August Book of the Month: The Body

It’s felt like a month since I’ve posted a blog post, and at this point, probably has been a month instead of a couple of weeks. I think with my schedule now I’m going to post every other week. I’ll still have my book of the month series of blogs; however, I’m finding my Youtube ideas much more appealing to me than blog posts. (If you didn’t already know, I have a YouTube channel!)

For August I read The Body by Stephen King. It is the second book I can say I’ve ever finished after seeing the movie version beforehand. (The first was Alice in Wonderland, because really, who escapes Disney’s grip as a child in the 90’s?) Nonetheless, that means there will be a bit of comparison between the book and movie in here. I haven’t seen the movie in several years, but it was one of the classics I’d watch when I grew up.

It was a rather short book, which took me longer than I anticipated to read considering I finished it on the last day of the month. I read it between doctor’s appointments and a visit to the beach. When I got deeper into the story, it was easier to binge-read. The entire time I kept forgetting which character had which exclusive trait, mainly due to my stop and go reading in the beginning.

Gordie, our main character, looks back to the event of finding the body with his friends, Chris, Vern, and Teddy. That much I remembered from the movie, besides the leeches scene. I’ve never swum in any unidentifiable water because of that scene burning into my mind from a young age.

Something that the book included that I found was interesting was Gordie’s written stories. There were two: Stud City, and The Revenge of Lard-ass Hogan. They were included as if the character wrote them, and I found that stylistic choice a refreshing break of regular narrative form. I wasn’t entirely a fan of Stud City, and to be honest, I skimmed over it after the first few pages. Gordie didn’t like it either when he reflected on it, so it seemed to work (for me, at least) in a meta sort of way. Lard-ass’ story, one of the other sequences I remember from the movie, was highly entertaining to read. I love a good revenge story, and to a point, gross-out humor is funny to me.

Another scene left out of my memory (that I doubt was in the movie) was Gordie’s nightmare. The whole metaphorical weight of it paired with Chris’ speech to him was a chilling reminder of his future and the future of his friends. It was like the harsh reality that not everyone succeeds and not all childhood groups stay together forever.

I was invested in the characters, mainly Gordie and Chris, and when they came across the older brother and his friends, I was genuinely worried. Something the movie didn’t leave in my mind was Gordie’s entrancement from Ray Brower’s body. The absolute detail of the body and its state in nature was something hypnotizing, effectively drawing the reader in like how Gordie was drawn in.

Overall, I enjoyed The Body. It was a solid, short read. I’d give it 4/5 stars. I think if I hadn’t seen the movie years prior I would’ve liked it more, especially with the ability to have been surprised by the twists. September’s book of the month is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I’ve come to terms with my inability to read between/before classes because I now know my classmates and like to talk to them, so now I read half an hour before bed. That blog post will adhere to the new every-other-week schedule.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Results

When I posted my last blog, I was a little over a thousand words behind my planned pace. It was also midterms for me. For the next few days I wrote about a thousand words a day and pulled ahead of schedule to complete my goal on the 29th! (Which you could’ve seen ahead of time if you follow me on twitter. 😉)

Camp-2018-Winner-Certificate

In April, I wrote 21,403 words towards my work in progress novel Obscura. I tried to finish it for NaNoWriMo back in November, but that crashed and burned about halfway through. This time, I was able to come back from the mini-crash halfway. It helped to have a smaller goal where I had to write about 666 words a day instead of 1,666 words per day. I found I was most successful when I made it a part of my routine to write an hour or so before going to bed.

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As happy as I am about meeting my goal, I still have a couple of scenes left to get done. I estimate I’ll have about 10,000 more words before I finish the book. It would set the book at about 60,000 words. While I usually aim for 70-75 thousand words, I already have an idea what I’ll have to edit and also rewrite certain sections. Of course, I’m currently editing my novel What Darkness Does, so I’ll save Obscura for after that.

