A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

My Top 10 Books of All Time

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

I have just started reading a new book. It is called Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure by Jesse Lee Kercheval. So far, it is pretty good. It is full of great writing exercises. I was putting all of my answers to them in a notebook. Then I figured I could just put them here to share with all my fellow writers out there. So here they are. Exercise number one is: “[Make a list of] your favorite books. Explore why you remember each one. Was it a particular scene? A character? A memorable phrase or insight into life?”

1. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

I really like this story because the main character, Harry Dresden, is dead. He died in the last book. He spends the entire book (in ghost form) trying to figure out who killed him. This is very unique and wonderfully written. The entire series really changed how I saw fantasy and magic. Jim Butcher gave me the inspiration to write my own fantasy novel.

2. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

His characters spend a portion of the book looking for their creator – a writer by the name of Stephen King. It adds just enough surrealism to make it interesting. King appears several times in this book. It is both comical and thought-provoking. This showed me that the fourth wall can be broken successfully.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

This is both a memoir and a how-to book. It gives great insight into the man himself. The first third of the book is about his life before the accident that nearly took it . The second third is full of wonderful advice and writing gems. He tells the best way to find an agent and how to sell your work. He even includes some great book recommendations. The last third of the book concerns the accident and his recovery. He explains how writing, along with his wife Tabitha, saved his life. This is by far the best writing book I have read.

4. Thud! by Terry Pratchett

The main plot of this novel concerns the ongoing strife between the trolls and dwarfs and the Battle of Koom Valley. There is a small subplot that I enjoyed even more. The main character is Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Sam makes it a point to be at home by six every night so that he can read Where’s My Cow to his 16-month-old son. His love for his son carries him through the entire book. He even uses quotes from Where’s My Cow as zingers to the bad guys. The final scene will stay with me forever. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone so I won’t go into detail. I will say that it was so popular that Terry Pratchett actually wrote and published Where’s My Cow afterwards.

5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This book was the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now. It details the differences between barbarians and civilized society. Which side is actually more “civilized” – the British who colonized Africa or the tribesmen who where dominated and mistreated? I love how Conrad shows the fall of Mr. Kurtz through Marlow’s eyes. Marlow actually reveres Mr. Kurtz even through scenes of severe violence and domination. It is an eerie book and a must-read.

6. The Stranger by Albert Camus

I love the opening paragraph from this novel. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” During the climax of the book, the main character (Meursault) fights with and kills a man. Meursault is then put on trial. The trial does not concern the incident so much as Meursault’s apathy throughout life. He was judged for not crying at this mother’s funeral. How sad it is to have a life not lived – to merely exist.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was my introduction to science fiction. I was most fortunate to have listened to a lecture he gave at the University of Texas at Austin. He also signed a book for me. The man was very brilliant speaker and writer. Arthur Dent is one of my favorite characters in science fiction. He is a mild-mannered ordinary man who falls into adventure and chaos from time to time. And he never can get the hang of Thursdays. Douglas Adams is sorely missed.

8. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

I love the vampire Lestat. Rice wrote great vampire fiction before vampires were “cool”. Lestat is not cool or loving. He certainly does not sparkle. Vampires in this novel are blood-sucking monsters – and you can’t help but love them. The entire series is full of vampires portrayed the way they should be.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The work Tolkien put into this entire series is just amazing. He created an entire world – complete with it’s own languages and writing. It took him years to put it all together. He was a brilliant and very creative writer.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I like the last book the best. I love all the torment and angst of it. Teens are my favorite characters sometimes. I love how Rowling can start with a boy in dire straights and end with him as an adult in a normal tube station. The twists and turns are phenomenal.

Well, there you have it. Those are my top ten favorite books of all time. I read and re-read them. I give copies of them to friends. I spout their greatness to the world. Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorites are. I would love to hear about them. Or if you put them in a blog post, give me a ping back. I will definitely check it out.

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Hack and Attack

I have been introduced to a new ARG (Augmented Reality Game). It is called Ingress. This game was created by Niantic Labs, a subdivision of Google. I have never played an ARG before. I have been researching them lately. They are very fascinating to me. Here is more about my current obsession…

According to its Wiki, Ingress is “a near-real time augmented reality massively multiplayer online pervasive game created by Niantic Labs, a start-up within Google, originally for Android devices, and since July 14, 2014 for Apple’s iOS. The game has a complex science fiction back story with a  continuous open narrative.

The gameplay consists of establishing ‘portals’ at places of public art, landmarks, cenotaphs, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular fields over geographic areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of Mind Units, i.e. people, nominally controlled by each faction (as illustrated on the Intel Map). The necessary links between portals may range from meters to kilometers, or to hundreds of kilometers in operations of considerable logistical complexity. International links and fields are not uncommon, as Ingress has attracted an enthusiastic following in cities worldwide amongst both young and old, to the extent that the gameplay is itself a lifestyle for some, including tattoos.”

I am not so into it that it has become a “lifestyle” for me. In fact, I just like to take out portals when I am in the area. My husband and I usually travel together. Luckily, we are in the same faction. There is a green faction called The Enlightened and a blue faction called The Resistance. Each faction vies for control of portals throughout any one area. My husband and I are green, but live in a blue-dominated area. We are working to change that.

This game is a great social outlet. There are various Google+ groups for faction members of certain areas. They arrange meetups, raids and such. It is great fun. It reminds me of Geocaching. We still do that on occasion.  I will write more about that in another blog. I love games that force you to get out and actually do things – get to know your community and surroundings. I homeschool my kids and I work from home. So this gives me a chance to get out and meet people. And (unlike the SCA) it is free. The game/app is a free download and I usually make stops along a path that I am already traveling.

Check out this game! We can always use new recruits – as long as you choose The Enlightened. 🙂

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