Bit of cleaning up and Netflix for Books

My book and music pages have been pointless for a very long time, so I trashed them. I never had the time to update them, and it’s a lot easier for a page to be static, anyway.

I did toy with the idea of creating a Reading Challenges page. That’s one I would have to update whenever something change (book finished or DNF’d) and it would keep down some Reading Challenge types of posts. Then I could just add at the end of whatever other blog post I write that I ended or began a challenge. I dunno.

Not long ago, it seemed like I had very few inlets for new books. My hands hurt too much to allow for my hard copies and I didn’t have a decent e-reader. Then I remembered Overdrive and the fact that I have three library cards, and my iPad saw ludicrously frequent use, especially after I started using Voiceover for hands-free reading.

Still, there’s only so much available on Overdrive, even allowing for multiple ODLs. I gave myself a monthly book budget, joined Audible, and the BookGorilla mailing list. But at heart, I’m still a library girl. Free books are nice, but if it’s a stinker, I want the thrill of throwing it back to the library and good riddance.

So I looked around for what almost all marketing strategies have called “Netflix for books.”

  • Entitle
  • Oyster
  • Scribd
  • Kindle Unlimited

In my opinion, Entitle doesn’t count, since it isn’t really Netflix for Books, more like Audible for ebooks rather than audiobooks. Which is fine, but not my thing.

Oyster and Scribd are about a dollar difference in their subscription price, so the other differences are the ones that matter. I tried both, and I have found Scribd to be immensely superior. Oyster has an inferior book collection, and I found the interface to be laggy and just plain ugly. It helps that I got a free year subscription for Scribd because of Smashwords, but honestly, I didn’t even use all of the free trial on Oyster. (seriously, I used it for less than three days)

I have yet to try Kindle Unlimited. This is partially because I don’t think they’re completely clear and upfront about what it entails. I’ve read that it comes with a complimentary three months of Audible, which I doubt will apply to people who already use Audible, and if it does, I’m afraid it would clash with the fact that I requested my account go on hold less than a month ago. (hiatus lasts three months) Worse, in the buzz of blog posts and comments, I swear I saw someone say something about having to cancel their Audible membership to get Kindle Unlimited, which makes no sense.

Anyway, now I have Overdrive, Scribd, and both digital and tangible books I own. As well as Audible, let’s count that. I have gone from too few inlets to too many.

…Hurrah!

Homestar Runner

The way I first found Homestar Runner is kind of dumb. I used to be really into Kisekae, and I even made a few dolls for the PlayFKiSS. One of the dolls I downloaded was actually a clever bit of coding that resembled an old Tamagotchi. I don’t remember all the details, but there was a link in there somewhere that led to Homestar Runner.

It was probably two or three in the morning. I didn’t sleep at night back then. But I think we loaded up every single watchable thing on the site. It was still pretty new. There were either no sbemails or only a few. They were not jamming with They Might Be Giants and the puppet yet.

My brother and I became such huge fans that we bought the CD when it came out, and I still wish I had gotten him a Kick the Cheat. Especially since Owen would have adored it. I wonder if they still sell them… I doubt it. The creators have kind of moved on into a more professional circle. Long ago, even.

But HR is such a deeply ingrained part of my humour that we just shared the in-joke “I have an idea!” and I couldn’t remember where I had heard it.

Ah, my formative years. Maybe I should have spent them reading more Russian literature. But the way it went down, I can imagine the Brothers Strong acting out scenes as the Brothers Karamazov. And that’s pretty awesome.

Dresden Files game tomorrow

To be entirely candid, right now I am so tired that I don’t care what I do tomorrow. I didn’t sleep last night, and had to start the day at the bumcrack of dawn. It’s been a noisy day, and not the cool kind of noise like rain or crews working on the street. I’m talking somebody antagonising a shrill dog for ten straight minutes, kids shouting abuse at each other, car alarms, barely running motorcycles… And I think there’s a hole in the wall that is lettin in beetles the size of my swollen thumb. ARGH. All I can think of right now are nasty, negative things that don’t even have form. I’m tired, depressed, and just plain grumpy.

THIS MEANS IT IS AN AWESOME TIME TO WORK ON A CHARACTER CONCEPT!

Those who have read even the first book in the Dresden Files know that I am absolutely not joking. Those who haven’t… It’s called Storm Front, and I recommend the audio version, read by James Marsters.

So, armed with my crappy mood and Family Force 5 (Watch Me Walk Like a Zombie and Love Addict), let’s figure out what kind of  crusty hero I want to play.

Somebody who’s been kicked around a lot. The kind of metaphorical kicking that leaves visible marks. So she’s a little rough around the edges. And she can’t just let a bully go without even a remark. Maybe a Bodyguard as a “high concept.” Or the Wolverine-like hanger-on for a cobbled together X-children community.

Brevity is important. “Paladin” for example, says quite a lot in a single word. Hmm. One just hit me: Cleaner. More refined than rough. Quietly competent. Potentially as “in the know” as even a wizard, but with a rather different relationship with the lesser known aspects of the world. Hehe, I would totally play like the lady version of Dwight Hendrickson.

Okay, I like that. And in honour of both my wretched mood and Dwight, I’ll call the character Ms Courtney Edge.

It Gets Good Further In

That is the hopeful prayer of all people recommending something with a rough beginning, or trying to justify why they stuck with said thing. Personally, I view it as a kind of criticism in its own right, never mind the intentions.

The only time that I would say it is acceptable and fulfils the purpose which it seems to, is when the beginning is merely slow. Like Lord of the Rings. It isn’t for everyone, but even people who really like it may be able to agree that the beginning is rather slow–especially if you know how the rest of the story goes.

