I ran all night and day…

I couldn’t get away!

(5 points to everyone that knows what song I’m referencing!)

Okay, so a few months ago I disappeared off the face of blogdom. Why? Because I had to create a 80+ page document also known as a thesis and if any of you have ever written a thesis, you’ll know what it’s like, for those that haven’t… well, I’ll attempt to explain what it entails.

Torture.

I read a ton of books this year (I’m at 42 so far for the year) and on top of reading tons of books, I’ve also read a ton of articles. I had to educate myself on my topic which I discussed via free-type in February. My topic was honesty in writing, figuring out what it is and how to ensure my writing has it. So, basically I was constantly reading and writing and re-writing. I have never spent so much time on any other single thing in my life. The result?

I became a Master. Yes, after many stressful months, I did indeed get the damn thing done as we like to say in our department.

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t 100% stressful… I did go to Disney World in March!

Since graduating, I have done nothing but read, scrapbook, and play Civilization V.

I have a bunch of books to get through for my ERC progress so stay tuned for those. My scrapbooking is a secret because they’re Christmas presents and I don’t want anyone to see. I will say that doing a scrapbook in triplicate is… expensive and frustrating. It’s like running for 3 miles but only making 1 mile progress. And when it comes to Civ V, well I’m currently working my way through as many achievements as I can achieve on Steam (you can add me if you’re on there, melsocool).

This week, I’m flying home to PA, so I’ll try to keep you updated. After that I have a month before I start a teaching internship to hopefully finish my certification for teaching. During all of that, I’m going to keep chugging away at my novel and updating you on that.

So, that’s all I have for today. I’m sorry about the absence but sometimes you really can’t do it all. Thanks for coming back to check out my site!

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

It’s been a while, a long while. Well, I’m sorry. Next week, I’ll explain where I was but for now, here’s an update of of my progress in the ERC.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Having never read a Sherklock Holmes novel makes my adventure into House of Silk strange because I am well acquainted with his many, many popular incarnations throughout the media today (and my childhood). That said, I probably will check out the originals after this because it was quite fun and has been said to stay in the same vein (albeit 2x longer for current audiences).

I found Watson and Holmes interesting characters to read and tried very hard to separate them from the BBC’s Watson and Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s interpretation, though I think the BBC’s modernized men would fit quite well into Horowitz’s world. The story line shocked me but overall the book was really enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it and would love to hear what Holmes’s fans have to say about it!

Extremes: Surviving the World's Harshest Environments

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Middleton’s book is a telling of how some indigenous peoples live in extreme environments. I read this to research survival to help my boss write a survival unit. Middleton is a geographer so he has a great perspective on the actual environments but he’s also entertaining to read. He has the knowledge but knows he’s a Brit that couldn’t survive a day on his own. If you want to learn a little about the world, specifically Greenland (arctic wasteland), the Congo (jungle), the Tenere Desert (part of the Sahara), and Papua (swamp). I kept a great many notes to help me with my book so this is a great piece for research when world-building.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’d heard good things about this book, it even has a 3.99/5 on Goodreads.com! You know what though? That was all phooey. It is a bad book. The “mystery” is melodramatic and a bad play at a crazy dystopian-style experiment. The main character is horrible and unrelatable. I have one word to explain this book and that word is “stupid” if I’m going to expend a few more, those would be “a waste of time.” If you’re curious, read the Wikipedia page for it.

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is another book I did on survival research and it’s amazing. Written this time from the point of view of an adventure-seeking medical doctor, Kamler explains quite a few things about surviving in extreme cold, extreme heat, and many other (including space). It’s another book that is not only entertaining but educational. Another one to keep an eye on for world-building research!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a bit on the fence about this book. I may read the sequel in the future, if I get through a bunch of other books and I remember to come back to it. The thing is that the main character has blue hair. Now, I recognize that it’s explained and yada yada yada but there is just something about characters having blue hair that bothers me. I don’t know what it is, it’s a me thing. Anyway, this is a decent story. It’s got a lot of interesting plot points but I feel like it’s only touches the surface of the story. If I had the sequel on my night stand, I’d read it. But I don’t and I’m not rushing out to buy it any time soon.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sedaris’s memoir is entertaining. I wouldn’t call it a comedy because I didn’t laugh out loud at it at all and definitely not as much as other books. That said, it’s a good read. Sedaris is a good story teller with great moments to talk about in his life. I find his honesty enjoyable and the truth behind his experiences is really cool, for lack of a better word. He has some really unique experiences but he moves through them as a lazy human that makes the stories real and relatable.

