Category Archives: Top 10
In my Contemporary Lit for Writers class, we just finished up our unit on poetry. Historically, I am not a fan of poetry. I dabbled in writing it in high school, but so did every post-pubescent would-be writer who wasn’t homeschooled. Let me tell you, I wrote some godawful poetry, most of which involved me being head-over-heels in love with my (gay) best friend and the fact “nobody understands meeeeeeeeeeee.”
I more or less suffered through the poems we were required to read for class, and while it was nice to add another book to my list of books I’ve read this year on Goodreads, mostly it took every ounce of my self-discpline to get through a lot of this stuff.
It’s not that I don’t like poetry, although it seems as if state curriculum has done its absolute best to ruin the best poems for students, mostly by forcing them to try and digest poetry faster than a White Castle burger passes through the system, or by trying to make them see things in between the lines that simply are not there.*
College has been slightly easier on my appreciation of poetry, but mostly because, in a class of forty-five students, it’s much easier to zone out and ignore the over-analyzation of some other human being’s (supposedly) carefully craft lines.
Today’s top ten list is my favorites poems and/or poets (in no particular order).
1. Ezra Pound
Imagist poetry has always been kinda my thing. I’m not going to sit here and analyze the shit – I’ll sit around for a while and try to figure out what’s going on in the poem, but deriving meaning is not going to happen right there – it’ll happen while I’m digesting the poetry. One of my favorites by Pound is very brief, but still:
“In a Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
2. “This Poem Had Better be about The World We Actually Live In” David Clewell
This was actually one of the poems that we read from our textbook (above) for class. Although Clewell makes use of metaphor and imagery like nobody’s business, it’s still, well, relevant. I wrote my poetry annotation paper on this poem, and it wasn’t nearly as painful as it could have been.
Despite the heavy amount of angst and depression this woman was more or less drowning in, the violence and emotion behind her verses have always struck me in a very particular way.
I do actually take her poetry seriously, although even I can’t help but give in to the occasional jibe about her death, however tragic it was. Here’s an exchange between me and my other writerly, craft, nerdy gal-friend, Shana (@nerdella on Twitter):
Me: It seems that in order to get any writing done, I have to clean ALL the things and make sure everything is neat and put away. Otherwise I just get depressed.
Shana: Don’t clean the oven.
4. “The Capybara” Sandra Beasley
This is another one of the poems from the aforementioned poetry textbook. It was the only one that made me laugh, although upon subsequent readings I realized that there was a nice duality to the text. As far as pure entertainment value goes, it won all the things, but then, if you chose to look at it almost as a parable, there was a relevant message. I very much encourage everyone to pick up this poem, for either of the two interpretations.
5. Edgar Allan Poe
While not much of a fan of the painfully long “The Raven”, Poe has always been one of my favorite writers, both in terms of his short stories and his poetry. One of the things I greatly admire about him was his unwillingness to shy away from the macabre or the risque; rather, he tackles these things head-on, despite modern society’s take on such subject matter – or the act of writing about such subject matter. “Annabelle Lee” screams necrophilia, although they’ll never tell you so in junior high.
I think that if I’ve ever modeled my poetry on any poet’s particular style, it would have to be Cummings’s. It reads so simply, but so beautifully, and I’ve never felt weighed down by tedium the way I do with most other poetry. “i carry your heart with me” is especially good.
Cummings proves what I’ve always felt about poetry: you don’t have to be drowning in it for it to actually mean something. While his poems are certainly moving and meaningful, I don’t feel like I’m slogging through words, dragging for the last line.
7. “The Day the Saucers Came” Neil Gaiman
It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Neil Gaiman. I’m still hoping that he is secretly my long-lost uncle and that one day we’ll run into each other and discover this fact and go get ice cream and talk about all sorts of nerdy, geeky things.
His poem “The Day the Saucers Came”, which you can read here, is just plain fun, and unexpectedly poignant. You can feel the joy in Gaiman’s writing, no matter the subject or the form: the man loves to write, and you can tell by the way he does it. If I model my poetry on e. e. cummings, then I model my urban fantasy on Gaiman.
