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National Lessons in Plagiarism

DISCLAIMER: I POST THIS SIMPLY AS AN ACADEMIC, NOT AS A DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN, LIBERTARIAN, OR OTHERWISE. I’M NOT LOOKING TO GET IN A POLITICAL DEBATE OVER IF THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT OR NOT. TO ME, IT IS, SO GET OVER IT! OKAY. ONTO THE NEW BLOG POST…

Anyone who has been paying attention to this presidential election knows that the Republican National Convention has kicked off. Making national headlines this morning, it was reported that Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, plagiarized her speech from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, when she made her own speech during the President’s campaign for the White House.

After seeing the footage side by side, holy crap…I’m sorry, but that speech was blatantly plagiarized.

Here’s my big issue with this, and it has nothing to do with politics, believe it or not.

Obama and Trump

Melania Trump (right) was accused of plagiarizing her RNC speech from First Lady Michelle Obama’s (left).

I’m an Academic Librarian and I teach students how not to do this every single day. Suddenly, a woman who could become the First Lady of the United States, does it and it is viewed by the public worldwide. This is a woman that young students could be looking up to on a daily basis very soon. As someone who works in collegiate academia, I am so not okay with this.

The Trump campaign has brushed it off like, “It’s no big deal,” while everyone else in the world of higher education along with me is screaming, “YES IT IS!!” And while I understand the arguments of, “well, it was her speech writer,” and, “every candidate’s spouse is going to say that,” it’s the fact that there was little to no attempt to paraphrase. Being able to say what was said by the First Lady could have been formulated and worded differently very easily by whoever wrote the controversial speech. Or even if Melania Trump wanted to say something like, “a few years back, Michelle Obama said of her husband Barack [fill in quote]. Well, I can say the same thing about my husband, Donald Trump.” Plagiarism, in essence, is a very simple thing to avoid.

Long story short, someone, whether Trump or otherwise, needs to be held accountable. Honestly, Mrs. Trump is lucky she’s not getting sued since I’m guessing Mrs. Obama’s speech isn’t copyrighted. There have been students who have been expelled from universities for pulling what happened at the RNC. I can’t help but feel that there should be a lesson learned here.

I’m shocked and disappointed as a professional in the field.

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The Necessity of Information Literacy

Warning: rant ahead!

Last week I received some excellent news. I have been offered a Reference and Instructional Librarian position at a local community college that I had interviewed for. To say that I am excited is a complete understatement and I am looking forward to moving up in the professional library world and getting in front of students and being a professor from time to time (not to mention my own office that goes with the position). I am a huge advocate for information literacy for all, not just college students, and I find it frustrating that there are those who don’t take their time to familiarize themselves with this data driven society that we find ourselves living in today. Let me explain.

learn

With my work at the public library (where I am a Teen and YA Librarian), I have assisted patrons, young and old, who not only rarely use a computer, but absolutely outright refuse to learn anything about them. The phrase “You do it!” has been barked at me more than a time or two (which, by the way, is a huge no no and a breach in library etiquette). The truth is that librarians are not computer servants. While we make a point to be caught up on trends, we are not IT professionals. We, as a profession, are here to provide helpful service to those who are trying to access information. The line in the sand is that we can only help you so far before it becomes the fact that we are doing everything for you. Sadly, it doesn’t work this way. Yes, we are here to help you, but only to the point where you want to help yourself. If you are extremely clueless as to how to use today’s technology, here are few suggestions I have:

