Q&A: Reading Habits

I was tagged by Amanda. Whoops. Let’s go!

Reading Habits

Q: Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
A: There are books floating all over my house, but the place I do the most reading is on the porch when I take the dog outside. She likes to spend anywhere between a half-hour to an hour out on the leash, so I perch my butt on the bench and read while she runs circles.

Q: Bookmark or random piece of paper?
A: I don’t think I could use a “random piece of paper” for a bookmark. Which isn’t to say I haven’t used pieces of paper, they’re just deliberately chosen, that’s all. My grandfather used to use $100 bills, but I make bookmarks out of whatever is appropriate when I don’t have bookmarks to use. My current set is made out of those little card-stock paint swatches you find at Walmart? They work great.

Q: Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
A: Depends on the book, and what time I have allotted to me? If I get really engrossed I can power a book in just a few hours, provided I have literally nothing else to do and no one comes over to shake me out of my reading stupor. If I’m on the porch with Dish, then I have a limited measure of time/have to stop when she comes inside. I try not to take books out I’m too engrossed in for that. Books I read upstairs in the safety of my room I attempt to power through, despite it being late at night.

Q: Do you eat or drink while reading?
A: Sometimes! Like stopping, it depends on the book. If I get a really good book I can’t draw myself away from, it turns out I don’t get hungry or thirsty either. Hrm. Digital books I read on my computer, so it’s easy to eat and drink when reading those, and physical books I have to put down to eat and drink, even if I’m going to pick it back up as soon as I put the food or glass down.

Q: Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
A: Music, sometimes. TV never. Music serves two purposes. One is that it drowns out background noise and helps me focus. The other is that if I’ve got music playing, then people register that I’m incapable of hearing them and they come shake my shoulder or throw a bottle of water at me or something. For some reason, though, if I turn on the TV while reading, I have to watch it. I’m not good enough to input two visual mediums at once.

Q: One book at a time or several at once?
A: This also depends. If a book sinks it’s claws into me, I can’t put it down until it’s done. Some books are harder to engross myself in– various fiction or factual books on my shelves count this way. For example: I had to break up my reading of the Lord of the Rings books with something else until I made it through the dry “About Hobbits” section. Which took me a while. I did manage to slough through it and get to the more interesting things, but any book that drives you tears needs to be broken up with children’s books.

Q: Reading at home or everywhere?
A: This one’s easy! It’s everywhere! In the house, in the yard, in the car, truck, at other people’s houses.. I love reading, and a good book doesn’t care where you are.

Q: Reading out loud or silently in your head?
A: Silently, nine times out of ten. Unless I find a passage I have to share, or I’m reading to my mother or a friend. I don’t do well with the spoken word. I trip over pronunciations and stuff. There is a reason that I’m a writer instead of a public speaker.

Q: Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
A: Not unless I’ve already read the book and I’m hunting for something specific? Skipping pages or reading out of order is something of a tragedy for me. The trip through the book is important to me.

Q: Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
A: I don’t understand this question. Keeping it like new, I guess? Wear and tear on a book happens, there’s no helping that. I think I have had one book separate the bound pages from the cardboard backing.. it was a cookbook, and it’s not very thick, so I might be able to fix it when I get more knowledge/practice for paper and book binding.

Q: Do you write in your books?
A: What? No! Scandal! What I do do, though, is I get a notebook or something and write as I read. Note pages and lines that are interesting, quotes that I want to remember, list characters and make biographies of longer books so I can keep track.. If I write in my books, when I pass them on to my children or nieces and nephews, they wont be able to read them fresh without seeing my perceptions of it, to draw their own conclusions. I’ve had books where my mother and I have both guessed the endings not even halfway through. Can you imagine what that would do to a new reader that hasn’t figured it out yet? Not cool.

 

Now. Let’s tag some people, yeah? How about everybody that’s got a few minutes to try! I’m super curious to learn some of your reading habits. I know everyone does things differently, and this knowledge only serves to make me more curious.

For an easy copy-paste of these questions, Amanda’s got you covered. I didn’t use it because the format makes my hackles rise, and I like Q/A better then numerals. Plus I really like typing out my questions. It’s something of a personal quirk that I can’t shake, and I’ve been looking forward to doing Q/As anyway.

–Natasha

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Weekly Writing Prompt Response: 6/19-6/25

So, I’m still blaming Amanda. Yeah, you heard me right. More prompts!

This week’s prompt was to find a photo in Photographer Garret‘s gallery and write something based on one of them. So I knocked around for a while and eventually came up with a good one to punch in. Viola, three hundred and sixty words of sunshine words.

Still blaming you, Amanda.


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The sky was on fire.

Not literally, he didn’t think. Or at least he hoped it wasn’t literally. The sky actually being on fire would be bad for everybody. Fire ate oxygen, after all, and human beings did rather require that to continue to breathe.

