8 VERY PRETTY PUBLIC LIBRARIES

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Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

 

All public libraries are created equal. No matter the size of the collection, the rarity of the books, or the location; public libraries are a place of knowledge and learning any can go to and utilize.

Public libraries are genuinely helpful places. With paperback books averaging $8 a pop, reading different books is expensive if you were to buy each one. That’s where public libraries come in. Not only are you able to check-out just about any book you can think of (inter-library loans allow that access), you also get access to the benefits of reading for FREE!

Although, all public libraries being equal, some are a lot prettier than others.

 

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NO, NO, NO. DO NOT DO THAT.

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I have an idea for a story. I enjoy Battlestar Galactica, so I think Apollo or Starbuck should be in my story. I love watching Dr. Who, so the much discussed Clara will have a place. Oh yeah, the doc from BSG is great, so he will be there.

Clichés are good, yes? I love clichés, it makes the story run so much smoother.

How could I forget? Explanation for every little action any of my characters make is a no-brainer; because, duh, how will anyone know what is happening without detailed exposition for every action?

Intense action sequences must be broken up with internal narrative; and inconsistencies during those scenes will go unnoticed, so I just gotta stick to the detailed explanations.

And this, this is the most important I have to remember: the tough, grizzled guy gets the woman who instantly falls for him upon meeting him, but she must also act stern and show she doesn’t give a shit when he reacts like a silverback gorilla challenging an intruder. People just won’t find it believable if she doesn’t show a little backbone.

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Let’s break down the reasons why the above is so wrong.

STEALING CHARACTERS

It is okay to take inspiration from a fictional or real person to create your fictional person. That’s perfectly okay. Nearly every single fictional character ever created has been inspired by person(s) of myth or reality or a little of both. What is wrong, is stealing wholesale from a character someone else has created.

For example: The Chief of Medical on Battlestar Galactica is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news.

So, if your doctor is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news; you’re not inspired from the doc on BSG, you’re just being lazily and stealing.

CLICHÉS

  1. The soldier with a lot of tattoos is a hot head and great in a fight.
  2. The man from a country in South America, he prays with a rosary before every mission even though he’s agnostic.
  3. A settled new planet has a bazaar, homes made out of rock, and low wealth, and is, of course, settled by people from Middle East nations.
  4. The tough guy leader has a checkered past, doesn’t care about himself cause he’s a leader, and he gets the girl.

The above are called, “clichés”, although I think number 3 is also an overt racist stereotype, and number 2 makes you seem ridiculously uneducated.

I wish I could say people hate clichés, but if that were the case The Big Bang Theory would not be popular. Clichés do ensure you’ll have a ton of really terrible reviews, and not nice things coming from word of mouth because of the lack of originality. You’ll never get away from every cliché, but don’t over do it and stay away from the stereotypes.

EASE UP ON THE EXPOSITION

No. I’ll say it again. No. You do not need to explain every little goddamn thing. If you are writing a military sci-fi book, you do not need to tell the reader what MRE stands for. If the person reading a military sci-fi book does not know what MRE stands for or what a MRE is, they are in a super duper tiny minority and they will look it up.

Explaining precisely why a character is going to do something, and then having the character do exactly what was in the previous two paragraphs is called, “telegraphing”. There is no such thing as good telegraphing, unless you are using a telegraph to send a message to another telegraph. You’re not though, you’re typing on a keyboard.

Ease up on the exposition, and while you’re writing, pretend for just a minute that your reader has an iota of intelligence and can figure something out without you having to paint the Mona Lisa in every paragraph.

INCONSISTENCIES

If you are in walking with maglev boots on the outside of a spaceship in the vacuum of space and you jump off…You will not land with a thud against the ship.

THE DAMSEL

Take a moment to look at what year it is. You’re reading this on a web browser; the date is going to be somewhere within eyesight.

It’s the year 2016 CE. It is not the Mad Men era in the 1950s.

If you create a character who is a giant asshole with mood swings so violent, he has an armed guard to meetings, the woman he talks to will not instantly fall in love with his rugged handsomeness and manly attitude when she meets him for the first time. She will not tell the guard to leave the room while he slams his fists on the table because his authority is being challenged. Seriously, if you think this is perfectly okay for a story…

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I love reading; great stories, wonderful stories, just okay stories, it really doesn’t matter. However, authors are supposed to uphold some sort of standard with storytelling. Not everyone on Earth writes stories, which means being the bulwark against terrible storytelling falls to just a small percentage of all alive.