  1. Check your local library to see what programs they offer on learning to use a computer, a tablet, or any other piece of technology you find yourself needing to use often. If your library doesn’t offer any, ask the librarian if they could locate some information for you on where it might be offered. A lot of this is free to library patrons, programs included, and sometimes you are able to work with the instructor in a one-on-one setting. It exists. The library I currently work at provides it via an appointment.
  2. Learn/do the following things:
    1. Obtain an email. Check it often. Learn to manage your messages. Many businesses and people refuse to communicate in any other way. Believe me. Introverts thrive on this.
    2. Learn to type on a computer keyboard. Practice it until you can manage 50 words per minute, which is the expected average for someone in the workplace. You can always take a typing test at a website like this one. No one is going to type any of your documents for you unless you pay them, and certainly not your local librarian. I can guarantee that.
    3. Obtain a USB drive/key. Learn how to save, scan, and edit documents to it. Keep it in a safe place and under good maintenance so you will not risk losing any documents that are important to you, especially if that key contains the only copies you have. Also, always back up important documents by printing them or also saving them to your email or computer hard drive.
  3. Obtain some kind of guide to look over if you ever have some kind of question about computers and technology. The For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide series are awesome at keeping up on technology trends and publishing up to date information on how to use the basic functions of computers, tablets, and a variety of programs. When in doubt, ask a librarian if any are available at your library, or if not, where you can purchase a guide about the specific topic you are researching and learning. They are always available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
dos wof

Anyone else remember this?

This topic tends to get under my skin more than others because the technology we are familiar with today is nothing new. I grew up knowing what to type in DOS in order to play an ancient version of Wheel of Fortune on an old desktop. I learned to type without looking at the keyboard thanks to programs like Mavis Beacon. I learned the basics of HTML thanks to online blogs like LiveJournal. And I have typed an endless amount of pages and reports in my academic and professional career as a student, writer, and librarian. To top it off, a lot of basic tech functions (such as using a Windows computer and typing) are taught during middle through high school. If technology has been around for so long and has become such a standard in our society, why are there still people who do not understand what an email is (or have one for that matter)? The honest truth is if you are not retired and are a functioning person in the working world of today, you should know how to use the basic tools of technology. Otherwise, you are holding yourself, and at time others, back. And with how readily available it is to everyone to learn, there is no one to blame but yourself.

The other thing that really bothers me is that there are those who know how to use technology and do not use it responsibly. And I’m not just talking about internet bullying or anything of the like. I’m talking about people who don’t check their facts and just post whatever bull to suit their own agenda. Donald Trump? Ugh. I’m already sick of seeing his face flood my Facebook feed. Half of what the man says is either untrue or the exact opposite of something he said the week before. Stephen Colbert even called him out on it on this Late Show clip and I wanted to reach through the television and shake the man’s hand. Colbert and his crew fact checked and caught him again and again and again! Politics aside, it was beautiful. The truth is there are ways to fact check what’s out there very easily that do not involve Google or Wikipedia. While those websites do provide some interesting information*, not everything that is stated on the internet is true.

What do I recommend? Do some research from a database at an academic library. See if a librarian can help you find some information in the stacks about what you are researching. And when in doubt, Snopes.com is a great website that likes to debunk pop culture news that is fake. To do anything less is careless and lazy.

So there you have it. That is my rant on information literacy. For someone who isn’t information literate, it may seem like a lot. But the truth is this concept has been around for so long that now the person can blame no one but themselves for having so much to catch up on. We are a technology based society. We function because of technology and its use. And if a person does not use that technology that is offered in this world, then they cannot function to their full potential in this world that they live in, especially when learning about it is available to them.

*When in doubt, check the footnotes on Wikipedia to see where people are quoting. I’m not saying everything on Wikipedia is untrue, but the people who cite their information are more likely to be correct than others.

The Semester’s End

It seems like whenever I think to myself I’m going to get ahead with a busy semester, what I say comes back around to bite me in the butt! The last update I did on this particular journal was on databases, and now I’m editing it because it will most likely be used as an article for one of the local filler newspapers in the Wayne area.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’m officially a librarian now! I was hired by the Wayne Public Library on Halloween! So how awesome is that?

Not me, but you get the picture.

Not me, but you get the picture.

