Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rules are Made to Be Broken

Low and behold, this blog will be about writing. I know, I know, two blogs about writing/books in a row? But remember, that this blog was created to be about writing in the first place. Then it turned on a crazy tilt and became about everything to do with...me. For two reasons really. One because I'm not exactly sure how reading about me writing is interesting. All the random stuff that happens in my life and in my head seems a lot more interesting than talking about character development and plot lines. Add on the fact that the only thing I know better than anything else in the world is myself so why not write about it (even though I don't deem myself interesting in the least). And two is that for the longest time (as in my whole life up until last year) my writing has been the most private thing about me. Which isn't a bad thing but it's not necessarily a good thing either because now I have this whole anxiety thing going on whenever anyone besides my best friend and mom get their hands on a piece of my work. Seriously, you do not want to see how stressed I get when an email goes out or I see my precious pieces of paper shoved into someone's bag...but that's another story.
Since practically forever, I've had trouble falling asleep. Once I'm out, it's a different ballgame, nothing can wake me. But beforehand...let's just say I've tried many many tricks to fall asleep. One I've found works particularly well is thinking about writing after the lights are out. Don't get me wrong, this can backfire and cause a sleepless night, but more often than not, it turns up interesting ideas and is enough to trick my brain into thinking it's tired. So the other night, I was naturally thinking about writing and my mind landed on the aspect of different genres. My two major WIP's right now are as different as cheerios and waffles. One is this odd combination piece of fantasy/paranormal/historical fiction and the other is strictly realistic fiction. Fantasy and paranormal - they are my safe haven. I love to write them and have never had a problem with ideas or writer's block or figuring out characters or anything at all. On the other hand, realistic fiction seems to be something of a conundrum to me. I cannot for the life of me figure it out. I know what you're thinking - then why are you writing a realistic fiction novel?
The answer to that is a long story that I will not/cannot tell you at this here time and place but mostly boils down to: 1. It was kind of an accident how it all began and 2. It's being co-authored so at least half of it won't be screwed up horribly (her part, not mine). Basically the whole thing is going to need many hours worth of editing to make it any degree of decent.
Why do I seem to have a stronger affinity for one than the other? I believe it has to do with rules. Never have I been to obey the rules, like, ever. How can I put it to you? If I was aware of a rule, I made sure to break it, even if the transgression was slight. And I'm not talking the law; don't mistake the two. Rules. That clearly translates to my writing. Don't you see how?
With fantasy/paranormal, you can make your own rules. It doesn't matter if your main character can't get to point A to point B because you can give them wings. Literally. You don't have to worry about the logistics of real life and I love it. As someone who views real life as rather plain, I relish in the fact I can make things up in my writing. Better yet I don't get in trouble for it. Let me give you an example.
In my head:
I love Taylor Swift.
I will always love Taylor Swift.
Whoever hates on Taylor Swift to me will no longer be allowed to eat chocolate or go to the movies.

See how easy that rule was to make up? In real life, the worst thing I can do is unfriend the Taylor Swift offender on Facebook.

My point is that these are two very different genres and each has their own set of limitations and rules within. I take nothing away from each of them. I know fantastic realistic fiction authors who have made me laugh, cry, want to marry a fictional character. But for me, writing has always been easier and more enjoyable when I can make my own rules. 
Then again, everything in life is easier when the only person you have to answer to is yourself ;)

~ M. T. Rossi

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taylor Swift, Mashed Potatoes and the World's Greatest Book

So many excited things are happening right now! Taylor Swift just won two Grammy's (obviously there was no doubt she wouldn't win), there were mashed potatoes and pasta at the dining hall tonight (hello carbs!) and I managed to study for World Religions for two straight hours. I know, it's a big deal. But this all pales in comparison to what else I just accomplished. Today, at approximately 2:50 PM, I closed the back cover on possibly the greatest book I've ever read. The book in question?


Let's get something straight. I rarely do book reviews like this. Everyone has different tastes and interests when it comes to books and I'll be damned if I'm going to try and find one book that the majority of people like. From my experience, it just doesn't happen. Now, I have no problem at all suggesting titles for individuals. In fact, I rather enjoy it. But to offer up something as fragile and specific as a book to a crowd...no thank you. Also, I cannot properly write a book review, having never learned the trade. I prefer to call this my book opinion but for all intents and purposes, I'm labeling it as a review. Anyway, on to the actual book.
As you can (hopefully) see, the book is entitled Mastiff by the very brilliant and under-acknowledged Tamora Pierce. It is the third book in a trilogy entitled the Beka Cooper trilogy. As it is the finale of the series, no spoilers will be posted here. I started this trilogy when I was 14 years old. I distinctly remember a science teacher of mine commenting on the book (only because I was ignoring his lecture to read) and when asked what it was about, I stammered, "U-um, I think it's like h-historical f-f-fiction." At the time, I hadn't quite been introduced to proper fantasy yet, which is the genre Ms. Pierce reigns over. Book nerds, argue with me if you will, but until you've read her books, I bet to differ.
All of Ms. Pierce's book have a spice to them that's unlike anything I've read before. Her characters are sharp, well-developed and brimming with attitude and charisma. The countries and cities she takes you to are detailed down to what the grit of the road tastes like or who the favorite pastry vendor is in a district. Every little thing is so well thought out I would have thought Ms. Pierce actually lives in these made up lands if the author bio had not informed me she resides in Syracuse. 
Let's see if I can do better than my above statement when it comes to describing the books. 
Beka Cooper lives in the year 247. She's a guard (Dog) for the Provost Guard. Which one can interpret as a loose meaning of a police figure in way of authority. She carries a wood/lead baton and rawhide cords instead of a gun and handcuffs. She works in the Lower City; the place with the most crime and highest poverty rate. The criminals she catches on a daily basis? Pickpockets, slave traders and colemongers (counterfeiters). By her side is a black cat with purple eyes named Pounce, a constellation that walks with the humans every few centuries or so. Beka's whole life is her job (although we do see some romance in the second and third books) and she's one of the best Dogs there is. Her ability to latch onto her prey and sniff them out has her held in very high esteem as the books progress. She's quick-witted, very dangerous and can run for hours at a time without slowing down.
In short, I want to be her.
I think the main thing that attracted me to this trilogy (as with all of Tamora Pierce's books) is the total solidarity of a female heroine. This girl is a total badass. As many books that are out there that center around females, there are few with a strong enough backbone to carry themselves throughout a series. 
Pierce's style is so close to perfect it makes me almost drool thinking about it. She nails dialogue, slang and word choice as if she's been around since the year 247. Her characters are complicated and thorough while her details of landscape and other imagery border on pure awesomeness. 
Perhaps this blogpost wasn't so much a review of the book as it was of the author. But truly people, take my word for it. I wouldn't be putting this out there if I didn't think it was absolutely worth reading. Not often do I finish a book and want to find the author so I can bow at her feet. Actually, come to think of it, that's never happened to me before. I promise the flavor of her writing will sit on her tongue long after the last pages are turned and if that's not incentive enough, you clearly have never read a great book. Do yourself a favor and read this series. And don't worry, you can thank me later.

Book One: Terrier
Book Two: Bloodhound
Book Three: Mastiff

~M.T. Rossi