But the sky looked like it was on fire. The sun glowed a beautiful, brilliant yellow-white in the distance, hung low in the sky like the moon, and the ozone layer bent the light to set the blanket above them from blue to molten gold. Wispy clouds clung to the roof of the world, painting tongues of flame and smoke in bold brush-strokes. It stretched on and on forever.

Sunrises were different than sunsets; knives of light breaking into the world. And not all sunsets were as breath-taking as this one was. Not that.. sunsets in general weren’t very pretty. He loved it when the world was covered in blankets of purples and reds and blues.

But he liked nights like this the best. Huddled around a warm fire while another burned in the sky, sinking lower but projecting the ever-welcome promise of warmth. In the winter, when the fields were gone and the world was barren, there was no vegetation to break it up. He’d seen the ground covered in dying light, dull browns and grays turned to riches as the sun’s rays struck off them. Stone lost heat quickly, but for a few precious minutes after the sun went down, he could perch on them and soak up the last brushes of warmth.

The moon was a pale sister of the sun, but it was cold, remote and distant no matter how closely it tried to touch the ground, and it could never give to him or to the world what the sun gave them.

But it lit the way like a distant lantern, so that the sun always knew where it was to come.

The moon was a promise. It wasn’t the moon’s fault that it was the sun it was promising for. That was just kind of the way the world worked.

Besides. It was really the sky he liked best.

About Me: Trains

I tripped over a post on Tumblr that spawned a blog post and kicked over an old, fond memory for you guys.

For reference, the post is Here and concerns railway lines and trains throughout various countries.

 

I road a train once, back when I was in elementary school. We have a train museum in my state (Kentucky) and it was the only field trip I was ever actually allowed on that year. So we all piled up in the bus and we drove the hour-ish from our school to the train museum, and we were the last school permitted to ride on the train.

Now, it was one of those old-time trains you see in Westerns. Really nice though, with amazing seats that had plenty of space and those old cabs, like you see in Harry Potter? My teacher and I ended up in one, along with an older girl from fifth grade who was my other chaperon. (I had to have two, for my mother to permit me to go. My teacher was one, and the fifth grader was the other.)

Once everyone was settled, the ticket-checker (a worker at the museum) came by to make sure everyone was present and nobody had been left off the train, because we didn’t ACTUALLY have tickets to check at a museum. Then she left to tell the conductor to we were on board and we went about a half-hour down to the end of the rail. I understand a half-hour isn’t very far in one of those old trains, but let me tell you, it was amazing and beautiful and I will never forget it.

When we reached the end of the rail, train stopped and the ticket-taker came back, and asked my teacher if she’d like to conduct us back to the museum. Which she did. She traded out her babysitting job with the ticket-taker, who didn’t sit with us but kept popping up through the half-hour to ensure I hadn’t gone anywhere.

We went back to the museum. They parked the train. We got off. In reward for good behavior, once we left the museum, the teachers took us all out to get ice cream at Dairy Queen down the road.

I learned years later that the city had bought the rest of the track and pulled it up. The train sits on just enough track for it’s wheels, and it was only like, a three car passenger train and two locomotives. When I got off that train, it was the last trip it ever made. It doesn’t go anywhere. No other generations will be able to sit in it and watch the city and trees go by.

I’d also learned that was the only reason my mother permitted me to go, even under stipulations. She’d heard about it, or read it in the paper, or something, and then the field trip came up, and she wanted me to be able to say I road a train, once.

If there are any more coal powered or steam engines in the country, I don’t know it. I think we’ve all got bullet trains now. And that’s sad. It’s the same kind of sadness born by looking at that map of the US Railways.

Sure, the train still exists. You can still go to the museum and look at it. Maybe even get on it. But that’s it.

Review: Sword of the Demon by Richard A. Lupoff

Sword of the Demon by Richard A. Lupoff
Reading Begins: 5/29/2016
Reading Ends: 6/18/2016
Review Date: 6/19/2016
Format: Paperback, 1978/2004 Copyright, Cosmos Books Print-run

Let me start by saying this book has some super pretty cover art. K.J. Bishop does great work, and I approve of it. It gives a nice visual.

The book itself is written in a format I’ve never read before. It’s very fluid and lofty, with a bunch of imagery for painting a good picture for you. I had to read some of the lines a few times to make sure I was picturing it all correctly, but it was really nice.

Most of the first chapter is a game of “lets see how long we can pick and choose our pronouns without picking a pronoun” but it tapers off near the end as it settles into the rest of the story.

As I explained the plot earlier to a friend, we follow a Primordial Force, a God, and a Hero on trip that seems to be mostly finding the reason for existence. I really like that Kishimo is our primary focus throughout the book, both knowing and unknowing, and that we see snippets of her life through the (week?) that she is present. She starts out fragile and kind of careful, and grows into a powerful young woman in her own right, which is very motivating for me.