But since the end of the semester, I have been absolutely dragging. It’s been two weeks and I fell like all I am capable of is getting out of bed in the morning, maybe running two errands, having lunch, then sacking out on the couch for the rest of the day. Between the state of the house and my sleep schedule, I’ve been absolutely useless.

But there have been a couple of good highlights! Besides my job, I finished the semester with a strong cumulative GPA of 3.63, I’ve been doing a bit of free writing on a new novel idea, oh guess what? Peter and I were matched with a beautiful girl for adoption! I won’t go into too many details at the moment, but I can say she’s ten years old, a sweetheart, and we are absolutely excited to add her to our family this holiday season.

So for one of my classes this semester, I did have to keep a journal of various topics during our study. I created a separate WordPress for it (at the professor’s direction), but if you have any interest in finding out what I’ve been up to and studying for the last few months, feel free to check it out at Adrianne Goes to Library School! Some of it is a little technical and just me talking library jargon, but it might be something that interests you if you’ve ever wanted to become a teacher of information literacy.

God bless us everyone!

God bless us everyone!

With that, I will close in saying that I wish you all the best this holiday season and into 2015. This next year is going to mean graduation, first time motherhood, and self-publication for me! I’m going to give it my all!

Banned Books Week

Happy Banned Books Week from you local blogging librarian!

From the Farmington Community Library of Farmington Hills, Michigan…

“What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

A sampling of what the Farmington Community Library has to offer.

A sampling of what the Farmington Community Library has to offer.

Some famous banned books we all know and love?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Charlotte’s Web by EB White…

…and the list goes on and on and on and on…

This has been an announcement from your local blogging librarian. Now go out and read the good stuff others want to pry away from you!

PS. I’ve got my nose in Dan Brown’s Inferno currently…

The Database Game

The word “database” is a scary one. For any person who is not tech oriented, it can quickly spike blood pressure and give the weak the urge to wet themselves. I have flashbacks to my freshman year of undergrad, trying to build a project on Microsoft Access, failing miserably and still managing to pass the class with a C. Phew!

The truth is, however, that we use databases every single day. We just don’t realize it. Databases are digital organizations of information and provide an easy way to weed out and retrieve information when it is requested. It doesn’t sound complicated because it really isn’t. Here’s an example.

An old-fashioned office Rolodex would hold contact information in alphabetical order (if the Rolodex’s owner organized it correctly). When a specific number or contact was needed, the searcher would flip the Rolodex to the correct letter of the alphabet, choose the correct information they sought, and be on their way. Therefore, an old-fashioned Rolodex is a hands-on version of a simple database. We don’t tend to see this anymore because this particular database has been replaced by the simple tech version known as the contact list on your cell phone.

Now algorithms and whatnot may be more complicated than my example above, but below are some of the databases you may come across and use every single day…

iTunes, Media Player, and Computer Music Playback Systems

I love music. I love it to a point that I used nearly all my money from my first job to buy CDs. This got to the point that my mother scolded me and told me more than once to put my money in the bank. With my collection growing, I was excited to receive my first laptop and upload all of my music to the Media Player. It was an easy way for me to have all of my music accessible at once, with no fumbling around for discs or cassettes, and be able to listen to a certain song with just a couple clicks. Essentially, music, no waiting.

MediaPlayerPic

Windows Media Player

Apple revolutionized this further with the invention of the iPod. Suddenly, all that music became mobile on a device the size of a debit card. Then music became downloadable by internet access through services like iTunes.

And the beauty of all these items? They are all databases!

While the device being used has been updated to offer more convenience over the years, the basis of the software of these devices has always been databases. The music in the system is organized by a set of fields: artist, song title, album title, music genre, etc. Each time a song is downloaded or an album is uploaded to the system, the database grows.  Think of it as entering a form on a Microsoft Access project.  You are plugging in information to the system that will be retrieved later to be used (ie, you upload the song to the system so that you can listen to it later).

