Saturday, December 31, 2016

16 Things I'm Glad I Read in 2016

I wanted to do something a little different than a "Best Books of the Year" post, since I read so many fabulous books. Instead, I picked the 16 things I am most glad I read in 2016, and limited myself to a sentence explaining why.

Honorable mention to the outstanding things I read that were continuations of series I love: The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy (Family Fletcher series); Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch series); I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking From Among the Bones, "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse", and The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, all by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce series); The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison (Inheritance trilogy); Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkospigan Saga series); Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Chalion series); plus comics-- Rat Queens, Saga, Gunnerkrigg Court, Stand Still Stay Silent. I'm glad I read them all, but I wanted the official list to be new discoveries.

So, in no particular order, but divided by category, and including books in a series as one item:

Middle Grade:

1) Doll Bones by Holly Black, for deftly using a quest story structure and atmospheric horror to explore the fraught transition between childhood and adolescence, and for assuring kids that no matter what some adults may try to tell you, you do not need to give up your imagination and love of stories in order to grow up.

2) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, for launching a whole new series in one of my favorite fictional worlds, and for making a fallen god such a delightful narrator.

Young Adult:

3) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, for achieving the near-impossible: a novel that riffs off Harry Potter while still being very much its own thing, that blithely pretends that it's the last book of a long-running series, and that portrays a male/male romance that echoes the best moments of slash fanfiction but rises above its more problematic tropes.

4) Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, for fearlessly pulling off a narrative style that could have come off as gimmicky, and for using it to craft a story that is at once a thrill-a-minute Sci-Fi/Horror/YA Romance festival-of-awesome and a searing indictment of corporate crime.

5) The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson, for being a slavery story unlike any I've ever read before, set in a college in Colonial Boston.

6) The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, for laying the usual YA dystopian cards on the table in the first third of the story, and then tossing them all in the air for a game of trope-subverting 52 pick-up.

7) The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, for being the most refreshingly original series, YA or otherwise, I've read in a long time.

8) Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, for a gritty, dark Fantasy city I believed in utterly and would go back to in a heartbeat, and a diverse, flawed cast I rooted for even while they were making bad choices.

Adult:

9) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, for being simply the most beautiful book I read this year.

10) Among Others by Jo Walton, for challenging my ideas of what a successful story has to be and do, and for introducing me to Walton as a writer.

11) Wrapt in Crystal and Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn, for the wonderful sinking-into-a-warm-bath sensation of reading a book that feels like it was written just for me.

12) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, for reminding me of the simple truth that every person I meet has depths about which I know nothing, but must have faith are there.

Short Stories:

13) "Kindred Spirits" by Rainbow Rowell, for being perhaps the only romantic short story in existence that includes both Star Wars puns and a running joke about the heroine having peed in a cup in an alley.

Non-Fiction:

14) After Man: A Zoology of the Future by Dougal Dixon, for being everything I remember from when I used to flip through my boyfriend's copy in 1988, and for still inspiring the same awe and wonder in me nearly 30 years later.

15) One Summer by Bill Bryson, for reminding me that the U.S. has overcome hatred and survived incompetent leaders before, and that although it sometimes doesn't feel like it, we have made progress in the last 90 years toward a more just and noble society.

Web Comics:

16) Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, for being just an utter delight that illustrates the power of sports to build bonds between people without much else in common-- and maybe even to help build a better world that embraces diversity.

Things I Read in 2016

I don't think I'm going to finish anything I have in-progress by midnight, so here's the list of everything I read this year: 122 things, which is a record for me, and one I'll probably never break.

I'll list my favorite reads in a separate post later today.


Middle Grade: 15

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
Smek For President by Adam Rex
Timmy Failure: We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Demigods and Magicians by Rick Riordan
The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy
The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thomas

Young Adult: 30

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Beastly Bones by William Ritter
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek by Seth Rudetsky
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Clariel by Garth Nix
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Adult: 30

Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn
The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Orphan Train by Christina Kline Baker
The Seat of Magic by J. Kathleen Cheney
Tell No One by Harlan Coban
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
Among Others by Jo Walton
We’ll Always Have Paris by Ray Bradbury
Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Wrapt in Crystal by Sharon Shinn
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (re-read)
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simion
The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
To Weave a Web of Magic by Claire Delacroix, Lynn Kurland, Patricia A. McKillip, and Sharon Shinn
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Still Life With Shape-Shifter by Sharon Shinn
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
I Love Dick by Chris Krause
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Short Stories: 4

“The Map” by William Ritter
“Happy Again” by Jennifer E. Smith
“The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse” by Alan Bradley
“Kindred Spirits” by Rainbow Rowell

