- I have a couple dozen unread books
- I bought new books two weeks ago including a coloring book and I totally forgot to buy colored pencils
- I have gigabytes of unwatched serials
- I have not, even though November is days away, planned my Nanowrimo project. At all.
- Despite all of the above, I am rereading Harry Potter. After all this time? Always.
He then proceeded to write the book Steal Like An Artist. The book is refreshing; there is no pretentious claims of prodigious talent, just encouragement to let the works of art you like influence you as you grow. It tells you to honor and transform the works that influence you, not plagiarize and rip off. One of the advice he gave, however, was this:
6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
Which brings us to his second book, Show Your Work!
And boy is it a good book. It begins with the statement that the best artists today do not hoard their work; they share pieces of their work, taking advantage of the easy networking enabled by the internet to get fellowship, feedback, or even patronage. That is why sharing your work is important. It is not attention for attention’s sake, but also to make your work better.
The advice he dispensed in the book range from the somewhat obvious (share something small every day,* think process, not product, build a good domain name) to the obscure (read obituaries, because remembering your mortality put some things into perspective).
It is the perfect book for people like me, who find big projects daunting, who feel like our work is crap,** who needs feedback but unsure how to get it. It is so good, it gets a place on Brainpickings’ Best Art, Design, and Photography Books of 2014.
This is a really short post, but I really don’t know how to explain it better than Brainpickings did. Anyway, 100% would recommend, and do tell if any of you want to borrow it. It is a very graphic and beautifully-designed book; to read it in e-book form does not do it justice.
This book checks “a nonfiction book” off my 2015 Reading Challenge list.
* Because I am taking this book’s advice, I shall now share something small about my work: I have a short story WIP that I should post here in a week or so.
** Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. Which means yes, most of the time our work is crap, but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing our work because ten percent of the time we actually create something decent.
Cath broke open a box of protein bars. She had four more boxes and three giant jars of peanut butter she shoved under her bed. If she paced herself, she might not have to face the dining hall until October.
I bought Fangirl around mid-December, in an impulsive purchase I excused as “buying a Christmas present for myself”. When I bought it, I really did not know what I was expecting. My train of thought was “fangirl, okay” and “ooh, the heroine is named Cath, I love that name*” and “what, she writes fanfiction? Must. Buy.” I ended up finishing the book just last week, so it definitely counts as one of my 2015 Reading Challenge books, right? Right? Whatever, I ticked the “book with one word on the title” box, and you can’t challenge me on this.
As you may have surmised from that paragraph, the main heroine is called Cath and she writes fanfiction. Specifically, she writes Drarry. Well, okay, not Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter really because that would create legal problems I guess, but the book universe has a Harry Potter equivalent called Simon Snow. Cath writes the fanfiction for the Simon/Baz pairing, and that’s the Drarry of Simon Snow books. The novel follows Cath’s first year in university, which, according to love interest Levi in the book, is like dog years in that so many things happens and you grow so much.
Levi is right; Cath does grow up in the span of the book. When we first meet her, she’s trying to adjust to the changes in her life. She is not rooming with her twin sister and lifelong roommate Wren** — or according to the book, “built-in best friend” — but with an upperclassman called Reagan who first comes off as intimidating. She’s too nervous to talk to anyone; she eats protein bars that she stashes in her room because the dining hall is terrifying. She does not have time for her fanfiction and thousands of readers. She loses touch with Wren, who is now becoming even more so The Cool One and Cath remains The Odd One.
In short, Cath at the beginning and majority of the book is a bundle of nervous breakdown and awkwardness who reminds me a lot of myself in my worst days. There is even a very good scene in which she is in creative writing class and they are discussing why someone writes. While the class is busy giving answers, Cath says silently to herself, to escape.
And escape she does. Increasingly, she spends more time writing her fanfiction than working on her creative writing class coursework. She befriends classmate Nick, who is sort of cute but even from a mile away obviously self-centered. She fights with her sister. She starts getting to know Reagan and Reagan’s boyfriend-sort-of Levi (turns out he’s her high school ex, and now they’re just friends). She worries about her bipolar father. She fights with Wren, who is visibly more and more often drunk in frat house parties. Her mother, who left the family when she was eight, tries to contact her.
