Thursday, December 31, 2009

My 10 Favorite Reads in 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, I am delighted to report (honestly) that I read nearly 400 books in 2009, and wrote one. (This total count does not include the books I read partially for research, or promptly quit due to its poo-ness) This is a personal record (the volume of reading as well as writing a complete first draft of a 90,000 word novel), and I feel pretty proud of both of these accomplishments, especially since I have a young family and a busy schedule.

Some of the (391-ish) books I read were non-fiction, but the overwhelming majority were fiction. A few of the 400 were re-reads (of which I will not count here in my '09 list favorites--though many of the re-reads are on My All Time Favorite Works of Fiction list. I will post that list another day.) and not all are super recent publications (sometimes it takes me a while to get around to them). These are MY favorites that  I read for the first time in '09.  These are the stories that gripped me from the start and stayed with me, that made me feel, and continued to haunt me long after I turned the last page. (I will do my favorite non-fiction list another day...many of them still haunt me as well)

My Favorite Fiction Reads of 2009 (in no particular order):

1) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
2) The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
3) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
4) In The Woods by Tana French
5) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
6) The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
7)  I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
8) The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
9) Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
10) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

~lola
Monday, December 28, 2009

Words, How I Love Thee. (Or the difference between a book I want to read and a steaming pile of feces)

  While soaking my holiday-plumped body in mango scented bubbles this afternoon, I attempted to read a [most dreadful] new book I received from Santa. My mind, as it so often does when trying to muddle through a shit-bomb of a first chapter, wandered and pondered:

 What makes one string of words a magical, enchanting experience and another a string of turds stuck to my dogs butt? 

What makes me want to throw one book across the room by page 2, or [better yet] conversely, what captivates me, what exactly is it that makes me want to praise the Universe/God/gods/[whatever you want to insert here] for the majestic person who wrote such a sublime story that transports me right out of my mango bath and into their world?

For the record, I am a reading/genre omnivore. Let it be known that I DO enjoy light/fun/funny/raunchy humor/rom-com/romance/action-adventure/mystery/thriller/dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi as much as the next guy/girl, lest you think I'm a snob. (Yes, I do love James Joyce, Tolstoy, Dickens, Hardy, and all the other literary greats...very, very much. Yes, I lean towards literary fiction, and literary magical realism/fantasy, but there are masterpieces and gems in every "category"- and stinky pooh in all of them as well.) Evocative prose and good story-telling is my jam. Even with film, even if it's silly, if it's well-written, I'm in. All in. (The Hangover? Good times!) I love my guilty pleasure reading: I want, no NEED, Stephanie to forget Morelli and get back to gettin' busy with Ranger! Those books have me busting out laughing at every turn, even if I'm sitting in the orthodontist's lobby waiting for my spawn to have her teeth rewired. And Sookie needs to forget that lame-ass Bill once-and-for-all. (I lurve me some Eric.) Interesting characters, great pacing and stories that resonate can overcome a lack of pretty/literary writing any day of the week. But for my time and money, it better have most of the above to be worthy of print. 

 There is a certain RARE magic when nearly every sentence is so perfect, so sublime that one must stop and re-read a passage before moving on...a morsel so savory, so succulent that one must luxuriate in every last chewy bit, extract every flavor before moving on to the next orgasmic bite.
That kind of reading/writing is scarce. But that kind of fine dining isn't how you want to eat for every single meal anyway. But I DO want all my meals and snacks to be tasty. I DONT want to eat from a dirty bedpan/read doo-doo.

So, as I marinated in my bath today, after chucking the [fecal] book across the floor (soon to be recycled; I cannot in good conscience pass it on to another. That would just be bad karma.) I thought about what, in my opinion, makes a book reek of sewage.

So, here is my [incomplete] list of my personal Pet Peeves/Writing Don'ts:

1) If the first paragraph begins with the weather or a dream sequence. You'd better have a SUPER fresh take on it to pull either of those off. They're stale.

2) Lazy/sloppy writing. This covers a lot of territory, and if you have to question what it means, there are  many brilliant books on writing well (please start with the classic The Elements of Style by Strunk and White). But I must mention one of my least favorite lazy-writer habits, most often seen in thriller/suspense novels: Using acronyms without first giving us the long-hand version. Don't assume we know what it stands for. It is annoying and frustrating, and I tend to make something up-- when you say AO, and you mean Arresting Officer, but never bothered to tell us that, well, I tend to think it stands for Asshole Offends, and this Asshole is Out!

3) Overuse of: a favorite word, a favorite phrase, cliche and "style". Yes, we all have our "voice",  slang we are smitten with, favorite words tics and punctuation style. I know my bad habit/echo words/phrases and thus I do a search and replace/delete. (And this is exactly why we have a Rough Draft, and the subsequent REWRITEs/EDITing. And why we have editors.) But I've been seeing pubbed books with some sloppy editing lately.  