Nonfiction: 10

2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron
Finding the Core of Your Story by Jordan Smith
Writing Blockbuster Plots by Martha Alderson
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
After Man: A Zoology of the Future by Dougal Dixon
One Summer by Bill Bryson
Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist— the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England by Daniel Pool
Another Bad Dog Book by Joni Cole

Graphic Novels: 27

Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler
The Sign of the Black Rock by Scott Chantler
The Captive Prince by Scott Chantler
The King’s Dragon by Scott Chantler
Pirates of the Silver Coast by Scott Chantler
Rat Queens Vol. 3 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler
Broxo by Zack Giallongo
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzacchelli
The Dark Island by Scott Chantler
Amulet: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi
Stormbreaker by Antony Johnson, Kanako Damerum, and Yuzuru Takasaki
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel You Know It’s True by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Giant Days Vol.1 by John Allison and Lissa Treiman
Giant Days Vol.2 by John Allison and Lissa Treiman
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel You Really Got Me Now by Ryan North and Erica     Henderson
The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlings
Ms. Marvel: The Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Jedi Academy: A New Class by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
Lucy & Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown
Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Saga Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Giant Days Vol. 3 by John Allison and Lissa Treiman

Web Comics: 6

Vattu by Evan Dahm
Stand Still. Stay Silent. by Minna Sundberg
Dicebox by Jenn Manley Lee
Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Namesake by Isabelle Melancon and Megan Lavey-Heaton

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mid-Month Check-In

Let's make a pact. Next year, when I again announce big ambitious writing plans for the month of December, slap me. Then remind me that I say this every year, and it never works out. The period between mid-November and New Year's Eve is crazy for me, and I never accomplish great writing things during it. That's the whole reason I pushed to finish the draft of Mender before mid-November! I don't know why I never learn.

So, yeah. No way am I doing 60 hours of writing this month. I've done like 12. I have shipped TOB out to ten more agents, so halfway to that goal. And I'm halfway through a line edit reread of Mender. I tried to work on the YA series a little, but realized pretty quickly that it's not done marinating in my brain yet. I have another idea for an adult Sci-Fi stand-alone that is much closer to being ready to write, but I'm not feeling enthused to work on it just now.

So I am downshifting. Still planning to submit TOB to 10 more agents by December 31. Also planning to finish my line edit notes on my printout of Mender by then. January will be about pulling together all the pieces for the next draft of Mender. Depending on how much work it needs, I might be submitting to agents by February. We shall see!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Month, New Goals

The past few weeks have been crazy, guys. I managed to get a hideous fever-and-wet-hacking-cough illness the same week I had to host Thanksgiving dinner and teach/manage an intensive week-long test-prep course for international boarding students. On Monday-- the first day the course was over-- I slept for 16 hours.

While I'm still not 100%, I am feeling much better, and excited about the new month, the Christmas season, and getting back to writing. I'm going to go for 60 hours again this month. And what will I be doing with those hours? Some combo of the following:

1) Tension-building exercise for Mender. This one comes from Donald Maass-- I think he pushes it in all three books. The exercise is simple: flip to a random page in your MS, let your finger drop down onto the page, and increase the tension in the sentence you picked. If that sentence is already bursting with tension, do the next one. Rinse and Repeat 350 times. Literally. That's what the directions say. I've printed out the latest version of the MS and put it in a 3-ring binder, and I'm going to try to do 10 of these a day for the month of December.

2) Submit TOB to 20 more agents. I was feeling very discouraged about my 30ish rejections, and then got a "Girl, that's nothin'!" pep talk from one of my beta readers (she got something like 80 rejections before finding her agent). I've been meaning to do this for months but am also dreading it. I'm making it a firm goal for December, and also counting the hours it will take toward my hours writing this month.

3) Process beta feedback as it comes in. For each set of feedback I need to read it, absorb it for a few days, make notes about it, make any easy changes to the printout of the MS, and start formulating a plan for addressing trickier issues. I'm assuming my betas will probably get back to me some time this month, so my plan is to do the third draft of Mender in January.

4) Start story building work on the next book. I won't write book two of The Sacred Talents unless I sell Mender, so for now I'm going to start something totally new. I've been pondering what to work on, and I think I've settled on book 1 of YA Sci-Fi series. Series name is Terra Astra so far, and the heart of the story is a character I've been thinking about for a long time. I feel like I finally understand what his story is supposed to be-- he belongs in an ensemble piece. I've changed his name because this is YA Sci-Fi and I think Ezra is now too strongly associated with The Illuminae Files. So (for now) he is Jay, and he has a cohort of other teen characters named Emmy, Liev, Koa, and Isabeau. I still don't know what the Big Thing of the plot is, but that's fine-- I never do until fairly deep into the story building process. I also don't know how many books this will be or what the structure is, and that's a bigger deal to me. Right now I'm thinking trilogy, but for me there has to be a reason WHY it's three books and not two or four.