The fun part about this type of database is that the listener is given the option to manipulate the database further by adding playlists. That means the listener can create lists of music that they would (or would not) like to hear in a particular order. This is a beautiful amenity compared to years past of CDs being organized on a shelf in alphabetical order by artist or album title.  And yes, I did this. I’m a librarian. What did you expect?

Internet Movie Database

This one is a bit of a given as the word “database” is in it’s title, but the exact same theories apply when it comes to how the website works.  All of the information that is accessible is due to it’s organization. Just as with various media players, the information is organized based on various fields. Instead of singers and song writers though, it is organized based on actors, film titles, directors, producers, etc.

For all of your movie needs!

For all of your movie needs!

The organization of this website is so well done and so easy to navigate that I very rarely turn to any other type of entertainment website when I’m trying to figure out who was in what, who directed who, etc.  Here’s a great example…

Mine and my husband’s new favorite movie as of late is A Million Ways to Die in the West. During the fair scene, there is a gentleman selling tonic that Peter insists is the same actor who plays Mr. Belding from Save By the Bell. First, yes, I have a husband who watches Saved By the Bell. I don’t like to address this very often. Two, I did not believe it was the same gentleman who played Mr. Belding. The man seemed unrecognizable as Mr. Belding to me. How did we settle the score? We looked up the information on IMDB. Sure enough, Dennis Haskins is playing the Snake Oil Salesman in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Oddly enough when we looked up this fact, I discovered that the gentleman with the English accent during the fair scene is Ewan McGregor! Well hell.

In closing with this one, I’d like to say is Internet Movie Database is probably responsible for saving many marriages by settling stupid movie arguments and holy crap! There are a lot of great cameos in A Million Ways to Die in the West!

Pinterest

Pinterest now has my attention. I avoided it for the first couple of years because so many people warned me about how addictive it would become. Then out of bordem one night, I decided to check it out and play on it a bit. My Facebook status after that first session stated, “To the bitches who told me I should try Pinterest, I want my Friday night back!” You will become addicted and it will happen quickly, like some type of pleasure drug. You have been vehemently warned.

Pinterest: results with visualization.

Pinterest: results with visualization.

Now that this has been said, here is why I love Pinterest so much and why it is so interesting to me (besides the fact that I have a whole new way to check out ridiculously cute cats doing ridiculously cute things). Not only does this website work like a database (with it’s information organized under different subjects and fields, which are designed to be pulled up easily for use), but it also works as a major search engine!

I don’t think this was goal that the creators of Pinterest were pursuing at first, but due to Pinterest’s increased popularity, this is what has happened! Whoops!

While talking with some of my lady friends, they confessed that when it came to recipes, parenting advice and tips, or building outfits for special occassions, Google was becoming a thing of the past. The new go to? Pinterest. Why? Because Pinterest offers the instant visualization with it’s results. Not only does the link being sought after come up, but there is a photo to go along with it. What this generally does for the seeker is cuts down on the time that they use analyzing whether the information is going to be worth their time to look over. If the photo doesn’t meet their expectations visually, the seeker clicks off and moves on to the next set of results. Pinterest makes this further convenient by allowing the seeker to further narrow down their results in the search box based on popular searches. The database works to narrow down all of the information being pulled in order to give the seeker that one bit of information they are hoping to find. And let’s be realistic. It’s more than likely a photo of a funny dog in a hat.

Who me?

Who me?

So now that the concepts of databases have been explained a bit, they don’t seem nearly as complex or vomit inducing as they had in the past. Databases are simply the organized systems used to keep and look up information. And they don’t have to be overly techy by any means.  Some of the most popular hold the key to music, movies, and media! Sounds more than a little fun if you ask me. But then again, I am a librarian. I live for this stuff.

Robin Williams, My Papa, and the Power of Laughter

Just over a month ago, I felt heartbreak that I hadn’t felt in about three and a half years. My friend Lisa sent me a text and all it showed was a photo of the Genie from Aladdin looking sad. I was quite confused and asked her what it was about. You can imagine my shock when she replied that Robin Williams had passed away. I screamed so loud that my husband ran into the room. He couldn’t believe what I told him. Sure enough, I flipped over to Yahoo.com and my worst fears were confirmed.