Let’s do the world good.

Let’s create magic with words.

 

5 AMAZING SCI-FI READS – AN UNCONVENTIONAL LISTING

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Ahh, the list of things to read. As varied as fingerprints and as accurate to the total stranger as Steve Harvey announcing a winner of a beauty contest. They are fun to read though, as a book lover will eventually run across one or two books they haven’t read before, books that catch their eye and entice them to read.

Now, this is not an essential read list. There’s no such thing. To claim a book is an essential read is the same as saying, “That’s the best movie ever!”. It’s pure opinion and does not take into account the preferences of generations. For what is considered wonderful writing to an older generation is now considered stilted and out of touch with a younger generation.

For instance, most people who began reading between the ‘50s and ‘80s will refuse to believe that Asimov, Herbert, Niven, Clarke (to name a few) don’t resonate very well with today’s generation. Yet the writing is so drastically different, stilted if books published in the 2000s are the new standard bearers, that people who began reading in the 90s and 00s will look at those authors, from the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, as boring compared to the authors who have begun publishing during the last twenty or so years.

If you flip the train, the same holds true. The older generation will try out some of the newer books, but for the most part stick to the long dead writers or those authors who began writing back in the ‘60s. The newer generation of authors are just uninteresting to them.

So, essential read lists? An emphatic, NO.

A list of novels with tight writing, gigantic ideas, and ridiculous action? This is for you.

 

FORTUNE’S PAWN

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Fortune’s Pawn is a blend of ideas taken from pop-culture sci-fi movies and books. There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries (warriors) wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

The thing about Fortune’s Pawn isn’t so much about the extraneous parts—the universe is quite interesting—it’s that Rachel Bach has created a main character in Devi Morris who has so much panache and badassery, she will grab you by the throat on page 1 and won’t let go until the last word of the last sentence. And you’ll thank her for it.

Action upon action, hurtling toward conclusion at a breakneck speed, Fortune’s Pawn is the most entertaining book you’ll have read in years.

 

BLINDSIGHT

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Hard sci-fi. A tough sell to the crowds that want more fiction than science in their stories. However, sometimes an author comes along that manages to bridge that gap. Alastair Reynolds comes to mind, and now Peter Watts, both utilizing a mixture of hard sci-fi and outlandish fiction to create something memorable.

Blindsight follows a handpicked crew sent to investigate an alien object transmitting a signal. Standard fare right? Well, throw in a man with half his brain carved out at a young age who can’t feel empathy, a woman literally living with multiple people in her head, a man who may has well be a cyborg, a highly lauded soldier who is now a pacifist, and a vampire from the Pleistocene era resurected to be the ultimate soldier; you now have the makings for one strange story.

This first contact story is so marvelously written that you may be a little bummed at the end of it when you remember not every story is written so great. It is recommended to be read on an ereader with a dictionary downloaded, as the biology terminology is a bit heavy at times.

Blindsight is a first contact story completely unlike any you have ever read before.

 

DARK INTELLIGENCE

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Neal Asher writes like Peter Watts; you want to read every word in every sentence, not skipping so much as a “it” or “the”. In regards to Watts, every word needs to be read as near every sentence is crammed with difficult language, making it easy to get lost. Asher on the other hand, spins such a brilliant tale, you’ll find yourself not speed reading simply so you can savor every morsel of what he dishes up.

Dark Intelligence is that and more.

In what is possibly the finest science fiction novel ever produced, we find ourselves immersed in a story following the machinations of the single most fascinating character in literature: Penny Royal, an evil genie AI. The rest of the cast is as memorable: Thorvald Spear, a resurrected human with a chip on his shoulder; Riss, the snake-like assassin drone; Isobel Satomi, a career criminal who should have been more cautious when speaking to a genie. There is so much greatness crammed into this book, it is a shame not every sci-fi lover has read it.

Next to Hyperion, Dark Intelligence may just be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written.

 

REDSHIRTS

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Enjoy Star Trek? Did you get a kick out of the “third man” during the free fall scene in the Star Trek reboot movie? Hell, do you enjoy reading humorous books? If you can say yes to any of them, do yourself a favor and read Redshirts by John Scalzi.

From an author who has the balls to do stand-up comedy on occasion, the story of a redshirt ensign stationed on a starship that may resemble the USS Enterprise is exactly what you’d think: an absolute riot. The dialogue and description Scalzi creates in Redshirts is not only gut-busting funny, it’s some of the best he’s produced across all his novels.

