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Goodreads, or what have I gotten myself into

I'm probably the last(ish) person who likes reading and joined the reading social network known as Goodreads. I knew about it for a while, but it was only when Zee told me that I decided to join. (Zee, you'll always be a bad influence.)

I like to read, but I haven't had many chances of actually reading. Indeed, I've read fewer novels in my life than some people read in a year (approximately 150). I've read lots of technical material instead, and I've been involved in some activities that demanded almost if not all of my time. (A story for another time... if ever.)

It doesn't bother me to have read less than. What bothers me is that I have little bookish culture. I barely know of good stories. I've barely read stories in the genre I like to write (horror and paranormal.) And if you want to write, if you ever consider it... what's the first advice you get?

Read. Read as much as you can. Read all you can in the genre you're interested in, and then, in other genres to acquire a wide picture of styles, tropes, clichés. Maybe even some vocabulary.

I could actually feel this when I tried to write anything longer than a blog post. Writing a novel is not an easy feat, and the less you've read, the more difficult it gets to connect the dots. To move from A to B, where A and B are random situations that you've imagined and then don't know how to join in a manner that makes sense.

It is true that you only learn to write by... you guessed that right, writing. It is also true that reading will help you, for reasons like the ones I've listed before.

That's how I set myself what I hoped would be an easy target for 2020: Read 20 books. Novels, preferably. I registered into Goodreads and started reviewing the books I read, even though I have, how many... five people following me? (One of them is Zee. At least until now.)

June has only started and I've already read 65 books. At this rate, I will finish the year by having read as much as my whole past life. 2020 sucks for other reasons (not just the pandemic), but it is doing great in the reading department. I'm keeping a reading journal where I record a summary of the story, what I think of each book, what rating I'm giving to it and if I consider it good enough to be a favorite of the month (for now), or not. I'm sure I will need it at the end of the year if only to remember all that I've read.

I'm open to genres that I would normally not read (give me some romance and you'll have me rooting for the one taking the most stupid decisions.) I'm open to reading in English. Indeed, English is the winning language this year so far. I would use words like aghast, waver and haphazardly in this blog post only to show that I know words if I had a place where to put them (I forget words, too.)

Back in time, when I wanted to read but was so busy that I couldn't devote the time, I thought, "there's not enough time in life to read all I would like to." That was when I read Spanish novels only. Now that I also read novels in English, I feel that I do not have enough time in two lives to read all I would like to.

That doesn't mean I'm going to go all smug and say "authentic books only, I don't have time for smut." That would limit my world by a lot, and I need to read good and bad prose. The good, to be inspired by, the bad, to pay attention to what I shouldn't do. I've read books that make me want to scream, but I don't feel I've lost my time by reading them. Each book you read is a learning experience.

Something good of reading novels in English is that now I have two worlds of choices. Authors whose work I love in Spanish, and authors whose work I love in English. You need double the lives to read, but also have double the fun. I wouldn't have known many stories I love if I had limited myself to my native language. Learn English, boys and girls.

There's one thing I have to say about the reviews in Goodreads. Some people seem not to know that there's an invisible contract you sign when you begin reading a work of fiction. The contract says, "this is a work of fiction; I, the author, do not necessarily endorse or recommend you, the reader, to do what the characters of the book do". In other words, I'm amazed at how angry some reviews are because of works... of fiction. I've said this before and I will say it again.

A work of fiction is not there to teach you how to navigate through life. It is there to help you escape this world for a while, to fantasize with events that cannot and will not happen, and then be done with it. Maybe there's a moral lesson included in said work, or maybe not. But a work of fiction's purpose is not to teach you how to live life. That's what your parents, siblings, rest of the family, friends, school, shady colleagues and moronic bosses are for.

With that said, if you want to join me, this is my account in Goodreads. Feel free to add me, tell me that my tastes suck in my (rare) five star reviews, or how wrong I am for liking a problematic book. All is welcome.

