Happy Singles Awareness Day

Good evening folks.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter may know this already, but in case you hadn’t heard yet: I, with my infinite clumsiness, managed to fall on my wood stairs and break my nose on sunday.  *sigh*  Yeah… Spent a few hours in the emergency room, only to be told by the doctor that there wasn’t much to be done except apply ice and take lots of pain medication.

As you might be able to imagine, I spent most of today trying to rest, while also trying to get some homework done.  I didn’t really have the energy to write much for the blog today, but I just saw this, and HAD to share it with you.

It’s a poem by the awesome social media guru Kristen Lamb, written ‘specially for all the single people who dread Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you how much I enjoy Valentine’s Day: I’m single, have been for a few years, I traditionally wear black on Valentine’s Day just to be obnoxious, and this year I have a broken nose and two black eyes. Oh Joy.  So, yeah, this poem: brilliant.

Enjoy. And then go check out Kristen Lamb’s original post: here.

Twas the Night Before Valentines…by Kristen Lamb

Twas the night before Valentines, and all through the land

The poor single people were wringing their hands

Handcuffs were hung by the nighties with care

Near the lotions and chocolates and mint underwear.

A day made by Hallmark to sell lots of stuff

Pushing candies and kittens and kisses and fluff

A day that makes “Single” a social disease

Like bubonic or typhoid or chiggers or fleas

And that fat baby Cupid must be on the take

Paid in buckets of cash and red velvet cake.

Love songs are played on every damn station

As “mush” takes over our entire nation.

Now not that we’re jaded, us single-type folk

We’ve tried Facebook and Match, and Equally-Yoked

We’ve tried parks and clubs and churches and bars

And a handful resorted to wishing on stars.

Like most other people, we want company

Without drama or fighting or disharmony.

No Jerry Springer or Kardashian drama

We have no time for all of that trauma.

Maybe we’re picky, world-weary, or fussy

Because we won’t date any Joe Schmo or hussy.

We want someone good-looking, gentle and sweet.

Hey, just cuz we’re single doesn’t make us minced meat.

We don’t begrudge the romance of others

The passion of courtship, the heat between lovers.

Before you judge my singular state

Think back to the days when YOU had to date.

Tomorrow we’ll stand in the grocery store line

Behind the husband with a bottle of wine

And a “Get-Well” bouquet cuz he waited too late

To find the red roses to give to his mate.

Hallmark has trained you to scurry and dash

Into its stores with fistfuls of cash.

For stuffed little critters with a lap full of love

And boxes of chocolate morsels from Dove.

Singles won’t stand hours waiting to dine

On elf food with garnish and overpriced wine.

No chocolates with abnormal tropical middles

Or angst about thighs that may wiggle and jiggle.

No staying in bars desperately late

Trying to connect with a last-minute date.

So embrace your status and shout it out loud.

Yes, I am single! Single and Proud!

The Versatile Blogger Award

EDIT: Due to the fact that wordpress had disappeared all the blogs I follow, I had difficulty thinking of blogs I should include.  Since publishing this post this afternoon, I have thought of one more blog that absolutely MUST be added to my list of nominations.  Even if you’ve already read this post, please scroll down to the bottom to take a look.  Thank you.

In lieu of my usual Bookworm Wednesday post, I have some more news.  My blog was very kindly nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Ashley Prince of the blog Byron’s Curse!  Thank you so much, Ashley!  I really appreciate it.

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

So here goes: Seven Random Things About Amanda Rudd:

1)     I love to watch cartoons.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jane and the Dragon, and Phineas and Ferb are a few of my favorites.  As well as all the old 90s cartoons like Doug, Darkwing Duck, and Rainbow Brite.  I have never understood the mentality that says after you reach a certain age you should stop enjoying things like Saturday morning cartoons; I think that’s just silly.

2)     I have had the same bookbag since 7th grade (for those of you who can’t figure it out that’s 14 years).  It’s plain green canvas, nothing special.  Where most bookbags fall apart after a year or two, this bookbag has only two small holes after all these years, the zipper still works, and I love it.  I can’t imagine ever using any other bookbag and I will probably get the seams sewn back together before I give in and buy a new one.  However, toward the 2nd half the semester, when I have more books and papers to carry around than I can possibly fit in my bookbag, I also have to cart around a medium-sized duffel bag, which is quite literally filled with library books and student papers by finals week.

3)     I do not drive.  I know how.  But I don’t.  After a car accident when I was 19 yrs old, I’ve been afraid to get behind the wheel of a car.  So I carpool and bum rides off friends wherever go.  Which, unfortunately, means I do not go to as many events, parties, etc. that I would like to, but oh well.