The photo I received from Lisa...

The photo I received from Lisa…

Sigh…

To say that laughter is important to me is an understatement. To me, you could be in the worst pain imaginable, and if something tickles your funny bone in just the right way, you will erupt into laughter, if just for a few seconds, and forget all about it. Humor is a very powerful sort of magic in my mind. I can’t stand people who don’t have a sense of humor and refuse to associate with someone who takes life too seriously.  Some people use the Pandora app to listen to new music. I use it to listen to my favorite comedians and comedy channels. Christopher Titus, Patton Oswalt…my recent favorite is John Mulaney and I’m getting really excited for his new sitcom…

My love of laughter came from my grandfather, whom I affectionately called Papa.  Papa was the patriarch of a very giggly household. Practical jokes were quite common. He always had a little toy or gadget to amuse himself with when the next unwitting victim would come to visit. My favorite memory by far was when he got his hands on a couple of little tabletop magic tricks.  One of them was turning a little pile of nickles into dimes. I won’t give away how the trick works, but first Papa showed me how to do it and it’s big secret. Then he called over my mother, his eldest daughter, to show her the trick, but not the solution.

The result was my mother swearing up a storm in front of her elderly parents because she couldn’t figure out how the simple dollar store magic act worked and me rolling on the carpet snorting at her reaction. I’d like to tell you that I was about five or six years of age when this happened. Pretty sure I was sixteen, however. He was that good.

Me and my Papa celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary...

Me and my Papa celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary…

When he was alive, I don’t think my Papa realized how much I loved sharing those moments with him. When he passed, I stood above his casket after it was lowered into the ground, holding a rose the funeral officiate had given me to toss into the grave. I told him with my final goodbye that I would always keep the laughter alive, then I gave the rose to him and walked back through the February snow. There were some tense discussions over who would inherit what of my grandfather’s after his passing. Gram asked me what I had wanted. All I wanted was the nickles into dimes trick. It was the only thing of his that meant anything to me. Gram gave it to me readily. To this day, it sits on my desk shelf next to a photo of my great grandparents on the day they got engaged (pretty sure great grandma Inez has visited me in my dreams more than once, but that’s a story for another day).

To lose Robin Williams so suddenly felt like losing my Papa again. You remember the laughter, but suddenly, it feels zapped and hollow. Over the next three nights, Peter and I would watch our favorite Williams movies. I put on his 2002 stand up that first night. The next evening it was Death to Smoochy, a movie some don’t get or care for, but a movie me and Peter first bonded over when we started dating because it was when we realized we had the same twisted sense of humor. The next night it was The Birdcage.

I can only imagine that the dialogue in this shot went something along the lines of, "These guys actually put us in a movie together?!"

I can only imagine that the dialogue in this shot went something along the lines of, “These guys actually put us in a movie together?!”

One of my first distinct thoughts I came to once it all sunk in was what his friends and family must be going through. My favorite comedian and writer, Lewis Black, was one of Williams’ dearest friends. Not only did they star in Man of the Year together, but they did two USO tours. Black talked about bonding with Williams over the USO work in his book I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas, and I just remember how warm and profound I felt learning how not only Williams and Black bonded, but Kid Rock and Lance Armstrong did as well, and the soldiers! All these people from these different walks of life, different creeds and beliefs, putting all that aside to give back to those who give to us and we don’t even know it. To hear that one of the chiefs of this group had gone home broke my heart.

Albert: No good? Armand: Actually, it's perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.

Albert: No good?
Armand: Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.