I'm not trying to be condescending. Honest. I'm just a humble reader trying to learn how to be a good writer. To learn from other's mistakes.

   Here are just a few of the words I personally don't want to see more than once per book (if that):

a) chagrin/chagrined
b) nefarious
c) Oh. My. God. I. Am. So. Tired. Of. This. Make. It. Stop!! Please. Just. Don't.
d) Enough said. (once per book, enough said.)
e) 'aching/throbbing groin/manhood straining against his pants.' Either find a more original way to say this, or skip it. If you can't write a good, fresh sex scene, don't. Fade to black.
f) manhood. Ew. If you're going to talk about it, don't be coy. Or don't talk about it.
g) exclamation points! What we can use casually in blog posts/social media/texts is different than what works in a story. My rule of thumb is unless it's in dialog, there's almost no reason to use one. And even in dialog, it should be used sparingly, and used in a yell or scream for help or something of that nature. Like: "The house is on fire, GET OUT!" Maybe there should be only a 3-4, at most, in a 400 page novel.


4) Pacing. Something interesting should happen on the very first page, and every page thereafter. I am as enamored with eloquent sentences and skillful metaphors as the next girl, but lush prose or not, you must move the story forward... and maybe blow something up or scalp someone.
(Speaking of scalping, wasn't Inglorious Basterds entertaining?! So damn good. But, there were some scenes that dragged. Example: Before the one dude came out of the tunnel, the hitting of the bat against the wall went on just a little too long. There were several times that happened. Yes, one wants to build up tension and suspense, but it can get weird and LONG. If it doesn't add to the story, move it along.)

Yes, there are exceptions to all the rules. :)


Words are things; and a small drop of ink
Falling like dew upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
~ Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)


Happy Reading and Writing,
Lola
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Faux Poe Foes and Christmas Cheer

While spending quality time today wrangling dust bunnies and such in preparation for our up-coming Whoville Whobilation complete with Roast Beast ( prime rib), I found myself doing what I often do when doing such chores...getting lost in various nooks and crannies of my grey matter; sundry thoughts of a meaningful and meaningless nature.

First was the brief note to self of how good we have it. My little fam is healthy, happy and financially stable even in this economy. The house is festive and sparkly, the liquor cabinet is well stocked, and Santa's bag is chock full of wish list goodies for all.

But, me being the greedy, indulgent bitch that I am, instead felt a wee bit melancholy. Why? Because I want the impossible. (that is my way, my nature; I am the frog, or scorpion or...how does that little story go again?) Yeah, so, the impossible. I always want it. I want world peace and a cure for cancer. I want an end to hunger and suffering and poverty everywhere. I want all douche bags to stop being so douche-baggy. I want to hit the Mega Millions and buy my beach crib and travel the world.

But, on a smaller scale, though seemingly as impossible... the cherry on top of my Impossible Sundae if you will, I want Gilmore Girls to come back on the telly. With Amy P and all the original writers and cast. I miss the SH. I miss Kirk, and A Movie By Kirk. I miss both faux Poe's. I miss Michele and his ennui and caustic Paris. I miss smart, witty writing that isnt dumbed down, down, down.

So, in closing, my Christmas/Festivus Miracle would be to end all war and hunger and hang out in the SH...impossible.

I'll settle for chocolate cake.

And books.




      May All Your Christmas Miracles come to fruition!
Peace and Love,
lola
Friday, December 18, 2009

Watcha Know About Me? Watcha, Watcha Know? (My Lipgloss Be Poppin)

Happy Holidays(daze?) my homies!

I love (random order):

lush prose
rope swings
cobblestone streets
secret courtyard gardens
twinkle lights
live oaks draped in spanish moss
oyster roasts on the beach
lipgloss
handwritten letters
seaside cottages
libraries
street cafes
reading in the bathtub/bed
tree houses
writing
music
dark chocolate
bookstores
coffee (cream and sugar please)
chocolate coke-cola cake
flower-boxes spilling with flowers
Anthropologie (the store)
my love-puppy
a good cut, color and blowout
the Big box o' crayola crayons...love the smell, the names of the colors
vintage typewriters and cameras
arched bridges
vinyl records
my MacBook


I hate:

(that I still get) zits
greed and corruption
dirty bathrooms...ewwww
when people drive slow in the fast lane and stay there
my lack of patience
my lack of computer skills
when my pillow gets hot
that french fries dont count as a healthy vegetable
war
when people talk (loudly) on their cellphones in bookstores/restaurants/almost anywhere in public...or use them while driving.

socks in bed...ewww


Peace out,
lola















May your pen be mighty

May your pen be mighty

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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