Writer Wednesday – The Hobbit (companion)

THE HOBBIT: An unexpected journey: visual companion

JUDE FISHER (with JRR Tolkien and Martin Freeman)

Hardback 2012

This is a cool book.  I checked it out just prior to doing a Marathon of all three Hobbit movies (that’s 9 hours in a theatre, for those who don’t want to count it out on their own), because I wanted a little bit of a refresher.  And I think the book is awesome.

For starters, I’m a visual person and I have issues with names, so this really helped me.  When you have several characters with similar names, it’s difficult for me to sometimes name them.  But when I can look at the costume and get an understanding of their ear horns or the braids in their beards or whatever, it makes a big difference for me.

The book talks about how they did the visuals for everything from costume to entire cities.  So if you’re creative or a detail person, you’re going to like that.

With that said, the book was done in 2012, so they talked a lot about the first Hobbit movie and not so much about numbers two and three.  And there were a lot of illustrations in the book that I would have liked to see a bit larger.   It’s still pretty, don’t get me wrong, and pretty interesting, too, but I think for a visual book it lost a little now and then.

So my rating.  They still could have done more detail and I was a little underwhelmed with a couple things, but the book was a wealth of knowledge that somebody like me needed.  But I think this book plays to a very specific demographic, so you’re either going to love it or hate it.  And because of all of that, I’m going to give it a 4/5.  Look at it, but don’t buy it unless you’ve built yourself a Hobbit Hole to live in.

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Book Review – Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth

Tolkien and the Great War
John Garth
Hardback – 2003

The short version is that this is a biography of JRR Tolkien during his time just prior to and during WWI, and how his time in the trenches affected his mythology.

So I picked this book up because I love anything to do with WWI and I was hoping to actually get some cool WWI flavor out of this book. Also, I’m a fan of Tolkien.

Unfortunately, this book was clearly written by a scholar. And not that that is a bad thing, per sey, but sometimes the way the book was written really bogged down what the author was trying to say. Also, sometimes, the author sort of glossed over certain things that may not have been that important but that would have helped the book connect (for instance, they talked about referenced Tolkien’s kids a couple times, but didn’t even give us their names until the post script).

So, the bottom line is this – if you’re not a huge fan of WWI *and* Tolkien – all of Tolkien – or don’t need this for school, don’t read it. If you only like Tolkien for the Hobbit or LOTR, you’re probably not going to care all that much about this book – it only talks about The Lost Tales and the Simarillion. But if you are that fan of Tolkien that just can’t get enough, read it.

So, my rating… If this is your cup of tea, it’s a must read. But if you’re not already really into both of these subjects, you’re not going to enjoy this at all. And because of that, I’m not giving this a number.

Writer Wednesday – Valerie Douglas

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
My name is Valerie Douglas

 Tell us (briefly) about you…
*grins* Well, my husband says I’m schizophrenic, depending on which character I’m writing – which is like having a different wife every few weeks. He also says I’m one cat short of being a cat lady (we have four – one with one eye, one whose jaw was broken, and another who sucks her tail) but we also have two dogs.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I have sixteen books out now, mostly fantasy, but there’s a four book romance series, a mystery/romantic suspense, and a contemporary fiction novel I just released

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m dueling projects right now, I have a horror novel I’m polishing for release shortly, and an erotica…..

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Books were always my refuge….

What are your three favorite books?
Just three?!!! To Kill a Mockingbird, anything by Shakespeare, anything by Tolkien

 How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I don’t read much when I’m working – but I have an anthology from my group downloaded, The Black Count, Gamble by Dick Francis’s son Felix, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, A Team of Rivals, and I just finished Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Disappear

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Some books I know I’ll reread, they’re comforting – like Nora Robert’s Chesapeake Bay series, or anything by Anne McCaffrey, and all of Dick Francis’s books.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you? I’d only read a book that was recommended by a friend who knows my eclectic tastes well.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Unless I know the other person’s tastes well, I don’t.

What do you look for in a good book?
Good involving characters in a well-reasoned plot. I like something new and different – a friend has a book she has yet to release about a cop in a reality show set sometime in the immediate future.

Why do you write?
Because it’s the only way I stay sane? Because the voices won’t stop talking to me and the stories demand to be told?

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
An artist of some kind – I’ve done community theater, and I was a portrait artist.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sometimes even I can’t answer that question. Where in the world does anyone get the idea of writing about an Egyptian Priestess who gets mummified alive? (Servant of the Gods) My old job and the spate of Ponzi schemes gave me the idea for Lucky Charm. The most recent release was courtesy of a picture a friend sent me.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve had a few revelations. It definitely opened me up emotionally… sometimes a little too much.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband, bless his heart, is incredibly supportive.  *grins* Most of my family seem to treat it like it’s a dirty habit like smoking, and just try to ignore it.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
*laughing*  No, most of the stereotypes are true. We’re an introverted, mostly insecure lot, observers. You have to be to write characters with any depth.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Learning that there isn’t a magic formula. That one book will not make you famous.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
The biggest one is that traditional publishing is a business – while there are a lot of great editors out there, their primary responsibility is to the company. And be careful who you trust.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
No, I’m not a collaborator. I’m a loner in that respect. There’s a few projects of my own in the future.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With immense gratitude!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I can be pretty goofy in real life.

Anything else we should know?
Not that I can think of, but that can change….