8. The Odyssey, Homer
Even though I was forced to translate this from its original Latin in high school, The Odyssey is still near and dear to my heart. Probably Odysseus is the biggest jerk on the face of the planet, and if you really think about it he does a lot of things that he for which he probably deserves to be punched in the jaw, but even after all this, it’s just fun.
9. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
Another oldie but a goodie. It takes a while to slog through – I would actually suggest watching a movie version (and, better yet, the version on Netflix that has the paper puppets or whatever). The archaic vocabulary and writing style make it difficult to see, but this poem really is flipping hilarious. Although the first part (Hell) is really the best part, it’s all worth reading, although maybe not all in one sitting.
10. Dollface and Her Cancer
I honestly have no idea what this girl’s actual name is. I’ve followed her on Fictionpress for years, and while I rarely, if ever, leave a comment on any of her work, I’ve always been particularly impressed by her work. Go check her out, and leave a comment or two on her work. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. Of the more recent of her work, “September and Sinking” is a good read.
* Also, seriously, DO NOT get me started over the time I accidentally signed up for a modern and post-modern lit class. I didn’t realize at the time that “modern” in the literary sense means literature published between the 1940s and the 1980-some-odds, and not literature published in the last decade or so. On the four-question essay test that was our final, I BS’d one question, scribbled all over the second, wrote, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this” on the third, and on the fourth wrote three pages about why I thought everything we’d read that semester was crap.**
** I got an A.
Video games are a huge part of this generation’s culture. Granted, some of us may not have ventured much further than The Sims, but that still counts. Being a member of an incredibly geeky organization at school, there’s no avoiding gaming in any of its forms. I’ve adapted.
The way that I write, and imagine my novels, I love video games – especially story driven ones. There’s something about being able to participate in a story, to be involved, and to watch it unfold – it’s amazing. Thinking about this, I decided that today’s Top Ten Tuesday would be about just that: my video game experiences.
- Released: December 8, 1994
- System: Sega Genesis (1989)
In the gaming world, I don’t know how well this game was received, but to me, it was magical. My first console, my first video game, given to me for my seventh birthday in 1995. The system, when it originally came out, cost about $200 and included one game. I know I got some other games at the time, two of which were Tiny Toons-related, but what I remember the most was The Lion King. My mother must have taken me to see that film eleven times when it came out in theaters, and most of my memories of living in Georgia include running through a sweltering movie theater parking lot, shouting excitedly about going to see what I figured must be the greatest movie ever made in the history of ever.
I barely remember anything about that birthday party. Most of the people we knew in Georgia were crazy, so the weird next-door-neighbor kids and my mothers gossipy WE housewife friends from down the street were of little to no interest to me. My dad worked out of town during the week, and my birthday was on a Tuesday that year, but my mother knows next to nothing about electronics, so my dad must have been there because I was so engrossed in playing the game that night that I didn’t even want cake.*
- Released: March 31, 1998
- PC Game
This is likely where my fascination with bizarre, tongue-in-cheek, dry humor began. My elder cousin Sara, thirteen years my senior, was still living with my aunt Sha when my sisters and I would go to spend the majority of our summer there. I spent hours lolling about on her bed, talking with her and playing on her computer. One of the games she had was Starship Titanic.
The significance of this game was beyond my grasp until several years later, when I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams designed this thing, and it shows. The plot, the dialogue, and the puzzles are all classic Adams “logic.” I made little, if any, progress at the age of 10 or 11, but that doesn’t mean much; I gave it another go last summer and had to use message boards and walkthroughs just to get through 15% of the story. This game, while ridiculous, is freaking impossible.
If nothing else, at ten years old, I got a kick out of telling
lamp guy Krage (pronounced “Craig”) the BellBot that he looked like a lamp and that I was in love with him.**
- Released: July 29, 1992
- System: Sega Genesis
This must have been another one of those games I got for my seventh birthday. My dad probably bought it solely because it had a dolphin on the cover, and he knew I had an obsession with dolphins, like every other girl between the ages of six and sixteen. I say this because he clearly knew nothing about it beyond the fact that the main character was a dolphin.