4)     When we were little, my brother and I collected all the beanie babies, but our beanie babies were better because they could sing and they formed a gigantic band under the management of my brother’s Big Bad Wolf doll.  Also, I had a four-post bed that functioned as full-fledged pirate ship, flying carpet, the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC 1701-D… as in from Star Trek, not the aircraft carrier), and an island surrounded by sharks and/or lava.

5)     I really do not like sports; I don’t like playing sports and don’t like watching sports.  With a few exceptions: I enjoy watching figure skating (yes, it’s a sport dammit!), I like watching tennis occasionally, and I LOVE watching motorcycle racing.  I’m a big fan of the FIM (International Federation of Motorcycling) and cheer most loudly for Noriyuki Haga, who has raced for Ducati and now races for Aprilia.  He has finished third in the Superbike Championships four times, and won second place three times, but has NEVER won the championship, and is REALLY starting to frustrate me this season.

6)     My hair is the one physical feature I really like about myself.  I have never dyed it or permed it; I do not blow dry it, and I use A LOT of conditioner.  It is currently more than three and a half feet long, and almost (but not quite) reaches to the back of my knees.  (Also, when I was younger I really wished I had my dad’s blue eyes, but now I really wish I looked more like the Japanese side of my family.)

7)     I have known I wanted (downright NEEDED) to be a writer since I was in fourth grade and read The Hobbit for the first time.  I now keep an index of the all the story ideas/premises I come up with.  There are literally 100 of them now.  And my biggest, deepest fear in life is that I will die before I get to write at least half of them.

Okay, so there’s a few random things about me.  There’s plenty more I could say.  I’m a very eclectic (read: mildly insane) person.  But I think at this point you all know more than enough.

As for nominated 15 blogs for the Versatile Blogger Award… Well, I’m not sure I even follow 15 blogs… So I’ve decided I’ll nominate 10 instead.  Of course, WordPress recently disappeared all the blogs I DO follow from my subscriptions list, so it’s going to take a little effort to find them all again.  But here goes:

My Nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1) Jess Witkin’s The Happiness Project: Jess always has fascinating stories to tell, great “Guilty Pleasures” lists, and she’s one of the sweetest most supportive people on WordPress.

2) Angela Write Now: Angela Kulig is cool, tough, and supportive all at once.  She’s the creator of the #writingatgunpoint Twitter hashtag group, and she’s a fantastic writer to boot!

3) Tiffany A. White’s Ooo Factor: Tiffany writes about anything that makes you go “Ooo!” but her best posts, in my humble opinion, are her absolutely fantastic, spot-on TV show reviews, with one of the best and most creative rating systems out there.

4) Gene Lempp’s Blog: Gene’s weekly series “Designing from Bones” which uses archeology and artifacts from human culture to find and create stories is one of my favorite weekly-reads.  And his blog mash-ups are always full of awesome!

5) Kristen Lamb’s Blog: Kristen needs no help from me to generate traffic or gather avid/obsessive followers.  We are all priests/priestesses before the altar of Kristen, who is the Queen of Social Media and just plain AMAZING.

6) Terrible Minds: The same can be said for Chuck Wendig’s Blog.  His profanity-laced, hilarious, and supremely helpful posts about writing have made him a King among indie writers, and he really does need me to tell him how awesome he is.  But I’ll do it anyway.

7) The Feminine Miss Geek: The quintessential geek blog for GIRLS, this blog written by a group of 3 amazing women reminds us all that geekdom is not just a country for boys.  Plenty of girls are citizens too, and we’re damn proud of it.

8) EduClaytion: Clay’s blog covers just about every facet of pop culture you can think, and he does it flair and a great writing style.  He’s also a fellow academic, which makes me awesome in my book, though he’s ahead of me currently as he already has his PhD.  I’ll catch up eventually though!

9) I Read Banned Books: This blog by a librarian has more book reviews than you can shake a stick at! I’m still fairly new to this blog, but its awesome so far.  And the design of the blog just looks AMAZING.

10) The World in the Satin Bag: This blog by Shaun Duke began as an attempt to write an entire novel online, but it has since moved on to become a fantastic blog about various topics related to science fiction, fantasy, and other literary issues.  Shaun’s articles are always thoughtful, intellectual, and fascinating.  I only found him about a month ago, but I’ve been reading through his archives a LOT.

11) Annalise Green’s Blog: I blame WordPress for almost forgetting to include Annalise’s blog, but I absolutely HAD to come back to include it.  It’s brand-spankin’ new but I already love it! Annalise’s style is light-hearted, witty, and goofy.  Seriously, any blog that includes a page dedicated to her love of monkeys and another page dedicated to hatred of moths HAS to be awesome.

