The Wolves of Midwinter

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Important Blog Update

Blog Hiatus For this Week Only

    Right now, I am taking a much needed respite from blogging. Unfortunately,I will not be posting a review of Jonathan Maberry's "Rot and Ruin" anytime this week. It might appear sometime in July, unrelated to anything revolving around this month's blog theme. Since its the end of May, Zombie May ends today and I apologize for not having any final post of any kind  that wrap ups any  remaining thoughts about the genre as a whole. At this moment, I'm  researching ideas for a future novel that might not be the zombie novel that I had originally set out to write. It is something completely different.

    Thanks for your patience, and new posts will return sometime next Thursday or earlier!

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Road to BEA" Updated Version of Book Blogging 101

Click the now deceased Tootsie Pop Owl to get to the retro version of Book Blogging 101

Book Blogging "101" With  Fantastyfreak's stand-in: Muzzy (obvious copyright infringement..)

    In the past, I've commissioned the Tootsie Pop Owl until he got one too many licks in his perpetual game of trying to get to the core/essence of the Tootsie Pop. Also, I sorta had some legality issues, and in the name of copyright infringement, I decided to veer more towards a British spokesperson, who also is bilingual.If you don't know who Muzzy is, watch this fantastic commercial that is comprised of cheesy nineties hair styles, and outdated clothing! (Plus, the  spokes-lady, with the cheery voice, could totally pull off a David Bowie ala. Labyrinth look)

       Oftentimes, my blog posts are exceedingly long to the extent where they could easily pass as the endless stream of overwrought exposition text at the beginning of the Star War films.

   Since this particular blog contains some very important information for beginner bloggers, Muzzy will be interviewing me in English, not Spanish, French, Italian, or derivatives/dialects of these languages.

Blogging Advice for Beginners, Featuring Muzzy as the Interviewer.

Muzzy: So Fantastyfreak, you've been blogging for quite some time. How does one start a blog? We know you can't just have your blog posts featured as Facebook notes. One has to use either Blogger or Wordpress to first create a blog.
FF:Muzzy, I would advise beginner bloggers to use blogger because I find Wordpress to be overly complicated, and I think most beginner bloggers are hindered by the fear of the technical aspect of blog creation more-so than the writing the posts. There are many readers that would love to express their love for literature, and promote titles that they found to be worthwhile and worthy of being recommended to other readers that might find such a book just as captivating. Blogger has a great tutorial for creating the blog,and the various layout options are neatly organized and clearly labeled. I've tried WordPress before, and just got lost trying to create the layout and place banners on the side of the page afterwords. I'm not dissuading people from using Wordpress, but I personally find Blogger to overall be a much easier program for those who are not tech-savvy. I know, I'm not. I still have problems with setting hanging indents for Works Cited pages on college papers. If you don't know how to use Blogger, I suggest doing a Google search for "Tips on how to Start a Blog on Blogger." Right now, I don't feel like my technical instructions about how to start a blog would be very helpful, when there are other spaces on the internet dedicated to simpler, more effective instructions on such things.

Muzzy:A lot of bloggers are confused about the methods of attaining review copies for forthcoming releases from publishers. More importantly, they don't know whether you just rudely impose on the publisher, and write an email plea for an ARC, or are there easier ways?
FF: I actually started my blogging career on a Blog Tour Alliance, and blog tour groups can easily be found using Google. Recently, I just joined Bewitching Blog Tours, and also joined another group dedicated to Young Adult Fiction through Book Bloggers, which is a wonderful social media tool for bloggers to have a space where they can share their blogging activity and also confer about questions and nagging frustrations with blogging. Also, I wholeheartedly recommend NetGalley, where you can easily sign up for different electronic advanced reader copies that can be read on Adobe Reader, or sent to either your Kindle or Nook. Its wonderful because you don't have to build up a stock of physical copies in your room. In the past few years, I've started to amass far too many unread books that I initially thought I might like, only to later learn they were lackluster and not in the confines of what I normally find entertaining and readable.

Beginner bloggers should be judicious about what books they commit to reviewing and also realistically ask themselves: "Will I really read this?" When your blog develops more of a presence online, you'll begin getting inquiries from publishers, and its easy to think to yourself gleefully "OHHH!! Free BOOKS!!" No, you must stamp those unrealistic impulses out, and try to only commit to reviewing books that you really believe you might like. Realistically, even a novel's premise may be unsatisfactory and is not a good judge on whether or not you'll actually enjoy the book because the writing itself might be riddled with errors. That is inevitable;therefore, its best to try to set achievable book review goals. You are bound to despise some books. I'm a very picky reader and can tell that I won't enjoy something by approximately ten pages. Remember, publishers and authors are depending on you to help promote a forthcoming release, thus its polite to try and review their books that you reply in return with absolution. At the beginning of blogging, I was far too disorganized and a bit trigger-happy. I tended to say "Yes" to everything. In the last year, I've striven to "politiely" say no, and bid the author good luck on their book release.  While everyone should have fun blogging, it still requires responsibility, and I've recently been trying to "atone" for my blogging related sins.

