29 August 2011

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Writing Diary, Entry #28

"Know your audience," writers are told. To which I now add, "Know your editor, too." Your editor may actually know your audience better than you do and be able to guide you.

When I started writing, I didn't meet my editors in person. All communication was done through e-mail: I liked it that way,and they seemed to prefer it, too. (Ah, technology!) Then I became a contributor to a magazine with an editor-in-chief who is all about the face-to-face meeting and the personal touch. Although I wrote my first article for her in my usual "blind" fashion, we met in person very soon afterwards . . . and it made all the difference in the world.

28 August 2011

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Twelve Things about Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension

12. The only thing I love more than time travel is the parallel dimension. (There are some who say you can't have one without the other--but never mind them now.) It's so fascinating to see What Might Have Been, had something in the timeline been tweaked in a totally different direction. It's doubly fascinating to see What You Might Have Become.

(For those of us whose life genres are not SF, there are always ordinary doppelgangers. I happen to know that my double lives in Austin, Texas, has access to a black Escalade, and does not play the guitar. This is a fact.)

11. If you think about it, the ideas of parallels and doubles are already embedded in every Phineas and Ferb episode. Take Perry the Platypus, who is both the Flynn-Fletcher family's pet and a secret agent tasked with foiling the plans of mad scientist Dr. Doofenschmirtz.

Then, of course, there's Candace, who is the only one who ever notices when her brothers are up to something. Just her bad luck that whenever she drags her mother over "to bust" the boys, whatever they were working on at the time mysteriously vanishes. She must feel as if she's straddling two dimensions herself. No wonder she's a bit high strung.

So it makes sense for Perry to be the heart of the story
--and for Candace to be the main protagonist.
Formula tweaking can be fun!

26 August 2011

+JMJ+

Thirty Movies, One Day, Six Words Each

Six-word memoirs really are handy things, aren't they? I didn't plan to use them in my Tenner of Books I Love Too Much to Review "Properly", but when I tried them out for a bit, they proved the perfect fit. That's why they're back in this post, which is about movies.

I found a 30 Day Movie Challenge on the blog Diversion 2.0 and decided it would make a worthy sequel to the first (and so far only) My Life in Movies post. No, I'm not yet thirty years old . . . but dagnabbit, I like making lists. Especially movie lists. Heck, I've already given myself a rule for making them: No repeats. Once a movie makes one list, it can't make another.

And that's why Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl isn't here. =P Guess which category it would have fit into perfectly?

Yes, there will be more . . . but I'm not going to promise that they'll all also have six-word memoirs!

#1 -- One of Your Favorite Movies
(But Not Your Favorite Favorite)
Aliens
Hudson had me at "Game over!"


23 August 2011

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Beyond Book Blogging



For those of my readers who don't already follow The Broke and the Bookish, despite my best efforts to be a gateway drug to the book blogosphere, the last Top Ten Tuesday Tenner was all about Books Teenagers Should Learn "to Speak". After linking up, I went through all the other participants' posts to see which ten texts would be voted onto the syllabus of a high school run by dedicated book bloggers. They were a mixed, if mostly Anglo-American bag . . .

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (54 mentions)
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (51 mentions)
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (37 mentions)
The Works of William Shakespeare (33 mentions)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (33 mentions)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (23 mentions)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (20 mentions)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (19 mentions)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (18 mentions)
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (13 mentions)

It's edifying to see some classics there (although the definition of "classic" now seems to be "any book old enough for my parents to have read at my age"). That they are outnumbered by hard-hitting, controversial "message" novels reflects another modern trend of calling books "great" primarily because they address immediate issues. Yes, some of these may end up "passing the test of time," as we say--but I'll wager another giveaway that they didn't make so many lists because of that classic quality. Heck, there are a couple of "classics" that I'll wager made the list for the exact same reason.

There are also a couple of those "books that get teens reading"--because these days, "great" is often used interchangeably with "cool." (I should know: I do it myself!) I just wish teenagers did more reading on the side so that such books could be supplements to classroom reading rather than the main texts . . . but apparently, we don't live in that ideal literate world.

What I find most interesting, though, is the inclusion of three different Dystopian novels. (Five, if you remember that The Hunger Games is a trilogy.) I'm all about dystopia and even assigned one of these texts during my last year of full-time teaching. But I'll have to analyse this in another post.

This post is all about one topic I likely won't be tabulating data for . . .

A Tenner
Books I Love Too Much to Review "Properly"

22 August 2011

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EBooks and Bargains


The past couple of weeks have not been great for this business of blogging about books, and I was going to put it off further until I was feeling fizzy with words and ideas again . . . but I know from experience that you have to find your own fizz.

And so desperate am I to fizz again, that I'm breaking my usual IMM rule of "Only books received through the post" by featuring two books that came to me not through traditional mail, but through electronic mail.

17 August 2011

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A Word to Chill and a Question to Thrill


You'd think someone with pretensions to Horror blogger status would be really inspired by the "Thrills and Chills" theme that gave us an extra challenge this month . . . but I was mostly intimidated. =P

I might watch a lot of Horror movies, but I could never write a script for one of them. And I definitely get spooked on a dime, but none of my scary stories seem to have the same effect on others.

Let's see what effect this poem has on you . . .

16 August 2011

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Reading Diary: BSC #7 Claudia and Mean Janine

"So," said Janine out of the blue, "may I ask how your agency plans to function once your founder is residing in a different district?"

"You may," I replied, stalling. I had no idea what she was talking about.