In any case, have a great day :-)

Posted by: Auryn Beorn on 03/06/2020 at 13:15:00 - 0 Comments

Doll's Promise: Another Altered Book

I don't remember exactly when this happened. The end of 2018? The beginning of 2019? I remember that I felt the need of having a space, separate from the computer, where I could create. Create what? I didn't know at the time. I was playing around with scrapbooking, mindlessly tearing papers and gluing them. It was soothing for my mind.

After some talking and researching places that manufactured custom furniture, I decided on one. I was nervous when I started doodling what I wanted. Nervous when it began to take shape, and when I had the complete design.

Thanks to learning Blender I've been able of designing the furniture I wanted to separate my workspace from the creative. The manufacturer only did minor adjustments, and the furniture came out beautifully. Yes, I had to wait, and the wait was long, but I don't regret the choice I made. Then I spent a day organizing all my art supplies and some books (art books, novels, essays, graphic novels, humor...)

The furniture was ready and loaded. I had zero excuses to not create from that moment. Of course, I felt even more nervous than when I was designing the furniture. It's okay. Breathe. Journal a little. Close your eyes.

A short story began to flow. With some images in my mind. I sketched those ideas and wondered which search terms I would use in Pinterest to get images with the aesthetics and pose I was looking for. I decided I didn't have to search for anything. It was within my fingertips' reach. I would create the poses, dress my avatar however I wanted, and take the exact screenshot I was seeing in my mind.

That's how my third altered book, Doll's Promise, came to life.

(Yes, that's my voice. Yes, it is quiet even when I try to speak loud.)

The book is minimalistic. I don't have elaborate backgrounds nor I have even tried to make collages. It tells a story. It's what I wanted to do.

I confess I have some envy of those with elaborate art journals. Maybe now that I'm learning my style, I should work two different ways. Altered books for stories. Art journals for the backgrounds and collaging. I don't know yet. I'm just learning, and everything looks so interesting to try.

Until the next time. Have a great day :-)
Posted by: Auryn Beorn on 14/12/2019 at 16:30:00 - 0 Comments

My Darkness

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that my previous post is separated more than a year from this one I'm writing. Things happened, of course. I reached the bottom point of wanting to hide from the world as much as possible. I made life plans in February not knowing that something was eating me from the inside since months ago. It hit me in March. Then, the darkness. Although the darkness had been present for a while. I hadn't recognized the signals, then it was too late.

I spent many nights not being able to sleep while watching YouTube videos that made me feel angry, and I felt miserable for not being able to stop myself from doing that. One night, the end of May, probably, YouTube suggested me something completely different than the videos I was watching until then.

A woman was creating a double spread of an altered book. Altered book? I knew about junk journals but this was completely new to me. Curiosity made me tap on the suggestion, and a new world opened its doors to me.

The video was mesmerizing. Tearing up pages, gluing pages, gluing scraps of paper, adding layers of paint... I didn't know where I was headed and then the final result showed up. Strange. Beautiful. It was a whimsy collage on top of a layered background.

I wanted to see more of that. I followed that woman's videos and binge watched many of them. I saw a walkthrough of a completed altered book and it was so beautiful. Whimsy collages after whimsy collages. I realized that I had stopped watching the videos that made me angry, and I was sleeping so much better.

I created a first altered book with an only goal. I told myself that it would be a practice book where I would try the techniques from the videos. Somewhere to learn. I don't remember how long it took me to complete. Two weeks?

The result was nice and also lacking. I don't know why, but I felt that the book didn't have a soul. Was it a theme what I was looking for? Then I had to think of a theme. And the first theme that came to my mind was, of course, my darkness. I wanted to look for images that could express what it means to be depressed, to descend into that darkness until there's no way back.

First I sketched some loose ideas. It was difficult, but I managed to write down ideas enough as to create an altered book. Then I got some interesting images that spoke to me, printed them, and decided which book I was going to butcher for the sake of expressing myself.

I apologized to the book for what I was going to do to it, marked the center of the signatures with little bookmarks and proceeded to tear up the central pages. Three weeks later, My Darkness was complete.

It begins showing a normal girl, somewhat cheerful, even. You could never tell that something is making her feel miserable. Then you turn the page and find the first hidden tag. The things that we don't say. The path that we follow. The state of our mind.