It all works out in the end, of course, because that is how stories are, but the journey to it is fascinating. It’s not especially full of twists — banish any expectation of surprising plot twists here — but it’s real. Rainbow Rowell writes characters who are understated, but alive. Reagan is brash, but not unkind, but not really a good person either. Levi is a good person, but he is not Romance Novel Love Interest staple; he is neither the hottest guy in school nor a part of any love triangle. Wren comes off as shallow, but she has her issues. Nick is a dick. Cath is a mess, but she grows. And these characters work together creating a story undeniably alive.
The reason why I called this book coming-of-age is because I really can’t put it in any other category. It has romance, but it’s not about the romance. It’s marketed so, because that is how this world markets books targeted to the female young ladies, but it really is not. It’s about Cath’s life, which is so much more than just Levi. Cath is not estranged from her family in pursuit of romance; one can even say that she clings to her family so that it’s hard for her to see life beyond it. It is her growth into an adult that is the story here, framed with how she clings to her own fantasy world and is afraid to let fanfiction go, only to realize in the end that she can have both: write original fiction and fanfiction, just like how she can stay in touch with her father and sister and make new friends and live her own life.
It is not what I expected of a book titled Fangirl. I expected the fangirling part to be more prominent, but beyond several scenes and moments that mark Cath as a fangirl, it does not feel like it’s about a fangirl. Which, don’t get me wrong, totally works for this book. It’s just that if you’re expecting for a story that delves into the inner working of fandoms, this story is not it. In fact, the excerpts of Simon Snow and Simon Snow fanfiction scattered in between chapters feel like it’s dragging the story down. I’m sure Rainbow Rowell means to make the excerpts a mirror of the events of the chapter, but it just doesn’t feel so most of the time.
I finished the book with a sigh. It’s not a book I will fangirl about (ha, ha) and even as I close it I felt, well, that was that. Only now typing it down I realize that it is so much better than what it felt reading it, and in that I suppose it is a testament of how realistic its depiction of daily life of a university student is.
*I love that name because, ey, Katharina, Catherine, Cath. Yeah. Completely biased reason.
*Wren is named so because when their mother realizes that she’s having twins, she’s too lazy to think up another name. And so the twins are named Cather and Wren. Catherwren. Catherine. Ha.
So, just like Karina and Chloe and perhaps the rest of the Internet, I’m taking Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge. It has a huge range of reads listed, from a book with magic to a book your mom loves (for this one, I’m afraid I’ll have to pick up the Holy Bible). And because I don’t want my first wordpress post in 2015 — and in months — to be about my damnable chicken pox, I shall write a post about Brian K. Vaughan’s and Fiona Staples’ Saga because it is an epic that deserves all the beautiful praises in all the blog posts.
First, a disclaimer: I do not know what the difference is between comic books and graphic novels. Wikipedia isn’t that much clearer either. Someone said that Neil Gaiman does not write comic books, but graphic novels, and to that the author himself said the commenter “meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”
So, whatever. Graphic novels, comic books, I’m ticking that “graphic novel” box on my reading list.
Fine, so technically I read the first volume of Saga last December (oh look, yet another disclaimer), but I read volume two and three in January and I still have not read volume four because I’m a cheapskate who borrows from Amanda (THANK YOU, AMANDA, I LOVE YOU) and her volume four has not arrived yet.
Ugh, all that disclaimers and openings have muddied this post. Forgive me; it has been a long while since I wrote something more than a hundred words and coherent. Let me introduce Saga in a nutshell: in a galaxy trapped in war (and proxy wars) between two factions, prison guard Alana and war prisoner Marko run off and have a baby and then keep running. In short, it’s practically a family story. It’s even narrated by the freaking baby. Well, after the baby is grown up.
io9 has an excellent post on why you should read Saga, but I’m writing my own list here on why I adore it.