So that's the state of the writing as we enter this last month of 2016. I'll do a one-third check-in if I don't have anything to say before that!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ten Years Ago Today...

...I had a baby.

That baby is now ten years old. I have been a mother for a decade.

I don't post much about The Son here, other than to point out the bemusing aspects of life as a mom novelist (such as the amount of writing I do in the school parking lot), but I wanted to mark this momentous day by sharing a bit of The Son with you.

The Son is a quadruple Scorpio chaos Muppet, tall and leggy with shoulder-length blond hair, blue-green eyes, and an enormous head. He has some formidable qualities I am trying to channel towards good rather than evil: he's strong-willed, charismatic, creative, not easily intimidated, a class clown, and immune to peer pressure. He's also a budding geek who takes Renaissance sword-fighting lessons and is into video games, books, graphic novels, programming, robotics, Legos, Pokémon, Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, model rockets, and English humor. And he's also a Cub Scout who whittles, collects canned food for the local food bank, and has won the Pinewood Derby.

He is one of the funniest and most loving people I know, and has passionate opinions about just about everything. His favorite color since he was young enough to indicate one has been yellow, but his favorite color to wear is black. He's a cat person. He has a crazy sweet tooth but hates both soda and doughnuts.

Professions he has considered in the last few years: Emperor of the World, film/TV show director, virtual reality video game designer, talk show host, and YouTuber.

He is a Gryffindor and his patronus is a crow.

Happy Birthday, Boy of mine! And happy tenth mothering anniversary to me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Revision: Step Ten

Step ten is beta readers! I'm sending the MS out today to those who are ready for it.

(To my betas: Apologies in advance for any missing words or other errors I introduced when I did the revisions. I just looked over the first few chapters (where I did the most revising, and ugh.)

Last time around this was terrifying, but now I'm more excited. I have lots of vague thoughts about what maybe needs to be stronger in the book, and I feel like getting beta perspectives is going to bring those thoughts into focus.

It'll be quiet here for a while, as my next two weeks are going to be insanely busy and I'm not planning on doing any writing. See you at the end of the month!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Done Again

I finished the revision today! I've decided to not to the reading-aloud part yet. I want to wait until I get feedback from betas and go through another round of revisions before I do that kind of nitpicky line edit.

I do want to spellcheck one last time, though, and then I need to thoroughly read the instructions for compiling a draft in the Scrivener tutorial, because I just kind of skimmed it for this last printout and wound up losing some formatting.

I'm guessing I'll have it ready to send to betas on Monday, or thereabouts.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

75%

Things are looking good for me to finish by Nov. 18. Heads up, beta peeps!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New Month, New Goals

Happy November! And happy NaNoWriMo to all of you who are participating. May your words come easy and your plot paths run true.

I am sitting just shy of the halfway mark of the revision, and I've come to the place where I need to add a new scene/chapter. It's not a long scene-- probably not much more than 2,000 words-- but it needs to serve as the fulcrum of the main plot thread. It's also the one place my main character (who is honestly a bit of a goody-two-shoes, particularly compared to Willa from TOB) does something she knows is manipulative and selfish.

I have the scene mostly outlined. It's mostly dialogue, so today I hope to get all that written and then tomorrow fill it in.

As usual, Thanksgiving week is crazy for me since I'm both hosting the meal for our family and enduring the busiest week of my work year. My goal now is to finish the revision and have it ready to send to beta readers by Nov. 18. It's not the end of the world if I don't make it (one of my betas is doing NaNo and won't be able to read it until December anyway), but I am not going to be able to write at all between Nov. 19-27, and I don't want to take 8 days off and then try to re-gain momentum the last few days of the month.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

33%

I am one-third of the way through revising Mender.

I know! It's nuts!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Revising Update

I think I've found my revising groove. There are three tasks to complete for each chapter:

1) Read chapter, make notes on the chapter.

2) Make those changes to the chapter in the MS.

3) Read the chapter out loud to smooth any awkward wording or cut-and-paste boo-boos.

It's kind of nice, because these three things are all pretty different, so I can pick whatever I'm most in the mood to do and make progress. So if I'm like, "Ugh, I don't feel like writing words today," I can just read and make notes on the next chapter.

So far I've made notes on the first 6 chapters, and made the changes to the first 3. I haven't done any of the reading-out-loud part yet.