Honesty in Writing: A Freetype

Today, I’m going to take a few minutes to just type up some ideas I’ve been incubating for my thesis in a freetype (YEP NEW WORD, got that world, you credit me in the next 50bajillion books on freetyping ((this is a freewrite but typing, how didn’t you know that?)).

Honesty in writing, honesty in writing. what does that mean? what could it mean? other than… to be honest? honest in what? only ever tell the truth? the truth about…? a made up character. what’s the truth about Alice? who is she? if she’s made up, living in my head, then can I tell a lie? who will know? the reader will know. how? because she’ll fall off the page and slither down to the floor and lie limp forever a stick figure on a piece of lifeless paper but but but if I tell the truth about Alice, Alice will flutter away like a paper butterfly but I don’t like butterflies, I mean, I do, who doesn’t but I don’t have a feminine obsession with butterflies during which i ooooh ahhh and coo. I just think, hey that think, that thing with the wings that flies, it’s pretty. Why is it called a butterfly? Well, this is really not about honesty BUT it’s honestly where my mind went. this should be cut. this too. okay back on topic.

William. What lies have I told about William? I’ve made him a different person than he was supposed to be originally. Used to be he was this polite young man who had a job to do and he tries to get the best people to do it. now, he’s a poor little rich kid (though he doesn’t think so, he’s not whiney or anything geesh) that wants to risk life and limb to go on some adventure predominately populated by his best friend and the love of his life who he can’t seem to figure out. the lie is that he’s straddling this fence–he’s either confident or he’s not. he can’t be confident about this stupid expedition that’s killed like over a hundred people and be afraid of Alice. that’s just silly. but that’s what I wrote.

Okay, honesty, honesty in writing. Where is my voice? is it here on the page? how can i find it? how can I separate my voice from the voice of other hilarious (yes I am funny) and witty and intelligent people? do they all sound the same to me? the only way i know it’s my writing is because I (CAPITOL I) have written it. would I be able to pick MY writing out if I jumbled it up with someone else’s? yes because i know what I write about. I write about certain things certain ways but more importantly I remember everything that I’ve written. mostly. I think. maybe in 50 years I’ll be able to look back at some book someone else wrote about my life and say, in a very urkel voice (though my biographer will surely not know to whom I am alluding unless she’s read this blog post at which point she SHOULD KNOW) “did I write that?” and she (or he) will say, yes, yes ma’am you did. Then, promptly, I’ll stone cold stare him down until he says, “miss, sorry, miss.”

This is just the laziest blog post ever. I mean. Really. I just thought, hey, I’m going to free write about something and not really deliver ANYTHING insightful about writing other than–this is what it looks like when I freewritetype. It’s honest though. I mean. Right now, I’m thinking: who would want to read this crap? And yet here (or there) you sit reading it. Why?

So there are a lot of writers that write about writing and when they write about writing they write about honesty and sitting down and not lying. Anne Lamont says, in Bird by Bird, (see how easily I quote now, keep watching, it gets better (I have to admit at some point I thought I misspelled gets and backspaced to write kets, wtf?)) that the reader will know when you’re lying AND that one must push themselves to open the door no one wants to open. This is a great prompt, write about that door, YOU, now (well, not RIGHT NOW), but please do and let me read the results. Further, it makes me wonder, what doors have I left shut? I don’t know… I really don’t. I will have to freetype about that one some other time.

