Month: June 2015

Book Series To Hold You Over Until George R.R. Martin’s Next A Song of Fire and Ice Book

Are you anxiously awaiting the next installment of A Song of Fire and Ice? I’m not here to give you spoilers or speculate on cliffhangers. Instead, I want to give you books to fill your need to read this summer. If you like books that come in a series, like the five (and soon to be six, we hope) that are part of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, then hopefully you’ll find one or more of these book series below enjoyable and entertaining.

Image from Goodreads.Com

Wayward Pines

If you like the suspense of the A Song of Fire and Ice series but want to move out of the fantasy realm, the Wayward Pines trilogy might just be something you’d enjoy reading. And, if you’re a fan of being able to both watch and read the same story lines, this book series has just been turned into a T.V. show that airs on Fox.

This three-part series, written by Blake Crouch, Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town, are as thrilling as they are engaging. Secret service agent Ethan Burke finds himself in Idaho for a simple mission that quickly devolves into a car accident, a stint in the hospital, and a town that won’t let him contact the outside world. As the series progresses, the town becomes more controlling and Ethan must find a way out beyond the electric fence to the family he left behind.


Image from Goodreads.Com

The Legend of Drizzt

If you love the fantasy, magic, and lore of A Song of Fire and Ice, then the Drizzt books set in the Forgotten Realms, written by R.A. Salvatore, will bring you plenty of enjoyment.

The Legend of Drizzt trilogy tells the story of a Drow, also known as a dark elf. Drizzt Do’Urden was a prince in Menzoberranza, the vast underground city of the Drow. To get ahead in this world, in this city, one has to be bloodthirsty, unprincipled, and downright vile. Drizzt finds himself to be none of these things and flees his home. To escape the underground world and find light, Drizzt must face many things that lurk in the dark, but most of all, he must learn to survive the solitude he is surrounded by to find his way above ground.


What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.

Kindle Unlimited: Is it worth it?

This blog has often talked about the advantages of ebooks and ebook devices, like Amazon’s Kindle, and highlighted the disadvantages of such devices, and publishing for such devices, as well.

I’m torn. I love books – all books, including ebooks, because I love to read. Reading a physical copy of a book, for me, is just as good as reading an ebook. But I do see a distinct advantage in ebooks, and that comes in the form of volume. I can carry around a device that gives me access to the 300+ books in my elibrary without having to lug the physical weight around of those 300+ books. I know, I don’t READ 300 books at once, but I like reading multiple books at once and having a Kindle allows me to do that in an easier format than, say, just carrying around 5 books with me everyplace I go.

Image from Amazon.Com

Amazon.Com is offering a services for fans of ebooks called Kindled Unlimited. This service has been available for a few months now, and I thought it was about time to try it out and review it. Here are some of the basics Amazon boasts, if you’re unsure of what the service offers:

* Over 800,00 books for subscribers to choose from.
* Unlimited listening to thousands of audiobooks.
* The ability to read and access these books from any device with the Kindle app installed.
* All for the low, low price of $9.99 a month.

After having Kindle Unlimited for two months, I have to say that some of these claims, outside of the prices, are more true than others.

Traveling This Summer? Keep a Journal!

In the summer of 2012 I traveled to China. It was a great experience, and I was super busy all the time. I never found time to write or keep a journal, but my roommate for the trip did. I’m fairly sad that I didn’t set aside the time to do the same thing.

What really impressed me about her journal was that it had writing prompts for her to respond to for each day she was gone. Her friends and family had gotten together and had come up with the writing prompts for her. They then wrote the prompts within a notebook and told her to not look ahead and to just fill in the page for the day’s writing prompt.

I did have fun taking photos, at least. My group was super annoyed that I took so long, but hell, they turned out awesome.
I did have fun taking photos, at least. My group was super annoyed that I took so long, but hell, they turned out awesome.

Besides being a totally awesome gift idea for friends or family that are traveling abroad, this is also a great tool for a writer. I have my memories (and a crap ton of pictures on my Facebook) of the trip, but I don’t have my emotional responses or thoughts documented from my time over there.

Summer is the time of Free Shakespeare Plays in Los Angeles

I’m lucky to live close to L.A. because, in the summer, Los Angeles is filled with things to do. For one, we have The Last Bookstore, which is just plain awesome and filled with catacombs of used dollar books.

There are also tons of lectures, literary events, book signings, and poetry readings to attend as well.

But my most favorite thing to do in the summer is to attend the free Shakespeare plays put on by the Independent Shakespeare Company as well as Shakespeare by the Sea.

This summer both companies are putting on two Shakespeare plays – one tragedy, and one comedy, each.

Photo by Mike Ditz from the Independent Shakespeare Company website.