I think of my grandfather often and I’m pretty sure I’m going to think of Robin Williams just the same. I never got to meet the man myself, but every account I have read since his passing has been nothing short of beautiful, amazing, and hilarious! I picked up the Time Magazine tribute issue to him and read it in two nights, bouncing back and forth between snorting laughter and tear stained eyes. Nathan Lane, his co-star in The Birdcage, wrote how Williams had made him laugh to the point that he had cried. How many of us can testify to this about Williams? The man was humor: beautiful, living, and personified. The Greek goddess of comedy wasn’t a muse named Thalia. It was and shall always be a (self-admittedly very hair man) named Robin Williams.

It honestly didn’t surprise me to see that Black had written a tribute in the last few pages of the tribute issue. He wrote, “There’s a hole and it’s going to take a long time to be filled.” You can say that again, sir. I plan to frame this issue of Time and keep it on display right next to Papa’s nickles to dimes trick so I always remember what’s important. Laughter is. It can get you through almost anything.

Mr. Williams, it is an understatement that you will be missed by so many on this great earth who lived with a love of your work. What you gave to some was greater than gold and platinum. As I promised my Papa, I promise to you to keep the laughter alive, one way or another. Truth is, I’m kinda funny by accident more than anything, but I digress.  I hope you meet my Papa, Bill Nellis, and share some laughs with him. You’d probably give St. Peter a run for his money. And after you’ve done that, I advise you to thoroughly brace yourself because my Papa has a twin brother and…well, have you every read Harry Potter? You know the characters Fred and George Weasley? You’ve been warned.

1951 - 2014 Missed with laughter and love...

1951 – 2014
Missed with laughter and love…

10 Influential Works

Recently, a survey has been going around Facebook for us bookish types asking about the ten books that have influenced our lives.  I’ve been sitting back and thinking this over for quite a bit the last few days, especially since I finally finished my final edit of Lore and I’m on to the marketing and publishing stages. Took me long enough, right? What has influenced me in writing as a writer and a human being? What about being a librarian or as someone who is a pedestrian humorist?

When I got done and I looked at my answers, there were a few that did not surprise me in the least.  Then there were a few that made me go aloud, “Really? That made a difference in my life? That?”

So, here they are in no particular order.  The ten writings that have influenced Adrianne M. Karpo to date and an explanation of each so you aren’t left wondering why and what the ever loving hell…

Calling On Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on dragonsCalling On Dragons is the first book I can honestly remember falling in love with. Unbeknownst to me, it was the third book in a series of four. But by the time I had reached the final page and was left with the cliffhanger, I was honestly heartsick and needed to know the ending. I was in high school at the time and my friend, Becky, who was the bookworm in our group of friends, knew the answer as she had read The Enchanted Forest Chronicles long before I had even considered the concept of fantasy as a genre I would identify with. I begged her to tell me what happened, but her repeated answer was simply, “Read the books!” And I did. And I haven’t been the same since.

I had known I had wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade, but I wasn’t sure what kind of writer until I picked up Calling On Dragons.  After reading Wrede’s work, I said to myself, this is what I want to do. I want to grip someone’s heart. I want to make the reader feel emotions. I want to send them on an adventure. And I want to entertain more than inform! Anyone can read facts. It takes skill to reach someone and play with their feelings.

The books of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles still sit on my bookshelf in my bedroom to this day and I can’t wait for the day that I get to share them with my future children, their friends, and anyone else who will listen. I’ve even worked on a movie script to bring the second book of the series to the big screen. And for anyone who has read the books, I will never stop shipping Morwen and Telemain!

Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black

Me of little faithI was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school up until the day I attended Western Michigan University. As a child, I never really questioned my faith, but by the time I got to high school, I began to wonder if organized religion was actually for me. Not bashing on the Catholic Church or anything, but as a budding adult, I had questions about everything from the concepts of heaven and hell to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And being in a Catholic family with a grandmother who was so devout that she was practically a nun, it killed me to have these questions! I felt guilty! It physically hurt sometimes to pray and talk to God and say to him, “I don’t know what you are.”

