Book Review: HP Lovecraft, a Challenge Completed!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

While waiting out the hours till the sun sets and the trick or treaters come out, I thought it would be the perfect timing to talk to you all about our first monthly challenge together: October Challenge, complete!

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I read through HP Lovecraft’s anthology (granted, it’s not all of his shimage1 (4)ort stories that he had published) this past month, and I absolutely loved every bit of it. Lovecraft is known for his breathtaking, unique approach to telling ghost stories. It’s not about jump scares or gore or anything too twisted. He takes reality and bends it just so to play mind games with the reader and the characters. It seems like the main characters always go through some tortuous adventure where their sanity is questioned, and then in the last couple of pages in the story, the audience is gripped in this horrifying story that comes to terrible conclusions. Although he used this technique through out most of his stories, I feel like Lovecraft is truly a pioneer in the horror genre and made each story it’s own.

Most people know about the Cthulu mythos (and yes! That’s a Cthulu POP Vinyl <3), but a fair few of the stories that I read most intrigued me because of their paranormal influences. I think my favorite short stories wimage2 - Copyere The Thing on the Doorstep, Cool Air, In the Vault, and The Rats in the Walls. I know there are more of his short stories out there that are cult classics, but those are some that stuck with me the most.

Lovecraft was exceptionally forward thinking when it came to storytelling, but he was definitely stuck in cultural influence when it came to sexist and racist themes. It kind of bothered me that he was so bigoted in his writings (and so freely threw around some horrible lines in regards to women and other races), so that definitely got me while I was reading. If people are especially sensitive about these themes, I’d tell them to shy away from Lovecraft’s writings.

All in all, I’d give Lovecraft a solid 9/10 in terms of classic literature and influence. His prose was poetic, magnetic, and terrifying, but his bigoted views were almost as unsettling as the ghosts. Give him a shot if you want to read something classic and entertaining!

Until next time, and have a very safe and spooky Halloween 🙂

Live,

Morgan Paige

Participating in NaNoWriMo: Advice and Techniques.

Does anyone else feel like torturing themselves? Why not NaNoWriMo? 😀

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner… and this is the second year I’ve committed to it (the first year I’ve actually signed up on the website, though!).NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is an event in which writers are tasked with the FUN goal of writing a whole novel (or 50,000 words) during the month of November. It’s a daunting task for anyone who isn’t Stephen King (who writes 2,000-3,000 words a day as it is), but has been successfully set up by its creators as a community with a VERY strong support system. I’ve received a fair amount of emails designed to bolster my confidence and build a strong foundation of literary and communal expectations, which is honestly one of reasons why I think this event has gotten to popular.

A good amount of authors who have finished NaNoWriMo have actually gone ahead and published their feverishly written stories. Goodreads has a list of these stories, some of the more famous being Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. I don’t think NaNoWriMo should be tackled from an author who expects to be published, though. I feel like the sheer goal of writing 50,000 words in one month should be the focus, after the commitment to the story itself. That is what’s important here: the story you’re trying to get out. And so, in all my preparation and my small amount of experience, I’ve found and received some advice that I’d thought I’d share with you all in case you are also considering taking part this year.

  1. Plan it out! You don’t want to write the first chapter and then sit there wondering why you have writer’s block… A general outline of the story/ what the characters can expect/ themes to be discussed would be a good foundation to build (and this is honestly where I failed last time I tried to write a story in November- so much writers block!).
  2. Draw a map. No matter what genre you’re writing, a map would be a fantastic visual starting point for your story. It gives you a general sense of where you’re taking your characters and how involved you will need to get in describing your scenery. Whether your detective character suddenly has to visit a farm outside of his usual city abode or your main character gets kicked out of his house and has to wander the street for a night, the map will help your own brain prepare for whatever kind of senses your characters will be experiencing.
  3. Write an unused scene. This is actually one of my favorite pieces of advice. If you’re writing a new story with a new character (and you should be), you don’t really know how your character is going to react in certain situations or how they are going to deal with the obstacles you throw them. Take your main character and put him/her in a situation that will help add substance to his/her back story. This way, not only do you know what to expect in your story-writing, you will also have a solid foundation on how your character will act.
  4. Keep writing. Up until November 1st, make sure you keep your mind sharp. Whether you’re writing short poems or responding to writing prompts, just keep those creative juices flowing. You won’t burn out, I promise you. If anything, you’ll be warmed up and ready to jump into those crazy days in the month ahead!
  5. Don’t fret over word count. Sure, the word count is the thing that makes NaNoWriMo what it is. But if you fall 500 words short one day or miss a day completely, don’t give up. Every day is different and you’ll find that some days you will overdo your goal and some days will be a total bust. If word count is what’s so important to you, work on something else. You’ll still get the number, and you might even find inspiration where you never expected it.
  6. Keep reading! If there’s anything that keeps my creativity in the right frame of mind, it’s other stories. I don’t have to even read something that’s in my genre, just as long as it’s captivating (I’ve been on a horror kick, lately, and my story definitely isn’t scary).

