Vanity Unfair: When Do Publishing Companies Become Unscrupulous?

Hello, my sweets!

How are you all?  Hopefully good–and if you haven’t been good, I hope you’re feeling better.  Anyway, today’s hot topic is all about vanity publishing.  Since a lot of us are aspiring writers, it’d make our hearts leap if we ever see that a publishing company has taken interest in our submission/s.  We’d think that we finally hit the jackpot and our eyes sparkle at the possibility of making it big, baby!

Here’s where I say the big, dreaded ‘BUT’: What if there are publishing presses out there that are taking advantage of writers?  It turns out, I learned that some companies are doing this, and specifically, they target writers who either a) want to make it as a published author or b) are jaded and are tired of facing rejection after rejection.  This is where the vanity publisher comes in.

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The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a ****: A Review

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Ah, Facebook.  Something I truly don’t give a flying … about.

(I swear that WordPress’ editor is trolling me right now.  The next post I’ll publish will be a rant on my phone regarding this stupid bloody editor!) 

Hey!  Yes you, reading this post right now.

Do you cuss like a sailor?  Do you like narrators that break the fourth wall to talk to you while they cuss like sailors?  Do you like self-help books with narrators that break the fourth wall to talk to you while they cuss like sailors?  No?  Well, this book isn’t for you.

The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a ****
by Sarah Knight (I’ll shorten to TLM) is a self-help book that does exactly what it says on the tin (or rather, the cover).  This book intended to be a parody of Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, but Knight’s version aims to teach us to tidy up our minds, by giving less f%$#s about things that aren’t that important to us.

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On the Internet’s Seemingly Favourable Writing Program, Scrivener

[Disclaimer: This ain’t a paid presentation!  I’m getting exactly $0.00 for this post.]

How’s it going, guys?  We’re now into February (almost March), and before we know it, it’ll be bloody Christmas again!

Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience with the writing program Scrivener.  Initially, I was a tad bit sceptical of the program because I kept seeing praise for it online in places like Reddit and writing forums, and I thought that there seems to be some sort of annoying circle jerk around it.  However, I’m currently on a trial version of Scrivener, and I’m definitely planning on buying the full version.  So here on this post, I’ll be sharing my experience (so far).

Well then, what is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a writing program that is specifically designed to aid writers to formulate and draft their writing.  Although I’m currently using the program for my current project (a fiction novel), it can be used to write essays, short stories, non-fiction books, screenplays, you name it.  You could use it for basically anything.

How is it any different to using Word?

For starters, I personally think that Scrivener helps me be a bit more organised with my writing.  Before using this program, I used to have a few related documents–one doc being the manuscript, another for character profiles, and another for ideas and notes.  With Scrivener, everything is in one place.  The research, multimedia files, the character profiles, and any other notes or miscellaneous things are all there; I don’t have to keep on switching between word documents.

Okay, so we’re only hearing good things so far… is there anything that you don’t like about Scrivener?

Yes.  To a newbie, trying to figure out the cogs and wheels of the program is quite a challenge.  Usually, programs are intuitive and user-friendly, but Scrivener isn’t like that.  What I did was look up tutorials on YouTube to get the gist of the program, and then I used it the way I wanted to.  So yeah, it’s kind of complicated at first, and it may be discouraging to some other users.  Additionally, there may be too many features– many other writers online seem to use these features all at once while claiming that they’re all useful, but sometimes I find these features a little distracting and I end up not using some of them at all i.e. side notes.  Like the old cliché goes, less is more.

How is Scrivener helping you as a writer?

I think that there’s a slight improvement with my narrative writing skills, and one way of it helping me is with characterisation.  There are templates to character profiles (or y’know, there are many other templates online that you can tinker with), but I like the template provided because it helps me make a character that’s much more “deeper”, rather than a cardboard cut-out of a trope (I admit that characters in my old works were like this, and I’m planning on writing about that in a future post).  This may also be some wack, psychological thing, but I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get my groove back as a (n amateur) writer.  I think I’ve said in a previous post that my passion and motivation has kind of dwindled down in the past few years or so, but now I find myself working on my story almost every day, simultaneously with my Business Administration coursework.

Oh ffs.  Did Scrivener save a bunch of orphans from a burning building?

Yes.  Yes it did.

Anyway, the overall outlook on Scrivener for me is positive.  I like it because it has been a clever, useful, and motivational tool for my writing.  Also, this goes for every other program that exists: use it however you want to use it.  There are guides out there written by others on how to use Scrivener, but I found that their methods don’t really mesh well with me.  By no means is this post a shit on Microsoft Word, because I still use it to write documents such as reports, and it has a number of useful features unique to it, that Scrivener lacks.

