Saturday, February 22, 2014

Video Sharing: Ranting about Books

I just wanted to share this video with you guys! I found myself nodding along often; comment if you did to!

Reading: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Listening: Mumford and Sons
Watching: Republic of Doyle and The X Files

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Splash of Ink: Three Years in Review

In celebration of three years (!!!!) I want to look back at some of my favourite posts, some of your favourite posts (aka most viewed posts) and evolution of A Splash of Ink.

My Favourite Posts:

A Splash of Ink's Video Debut
I filled up my entire writer's journal and made a video giving everyone a tour of it. I worked hard on this and was satisfied with how it turned out.

The Five Stages of Grief
I talk about the five stages of grief and how you can use it in your story.

An Example of Revision
In this post, I return to a piece of writing (a prior blog post) that had been niggling at me, just begging for revision.

Stop Thinking, Start Doing
This is a simple post sharing something that inspired me. A car commercial!

To Review or Not to Review
This post discusses some of the ethics behind reviewing books.

Your Favourite Posts (decided by view count):

Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate
I wrote about something that the internet doesn't have much about: anglo-saxon and latinate words.

How to Increase Blog Traffic
This is the second post in a two part series about getting the view count on your blog up.

Writing Research: How to Win a Sword Fight
Together we learned some fighting terms and how to apply them to our stories. Complete with MS Paint illustrations compliments of moi.

A Bookish Update
I give brief reviews of Partials by Dan Wells and Why We Write by Meredith Maran. I also plug a few websites of my friends.

Keeping Track of Our Blogs and How to Use Bloglovin'
This post was published back in the summer when we all thought Google Friend Connect was going away. I talked about how to join up with Bloglovin'. I still use Bloglovin' and it's great; I like that I can mark posts as read and then they disappear from my feed.

It's fun and a little embarrassing for me to go back into A Splash of Ink's archives. Some of those early posts (and some more recent ones too) are a little bit rough. I'm tempted to go back to edit them, but I won't. It's good for me as a writer to see how far I've come, and how some of my ideals have changed.

How about you? Have you changed since you started blogging? Do you like going back into your archives? Have you got a favourite post or type of post on SOI? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Reading: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Listening: Johnny Cash
Watching: the Olympics

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Should Writers Read (Non-fiction) ?

"Generally, there are two things that writers recommend to others who want to improve: more writing, and reading. More writing is an obvious one, since practice makes perfect. But writing in a vacuum won’t do us much good. Reading exposes us to other styles, other voices, other forms, and other genres of writing. Importantly, it exposes us to writing that’s better than our own and helps us to improve."

-Beth Belle Cooper 

I can't stress how important it is to read and to read a variety of genres if you want to be a good writer. First, for the technique aspect of it (see Cooper's quote) and second, to challenge ourselves. To be a good writer -or a good artist of any kind- you must first know yourself intimately. I've found some of my best "thinking about who I am" moments have come from reading books that I wouldn't normally read (i.e. YA novels) and being exposed to situations and people way outside of my comfort zone.

It can be intimidating to read outside of your comfort genre, so in this post I want to help you find good books (none of this boring, dense stuff!) to read that are part of the non-fiction genre. I know it will be outside of a lot of comfort zones, and reading NF is a great way to do research and gain insight on topics for your writing, which is why I picked that genre to zero in on in this post.

Sunny Smith's Thought-Provoking Non-Fiction Book Recommendations 

And Then There Were Nuns: Adventures in the Cloistered Life by Jane Christmas

Just as Jane Christmas decides to enter a convent in mid-life to find out whether she is "nun material”, her long-term partner Colin, suddenly springs a marriage proposal on her. Determined not to let her monastic dreams be sidelined, Christmas puts her engagement on hold and embarks on an extraordinary year long adventure to four convents—one in Canada and three in the UK. In these communities of cloistered nuns and monks, she shares—and at times chafes and rails against—the silent, simple existence she has sought all of her life. 

Why you should read this book: It's a book about religion by a non-religious person. It offers insights into convents and monasteries, as well as contemplation, spiritual matters and letting go of the past. This is a memoir, which is a great way for a fiction-lover to dip their toe into non-fiction.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 freshly laundered nuns' habits.

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do edited by Meredith Maran

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

Why you should read this book: Even if these authors mean nothing to you, it's great to read about what inspires these best-selling authors. Many of them share tales of how they almost quit or how hard it was to get started. It also great to see so many different voices all beside each other. This book will help you in understanding why you write. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 red, ink-stained manuscripts.

Nobody's Mother: Life Without Kids edited by Lynne Van Luven

Statistics say that one in 10 women has no intention of taking the plunge into motherhood. Nobody's Mother is a collection of stories by women who have already made this choice.

From introspective to humorous to rabble-rousing, these are personal stories that are well and honestly told. The writers range in age from early 30s to mid-70s and come from diverse backgrounds. All have thought long and hard about the role of motherhood, their own destinies, what mothering means in our society and what their choice means to them as individuals and as members of their ethnic communities or social groups.

Why you should read this book: This might seem like an odd choice, but it's really interesting to read from the perspective of a minority: childless women. Not only did I find it challenging to my personal beliefs, but I also found it to be a good reference for character building. Creating round characters for stories can be difficult, but it becomes much easier when you give them an uncommon trait, like a woman having no children. Since this is a collection of essays, you're free to skip over the ones that you find less interesting (that's what I did).

My Rating: 3 out of 5 globetrotting travelers.

Additional Recommendations:

My biggest tip for reading non-fiction is to let yourself skip sections of the book. It's okay to only read the parts that interest you, especially if you're just starting to read NF. 
Have you read any good nonfiction? Are you a fiction lover, dreading having to read non-fiction? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Reading: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Listening: to the hum of my computer
Watching: Arrow, and the Olympics

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Writing Research: How to Break Down a Door

It's been a little while since the last time we talked about writing research, so I figured it was time to get back in the saddle. If you're unfamiliar with this series, I was inspired by The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Many of these research posts are inspired by worst-case scenarios found in this book. This week's research is on getting through doors (one way or another).

Kicking a Door in:
1. Don't bother using your shoulder because it doesn't have as much force as your foot.
2. Kick the door where the lock is located. This will take a few well-aimed blows. The stronger the door (solid wood or metal exterior doors) the harder it will be. Another method might be required (see below).

Prying the Lock off a Door:
1. Insert a piece of sturdy metal between the lock and the door.
2. Wiggle the metal back and forth until the lock comes off

Taking the Door off the Hinges:
1. You'll need a screw driver and a hammer or a similar pair of items. This only works if the hinges are facing your side of the door.
2. Place the pointy end of the screw driver against the pin in the hinge.
3. Use the hammer to hit the other end of the screw driver, forcing the pin out.

Shimmy the Lock Open with a Card:
1. The card you use needs to have some flexibility and shouldn't be something important (such as a credit card) consider using an old gift-card.
2. This method works best if the slanted part of the door stop is facing you. The idea is to wiggle the card into the slant of the door latch and force it open. This is an excellent article for a detailed process.

Pick the Lock:
1. If it's a simple privacy lock in a house, you may be able to stick a screwdriver in the hole in the door knob and turn.
2. If it's a pin and tumbler lock, read this article's how-to.

And of course your character could always just blast the door open with explosives. I'll leave the research on that to you, though. If you have any brilliant ideas on how to get through a locked door or how to use this nugget of information leave it in the comments!

Reading: United We Spy by Ally Carter
Listening: The Black Keys
Watching: The X Files Season 1
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