Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Apparently, I know nothing about Peter Pan. I, like most people, grew up thinking the story of Peter Pan was the story that Disney told me way back when they created their cartoon in 1953. You know the story: Peter flies into the Darlings' nursery, takes away Wendy to be his mother, and adventures ensue in Neverland. What I didn't realize is that the cartoon version that most of us are familiar with is actually the third story in Peter's saga, appropriately called Peter and Wendy. This is the story that I will be talking about this week.

Most of us know the story of Peter and Wendy, so I won't summarize the whole thing here. Instead, I will compare Disney's 1953 cartoon and the story of Peter and Wendy and what makes them so different from each other. 

First of all, the story gives so much more background into the Darling family. It actually gives personalities to Mr. and Mrs. Darling, and the book reveals that both of them actually have a decent relationship with their children. The story also goes into detail about how Nana came to be with the family. I loved how it makes Nana seem more like a  human than a dog, something that always seemed to be lacking in the cartoon. 

Next, the characters of Wendy, John, and Michael in the story are very similar to the way they were in the cartoon. Peter and Tinker Bell on the other hand? Oofta. Not so much. In the story, Peter is the most self-centered, egotistical, and cocky little boy that I have ever come across. He's so bad in fact, that the author reveals that this is the true reason that Captain Hook actually hates Peter. (You know, besides that whole hand thing.) When it comes to Tinker Bell, she does start out with an aversion to Wendy, just like she does in the cartoon, but she takes her hatred of Wendy to a murderous level quite a few times throughout the narrative. It was difficult for me to reconsile the cute green fairy in my head to the one that was printed on the page.

With all of that said, I really enjoyed the ending of the story much more than the cartoon. Yes, Wendy and her brothers return to their parents, and Peter promises to return every spring so Wendy can do his spring cleaning. But the story actually takes it past Peter's first departure and shows Wendy as she grows up, after she has her own daughter and granddaughter. In a way, Peter becomes a living legend to the decendents of Wendy, except the legend actually comes to life.

I enjoyed reading "the real story" of Peter Pan. While it was difficult to merge my mental pictures of the story with what was written on the page, there were enough similarities in the story to make it feel familiar. To get the whole story of Peter Pan, someone would have to take the time to read Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and The Blot on Peter Pan. Then, a person should probably watch Disney's 1953 cartoon Peter Pan, NBC's 1954 musical production of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin, and 1991's Hook starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. And, finally, if possible, get their hands on a copy of Barrie's original play. (Yes, this was a play before it was a novel!) Then, and only then, would someone get the full picture of Peter Pan

When Emily pulled Peter Pan off her bookshelf, she realized her copy was a Borders Classic edition. She instantly felt sad and went into a three minute mourning period for her beloved bookstore. She can't help it really. After all, if it wasn't for Borders, she and Giles may not have met! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Own Self Care

With the craziness of my new job, I'm in SERIOUS need of rest. You see, I'm learning new processes in an industry I've never worked in before, at the busiest time of year for this company which ALSO happens to be in the middle of the biggest procedure change in recent history.

All that being said, I've been making serious progress on my writing. Because I've been taking care of myself. It's not the same progress I made when I made time to hammer out my word count, but the quality of the scenes is exceeding my expectations.

What am I doing to get all this rest to remain productive and still manage to progress at work? Well, still watching a lot of Supernatural with my wife, playing video games, and sleeping in on weekends (finally!).

That's about it. I'm crashing just trying to get this on the page, so it's time for some more rest.

Supernatural is one of Giles' favorite shows right now. It's filling his need for Dresden-style storytelling. That's why it's so restful.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No More (Chainmail) Bikinis

Dear Artists,

For the love of all that is holy and sacred, stop drawing warrior women in bikinis. I’m tired of scrolling past your ridiculous and nigh-insulting portrayals of women running around in ancient Ugg boots and tiny steel triangles.

Have you ever tried running a marathon in your underwear? How about cutting off the heads of a thousand foes? Forget the non-existent protection of those itty-bitty pieces of armor—can you imagine how long it would take to scrub orc blood off your limbs after a couple of hours swinging the mace around? You’d never finish in time for the celebratory feast.

And then there’s the frostbite. I could write pages about the pain of blue-fingered hands freezing around a sword hilt. Whose idea was it to depict those poor Viking women leaping from their ships clad only in a few leather straps and a pointy helmet? What’s the harm in adding a pair of gloves? Everyone knows a good warrior woman is, of course, talented in the domestic arts, and therefore able to make herself a head-to-toe cable knit bodysuit. Why can’t you draw that?

Bikinis are for beaches, my friends, and no self-respecting warrior woman would wear one on the battlefield. She’s concerned with beating up the baddies and surviving, not showing off her hot bod. There are few things more shameful than catching a poisoned blade in the midriff. No, the warrior woman refuses to be brought down by anything less than true combat.

If you’d like to see what a real warrior woman should wear, look at Gambargin’s galleries. Read articles such as this one, which reminds us all that boob plate armor kills, and this one, which discusses historical mentions of women in battle. And, if all else fails, look at Pinterest boards of real women in real armor.  

Please. I’m begging you. Your imaginary heroines are begging you.


Michelle tells bad jokes and even worse puns so she can hit her daily quota of eye rolls. She’s been on a mini break from social media, but you can generally find her on Twitter as @redactionaire.    

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Still Catching Up

Yes, it's been a long week. I'm still trying to find the balance of my new job and how my writing will fit into that new routine.

As it's also Thanksgiving tomorrow, I'm going to take another pass on blogging and let everyone enjoy their weekend.