Okay, so admittedly, none of these blogs are all that “newly discovered.”  Some I’ve been following for months.  A few I’ve only discovered in that last two months (so I guess that’s still kind of new).  But they are all awesome, and you should go take a look at them.  Now I have to dash off to inform all these people that I nominated them.

I’ll see you all back here for Free-For-All Friday! Have a great day!

What’s On Your Writer’s Shelf? A Beginner’s Guide to Books About Writing

In the last few days, I’ve been privy to a few conversations on Twitter about writing craft books, and it’s got me thinking about my own collection.  I started buying books on writing craft when I was 12 or 13 years old (well, okay, my mother was still buying them for me at that point).  I already knew I wanted to be a writer, and as a birthday present my mother got a year’s subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine – the magazine, of course, came with all sorts of ads about the books that Writer’s Digest publishes, and it became my mission to buy as many as possible.

Sadly, I lost quite a few of my books due to flooding during Hurricane Ike in 2008, and I can’t remember all the craft books I used to have, but I still have a decent number.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Bob Mayer’s The Novel Writer’s Toolkit is an absolute GEM.  For some reason, I remembered buying it when I was like 14 years old, but I can’t have, because I just checked and it didn’t come out until 2003, so I must be a remembering one of the books I lost in the flooding (I don’t know, my memory is screwy these days…).  In any case, I’ve read it 3 or 4 times by now, and it is still one of the best books for dissecting the many different aspects that go into planning, starting, and completing a novel.  (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is another good all-purpose writing advice books, that I would recommend, though its not as good as Bob Mayer’s.)

My second-favorite craft book is How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.  This was actually the very first book I ever got from Writer’s Digest Books.  I knew from the beginning that I really wanted to write sci-fi/fantasy so this book was an obvious first choice.  And a god-send.  With a fantastic section on World-Building that includes such sub-headings as: “developing the rules of your world… and then abiding by them…” and “working out history, language, geography, and customs of your invented world,” and a Story Construction section that includes: “the MICE quotient: milieu, idea, character, event – knowing which is most important in your story will help you decide its proper shape”; this book is a MUST-HAVE for anyone interested in writing speculative fiction.

I also recommend a series of books called Elements of Fiction Writing.  Of this series, I have Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham and Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress.  Both are fantastic resources for learning about and keeping track of the vital bare-bones structural elements of plotting, pacing, and writing.  One of these days I’ll get around to buying the rest of the series…

I also own some wonderful writer’s reference books that come in very handy.  A Writer’s Guide to Places is a great reference book with all kinds of information on various countries, cities, and other locales that you might use in a story.  Obviously, this kind of reference is nothing compared to actually GOING to the places you plan to use, but it’s a good place to start.  Similarly, Careers for Your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zoo Keeper is precisely what it sounds like – a guide to help you with basic info about various jobs your characters could have.  Again, it doesn’t replace more in-depth research, but its great to flip-through when you’re not even sure yet what your character’s job should be.  Both of these books I got from, you guessed it, Writer’s Digest Books (I love that publisher!).

I also own a reference guide called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, which is, obviously, a guide to daily life in 19th Century England.  I bought this when I was ridiculously obsessed with Jane Austen in middle school and high school.  I really wanted to write an Austen-esque story with fantasy elements added in.  Then I discovered that Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer had already done that in their YA historical fantasy novel Sorcery and Cecilia (later followed by The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician).  Maybe someday I’ll still try my hand at such a story, but its not as original an idea as I thought it would be when I was 15 yrs old.

Then there are those books written by authors that are about the writing life.  Not necessarily advice or how-to books about writing, but more about how writing affects your life overall.  Of those kinds of books, I really only own 1: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.  Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, which is why I bought the book.  And it is a beautifully written (of course, it’s Bradbury), insightful, and inspiring look into life as a writer.

I would add that Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, while not strictly-speaking about fiction writing, is VITALLY important for all writers who want to build a platform, find readers, and be taken seriously.  (I’d also add her newest book, Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, but I haven’t read it yet.  It’s on the to-do list.)

(I also own a couple books on writing musicals and lyrics because… you know… I have broad interests and more ambition than I really know what to do with…)

There are SO MANY books I haven’t read yet.  I know everyone tells me I need to read Stephen King’s On Writing, and I’m sure I’ll get around to it someday (though I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of his…).  But no doubt, I am probably missing some very important books, and I definitely need to expand my collection.

So which writing books are on your shelves?  Which ones do you live by?  Which ones would you recommend to others (or to me)?  Thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms are welcome and desired!


The Awesomely Awesome Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Hello all! I spent the day with my mom today — shopping (spending too much money on books as usual), going to lunch, and otherwise relaxing.  I’d hoped to have time to do my blog post in the morning, but we left pretty early, so that didn’t happen, and instead of writing my blog last night I was at Retro Movie Night at the local Movie Tavern watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which was AWESOME on the big screen by the way), so this is a little late, but I’ve got a quick mash-up for you today.  There were some absolutely fantastic articles posted this week, so I thought I’d share a few.

