Category: Forays into Print

Game of Dopes: Me Reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’

Ned Stark from Game of Thrones is a little dumb

I just finished reading A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (that’s Game of Thrones series to you, if you only watch the TV show). Instead of reviewing it, I thought I’d give you a look at what’s going on inside my head as I read these things.

CHARACTER #1: I have a daring plan! It will bring me honor and/or glory!
ME: It’s a dumb plan. It will bring you death.
CHARACTER #1: Nonsense! I’m sure it’ll be fine.
ME: Yeah, that’s what the last guy said.
DEATH: Just so you know, I’m coming to kill you in 3…
CHARACTER #1: Who said that? Must be the wind…
DEATH: 2…
CHARACTER #1: Silence, craven wind-speaker!
DEATH: 1…
CHARACTER #1: Onward! For honor/glory!
*SliceBleedChompBurnSplatFail*
ME and DEATH: I fucking TOLD you.
CHARACTER #1: Oh, oh, I’m dying! Woe! Woe! I totally did not see this coming.
ME: I refuse to feel sorry for you. You’re obviously too dumb to live.
CHARACTER #1: Oh fine then.
*Dies*
CHARACTER #2: Wasn’t that dramatic? Are you moved?
ME: Try annoyed. I’m gonna go read a different book.
CHARACTER #2: Wait! Don’t you want to know what happens to me?
CHARACTER #3: Or me?
ME: Are you as thick as the other guy?
CHARACTER #2: Umm….
CHARACTER #3: Err…
ME: That’s what I thought.
*Leaves*
CHARACTER #2: Wait!
CHARACTER #3: Take us with you!
CHARACTER #2: Poop. I hate it when I don’t get everything I want.
CHARACTER #3: Oh but we CAN have what we want.
CHARACTER #2: How?
CHARACTER #3: I have a plan!
CHARACTER #2: Is it daring?
CHARACTER #3: Without a doubt.
CHARACTER #2: Will it bring us honor and/or glory?
CHARACTER #3: By the bucket! …if it works.
CHARACTER #2: Is this plan ill-conceived?
CHARACTER #3: Possibly. But I’m sure it’ll be fine.
CHARACTER #2: LET’S DO IT.

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Ghost Stories

grey area

Happy Random Friday, everyone! In this edition I want to talk about Grey Area, a ghost story anthology that’s coming out in October (just in time for Halloween). I have a story in it and the publishers (Third Person Press) are running an Indiegogo campaign to pre-sell some books and raise money for the launch.

I’m not begging for your lunch money this time (though you can make a small donation if you want). It’s basically just an opportunity to pre-order your copy with free gifts for doing so like Futureshop might do for the release of a superhero movie. Prizes include stuff like ghost postcards, ghost jewelry, free paper/ebooks from the publisher’s catalog, and writer stuff like email writing courses. Check them out here.

My story for the anthology is called “Grey Area” (the editors liked the name so much they used it for the whole anthology) and it’s about a gambling addict whose untimely death encourages him to turn his life around (so to speak) with the help of some ghostly superpowers. I talk about where I got the idea for it here, so have a look if you’re into ghost stories.

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 7: Remembrance

Today’s teens tend to see veterans as old people who bear no similarities to themselves, but many veterans went off to war when they themselves were teenagers. Nothing drives home this point better than a well-researched piece of historical fiction for young adults like the one featured today.

Remembrance

by Theresa Breslin

This historical novel follows the lives of five Scottish teenagers – two girls and three boys – from the summer of 1915 to the end of the Great War in November of 1918. The characters are fictitious but the units, battles, and situations are not. John Malcolm is old enough to join up right away while his adventurous brother Alex is too young and keeps trying to lie about his age. John Malcom’s sister Maggie and girlfriend Charlotte both get their nursing certificates and go to France to tend to soldiers. Meanwhile Charlotte’s brother Francis, an objector, is first shunned and then drafted. It’s written for teens, but adults will get caught up in the characters’ struggles too as they lose their innocence and some lose their lives. A very moving read.