This review piece might sound very circle-jerky and like a paid ad/review/similar BS, but I swear on the little bit of earth that’ll be my grave in about a hundred years’ time, this is an honest review with no outer influence.

So, what do you think of Scrivener?  Love it?  Hate it?  What’s your experience?  Leave your comments down below, and I’ll see you in the next post.  Keep chewin’ through those books!

new siggie again

Can We Really Avoid Clichés Though?

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Nawwmygod this image has nothing to do with this blog post but look how cute they are (ignoring the fact that they could shred us to ribbons if we made them angry)

[Edit: I accidentally reverted this post back to a draft, because the editor was being super-glitchy, and I had a bit of a misadventure when I tried the “new editor”, but luckily I’m back to the classic one.  A word of advice, do not switch to the new editor or else your blog will be cursed!]

So, here’s another thing I want to get off my chest.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about this topic because it’s something we all deal with, whether we read or write a story.  We pick up a book, begin reading it, and as we take in the plot, we think, ‘well, I’m sure I’ve read this before’.  Sometimes, if we’re sassy enough, we roll our eyes.  We have times where we have an idea for a story and begin plotting.  Then, halfway through development, we go, ‘aw shucks, this isn’t original at all!’.  For instance, I’m planning on writing a romance novel (something that isn’t mindf%$#ery for once), and while the love interest isn’t a sexy, chiselled, 6-packed bajillionaire, he still has inner demons, and the trials that my lovebird protagonists go through aren’t exactly original either (no spoilers!).  So this was one trigger to my exploration of clichés in literature.
 
So this brings me to the question: can we really avoid clichés and certain tropes in literary works?  As avid literature fans, we all desire a breath of fresh air when we search for new books to read.  I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers and the like, but then, there comes a point where I can predict a plot twist or pinpoint the true villain of the story (usually a wolf in sheep’s skin).  Are these devices repetitive?  Most certainly.  Are they boring?  Not necessarily.
 
Sometimes I feel that clichés and tropes can be inevitable at times.  It’s almost as if some genres are born to have particular tropes associated with them.  I suppose clichés work, and they sell.  Not only are the tropes and cliches within the story repetitive, so are the book covers!  In romance, there’s a woman in the arms of a very sexy (and often shirtless) man, and in crime and thrillers, there is either a dark corridor/alley or a silhouette of a person, and in sci-fi, there’s usually alien landscapes with a celestial body of some sort in the background (often a photoshopped Saturn).  Perhaps the reason that book covers are designed in a specific way so that they can appeal to their intended audience.  Though to me, I think that most typical romance covers look tacky, but that’s my own personal taste (minimalist covers are my favourites).  But at least they scream ‘ROMANCE’ to the fans of romantic stories.  Vice versa for other genres.
 
The main argument that I want to put forth is that no, we can’t always avoid certain clichés and tropes when we’re reading or writing particular genres of literature.  Despite critiquing the tropes/clichés, I’m also guilty of using some of them myself (ergo, I’m a HYPOCRITE).  I suppose the reason that we probably get a little too nit-picky with either our own or someone else’s works is because we want ORIGINALITY™.  But, no story is truly original, do you agree?  Stories do follow a certain type of formula to some extent, and we’re kind of pushing pressure on ourselves to try and write something that’s completely out of left field.
 
But I also want to say it won’t hurt to use them, and people are going to be peeved at clichés and stereotypes whether we like it or not, and we can’t impress everyone.  Yeah, they can be annoying and overused, but perhaps they could work if they are written well.  Additionally, is it really that fair to compare books to others in the same genre?
 
I’d like to hear your thoughts, and ask:
  • What do you think of the common clichés and tropes present in literature?  You can talk about genre-specific ones too.
  • What’s your favourite cliché or trope?  What is your least?
  • Have you ever added your own twist to an overused cliché/trope?  How did you do this?
  • Or, has an author whose works you’ve read twisted them around?
Anyway, now’s the time to say toodles, and have a nice day, wonderful reader!
 
new siggie again

The Body: A Review

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I was going to insert a screenshot from Stand By Me, but… copyright.  So enjoy these train tracks instead.

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!

Or, it could be the afternoon or the evening, wherever you are on this planet.  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you do during the festive season.  Even though I said in the last post that I was going to abandon this blog for a while, I now have some downtime.

Anyway, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but…this particular review is way overdue!  In fact, there hasn’t been a book review on here for ages!  Well, I’ve been working on this review for quite a while now, but life gets in the way (I was really preoccupied with assignments and Christmas).  Sometimes there are times that I don’t have the motivation or the time to write, and frankly, I value quality over quantity.  I’d rather a decent post once in a while than shitty posts almost every day for the sake of posting.  Anyway, that’s just me.  I’ll stop rambling now.