I don’t know anyone who has beaten Ecco. It’s actually infamous for its level of difficulty. I suppose once you know what you’re doing, it’s simple, but that’s just it: like Starship Titanic, the riddles are freaking ridiculous. Every couple years I give this game another try, and even with walk-throughs, I just cannot seem to get anywhere.
As a seven-year-old, however, this didn’t matter. I had plenty of fun bopping around in the water, making Ecco do flips and beating the crap out of sharks.***
If you don’t believe me about the absurdity of this game, you can download it from Steam for something like $3 and give it a go.
- Released: October 31, 1996
- System: Sega Saturn (1995)
I think I got my Saturn for my 9th birthday, in 1997, when my sisters and I lived with our dad in Nashville, TN. For the most part we played things like Virtua Fighter II, some racing Daytona game, and a bunch of game demos on one CD that we must have played for hours and hours on end. Eventually my dad picked up some other games, like Command & Conquer (which I currently have on my PSP now, that’s how much I loved it), Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, and a wonderful gem that I don’t think he realized wasn’t family-friendly: Blazing Dragons.
Blazing Dragons was the brainchild of Monty Python actor Terry Jones, and the voice acting featured, among others, Cheech Marin, Rob Paulsen (Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Jim Cummings (best known as Winnie-the-Pooh). It’s rife with sexual innuendo, dark sarcasm, and the most bizarre, inane, off-the-wall humor I’ve seen anywhere (short of Adventure Time). Based on an alternate-universe King Arthur sort of story, where King Arthur (“Allfire” in this version) and his knights are all dragons, and the humans are evil, this entire game is nothing but puzzles. You play as Flicker, an absent-minded but incredibly intelligent dragon who lives in the castle and is crazy in love with the princess. The point of the game is to save said princess and the ridiculously idiotic knights in time for the tournament, so that you can become a knight, save the kingdom, defeat the evil Sir George and wizard Mervin, and get the girl.
It took me nearly six years to beat the damn thing. I was a junior in high school when I was finished. I’m not kidding.
I have so many memories attached to this game. Burning Crusade, the first expansion, was my first Valentine’s Day present from a guy I dated for several years. I made friends through my guild that stuck with me for some time, a couple of whom I talked with on the phone once a week pretty regularly for a year or so. And my knowledge of the game is the reason I was able to start a conversation with some of the people who I later found out where in the Role Players Guild, the student organization that I’m now the
mom president of.
My senior year of high school, I had three whole classes in which I had nothing to do – that is, I had no classes. School administration, however, wouldn’t let me go home, so I had to dither around in the extra room off of the guidance office and do busy work, or stare at my hands. Eventually I started visiting the IT guy down the hallway, hanging out in his office and chatting while I watched him do technological things and whatnot. When a friend introduced me to WoW, the IT guy hooked me up to a private server in his office so that I could play in there during the school day without getting busted for playing games on campus (the rules they placed on the laptops they provided us with were kind of ridiculous). I spent a lot of time in that office, chatting with him and killing giant spiders in Duskwood. By far, my favorite memory of high school.
- Released: January 2001
- System: Dreamcast
This is one of those weird things that I never would have picked up on my own. I was at my buddy Alek’s house for Thanksgiving, and while we were waiting to be called for dinner, I sat with him in his room and watched him play video games. That night he was focused entirely on House of the Dead 2, which is essentially a zombie game with a gun.
Let me tell you right now: I am no good at shooters, and by shooters, I mean anything that requires me to aim. I can’t play Halo, I can’t play Time Crisis, I can barely shoot things with the slingshot in Ocarina of Time (we’ll get to that). I couldn’t even manage to play Goldeneye when I was little. I just do not go well with shooters of any kind.
This is what I told Alek, when he offered me a turn. Instead of trying to persuade me, or being disappointed, or even just shrugging his shoulders, he pulled out a keyboard, hooked it up to the game, and handed it to me.
