jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
The last week of the year always feels like a bit of a denouement, like I've been given time to put this past year's affairs in order, finish up what needs finishing, and wait for the clock to tick over to the next year. It's downtime, where I don't have anything last minute planned, but I should at least clean up and put things away.

As always, I'll be posting my writing and creative resolutions over at Welcome to Bridgetown, and posting my year-end music lists over at Walk in Silence, so that leaves me with the more personal resolutions here on the LJ.

So! What do I have on tap?

--Reading: I'd like to read more independently-published books in the coming year. Considering I'm now a self-published author, I'd like to read more books that were released the same way. This kind of ties in with what I've been doing for years on the music scene: using social media, indie epublishers (like Kindle and Smashwords), and other platforms (such as Kickstarter, Patreon, etc). I find a lot of these by word of mouth; either they follow me on Twitter, or they're suggested by another indie creator I already follow. I've made a pretty good dent in my TBR pile this year, and also culled quite a few titles for varying reasons.

--Music Listening: I've always been a bit iffy about streaming sites such as Pandora and Spotify. Not just because of the pittance the bands get, but that it tends to feel like I'm merely putting my own collection on shuffle. I still listen to a lot of terrestrial radio stations that stream online as well as internet radio such as Sirius XM, but now that I've signed up with Amazon Prime, I'd like to use that service to check out new bands that I otherwise might pass by. When new bands release music, I like to listen to the entire album and not just the singles, and sometimes it's hard to find streaming previews that I'd be interested in. It'll also help me rein in my music purchasing; do I really like the entire album, or should I just go with the few songs? Will I still be listening to this album six months down the road? In short: broadening my musical tastes, but calming my spending habits.

--Health: I've felt pretty good this year, having avoided any major illnesses and retaining my usual weight. The eating habits may have gotten away from me a bit, and our visits to the YMCA fell apart near the end of the year (due to weather, laziness, and Day Job hell), but again, that can be easily rectified. I wouldn't mind losing a bit more weight and getting back to the gym more. I really should cut back on the sweets. It's high time I got another eye exam (it's been 2+ years, I think). I should also continue my visits to the dentist. I'm at that age where I'm starting to feel the aches and pains, especially in my joints, so maybe a few checkups are in order as well. In short: Meets Expectations, with Room for Improvement.

--Life in General: One of my recent thoughts was expanding my horizons a bit. Since I spent most of 2015 giving myself a more stable platform mentally, emotionally and creatively, I'm ready to widen that platform with new possibilities. Try out new things, think about things from different angles, things like that. I'm also ready to let go of some old and tired habits as well. I'm not aiming just to fix my time management, only to clear it up a bit. I've done a lot of that this past year already, so it would mainly be a lot of small fiddly habits and distractions that I no longer need or want.


And that's about it for now on the non-creative end of things. Looks like 2016 will be a year for completely new things, and I'm looking forward to it. :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I've been seeing this meme in various places, and it's been a while since I posted one, so why not? :)

In no particular order...

--Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. It's messed up, it parallels my favorite album of 2000 (his sister Poe's Haunted), it challenges what a printed book should look like and how it should be read, you can spend years analyzing it and still come up with different meanings to the plot, and overall, it's a hell of a lot of fun to read. One of my all-time favorites, it's a great example of writing outside the usual boundaries of fiction.

--Dave Sim, the Cerebus comic series. Sure, Sim kind of turned into a nutcake in the last quarter of the series (he's really calmed down since then), but I have to give him credit and mad props for creating fascinating characters with depth (even if they end up being jackasses), fascinating art (especially when Gerhard jumped on board), and writing a finite three-hundred issue story arc during a time when comic books rarely did so. I learned a lot about character interaction in this series, actually.

--Katsuhiro Otomo, AKIRA. Another comic series, yes, but one that was absolutely brilliant in its execution. One of the best SF/supernatural storylines I've ever read. Visually stunning and an excellent example of storytelling from a somewhat different culture. From this series I learned about ensemble casting, unconventional POVs, and how to keep the story going even when the scene is completely internal.

--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My favorite of the series is still Book 2, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but the first book is filled with some of the best ridiculous, self-mocking British humor out there.

--Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front. This one always stayed with me since I first read it during the summer of 1989--probably one of the first classics I read in high school that wasn't assigned to me! It's fascinating in its delivery, both sad and lighthearted at the same time as the characters try to make the best out of a really bad situation.

--JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. Believe it or not, I never read this all the way through until just recently, around 2006. [I attempted it in junior high around 1985, but had little patience/attention for it at that time.] I think reading it as an adult made more sense, as I was able to grok what he was trying to do with it. It's by no means a perfect story, but still one of the best examples of detailed worldbuilding out there.

--Ira Robbins, The Trouser Press Record Guide. I no longer own this, but the 1986 edition was the one that blew the doors off for me in regards to music collecting, rock music in general, and informing me on just how many albums I was expected to have in my then-growing collection. My listening habits changed drastically after I read this book--and yes, I did take notes.

--Madeline L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time. My sister handed this to me when I was a kid and thought I'd like it. That I did! It was probably my first introduction into reading SF/Fantasy, and still one of my favorites.

--Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again. A relatively recent book by a brilliant music writer, it's about the post-punk scene of the late 70s-early 80s, but in the process it explains how that scene eventually morphed into the early years of alternative rock as we now know it. This was the first book I picked up when I started planning writing about the college rock years with Walk in Silence, and it really helped piece a lot of things together for me.

--Lee J Hindle, Dragon Fall. Yep, I've talked about this one before. The book that got me writing seriously in the first place--the one where I thought "hey--I could do this too."
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
So where have I been the last few weeks? Busy! Been posting some music-related stuff over at Walk in Silence, doing some serious revision of my trilogy, and whatnot. I've been sadly lax with the picture posting at my Tumblr and the poetry at the Dreamwidth site, but I promise that will pick up. Been an insane couple of weeks there.

Anyhoo...I'm currently writing this at work in Concord (CA, not MA) while I await my next meeting. It's at least thirty degrees warmer than at home. It's really weird to walk outside and feel heat rather than a consistent breeze and Karl the Fog making his ominous way into the Golden Gate. It's also reminding me that I don't function nearly as well in high temperature...I just get sluggish and cranky. Guess this means I'm a full-blooded Bay Area guy now. ;)

In other news, I've been doing some more thinking about my writing...my main focus is still the trilogy revision and submission [note: Book 1 has been sent to one potential agent at this time, and I'm currently four chapters in on the revision of The Persistence of Memories], but I'm also thinking about what my next NEW project is going to be. Another book in the Eden Cycle universe? Finally getting started on Can't Find My Way Home? This of course is aside from the off-and-on work I've been doing on Walk in Silence, which is currently in "reading more books about the subject" mode. The new EC book is tempting, though I think I really need to do some more planning/plotting/idea creation before I get too far there.

Another thought I had was about what I'd like to do with that universe as a whole. I've got some nifty ideas that extend not just with book form, but maybe some online, behind-the-scenes, extraneous stuff that would be fun to work on. Maybe some interactive stuff, I don't know. I have Ideas on this, some of which are a bit out of the scope of my creative expertise at this time and need reining in. More on that in a future post.

Other than that...been keeping myself busy and moving forward as much as I can, so I'm happy about that. :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I've been hearing that lately--the idea that the kind of story you want to write is often similar to what you love reading. A few of my writing friends mentioned that in the past few months, and I've also seen it on Twitter as well as in some of the writing magazines I subscribe to.

When I started taking my writing more seriously in the mid-90s, I'd originally started with a wave of Stephen King novels that my ex handed me (The Stand was of note, and was partly the inspiration for my penchant for an ensemble cast rather than a single POV). After I moved back to Athol, I made a conscious effort to pick up more science fiction novels, considering that was the genre I'd started writing at the time. But it wasn't until I was making the weekly trips to the comic book store at Hampshire Mall that I'd also started heading to the bookstores there--specifically, hanging out at the old anchor store there, Media Play (I think Best Buy is there now). They had a pretty decent science fiction section, and I'd spend an hour or so there, digging through the shelves and trying out a few novels here and there. This is where I found Kate Elliott's Jaran novels and Richard Paul Russo's Carlucci books, and a host of others.

Some of them fell by the wayside, read but not leaving much of an impression. On the other hand, there were others that just clicked with me--they may not be Hugo Award-winning novels, but they were books I really enjoyed. As I've often said, these are the novels that would hit me in just the right way that I'd want to run downstairs and start writing my own book right there and then. Those are the books that I love reading--the ones that spark that excitement, even if they're just entertainment. I've been reading a lot of different genres over the last ten years, but it's only recently that I've come back to actively looking for those specific books that hit me just the right way.