The first chapter needed a lot of work, and will probably need a lot more smoothing in the read-through. But the subsequent chapters have gone much more quickly. So far, it looks like my first draft was pretty clean!

In the exercises I did before I began the revision, I identified one scene that will need to be cut and replaced with a new one, but that may wind up being the only new scene. We'll see once I get to the dreaded third quarter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Contact With the Enemy

So, good news: I don't think it's too soon to be reading the book. I ripped the first chapter apart (which was no surprise-- the first few chapters always need a ton of revision), and felt like I knew what I was doing and what the chapter needs to be stronger.

Not really "bad" news-- more like "hmmmm" news: I'm having a difference of opinion with myself about the sequence of the revision steps. My original idea was that I'd read and make notes on the entire draft, then make those changes in the Scrivener file. Now that I've made notes all over chapter one, however, I'm wanting to go edit the chapter now, while my idea of what needs to be done is fresh  in my mind. So I think that's what I'm going to do-- for now, at least.

Revision: Step Nine

Okay. Deep breath.

Today I start reading the book. Up until now, I've been pretty confident as I work my way through these revision steps, but from here on out it gets mad murky, yo. I don't know if this is too soon for me to be reading and I should be waiting a few months for it to get colder. I don't know how long it's going to take me. I don't know how extensive the notes will be. I don't know exactly where I'm going to work or exactly what my process will be. That's a lot to not know about something I'm starting in half an hour, and it's making me anxious.

Here's what I do have:

1) A printed copy of the MS. I decided not to hole-punch and bind it this time, because in the past I've found that a cumbersome way to work. Instead, I've stapled each chapter and stuffed the whole thing back into the plastic bag from the copy shop.

2) 30+ pages of notes, including the "to add" list I made as I wrote, exercises, research notes, and a new and improved timeline.

3) Colored pens, sticky note tabs, highlighters, a notebook, and a clipboard.

4) A vaguely-articulated idea that I shouldn't be reading the book in the same places I wrote it. In order to see it fresh, the argument goes, change as much as you can. If you wrote the book on a screen, read it on paper. Change the font and the margins. Read it in different physical locations than where you wrote it. I wrote Mender probably 80% in the quiet reading room of the library, 15% on my living room couch, and 5% in the back seat of my car in the parking lot of The Son's school. I'm going to try reading in several places this week, but for today it's gonna have to be the library because I'm tutoring there later and I don't feel like scampering around town. I'll try sitting at a table, which I almost never do to write. (For some weird reason, I can't write fiction if my feet are touching the ground. True story.)

5) A tentative revision approach, open to much revision of its own if it hinders more than it helps. The sequence:

a) Read the chapter. Okay to make quick corrections of typos or whatever, but restrain from making extensive notes. Try to just read it.

b) Jot down my overall impressions. Anything not working? Do I need more or less description? Are the characters coming off the way I want? Make notes on the MS of where to add/delete or tweak.

c) Review my notes-- what from the list can be addressed in this chapter? Make notes showing where to add.

d) Rinse and repeat 35 more times.

Wish me luck! I've allotted myself 15 days for this step, but who the heck knows.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Revision: Step Eight

Last step before I dig into the nitty-gritty of revising! Today my only task is to gather all the notes and materials I need for tomorrow. I've already printed out 19 pages of notes, and I probably have another 20 or so of handwritten notes to pull out of my notebook. I also have a red pen, 2 highlighters, a clipboard, and a pack of those little tab-like sticky notes. I feel like a soldier preparing for a very strange battle.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Revision: Step Seven

I have what I think is very close to a final query done. I also have a version of the synopsis that is too long (1,300 words) and probably too plodding, but at least accurately reflects the content of the book. There's a reason everyone hates writing synopses: if you've tightly woven your plot, it's hard to leave anything out. For example (and being very vague): in one climactic scene, Mary frees herself from a seemingly impossible situation using tools and information she got during an encounter with a minor character much earlier in the book. If I don't explain that she has these tools and information, her escape comes off as simplistic and dumb, but in order to explain I have to include this earlier, seemingly-insignificant encounter in the synopsis. Bleah. It's good enough for now.

Step Seven is to re-read all the character and worldbuilding work I did before I started the draft, and make any corrections so I have an accurate story Bible. I also need to make a firm timeline using the actual days of the week from 1851/1852. I've allotted two days for this.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Revision: Step Six

Step six is to write my query and synopsis. I have a solid draft of the query that just needs some fiddling, and I have an old version of the synopsis I wrote a year ago, back when I was doing the story building work for Mender. I'm sure the story has deviated quite a bit from what's in it, so that will need quite a lot of work-- but I least I have the framework to hang the changes on, rather than having to build the whole thing from scratch.