Now, I had been a great admirer of Lewis Black’s comedy for some time by the time I picked up Me of Little Faith. His way of ranting and raving about various subjects not only inspired me, but it got my brain thinking in directions and concepts I had not considered. As I have stated before to various people, comedians look at the world in different ways than us normal non-funny folks do and there’s a brilliance to their views that we don’t often see. I think Black has this in spades. The odd thing about this book is that his saying he had no belief in a higher power made me understand that it was okay for me to have questions, but still have faith! I don’t think this was Black’s mission when he wrote the book. I think his idea was to take different topics in religion and faith and expand on them in a humorous nature.

What it ended up doing for me was it made me more comfortable with my faith than I had been in a long, long time. Truth be told, I haven’t attended church on a regular basis since college. But I pray and talk to God every day and I watch for the way he works with me. He is a friend and a confidant. I laugh at what he does in my life. I yell at him for taking me down difficult roads. And I whole-heartedly believe it has made our relationship stronger. I identify myself as a distant-Catholic-but-full-blooded-Christian-somewhat-Agnostic-slightly-Jewish-lady, and that’s okay. Lewis Black’s lack of faith seems to have strengthened my friendship with God to a level of peace I haven’t felt for a number of years. And I thank God and Mr. Black for that.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

writing down the bonesSo fun fact. It’s hard to write in a steampunk corset. I learned this by practicing one of Goldberg’s tips last year when I started working on a novel that’s a cross of steampunk culture and Sherlock Holmes.

Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones displays different ideas for how to get over your writing fears and simply get the job done. She expresses the self and mild embarrassment you go through when you are writing your first sex scene. She gives you ideas for setting up your schedule to write on a regular daily basis.

My favorite rule of hers, however, is the prop rule. Whenever you are writing in the voice of a particular character, have a prop for that character with you.  Thus, the steampunk corset, worn by my main character, Sally. While working with a character named Pinkette in the past, I’ve had a fake paper cigarette (rolled out of sticky notes and tape) hanging off of my lips and in between my fingers. Her practice gives the writer something tangible to hold on to while bringing the character to life. Don’t believe it works? Try it for yourself!

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

no plot no problemAs an avid NaNoWriMo participant and municipal liaison for the event, it shouldn’t be a big surprise for Baty’s book on how to write a novel to be on my list, right? All the man did was found an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to getting people to exercise their creative writing juices. Just the other day I was explaining to my friend, Bridget, on how to use the “Magna Carta” when it came to what she wanted for her own novel. Not to mention it creates great ways to track your word count and completely instilled in a writer the great words of Stephen King, which are, “You are not f***ing Shakespeare!” This book has simply become a fantastic tool for helping to hone my daily art.

For more information on National Novel Writing Month, please visit www.nanowrimo.org.

“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell

most dangerous gameOkay, so this one is a short story, but it still influenced me more than I had originally conceived. I first read the story as a freshman in high school and it made me realize the point of the short story; the human being is the most vicious, threatening animal on the face of this earth.* And that the narrator decided to show just how vicious and threatening it could be was an entertainment and lesson everyone should learn (although it’s better from the reader’s perspective than the narrator’s).

There have been various types of Hollywood adaptions to this concept, but to me, nothing holds you or thrills you more than the original text. If you haven’t read it and want to get your heart going, here it is in entirety. Enjoy if you dare.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

hunchback of notre dameI confess. My love of this novel came from my love of the Disney animated movie of the same name. I was an outcast and not popular in junior high, so loveable Quasimodo gave me a character to identify with during that hard stage of life. However, the original novel, published as Notre Dame de Paris, is nowhere near as light-hearted as Disney’s work.

Notre Dame de Paris is dark, dank, and at times downright terrifying. Quasimodo’s life in the bell towers of Notre Dame Cathedral are not just due to his deformities and ugliness, but also due to the fact that he was a kidnapped child and no one would take him as an orphan. Sadly, the only woman who sees the beauty within, the lovely gypsy Esmeralda, is a careless child who falls in love with a soldier who wishes nothing more than do deflower her before he runs off and marries his bourgeois cousin (ew). To top it off, she is being stalked by Quasimodo’s caretaker, a priest (yes, a priest) by the name of Dom Claude Frollo, who gives Esmeralda the ultimatum of being his lustful slave for the rest of her life or be tortured and put to death.