Redshirts is a great read to start your week, end your week, or just lose yourself in any day of the week.

 

 

ANDROID HUNTERS

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Androids, an existence stricken from record and unofficially public enemy number one for the butchery of an entire world. Android Hunters, genetically enhanced humans with a singular resolve to hunt down and destroy every last android. The most powerful criminal empire in the history of humanity. And an android who wants to be human, who also may be the most powerful weapon ever created.

Characters inspired by mythological heroes, gods, and titans. Technology that follows Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Betrayal. Manipulations. Terrorists.

Android Hunters checks every box a sci-fi fan could want; and then when you blend all of those elements together, and throw in a world of pristine beauty juxtaposed against the brutality of a secret war fought by android hunters against androids, you get a story with a blistering pace that will leave you on the edge of your seat; wanting, wishing, waiting for more.

 

 

4 WRITING TAKEAWAYS FROM DAREDEVIL (TV)

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Daredevil, a Netflix Original Series, is one show in the growing stable of Marvel television shows. Serious at its core, it’s sprinkled with humor like a master chef adding salt to a dish; not too little so it has no affect, but not too much so the humor ruins the vibe. The writing stands head and shoulders above competition even outpacing other Marvel enterprises, with production values on par with big budget movies. Combined, the recipe makes for the best Marvel show and one of the best television shows ever produced.

Now, yes, Daredevil is a television show and thus naturally inferior to curling up with a good book, yet through the phenomenal writing of scripts and show pacing, a writer can takeaway quite a few great tips.

 

SLOW REVEALS

Daredevil excels here. The first episode origin story that tells the audience why the hero is filled with angst and why the villain is evil and hates the hero, is skipped in favor of the natural lifestory reveal. The writers of Daredevil decided the story should follow the person; Daredevil, Matthew Murdoc, is someone who works in the shadows and by night, and his story reveal follows that work ethic.

In the first episode we are introduced to Matthew Murdoc at the end of the crash that gives him his abilities, then thrust directly into his nightlife routine of beating the snot out of criminals. It’s here the viewer is given a taste for how the show will play out: the past will be revealed, not all in one huge chunk—an infodump if you will—but over time in small bite sized pieces. It’s like when you meet a new person. That person, or you, don’t make introductions and then launch into a backstory covering from age 5 up to three minutes ago. It’s weird and unnatural. Writing should take a cue from real life on explaining backstory like the writers of Daredevil follow.

 

RELATIONSHIPS NEED CONFLICT

No surprise here. Romance is the largest book genre by sales volume because relationships are full of tension. Women, and men, don’t purchase romance books because they are all huge, sentimental, love struck, romantics. Some may read romance for that reason, but in general, people yearn to see or read about relationships that are full of so much conflict that interested parties would have split long ago in real life, but they continue on at least speaking terms in the story. It’s a storytelling device that the romance genre excels in, and here Daredevil follows with greatness.

The writers in our show create tension between every single character, even Foggy and Murdoc who are best friends, and the drama is built slow like a pot of water coming to a boil. Conflicted relationships that develop over time, not in three sentences, are fascinating—in real life, in movies, television, and especially novels.

 

SURPRISE

It’s difficult to give an example from Daredevil about the surprises the writers use. To do so would ruin some of the most amazing scenes ever created for a television program.

The writers of Daredevil are able to produce these shocking scenes, not because they reach a point and think, “Let’s throw a twist in!”. Rather, they set a character down a path, with a morality you think you know they follow, and then force the character onto a road that could make them possibly go against their moral code.

It is difficult to envision without proper examples, so watch at least through Episode 11 of Season 1. When you do, keep in mind that twists like that cannot happen to every character in a novel or show. The more characters you toss moral twists at, the cheaper each subsequent one becomes. Going back to the salt analogy; too much can ruin a dish while too little will have no effect.

 

UPPING THE ANTE

Daredevil starts small and then increases the pot like an overconfident drunk playing poker.

Many TV shows and novels believe that if they lay out this massive, convoluted plot from the get go, they can coast to the end and keep the attention of the reader/viewer. The writer(s) could not be more mistaken.

Again, this is one of those that examples from the show would ruin what the writers have created. Suffice to say, every single episode throws another pepperoni on the pie, just one piece, enough for added flavor but not overpowering. By the end of the season, those single pieces create a mountain ready to topple over and create a surprise ending.