Stephen King writes about it in On Writing, about coming to the page with serious intent and making sure to be honest. Good writing is honest, Donald Murray said that in his book A Writer Teaches Writing (three citations so far in this freetype, see how my life is lately? this is just how I think now. I recall articles and books I’ve read and include them even in my freetypes) that good writing is honest writing. But, I still… after 829 words have yet to figure out what I want to talk about and what I mean in my thesis.

Okay. I think this is enough now. Good bye.

Additionally, please leave me a comment about what that phrase HONESTY IN WRITING means to YOU. Please, I really would appreciate your insight. No questions though, there are dumb questions and I don’t want to risk it. No, I’m kidding. Go ahead. I’ll answer dumb questions.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I have made even more progress reading! I really want to make my 100 books this year, so I have to keep plugging away!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

So, I picked this up because my friend Rachel recommended it to help me write my thesis. I loved King’s sense of humor, his honesty that wasn’t honesty for shock value, just honesty because life is what it is. I found quite a few lines in On Writing that floored me, particularly when he spoke on writing groups/workshops:

It seems to occur to few of the attendees that if you have a feeling you just can’t describe, you might just be, I don’t know, kind of like, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong fucking class.

I had to send a text out to my friends with that quote because, well, that’s my attitude. I was floored. I am wondering if I’m related to Stephen King at this point.

Anyway, that said, I’m really interested in checking out some of his stories despite the fact that I’ve shied away from his work my whole life. I haven’t figured out where to start with his work yet, but when I have some time, I’ll sift through and dig in.

Also, bonus, this fits into the “memoir” category for the ERC! Progress!

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

There is a reason I avoid bandwagon books (like Stephen King), and I feel that reason seems shallow but really it’s brought on by really, really shitty books like those by Cassandra Clare riding the coattails of Harry Potter and Twilight or by Stephanie Meyers riding the coattails of Harry Potter and Sookie Stackhouse. Sometimes, I give into the bandwagon and am happily surprised. This, like my tryst with Stephen King, was a happy surprise. While I’d place Divergent as a mix of Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Uglies, it’s great.

Divergent features a society divided into 5 virtues(honesty, bravery, selflessness, knowledge, and peace) and technically a conglomeration of vices (those who couldn’t decide or who couldn’t cut it). We hone in on Tris who is from the selfless faction but she decides to mix it up. I liked Tris, I liked Four better (and I like the name Four, his “real” name is just not right). I would’ve liked to care more about her friends, would’ve liked to understand the disparities in technology a little more (maybe Insurgent will hook me up). But the bottom line is this is a great first novel for a young writer. It’s got a lot of great pieces and I intend to watch Roth as she develops, hopefully she moves forward.

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I wanted to put this book off because the third book isn’t out and I hate waiting but I got bored and curious so I read it. In one day. Anyway, now that you can see what my schedule is like, let’s talk about this sequel. I’m not sure how many books are left in this series but I hope it doesn’t drag on and on. This book picks up hours, maybe, after Divergent and surprisingly, has a really good storyline to accompany it. Surprising because it could’ve gone downhill but Roth shook up the character arcs well enough to make it worth reading. I think she could use some development of the side characters, but I’m really in love with what she’s doing especially at such a young age. The main characters, Tris and Four, continue to grow and act so well, I’m in love with both of these characters.

I was curious as to what was going on in this isolated world but Roth’s reveal left me feeling disappointed and confused. The hard thing about dystopias is the reveal of what has happened to the world to get here and Roth, maybe mistakenly, made it too focal in this story without enough umph. We’ll see how she plays it out in the third book because despite the minor let down, I’m still excited to read it!

Why I Write

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this up again for my thesis and though it had a few pages dedicated to writing that had some really great lines–the majority of it was an essay on politics in Britain. I love Orwell but Penguin chose to label this book, “Why I Write” though it barely touched on writing pushing it to a solid 3/5 for me. Would I recommend it? No, it wasn’t really that insightful into Orwell’s writing process so wasn’t really interesting. In fact, when the cat spilled water on it, I said to my husband, “Oh that’s okay,” with a shrug.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I chose this memoir on writing (and running) by Murakami because I fell in love with Norwegian Wood in high school and thought that I’d check out his thoughts on writing. The book is an interesting adventure into the mind of a professional novelist who had no formal training, has no writer friends, and runs so that he can write more. I love Murakami’s style, he writes with a genuine, calm honesty. I’m planning on picking up some more of his novels in the future. Also, this is an in translation book so cross that genre off the list (though I still have more books to check out in that genre!).

