Friday, January 30, 2009

Alice in Alice Land

There's a show, UGLY BETTY, which I mostly can't stand anymore.

On one episode, someone told the main character, Betty, that she lived in
"Betty Land," where everything was about her all the time. (Or something
like that; it's been awhile.)

Sometimes I feel like I live in "Alice Land," where everything is about
me. I don't want to do that, don't want to be selfish and self-preoccupied.
The fact remains, sometimes I am. What else matters so much in a
person's life, except the things that affect that person?

Writing can be a way to get out of one's self, I think.

Or perhaps it is the most self-indulgent time of all, I don't know.
Worrying about writing, thinking about writing -- that can be pretty
self-indulgent, for me, anyway.

But it seems to me that writing itself takes you out of yourself almost
completely. When you're writing, the things that matter most are the
characters and their problems, and not you at all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Pink Umbrella

"Mom, how do authors pick titles for their books?" I asked my mother.
I don't know how old I was, but certainly pre-teen.

She tried to explain to me this ephemeral process. (Which frankly I
don't even quite understand today, now that I am an author. Well, if I
did, I'd always be able to pick good titles, wouldn't I?)

My blank stares must have told her I wasn't getting it. So she tried to
give me an example.

"Sometimes authors picks titles from something that shows up in their
stories. Like 'The Pink Umbrella.' An author might name a story that if
a pink umbrella shows up in their story, and means something important."

This explanation left me more confused than ever.

"The Pink Umbrella?" How could that be a title... or mean anything at

I understand titles a little better now, and the weird way they get
picked, or not picked. But in some part of my brain, 'The Pink Umbrella'
still means 'that weird process by which titles get picked.'

Then... the other week... I ran across an old Detective Book Club

One of the titles in it? "The Pink Umbrella," by one Frances Cramer, c)


The weird illustration from my childhood is now alive and well.

Maybe I'll read it and find out just how "The Pink Umbrella" could be a
good title for a book.

Maybe not. I might just let the mystery live on.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Book of Names, by D. Barkley Briggs

The Book of Names, by D. Barkley Briggs.

When I first heard the title of this book, it reminded me of "The Book of
Lost Things," a secular fantasy by a man named Connelly, which has a lot
of layering and beautiful, fascinating prose. That made me want to check
this book out.

This book is a Christian fantasy. I'm glad to see there's more of that
about lately. After all, some of the best fantasy writers were
Christians. (J.R.R. Tolkien, who started the whole modern fantasy thing,
was a Catholic.)

I'm about halfway through this book, so I can't review it fully, but by
the first few pages, I knew it couldn't be too bad, with rich prose like
the following:

"Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn't know
what to think. Only that it looked... otherworldly. Like God had put
Van Gogh in charge for the day."
"...mild winds had stirred to the south, scampering through row after row
of brittle stalks in the neighbor's cornfield across the road. He heard
them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high,
dry laughter."
"If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish
guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough
from when the twins were little, but no. A three-day-old slice of

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction.
He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his
skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Haydn Barlow."

The story involves two brothers who find a portal in the back of their
new, lush farm. (When their father talks to them about runestones and
North American Viking landing sites, it's engrossing and realistic.)

The boys end up going through this portal into another land where fairies
and gnomes are real (or fairy- and gnome-like creatures), and there are
different humans and religious orders of Guardians, and a kingdom in

The story does have some point-of-view violations. It skips from one
boy's thought -- or from simply telling us how he feels -- then switches
to the other's without changing scenes or anything.

Another complaint, which I have with almost all fantasy novels, is that
it is quite long. At 379 pages, it's a big book. (But that's just a pet
peeve of mine about most fantasy. Many would disagree.)

Overall, this seems like a good effort. It's the first in a series,
"Legends of Karac Tor."

Which made me wonder... does "Karac Tor" equal "Character?" I haven't
seen anything to indicate that it does. Maybe I'm reading things into
the syllables here. :)

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

Here are some other bloggers who are also talking about this book: