Monday, December 27, 2010

The best Christmas present is a book. (or Five.)

This Christmas we were on a budget. Given the impending financial crisis baby, we decided the course of wisdom was to resort to the old trick of setting a spending limit ahead of time. 

(One of our first Christmas's, we each had twenty dollars to fill a stocking with, and an hour to dash around the mall doing it.  And that was CRAZY extravagant for us then. Fun though. I got crayons!)

We started out at $100 each.  When shipping costs for family and friends hit harder than expected, we revised down to $50 each.

I got him a new-to-us black leather office chair, (Thank you lousy economy for glutting the market with leather executive chairs of decent quality at ridiculously low prices comparatively speaking on craigslist), a husky puppy beanie baby, and a KISS Gene Simmons (dressed as the demon. With the horns and tongue thrown out.) Christmas ornament.

(As a note, the office chair was desperately needed.  The cats have just about completely destroyed the fabric-covered chair his mother bought us 5 years ago.  We have since learned our lesson regarding upholstery fabric and cat ownership.)

As for what he got me?  Well, he got me hope.  My husband and I met on a MUSH game (Multi-User Shared Hallucination.)  Basically you had to write to play.  Your character, what they did, who they were.  You learned to show, not tell, because telling was lame, and you wanted to make people work for it anyways.  You wrote paragraphs and paragraphs for hours on end, as other people contributed paragraphs and paragraphs, as you wove together what essentially amounted to a giant epic story told from the viewpoints of all the characters.  Now granted, some players sucked as writers, and they rarely got better.  But the good ones DID get better.  You learned to read carefully, to edit out your "constant-use words" in order to keep it interesting.  When you're having a conversation paragraph by paragraph, you are forced to stretch your ingenuity to avoid tedium and repetition.  And you got to know people extremely well, by the way they wrote, and the characters they played. 

The Husbthing was a more long-term MUSH'er than I was.  And one of the games he was on, he played closely with another talented writer.  She wanted to be a published author.  She wanted desperately to write books and tell stories. 

Naomi Novik has since written a NY Times Bestselling series, the Temeraire books.  He got me those books, to show me that other people have been where I am and succeeded, and that he believes I can do it too.  I read the first five in the series all day Saturday.  They are PHENOMENAL. I don't know that I'm in her class, as her style is very different from mine, (but her style is WONDERFUL), but my husband seems to think we have equal chances of success.  (He says he's not biased.  I'm generally inclined to believe him as one of the things I love most about him is the fact he is cursed / gifted with utter candor.)

I strongly, highly, absolutely encourage them for reading and enjoyment, but it is a series you absolutely want to read in order.  They're tightly plotted, wonderfully characterized, and amazingly well-researched.  I went through them at awe of the technical perfection of the storycrafting in the back of my mind, since the front was fully occupied with the book.

Good, good books. Wonderful books.  You should read them.  The first one is titled His Majesty's Dragon.

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