So, let’s get right to the review, shall we?

The Body is the third novella in Stephen King’s quartet Different Seasons.  As the majority of us know, it spawned the movie Stand By Me (if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour).  Personally, out of all the novellas in this collection, The Body would have to be my favourite.  Out of the four, this one was the least dark, albeit death being a major theme.  The Body takes us back to the summer of 1960 and is narrated by Gordon Lachance, a writer who fondly remembers that summer.

(incoming spoilers under the cut)

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A Book Haul? Really?

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Some of the Louse’s new goodies 😀

Howdy!  How are you all?  Hope all is well!

It’s been a while since I’ve been here on TABL.  July was quite a busy month for me, therefore I didn’t have much time (or energy) to write another post.  I’ve also got another short course coming up in the next few weeks, so it’s best to publish something now while I still have free time.  Also, T.S. 1888 #2 and a review of The Body are still in the drafting stages; as for the former, I’m planning on searching for academic writings for Ash Wednesday when I’m in a more studious mood (I’m going to do this poem in parts, because it is lengthy and supeeeerbly long analytical texts can scramble your brain… you’ll know this from your school days).

Now, for the actual content of this post: a book haul, something very new on TABL, something to spice this blog up.  Yes– books to me are like chicken soup for some Christian’s soul.  You and I can never have too many books, though the people we live with may disagree.  Today, I thought I’d do something different to what I usually post and just go through with you the new books I got.  The books were from Big W (unfortunately the local bookstore barely has anything on the shelves at the moment, but otherwise I’d usually buy from independent booksellers), so any prices listed are the prices they sold at in the shop.  Also, I’m quite a dummy for going to Goodreads to look at book reviews before I actually start reading something, so for now on, I’ll just resist the urge to that (does anyone else do this?  Or maybe I’m just weak).  Please note, I’m also not an affiliate of any of the shops or publications mentioned in this post; I’m doing this for fun and making exactly $0.00 on this post, baby!

Without further delay, let’s start!

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A Disturbing Trend in YA Fiction

Starting now, I’m going to write my drafts on OneNote.  Why?  I don’t know whether it is just me, but sometimes, drafts don’t save properly; I click save and it doesn’t become ‘saved’ in faded grey text, and at times the time and date of the post doesn’t update to the latest (i.e. if I wrote a draft on the 8th of May and then edited and published it on the 21st of May, the post shows that it was published the 8th).  Maybe I’m not as tech savvy as I think I am, but for now, I thought I’d just play it safe and write my drafts elsewhere.  The benefits of this are that there are proper grammar and spell check tools on OneNote, so I’m happy doing things this way.  But, if you know how to fix this WordPress draft problem, your input will be appreciated!  Anyway, let’s move on to the real topic here.  Bear in mind, this is a rant, so I’m not exactly going to be formal, nor will my arguments be well laid out– this will be a train of thought.  I’m usually passive, not very argumentative about things unless it is something that I have a strong opinion on, so buckle up and go on this rocky ride with me.

Okay, so we aaaall know what this post is going to be about.  Countless other posts address this issue, but I’m in the mood to talk about my feelings about the ‘bad boy’ love interests in Young Adult Fiction.  Now before you think, ‘oh Louse, you’re having one of those “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, aren’t you?’ well, I wouldn’t be writing this if this trend in YA has died down, and I am quite fed up and concerned about the dead-horse trope that involves the good protag/troubled love interest.

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Fanfiction

Hey stranger!

I know that I said that updates on this blog would be less frequent, but today I’ve got a bit of free time and I’d like to share with you some thoughts that popped into my head.

Firstly, so it turns out, I don’t really follow plans.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to follow a schedule or anything like that anymore.  I’m just going to write whenever I want to, and I’ll write whatever I want, and I’ll be happier that way (and that’s the way blogging should be).  But don’t worry though, the T.S. 1888 series will be happening, and more reviews and writing tips are coming up sometime this year.

Anyway, without further diverging, I’d like to talk about fanfiction.  We’ve all encountered it if we were on the internet; they were my guilty pleasures when I was in high school.  It can be literally about anything from The X-Files to Naruto, or any media we consume.  The main characteristic of fanfiction is that the franchise, the characters, and most of the things involved in the fanfiction are not entirely our own.  There are people out there that abhor fanfiction because of this; apparently, they’re not being original, and that fanfiction writers are just lazy and can’t be arsed to make up their own universes and characters.