Muzzy: What about contests? Do you recommend them? I hear many beginning bloggers quizzically ask:"How can I have fancy graphics or contests?" How many contests should a book blog have, and just have flashy should the colors and graphics be?
FF: See, I've encountered this problem numerous times and reading other blogs can be a trial of envy. Every time, I look at another blog; I see higher numbers of followers and more comments. Feeling forlorn, I wonder to myself: "What am I doing wrong? Where are my readers?" First of all, all beginner bloggers should divest themselves of any motivations to shape their blog to conform to some blogging standard. I hate to see creative bloggers be crushed by the presence of so many flashy blogs. Its better to rely on the style that you feel most comfortable with. Of course you should have an area on the right side of your blog that shows publisher and possible writers an email address where all inquiries about possible reviews can be sent, and contests are fun, but I really don't like them. Conversely, contests are pure drudgery and I've always wanted a blog with substantive posts, and not just billboard-style reviews. I'm not here only to advertise books with insipid, uninteresting reviews, but write something I want to read. While, there are some aesthetically-pleasing blogs with great substance. I have been dismayed to see some book blogs crowded with flashy graphics, and pithy reviews with no substance. Don't cave into pressure and use other blogs not as something to covet, but to perhaps begin building relationships with other bloggers. Blogging does not need to be competitive, and it does not have to be something one does in alienation either.

      Recently, I feel like I don't do enough of the former, but I'm trying to reach out more. In the last two years, I've been sharing my Anne Rice-related blog posts with members of her Facebook page, and I've been indebted to Anne Rice's active presence with fans for keeping things here enlivened. My book blog, at one point, nearly went extinct, until I find myself remembering that blogging is not stringently attached to how many followers or comments one compiles. It is about stretching yourself creatively and having the opportunity to be able to autonomously maintain your own media space of sorts. Be yourself when blogging, and never succumb to outside pressure to have a blog that is uniform, and not unique! Also, do what you feel is most comfortable with your schedule. Oftentimes, I drastically slow things down during my college semester because I'm a writing tutor/full-time college student outside of blogging. Blogging might remain a summer activity for now. 

Muzzy: We are getting down to the metaphoric wire, Fantastyfreak. I have only two more questions, before that scary lady (my agent) with the frizzy blonde hair comes back to forcefully record more videos for the BBC. Anyways, How does want get to BEA, and should prospective BEA attendees make business cards for their blog?
FF:Signing up for Book Expo America is pretty simple. You just have to go their web page sometime in either January or February and sign up as part of the Media. I still haven't figured out the whole  difference between editorial/non-editorial option, so I can't really explicitly state which to choose. Either way, I would suggest contacting someone who represents BEA, and asking them for a specific answer.

Anyways, my first year of Book Expo America was pretty overwhelming, and taxing. I literally dragged four bags of books home on the Amtrak train. Again, I had a little too much fervor about Book Expo America, and took one too many ARCs. You should always be judicious when choosing ARCs, and realistically think about how you'll transport them home.  Otherwise, the experience will be marred by the long trek from the Javitz Center to Penn station or elsewhere. 

About business cards, I never had them for the first two years. For the first time, I got about 400 for the convention and plan to interact more this year with representatives from publishers I normally recieve books from. I would also suggest giving business cards to other bloggers, when you are waiting in line with others. Your business cards are not only resigned to being for publishers, but also bloggers and even librarians or other attendees.  When engaging in conversation, be natural and don't feel forced to be false. Its better to express your blogging as an extension of yourself, rather than something you dread doing. 

Muzzy: A lot of bloggers feel discouraged after their third review. What are the best way of combating the feeling of being in the "blogger doldrums?
I just had this problem yesterday, and wondered "Why the hell do I keep blogging?" Rather than allow myself to sink into the morass of self-pity, I decided to re-strategize and plan theme months like "Zombie May" "Anti-hero June" to give me a theme to work with, thus making it easier to organize my reviews. May has been thus far my most successful blog month and normally a momentum like this could result in a dry spell. About compensation, I wouldn't do this for that. Its better to think that you are doing this mostly for yourself, and not to garner acclaim from others. Whenever, I write a review for an author's work and do a feature here, I make sure to share it with them through Facebook, Twitter, or even through email. Blogging requires connecting with writers and publishers. I've never really had any disenchanting encounters; the worst response you'll get is an apologetic email about being busy or just no answer at all. My connections with authors has been the reason this blog stays afloat, and many of these authors are really cool people. They are not formidable demons that seek your demise.