I hope everyone did well on their goals; even if you didn’t finish, you still have more than you started with!

March Book of the Month: Survive the Night

My book of the month for March was Survive the Night by Danielle Vega. As much as I love the horror genre, I was surprised to realize that this was the first official book I’ve read in the genre. I’ve watched more horror movies than I can think of, but I was shocked that it took me this long to read something in the current genre. (Besides Carmilla, I suppose, if you count that as horror.) Overall, I found the book incredibly enjoyable and I was able to finish the last hundred or so pages in one sitting because I was so invested. (I usually read between my classes, therefore, multiple sittings. I read outside of my class time for a lot of this book.)

I immediately related to the main character, Casey. Although, that’s likely just a coincidence. She had dislocated her kneecap playing soccer, and from being active, meanwhile, I dislocated mine walking energetically in gym class. However, unlike her, she became addicted to her pain medication, and we are introduced to her as she’s coming home from rehab.

I only have a few aspects of this book I had some critique on, and the first act was so long it almost made me flip ahead to check if anything juicy happened sooner. I was eager for the horror. The information delivered, while important, took up slightly over four chapters of the book before we got to the promise of the premise, surviving the night. At the very least, getting to the actual club and the first hint of horror.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy that also occurred throughout the first portions was Casey’s fixation on her ex-boyfriend. At first, it seemed a little below her character to be so focused on him for his sort of approval but looking back I’m more lenient on it after certain revelations. I suppose you could say his love was one of the drugs she had been addicted to in a way. His character confuses me a bit as we find out more about him, along with his involvement with Shana.

Once they finally get to Survive the Night, the exclusive club that they had to get a homeless man’s help to find, the fun begins. Well, the deaths do at least. And that’s what we’re here for in horror. Or I am, at least. The promised premise certainly delivers, and it amps up to the point I kept wondering what could happen next. Usually I’m able to generally guess where a plot is going, and this one kept me fresh and engaged the entire time. The stakes were eternally high throughout the book.

While the ending tied up the majority of the plot points with grace, I guessed the mysterious insinuation it leaves you with from when I read the synopsis. It almost reminded me of the movie Shrooms. However, it left enough threads throughout the narrative to be able to make your own conclusion while further heightening the events that happened. I’m trying not to spoil much with this, so I won’t say here what I think happened. I plan on making a video about that with a spoiler-filled review on a new YouTube channel I’m making. I’ll post the link on here when I do.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Besides the few minor grievances, I think it’s safe to say this is one of my more recent favorites. It also makes me interested in reading Danielle Vega’s series The Merciless. I loved her style throughout the book. I don’t own The Merciless so it won’t be the next book of the month. I think I’m going to go for a sci-fi approach and read Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve had this book for a little over a year now, and I should get down to reading it.

February Book of the Month: Cat’s Cradle

February’s book of the month was Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Seeing as this post is before the month is over, that means one of two things: 1. I finished early in this short month. 2. There’s no way I can finish this book for the month. Want to take a guess at what happened? If you guessed option number 2, you would be correct. Looking back on the past month, I can see exactly where my mistakes were in not being able to finish the book.

First off, I’ve already read the book. And I wasn’t crazy about it. Granted, it was in tenth grade, but I thought maybe now that my novel palette has adapted that I might be able to appreciate it more. I realized I enjoyed the narrative style more. It still didn’t save my lack of interest in the plot. I’m not someone who rereads books often, but I thought I’d challenge myself to see if I could. The only book I’ve ever reread was the Alice in Wonderland series compiled into one book. So, the odds of liking it by looking at it with some rested eyes were not in my favor.

On top of that, I didn’t have much time to read. The time in which I usually read, before and between classes, I have spent talking with my classmates that I have gotten to know better. I have also learned that having the physical book in front of me doesn’t entirely matter; the determined will get my attention because I don’t want to be rude and shoot them down. That means usually sitting through many pictures of dogs that have about a 50/50 shot of being cute, and being asked about my legendary cat Tai who passed away two years ago that I still feel the sting of loss from, on a nearly every-other-day basis. So by the end of the conversation —if I am graced with any time to myself— I’ve lost the desire to read.