Typing of the Dead essentially makes you go through the whole game and, instead of shooting the zombies/monsters/whatever they are, type words that pop up on the screen for every enemy. The boss at the end of the level has multiple words, and if you miss even one letter, you’re screwed. No one else in the group could do it.
I, however, have a typing speed of 120 words per minute, and I haven’t had to look at the keyboard to type since I was eight years old.
Yeah. I pwned.
I’ve got this weird love-hate relationship with Oblivion. It was the first RPG I ever really played that wasn’t an MMO, and I was entranced. I tried it for a bit on my PC, then played on my roommate’s Xbox 360, and then went back to the PC for a while. A couple of times I screwed myself over so much that I had to start over, just to fix the character crap I messed up. And also, holy hell am I awful at melee. Jeezopete.
I like the story. I like the premise. I also like getting to listen to Patrick Stewart’s voice for the first ten, fifteen minutes of the game. But I’m telling you, I suck.
Nonetheless, I spent hours – seriously, hours – a day trying to get good at it, and from time to time I go back and give it another shot, until I get irritated and give up.
I can’t really explain why I started playing this game. I didn’t play the first two, and while I had a mild interest in them, I pretty much shied away from anything that I knew my high school boyfriend had played. However, my roommate’s boyfriend picked it up the day it came out, and more or less camped out on my living room floor to play the game (since he left his Xbox 360 at our place for us to use). Eventually, after he beat it and they were back to their usual routine of never being home, I found myself snowed in (this was Snowmageddon ’11), bored, and suffering the downward spiral of a budding relationship that I knew was already heading for the toilet.
I distracted myself with this game, and over the course of the week (during which I had no classes because of
hell Terre Haute freezing over), I obliterated this game.
Then I did it again. I spent my evenings, for the next few weeks, wrapped in a blanket in a comfy chair, nursing Crown & Coke and beating the crap out of bandits, bats, and those creepy nightmare-thingies. I cried both times at the end, although that may have been the Crown.
I think I started this sometime in December, at my best friend Brian’s house. I don’t really drink a lot, but I was having a not-good day and I thought, I want to hang out with Brian, I want to eat pizza rolls, and you know what, I want raspberry Smirnoff Ice with which to wash it down.
Brian thought it would be awesome to introduce me to Legend of Zelda at that point, which I guess was pretty amusing. There is nothing like running from the forest to Hyrule Castle in the middle of the night with three girly beers in you and no knowledge of the fact that any second zombies are going to pop out of the ground and try to bite your face off. I made him kill Queen Gohma for me, though, because I was a little too buzzed to do it myself, and also I am terrified of spiders.
Also they told me that if I kept hitting the same chicken, I would get a cool prize. Jerks.
1. Ocarina of Time (sober)
I actually started playing this again just a couple of weeks ago, and holy crap am I hooked. I still tend to encounter enemies and start yelling, “ohgodohgodohgod” in an ever-increasing volume, but it’s much easier to keep my head when I haven’t got alcohol in me.
I still had Eric kill Queen Gohma for me, though.
* For the record, it was chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate icing, and those little pumpkin-shaped candies on top. My mother made it every year for me on my birthday until I was well into high school.
** Fun fact: Douglas Adams, Terry Jones, and John Cleese all did some voice-acting for the game. John Cleese, however, is credited as “Kim Bread.” Supposedly Cleese had asked to be credited this way for a Doctor Who serial Adams wrote.
*** I did put the game down, however, for several years sometime after my eighth birthday. I obliterated a shark, and then was distracted by a particularly delicious sandwich. While I was watching the screen, the shark respawned and scared the ever-loving crap out of me, eliciting a high-pitched eight-year-old scream from me that scared the ever-loving crap out of my grandmother.
Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation of what to read, I always recommend one of the same ten books. I really connect to novels, hold onto them, and a lot of times people love what I suggest. Here’s my top ten favorite novels – in no particular order, because I love them so much I can’t rank one over the other.