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a huge fan of Bradbury’s work and have been since high school so when searing for books on writers by writers, I immediately gravitated towards Bradbury. His essays are different than the work I’ve read in terms of the voice. His joking, excited style in his memoir doesn’t match that of Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles which is probably a good thing. It’s kind of awesome to see the excitement with which he talks about his writing which is so similar to that of myself and the writers I surround myself with.

This is a window into Bradbury’s process which provides yet another option for the emerging writer to explore. I find it interesting how he uses his life to spawn stories, and the honesty with which he must have to write to do his wild imaginings justice. Definitely a book worth checking out!

Late Post

Have you ever listened to a song that you’ve heard and sung along with multiple times and then one time, at one moment–it clicks? Songs are written to convey something, but that doesn’t mean listeners always get it, especially not right away.

Tonight I was listening to Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” and I got it. I don’t know if it was the snow, the bonafide snow that falls so quick and so thick you just know, that in a few hours, your world is going to be a new place. You quite literally will be transported somewhere else where a dark road in the dead of night is an interstellar flight to a winter wonderland. I don’t know if it was that, but I think that promise put my mind in the right place. That place was to understand the meaning of the song, at least as I see it.

Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

I’m learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down

I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Learning to fly is about learning to be happy. Good comes and good goes, but being happy, not euphoric, not ecstatic, is something some have to learn to do. There are no wings, there is nothing that can put you up there. It’s just you, learning to be happy.

This reminded me of Arthur Dent who, to fly, had to simply forget to fall. As you throw yourself at the ground, you must be distracted by something as you plummet towards the ground. What does this say about happiness, if the symbolism follows through? That it can’t be forced. One must learn, that as they fall, to look for the distractions. I’m not sure if the two tie together, but for me, there is a simple lesson about happiness in both.

You can learn to fly, or you can develop a knack for missing the ground. Either way, be happy. Happiness isn’t the euphoria of our best moments, but the acceptance and enjoyment of the moments in between.

 

Though this isn’t about writing, this is something I felt compelled to share. I hope your Saturday brings you a wingless flight or forgetful fall.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I committed to Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge and have been chugging right along making progress, though I haven’t really gotten completely eclectic yet. So far I’ve been bouncing around the same genre’s but that’s okay. I have all year to get there.

One book I’ve committed to reading, Anna Karenina, is taking a long, long, long, long time because it’s really long and really slow and kind of like a lullaby. So whenever Goodreads tells me I’m ahead of schedule for my 100 books goal, I go back to it. So, after a few days on Anna Karenina (and only 10% progress), I started on some more books.

Miss Me Not

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon

Miss Me Not is an independently published novel only available in ebook format.

When I started Miss Me Not, I hated the narrator/MC. Her negative attitude was all too familiar in a bad sense, but something kept me going. When I finished the book, King had successfully used Madison’s negative attitude on life and helped her find happiness in completely legitimate ways (confronting issues, counseling, and work) that made it work. I felt like her writing could use some work, but this book was a good read.

One thing that threw me was the “New Adult” genre tag. This was supposed to fit in my ERC category but its definitely too young for NA. The MC, Madison, is a high school senior dealing with issues that meet YA. It’s good, just not NA.

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this book for the Romantic Suspense category. I was pleasantly surprised. The main character, Charley Davidson (yes, like the motorcycle), reminded me strongly of Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (which I reviewed in January). I liked Charley a little more, she was less cheesy and fit into my personality more. Every since Dead Like Me, I’ve loved the idea of a grim reaper, which made the character of Charley really fun to get into.

At the end of the book, however, I’m feeling like Jones should’ve spent more time with the mystery of the story and less on the “oh, this strange attraction to the mystery man.” It started as a focus on the mystery but that faded away, which I didn’t mind until the end.