Recently I began reminding myself that that is the kind of book I want to write as well. I don't want to write The Great American Science Fiction Novel, nor do I want to write The Most Awesomest Book Ever (although having my stories labeled that after the fact would be nice!). I want to write something that will kick that spark of excitement in me, and hopefully in others. I think that reminding myself of that on a more consistent basis will in effect make my writing (and my revision) that much better.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
More on Joshua Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein...

One of the things he talks about is the 'OK Plateau', in which, after we've learned a task such as typing, we go from the beginner level (slow two-fingered tapping) to a somewhat higher one (the Qwerty or Dvorak system), until our brain goes to autopilot. Once we're reasonably comfortable with doing the task without having to think about it, we don't focus on the actual performance, we just do it.

Sometime ago I had this niggling feeling that I'd hit that plateau with my writing, that I was afraid I'd hit my limit, and I was just going to have to make do with being a reasonably adequate writer and not a great one. Not great as in Pulitzer prize-winning--I mean this in terms of writing something I'm especially proud of that I think is my best work, and something that would be professional and publishable. This is on a personal level too--I consider myself "reasonably good" at a number of things, but not really "exceptional" at any of them. There's nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as that's pretty much normal for a lot of people...

...except if it's in your field of expertise. Mike Holmes is exceptional in his work because he's an expert in home building and inspection, and who wouldn't want to have him on your side if you're having house problems? And would you trust someone who's "merely adequate"?

Of course, that's an extreme example, but it kind of states my point here, in regards to writing. I've been working on my Eden Cycle trilogy for close to ten years, and though I've made significant strides, I still have that niggling feeling that it's just not a great piece of work. It's a damn sight better than the original stories, but it could be so much better, and I'm vividly aware that it could be. At this point I'm at that OK Plateau, where I know I can do better, yet I'm not exactly sure what needs to be done to break that barrier.

This is often where beta-readers and critiquers usually come in handy, and this is why it's terribly important to have the right beta-readers and critiquers on hand. This of course can be tricky when all you have is close friends and family who will enjoy the story, but may not have the ability to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and find plotholes and weak language. This is why I'm thankful that writers like [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse have offered their services as readers...I've learned quite a few things from her, and while I'm still not quite there yet, I can see where more work is needed, thanks to people like her.

But how do I overcome the OK Plateau on my own? What is it that I need to do to write the best damn novels that I can, instead of writing half-assed and calling it good enough? Do I need to start challenging my own vocabulary? Do I need to be less emotionally involved with my stories and become more clinical? Do I need to force myself to write not just a little every day but a lot every day? Do I need to find a job that doesn't demand nearly as much clinical thinking, but perhaps more creative thinking? In all honesty, it's a little of everything here. It's not just one thing, that's for sure.

This is partly why I've given myself such a full plate this new year. I'm trying to force myself out of passive mode by getting out of my comfort zone. I suppose for some, that would be doing something crazy like mountain climbing or bungee jumping or something silly like that, but for me, it would need to be something that's more than a one-time event. I'm 'reasonably good' at music, art, and writing--things I've loved to do since I was a kid--and I'm in a good position where I can actually do such things in my spare time. If I can turn it into a paying gig, all the better.

As long as I'll be doing something I love doing, and getting better at it as I go along, I'll be happy. And I'll have finally gotten past the OK Plateau.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
(snagged from [livejournal.com profile] aberwyn :) )

What I'm reading: Currently reading Frank Brady's Orson Welles biog, Citizen Welles.

What I'm writing: Revising A Division of Souls and doing a damn good job of it! :)

Nearest book to Computer: That would be my bookcase o' reference, so...that would be the Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary that I got through WD Books...still a great reference, since my caffeine-addled brain tends to forget simple words now and again. :)

The book I love most: Hmm, good question. Probably Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves?

Last book I got as a gift: Richard Neer's FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio, which I got for Christmas, after losing my old copy years ago. A very interesting read.

Last book I gave as a gift: The Just Bento Cookbook I gave [livejournal.com profile] emmalyon for Christmas. :)

What I'll read next: After reading [livejournal.com profile] kateelliott's Crossroads trilogy (I just finished it last night), I'm taking in some shorter standalones to get through the TBR pile. In my bag is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which I haven't read since high school.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Haven't posted lately due to being busy with all types of things...plus I've been trying not to be distracted by the internets as much as I have in the past. That's a work in progress, but I'm getting better. Now, what with football preseason (GO PATS!! :D ) already up and running, that's another distraction entirely...

So what's been up over the past week?

