Why do I like Shakespeare?

I was never a big fan of reading the classics in high school English. I think it had to do with teachers having their own opinion about the meaning of books and their insistence that they were correct. Well, I still enjoyed Shakespeare.

In high school, we read Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet. They are all filled with incredibly insane people creating a lot of drama, of course. But is that why I like it? No, I like it partly because it’s historical drama. It gives me an insight to what people at the time were thinking. But Shakespeare is very interesting. It wouldn’t reflect the reality of the time. So much of it is over the top. But that’s what it’s supposed to be, as it’s supposed to entertain the audience. I also like it because of the language. It’s fascinating trying to decipher the English of the time. It resembles modern English, but so many of the words and expressions are different and many common words are used differently. It’s great exercise for the brain!

I hope to read all that he’s written in the future.

How I choose what to read

I love going to bookstores and just browsing.  I usually look at the books I haven’t read, usually searching for the next book in a series I have or trying a new author in the same genre.  But what do I really want to read?

Up until recently, I’ve been buying books that are mainly fantasy or science fiction (or some classics).  I go to one of the big bookstores in Japan that sell foreign books, such as Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, Kumazawa (and formerly Yurindo) in Minato Mirai, and Maruzen in Marunouchi (Tokyo station area).  The newer Kinokuniya next to Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku is the best for fantasy and science fiction.  But these days, I don’t seem to buy books in bookstores.  I’d like to, but I’m trying to save money at the moment.

What I’ve been doing lately is looking for some promising looking eBooks that are offered for free on Amazon.  Since I’ve downloaded the Kindle app to my iPhone, I’ve been making my way through the books rather slowly.  But I’d like to support the independent authors by providing reviews, and I may find some unknown author who writes very well.

However, I do have a large number of unread books in my home, and I’ve found it difficult to decide which to read first.  So, if you’ve noticed before, I asked for advice using polls on this blog.  I may do it again in the future, but that remains to be seen.

Otherwise, I usually go with my gut feeling.  If there’s something that looks interesting to me, I’ll go for it.  I’m still waiting to read something truly bad.

Doing book artwork

Sometimes I wonder about my book artwork. Who should do it? A book needs good cover art, even if it’s an eBook. Can I do it?

I don’t trust myself to do the cover art. I can draw pretty well, but I can’t do art in colour. I’m good with a pencil or pen, but not with paint or colouring with a computer. It would look awful. That’s not my strong suit. I can do line drawings for the inside of the book, though. I can draw maps, buildings, animals, and scenery. But when adding colour, I can’t do it.

So, what do I do? I may have to hire an artist to do the cover art for me. Or if it’s a book like the Japan book I’m writing, I could use a photograph I’ve taken and some simple graphic art program, but I’m not sure how it’ll look. I’ll have to see.

If you’ve self-published, how did you get the cover art done?

(On a side note, this is the 50th post on this blog.)

This guy’s a congressman?

The massacre during the premier of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Colorado was a tragedy.  I can’t understand how James Holmes could have gone into the theatre and kill 12 people, including a 6 year old child.  It’s unforgivable.

But what I found ridiculous is that a congressman by the name of Louie Gohmert thinks that the cause of this massacre is the lack of prayer and the attack against Judeo-Christian values.  He thinks that if more people would pray, their prayers could stop the massacre.  Sorry, Rep. Gohmert, but that won’t do a thing.  More or less prayer won’t stop some guy from killing people.  These things have been going on for thousands of years.  It’s nothing new.  He doesn’t seem to understand his own government’s constitution, especially the part regarding separation of church and state.  He doesn’t understand that there are many religions in the USA.  He thinks that prayer, specifically Christian, should be permitted in high school graduations, for example.  That would leave out those who are not Christian.  Besides, public schools are state run, therefore, separated from church.  But that’s not the point of this post.  What I’m saying is that people will do whatever they want whether other people pray or not.  And specifying one particular religion goes against the fact that the USA was not founded as a Christian nation, hence the separation of church and state.

You may agree or disagree with him, it’s your choice.

Deus ex machina

This post may contain spoilers.  You have been warned.

Have you read The Chrysalids?  I remember reading it in school, and I thought it was an interesting post-apocalyptic novel.  I enjoyed it, which is unusual, because I didn’t like reading novels for school.  It left an impression on me, being the first post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read.  But it also left a bit of a foul taste in my mouth at the end. It uses deus ex machina.  When the situation was hopeless, someone comes in and saves the day suddenly.  An otherwise good book was ended in the worst way.

I don’t like deus ex machina.  The unexpected hero in The Chrysalids didn’t appear anywhere in the book until the climax.  It was explained, but it was a surprise that wasn’t the best.  I’m not against them appearing in the book, but it was the timing that was just too perfect.  The kids were about to be caught by their own people when these advanced people suddenly appeared to save them.  What’s the purpose of this kind of ending?  It seems like it was an easy way out.

What do you think?

Cliffhangers

How do you feel about cliffhangers?  I’m a bit undecided in general.  There are some cases when it’s okay, but other cases when I just can’t stand it.

TV series tend to use cliffhangers at the end of a season to increase anticipation for the new season and bring in more viewers.  I’m not a big fan of that.  Quite often, I’ve forgotten what most of the story was, so my anticipation has already dissipated a bit.  There are some really good cliffhangers, but are they popular?  I found the cliffhangers in Star Trek: The Next Generation did drive me a bit crazy with anticipation, but only because it was my favourite TV show.  But what about in books?

I believe that the story should be resolved in a single novel.  If it’s a series of novels, there can be a bigger story spanning the volumes, but each book should have its own complete story.  But if there is no resolved story, it leaves me feeling a bit cheated.  Reading a book is a big investment of time, and at the end of the book, I want to have some kind of resolution.  That doesn’t mean all cliffhangers are bad.  If it’s done right, it can work, but it’s risky.

What do you think?

Cliche: When is it ok?

As I read a novel, I often encounter a character that is a cliche. They seem like many other characters from the same genre.

These days, we hear about the teenage vampires full of angst. We read a fantasy novel with the hero being an unlikely and naive young boy with no skills. We have a powerful, yet mysterious magic user who keeps secrets. We have the slow and strong one who is very trustworthy. There’s often an antagonist who is insane because of the power they have or wish to have. I see it all the time. But is it ok?

For serious novels, I think it can hinder a story, making it feel like something I’ve read before. It makes it predictable. It’s just not original. But on the other hand, the familiarity with the character type can make it more comfortable.

As for lighthearted comedy, no problem! This is especially true for parody and satire. They make fun of these kinds of characters. Terry Pratchett does this quite well, not only with characters, but also with themes and stories. In that case, I have no problems with it.

What do you think?

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.