How do you do that in a novel though when most novels are not serials? You can up the plot ante with each chapter, subtly building until the penultimate chapter is a pressure cooker with the lid about to explode off.

 

 

YOU’RE WELCOME. 5 BINGE-READING WORTHY SERIES

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It’s Friday afternoon, management told everyone to talk a halfday because the universe took a sudden liking to you. Traffic is light on the way home, every green light caught; everyone you know is off doing something for the weekend; your calendar is as empty as the pie plates at The Golden Corral; and your bookshelf is proudly displaying wonderful works of fiction in all their glory. Or it’s reality and you’d rather read than talk to people.

Whatever the reason, these book series will keep you so entertained you’ll wish a weekend is a year longer than it is.

 

THE PARADOX TRILOGY

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What do you get when you combine Frank Castle, Black Widow, Jason Bourne, Joan of Arc, and Achilles? Answer: Devi Morris, the badass of all badasses.

The Paradox Trilogy follows the mercenary Devi Morris in a story with such tightly paced action you’ll give yourself papercuts flipping the pages as you follow her through a conspiracy, that if solved, could have horrific consequences for the human race.

This is action upon action set in a science fiction setting. Think: Expendables (if it were a good movie) + Star Wars.

 

THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY

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Welcome to grimdark fantasy, authored by none other than Lord Grimdark himself. Visceral style of storytelling that reimagines classic tropes, protagonists and antagonists who walk a moral gray line, bloody battles, raw animalistic magic, dead gods, a grim rather than romantic epic quest, and political backstabbing create a story that will go down in the annals as one of the finest fantasy series ever written.

At three books—hence, trilogy—if you start late afternoon on a Friday, you could finish Paradox and The First Law, and by saddened by how boring your life suddenly seems on Monday.

 

THE WHEEL OF TIME

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The genre of fantasy is known for epics, so much so that there are entire blog entries dedicated to finding those fantasy books that happen to be standalone or not epic. And when it comes to epic people may automatically think of J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings, but it’s Robert Jordan’s successful The Wheel of Time that set has set the bar for what an epic fantasy series can be.

Wondering how that can be since LoTR is so well known, the movies so popular? Take a gander at these statistics:

10,188 pages. 1,379 POVs. 147 unique POVs. 23 nations.

The Wheel of Time is so epic, it redifines the the very word; and while a few of the books may seem like fluff, there just to make Tor Books and Jordan more money, the payout comes in the form of a jackpot with the last book, Memory of Light. The finale to the greatest epic fantasy ever written is so great, you better talk a month off when you begin on Eye of the World, to finish this classic struggle of good versus evil.

 

REVELATION SPACE

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The Revelation Space books are not a series in the classic definition, but rather five books set in a shared universe. STOP! Don’t skip to the next series to binge on, now that you know this isn’t a series like a TV show. To do so would have catastrophic consequences to your imagination, as the books set in the Revelation Space universe are so amazing that they are the gold standard for hard sci-fi space opera.

What’s that? You don’t like hard sci-fi? I hear you, I’m not a big fan of the genre either. But the Revelation Space books are so marvelously written, to read them and not be entertained is all but an impossibility.

 

FIREFALL

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Ahh the challenge of reading. For many, if they are told a storyline is so original it doesn’t follow normal tropes, and ideas are so…different the entire series reads like a piece of experimental fiction, those many would shake their heads and move on.

To do so with Blindsight and Echopraxia—books of Firefall—would be a disservice to your brain.

Yes, Blindsight has botany terminology that is difficult to wrap your head around and sometimes requires the use of a dictionary. True, Echopraxia has a plot arc that is, at best, challenging to wrap your mind around. However, the writing, plotting, pace, and original story are so wonderfully produced that very few authors alive—or dead—can match the superb results Peter Watts has achieved.

 

 

4 Detrimental Effects Of Reading On Ereaders

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History is full of epic battles; David and Goliath, Axis and Allies, Rocky and Apollo; but there is one battle more epic, more divisive, than any other:

Paper books versus Ebooks

Find someone who reads (more than just emails), and ask them if they prefer to do their reading on a real book or on a fake book like Kindles, and you’re guaranteed to get a response that does not straddle the fence. And even though the answer—which is better—is obvious, some people still choose wrong and say a fake (ebook) book is better.