The Independent Shakespeare Company is putting on Romeo & Juliet June 25th through July 26th in Griffith Park. This is the classic tale of two adolescents whose forbidden love spins out of control and ends with a double suicide. The Independent Shakespeare Company makes this production their own by adding a little Sid and Nancy twist – this tale is set in the modern world of punk rock. So if you’re a fan of Shakespeare, and/or a fan of punk, this show should blow your socks off.

Writing for Change

It’s no secret that I have an interest in politics. I also have a passion for writing. These two realms of my personality are not mutually exclusive; indeed, writing and politics often come together – from speeches written to address the public to the slew of emails politicians send out come election time. One doesn’t need to have a career in political writing to combine these two interests, though.

As a writer, you can put those skills to use to support your own causes and interests in writing for change – or writing letters to elected officials to express your point of view on a specific issues. This can be a letter supporting some current course of action, against a course of action, in response to a law that has already passed or to an upcoming bill that is coming up for vote on the floor before your local, state, or federal representative.

Omar Ahmad, former mayor of San Carlos, gave a riveting TED Talk on the effectiveness of letter writing as a form of political action and feedback directly from the people to the politician.

http://embed.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper.html
“What actually works, and the answer is actually strange: it’s a letter. We live in a digital world but we’re fairly analog creatures.”

Ahmad, in his talk, offers some great tips when it comes to writing for change, and I wanted to highlight and give a summary those points here:

Summer Reading for Children: A Great Time to Build Empathy

School’s out! And that means that hordes of children (they come in hordes, right?) will be running free for the eight (or more) hours a day they used to spend in school.

There are lots of things to do with kids at this time. You can send them away to camp, if you can afford it, or enroll them in some day camps in your area that have them do arts and crafts. The older kids can get jobs, and the younger kids can be those babysitting jobs the older kids get.

I know on my summer break, coming from a socioeconomically deprived family, I never experienced any sort of children’s camp myself. Instead, I watched a lot of T.V. and read a lot of books. One of those was probably better for me than the other.

A recent study came out that found that reading helps build empathy. This isn’t anything new to us humanities majors and graduates, but this study by Stanford University tested that hypothesis and gave quantifiable evidence to what was a qualitative observation.

One great service we can do for our hordes of children is to help them build empathy. Empathy is not only the ability to recognize, respect, and reciprocate the emotions of others, but it’s what psychologists call a “pro-social” behavior that helps our society, overall, because a society that cares for and about each other is the way a society is supposed to function. Just look at the roots of the word: soci, Latin for us, partner, or comrade and ity, a Latin suffix that is used to abstract nouns to express a state or condition. So, by that breakdown of the word, society is the state of being us – partners or comrades.

There are many great books out there that will help kids build empathy. What I’m listing today would be great for 8-12 year old kids. Instead of watching strange things on YouTube (which is what my 9 year old Godchild does constantly) or Netflixing (yes, it’s a verb now), kids can pick up these books (hopefully willingly, but if not, bribery is always an option) and build their empathy skills up instead.

Freak the Mighty

I remember reading this book in either the fourth or fifth grade, and it made me cry. This book is the story of two boys – one, a slow learning giant and one, an extremely bright child in leg braces. These boys become unlikely friends, and, well, darn it. I’m going to tear up again. This book shows the power of unlikely friendships and the value we each have as a person – big, strong, and slow or small, weak, and smart as well as everyone in the middle.

Story Shots: May Day

Story_Shots

May means different things to different people. In May, memorial day happens to honor people who have served this country through military service. May is a great time for weddings. May is when the flowers start blooming and the bees start pollinating. But May 1st is a different kind of day. May Day in America has a history surrounding worker’s rights. This month’s creative nonfiction post is an ode to May Day.


The FM radio broke about a year ago. I don’t know why. My car’s a 2001 Kia Spectra and it’s 2015. That’s probably why.

KNX1070, a Southern Californian news radio program that ran on AM, was playing as I drove home. I had work until 5 p.m. I tell myself that work was the reason I didn’t go. I don’t tell myself even if I went, my busted hip and knee would have kept me from marching.

“Let’s go to your eye in the sky and get the latest on Traffic in L.A.” the male radio host said, over pronouncing every word through what sounded like a tight, forced smile.

“Well, there are a lot of freeway closures in L.A. today due to the march,” came the reply from the CBS News Helicopter.

“Thank you Denise. Are there a lot of people marching in L.A. today for the fight-for-fifteen movement?” The inflection of his voice was supposed to make him sound interested, but the over enthusiasm in his voice just made every question and statement that fell from his lips feel false.

“Oh gosh,” she started, “like 200 people are so. You can’t miss the flag they have. It’s a big flag. They’re leading the march with it.”

I texted my friend at the march asking how many people were there.

“About 1,000, maybe more” he replied.