In addition to my typical reading times being skewered, I also participated in a pilot pitch competition for a collaborative learning class (CLC). I had to write, edit, and then pitch what became a 24 page, single-cam comedy. In order to be able to focus exclusively on the pitch, I had to first finish the first draft to a book I started last year. That was awesome! Also very time consuming. Once I was done that I was able to focus more on the script which left me about a week to beat out, write, edit, plan the pitch, edit the pitch, and then finally pitch. So it’s been an unexpectedly busy month. I decided to participate on a whim for the experience of pitching and for the chance I might get into the CLC class to edit the script and film a pilot. They haven’t announced the winners yet, but I know at the very least I’m proud of what I accomplished in that time alone.

Next month I have Spring break. I plan on doing the third draft for my work in progress novel What Darkness Does, and so besides working on that, my schedule is clear. Finishing a book in that time should be fairly easy to do. Therefore, I’m going to choose something a little longer than what I might usually pick up. Looking at the stack of books in front of me, that’s looking like Danielle Vega’s Survive the Night or Joey Graceffa’s Children of Eden.

January Book of the Month: Carmilla

I challenged myself to read one book a month this year, and to start the year off, I decided to read Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu. I’ve seen the webseries that adapted the story by KindaTV on YouTube, and I was interested to see where it originated from. Considering it’s been over a year since I’ve last kept up with the webseries, I figured it’d be a good opportunity to acquaint myself with the source material. I usually don’t read books that were written before at least the 1900’s, but much to my own surprise it was a fairly easy and enjoyable read.

While some of the language and mannerisms are dated, the casual tone of Laura recalling her experiences makes the story resemble an almost ancestral feeling of the modern Young Adult Novel. I never found myself stopping to look up words or putting down the story from being overwhelmed by the words on the page, or rather, words on my phone. I’m sure there were a few words that I breezed over by using context clues, due to the fact I was so enraptured by the story itself.

On another note, reading the story on my phone created this odd, disconnection between the idea of the physicality of reading it in its original intended form and what I was reading it on. It was easier and cheaper to carry my phone around and read it. I usually read before my classes start, and reading on my phone for some reason gave people the idea they could interrupt me? I often found people approaching me to speak —despite headphones in and scrolling on my phone— when I was clearly focused on something. I’m all for talking to people when my headphones are out, but I was surprised by the lack of recognition. I wonder if having the physical book there will be a clearer sign that I’m doing something not out of idle nature?

Getting back on track to the book itself, I had heard it heralded as a lesbian vampire story, and I expected it to be an exaggeration. People grasp for any kind of representation in the media (which thankfully we can provide in the modern day) and I thought people were just overhyping what could be a solid friendship with some undertones to it. (Like in many popular TV shows with fandoms to them.) But no, I was completely wrong. Laura is definitely Carmilla’s love interest in the story. The way LeFanu writes about it as well doesn’t immediately jump out to me as anything disdainful either, which is surprising considering it was written in 1871. Laura doesn’t seem entirely enthusiastic of Carmilla’s weirdly bipolar swings of affection in the beginning (who wouldn’t), but she continues to speak and get along with Carmilla until near the end so I guess she was okay? Besides that at least, it didn’t strike me as anything spiteful.

Another part that surprised me was the fact LeFanu used the word vampire within it. I’m not entirely sure why, but I expected the word to be avoided or replaced with some other similar moniker. Considering this predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I was also interested in seeing the different depiction of the vampire itself. Carmilla can shape-shift between her human form and a cat-like beast. She also has a fair amount of super strength and can seemingly disappear into thin air. The only things that stay consistent to many of the other vampire stories is the super strength and the fact she slept in a coffin. And that she could die from a stake to the heart, beheading, and burning.