In Final Fantasy 13, the cry of “it gets better later” is probably one of the worst examples of the answering cry, “That’s not good enough.” Twenty hours into a sixty to eighty hour game may not seem like a lot in fractions, but twenty hours in when one only has three hours of available game time a day is unacceptable. In video games, you shouldn’t end a session because you’re bored or otherwise dissatisfied. That does not speak well for the game, and it does not have the right to get better later. It should be good enough sooner than three hours in. Never mind zarking twenty.

Since movies are an infinitely smaller time investment (you would have to watch Old Boy ten times to cover twenty hours alone), this doesn’t hit them as hard or as often. But let’s say that Avengers failed to engage viewers until the big showdown in New York. That would have been a ridiculous wait time for the movie to “get good.” I don’t actually have a real example off the top of my head because I’ve only been watching actually good movies lately…

(Also, I really did like Avengers, I only used it in example because I could think of the movie in terms of events and time without a lot of effort or research.)

Books, like video games, require a significant investment of one’s time. It depends on the book, but they tend not to require as much as video games (because… Skyrim, you guys) but if you use audiobooks as a guideline to read time, then the average novel runs eight to thirteen hours.

I went back to reading Divergent. And really, it’s not so awful that I can’t finish it. I just stopped reading it back whenever because the beginning is so bloody awful. I’m in Chapter 24 now, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about it. And this is the best I can come up with:

Unless the rest of the book is as brilliant as Abarat, it cannot ever squeeze past two stars. The beginning is such a soul-sucking, angry-making obstacle that I just can’t enjoy the rest of the book.

It’s like the horrible beginning took such a toll that I can only spend the rest of the book going, “Yeah? Okay. Whatever. Are you done yet?” Even when something interesting happens, all I can think about is that the pattern set very deeply by the beginning is that nothing can be interesting.

The beginning is a foundation. Not something you’re trying to just get over with–not as a reader or a writer.

So I had some more thoughts after it was over.

Yesterday, my post ran quite long. I nearly cut the CLAMP-dissing convention story, but then just decided to leave it. Instead, I curbed my usual efforts to include all pertinent story information and used a briefer style to explain the premise. Which I liked.

More verbose:

This girl collapses, her soul fractured. Her best guy friend (unspoken love) pays a time-space witch to help him travel to different worlds to get back the pieces of her soul. The power to travel comes at a price–no matter how many soul pieces (memories) they get back, she will never again remember him. Travel is accomplished through the use of a magical creature. Two other men also request this travelling power of the witch for their own purposes–one needs to stay on the move, while the other just wants to get back to his own world.  After taking their payment, she convinces them to travel together.

That’s where the story starts. They just wreck it later.

The Hero’s Journey came up in comments, which made me think. My first reaction was to be kind of bemused, since I hadn’t noticed any Joseph Campbell worship in this story. Manga tends to follow the Dragonball-video-game progression of the hero. Level up, get stronger, become the best. The end. Zarking fardwarks, even Yakitate Japan follows this style of hero growth. There’s no call to adventure, there is “I wanna be the best Pokemon trainer, let’s battle in successive gyms until we get cancelled.”

My second reaction was, well, there are steps, so let’s have a look. I could be wrong. Let’s say that Syaoran is the hero. Spoilers ahoy, probably. They’re actually pretty funny spoilers, taken out of context.

 

  1. Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
  2. Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
  7. Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero – The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
  12. Return with Elixir:  The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.

 

  1. Fairly common at the beginning of any story. Romance, comedy, horror. Whatever.
  2. I guess Sakura losing her soul bits could be a call to adventure.
  3. Not remotely. The time-space witch explains the problem, how to fix it, and really lays it on thick just how much it will cost Syaoran. He doesn’t even hesitate, just says, “I’ll do it.” Kid never wavers, either.
  4. Do these have to come in order? Because a character does become a mentor in fighting much, much, much later. Before that, he’s just that guy over there.
  5. Many, many thresholds are crossed.
  6. Every time, they have to learn the rules. This is what I think of as montage time in the movies, personally. But it happening over and over, and kind of being the point, I don’t think you can montage it.
  7. Hmm. It’s revealed that Syaoran is blind in one eye, and learns to sense people so that he can fight better. It doesn’t come up all that much after a certain point. It’s just sort of something he can do now.
  8. There are lots of these. Syaoran is a clone, the original takes his place after the clone eats someone’s eye and becomes a destroyer of worlds, then Sakura turns out to be a clone, she abandons them for some reason I never understood,  then both clones die, they find out that Fai has been in with the enemy all along, Kurogane has to cut off his own arm because of reasons, Syaoran broke the logic of the entire universe and now people are melting if they leave the time loop…
  9. Rewards do not tend to happen. After each ordeal, they can only plateau back to Mostly Okay until something else bad happens. Sometimes they don’t even have time to be okay. I guess relaxing in Nihon Country for a while might count.
  10. They return to Clow Country, but that’s glazed over. Drama drama drama resolution of drama, oh now we’re home.
  11. Resurrection Hero could refer to how the conflict is resolved, but the again, the order is throwing this all off.
  12. No elixir. He goes home and then almost immediately leaves.

Seriously, Syaoran’s reward is to learn that his father is actually his own clone, and the girl his loves is a younger version of his mother. Also, his parents are stuck in him and Sakura somehow, so he wants to go back to finding the soul bits and also some bodies. So… they get to the end only to realise that the beginning was the best part anyway.

And long post! ffffffff