I've allotted two days for this step.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Revision: Step Five

The next step is to plot out what happens in book 2 of the series (title: Maker). I did a little of this back when the laptop was in the shop, but now I've allotted two more days to get a rough sketch of the plot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tag!



I've been tagged by Sharon for the Real Neat Blog Award! Thank you, Sharon! The directions say to make up your own questions and tag seven more bloggers, but... um... I don't know seven other bloggers. I'll do my best.

1) What bookish activities do you participate in (besides actually, you know, reading)?

I read Sharon's blog! I used to read a few other reader-review blogs as well, but the ones I liked best stopped posting, so now I'm pretty review-blog-monogamous. I do participate in message board threads about books, and in the past month or two I've discovered BookTube, and found a few whose content I enjoy and taste I respect. I'm also in a meatspace book club.

2) What are the five most recent books you've put on your radar (to-read, library hold, acquired, etc.)?

1) Giant Days, Vol. 3 -- released today; ordered today from amazon. 'Nuff said.
2) Lifelode by Jo Walton --added to amazon wish list today.
3) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson --added to my informal TBR list a week or two ago.
4) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater --next book I plan to take out of the library.
5) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs-- ordered the audiobook for a Christmas present for The Son; we will wind up listening to this together in the car.

3) What book or author do you push into people's hands most often?

Most of the people I know IRL are parents, so I wind up recommending The Son's favorite books: The True Meaning of Smekday, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, and anything by Rick Riordan.

4) Library or bookstore?

Ooh, that's tough. For most of my life I would have said bookstore, but in the past few years I've discovered the joys of borrowing books, and I actually spend a LOT of time at my local library, since I tutor there, and it's the best place for me to work when I'm drafting a novel. Plus, both the BAM and the used book store in my area just closed in the last year. So I think library is winning at the moment.

5) Ebook or print? (Feel free to get emotional on the subject.)

Print, though I do have Kindle for Mac and sometimes read ebooks on my laptop (I'm reading War and Peace that way now, after starting it on audiobook). I'm warming up to the idea of an e-reader for several purposes, but I also feel like my brain interacts with text differently when it's on paper, and I suspect there are some books I would much prefer to read that way no matter how comfortable I eventually, inevitably become with ebooks.

6) What was the last book that you did not finish?

It may wind up being the book I'm reading right now for book club: I Love Dick by Chris Krause. I hate this book so much it's making me physically angry to read it. The front matter is like four pages of reviewers hyperbolizing over how this is the most brilliant, important feminist novel to come out of the 20th century, and the back cover is just a bunch of name-dropping of post-feminist celebrities who luuurve it (Lena Dunham! Tavi Gevinson! Alexa Chung!). But I think it is a giant pile of crap that exemplifies everything I despise about the Literary Fiction/Literary Criticism circle jerk of shallow pretentiousness. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that this book exemplifies everything that made me leave my MFA program to move to a small town in the country and start writing genre fiction.

7) Who do you share books with? What are your bookish communities?

I belong a feminist message board that has several book threads (where I met Sharon, in fact), but I don't post to the main fiction one because I feel like everyone's having serious conversations about Highly Lauded Books That Matter, and I'm over here reading space opera or YA fantasy or some shit. Also, because of the nature of that board, threads go on forever and ever and it can be intimidating to jump into a long-running conversation-- like, there's no way if the book you're posting about was just the subject of a 5-page discussion last week without going back and reading a lot of content.

However, I also belong to a baby naming message board, and am a frequent contributor on the book threads there, I think because the book threads start fresh each month, there are fewer people participating in the discussion, and I find the conversation easier to follow.

There's also my book club, which is a kind of hilariously cliché "moms drinking wine and eating brownies and gossiping about the teacher who got arrested for DUI, and oh shit it's 9:30 we need to start talking about the book!" book club. But the women are great and it gets me reading things I wouldn't pick up otherwise. I Love Dick notwithstanding.

That was fun!

I'm going to tag:

Joely
Jennifer

And that's all I got. Sorry! Though I'd love to hear your answers, Sharon. We could go back and forth forever.

1) What was your first book love?
2) Where is your favorite place to read?
3) What do you use for bookmarks?
4) Have you read any books you liked but were embarrassed to read in public because the cover and/or title was so awful?
5) If you could choose any author to write a book to your specifications, who would it be?
6) What is your favorite book couple/love story of all time?
7) Audiobooks: yay or nay?