Sigh and shrug. Giles is tired, but next week will be a real blog post.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Building a Book Playlist

When it comes to writing and getting my brain track, I find that just one song can trigger a rush of creativity. I’ve posted before about great playlists and why I love making them, but I haven’t actually walked through my process.

My work-in-progress is a novella loosely titled The Gorgophones. It’s my version of an action rom-com, so I need a mix of songs that are (1) adorable and (2) action-y.

The first thing I look for is one or two foundational songs for everything to revolve around. The work-in-progress I’m currently querying uses Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive as a foundation, while my newer manuscript focuses both on the acoustic/deconstructed version of Ke$ha’s Blow* and on X Ambassadors’ Renegades.

Pandora and Spotify come in handy when you’re trying to match song styles. Every time a new song comes on, I ask myself if it would fit playing in the background of over half of the story. If the answer is yes, I add it to the list. The most difficult hurdle I run into is not filling every playlist with songs by the same four bands**. 

Some songs (like Brick + Mortar’s Hollow Tune below) aren’t perfect in terms of musical style, but I love the message of the lyrics too much to give up the song. About 75% of the time, I read lyrics of unfamiliar songs before I actually listen to them—I find that the mood of the words doesn’t always match the music and vice versa. Mixing up my approach allows me to separate what I want the music to say and what it actually communicates.  

These three songs evoke the emotions I’m trying to develop in the story:
Castle by Halsey
Stay with Me by Sam Smith
Hollow Tune by Brick + Mortar

You can also use film scores to create foundational moods, but I find that some tracks (such as anything John Williams did on the first Harry Potter movies) are too connected to the source material to feel right in my book playlist.  My rule of thumb? Hans Zimmer is magic and fits just about anywhere.  
After I’ve built the atmosphere, I pick music that represents my main character’s perspectives. Rona, the narrator, gets more songs than Lief, her love interest. For the lovey-dovey parts, I imagine that my couple is singing the song to the other person (adorable, I know). It’s just another way to get in their heads and find desires and emotions I didn’t even know they had***.

Rona’s songs:
Get Home by Bastille
Don’t Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers (ft. Daya)
Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machine
Quelqu’un m’a dit by Carla Bruni

Lief’s songs:
I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
Go Big or Go Home by American Authors

After I have all my songs (usually 20 give or take), I arrange them according to mood. It’s a lot like pacing the novel—you have to be aware of how songs begin and end so that each flows into the next. Sometimes after I organize the lot and listen to it, I realize that a couple of songs were rubbish decisions and need replacing. And sometimes, I get ideas from beta readers that I have to fit in my existing playlist order.

I still need ten or fifteen tracks to fill out my list—what would you add?

Michelle’s favorite part of any art museum is the room filled with marble statues.

*I literally never would’ve thought of this one on my own—I got the suggestion from a beta reader, was initially in denial that anything by Ke$ha could represent a theme in my work, and then (after reading the lyrics and actually listening to the song) repented of my prejudice. I may or may not have the entire song memorized now. 
**Imagine Dragons, Bastille, American Authors, Florence + the Machine. 
***Other writers are certainly familiar with this occurrence—sometimes your characters are thinking something you had NO IDEA was even a thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Last week, I sung the praises of librarians. I went on and on about how they are wonderful, compassionate creatures who take pity on those who are lost, literarily, and try to help out as best they can. This week, librarians are evil. Like, hold our world captive and only give information as they see fit. Evil. Thank goodness that no matter what Alcatraz Smedry says, this book is fantasy.

Alcatraz Smedry is your standard thirteen year old boy. He's sarcastic, skeptical of everything, and has an innate ability to break everything he touches. On his birthday, Alcatraz receives a gift in the mail from his parents which is weird because as far as Alcatraz knows, they are dead. The gift? A bag of sand. When his previously unknown grandfather shows up unexpectedly, Alcatraz learns that the world he is familiar with is being controlled by Evil Librarians, people whose mission is to keep information from the people and bring destruction down upon the Smedry family, who is well known for wanting to stop them. Together with his newly discovered family, Alcatraz, his grandfather, Leavenworth, his cousins, Sing and Quentin, and their knight, Bastille, must rescue the bag of sand from the Evil Librarians, before the librarians can turn it into a weapon that could destroy the entire Smedry family for good.

This book was absolutely hilarious. I mean, laugh out loud and read sections to my husband hilarious. Alcatraz is one of the most sarcastic and weirdly self aware characters I have ever come across. His grandfather curses using authors’ last names, there are monsters made out of book pages, and, of course, talking dinosaurs. And trust me, Alcatraz has a running commentary on all of them. For example, “The reader may wonder why one of the dinosaurs was consistently referred to by his first name, while the others were not. There is a very simple and understandable reason for this. "Have you ever tried to spell Pterodactyl?”

Not only is this a fantasy story, but it is also a running commentary on writers, the craft of writing, and publishing industry itself. For those who are writers, or who happen to have lots of friends who are writers, it will be even more hilarious. Towards the end, Alcatraz says, “It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. It goes back to authors being terrible people who delight in the suffering of others. Plus, we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.” That one had me giggling for quite a while afterwards.

For adults, this is going to be a quick read. It is a middle grade novel, technically, but I think adults, especially those who are writers, or who happen to know an awful lot of them, will thoroughly enjoy it. Trust me, sit down and read this over a weekend. And try not to make any assumptions about the book before you do. After all, Alcatraz directly says, "I would ask you to kindly refrain from drawing conclusions that I don't explicitly tell you to make. That's a very bad habit, and it makes authors grumpy."

Emily was glad Giles recommended that she read this book. It really did give her the giggles. She may just pick up the next book in the series.