I do recommend this book to other women who might be feeling somewhat shaky in their lives, provided of course they are of a decent maturity. Despite being twenty-five at the time of writing this, some of the wording can be a little… intimate at times, despite there being not even kissing in the book.

–Natasha

Weekly Writing Prompt Response: 6/13/16 – 6/19/16

Every week, a friend posts writing prompts. I am a writer, more than anything else, but it occurs to me that I never actually do much writing stuff on here. How cruel is that? What an absolute tragic thing to do.

Time to remedy that.

This week’s prompt was to get a random song on your playlist and write a scene or so about it. I was super hopeful about it, until it came up. I managed a little over four hundred and fifty words, of Ray Stevens’ It’s Me Again Margret. This song is super creepy and invasive to me, and, warning, it’s about a stalker. Granted it’s Ray Stevens, so it’s a.. a funny song. It’s meant to be. But it chafes me wrong.

There was no way for me to put a positive spin on it, but I tried, because I can’t write about this crazy stalker man as a crazy stalker man without my brain melting. But I wondered.. how did he get like that? What was it about Margret that he liked so?

I tried to get out of writing this, really. But Amanda can be persistent and it makes me guilty not to meet the challenges she presents, especially when she meets them.

It was something that he couldn’t place, exactly, what drew Will to her. Margret was a classy lady, a real girl, but she wasn’t at the same time. He supposed if she had of been, he wouldn’t have liked her. She wasn’t the lady in the red dress, after all. Oh, she could turn heads, if she dolled herself up, easy. She’d certainly caught his eye.

But it wasn’t– it wasn’t like she was a proper dame. Oh, she could fake it really well. But Willard knew when she thought no one was looking that she lit up a smoke, and that there was a jar of moonshine in the dresser, and he had a feeling the flower vase half-full of coins was actually a swear jar, meant to keep her language clean as anything.

On Saturdays she had gentlemen visitors, but they’d be gone by Sunday, when she headed out for morning mass. Throughout the week she had lessons, kids from the community coming into her home and sitting in front of the baby grand piano in her living room, wringing out the sound of strangled cats from perfect ivory. Margret would stand behind them and watch, sometimes, or sit beside them and play a few cords, let them hear how the symphonies were supposed to sound.

When they left, at night, some days she would sit down on the bench herself, and play a few lonesome melodies that bent his heart in half. She was good at it, soft sounds lit through the streets, spilling from bay windows. She never closed the curtains. Margret wasn’t a young woman, all modesty or low necklines, she didn’t choose between chaste or sultry. She was her own woman, all around.

And she was lonely. Will could tell. Though honestly, he knew there was nothing that a young brat like him could offer her. She had money, and he didn’t. Pictures on her walls spoke of family and friends that he couldn’t give her. Her gentlemen callers brought her flowers and fine things, and Will could barely keep food on his own table, never mind take her out to a fancy dinner or cook her a nice meal. But she was lonely, and he hated it with every fiber of his being.

She didn’t have a want or a need in her life. It didn’t make her less lonely, and it didn’t take the thought away from him when he headed home at night.

It took a long time to screw up the courage to step into that payphone. Weeks, even.

But she answered her phone even though it was late, and her voice was directed at him and only him, and he knew she was a little bit less lonely when he called.

 

Writing Tip: Friends

When you write, regardless of whether or not you write alone, you are going to have good days and bad days. Now, I’m not talking about days when you write a lot or write very little, although those are good and bad days and still technically kind of count.

I’m talking about days when, no matter how much you write, you’re going to have your own personal highs and lows. Maybe you have high energy, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have high emotions, maybe you don’t.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe having emotions that register high enough to count at all are a thing you’re not used to, a thing that scares and stresses you more than you can safely handle. Maybe you lash out, maybe you go hide in a corner. Sometimes you can write yourself back to a functional level. On my twentieth birthday I was so horrifically depressed that all I could do was write, and that writing became one of my most popular at the time. It’s an easy coping mechanism for writers, but it doesn’t always work.

Maybe you go talk to someone.

I’ve been trying to do that these last several years. My friends all say I can talk to them when I’m emotional and distressed. They encourage it, even.

I forget all my friends are online and can’t tell that I’m emotional or distressed by my words a lot of the time. I don’t talk to people when I’m upset, partly because talking to people while I’m upset makes me very pointed and bristly, I can’t handle critique, I can’t handle helpful words, I can’t handle gentle pats and nods of encouragement. I get defensive, I get angry.

When my hormones fluctuate, I spend a lot more time riding emotional highs and lows, and they both result in the same thing.

Some of my friends know that when I rant, I call it “cutting teeth.” I don’t think I’ve ever told them why. Some of them probably figured it out.