Revision: Step Four

Step Four is to work out what happens in the climactic scene of the whole series, waaaaay down the line in book four that may never be written if I don't sell book one. But I need to know roughly what happens so I don't miss a chance to start setting it up now.

I've allotted one day for this.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Revision: Step Three

Reading Week has come to an end. In seven days I read, finished, or started:

*Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (last 200 pages)
*Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton (last 260 pages)
*What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-- the Details of Life in 19th-Century England by Daniel Pool
*Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sano Takeda (graphic novel)
*Saga Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel)
*The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
*Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
*The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac (first 40 pages)
*The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (first 130 pages)

Now it's onto the next step, which is to finish the exercises I starred in 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. I've only allotted one day for this step, since I did a bunch of them back when my laptop was in the shop.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reading Week

All the category two items are fixed, and the MS has been spellchecked, exported, and sent to the copy shop.

I've kind of been a grump this whole weekend. Natalie Goldberg once wrote that she's irrationally angry for a while after finishing a novel, like she carried these characters on her back over jagged mountains and now that they've reached their destination they just skip off without a how-dee-do. I thought she was nuts, but now I think I know what she means. I feel kind of like my four best friends just moved cross-country together and I have no idea when I'll see them again.

Good thing the next step to my revision plan is Reading Week!

As I've mentioned before, at my enchanted hippie woodland wonderland college we had something called Reading Week, which was a really just week off from classes to study for midterms. I've always loved the notion of a week in which reading is the main thing you're supposed to be doing, instead of the thing you're doing when you should be doing other things.

This Reading Week is intended to serve several purposes:

*give my grumpy-ass self a little vacation, so I can come back to revising with a better attitude.
*help get the story out of my head, so I'm ready to read it with fresh eyes.
*read some books that include elements from my own book, so I can see how other authors have done it.

I have a stack of books awaiting me, some already in progress. The only one I'm committing to finishing this week is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: Everyday Life in Nineteenth Century England for research. Now, The Sacred Talents is an Alternate Historical Fantasy series, so it's not like I need to worry about being historically accurate, since there was no time in history that that King Francis II lost the British Isles to France and was forced to relocate the Crown to the New World. And I have been doing research as I write. That said, there's a lot of little stuff I just don't grok about which servants are referred to by their first names, and which by their last names only, and which by Mr. or Miss Whoever, and all that other nitpicky bullshit that seems psychotically complicated to a relentlessly informal Amurrican gal like m'self.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Goals for October

New month, new phase of the book, new goals!

First off, I'm not setting an hours goal for this month. I feel like I'm in a good groove with carving out enough time to write, and the nature of the work I need to do this month doesn't lend itself to tracking time. However, November is always very challenging month schedule-wise for me, so I'll probably reinstate the hours goal then.

True to form, I've made a ridiculously detailed 12-step revision plan, with time estimates for each step. Some of these are concrete allowances, as in "I will not spend more than x number of days doing this", while two are much more uncertain, as in "I think two weeks is enough for this, but it's hard to say until I really get in there, and if takes more time than that I am completely at peace with it."

So! Step 1 is to go back and fix/add all the little things specific things that need to be fixed or added. I  have a file in Scrivener (have I mentioned yet that I wrote this book in Scrivener? OMG I LOVE IT. I'm shaking my head at myself for clinging to Word for so long) called "to add", and as little or big changes occur to me as I write, I make note of them there. I took time to fix a bunch of these as the draft progressed, but I still have a to-do list of leftovers.

The list is divided into the categories. One category is things I know I need to change in some way, but either I'm not sure exactly where to do it, or it's an ongoing thing I'd need to read the whole draft to address. The other category is things I can pinpoint the scene in which the change needs to happen.

For instance, and using actual verbatim examples from the list:

"You need to dial down what a dick Paget is." This is category one. I need to take a look at all this character's dialogue in every scene he appears in and make him a bit less loathsome. That's clearly a job for the read-through.

"In the Yule ball scene, mention the approaching centennial." This is category two. I know exactly where the change needs to happen, so there's no reason to not just go and do it now.

I've given myself three days to fix all the category two items, as well as spellchecking, exporting, formatting, and printing out a copy of the draft to read later. I started with 10 category two items on the list this morning, and am now down to 6. A few of the remaining ones are meatier changes that involve rewriting chunks of scenes and/or adding multiple paragraphs, so I'm not expecting to fly through them. And spellchecking is always way more time-consuming than I think it's going to be.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be ready for beta readers by Thanksgiving! That seems nuts, in a good way.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Done!

I finished the book in the back seat of my car, in the hour-long interval between The Son getting out of school and a Cub Scout meeting at the town's "Fall Fest". If that's not the portrait of a mom writer, I don't what is.