My first Gaiman book was actually Good Omens, a satire on the apocalypse that he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, an author I’d been reading since my sophomore year of high school (way back in 2003). My senior year, we took a three-day retreat to a convent (I went to a private Catholic college prep school). We were not allowed to take phones, laptops, and (I believe) iPods. I picked up a couple of novels to take with me, since we were supposedly going to have a lot of downtime, and one of those novels was American Gods.
I started out reading it with the thought, “Oh God, this is a total mind-f***.” And it is. It is definitely not for people who can’t handle a little screwing around with their brain.
2. Night Watch Terry Pratchett
Since I’ve already mentioned Terry Pratchett, it seems a good way to lead in to another one of my absolute favorite novels ever: Night Watch. The Discworld novels are all very brilliant and clever, and in most cases, light-hearted. The Sam Vimes novels are a bit more sinister, definitely darker, although there’s still those moments that will make you laugh out loud. Night Watch was the first Pratchett novel I read after Good Omens, and I’ve re-read it several times since. This is a big deal for me – it is very rare for me to read a book all the way through more than once.
It’s very noir, very hard-boiled, and was one of the inspirations, I think for deAngelis, along with American Gods. Vimes is the kind of policeman that Jenna wants to be as a steward, and if she were a little less sociopathic and a little more mentally/emotionally stable, I think she would be a lot like Vimes.
I read this book for the first time in second or first grade and, while I was aware that I loved it, I definitely didn’t understand it — it was a little beyond my reading comprehension at the time, although later in second grade I tested as reading at a high school level or higher. I spent three years looking for this book, trying to find it again – we moved two or three times in that timespan, so I had new school libraries to navigate – and finally, in my sophomore year of high school, I tracked it down again and reread it. To this day, it remains one of my favorite books in the world – one directly from my childhood – and actually launched my interest in the bedouin culture. I think this novel in particular was a major influence on my starting to write, and as a young girl whose parents had just undergone a vicious, messy divorce, I needed a female role model who could be strong and reliable, and although I didn’t particularly follow the story at the age of seven, I did latch on to Harry. Robin McKinley, with her retellings of classic fairy tales, continues to be one of my favorite authors, and I follow her blog religiously (as I do Gaiman’s). I have loved every single one of the novels she’s published, and I suggest her to anyone who will listen.
Speaking of mindf***s, here’s a really good one. The story of how I got into Murakami is kind of strange. In high school, my best friend was (and still is) a major otaku. In fact, he first started speaking to me because I apparently looked just like Reki from his favorite anime, Haibane Renmei. That anime, which he had me watch, was partially inspired by a novel written by Murakami, titled Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I read it, and loved it, and started devouring his other novels. My favorite so far is Kafka on the Shore. It definitely messes with you, and, like all of Murakami’s novels, it’s one of those things that you just have to read without worrying too much what the story is about. You’ll figure it out by the time you get to the end. I would probably call his writing magical realism, or something close to it. It’s all a bit bizzare, but easy enough to deal with.
Murakami is a master of the Japanese language, I understand it – he can truly manipulate it – and the translations of his work into English seem to convey that same mastery.
By the time I hit seventh grade, people had stopped giving me books because, honestly, I blew threw them so fast, and they could never quite figure out exactly what my reading comprehension level was. It was certainly very high by then, but they couldn’t see to find any novels for my mental capability that they also thought where, ah, age appropriate.
My father finally handed me a stack of novels from his personal stash of sci-fi, books I hadn’t even known he had. Most of them were by Asimov: the Foundation series, the Robot series, Nemesis, etc. The first one I picked up was Caves of Steel, and holy crap did it blow my mind. Sci-fi has always been difficult for me to digest, but obviously Asimov is among the best, if not THE best.
It’s so difficult to pick a favorite from The Dresden Files series, but I’m still digesting the events of Changes and a little peeved that the release date for Ghost Story has been pushed back, so I’m going to pick this one. I think that Lara Raith is a lot of the inspiration behind the villain of deAngelis: Resurrection; that is to say, Asmodeus. Honestly, I freaking love everything after Blood Rites, mainly because things start to get really dark and very noir, and Harry really has to grow up. Also, Thomas. ’nuff said.