I wish I could say that I will post things more often from now on, but the truth is, I don't know. In any case... Have a great day :-)

Posted by: Auryn Beorn on 07/09/2019 at 12:00:00 - 0 Comments

Randomness (4): Drawing

After learning calligraphy and even brush lettering, I embarked into a more ambitious hobby(?): drawing. The need to draw has accompanied me since I'm a little one, but I had to set it aside, just as many other things.

Recently, I knew of a website called Udemy that offers courses in a model I find more convenient than the usual subscription model: pay for one course, access to it anytime. And what kind of courses did I sign up for? You know the answer if you've read the title of this post: drawing.

I won't kid myself: I'm an absolute beginner. My drawings are stiff and only now I'm learning about the sense of proportions. It's a long way but one I'm eager to follow since this is an old time debt with myself. Probably, the drawing I'm the most satisfied with is one I did of a shoe, and even that one can be critiqued, just like everything else.

In the meantime I'm dealing with tendinitis in both arms. It's being a long journey, all for political reasons. Politicians make cuts in the social security money, you need the social security and it takes months until you get a scan. As you wait, your arms worsen and you can do less. I don't blame my doctors because they're doing all they can with what little resources they have for the many people that need the services. I won't say what I think about voting those who steal from us and then cut in the basic services because this is a pacific outlet; I think that I've implied it clearly enough and I don't want to bring politics into my SL outlets.

So, back to drawing.

What's so important in it, for me?

I don't know. I know it's one of those things I've always wanted to do and that I did while I could, this is, before my parents stopped thinking "aw how cute" and started thinking "what a waste of time, you must focus in studying". I'm sure that many of us have similar stories so I won't bore you with mine.

I'm pretty excited with this journey and I'm also taking some sort of a vacation. You can see me in SL because customers can't be left unattended, but while my arms heal I don't do much except following courses and drawing. I notice the same doubts I have when I'm about to create a mesh object. "Will I be able to do this", "isn't this too advanced for me", "shouldn't I practice with something more basic", "what is more basic than this that I could practice with". I'm full of doubts and so, my sketch pads fill slowly. But they do fill. The problem is that I want to run before I can walk. I want to draw characters before I can draw a simple tank top. I'm a teacher, I should know that this is not how it works. But when you throw a wish to the mix, you lose all common sense and begin dreaming that you can skip stages. Flash news: You can't.

This year I may join Inktober, I don't know yet. Depends on the themes. I don't feel confident to draw any kind of item and much less to draw my own interpretation. So far I can only copy, and depending on what I copy, I may get the proportions right or not so right. I've tried a few drawings from my head, but I'm not there yet.

Inktober is in October and NaNoWriMo is in November. Will I be crazy enough as to join both? The answer is yes, if I manage to think of a list of topics for a non fiction book about maths. Once upon a time I started writing one of the topics, but it was savagely attacked by someone who caught me in a (really) weak moment. It wasn't even about my style or the accuracy in my claims; it was all about me being or not a person that should try with cultural outreach. Even though I'm not at my strongest, I know now that the answer is yes, I should try.

Don't wish me luck. Wish me inspiration :-)
Posted by: Auryn Beorn on 19/07/2018 at 12:00:00 - 0 Comments

Randomness (3): Programming

I like programming since I could put my hands on a computer, which thankfully was at a young age (I was eleven when I made my first program in BASIC). Programming has accompanied me since, and even been an important feature, so to speak, that I've wanted in people close to me.

I've been fortunate in that regard. The closest people in my life not only know what a variable is, but they can teach me one or one hundred lessons about programming.

This Saturday I was celebrating with a friend that she finished and delivered an important order. How did we celebrate it? She taught me the basics to code in Lua and LÖVE, two languages I knew nothing about. The way to teach that to me was to dive into the creation of a really, really simple game. It was a fun time and now I can't help thinking about all the improvements to this really simple game that we made in LÖVE.

I guess this shows how's my relationship with programming, why I can't stop doing it even though at times I've sworn to never do it again, and what I understand by celebrating.

Posted by: Auryn Beorn on 09/04/2018 at 12:00:00 - 0 Comments
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