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Reading Recommendation: Blogroll #1

Blogroll
Yesterday I saw a tweet where someone asked “What blogs do you follow?” Great question—’cuz I follow a bunch—but it’s tough to recommend my favorite blogs limited to a 140 characters. So, I figured I should do a Reading Recommendation and cover some of my favorite blogs!

Lauren Sapala
Lauren Sapala is a friend of mine and is an awesome writer, editor, and writing coach based out of San Francisco. On WriteCity she dispatches honest, encouraging, and frank advice and updates often. It’s a great read. Put this at the top of your RSS reader you’ll thank me later.

UPDATE: Lauren has moved her blog to http://laurensapala.com/—all links have been updated.

Marc Barros: One Entrepreneur’s Perspective
Marc and I used to work together. I’ve always found him to be an incredibly intelligent, candid, and really passionate guy. As a co-founder of a successful startup Marc shares his experiences—both positive and negative—and along the way shares some great advice. Even if you’re not interested in tech, there’s a lot of lessons to be learned here for all walks of life.

Dave Farland’s Journal
Another of my go-to blogs, best selling author Dave Farland, shares his own brand of writing advice in a fun and friendly manner. Good stuff.

The Passive Voice
I have actually done a post regarding The Passive Voice before. If I had to describe it I’d say it is to the publishing/writing industry what a site like The Verge is to tech. It’s a nice distillation of news for the author, publisher, or agent, and sometimes a good source of writing related quotes as well.

The Bookshelf Muse
Descriptive tools galore! The Bookshelf muse has some great posts on everything from weather, body types, settings, and character traits. The author’s book: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression is also quite handy as well covering a wide range of emotions and the bodies reaction both mentally and physically. Really great stuff.

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You’ll note I have numbered this #1—I read a lot of blogs—I figure sooner or later I’ll do another Reading Recommendation: Blogroll so why not prepare myself for that eventual outcome.

How about you? What are your go-to daily blogs? Write up a post similar to mine and post it on your own blog, then come back here and leave a comment below linking to it! I’d love to see a little network of great blogs for folks to explore and visit (including your own.)

Jason Thompson’s “Lovecraft’s Dream Quest”

Lovecraft Sketch: Innsmouth Folk

I saw this illustrated webcomic of H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle  featured over on i09 and I wanted to immediately post about it. However, I decided to take my time reading through the comics first. Man was it fun. Jason Thompson’s (@mockmanLovecraft’s Dream Quest is fantastic. The art great and Thompson does an excellent job retelling the Dream Cycle stories with a style all of his own and a level of detail rarely seen in the webcomic space. I really enjoyed it and suggest you give them a look as well. Start the adventure here. Have fun!

(The sketch is Thompson’s “Lovecraft Sketch: Innsmouth Folk” – while technically not apart of the Dream Cycle, “The Shadow’s Over Innsmouth” is one of my favorte Lovecraft stories so obviously I had to include it.)

Reading Recommendation: Wool

Wool Omnibus

First off do yourself a favor, go over to Hugh Howey’s website and subscribe to his RSS feed. It’s great and you’ll thank me later. Secondly go buy Wool. There’s a reason why it has sold an amazing amount of copies for an indie book (last I read somewhere over 300k,) and was picked up by a traditional publisher, and has been optioned for a movie: it’s great.

It takes place in an underground shelter hundreds of years (and many generations) after an apocalyptic disaster destroyed the surface of earth. It’s smartly written, well paced, and surprisingly fresh. Howey’s characters —even the minor ones— stand on their own and come across as real people with strengths, weaknesses, goals, and visions. I chewed through all 5 novellas (included in this omnibus) in about a week, couldn’t put them down. Part post-apocalyptic, part action-adventure, part romance, it just might be my favorite book of 2012.

Oh and when your done with Wool and find yourself wanting more… fret not, Howey is hard at work on the sequel.

Reading Recommendation: The Book Cover Archive

The Book Cover Archive

So, I am a trained designer. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it. While most of my focus has shifted away from traditional print design (I work mainly in software these days) I still love what I started doing. Today’s recommendation is born out of my love for design and my desire to be a published author.