Dresden Files is definitely one of the biggest influences on me sitting down to write deAngelis. I discovered the series in one of the strangest ways – Livejournal profile pics. I used to make them, hoard them, save them to my hard drive, look up ones I thought would be “appropriate” for my characters I was supposed to be writing… and I came across some that had quotes from Storm Front and Full Moon. I remember thinking, “Huh! Those are funny.” And then I moved on and forgot about them for a year. Finally, with nothing better to do, I spent four hours tracking down the pics in question, and looked up what book they were from, and it was a match made in Heaven.
This was required reading for my multicultural lit class, which is a requirement for English teaching majors at Indiana State. It was the only book assigned out of five that I actually read a word of (oddly enough, I got an A in the class), and it was the only book out of the five that I was actually interested in. Sometimes the fact-telling got to be a little too much, but the way that the story was told drew me in and held me in, and I finished the whole thing during my week of spring break last year. It was truly a gorgeous book.
Everyone else in my class hated it, and complained that they disliked it so much that they couldn’t finish it. What a bunch of weirdos.
How could I forget this gem? I read this several years before the film came out, and while I can say that I really did enjoy the movie, it just did not do the book justice. It’s one of those things that just can’t translate well, I think.
While this is, first and foremost, a love story, Niffenegger really has such a gift for point of view and voice and style, and for knowing what it is that really makes a human being tick. Henry matures as the book progresses – you can tell by the writing style – and Niffenegger handles the temporal and POV and age shifts incredibly well. This is another one of those books that I’ve read more than once (although not nearly as many times as I’ve read Night Watch).
Yeah, you read that right: Wesley Crusher wrote a book. And not just any book – it’s an awesome book. It reads, more or less, like a memoir – about getting back on his feet after Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most people only remember Wil as that one guy from ST:TNG that everyone hated, and he addresses that. I picked this up at the library my first week home on summer vacation in 2010, mainly because it had the word “geek” on it and because I vaguely remembered hearing that Wil played D&D every so often or something. Then I walked from the library to the nearest Bub’s burger joint, found my way (okay, fought my way) to a seat in the corner, order a beer and a cheeseburger, and got hooked.
There’s something about Wil that made me feel for him, and he’s made it onto my list of Top Ten People I Want to Chill With For An Afternoon. He was only sixteen or so when I was born, something that makes me feel that, in a way, he might possibly be that long lost older brother I hoped and prayed for every waking moment until I was seven years old, who would come save me from the fighting I could hear down the hall from my parents’ bedroom and the kids who made fun of me at school and said I was lying when I told them that I could read. Wil Wheaton is one of the faces that I remember from my childhood, and following his blog and his Twitter has made me feel like I want to really know him. So that’s on my life of Things To Do When I’m Famous: get to know Wil. Also, make other people read his book.
This is one of those books that I’ve only read once but have always intended to read again. If I were to write a period novel, this is definitely the book that I would write. It just barely manages to be considered Victorian lit (if it does at all, which it might not… I’m not sure). There’s the dude who goes into hiding to prepare himself to avenge his best friend’s murder, while the guy he’s planning to kill is trying to woo the woman he’s in love with but can’t bring himself to ask out, and there’s wittiness and royalty being beheaded and Sabatini being awesome. Also people where a lot of ridiculous clothing and have a lot of sword fights and I think there’s an orphan in there somewhere, too.
Other Things I Wish I had Room for on This List:
- Sherlock Holmes canon. I might be a junkie. Seriously.
- Queen of Glass, a novel by S. J. Maas coming out sometime this year? next year? I’ve only read part of it, and that was on Fictionpress, but when I heard that she finally got it sold I think I did the most epic Kermit-flail on the face of the planet, outdone only by the actual Kermit himself.
- Anything written by Samuel T. Franklin, a guy who’s been in fiction workshop classes with me at ISU and who absolutely blows my mind. I don’t think he’s published yet, but trust me, when he is, I will flip right the fuck out.