I hope these thoughts are helpful, I will be posting more throughout the next couple of weeks to keep in touch and chat with you all about NaNoWriMo progress. Is it anyone else’s first time? Or are most of you seasoned veterans and find this pieces of advice to be laughable? I’d love to hear more ideas and perspectives!

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Book Review: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians

It seems fitting that I would finish this book on a Monday on my ride into work… utterly disappointing start to an utterly disappointing day.

Instead of reading this book, I decided to listen to an audio version of it on my commute, and it took a lot of willpower to actually get through the story. I know that some audiobooks just automatically turn me off because of the quality of the voice actor, but this story was a wild ride of cringe-worthy chapters, sparsely well-written sentences, and face-palm inducing story-lines. The voice actor was decent compared to the narration he was told to recite.

Grossman promoted this story to be the “grown-up Harry Potter,” which truly intrigued me. I was ready for something gritty and realistic, but what I feel was presented was something jaded and unimaginative. The story follows the protagonist, a neck-beard of a boy named Quentin Coldwater, who gets into a Magic College called Brakebills. Students are transported there by way of magical routes that are only open to students at certain times of the year and vary each semester/returning year. The school runs for five years, and he meets a group of students that he gets paired with by way of magical discipline He manages to find a girlfriend and eventually discovers that the Magical world he grew up believing in (Fillery) is actually real.

The actual structure of the story is fun and different. It spans the entire five years at Brakebills including the years following graduation where Quentin and his friends are freed into the real world. Grossman also writes about their discovery of Fillery and the inevitable aftermath of the magical world on their lives as adults. The diversity of the side characters was incredibly well done and they were honestly the reason why I made it through the story- I don’t believe that main characters have to be likeable, but they have to keep your audience invested. For example, I really don’t like what the main character in Flowers for Algernon becomes, but it is one of my favorite books because I was so involved in his life. Quentin, on the other hand, made me so uninterested in the plot of the book and the magical world that he lived in.

Quentin as a character was understandable and real, but that really doesn’t mean he was the right choice for a main character. There was no arc (I feel he was as self-loathing and misery-loving as he was in the beginning) and he was the epitome of “first-world problems.” Oh you don’t like your parents because they love each other? Why kind of self-pitying character is this? Quentin wasn’t even given a clear desire in this book… at first I thought it was that he wanted to be happy, but he really didn’t even want that. He didn’t make any decisions or have any thoughts related to his own or his friends’ wellbeing. So objectively, that would mean that he wanted to be miserable, right? Well, he succeeded in that all by himself, with or without the entire magical story plot- so what even was the point of the book?

There were a couple of really fantastic lines in The Magicians, which makes me think that Grossman might have better stories in his future, but there were some scenes that literally made me question how this book even got published.

A scene built upon magical exposition should succeed in one of two things:
1) the world should be further explained, or
2) the main character should be learning something/ the story should be moving forward.
Exposition, in itself, is unsuccessful and should be avoided. However, Grossman managed to get away with a scene that genuinely made me belly laugh my way into work because of its sheer absurdity, its blatant lack of necessity to the story, and its biological inaccuracy. I am always open to a scene that further describes the world that the author is trying to create, but the magical shape-shifting in this story just killed my desire to understand anything about the novel.

I honestly didn’t enjoy this novel, despite Grossman’s apparent knack for powerful phrases/ singular sentences. His potential and the side characters are what kept me going through the novel, but his main character and the generally absurd/pointless storyline made it monotonous. Overall, 2/5 stars for the audiobook of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Classics for a Green Reader

Classics for a Green Reader

I’m pretty sure most of you know this feeling; you’re a reader, a minority in a television-watching, video-game playing world. Most of the adults in your life have found you sitting in the same place for hours on end and tell you to “make sure you do something productive today.” You’ve been looked at strangely for your peculiar vocabulary, have lost track of time and missed meals because of gripping cliffhangers, and been one of the first in line at a book store on a premier day instead of at a social gathering.

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You see, this feeling is balanced (in my opinion) by the few times your reading actually catches someone’s attention for the right reasons. They ask you why you like that author, that book, that genre, because they happen to catch you reading in passing. You can share your knowledge and your passion with someone who understands, and in turn maybe learn something about a book you’d never think to pick up.

I actually had been given this exact opportunity just recently, which is the reason why I thought I’d reach out to you all. I was asked by my out-doorsy, music-loving, anti-reader of a brother to suggest some American Classics for his trip abroad. How fantastic, I thought, he wants to bring with him a literary piece of our country while he’s away from home.

Following that gleam of insight, however, came a well of thoughts and emotions that was hard to grasp in a single moment. Firstly, I was filled with bubbly excitement (he’s been making fun of me for YEARS for choosing to spend my free time with my nose in a book. FINALLY he understands!) mixed with unsurmountable terror (American Classics… for someone who hates reading…).

I’ve honestly put this project off for about a week, because the sheer scope of literature that spans American history is enormous, but the amount that my little brother would actually enjoy? Gulp.