I can see where they’re coming from.  We often like to show our creativity through the things we make, be it a painting, drawing, a story, poem, or whatever, and if for instance, I painted a picture that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s art style, you may think, ‘you’re just copying him.  Try and find your own style’.

But here’s where I’ll disagree with this stance.  While the universe, characters, the franchise of the media is not our own, the idea of the fanfiction is.  We can view fanfiction as some sort of wish fulfilment for ourselves; I may want to write a fanfiction about two characters that I want to become a couple (but never will because their original writers CAN’T SEE THE FACT THAT THEY BELONG TOGETHER).  Or, there may be an event that you wished could occur differently or have a different outcome.  The idea is yours.  I know the Fifty Shades franchise gets criticism for starting out as a fanfiction series (I’ve shown distaste for this series on my About page, but I’ve since edited that out, and yeah, my opinions about these books haven’t changed).  But, was it Stephenie Meyer’s idea to have Edward and Bella have some sort of f*cked up, Dom/sub relationship?  Answer: no.  It was E.L. James’ idea (or should I say, Snowqueens Icedragon).

You know what else is original?  Characters you wrote yourself.  Granted, original characters are often frowned upon; there are some dreaded Mary Sues and Gary Stus that make me cringe even to this day.  However, there have been some well-written original characters that blend perfectly with the world of the book/show/movie/anime etc.

There are also what are called Alternative Universes (I like these ones a lot), in which the characters well… they’re in an alternative universe; it speaks for itself.  They may be in an alternative time frame (21st-century characters are in the 19th century and vice versa).  These are original too!

In other words, my views on fanfiction are quite positive.  I mean, there are reaaaallly bad fanfictions out there, but there are also some really good ones too.  Fanfiction is creative.  It enables a person to use their creativity.  It encourages them to write and read a lot more, just like original stories.  Additionally, it also encourages people to write their own original stories eventually.  In fact, I’ve written a few fanfictions, but never published them.  I wrote a fair amount in high school, but eventually, I broke off and wrote my own original stories.  While there are some people that can create plots and characters at a drop of a hat, some others may need a stepping stone to get to that level of creativity.

Here’s a writing exercise for ya.  Choose a franchise of media you follow.  Choose a minimum of two characters from that franchise.  Let’s say that these characters are travelling from their hometown to a city they’ve never been to before.  Then suddenly, their mode of transportation fails to bring them to the desired place (i.e. the vehicle breaks down or they fall off the carriage and the horses run away), so these characters are left to walk.  What are their interactions and dynamics?  What do they say to one another?  Then, a stranger stops and offers them a ride to wherever they’re going to.  How do these characters react?  What happens next?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about the topic.  What do you think of fanfiction?  Have you written one?  Comment below!

I’ll see you when I see you.  Take care and stay creative!

new siggie again

Ramble, ramble, ramble

This post is just me putting my thoughts into words.  I’ll be talking about a few things here.  Firstly, I’ll have a few updates regarding what I want to do with TABL, and I also want to share my thoughts about the ethics regarding bookseller lists and publishing due to an incident that happened a few months ago.

Continuing on with the ‘texts I’ve actually read’ reviews, I’m planning to review T.S. Eliot’s individual poems in a series I’ll dub T.S. 1888.  You’ll know it’s an Eliot review because I’ll preface each one with a bad photoshop parody of Taylor Swift’s album (please don’t sue me, Taylor).  Also, I want to write and collect my poems and self-publish my collection.  I’ll probably start off with a small selection and make it a free e-book, and then later I’ll sell the revised edition (including new poems) at maybe 99c.

Now, I know I’m way late to board this train, but I want to talk about Lani Sarem and how she peaked at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Later on, it was revealed (after clever internet sleuthing) that she bought her way to the top.  Typically, Sarem denied this allegation and maintains her innocence.  There are already reviews for her book Handbook for Mortals, and from excerpts that I’ve read, I’m not going to say that Sarem’s writing sucks.  “It needs improvement” is a more encouraging criticism.

However, this is me being a nitpicker and I am slightly bothered that the protagonist is a too-obvious author avatar, as the description of the protagonist matches Sarem to a T, and don’t forget the annoying and all too prevalent i’m-plain-in-appearance-but-for-some-reason-everyone-thinks-i’m-hot trope.

It also came to everyone’s attention that the author aims to have Handbook for Mortals made into a film, wherein Sarem herself intends to portray her protagonist.  Since

  1.  considering that the protagonist (with the exotic name Zade) is an all-too-apparent author stand-in and
  2. there seems to be a plan already in execution to make this movie adaption happen, with Sarem starring as Zade (it has its own IMDB page)

I can’t help but think that the author wants to live out some sort of fantasy or is it just me?

Hmm….

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