics, I am not the only one to think so. Although book sales cannot always tell you the quality of an author’s writing,  how does one deny the 60 awards won over a forty year period and over 350 million books sold? With three bibliography pages on Wikipedia: one for novels and collections, one for his individual short stories, and one for his unpublished works, you can imagine how hard this amazing man has been burning the midnight oil to make his masterpieces.

So someone in the world has felt the good sense to keep publishing him to build a colossal fan base of what? Horror fans? Speculative fiction maybe to generalize? He gets the nick name Master of Horror, but to his constant readers he is so much more than the author of spine-tingling supernatural thrillers that defy the laws of the known universe.

In the recent interview with Parade magazine (which I fervently read through at my parent’s kitchen table), King reiterates my point, “I’ve been typed as a horror writer, and I’ve always said to people, “I don’t care what you call me as long as the checks don’t bounce and the family gets fed.” But I never saw myself that way. I just saw myself as a novelist” (A Rare Interview with Master Storyteller Stephen King). He doesn’t see himself as anything more than man with a story (or hundreds) that he hopes to share with people who will love them as much as he does.

As a “greenie” to the world of Stephen King, I feel in love with his ability to write anything and everything. He has earned the right to at this point in his career, which not many contemporary authors can claim because let’s face it- if  you get one good book that’s mildly popular that is a success. For King, he has made miracles come from the imagination that has inspired dozens of movie and television show adaptations including recent ones like Under the Dome and Haven.

Besides the horror elements that made his initial stories famous, King transcends all genre as you will read in Joshua Rothman’s post. I will let him describe the SK phenomena in his own way, but I will touch upon it in my short review of two of King’s recent books.

r-JOYLAND-STEPHEN-KING-large570

Joyland is a refreshing breath of carnie air, complete with the lingering scent of salty sea air and stale popcorn. King, as if on cue, finds the perfect story to bring the best parts of summer bliss back into our lives. Who doesn’t want teenage romance, a forlorn female ghost, and a crew of lovable amusement park employees that treat the “greenies” or new employees with a little rough and tough love? I do! And after reading Joyland (and other pieces) I could never imagine King as JUST a horror writer. In some ways, it limits readers to view him only as a writer of killer clowns and raging, possessed cars. Joyland has some gruesome scenes, but nothing that screams horror.

Instead, I felt myself pining for the romance he was building slowly with the subtle actions of the characters and unique, direct style of his writing. And let me tell you, I did NOT anticipate or hope for romance in a book with murder, amusement parks, and ghosts, but King made me want it. The main character, Devin Jones, is 21, and like any young adult thinks of love even without trying. King  leaves the characters to do most of the work, and yet his ideas if tried by anyone else would turn out as a hodgepodge of genres that should never belong together.

Joyland is a blast from the past that combines the yearning of a romance, the deduction of a murder mystery, and the subtlety of a supernatural story that will leave any reader laughing or crying by the end. It is a quintessential King novel because it uses the supernatural to elevate the truth of the human psyche. He knows what we want to read, and writes the story we need to hear. Most importantly, King is in the business of selling fun!

I finished Joyland about a week ago, on audiobook, which is well worth the money, the reader is FANTASTIC! Afterwards, I was so inspired that I went back to 11/22/63 that had been out for two years, and I was about 50 pages from the end. It took me two years to read this monster of a book because it was characteristically long for King books, but even more so because I didn’t want to know the end.

King introduces an age old question of what would happen if someone could go back in time and CHANGE history. It’s difficult to understand time travel in a theoretical sense; add a lovable main character with a hero complex and presto you have the makings of a wonderfully adventurous. 11/22/63 is another of King’s recent works that succeeds with a believable love story-of an English teacher from 2011 and a librarian of the 50s. Is there boat loads of gore and supernatural elements? Well, sure. You can’t have time travel without the repercussions, but what is really comes down to is a well-written, well-researched historical novel that uses the best imagination in all of us to answer what would happen if someone went back in time and saved John F. Kennedy.

There’s hope, guilt, history, patriotism, and an overwhelming feeling that just once everyone lives (ten points for any blogger who points out where that phrase is from). In the end, King wraps up the story as though there is no other way it could have ended. The balance of the world is restored, and the reader, who has ridden on this whirlwind of a story, is faced with one honest, human reality. The past has a nasty way of happening no matter what you do to change it. Instead of trying to fix it, sometimes the best way to change the past is to learn why it happened.

In the collective ten hours over the past week that it took to research and write this post, I have fallen more in love with King and his writing than before. I spent all yesterday and today watching videos  of this ordinary man, and found a foul-mouthed, experienced writer that simply loves books.  I won’t try to place him on a pedestal, but the man deserves credit for everything he’s done. Not only that, he has stayed the same humble, book worm that picked up Lord of the Flies and landed in a fictional world that he has never left.