First, a very useful little article that offers advice on “How to get more ‘Likes’ on your book or author Facebook page” by Keri Jo Raz at the blog Book Talk.

Next, “Mistake 91: Run” from the insightful blog What Not to Do as a Writer by Lisa Kilian.

Then, for all the Sci-Fi/Fantasy readers out there, a list of the top nominated works of speculative fiction in 2011 to help you decide what to read next: “For the Win: A Guide to 2011′s Best of the Best” from the blog Stomping on Yeti.

Also, some advice and opinions on self-publishing from the ever-brilliant Bob Mayer“There is Gold in Self-Publishing.”

Next, a fantastic interview with Author James Rollin: “NY Times Best-Selling Cyborg or Human Geek Like Us?” from the Kristen Lamb’s Blog.

And finally two posts from the always hilarious, profane, insane, awesome Chuck Wendig: first, 12 terrifyingly accurate indications for “How to Tell if You’re a Writer,”and second, the funniest blog I’ve read in awhile (I wish I could write like this!) “Blue Eggs from Bitch Chickens (or ‘Scenes from a Farmer’s Market’).”

And there you have it folks!  Go enjoy some absolutely awesomely awesome posts and thank me later.  I’ll see you all back here on Wednesday.  Have a good weekend!

Take the Rule Book and Beat It Bloody

I’ve been seeing a number of blogs around lately that offer rules for writing.  Now, these are extremely helpful in a number of ways, and I’m not saying any of them are wrong.  Far from it, in fact.  For instance, Kristen Lamb’s “Five Common Writing Pitfalls” are perfectly reasonable and very good advice, especially for new writers (and hilarious as always). And Chris Jones’ post entitled simply “No.” makes some very good points.  (Both, however, rail against adverbs which, while I agree can be overdone, I personally find useful in many contexts.)  So, yes, rules and regulations and “don’t’s” are a necessary part of learning to write.

But let me be honest here.  I don’t like rules, regulations, restrictive categories, limitations, etc.  Someone says I can’t do this, or cross that line, or mix these two mutually-exclusive things together, or whatever, and I’m going to do my damnedest to prove them wrong.  I’m a postmodernist, it’s kinda what we do.

Postmodernists laugh in the face of rules and write things like The New York Trilogy (Paul Auster), Blood and Guts in High School (Kathy Acker), Amnesia Moon (Jonathan Lethem), Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon), The Dictionary of the Khazars (Milorad Pavic), etc.  They eschew linearity and unity, ignore boundaries, blur the distinction between high and mass culture, they use pastiche and mimicry.  They break all the rules and in the process create something that is old and new and powerful and playful and mind-numbing and thought-provoking all at once.

I’m not saying I’m anywhere close to being on par with such writers.  But I’m trying to become a writer who can do those things.  So I mix genres, I play around with grammar, I write in sentence fragments and metonomy, I screw with linearity and plot structure.  I break rules.

Of course, you have to KNOW the rules before you can break them. This is vitally important.  The general sentiment is that the artist who can prove they could paint the Mona Lisa if they CHOSE to, is generally left alone to do whatever they want to, even if that means drawing stick-figures.  Prove you know the rules and can follow them with skill, and you can generally get away with breaking them.  You also have to know when it will be effective for the story (and your chosen audience) to break those rules, and when it’s simply best to play along.

I have written, and continue to write, plenty of pieces that are good obedient little things – they follow the rules, they contain conventional grammar, they conform to genre expectations, they play well with others.  But sometimes – more and more often as I grow as a writer and a postmodern scholar – I really really DON’T.  Admittedly, I’m still learning to distinguish which situations, stories, and audiences will be more conducive to which kind of writing.

But the more I learn, the more I feel that all writers should learn how to allow themselves to break the rules – at least sometimes.  Obviously, everyone does to some extent or another, even if only in little things.  But I mean BIG rule-breaking here.  I mean saying ‘screw it’ to convention and boundaries and limitations and genre expectations.  I mean taking that rule book to the back of an alley, beating it bloody, and shooting it in the knee-caps so it can’t follow you back.  I mean freeing yourself from all the don’ts and do’s and allowing yourself to create something that no one has ever seen before.  Read Blood and Guts in High School or Dictionary of the Khazars, you’ll see what I mean.

So, what rules do you like to break, or would be willing to break?  And which rules are sacrosanct?  How far would you be willing to cross the line to tell the story you really want to tell?  And how far do you think readers will allow you to go? (‘Cause, of course, in the end it’s really up to them.)