It's 36 chapters and 103,782 words.

I wrote for 62.5 hours in September.

It took me seven months to write this draft.

I am happy and dazed, and also a tiny bit sad. I have loved writing this book so much, in an entirely selfish way. Now I have to make it something that can belong to other people, not just me.

But that starts tomorrow. Tonight, I can bask a little.

Daily Goals, Part Five

My goal is to finish the book today!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Daily Goals, Part Four

I finished chapter 35 and am currently at 100,452 words. One more chapter to go!

I got through most of the chapter 36 outline, but didn't finish the dialogue yesterday: I got hung up researching coronation ceremonies, and then I had an idea that grew organically out of that research which would add some pizzazz to this scene but which also has plot ramifications for the next book, so I had to think that through (I decided to go for it), and THEN I had a difference of opinion with myself about whether a character's engagement should be broken or not. I did get the first bit of dialogue done, but now I have a complex scene's worth of discussion between two nobles who aren't sure they want to be engaged to each other any more.

Goal for today: finish the dialogue, and get as far as I can into the chapter.

I don't think I'm finishing today, but for sure tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Daily Goals, Part Three

I made both my goals for yesterday! I'm now halfway done with chapter 35, and at 99,562 words.

I will admit to having a lot of feels while writing the dialogue yesterday. This is the "emotionally satisfying wrap-up" chapter, and I am kind of basking in my love for these characters.

Next chapter will be the "but wait... there's more trouble on the horizon" chapter to set up book 2, heh heh.

My goals for today are to finish chapter 35 and get as much of chapter 36 outlined as possible. I might not have time to do the dialogue today-- depends on how easy vs. hard it comes.

It's possible I could finish the draft tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Daily Goals, Part Two

I finished chapter 24 and got chapter 25 half outlined. Mender is now 98,551 words. Criminy!

My goal for today is to finish outlining chapter 35 and get at least half of it written.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Daily Goals, Part One

I think I'm going to post every day this week to help keep me on track as I finish the draft. It's still my goal to finish by end of the day Friday, but as long as I make my 60 hours I'll consider the month a success even if I don't finish until a few days into October.

As it stands now, I'm at 96,692 words. I've finished chapter 33 and am halfway through chapter 34. There will be 36 chapters total. Math majors will have determined that I have two and a half chapters to write this week. Both chapters 35 and 36 are relatively short-- just one scene apiece.

My goal for today: finish chapter 34.
My rockstar extra-credit goal for today: outline chapter 35.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Getting Into the Final Stretch

I've written for 43 hours in September so far.
I have finished chapter 31 and am midway through chapter 32.
Mender is now 94,631 words.

Four and a half scenes left! One of them extremely short!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag!

This is another tag that went around BookTube a while back, and I thoroughly enjoyed the snark of it all.

Sharon, I would love to read your answers to these!


1) A popular book or series you didn't like: Outlander. I tried really hard with that thing. And I didn't think it was bad; I just couldn't see what about it makes people so obsessed with it that they're willing to read so very, very much of it.


2) A book or series everyone seems to hate, but you love: Kushiel's Legacy series. Obviously this one has plenty of fans, but I've also read some scathing reader reviews of it-- many of them deserved! This series definitely has its flaws, but whatever reason, I eat it up with a spoon.

Interestingly, some of what infuriates people about these books are the very things I enjoy. For example, I've read several reviews by people who couldn't get past the first few pages of book 1, in which the main character describes in loving detail how beautiful she is for, like, paragraphs. What a conceited bitch! the reviewers cried. And yet, I kind of loved that, because I am SO TIRED of female main characters bemoaning how unattractive they are when from their own descriptions of themselves, you can tell they look like contemporary models. "Ugh, I'm so slender, with such long legs, and I can never tame my curls, and my eyes are freakishly large! I'm hideous!" Bitch, please.

But young girls really do have insecurities! But being thin really was considered unattractive during many periods of history! But-- ! Don't care. I'm done with that shit. It's disingenuous, it's a raging cliché, and it sends the horrible message to young female readers that being aware of your own physical attractiveness is an unforgivable character flaw. DONE WITH IT.

Sorry, went on a rant there. But I loved it that Phedre was like, "I'm a courtesan from a nation of people famed for their beauty because they mated with angels. Yeah, I'm gorgeous. Deal with it."


3) A love triangle or romantic pairing you're not a fan of: Harry and Ginny from Harry Potter. Don't get me wrong: Ginny's great. It's just that the romance always felt forced to me. I never bought it. I thought Harry had more chemistry with Luna.