Of course, as this is one of those novels that reads over chapters upon chapters of setting, character development, and plot and exposition, I can’t do its description justice. But if you want a novel that will pull at your heart strings and stay with you forever, pick it up. It may make you see the world in a different light. Lord knows it is one of the reasons I want to visit Paris so badly and why Notre Dame cathedral has become my favorite building on this green earth. The plus side for me when I read it was Disney actually published an original text version which was interspaced with concept art from the animated movie. I ended up getting the best of both worlds with this one!

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

sherlock holmesAgain, Disney is one of the reasons I fell in love with a book. As a child, my mother rented me the film The Great Mouse Detective. After learning that Basil of Baker Street was a conception of Sherlock Holmes, I began to pick up the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books and stories, albeit they were young reader’s versions. The brilliant genius of snarky intellect and smoking pipes quickly won over my heart moreso than any combination of Batman, Super Mario, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

beekeeper's apprenticeI have been proficient in fan fiction since junior high school. Well, when you’re an outcast, you kind of dive into familiar worlds where you find comfort. Imagine my delight a few years ago when my friend, Whitney, handed me the book she was reading and asked, “You’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, aren’t you?”

With Sherlock Holmes entering the realm of free domain, King created the world of Mary Russell, a young British born American who befriends a retired Holmes and becomes his apprentice.

I honestly can’t say that this book enlightened me more to anything other than it reminded me of why I loved Sherlock Holmes so much, but the beauty and care in which it was written showed me what could be done with someone else’s work if they gave it the respect it deserved. If Doyle were alive today, I’d be very curious to hear his thoughts on King’s progress.

DaVinciCodeThe DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

I know, I know. There are probably a few people (friends and family among them) who are repeatedly smacking their heads against substantial surfaces for this one, but it is the truth.

Dan Brown set a precedent when he published this book when it came to historical fiction that it actually caused a) issues with the Catholic church, b), issues with the views of Renaissance art, and c) various other issues with European history that caused such an uproar that a disclaimer had to be put in the work depicting it strictly as a work of fiction! That’s some book if you ask me. To be able to capture someone’s attention so well and hold it to a point where they think it could be and may actually be true? If I had that type of power as a writer, I’d probably have thicker glasses because I would be staring at my computer for longer periods of time.

Nothing’s Sacred by Lewis Black

Nothings sacredYes, Mr. Black again. As you might have guessed, I greatly admire this man. I read Nothing’s Sacred as a further look into his comedy and I was greatly surprised to find out that he started his career as a theatre student and playwright. He even took a risk after his undergrad and purchased a theatre with his friends to hone his art. I never did anything that risky with my career or life, partially because I had to depend on a job with good health coverage because of the Crohn’s disease, but I digress.

I’m sure that Black’s career took a change he wasn’t expecting when he started doing standup, but that career has no only made him one of the most well-known and main stream comedians of the day, but he’s done amazing charity work and two USO tours to boot! It’s made me wonder time and again where my career and life might take me in the near and distant future. Who knows.

I had a chance to meet him after a show he did a few years ago. Not only did he autograph my copy of Nothing’s Sacred, but we got to talk writing and play for five minutes and it was like heaven on earth. He invited me and my husband to come see a showing of his play in North Carolina. Don’t let the man’s act dissuade you too much. He may rant and rave on stage, but in the short time I spent visiting with him, I got to meet and intelligent man with a love for his art. And if you want further proof of this, here’s the photo!

Lewis Black

*Since reading this story, my views have obviously stuck with that. Human beings are awful, horrendous animals, but damn, do they make some amazing characters.