I had very few criticisms to the story. The first being how General Spielsdorf just kept going on about telling Laura about his story. There had to have been another way to get the information across besides an almost eternal thread of speech. I got lost at some points to where the dialog ended and began. It was necessary information to provide clues to Carmilla’s true identity, but I’m not entirely sure word dumping was the best avenue. I also kept mixing up Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle LaFontaine. The monikers are so similar I mentally lumped them together; they didn’t differ much from each other anyways from the roles they played. The only other criticism I had was the ending of how Carmilla died. She’s evaded getting caught for hundreds of years but she manages to retreat to the one place the party is snooping around to try to find her? That’s rather dumb of an intelligent character.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I’m glad I got one of the classics of horror down; I still have more to read for the year. At some point I’ll get to Dracula and Frankenstein. The next book I’m going to read for February is going to be either Fahrenheit 451 or Cat’s Cradle. I’m leaning towards the latter.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 1

This is my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month, and it’s interesting to say the least. The challenge is to start a fresh, new novel and write at least 50,000 words towards it within the month of November. In order to complete that goal, participants would need to write at least 1,667 words a day. There is a certain culture among recurring NaNoWriMo participants that is incredibly inviting. There’s local write-ins, Facebook groups, and many  advice articles from established writers provided on the website.

I decided for once I would conquer my greatest fear; writing a book that didn’t have any supernatural or sci-fi elements within it. It had to be pure realistic fiction. I live for writing and creating sci-fi monsters and weaving in supernatural elements of horror. This time around, however, I wanted to see if I could devote myself to something that was a bit out of my comfort zone. Quite honestly, real life is just as terrifying as —if not more than— fictional monsters, so I wanted to encompass that within my book. It took days of documentary watching and researching.

So for the first week of NaNoWriMo, I’ve started off ahead. Like I said in my YouTube video, I wanted to supersede the average goal during the first two weeks to prepare myself for when life gets in the way. For the first two and a half weeks I’m still in school, meaning I have a schedule to work with and keep rigid. Once I return home, I know for a fact I’ll get stuck with getting anything done while there’s chaos surrounding me. On the 27th some of our family friends are visiting and we’re going to Disneyworld until the end of November, so I need to finish significantly early.

My first day was great; I got out 3,272 words. It was a Wednesday, which means I didn’t have class. I devoted the whole day to getting into the story and developing the first and second chapters. I found that word sprinting for the rest of it really pushed me to get what I wanted out as I went with the natural flow of things as my brain couldn’t edit continually. There was only one day where I hadn’t gotten at least a hundred words more than my goal, and that was day two, Thursday. I had my 8am class and then had to go to a Savannah Film Fest event for Women Writers of Horror and SciFi. (It was amazing, to say the least.) I only had 1,731 words that day, but I made the minimum so that’s all that mattered. I almost managed to double down on Double Day, but I fell 200 words short of that.

At the end of what I constituted as my first week, I have 12,026 words completed, where the target goal would’ve been 8,335. The hardest part so far has been getting ready to commit for the day. I’ve been binge watching Bojack Horseman and as much as I love the show, I need to stop putting it in front of my writing. On days where I don’t have my 8am the following day, usually I’m up until 2 in the morning writing because I start at 10 or 12. Writing at least 1,667 words usually takes me about an hour and a half to two hours.

I give myself too gracious of breaks in between sprints, where an originally five minute break can turn into fifteen minutes of social media, two episodes of Bojack Horseman, or an hour long conversation with my roommates about childhood nostalgia and how I still cry laughing at a video of my best friend accidentally punting a soccer ball directly into my face and how my head launched back while she frantically runs over —in slow motion, thanks to video editing software— to check if I’m okay and my mom wheezes.

So, to those of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year, good luck going forward! I’m sure we can finish if we focus. Just stay on target so November 30th doesn’t hit you like this soccer ball hit me. The smack into my face echoes still five years later.