So he gave me some parameters: it had to be a classic, and it couldn’t be someone who wrote like Henry David Thoreau (my brother equated Walden to one giant run-on sentence, and I don’t really blame him). At least he told me which genre he wanted and he sort of trusted me with my selections… but it didn’t stop me from spending the better part of a day at Barnes and Noble. Personally, I haven’t spent too much time reading American Classics. I did read a few in high school and I got a good crash course in my post-graduate classes, but that doesn’t make me an expert in the LEAST.

For those of you who have read a few classics, which authors do you think would be the most fitting in this sort of situation? Some of the most popular authors are:

  1. Mark Twain
  2. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Harper Lee
  4. D. Salinger
  5. John Steinbeck
  6. Ernest Hemingway
  7. Edgar Allen Poe
  8. Margaret Mitchell
  9. Walt Whitman
  10. Robert Frost

classics

To be honest, I knew I wanted to get him something gritty and edgy. I thought about some of his favorite TV shows (Band of Brothers, Trailer Park Boys), movies (Into the Wild, Pulp Fiction, Grandma’s Boy), and music (he loves The Band more than anything), and knew that if anything was going to catch his attention, it would be something just as humorous, natural, and intelligent as his own interests.

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I decided on a bunch of books, and still can’t decide if I want to lend him more or not. He’s getting one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut books, Slaughter-House Five, and Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. I also ended up picking up a Charles Bukowski anthology and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Such a STRANGE mix I’m sure you’re thinking, but I think there’s a good mixture of entertainment and education, sensitivity and humor in these books. Each author is so different from the other, and so is each book. I’m hoping to send him off with a good mixture of styles and stories.

What do you think? Do these authors fail to live up to other classic novelists/poets or maybe do you think there’s one that would appeal to a newbie more? I’d love to hear any suggestions!

Until next time, wish me luck 🙂

Live,

Morgan Paige

October Challenge: What’s so scary?

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HP Lovecraft…

I’ve been searching for a great October-themed novel for the past couple weeks. I wanted something dark and haunting, but not something too thickly layered or overdone. That quickly got rid of some of the contemporary authors that some might happily equate with sinister themes (Stephen King and Anne Rice came to mind for me). And although King and Rice have written some fanTAStic books (still can’t get my way through Pet Semetary… that novel just hits every cord in my body the wrong way and leaves me terrified), I wanted something classic… something that can poetically chill me to my bones whilst telling me a story.

Mary Shelley…
Edgar Allen Poe…
Bram Stoker…

In the end, I decided on the beautiful, haunting written word of H.P. Lovecraft. I haven’t read any of his short stories before, but I was gifted his anthology a couple of months ago. I figured now is as good a time as ever to indulge myself in the Cthulu Mythos and find out for myself just why his stories are so famously haunting.

My goal for this month is to read through the anthology and discover which of the bunch frightens me the most! Sounds tortuous, right? What can I say, I love a little jump-scare in the night 🙂 I will make a post closer to Halloween to talk to you all about it, and we can discuss which is the most chilling story of all! Maybe you can try this challenge with me if you haven’t read much of Lovecraft, yourself.

I hope you are all celebrating the spooky month of October and Halloween! There are so many awesome events going on in New England and plenty of reading you yourself can do to get in the horror-holiday spirit! Maybe this is why I’m so fascinated with horror… living so close to Salem, MA can definitely put a chill in the air!

Until next time.

Live,
Morgan

A Collection of Thought Bubbles: Technical Writing VS Creative Writing

Technical Writing VS Creative Writing

Happy October, everyone!

Well, another brief hiatus probably has you wondering what the HECK is going on with this blog. Well, it’s bittersweet to say this, but I’ve moved on to another day job.

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“No wine?!” You may be asking, but have no fear! There will be plenty of wine pairings from here on out. To be quite honest, it’ll probably be even more fun to read, because I’ll have more opportunities and free time with this schedule to continue quality meal and wine pairings. As fun as wine is, and as much as I genuinely loved my co-workers and supervisors, I’ve finally found a profession that will help me learn and grow as a writer.

I’m in the technical writing field!

Many people upon hearing this transition gave me that, “oh, poor thing” kind of a look when I announce my new title. Technical writing has this reputation as being boring and anticlimactic. In my opinion, however, the past couple of weeks have not only opened my eyes to a new style of writing, but it’s also made me WAY more mindful of what to look for with editing. Clarity can come across so differently to so many different audiences, and word choice can not only make a novel more magical, but it can make the characters lively VS staid. I’ve seen how to write a simple sentence ten different ways, all implying different pieces of substance, and I’ve learned that this is an imperative piece of open-mindedness that can only bolster a writer’s written word.

I know technical writing can sound like a cold, repetitive medium, but I believe that each opportunity we writers have to learn from a new style or genre is just another notch we can add to our belt. 😉

I am a greenie when it comes to technical writing, and I’d love to see what you all think about this field. Is it anything you have experience with? Do you have any sort of tidbit you’d like to share with us?

Keep your eyes open for my next post, soon. I have a new idea that I’d like to share with you all!

Live,
Morgan