   When you're in the doldrums, don't keep burying yourself further in the pit, but find creative ways of getting yourself out! We all get discouraged sometimes, and therefore it is best to just keep pushing yourself and set achievable goals for yourself. If your blog is something that is not daunting, but is something that is individualized and creative, blogging will not become the drudgery that is can become if you don't constantly remind yourself that "the blog is your property, but its also somewhere where you share in the love and promotion of literature!"

Muzzy: Thanks Fantastyfreak for this stimulating interview, though it is still as lengthy as your other posts!
FF: Once I start talking, I can't stop! Anyways, I'll be sure to update my blog this Tuesday. For now, this blog will be on hiatus during Memorial Day Break. Enjoy your Memorial Day Break and feel free to email me any blog-related questions at narniafanatic(at)gmail(dot)com.

Requisite Blog Update (May 25th, 2012)

News for Upcoming Blog Features

I apologize for the lack of a "BEA" related post that was supposed to appear yesterday, and the start today's Shakespeare feature is being moved to next week because I'm still trying to organize my planned features for next week. First off, I am going to start limiting my book reviews to one-two books per week. I happen to be the only writer for this blog, and its impossible to keep up with these book reviews because there is so many other things that I'd been doing this summer (my own novel project for example...).

      Zombie May Coming to An End Soon(Exciting news ahead):
Yes, the feature that I greatly loved is  ending this Wednesday. I am well aware that Wednesday happens to be "Comic Wednesday," so I'm trying to find a zombie-related comic book that fits with the theme. Also, I plan on reviewing Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin  that day.

Exciting News about BEA blog Feature (Hopefully exciting...)

      At this point, I'm very stoked about the upcoming features on BEA. In other years, I've glossed over Book Expo America, providing nothing substantive in the way of an Insider's peak at the expo itself. There are a lot of people that find Book Expo America to be an enviable destination. (How does one get into the elusive Book Expo American anyways?) For the first time, I'll be providing detailed updates from the expo itself,and continuous Tweets (with pictures hopefully..). I don't know the exact statistics of how many people actually follow my Twitter, but all the updates can be viewed on the right side of this blog. Anyways, I hope to have the BEA-related post about book blogging as a whole up later this morning. There will be two more reflections afterwords. I want to help people get into book blogging, and persuade them that the hard work, frustrations, and the feeling of futility  that accompanies the endless blog-related work.

Thanks everyone that still happens to read this blog, I'm working tirelessly on trying to revamp this very dusty, disorganized blog!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Comic Wednesday #2-Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones

Review of the Comic Book Adaptation of Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones
                 Adapted by Mariah McCourt 
               Art by Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon

       For any readers of this blog, its a well-known fact that I'm a huge fan of Anne Rice, and also a fan of comic books as well. I'm more than happy to combine both obsessions, and bring you a review of the recent comic book adaptation of one of Anne Rice's lesser known, though equally stellar work: Servant of the Bones.   Ever since the first volume of this fantastic adaptation was published, I've heard very little discussion or reactions to the comic book. Puzzlingly, I was even unable to find it at a local comic book store, which further substantiated my belief that this comic book really was not very popular. In general, having comic book adaptations of Anne Rice's novels is not a novel concept. Other Anne Rice books such as The Vampire Lestat, The Witching Hour,and  The Mummy have been adapted into comic books. Eventually , Christ the Lord: Road to Cana (from Sea Lion books)  and Ashley Witter's exclusive, Interview with the Vampire- inspired manga graphic novel about Claudia will both soon be made into comic books. 

      I don't particularly like The Vampire Lestat  comic books, which I had bought off Ebay, because of the somber mood of the pictures and the way that the characters are drawn in a bizarre, languid way. Personally, I felt that the drawings should exude a bit more bombastic emotion because that would have far more appropriate for a comic adaptation of an Anne Rice novel. In many ways, the art suits a Rembrandt painting, which Anne Rice has compared the physical traits of some her characters to in novels like The Tale of the Body Thief,Blood and Gold, and The Witching Hour. At the same time, those were only a few key characters or a few minor expressions that really matched those utilized in a Rembrandt painting. Where was the vivid color, the wide range of expression, a bit less dolefulness and more animation? Descriptions in Anne Rice's books are not exceedingly laconic; they actually have some ambiance and some life  to them. I think the Gothic tag is a misnomer anyways; they have a Gothic mood, but not in the generic way that we define "Gothic style." I'd rather go with the fact that Anne Rice's books have dramatic flair, fitting more with nineteenth century Gothic novels, and not the dull Gothic style of nineties/early millennium "Hot Topic."