WRITING:
Gads...still slogging through that damn chapter in ADoS, and it's taking a lot longer than I want it to. It's not so much that I'm avoiding work, just that some of these new scenes and extended/revised scenes are a bit tough. I'm not giving up, though. I've invested lots of time in this trilogy, and I'll be damned if I give up now. Time to take off the gloves and give it what for. (What does that phrase mean, anyway?)

Also, ordered the new Writer's Market, which I skipped on last year due to not really needing it at the moment. Amusingly enough, it cost exactly the same at the Writer's Digest site as it did on Amazon. Still--I plan on using it this year, both for the above monstrosity as well as looking out for some smaller press and poetry stuff. 2010/2011 will be the years of submissions, damn it!

Note to self: Any more "damns" in this post and I'll get the MPAA on my butt. I'd better calm down. :p


LIFE:
Things are good. Feeling old and out of shape, but our weekly walks around the Presidio and Golden Gate Park have been helping, and it gives me more practice with my camera as well. Now if this Bay Area fog that's been permeating our area for the entire summer would finally KINDLY GO AWAY, I'll be even happier. Other than that, keeping busy and having fun when I can.


MUSIC:
Heard a preview of the new Interpol album and OH MAN is it good!! Very angular, and very similar to their first album, so I'm quite happy about that. Went ahead and pre-ordered the album straight from the band's site as soon as I finished listening. Nothing else too exciting to report, though...still following the new stuff that's coming out that I like, and there's a lot of it, but nothing amazing as of yet aside from the above. In a weird way it's reminding me of 1997--a lot of good stuff, but the REALLY good stuff should appear next year. We'll see.


BOOKS:
Recently read: Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly--typical YA story, but the lead's name is Drea and she's a musician. Very much like [livejournal.com profile] dollydelusion, and I couldn't help but picture her in the role. :p Also: Still reading [livejournal.com profile] kateelliott's Spirit Gate as my commuting book. Quite good, and I'm looking forward to reading the other two in the series! Currently reading: The Oishinbo manga series, which [livejournal.com profile] emmalyon and I are quite enjoying, and well worth checking out. There's only 7 or so volumes out so far, but I'm hoping there will be more. :)


...and that's it from JoncWorld. How's everything out in there?
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Fifteen books you've read that will always stay with you. You have fifteen minutes to think of them. Go.

1. Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves
2. Lee J. Hindle's Dragon Fall (inspired me to start writing)
3. Richard Paul Russo's Carlucci
4. Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine
5. Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing
6. JN Stroyar's The Children's War
7. JK Rowling's Harry Potter series (okay, that's 7 books, but I'm counting as 1 here)
8. Douglas Coupland's Generation X
9. Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front
10. JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (sure, I FINALLY read it after all these years...and yes, I LOVED it. :p )
11. Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome
12. pretty much most of the late 50s-early 60s Peanuts collections from Charles Schulz
13. Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
14. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time
15. Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year
jon_chaisson: (Tunage)
So I'm in the midst of reading Jack Boulware's Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day, which professes in the introduction that some of the speakers are in fact complete morons (his words!), I find the following quote from Nicki Sicki, singer of Verbal Abuse:

"When we were on tour once, I farted so bad Dave quit the band and got out of the van in Wisconsin with his bass and started walking home to Oakland."

I can't decide if this is on par with The Young Ones, Bad News, or Spinal Tap.

Still...can't get more punk than that. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Okay, so in the midst of my musical retrospectives and other "best of decade" memes out there, I thought I'd post what are probably my favorite books of the decade. Interesting that they're either genre or YA...there's only two nonfic books that really jumped out at me. This is far from complete, of course, since I know I'm probably forgetting a few titles.


For your enjoyment...

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. My favorite of the decade. This novel has so many levels to it, and so brilliantly woven together. Not to mention it being the written equivalent of The Blair Witch Project. Creepy, mindbending and entertaining all at the same time.

The Children's War by J.N. Stroyar. By no means the best "Germany won WWII" alternate history out there, nor is it exactly the most brilliantly written novel, it's nonetheless one of my favorites in that genre in terms of story.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. Poor Harry Dresden is always in deep shit at the start of every novel, and it never seems to let up...but when he faces his foes by quoting nerdy things like Looney Tunes or They Live, you gotta love it. Exciting and funny at the same time.

Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series and Harper Connelly series. Sure, they're the latest thing, but they're all kinds of fun to read. The Sookie books are fun in terms of supernatural weirdness, and the Harper books are just damn creepy.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Sure, some of them came out in the late 90s, but nonetheless...brilliantly written, and contains some of the best worldbuilding out there today. A series I wish I'd written.

Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series. Interesting series about a guy raised by wolves who works as a tracker...and eventually finds some rather interesting things about his past. Lots of fun reading this one.

Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch series. There's something to be said about foreign writers writing in genre...they always give it a great twist that you don't always see elsewhere. This series is not quite horror, not quite supernatural, but pretty harsh and exciting to read.

John Harris, Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of British Rock. One of the best books about a genre I listened to and obsessed about in college.

Inside 9/11: What Really Happened, from the editors of Der Spiegel. Out of all the books about 9/11 I've seen, this one got me the most, simply because it was decidedly clinical and nonpolitical. Pure reporting without any heartstring-pulling, anger-inducing or flagwaving, and extremely well-written.

Hitori Nakano, Train Man. Go ahead, buy the book and read it already...I dare you not to get all "Awwwwww ^_^" at the end! Very cute and excessively nerdy love story told in the form of a 2chan bbs. SO worth reading!

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother. Great YA book that takes place here in SF, and pretty intense in places. Sure, the parents might be a bit flat in the book (I'd like to think that was done on purpose to show a "go with the flow" fear on their part), but it's a great read.

Miyuki Miyabe, Brave Story. A doorstop-sized YA novel about growing up, changes in life that you can't always control, committing to a quest, and of course, learning now to be brave. Well-written, exciting, and definitely worth it.

Frank Portman, King Dork. Another YA book, this one written by the singer of the Mr. T Experience. Funny, nerdy and goofy in a very John Hughes-ish sort of way.

Steve Kluger, My Most Excellent Year. Most of my all-time favorite books and movies are ones that get me all wound up and want to sit down and get some hardcore writing done. This one, on the other hand? I just wanted to start it over and read it again, it was that enjoyable of a read. I did a brief blurb of it here. Not bad for a book that I impulse-bought up in Napa. :p

Alex Robinson, Tricked and Box Office Poison. Let me start off with BoP. If you gotta pick up an indie comic omnibus, you MUST pick this one up, and I'm not just trying to shamelessly plug [livejournal.com profile] alexbot3000. It's just that good. Sure, most of the issues came out in the late 90s, but the omnibus is from '01, so it counts. ;) As for Tricked, very interesting take on the jaded rock star story, not to mention AR's great ability to tell a story from multiple POVs.

Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise series. Sure, it started while I was still living in Boston, but he finished the series about the middle of this decade, and it's a great series to follow.


Here's to hoping we get even more great novels out there next decade! :D
jon_chaisson: (Default)
I am psyched that I bought not one but two books I didn't know had come out: Douglas Coupland's newest, Generation A (a sequel of sorts to his debut Generation X), and Pseudonymous Bosch's newest, This Book Is Not Good For You. I'm a big fan of DC's work and had no idea he had something new out already! As for the PB book, it's the third in an incredibly silly and fun YA series (actually, it's in the young readers' section, but well worth reading). I've been good with the impulse buys book-wise (I keep reminding myself that I need to work through my pile of unread stuff, and that usually works), so two buys today isn't too bad.

That said, recent books I've read:

And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer, aka, the sixth book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy. As said to Emm, this one felt a lot like it was written as fanfic. A very good and well-written fanfic, though. It had less of the absurdist silliness of the first few books and more of the satiric Britishness of Mostly Harmless, of which this is a kinda-sorta direct sequel. It took the characters in interesting directions, especially Zaphod and Ford, formerly caricature-like and somewhat one-dimensional. They were both shown in a more expanded, deeper fashion. And extra points for a character quoting Bladerunner with a completely straight, serious face and making me giggle uncontrollably. Interesting expansion on the series, if anything...I'll probably end up picking it up once it's in trade or mass-market.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. LOVED this YA book. Not only is it fun and silly, it's epistolary (in the form of an english class journal assignment, multiple emails, and IM sessions, all in multiple POVs, including the parents), and it captures blue-collar Boston brilliantly. At the heart of it, it's a simple boy-meets-girl, girl-despises-boy, boy-wins-girl-over (boy's-silly-sidekick(in this case gay and realizing it for the first time, after everyone else in the novel including his love interest has figured it out)-getting-all-the-laughs) type of story but so full of Boston-smartassery and sheer goofiness that I was tempted to read it again right there and then. HIGHLY suggested.