Used to be I dealt with every flux of emotion purely by writing. Sometimes I fall off that train. Sometimes I actually make the mistake of trying to diffuse an argument before it happens by warning people that I need to back off or that the topic needs to change before I get too involved and emotional. I did that today. Oops.

Let me tell you I was not expecting the universal slap in the face I got back. Ow.

I forgot why I don’t ever manage to keep friends. Turns out that by trying to keep them, I tick them off instead. Talk about the biggest personality flaw I don’t want.

Now, I’m not saying don’t talk to your friends when you’re upset. By all means, do! I’m just saying, this happens to me. And this is not a thing that happens only in real life. Look at your characters, and their friends, and remember that things are not always going to be sunshine and daisies. They’ll have emotional highs and lows, and they’ll fight. They’ll have issues with each other, about the way they speak and the way they interact.

People aren’t always a perfect match. Reality doesn’t work that way.

Friendship– any sort of relationship at all– takes time and effort and understanding on all parts involved. It’s not easy.

I’ll say I’m sorry to my friends when I calm down, although I’m pretty sure they’ll still be angry. They’ll probably be angrier if any of them read this blog. I can’t help it.

I write when I’m upset, and this is, I think, decent advice to myself and people.

Make your characters real. Remember that they, as you, are deeply flawed. Remember that you have emotions, and so do they.

–Natasha

Remediation Essay: Gaming (Autumn 2013)

In my Remediation Class back in the Fall of 2013, we were challenged, in our last week of study, to design a hypothetical videogame based off one of the poems or stories we had learned about in our course.

Below I have listed my response to this prompting, and my hope and desire for this hasn’t changed. Perhaps one day, I will have the skills or perhaps the money to see this game made into a reality.

Note: The following essay has not been edited in any way since the day I submitted it for grading.

 

Focal: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came
Gametype: Hidden-Object Picture Game

The Childe Roland poem can be broken into four sections; the crossroads, the desiccated horse, the river of cadavers, and the Dark Tower’s proper. Were I, myself, to make this poem into some sort of game, I would follow on a hidden-object picture game; a game specifically designed to see how much stuff someone can hide in a scene without it being readily available to your optics and then saying “Find Me”.
Hidden Object games hide various objects inside other objects; a dirigible inside a painting of a hot-air balloon, if you would, or a magnifying glass hidden inside a scene of frying pans. A multitude of objects may be hidden in something complex or mundane, and it is your job, as the player, to find them. Every portion of the visual spectrum may be played with in order to hide these objects; from shape to angle to color. Often the objects to be found is presented as a list to you, and may or may not be set to find them in a time limit.
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came would be a curious game where the end result would doubtlessly be for you, the player (“Roland”) to find the Dark Tower and blow your slug-horn.
The first ‘scene’, likely after a select number of levels, would walk you down the road to the crossroads, where the old man would give you an option of left or right. Choosing the correct path would take you closer to the Tower, whereas the wrong one would lead you in a long circle back to the crossroads.
Either pathway you choose, many of your “goals” after a level, bonus goals of you would, would be to find animals or plants and thus “treasure”, though the plants and animals would starkly differ from either pathway. Invariably the correct path would have darker animals– things assigned with death– and the plants would invariably assigned with poisons and the like. The objects to find in the correct path would be things like gravemarkers and nooses, whereas in the wrong path they would be things like flower crowns and butterfly nets. I would do this because the centerpiece of Childe Roland is not an island of cotton candy, puppies and butterflies, but is, in fact, a much darker story (to me) of loss, hate, and misery. And death. Obviously.
The second major scene, down the correct path (most likely a dark forest), would doubtlessly be the horse; I imagine it black as pitch, and skeletal, all bones and no flesh to speak of. It would be wearing gear, of course, though it would be thin– this would be the Grim Reaper’s horse– and eventually, after the assigned levels for the scene, you, the player (“Roland”), would find the slug-horn in the saddle-bags and continue on your journey to the river.
The trip through the river both the backing and the find-me images would change to something Hollywood-horror. A human torso with an exposed chest cavity, and in place of his own a stylized ‘Valentine’ heart and other such obviousness to lighten it, but invariably the river is the symbol of war and suffering, and it’s hard to make light of such an impactive thing like war. It is not a trivial subject. However, I would refuse to depict just horrors; other things to find would be gold trinkets or jewels, and probably bottles of “Love Potion #9”, a childhood cartoon staple of make-him-love-me. All of which are causes for war.
After crossing the river there would be more of the forest until it broke into the field with the Dark Tower in the distance, and then more levels as you crossed that field to the Dark Tower itself. At the tower you would be given a choice of blowing the slug-horn to enter, or turning around. Turning around takes you through the woods again… and brings you out in a loop, at the Dark Tower. Entering the Dark Tower finishes the game, but inside the Tower you can replay the various scenes as you wish, with shifting object lists.
This is the game I would build, if I could build a game.