To me, Stephen King is more than a popular author, more than a very successful author. He is the hope that my ideas, my imagination can mean something to someone else if I work hard enough. He transcends genre by combining elements and characters that no one else could make work. He believes in his stories, in the ideas that come to him in the motel, the drive home, or in a dream. Stephen King represents the dreams of every writer to be more than the picture on the book jacket. A man that is willing to read 50 shades of gray and find something positive to say about it, has to be brilliant or a complete psycho. Either way, I suggest if you haven’t given the King a chance–try again. Ask me for suggestions, check out his website and find something that interests you. There are hundreds of stories to choose from, and King does not discriminate genre. He has a little bit of everything for the reader willing to open him/herself to be captivated by this everyday, extraordinary author.

P.S. There is a website that uses a statistical analysis tool to analyze your word choice, writing style and compares it to famous authors. Out of the five chapters I placed in this statistical tool, 3/5 came back as Stephen King. If that isn’t proof of how influential he is not only in my current manuscript, but my writing in general, I don’t know what is.

If you feel compelled to put each chapter of your current WIP, blog post, or journal–the link is below:

http://iwl.me/

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

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November 7, 2013 · 12:20 am

Guess Who’s Back and Ranting about Budget Cuts–Me!

Hello, lovely readers!

Now that I am back from my terrible hiatus (finishing the practicum), I have good news. I finally received a pass with distinction on my final assignment of the practicum. The critical essay was written on one of my personal favorite subjects, detective fiction. Over the course of writing about P.D. James’ Devices and Desires, I found an appalling aspect of our society and the education system.

How can society expect the best and brightest of future generations to expand their minds without the tools to do so? We live in an age where a college degree  (associates, bachelors, masters) is pretty much required for the job you desire, or even a job that will pay for life’s needs. The economy is struggling so badly that we are willing to sacrifice in this area, and still expect students to provide the best results. Students continually pay out of pocket for the resources (laptops, supplies, books) that should be provided for them to become useful in their own field.

What is even more disturbing is the amount of money students shell out just to go to a college, and this doesn’t include access to the best library resources available. If the students can’t do the research to complete their assignments, how do you expect them to graduate with the skills necessary to succeed?

Can’t get to the library to get to the book you need? And to buy it online would cost $100 bucks to quote a few pages and days to ship to you? Oh well!

Now before you give a response, please note that this is not the period of instant information transference. We may have the internet at our fingertips, but that does not mean that the answers are free. Most likely, they are very expensive.  This brings us to the root of the problem. We can make cut backs to our libraries or shut them down all together because it costs too much to keep them open.

All over the country, our libraries are suffering from budget cuts that are supposedly necessary to salvage some other need for society. Yet, in a world where we need that college degree to get a job, and are struggling to find positions for skilled worker (to improve the economy), we decide to cut jobs that can help our society succeed. Check out the map below and see how much our resources are cut back for students and non-students across the country. It will appall anyone with a child or love of books because the future of education is slim if this continues.

But are we really considering the long-term repercussions for making these resources unavailable to students? In many ways, the digital age has made it easier for students to utilize books to their full potential. It is considered a rule of thumb in the classroom (to this day) that print text are more reliable than online sources. This may change as books are converted to electronic format, but the majority of a student’s library resources remain on paper and stacked on shelves (especially for English majors). It is not enough to print out new editions of books each year and demand the student to buy the brand new book.  Now society expects the student to find their way to the library that may close in a few years to find the texts they need to succeed.

Ain’t it the truth?

For many of us (commuters, online students, graduate students), access to a full library is either improbable to fit into a schedule or outside of our abilities to obtain. We look to Google and Yahoo to provide us with scholarly texts that may help us to write the best papers and assignments possible. One teensy problem.  Almost every single scholarly article or journal on the public databases like JSTOR, Project Muse, Questia all require a username/password  or membership for access to any of the full articles.

Why can’t we provide access to online databases for all students (high school and up) to become the most knowledgeable individual that they can be? I don’t think it is that difficult to provide the online or the print resources with the thousands of dollars students will spend 30 year paying back. To me, this is like asking a plumber to learn how to fix pipes without giving him a wrench or tool box. I spent three days looking for resources on my paper only to be left with sad excuses for resources. I was smart enough to purchase one book, which costs me $10 literally for one quote used in my paper. I was lucky the book was available in electronic format because with a full-time job that takes up the library’s hours, it would have been impossible for me to get to a library in time to complete the paper.

The truth is the Google may provide you with the search results, but the answers you seek come at a price.

While my critical paper took 3 days to research, it could have taken a few hours. Without the access to a physical library or the literary journals needed to collect resources, I was forced to use little scholarly resources for my paper. I wish I could have gained access to more because my paper would have been a better one. I happened to luck out this time, but for thousands of students in some of the best schools in the country, they are suffering from a lack of knowledge.