A Writer Teaches Writing

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This book was my epiphany book. I read the first half and was scribbling in the margins constantly as I read each line, each paragraph. Most valuable to me was Murray’s revelation of the writing process. I have read a lot of books about teaching writing and a few on writing, but none so perfectly summed up the writing process like Murray so much so that I feel lighter and more prepared for writing more now than I ever have in my life.

If you are a writer, read this book because it helps you to understand your writing process, but to help you develop your reading of your own writing and others. You will become, if you read this book, a writer and a teacher of writing. Don’t say, “I don’t need to teach writing,” because your first pupil will be you. So yes, you do need to know how to teach writing to yourself and to your writing buddies. If you are a teacher, read this book and keep in mind that when you talk about writing, it’s all abstract until you do it. So don’t think this will help you to become a better writing teacher without actually writing–it won’t, because it will be abstract and useless until you heed Murray’s (and countless other’s) advice.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I am on the fence about this book. I like some of the ideas Lamott shares but they’re mired in these ideas and personal philosophies and quirky (look at me) stories I didn’t like trudging through. I read the book for my thesis and will use it but I won’t recommend this book. It reminded me of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones but instead of inspiring me to write, I felt drained.

This did inspire me to think about honesty, which is a virtue that comes easily to me most of the time (and by easily, I mean it perches on my shoulder, the ever obnoxious parrot). But there is an honesty that is, at it’s core, honest, and honesty that is not and this is decided by it’s delivery. There is inherit in the Lamott’s delivery this showy side of pointing out the hardships and the oddities of her life with a false, flashy bravado. I started Stephen King’s On Writing and he has the honesty I employ, the honest honesty that when delivered is not meant to hurt, just be honest because it just is. It is not to be looked on with pity or sorrow. It just is. SO, as I told a friend, even my virtues have virtues.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

WHILE the main character, Temperance Brennan, DOES share a name and occupation with our TV favorite, Bones, that’s where the comparison’s stop. I aint mad, bro. I really liked Reich’s writing, I liked the story, I liked the description, I liked that I read it in Emily Deschanel’s voice. I missed the characters from Bones, but that’s alright because I watch the show. I don’t need to double up on this one (which is exactly how I feel about the Sookie Stackhouse novels). I don’t know when I’ll pick up another novel in this series, but I will.

Link: Goodreads.com

I’m just putting this book in here to say, guys, this is the kind of stuff I have to read to do my thesis that I can’t even say, “Yeah, I’d recommend this book for pleasure reading.” I can’t. I can recommend that if your local library has it, that you browse through it and recognize that we’re all scientific researchers using the heuristic research design. Yep. I’m not even kidding. If you need a design for a study, this is easy-I’d-rather-just-write-a-novel-so-I-did-now-how-do-I-pretend-it’s-a-thesis research. That’s Moustakas, you’re one part of the equation to why I’m going to graduate in May.

Also, you can’t get more eclectic than a book on scientific research next to some a murder mystery, just sayin.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of “What Melanie is Reading.” See you next time, folks!

On Canceling Wednesday Posts

Hey guys, I love to update my blog three times a week and further I really love Reblog Wednesdays but right now, I’m lost in the Dead Marshes of Thesis writing. This month, at least, I have to cancel one post a week. That means no more Reblog Wednesdays.

I will give you an update of my thesis. Right now I’m just collecting data, still working through “A Writer Teaches Writing” that I mentioned Monday, I read a few articles and have a bunch more to get through before the end of the day. I’m really focusing on writing and what it means to be a a writing writing teacher. Because I also work as an editor, I’m developing my understanding of what it means to be an editor, because effectively that’s what a writing writing teacher is.

My brain is going around and round like the beginning of a galaxy, quite figuratively, my mind is blown by all the work I’ve been reading.

I also have a class in which I have 5+ articles to read a week, a paper to write (on writing, no less), and two books to critique. And last but not least, I got a GA position helping my prof research (adding 10 hours a week of reading and researching to my schedule).

I’m not being neglectful, I’m being a good graduate student.