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 6: Chickenhawk

We would all like for military service to be clean and simple, but often it’s not. Veterans sometimes come home with scars, both mental and physical, and for those of us who haven’t seen what they’ve seen, it can be difficult to know how to help. Some won’t talk about their experiences, but others choose to share them in powerful books like this one.

Chickenhawk

by Robert Mason

Robert Mason was an American helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war. He spent years transporting soldiers across Vietnam, often under heavy fire. This is his memoir. The title comes from his own description of how it felt to do his job – like both a trembling chicken and a deadly hawk. Mason’s story is a perfect example of how war can both make and break a person – sometimes even the same person. Because while the pressures of war forced him to develop incredible piloting skills (or die), he came out the other side too traumatized for his skills to be of much use in civilian life. It is not a technical read but it is a hard one at times, as Mason doesn’t shy away from his worst moments. I count it as one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read.

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 5: Agnes Warner

We all know that women contribute to the military right alongside the men these days, but the actions of women in past conflicts tend to be overshadowed by stories of military men. If your impression of women during the World Wars was that they sat at home wringing their hands over their husbands and sons, this should set you straight.

Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War

by Shawna M. Quinn

This story is partly a reprint of My Beloved Poilus, the collection of letters Agnes wrote to friends in New Brunswick while tending to French soldiers during the Great War, which they published and sold to raise money for her battlefield hospital, and partly a biography compiled later by Shawna Quinn. The book also contains many of her original photographs. Though she went largely unrecognized at home, Agnes’ brave and self-denying efforts to save as many of the wounded as she could earned her several French honors, including the Croix de Guerre. This book is a quick and easy read, and you won’t fail to be impressed by her compassion and dedication.

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 4: Lone Hawk

Don’t like to read? No problem! For those of you who are reluctant readers, there are graphic novels, like today’s Veteran’s Week book list feature, which detail the lives and struggles of some of the world’s best known military veterans.

Lone Hawk: The Story of Air Ace Billy Bishop

by John Lang

Comics have come a long way from the garish superhero serials of our childhoods – modern graphic novels are self-contained stories that are often sober, gritty, and gripping accounts dealing with mature themes and asking important questions. This black and white graphic novel chronicles the life of Billy Bishop, Canada’s top ace in World War I, from his boyhood to his withdrawal from combat near the end of the war. With 72 victories to his name, Billy faced down some of Germany’s best pilots (including the famous Red Baron) as well as the constant danger of flying in unreliable open-cockpit biplanes. This book will draw in readers of almost any age, but is particularly geared toward the middle grades (ages 9-13).

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 3: In All Respects Ready

Everybody knows about the soldiers and the fighter pilots and the nurses, but there are many little-known but critical aspects of military operations you may not be aware of. Today’s entry on the Veteran’s Week book list highlights the contributions of some of these often unrecognized veterans.

In All Respects Ready

by Commander Frederick B. Watt

Did you know that during World War II, the ships that brought Britain the things she couldn’t do without, like airplanes and grain, gathered in Halifax before sailing across the ocean in convoys, braving icy waters and hidden German submarines? It’s true. These ships were staffed by sailors from the Merchant Marine, who were often underpaid and forced to work on antiquated, previously decommissioned ships brought back to help the war effort. They were kept happy – and in line – by the sailors of the Naval Boarding Service, who inspected ships and settled labor disputes. This book is that rare type of historical chronicle – comprehensive without being difficult to read and full of fascinating little true stories. It’s a great read.

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Veteran’s Week Book List Day 2: Pilot Mom

In the minds of many young children, veterans are other people’s daddies, even though combat roles in the modern military go to both women and men. So today’s edition of the Veterans’s Week Book List will be a kids’ edition. The featured book, Pilot Mom acknowledges the fact that veterans can be moms too.

Pilot Mom

by Kathleen Benner Duble

This charming yet informative picture book follows a little girl whose mother is a tanker pilot in the US Air National Guard. During her tour of the base with her mom and best friend, the little girl learns all about her mom’s important job and touches on how her life is different from other kids because her mom has a dangerous job that means she has to be away sometimes in the wars she sees on TV. The book is based on the real life job of the author’s sister, who flies with the MAINEiacs. This is a great book for seven-and-unders to read with a grown-up.