Share your opinion of how students and other readers have little access to library resources. It’s not just the print books that are in danger, but the digital sources are restricted to those who can pay out of pocket for a few minutes of view time.

Anyway, Happy reading and writing all!

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Book Published Via Facebook. Wha Wha?

To all my Facebook Fiends, here is your chance to change the (forgive the pun) face of books by putting books on Facebook. Writer Alex Epstein has made a collection of short stories and poems into individual photos to place on Facebook. Within one photo album, Epstein utilized his knowledge of social media to bring in readers.

http://electricliterature.com/blog/2012/02/15/the-facebook-book/

For regular FB users, this may be the only exposure they have to good writing or any writing at all. It is a chance to show how beneficial social media can be. It’s not just about share minute by minute life updates. In its purest form, social media sites like FB help people share things that are lost in the culture.

It is much easier for people to read a book by flipping through photos constantly updated on their FB wall than to go buy a tangible book. The bibliophile/bookworm in me cringes to say, but not every one can love books like that. So this social experiment gives those potential readers a chance to see a book in a different light.

One of the most interesting aspects of the experiment is the readers’ reactions. Epstein was shocked at the immediate response he received. Similar to the reaction an author receives with a public reading, Epstein could see which parts of the book people enjoyed, what they shared with their friends, and what the readers thought.

It is instant gratification for author and readers alike. Although I have not seen the book, I find his optimism inspiring. If one man can hope to transform the exposure of the book into a social media experience through Facebook, then there is so much more in store for writing. The innovation has only just begun in this digital age, and it isn’t slowing. In fact, I think this will be one of many new ideas for sharing books that defies our previous notions and expectations. I give Epstein credit for his creativity. I hope he finds more inspiration for greater ideas.

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/author-publishes-book-as-facebook-photo-album_b47197

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Bibliophile or Bibliomaniac?

To most people, neither of the words in the title are particularly familiar. Bookworm is the only word known by all, but even that word isn’t associated with the correct definition.  Both words in the title have the prefix biblio-, which some know to refer to books. But what do the two words mean and how are they different? The first, bibliophile can be broken into two parts, biblio and phile. Philo is the greek prefix meaning love of or to love. So, putting together biblio (books) and phile (love of) gets you a noun describing a lover of books. Most of you following my blog can appreciate a name like that. To love books for what they hold inside each different binding. Bibliophiles are simple creatures enjoying books for the fantastic innovation they have become for story telling.

While  many people think a bookworm would be a lover of books, it is defined instead a branch of the bibliophile. A bookworm is a person who loves books for their content, in other words, for reading. Two seemingly synonymous words actually have a different meaning, just a similar starting point.

Now what do you think when you hear the word bibliomaniac? Sounds like a crazy person, right? Well, you’ve got the root of the definition right there in maniac. It describes a person clinically crazy about books. Now you’re thinking, that can’t be too bad, can it? It’s a version of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that revolves around collecting and sometimes hoarding books. Again, not that bad, right? Not necessarily. For some people being obsessed with books isn’t a life goal and it’s difficult to live in the shadow of those who make books their entire life.

http://members.forbes.com/fyi/2005/1212/162.html

The above link depicts the life of a man who has oh too many bibliomaniacs in his life.  As I read through the story, I felt bad for both the son and his father. The father was addicted to books like drugs, but loved them honestly. He may have neglected his marriage, but he enriched his children and grandchildren with art and history. Unlike most bibliomaniacs, he didn’t hoard books with no point. He was also a bibliophile. He loved them so much that he bought author memorabilia, visited the sites of the famous authors, and passed on the books to his children.  The sad part of the story begins when the author’s father suffers a stroke and the vultures of the world swoop down and scarf up his amazing collection of rare books and art like he was already dead. It was a shame two generations before the author had been spent collecting this priceless library only to have it taken away in his father’s sleep.

The man had known what his collection was worth in dollars, but it was worth so much more in love and enjoyment. He was devastated to find his priceless companions kidnapped in his absence.  He could no longer pass everything down to his son. Even the settlement was not fair to this lover of books. They returned some art, only a few books, and money. Money? Money doesn’t replace the connection the man and his family had to the books. While bibliomania can be considered a curse to some, I’m sure the author respected and treasured the childhood he had because of the love his father and grandfather had for books.

The author ends the story on a positive note because the experience with his book-obsessed father has impressed an important moral in his life. That although his father’s books are now passed around throughout the world, that is the true beauty of them. To share books is to realize their importance and create a bond with other people based on those books. Collecting and reading books forms memories that surpass the ownership of those books in one’s life, but never leave the person whose read them. It is a lovely relationships between the imagination and the soul. The author ends the article with the beginning of his book collection. It seems that no matter how hard you try, bibliophiles and bibliomaniacs alike understand the value of books. Appreciating them yesterday, reading them today, and passing them on to future generations tomorrow.

