Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Social Networking; it’s everything but Social

Example of a scale-free network (courtesy of H.G. Katzgraber)

Because of technology, we’re a highly connected society, yet we’re the most uncommunicative one. When I first started blogging, it was a way for me to get in the habit of writing at least once a week. It was to share whatever’s on mind from life experiences and travels to poetry and book promotions, with people who are interested.  I also wanted to know what other people thought. As of today, I still feel this way. I want to connect with people who want to connect instead of seeing my follower count go up but they’re really not following. In a world saturated with information, news, gossip, YouTube videos, etc. I’d rather communicate more on a personal level than for the sake of popularity. It’s funny because I’ve never gave ‘being popular’ a thought. I guess it’s all about getting your name out there.

And then, as I continued to blog and I published a few books, I decided to join Twitter and Facebook. I have to admit, I don’t ‘get’ Twitter. I’ve never seen much discussion from most of my Twitter followers, even when I ask a question because everyone’s too busy asking their own questions and posting links. When I do venture over to Twitter, which isn’t often, all I see are people posting links with comments such as, “Read my review!” “Check out my blog.” “Huff Post and Amazon!” I’m sure some people think this is a way of communicating, but not me. I'm not saying that I don't retweet and promote mine and my friends stuff, but I don't think that's all Twitter should be about ... or maybe I just don’t get the whole Twitter concept.

But I do get the whole Facebook concept and I refuse to pay for promotion. The one nice thing I have to say about my Facebook page is that people DO talk—they’ll leave comments. I think it’s great to see people giving their input about a particular question or about someone’s success.

What it really comes down to is that for all the different ways we can socialize, we’re not very social. We want our names out there, 15 minutes of fame, but we don’t want to talk to anyone on the way. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud many of you for tackling the social networking sites and really promoting on them. It’s a job all in itself.

Social networking should also be about socializing and discussing our lives along with world events, politics, religion, etc. We should be more apt to discuss than argue because of the many outlets we’re given to express ourselves. Instead, we argue and/or avoid altogether crucial subjects for fear of people not liking us.

What are your thoughts about social networking? What do you like or dislike about it?

Networking and Unsocial,

P.S. One social networking site I love is Pinterest.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Appearance!

Hello my fellow bloggers, readers, writers and all you fabulous followers. I did a guest appearance on Jeri Walker-Bickett’s blog, JeriWB: What do I know? Come on over and check it out!

Interviews and Freebies,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review – Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Lately, I’ve read several historical fiction books about Europe during Nazi and Stalin times. I’m not sure why, but each book has pulled me into the sorrowful past and I’ve thought about the many lives lost under extremist rule.

My recent historical journey was Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. I never read a book by Kristin before, but she certainly made me a fan with this book.

Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback: 448 Pages

Synopsis from Amazon:

Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother?

“Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.”

What made me want to read this book?

I can’t pinpoint exactly what made me want to read this book. I recently read a few YA historical fiction, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys because it was compared to The Book Thief. Here’s the link to my review of that book - I enjoyed both these books, so I figured I would enjoy the Winter Garden, too.

Winter Garden is about a mother’s fairy tale of love and survival in Leningrad, Russia during the war. There is a great overwhelming emotion I feel when I think about how people struggled to survive in Europe during Stalin and Hitler rule. Although fiction, these books about the tyranny and hatred these two leaders carried in their hearts and commanded can’t be expressed in history books ... and from my memory, I don’t recall learning about them. So, I’ve been interested in reading about what happened in Europe during the war, and how so many suffered and died without even being put in a Potter’s Field.

My Review

Kristin Hannah accomplished one very difficult task as a writer, and that is progressive character change. From the start, her characters are flawed and lost, but as the story progresses, the characters gradually change … and the mother, Anya, changes a lot. It’s incredible to read and experience a writer creating flawed characters, one to the point of dislike, and then seeing them transform to the point of liking them.  

Meredith and Nina’s mother, Anya, was never really a mother to them. She was cold and distant, but the one thing that brought them together as children was Anya telling her fairy tale. On his deathbed, their beloved father, Evan, made his wife promise to tell the entire fairy tale to his daughters, and asked his daughters to truly listen to the story. As Anya begins to tell the fairy tale, and her erratic behavior diminishes, Meredith and Nina realize the fairy tale isn’t really a fairy tale, but about their mother’s life in Leningrad, Russia.

Along with dimensional characters and learning about suffering, Kristin’s writing adds to the beauty of the story. Below are a few examples of her writing style:

“Words were like pennies, fallen into corners and down the cracks, not worth the effort of collecting” (pg. 52)

“Grief had become her silent sidekick.” (pg. 81)

“She hears a squawking sound coming through a speaker and the word—Attention—thrown like a knife into wood.” (pg. 254)

A few things I didn’t like about the book were the ending and the mothers’ relationship with the father. The ending seemed rushed and everything wrapped up too nicely. I also wondered how Meredith and Nina felt knowing their mother’s heart belonged to another, and also why their father married such a woman.

Because of these flaws, I give this book a 4.25-star out of 5.

Fairy tales and Love,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Power of Words

Words have so much power, not because of the words themselves but because we give them power. They are a mode for emotion. Our emotions are extracted and placed into words to give them the love, punch or anger we want to convey., so it’s important for authors to choose the right words and link them together to evoke some type of emotion from the reader. Sometimes an entire book can leave us feeling angry, unsatisfied, happy or sad. It’s a huge achievement for a writer to make a long-lasting impression.

Since words have strength, there are some words we like and dislike more than others (aside from insults and curse words). Here are a few of mine:

Make me squirm: excretion, goiter, and scurvy.
Beautiful: soliloquy, ivory, and ellipsis.
Sad: pallid and ashen.

It’s also important to make sure punctuation, along with the words, add to the emotion. Sometimes we put in short sentences for emphasis, and sometimes we let a sentence flow to describe a moment.

Below are a few extracts from my current manuscript and working title, The Day I Found Me.

Opening Paragraph

“They all sat around, eyes on me, watching for signs of ... what? I felt like a substance in a petri dish. I had to keep looking down into my lap to avoid their stares. I opened my hand, my eyes tracing the lines, a large M in the middle of my palm, lines trailing to my wrist. Did the M stand for marriage? I couldn’t remember ... along with many other things. I bit my lower lip, scrunched my eyebrows, and looked up to find that nothing had changed. No one shifted or lost focus ... from me. I sighed looking at each strained face as if they were constipated. A puff of air escaped with a tiny laugh.”

Page 11 – Halfway down

“She left the room but I remained where I was, thinking about my circumstances. Punch drunk indeed. My liver might not appreciate the term, but my mind enjoyed the ride. I didn’t have to think of the horrible things going on in my life. But there wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to act as acid burn to smolder the heartbreaking memories. In a short period of time, I lost my mother to the hunger of cancer, my home to an unemployment sabbatical, and my boyfriend to a tall, skinny blond with long legs. Well, the latter was a blessing. I should have known something was up when he claimed ‘whiskey dick’ every time I made a sexual move. Someone forgot to send me the memo that he lost interest months ago.”

Page 11 - Bottom

“I walked into the washroom, turned on the faucet and threw cold water on my face. The cold made me flinch, but I appreciated the wakeup slap. It took my mind off PIB and my elbow. I placed my hands under the water, added soap, and rubbed them together while staring at the soap bugger on the dispenser. That’s how I felt ... like a soap bugger ... leftover and hanging.”

What do you think? What words do you like or dislike? Would you like to share a paragraph from your current works?

Words and Emotion,