CURRENT READS:
Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes, by John Pierson. Been meaning to read this one for quite some time now. Man, this book is like I'm reading one of my college textbooks again! :p Seriously, it's a bit dry and self-important in some places, but at the same time it's an interesting read about indie movies that came out during a time when I was watching a lot of them in college. Interesting read, but not really sure if it's one I'll keep.

Farthing by Jo Walton. Reading this as my commute book. Very well written, it's like reading one of those old Ngaio Marsh/Agatha Christie sort of myster novels, but it's set in an alternate history. Emm's already read the two sequels and deems them AWESOME, and I'm inclined to agree. :)
jon_chaisson: (I'M IN YR NOVEL)
So when did I finally get around to reading Lord of the Rings?

*checks past LJ posts*

Yeesh. Freakin' JULY. FOUR months!! Granted, I did distract myself with other shorter books every now and again, just to break up the tedium, but still...haven't taken that long to read a book in quite some time...

Last night I got nearer to the last chapter of the book, when Gandalf finally took off to visit Tom Bombadil and leave the four Hobbits to make their way back to the Shire. So it looks like I have a few more scenes to go (plus the Appendices, which I will read because I'm a worldbuilding nerd like that). So yeah...should be done some time in the next few weeks, looks like. :p

I'm thinking a few short novels might be on tap after this until I feel the need for another big honkin' book. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
[[livejournal.com profile] alexbot3000, this one may amuse you...]

My reading as of late has primarily been focusing on the pile of "read-then-get-rid-of" titles that have been in my collection gathering dust. I'm actually making some good headway, so this means that I'm closer to getting around to reading the newer stuff I pick up. My only problem being that I'm currently halfway through the Lord of the Rings (literally--I just started the second half of The Two Towers), which is taking forever.

So I've been breaking up the slowness by rereading some comic trades I haven't picked up in awhile. I'm currently reading Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison, and y'know, I'd forgotten just how much I enjoyed it the first time out, and how well it still holds up! I usually ignore and forget about most indie comics, as most of them tend to irritate me after awhile, and most of them don't always hold up after a few years (my main complaint being that, like Seinfeld, they were funny and poignant at one point, but are merely irritating and/or unfunny now). BoP, on the other hand, though it's obviously set some time in the 1990s, still works as a story today. Each character has its own dimensional originality--even the secondary characters. And each one changes to some degree--some for the better, some not, but they all change, and that's impressive, especially in the comics field. There's also the fact that the dialogue is realistic, but not overly so. No Bendis chattiness (I realize now that Bendis and Tarantino are in fact the same writer and needs to lay off the caffeine), and very little "aren't-I-funny" smarminess, but real conversations one would have with friends or relatives*. To me as a writer, those are things that stick out for me and make me want to reread these things repeatedly.

(* - In fact, there's a great chapter where Stephen and Jane visit Jane's family for Christmas, and Stephen notices how Jane speaks differently when she's around her sisters...that one scene alone impressed me as a great example of giving depth to a character--in this case, Stephen noticing something like that, and Jane for being that way.)

Of course, there are moments of obscure and self referencing, but to be honest it's never intrusive. Alex's love for the Beatles pops up in an early chapter when Ed and Sherman go to Slagger's for a beer. Tony Consiglio (and Alex himself, actually) pop up as background characters repeatedly. And there are lyric quotes galore throughout. Like I said, though...never intrusive, but if you get the joke, it makes it that much more amusing. Referencing like that is always a double-edged sword when writing, as not everyone will get it, and more often than not it'll fall flat. It's very tricky to do as a writer.

If you haven't read it yet, go do so--it's a great read!

And yeah...[livejournal.com profile] alexbot3000? That's why I still love reading your stuff. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Elizabeth Bear has an interesting take on the latest Hugo kerfuffles.

Apparently there are those out there who think this year's titles are all kind of meh. Personally, I've read only two--Durham's Acacia (which I found insanely dull and overly pompous) and Doctorow's Little Brother (which I LOVED, but it's based in San Francisco and is a YA and I'm biased like that. ;) )--but still, some of the blogs she links to are kind of interesting...it's like editors fandom turning around to the authors and saying NOT GOOD ENOUGH DO IT AGAIN *WHOOPISSSH*.

As a reader, I agree with her--I read for the enjoyment, and a goodly amount of people do also. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day or on the commute home is to read a novel that makes my brain explode. On the other hand, if I'm in the mood for something challenging, I'll give it a try.

As a writer, I also agree that sometimes "good enough" isn't. I learned this recently when [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse (Judith Tarr) read the first few chapters of my novel Love Like Blood and came away thinking that it was good but I did a half-assed job on it, which I wholly agree with. Sometimes writing it off as "well, I did what I could" isn't good enough, when you know that's not true. Or as Judy said to me, phoning it in only pisses the reader off. ;)

All in all, it's apples and oranges. I personally dislike dystopian novels and find them boring and tedious, yet some love them (The Road is one case in point, and yet it won a Pulitzer). You're not going to please every reader out there, but the fact is that with those you do, that's really what counts.


[Word of warning: Bear rarely pulls punches in her posts, so if you're easily offended, well...you were warned. ;) ]


EDIT: As an aside, the original kvetch was written by Adam Roberts, a UK author. I read his book The Snow a few years back. Hey, guess what? It's a dystopian novel. Had a lot of good ideas, and I liked it for the most part, until the end, where in my opinion he pulled something out of his ass and called it done. Oh the irony. :p
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Yeah, we pretty much passed on going to Amoeba today. Being that we finally got to uninterrupted sleep sometime around 1am, we're both too lazy to do anything other than some necessary errands, most of which we've already done. No big, we'll go at a later time...for now, some random updates:

--Most likely will go to Borderlands on the 18th (two Saturdays from now), as [livejournal.com profile] jaylake is going to be signing there and I really want to pick up Green.

--As said, nearly all errands done. Just need to do laundry, vacuum the apartment (which takes all of ten or so minutes to do--the good thing about a small place!), and run the dishwasher.

--I'm not sure, but I think the people across the street--you know, the guy I talk about who stands in front of his window for hours on end, either staring or talking on his phone, and I swear he's watching me--look like they're moving out. I can't be sure, but there seems to be packing going on in that apartment.

--In a related note, the quiet, unassuming woman that lived next door to us (not the couple across the hall) that we've only ever seen in person maybe three times since we've been here, seems to have moved out as well. We can see into her apartment from one of our windows and it looks empty.

--Also related, I'm seeing a strangely large number of empty apartments here. But to be honest, this is normal this time of year, when all the kids move out at the end of their college year. On the plus side, I've seen our management showing people apartments all the time, so at least business is moving.

--One of our local channels played How I Won the War last night. I'd forgotten just how absurdly weird this movie was... :p

--Amazon's having an anime dvd sale! YAY! Going to order the Paniponi Dash and Ergo Proxy box sets!

--I just started reading The Lord of the Rings, after not picking up the books since 7th grade (and even then, I didn't get far). I find it a bit unnerving that I found myself geeked out by the "Notes on the Text" and author's foreword about how he wrote it? I haven't even gotten to the novels themselves yet. And why do I get the sinking feeling I'm going to feel all this nerd love for the books? This may or may not be a good thing... O_O

--If I have the time, I may post a few more [livejournal.com profile] edencycle chapters. I'll let you know when I do. :)


That's it for now. Hope everyone has a swell weekend! :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
B&N stop today, bought a book I had a few years ago and for some reason didn't bring with when I moved down to NJ, Roger Zelazny's Great Book of Amber: the Complete Chronicles. I remember really liking this book when I first picked it up (I think at Toadstool up in Keene NH) and almost completely forgot about it until I saw someone with a copy of it at work when I was on the 5th floor...good to have it again! :)

There were a few other books out there that looked interesting, but just didn't quite grab me...well, there's that, and the fact that there's pretty much a glut of "vampire hunter" stories out there right now. Not exactly good for my Love Like Blood (which isn't so much about vampire hunting as it is about making sure friends don't act like idiots ;) ), but I digress...I guess I just go through moods. Still...like my current bout of music collecting, I've been picking up and reading older books I should have read ages ago, such as Le Morte d'Arthur and so on. It's kind of fun going retro on books as well, come to think of it. Kind of like catching up on books I was too lazy to read in high school and college! :p

Of course, I also have the big pile of books I downloaded from Project Gutenberg awhile back that I should read as well...not sure when, but I'll get to them soon enough. Kind of cool that I can get a hold of these online, though, and not have to clutter up our bookcases!

Ah, books...so many of them, so little time... :p
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
When I'm working from home, I tend to listen to a lot of music via my mp3 collection, and lately I've been listening to Beck's Sea Change a lot. Partly because I just really like that album a lot, partly because "Little One" from that album keeps popping up in my head lately.

The interesting thing is that listening to that album makes me think of when I used to go to a sadly-departed bookstore in Harvard Square in Cambridge (Wordsworth Books) when I lived in MA. That store was always one of my main stops when I did a daytrip into the Boston area, usually near the end of the day after lengthy stops at used record stores. I'd spend the final few hours hanging out there, more often than not buying a few titles. The reason the Beck album pops up is because they'd played it in its entirety one of the times I was there.

It also ties in with the book I'm currently reading, Endgame 1945 by David Stafford, mainly because it's about immediately-post-WWII Europe. Why, you say? Because that was the same evening I bought The Children's War by JN Stroyar. So now that I'm listening to that album and reading the Stafford Book, I keep having this nagging urge to read Children's War as well as House of Leaves again, which are two rather large books I like reading every few years or so. The last I read both were about the time we moved here, so it's high time for me to pick them up again. Thing is, I have way too many other books before it to pick them up now! :p

This is also bringing up the fact that I've been thinking about the IWN again lately. Sure, I have two other current WIPs going on, so it isn't helping that I want to pick it up again, especially with the current political climate over the last six months. I figure that urge will die down a bit once I'm finished with the Stafford book (less than 100 pages to go at this point), but it does amuse me that I still get urges to write specific things due to what I'm reading or listening to.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
So we're nearing the end of our vacation...sad to see it go! I keep thinking I should have done more, especially gotten around to some heavy-duty writing, but as said in my other post, perhaps it was a good thing that I backed away from it for a bit (I have a VERY bad habit of not knowing when to let it go and give it and myself a break). Besides, we did a lot of fun things, and it was fun to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] emmalyon that much! :)

On tap for today, we're hopefully going to be going through the rest of our books and do a purge--this time through hardcovers, nonfiction, and kids' books. This time out I've been making a separate pile of 'read then get rid of', which I'm currently going through. Once I type up the list and have our families go through it (just to make sure we don't get rid of anything that's theirs!), I'll post it here and we can begin the Great Book Purge that I hinted about a few months ago!

Also want to type up another RTS this weekend. It's yet another retro-thing that I've been thinking about, and when I have time I'll type it up. Hopefully you guys don't get bored with my frequent Proust-like remembrance posts...or at least are nice enough not to say anything. :p

Speaking of Proust, I made the first swing through Project Gutenberg and downloaded a goodly chunk of literary goodness that I really should dive into. There's a lot of stuff out there that I've either read only once sometime in 7th grade, or haven't read at all. When am I going to find the time to do this? Good question...but it's good to have them there. And eventually I will make it a point to read these things.

More later! :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
So after a nice big ol' plate o' pancakes at one of our favorite local small cafes, we decided to head to the local B&N so I could do my civic duty and buy [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout's Deader Still.

And ended up buying Jo Walton's Farthing, Michael Chabon's Maps & Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, and Last Watch, the lastest in the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. And Carola Dunn's The Bloody Tower for my wife.

Anton, this spending spree is all your fault. :p
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Well, despite my pathetic writing numbers this month (and that's my own damn fault), I've been getting a decent amount of reading done, and that's not bad. I recently reread the AKIRA reprints that came out over the course of 2001, and let me tell you, it's a quick read due to the fact that Otomo, despite filling in every conceivable nook and cranny with detail, used a LOT of near-full page splash shots in this one. Fun, if a bit squicky, but not nearly as ooky as I remember it being (and not nearly as gruesome as the latter half of the movie adaption), but I really enjoyed it.

My current commuting read is Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks, and this is really a fun book. Think Harry Potter as played by Dexter (of the Laboratory) or Dib from Invader Zim, and definitely in a Zim-like universe. Oh yes, and it takes place in Australia. It's a pretty wild ride, quite silly at some points, and extremely strange in others. Definitely worth picking up, and I'm pretty sure I'll end up getting the sequel when it comes out in paperback.

And my recent night reading is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I'm only about three chapters in, but I CANNOT recommend this book highly enough--it's definitely one of those YA books where you forget it's actually YA...as usual, Doctorow writes a brilliant story, this time about hacking, high school, online gaming...and being tailed by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack hits San Francisco. Though there's a lot of info dumps at the beginning (it's kind of needed for those who aren't exactly technophiles), but it's not overly intrusive. As said...not even done yet, but DAMN this is a good book.

------------

I've got way too many books to list that are next on the list, but I can tell you that I'll be going through them soon. When we thinned out our paperback shelf I made a stack of "read then discard" books, but I think I still have way too many to slog through, so they may end up being added to the Great Autumn Book Giveaway soon enough. Or donated to the local library, either way. :p

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