 

If my library looked like this, it would be worth going crazy over books!

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Why Books are Important (any kind, any format)

Thanks to my constant social networking, I have found another awesome post about the thing I love, books.  The post artfully and directly explains what people have forgotten. The importance of books relies on its history. Books were created to document not only on the history of humans, but the dreams and hopes of humanity.

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/02/two-reasons-why-books-matter/

The author of the blog uses two simple explanations for the value of books to people hundreds of years ago, and more urgently to the people of today. He focuses on the books that aren’t documenting history, but the human condition. Stories that propel the reader to reflect upon life because of the characters or the situations.

Books don’t just open you to an entertaining story, they open you to the realities of life that you either didn’t think of before or chose not to think about.  They force you to look at life differently although it isn’t always a conscious change. Sometimes, the effect a book has on your life doesn’t occur to you until days even months after.

More stunning than the  stories that make up the books is the development from simple oral tradition or word of mouth to print. Life before the printing press was difficult.  The few copies of a book were held by powerful religious or political people and as a regular person you had to trust their interpretation of those books because you probably didn’t read.

If you did read and get your hands on a copy of a book, it was awe inspiring. The work it took for someone to use ink and write word by word an entire copy of the original book was astounding. The dedication it took to use calligraphy and ornate drawings was shocking as you flipped through the thick, beautiful pages.  The author of the post describes this as he shows a picture of a page from a book printed in 1495. 1495? And it’s still intact for this person to have it placed on his wall! Now to us, printing millions of copies of a book or even the newspaper is taken for granted.

For the people to experience a book that only had one or two copies worldwide, it changed everything. No longer did you have to travel thousands of miles to read a new or important book. You could have it sent to all the major/minor cities for very cheap. But it wasn’t cheap quality. The quality of those books, the paper and the ink could outlast the people that wrote them. This is the center point of the post. That the quality of these old books is so magnificent that  it lasts for hundreds of years.

The fact that some of the first books ever printed can last more than the ones produced now is not a mystery. The type of materials used and the care taken to give a good quality product is something companies don’t abide by now. We make books the cheapest way we know how and that’s why the books won’t last very long.  The comments below the post invite you into an interesting world of people who prefer print, but also understand the use of electronic books. It may be a long shot, but we can appreciate print books and digital books as equal, important contributions to the magical invention called the book.

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When Good Books Turn Into Bad Movies

Today’s topic is one readers know all to well. When your favorite book gets turned into a move the following questions cross your mind:

What actors will they pick and will they do the characters justice?

What will they sound like and how will they pronounce the names/places?

Should I ever bother seeing them mess it up?

Or am I obligated to see my favorite characters visualized on the screen?

All of these questions are valid. My first book movie experience was the Harry Potter series and up until the third movie, I was incredibly happy with the film version. Then when the director changed and a character died, the films lost their magical connection to the books. I personally feel an obligation to see a movie made from a book I’ve read and especially loved. At the moment, I’m holding out for the movie version of Orson Scott Card’s famous novel Ender’s Game. Although nothing will replace the images inside my head it will be very interesting to see what other people envision and compare the p.o.v. after seeing the film.

The idea of making a film out of a book came to me because I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tonight. Since I have not read the book before watching the movie my opinion of the characters is only based on the actors/actresses. However, I could see the holes in the plot and detail that can only be filled by the lengthy paragraphs of a novel.

The fundamental question is…can a film truly capture the meaning of a novel or even a short story without using all of the information or always inside the head of the characters?

For me, it’s a no. It can’t. As a writer, nothing is more involving than getting inside the head of the character and knowing everything they think and being able to have the narrator give objective information all of the time.

While movies have the visual effect of showing you the entire street or the entire world of the story…and the narrator can say what’s inside the character’s head…it is never enough to completely immerse you. There is always something the director or screenwriter must leave out and most of the time that information is the most important.

Let’s go back to the Orson Scott Card example. I am immediately displeased that the actor playing the main character is too old and the character does not become that age until half way through the book. I am also upset that they probably will not show pivotal scene in the character’s life (killing boys that bully him) because the film will be rated for younger kids. This seemingly innocent piece of censorship to shield children from violence is altering the entire meaning of the story.

So, regardless of my complaints already I will see the movie of one of my favorite books. I feel it is an obligation to see all forms of the book and characters I love so much.

But now I turn the discussion to you dedicated readers and movie buffs.

What is your opinion on book movies?

Do any of them do a good job of depicting the book? If so what ones and why?

And for the haters-which movies did the worst job of depicting the book and why?

Thanks to Google Images for this photo

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