- Its cast of characters. Let me get this out of the way: there are very few characters you can truly hate in Saga. In fact, I don’t think I have hated anyone yet so far. Alana, Marko, Marko’s parents, and Izabel, the ghost who babysits the baby — told you this is a story about family — are all darlings. Distinct, well-rounded darlings. Alana is more brash, less emotionally-savvy than kind, pacifist Marko — brownie points for the beautiful gender stereotype aversion there, Brian — but when Marko enters a berserked rage to protect the family, Alana is the one to shake him out of it. Hell, even the “villains” — and I use those quotation marks to note that they’re not really villains — i.e. the people hunting down our darling family, get their own character arcs. Prince Robot IV is a noble who, due to the job, cannot be there for her pregnant wife, and he really just wants to get the job done.
The Will, a freelancer hired to do the same job, is soon distracted with freeing a child slave in the sex tourism planet Sextillion. Oh, and speaking of Sextillion . . .
- It’s unapologetically explicit. It may be a story about family, but it’s not a story you want to read in front of your family. The explicit content is not just for titillation. Sure, there is a beautiful one-page tastefully sexy scene between Alana and Marko, but most of the time it’s explicit just so it can be crazy. The orgy at the background of the scenes set in Sextillion is maybe a bit too much for most of us. One of the creatures we discover in this very, very rich world is a naked, angry giant with a huge festering penis. It brings the intended effect, which is OH GOD WHY EURGH. Not just sexually explicit, it also is violent. A scene shows The Will put someone’s head between his two hands and, well . . . splat.
- It is brilliant and beautiful and a bit terrifying. This time, let’s talk about the design, because the design and art is top-notch. Brian K. Vaughan writes it, Fiona Staples draws it, and it is magic. I don’t know who came up with the idea of the Stalk, but this is the beauty we have in the end:
Other than that, we have a rocket made of wood, a planet that turn out to be an egg of a scary space monster — and yes, of course it hatches — little baby seal people, and more. Didn’t I tell you? It’s magic. And to end this list . . .
- Lying Cat. Lying cat is the Will’s partner, a giant blue cat who hisses “Lying” if people lie within its earshot. It is amazing and annoying and I want one.
What? You can’t expect me not to put a bling cat that functions as partner and lie detector as an item of its own.
So, yeah. Saga. It is [INSERT POSITIVE ADJECTIVE HERE], go pick it up.
Warning to AMD users out there: if you want to install the Catalyst* graphic driver update… be prepared. It may leave your screen all flickering and fugly. Happened to me last night and I had to bring my baby Nyx** to the ASUS service center.
Maybe this is a good thing, I don’t know. I still haven’t finished Dead Beat and After Dark, and I need to continue plotting my NaNoWriMo novel. Plus I need to read Ender’s Game. My love for anything sci-fi is crazy lately (I blame Mass Effect) so one look at the book and I made an impulsive purchase.
Yep, I can live without my laptop for a week. It’s just the timing! Just Saturday morning I had a chat with my parents about crime. I told them I always carry my tote bag on the sidewalk side, not the street side, in case some bastard snatchers on a motorbike get any ideas. Then that night, in Starbucks CiWalk, Karina’s bag (along with both her cellphones, her laptop, and her wallet) got stolen while we weren’t looking by some hoodlums***. And the next night this shit with my laptop happened.
Anyway, stay safe people. Evil exists everywhere. Including the AMD official website, that decided to go through site maintenance as soon as my installed graphic driver decided to ruin Nyx’s screen.
*should have known the name Catalyst means something bad. Fucking Starchild.
**yes, I name my electronics.
***may their dicks fall off at night.
Lately, what spare time I have is spent reading, and planning, and reading. Currently, I am reading two books (when I need to get away due to boredom/mood swing/emotional reaction to plot points, I switch books): Haruki Murakami’s After Dark and Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7). Quite an odd combo, I know.
Dead Beat is the seventh book in the Dresden Files series. The series is about a wizard named Harry Dresden in modern-day Chicago–no relation to Potter, and the Harry is a reference to Harry Houdini. It actually is nothing like Harry Potter. Think Sherlock Holmes with magic, action, and more snark. Now, this seventh book, like all six books before it, is quirky, fun, fast-paced, mind-blowing. You have necromancers and vampires and faeries–I’m sorry, sidhe–being involved. It is so action-packed at times that reading it exhausts me–just like how Dresden limps home after a long day of exploding buildings, gunshots, magic and whatnot. And so I read the other book: After Dark.