The vibrant colors in this color for example, are ever-present in this comic book.
          With great pleasure, I was more than pleasantly surprised  by the rich detail and the great use of multiple colors in the art in Servant of the Bones, deftly illustrated by the collaborative team of Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon. After exploring some of their other projects, I've really come to appreciate their eye for details and more importantly, the liveliness of their art. I particularly like Ray Dillon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle project,Dawn of the Ninja, which boasts gradient textures and realistic expressions on the characters. The art in the Servant of the Bones  comic has some of that same realism, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Dawn of the Ninja  comic book, though it also has bit more balance between "light" and "dark" images. This balance is seen clearly in the first volume particularly, when Gregory is saved by the immortal ghost Azriel. The dolefulness and alienation of Gregory's life, within the comic, has to be depicted with less words, thus the art must strongly compensate for that word limit. By having him appear as a dark image, the comic book artfully displays the coldness of his sheltered life, and the "light" of Azriel brings redefinition to his life. In some ways, this contrast matches Medieval art in the manner that a divine or supernatural figure is surrounded with light that offsets the darkness of the mundane world. These things are sharply  contrasted and it alludes to the great revelatory purpose of Azriel within the plot. Throughout the other comics, there are other fine examples of different artistic techniques that are used wisely to enhance the emotion of this comic adaptation. Also, these drawings on their own are wonderfully immersible, much like Anne Rice's own vivid descriptions of places and characters within her novels. Both Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon's art richly reflects that same meticulous eye for subtle detail.

       One of the only minor issues with this comic book that I've seen is that some of the dialogue in the comic book feels a bit rushed, and some of the important exposition-related details appear muddled as a result. It is hard to condense a 400 paged novel, filled with a great array of historical details;therefore, I do think Mariah McCourt, as the writer of the dialogue, had a very challenging task indeed. Creating a comic book that pays homage to the source material that is rather dense seems nearly impossible. While there were points of the comic book that were a bit more polished in the novel itself, the dialogue is still very well-written and along with the art, it still manages to give you the same rich experience as reading the novel. The comic book does not pale in comparison with the book, and its not a mediocre adaptation like The Vampire Lestat  comics. In my view, this particular graphic novel adaptation achieved the impossible for me because it succeeded in nearly matching my great experience when reading the novel.

    As with the book, this comic book also respectfully shows the tenacity of the Jewish community and the richness of their culture. Its a shame that my Christian upbringing often made Judaism appear as a predecessor to the supposed superior religion of Christianity (We were even taught the odious idea that Jews are responsible for Jesus' death, plus all Jews are cosigned to hell. In this gross misconstruction of scripture,Christians supposedly have a special mission to keep Jews from being "Jewish..." I'll stop now before I offend someone, but this really bothers me...) More importantly, I was always given a rather Ethnocentric view of the Old Testament and Jewish history. It did not help that the Sunday School drawings of these people were not authentically Jewish, but Anglo-Saxon stand-ins. I have great love for this novel for striving to  express Jewish history in a way that isn't so anti-Semitic.  It gave me much more appreciation of their culture and religion. It was the first novel that really helped me to overcome the arrogant, dismissive attitude towards Judaism and Jewish Culture that  this ethnocentric form of Christianity sought to equip me with. For me, this is one of my favorite of Anne Rice's because it has greatly reshaped my views, and helped to overcome bad culturally indoctrinated stereotypes.  Anne Rice really earned my respect with this book, along with Feast of All Saints,  for subverting many racial and ethnic stereotypes for both the African-American community and the Jewish community.  Admirably, the drawing of the characters in this comic book reflects Anne Rice's reverence for Jewish culture, and appropriately illustrates the characters in a way that isn't stereotypical. Both the novel and the graphic novel are fine examples of the incredible way ethnocentrism can be eradicated with the help of a wonderfully entertaining, thought-provoking story. Of course, that is not the explicit  purpose of the novel, neither is to examine our deepest existential questions, or just to give us a greater ability to discern the many layers of our lives. These are all unconscious aspects of a book that was clearly written to enrapture and wholly entertain us. I'm thankful that Mariah McCourt, Ray Dillon,Renae DeLiz, and others could help bring a story of such rich scope to the comic world! Please do more Anne Rice projects! I think all of you understand what makes her stories tick.

    Hopefully, fans of the Vampire Chronicles will consider branching out a bit, and read both the novel and the graphic novel!