"Oh, I understand," said Janine. "You want to play games. Well, I'll comply. All right, how does your agency plan to function once your founder is residing in a different district?"

"Huh? . . . Janine, talk in English, will you?"

"I am!" Janine looked hurt again. "I can't help it if this is the way in which I speak."

"And I can't help it if I don't understand you."

Meet the Kishi sisters, Claudia and Janine, whose terrible dialogue struggle to understand each other is the main conflict of this Baby-sitters Club book. And let me say from the outset that I'm not too crazy about that.

There were four books between this and the last Claudia-narrated novel, and honestly, after Stacey's angst over her diabetes, Mary Anne's overcompensating widowed father, Dawn's double whammy of single motherhood, and Kristy's mother's second marriage, Claudia's rivalry with her sister seems kind of shallow. And Ann M. Martin probably thought so, too, because she threw in a stroke for their beloved grandmother Mimi, for good measure.

And yes, it can all be related to baby-sitting . . .

15 August 2011

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Tutor Tales, Volume 33

This post is all about my eleven-year-old tutee Skid Breaker, who moved to the Philippines one year ago for the sake of his English.

He still struggles with the language today--particularly with the level of reading comprehension expected from him in his fifth grade classes. He's not very verbal to begin with, but I'd say his biggest hurdle is an inability to step back and watch himself when he's learning.

A few weeks ago, he was having an awful time with a lesson on long and short vowel sounds. He simply couldn't tell the difference between them, even when he said the words aloud, and had resorted to guessing. (At least when you have only two possible choices, you have a 50% chance of getting the right answer!) And I couldn't understand why he wasn't hearing the difference, when the contrasts were as plain as day to me. We were both getting really frustrated when it suddenly hit me that the problem was that he wasn't seeing them. The English alphabet and Korean characters are very, very different, after all.

So different, that I had to film another (horrible, terrible, awful, etc.) video to show you what I mean.

14 August 2011

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Twelve Things about Tooth Fairy

12. There is another movie with the title The Tooth Fairy (and a third whose title includes the words Darkness Falls) that I'd be reviewing instead if this were an ideal world. All I have to say for myself is that I was baby-sitting and couldn't watch what I wanted . . . although there is nothing that could make me want the one I watched. =P

11. Well, I did like the word play here. Even before Derek Thompson becomes one of many winged Tooth Fairies, he is the Tooth Fairy of minor league hockey. It's the kind of nickname you end up with when you can hit other players hard enough to knock out a tooth or two.

What I find most interesting, however, are the puns . . . "You can't handle the tooth! And that's the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth!" You'll find a lot of teeth in this movie, you see, but it's a challenge to spot the truths.

10. What? Think I'm being too hard on a movie that doesn't pretend to be more than a low-grade Fantasy?

I believe that fantastic elements and universal truths can (and should) co-exist in fiction. And well, the first problem with Tooth Fairy is that even its own fantasy elements can't co-exist with each other.

12 August 2011

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Writing Diary, Entry #27

Now I add a fourth magazine to my collection of publications that I've written for: MOD. Buy the August 2011 issue of this glossy women's monthly to see my review of Food Presentation by Michelle Valigursky. (Yes, there are other features--all of them much bigger than my own--but mine are the ones you love, right?)

I got my own copy last week, eagerly flipped through it to find my contribution, started reading it . . . and then felt my usual excitement stop a bit short. There was something about the third sentence that just didn't fit.

Some background now, so you see what I mean. Here is the opening paragraph of the copy I e-mailed to MOD:

04 August 2011

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Twelve Things about Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

12. After seeing this, I was certain I wouldn't want to write a Twelve Things post about it. Freddy's Dead is just that bad.

Three weeks later, it has a Twelve Things post! =P There's a very good disturbing reason for this, so keep reading if you want to get to it.

11. Since I wasn't sure whether to start with something the movie gets wrong or something the movie gets right, I decided to go with something it gets wrong and right at the same time: the "expansion" of Elm Street.

First, some background . . . Note that Freddy has been able to feed on "fresh meat" since A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (See my Twelve Things post!), but even then he could only go after targets in a certain area--which this movie identifies as the town of Springwood. Apparently, there have been countless "offscreen" kills in between this installment and the previous one, ANoES5: The Dream Child (Yes, I have another Twelve Things post!!!), and as a consequence, all of Springwood has run out of young people. And well, Freddy doesn't prey on the old and senile. He's got standards, you know. =P

03 August 2011

+JMJ+

New Game, New Host!

Tile Letter W & letter Q
number 1 white 5

This August, our host is vvb32 of vvb32 reads! =) She is also hosting her own August Thrills-and-Chills event, which is why the rules are getting another new themed twist this month . . .

Horror
Paranormal Activity
Thriller
Vampires

Make sure your prompts fit this exciting bill!

02 August 2011

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Two for the Price of One

On this Two-fer Tuesday, I give you not just two memes in one post, but two memes about one book. I love the economy of it all.


May I draw your attention to the labels/tabs for this post. Middle Grade Author Andrew Clements now has a tab of his own although I've read only one of his books and own only two, because I've still managed to write about three of them on this blog in less than a week. How about that?

Now behold the third Clements book . . .

01 August 2011

+JMJ+

Reading as a Life Challenge

You'd think that a lit nerd would have some decent social skills, right? I mean, literature is just brimming with complex characters, tangled relationships, witty dialogue, sharp satires of society, and insight into the human condition. How could a bookworm fail to fit in?

Yet it happens all the time . . . and I'm just talking about myself!

This is what comes of one's having been trained to read anything. One will often say anything, too.