Now, this other book. After Dark. It paints a stark contrast to Jim Butcher’s writing. Murakami opts to tell a story that is slow-paced and surreal. The events unfolding are ordinary: a young woman spending her night reading in a chain restaurant, her sister, sleeping in her home, a love hotel manager taking care of a battered prostitute. Sometimes a scene is filled with a conversation, serving not much purpose to advance the plot, but simply an unraveling of character. Yet slowly you see cracks, hairline cracks all over the eggshell of “realism”. Hints that everything is connected, that a breath drawn by one is somehow related to another’s exhale. And you know, you just know, that there is something deeper sleeping underneath all these, that the plural first-person perspective (“we”, not “I”) hints on something.
After Dark has the nuance Supernova (book one, Ksatria, Putri, dan Bintang Jatuh) tries to imitate–tries, and fails.
Anyway, I digress. I suppose what I was trying to say is that I am planning my novel for NaNoWriMo, and one of the things that happens when I plan is that I read. That will be item number one, I think. So, Things That Happen When I Am Writing (Or Planning):
- I read. It helps. I learn stuffs when I read, even if it is small things like how no, contrary to what most game fanfiction implies, a flesh wound in the leg will most definitely impede your movement. You’re lucky to even be able to walk. And that is just one of the things I learn. I learn even more when I analyze: why does this character do this? What is her background? I will admit one thing: A Feast For Crows bored the hell out of me, but I took delight in all Cersei chapters, because I gained an insight on her character. Yes, she’s a scheming bitch (a description that applies to like 65% or ASOIAF cast) but she has all rights to be, after all the shit patriarchy has given her in her life. (That does not make her smarter, sadly.)
- I go to the weirdest, darkest corners of the internet. It’s not intentional, I swear. Alright, maybe it is. At times. Like this morning when I googled “is it true that a headshot with sniper rifle will make the target’s head explode”–now that was just asking for it. I’m not surprised that it brought me to these TVTropes pages. More often than not, though, I am just researching innocent things: ingredients to a cake, details on some diseases, tech stuffs to make my hacker character realistic. And I end up in TVTropes anyways. Damn you, TVTropes.
- I play mini-games. This stems from the need to play games, and the guilt RPG stems (why are you playing a fullscreen “serious” game Kirana you should be plotting for your novel now STOP PLAYING NOW DO YOU WANT YOUR NANO TO FAIL). So I switch to Candy Crush Saga and exhaust my five lives, then I switch to Minesweeper to wait for the refill. Not that I can’t spend two hours on Minesweeper. I can. Been there, done that. Don’t look at me like that. JK Rowling plays Minesweeper, and she’s really good at it (99 seconds for expert, sheesh), and she’s really good at writing (obviously), so playing Minesweeper will make me a better writer, right? Right? DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT.
- I start reading fanfictions. At one point, in the middle of reading whatever novel I am reading, this odd sense of insecurity will creep up my spine. Dear lord, why are Haruki Murakami, Jim Butcher, JK Rowling, and George RR Martin so perfect? How do they write these stories? Why do I even think I could try doing what they do? Fanfictions ground me. They show me that there are aspiring authors out there, who are also trying just like I do. Their writing skill is more or less on par with my writing skill, sometimes worse (I judge people who spell “definitely” as “definately” and “defiantly”). They make me feel less alone and inferior. Then I will stumble into a very good fanfiction and the insecurity will kick me in the shin again, out of spite.
- I re-read my old stories. By old, I didn’t mean old like seven-eight years ago. I won’t touch my Junior High School writing with a fishing pole, it is so disgusting I have already kept them somewhere the sun doesn’t shine. No, I mean a year, two-year-old stories. I will feel warm and fuzzy to find that I still like some parts of them, and a slight disdain on some other parts. I will see how I can feel disdain, which means my judgement has grown, which means I am now a bit better. Hopefully.
- I find myself watching cat videos. I mean, duh.
- I blog about things that happen when I am planning. Because: a) I am an attention-seeker; b) I find these things amusing; and c) I need to practice my writing but I am not in the mood to write short stories.