 

 

Writer Wednesday – Kathryn Sullivan

I first met Kathryn at a convention a couple years ago, intrigued by her “Chicks Dig Time Lords” antho.  Since then we’ve run into each other in several places here and there, most recently inside the covers of Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells.  This is her.

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Kathryn Sullivan. Hi!

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I write young adult fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been writing since I was young and had several short stories published before a publisher decided to take a chance on my books. I’m also owned by a large cockatoo.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
THE CRYSTAL THRONE and TALKING TO TREES are my young adult fantasy books with wizards, elves and talking horses. AGENTS AND ADEPTS is a collection of my short stories – some fantasy, some science fiction – and the talking horses snuck in there as well. I have a short story in CLOCKWORK SPELLS AND MAGICAL BELLS with elves and dwarves, and my children’s picture book, MICHAEL AND THE ELF, was just released by a different publisher.

I’m a big Doctor Who fan and I have a short story in a Doctor Who anthology by Big Finish, an essay in the Hugo-winning CHICKS DIG TIME LORDS and a review in OUTSIDE IN. More information can be found at my website: http://kathrynsullivan.com

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’ve been working on two projects. The first is a YA science fiction book set on a colony planet, and the second is a continuation of my galactic agents series from three short stories in AGENTS AND ADEPTS.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My family were big readers. There was a bookcase full of books in the bedroom my sister and I shared and my parents expected us to read if we got up early on Saturday. There were shelves of books in our basement – my brother’s collection of Hardy Boys, my sisters’ collection of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and others, my mother’s set of the Oz books and my father’s big collection of science fiction and fantasy. I remember my mother reading the Oz books to my younger sister and I.

I also have fond memories of my public library, which when I was very small was inside the fire station.

What are your three favorite books?
Only three? My three favorite books from my past, the ones which influenced me, are Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, James Schmitz’s AGENT OF VEGA, and James White’s HOSPITAL STATION. Favorite ones I like to revisit are Janet Kagan’s MIRABILE and Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Usually three. Right now I just finished IRON HEARTED VIOLET by Kelly Barnhill, on my Kindle I’m reading THE CROW GOD’S GIRL by Patrice Sarath, and the book beside my bed is WORLDSOUL by Liz Williams.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Lose all track of time.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
And the answer depends on what mood I’m in. When I was in my teens and twenties I would re-read THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year. Now I might go on a Janet Kagan binge and re-read all her stories. Or I’ll look at the stack of new books waiting-to-be-read and instead re-read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series or Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden universe. Or Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series. Or…

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Eventually. I’ve got a big stack of books in the to-be-read pile. But it depends on who is doing the recommending and if their taste is similar to mine. I don’t pay any attention to NYT bestsellers.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. I’m usually on panels about new YA books and I’m the one who will bring a list. And I let my local public library know if I’ve found a new author or book they should get.

What do you look for in a good book?
Characters that catch my interest, good world-building and an engaging plot.

Why do you write?
I started writing when I was 14 because the science fiction and fantasy of that time had very few female main characters. I wanted more stories with characters I could identify with. I continue to write because I keep coming up with characters and stories that demand to be told. When characters start stomping around in your head demanding that you tell their stories, believe me, you tell their stories.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I just retired last year from the job I loved as an academic librarian. I wanted to be a librarian in the moon colony, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From everything around me. Newspaper or magazine articles might trigger a story idea. I look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html ) every morning and check a couple of anthropology news sites as those have also been good story triggers. Sometimes just an interesting picture will do it.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I need deadlines.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
Two of my sisters have been freelance artists, so I know they understand how much work it is. I’m sure some of my friends and co-workers probably thought I was very antisocial because I always seemed to be busy when they wanted to do things. But now I have friends who understand there are times when I’m busy and times when I need a break.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I keep hearing that all writers are rich and that they make a lot of money when a book is published. I’d like it to be true, but, sadly, it’s not.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Patience, persistence, and knowing when you need editing. Self-publishing has become so easy for some that they take no time to make their work the best they can before rushing into print. Some don’t even try sending their work out to publishers. Others try the big traditional presses but not the smaller presses or e-publishers. There are a number of good small presses and e-publishers who are looking for authors.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, lots. I sent my first book out when I was fourteen – taught myself how to type, looked up the markets – but neglected to see what the standard manuscript format at the time was. Single-spaced, typed on both sides of the paper – I’m not surprised that one was rejected as quickly as it was.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
There’s been a few audio and media projects I would have liked to have been involved with. I would have loved to have written a Doctor Who book but I couldn’t think of a book-length idea.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KathrynSullivan.author) and a webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com) . I also go to several science fiction conventions and young writers conferences during the year. I enjoy talking with fans; they re-energize me to get back to my next story.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m not sure what they’d be surprised by. Maybe that my cockatoo plays catch. She has a great pitching beak and the signal when she wants to play is often her toy landing on the laptop keyboard. Though that’s mentioned on my Facebook page. That along with being a Doctor Who fan, I’m also a big MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 fan. Though recently I’ve been watching more Phineas & Ferb, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, The Legend of Korra and Transformers Prime. It’s probably no surprise that I’m looking forward to THE HOBBIT.

Anything else we should know?
For those who are interested, I have a list of conventions that I’ll be attending on my webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com/appearances ).

Thank you!

 

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