‘Reading’ might be a bit of a stretch in this recommendation, but there’s nothing better than checking out some really smartly designed book covers. Luckily for us there’s The Book Cover Archive a collection of book cover designs and designers. I absolutely love the Science Fiction section. Some amazing work that really goes beyond the crap normally seen in speculative fiction cover design. Sharp and thought provoking design work that is well curated.

Well worth a browse.

4 Research Books I Can’t Live Without

Over the last few years I have started gathering a few books that I find myself constantly returning to over, and over, and over again. These rarely remain tucked on a bookshelf, instead they lay next to me at my desk as I write. I carry them with me around the house. They get highlighted, bookmarked, an annotated. They are apart of my toolkit. They are the opening salvo in my arsenal. In all the research material I’ve purchased these books are the four that have been used more times in more manuscripts. I figured since I found them so valuable, other writers might also find them handy:

1. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases and Fables

This is my go-to tome when I am stuck with prose. Brewer’s is laid out like a dictionary but works more like an encyclopedia. Explaining the origins and histories associated with particular phrases, expressions, historical fables, and even lists of organizations both real and fictional. It’s very handy, especially if I am looking for an obscure term or turn of phrase or if would like to invent something but still keep it rooted in reality. Brewer’s has definitely become the “most used” out of the four I list today.

Brewer’s also happens to work very well alongside  my next and most recent acquisition…

2. Dictionary of Word Origins

I picked this up towards the end of The Stars Were Right and I wish I had it all along, I keep going to it again, and again, and again, wondering if someday it might replace Brewer’s. If you like working in a bit of local flavor as I do, but want to keep words rooted in linguistics having the Dictionary of Word Origins is vital. While not as grand as Brewer’s Dictionary – it tends to remain focused on the word itself – it does a great job exploring a word’s history and it’s evolution.

Now, departing from the english lesson comes something a little different…

   

3. Carol Rose’s Giants, Monsters & Dragons and Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, & Goblins

If you ever want to create a strange race, a new creature, or challenge your hero with a non-traditional monster I’ll bet you find Carol Rose’s encyclopedias invaluable. There is so much information in the pages of both these books. Detailed information on the history and legends surrounding mythic creatures from all parts of lore. As a westerner it’s very handy to have access to historical creatures that I don’t otherwise know from my childhood. Everything seems to be in these books from Western to African to Eastern cultures all cross referenced and organized in a myriad of ways.

In a similar vein, I also have to recommend…

4. Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols

I love symbolism. Blame my career as a designer and my obsession with Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower series, iconography plays a large role in all my manuscripts. When I picked up The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols from a bargin bin at a defunct bookstore I had no idea how handy it would become. On the surface it’s one of those kids/young adult reference books that happens to lay everything out in easily digestible snippets (including illustrations) – however it is laid out perfectly, from religious iconography to the symbols hidden behind types of vegetation there’s a lot it covers. Plus it’s easy to flip though and organized well making it a great jumping off point for further research.

So that’s it. Those are my four most invaluable books. How about you? What’s in your toolkit? What books do you use the most? Link ’em! Share ’em! I’d love to see other titles writers find as their invaluable resources.

Reading Recommendation: The Phrontistery

Okay, so before I get into it, right now bookmark The Phrontistery. You’ll thank me later.

If you’re like me you hear words but you don’t always remember them. You might remember the idea of them, or know that they exist, but can never remember the exact word you want when you need it. For me this can be frustrating, it slows me down when I try to write and I know there’s something out there that will be perfect but it evades me. A dictionary isn’t helpful, and typing random and vague searches into Google doesn’t usually yield great results.

Last night, I stumbled across the Phrontistery. The Phrontistery collects words and organizes them into handy buckets for quick and easy browsing. Sometimes it’s nice to have a long lists of fabrics, or the actual name of bullfighting (tauromachy,) other time I want base some made up scientific instrument off a rare and real world version.

It’s an awesome tool and next time you’re trying to remember what that unusual animal was you wanted to feature in your next story, you’ll be glad you bookmarked the Phrontistery.