The next time you hear such heresy, you now have four direct hits for why ebooks are the loser in this battle.

 

YOU’LL FORGET HOW TO READ LONG SENTENCES

Reading long literary sentences is a skill you can actually lose if you don’t use it. A study in 2006 shows that reading on screens changes the linear fashion in which we are taught to read, to an “F” pattern, where we read the first line then skim the left side looking for keywords. Good luck enjoying a novel by only reading thirty words on every page.

 

LACK OF ABSORBTION

Quick, name the first three significant plot points in the latest book you read. If you read the story on paper, you’re likely able to rattle them off; if you chose to read it on a Kindle or other ereader you’re “significantly” less likely to accurately answer that.

 

PAPER BOOKS ARE MORE COHERENT AND NAVIGABLE

By halving the topography of a novel—rather than eight corners and two clearly defined domains that help you navigate the terrain of words, an ebook gives you just a single page of text with no way to orient yourself—you are turning a joyful reading experience into an incoherent mess. Oh, and that literary map the domains—left and right pages—create also helps with reading comprehension.

 

YOU’RE HURTING YOURSELF

You heard reading can prevent mental decline and increase your empathy so you don’t come off as such a jerk to people, so you started reading with vigor. Good for you! Fantastic! I just hope you didn’t choose a screen to read that book on, or you may end up damaging your health more than helping it.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh man, I gotta read a book?

READING

Reading [ˈrēdiNG]

NOUN

  1. the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud

 

Three years ago when I was still writing ANDROID HUNTERS, a coworker told me something that shocked me so intensely I just sat down—a little bummed truth be told. He said, “I don’t read books, just watch TV. I don’t have enough time to read.”

How was I to respond to that?

  • “I hate you, because my dream relies on people reading.”?
  • “Can you at least buy my book?”?
  • “Uhh, stop watching TV and you’ll have more time to read.”?

I didn’t have a clue how to respond, so I sat down and began responding to emails like he had said nothing. It’s been at least three years since I’ve heard those words, and they still haunt me; so much so that I passively look for research into reading that I can share with a person I will likely never see again.

INCREASE THAT VOCAB OF YOURS

TV relies on imagery and sound to get across most of the points the show is making, in turn exposing you to precious few words. What words are said are catered to the lowest common denominator so everyone can understand.

Why do you need a larger vocabulary when a TV show doesn’t need it? Well a TV show doesn’t need confidence to talk to a supervisor at work. A TV show doesn’t need to sound articulate in a professional setting. So, crack open those books, expose yourself to some new words, and start speaking with new found confidence with articulation that stuns even you.

STOP SPENDING ALL LUNCH BREAK READING THAT TWO PARAGRAPH EMAIL

Without exposing yourself to the written word, automaticity and word recognition speed are greatly delayed. Not recognizing leads to less involvement in reading, which leads to less word recognition, until you’re communicating in grunts and hand gestures. *

*Okay, maybe not grunts, but you won’t have to spend ten minutes reading a two sentence email.

ANALYTICAL SKILLS, YAY!

We all love solving puzzles, being able to spot a pattern someone else can, winning at games. Hooray for competition! How about improving your odds of beating that total stranger/friend/coworker by showing off mad analytical skillz gained by reading.

WRITE BETTER

Do you like writing? Do you want to one day write the next great American novel? Do you just want your emails to not sound like a five year old wrote them? Good luck doing that without reading. A LOT.

DON’T BE THAT PERSON

It’s easier to talk to someone who is empathetic, something everyone learns eventually.

Studies have shown that by broadening your horizon through reading, your mind will open and be more receiving to lives outside your insular one. In other words, you may never have known someone who suffered through cancer, but by reading books with people going through sickness, you will literally increase your empathy for a real person suffering from an illness. And be realistic, at least one time in your life someone will look to you for empathy; do you really want to have to give them the cold shoulder because you don’t understand?

ENTERTAINMENT

Books can be consumed in more areas than watching a TV show. You don’t have to worry about putting away a book on an airplane before departure and landing. A book can be read in an area without cell signal. It doesn’t need to be charged. You don’t need to wait for a company to throw tons of money at a show just so you can see something different, because there’s a never-ending barrage of new and interesting content waiting to increase your vocabulary and make you a better friend.

BEST OF ALL, READING IS FREE

Go into a library (for free), get a library card (for free), and start entertaining yourself without waiting for a computer that has a timer (for free).