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Vetran’s Week Book List Day 1 – Peacekeeper: Road to Sarajevo

If you don’t know a veteran personally and are too shy to talk to one, it can be difficult to learn about and appreciate all they have done on behalf of others. Last year, I did an article on Remembrance Day movies that can help give you an idea of what things were/are like for veterans. This year, we’ll focus on getting to know a veteran through a book. For the next seven days, I’ll talk about some really great, really accessible, easy-to-read military biographies and memoirs you might want to add to your list.

Peacekeeper: Road to Sarajevo

by Major General Lewis MacKenzie

In old war movies, things are pretty simple. One side fights the other side directly until one of them wins. But the reality of modern war is that often the people who are fighting each other are from the same country, that the lines of battle can’t be drawn on a map, and that stepping in to help sort it out isn’t as easy as it sounds. This memoir, written by Major General Lewis Mackenzie, follows his life up to and including his stint at the head of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. He avoids going into a lot of technical detail but pulls no punches, which really helps the reader understand the difficulties facing modern soldiers, including UN regulations and how the media can shape public opinion of both the war and the soldiers who are caught up in it.

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Casting Books

I’m going camping with my Guides this weekend so I won’t be able to get my review of Rock of Ages out until later on Sunday afternoon. As an apology, I’m going to do a Random Friday post on a disturbing new trend among authors: casting their own books.

Until recently, whenever you read a book you were given basic descriptive information for each character: hair and eye color, build, height, age, identifying marks, clothes, etc. You would then fill in the blanks in your imagination, creating a character that looked appealing (or unappealing, as the case might be) to you, and you ran with it.

Today, though, many authors are so obsessed with dictating their EXACT vision to you that they’ve started casting their own books on their websites. Suzanne Brockmann, author of the Seal Team 16/Troubleshooters books, Sherrilynn Kenyon, author of the Dark Hunter books, Lee Child, who does the Jack Reacher series, and Scholastic, who publishes the 39 Clues books, are just a few of the people who are using models to show their readers who they see when they imagine their own stories.

Or in Sherrilynn Kenyon’s case – entire ARMIES of models


The thing is: books don’t need to be cast. Movies need to be cast because we can’t have a bunch of blank heads walking around on screen.


RON: Hey Harry, did you get a haircut?
HARRY: I have hair?


But casting a book is unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental to the reader’s experience, especially since authors don’t usually have control over their own book covers, so the faces on the books are often not the ones the author has chosen for their site.


SUZANNE BROCKMANN: This is what they look like!
PUBLISHER: No, this is what they look like!
ME: *brain explodes*


I don’t mind seeing a character’s face before I read the book. In fact – I find that if there’s a movie version of a book I get more enjoyment out of both the movie and the book if I watch the movie first so that there won’t be a jarring disconnect between the characters’ looks when I switch from movie to book. This worked out well for me with Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse books.


Screen casting – a lot easier to do when you’re competing against cartoons.


The thing is – when it comes time to make the movie version of the book, the filmmakers aren’t going to hire the author’s random next door neighbor or whoever they chose to model the character for their site or for the book cover. They’re going to hire a professional actor because professional actors can act (well, most of them can) which is going to change the character’s looks again and make fans of the book spew vitriol all over the internet.


”But Ford Prefect isn’t black!” (etc.)




But in the end, who is the viewer going to remember as the “real” character? Not the model the author chose, because a 2D image can’t come close to what a real actor can do in terms of embodying the character traits outlined in the book. Even actors who don’t look like the cover models or the book descriptions can pull their ears when they get nervous or have a squeaky voice or kick a dude in the face like a badass and OWN the character while the most an image can do is pose. This is why so many books use silhouettes or just plain old symbols on the covers.

or if it’s a romance novel – waxed chests topped by hats

It gets even worse when the author retroactively goes back through their book list and casts all their old stuff with models because if you’ve read the books, you already have a clear image in your head of what the characters look like, and it’s not like the models because no two brains are alike.

This young tool is not Jack Reacher, and I will thank you to keep this picture to yourself.

So please, authors – let us use our imaginations. We like it. That’s why we read books in the first place. If we wanted our hands held, we’d turn on the TV.

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