4) A popular genre you hardly ever reach for: Historical or Fantasy Romance. I rarely read romance, but when I do it's always contemporary. I love Historical and Fantasy books to have romance subplots, but when it's an actual Romance novel that is also an Historical or Fantasy, then I can't get into it. I realize that's weird of me.


5) A beloved book character who gets on your nerves in a major way: I don't know how beloved she is, but I'm pretty sure I was supposed to like her: Gwen from the Ruby Red series. OMG. You know how some protagonists are all-around smart, and some are book smart but have no common sense, and some are uneducated but street-smart, and maybe some are even ignorant and naïve but have great emotional intelligence? Well, Gwen is perhaps the only protagonist I've ever read who has no type of intelligence whatsoever. She was stupid in literally every sense: low intellectual capacity, willfully ignorant, no common sense, and no understanding of how human emotions function in a normal person.

It was both hilarious and infuriating. Hilarious, because time-traveling Gwen keeps meeting men in the past who are like, Women can't do things because they're not intelligent and are ruled by their emotions. And she's like, That's sexist crap! Which it is. BUT, Gwen is dumb as hell and is constantly making nonsensical, impulsive decisions based completely on how she feels. The hell? If this book was written by a man, I'd be calling out an anti-woman agenda. But really, I think the author probably isn't even aware of how totally freaking moronic her character is.

And it was infuriating because even when she starts time-traveling, she resists learning anything about history that might help her, and is always rolling her eyes that all these nerds think that learning stuff is important. And then she's right! A few things she's been taught turn out to be incorrect, so that means all of it is useless crap, and since all her idiotic blundering turns out mostly okay, that means she was right. The ultimate message of this book seems to be: Learning stuff is super lame, and won't help you in the real world! And a boy will probably wind up rescuing you anyway!


6) A popular author you can't seem to get into: Catherynne M. Valente. I know she's the darling of literary quirkiness, and she has indisputable skillz, but I just can't connect with her writing. It's too... overly fond of itself, or something. I read Palimpsest and only finished it because I had been so sure I was going to love it. And then I gave The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland etc. a try, just to be fair, and... it's just not for me.


7) A trope you're tired of seeing: Aside from the "I'm so unattractively caucasian and coltish!" beef mentioned above, I'm pretty over Chosen Ones. I'm more interested in reading about heroes who choose themselves.


8) A popular book or series you have no interest in reading: Twilight. I am convinced I would hate it, and I am willing to live with the incredibly slight possibility that I'm wrong.


9) The saying goes: the book is always better than the movie. But what movie or TV adaption did you like better than the original book?  I liked Dune, but I liked the 90's mini-series even better. (NOT the movie starring Kyle MacLachlan and Sting; that thing is a hot mess.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mid-Month Report

I have written for 32.5 hours in September so far.
I have finished chapter 29 and outlined chapter 30.
Mender is now 91,397 words.

I'm more than halfway through the action climax!

I haven't make as much word count progress as I'd hoped, since hours after writing my last post, my computer crashed and was subsequently in the shop for three days. I am super-proud of myself, though, because I didn't let it derail me. I'd already worked out a revision plan for the book, including a week of doing exercises from 21st Century Fiction. I spent three days working on those exercises, and actually got an astounding amount done-- so much so that I now only need a day to finish them up once I get to the revision stage.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

90%, Y'all

I am 90% done with the first draft of Mender!

The numbers at a third through the month:

I have written for 21 hours thus far in September.
I am halfway through chapter 29.
Mender is now less than a hundred words shy of 90,000 words.

I'm a quarter way through the action-y climax, which comprises four shortish scenes over three chapters.

Then I have the emotional climax, and some conclusion-y, set-up-book-2 bits, and then the draft will be DONE.

So I'm on target for my first two goals for September. I've done nothing yet for my third goal-- to send out 10 more queries for TOB-- and I completely failed at the fourth, which was to pitch TOB once more for #PitMad. I just completely forgot about #PitMad until 11:00 that night. Oops.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September Goals

My primary goal for this month is, again, 60 hours of writing.

My secondary goal is to try and finish the first draft of Mender. I have a revision plan all worked out, and I'm feeling mentally ready to move on to the next phase of completing the book.

Goal #3: send The Owl Bearer out to another 10 agents, using the new query and revised first chapter I put together for Pitch Wars.

Goal #4: pitch TOB in #PitMad next week, and see if I get any nibbles.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

End of August Wrap-Up

I wrote for 60 hours in August.
I've completed 24 chapters and am starting chapter 25.
Mender is now 83,250 words.

The bad news: I didn't get picked for Pitch Madness, and now I'm steeling myself for another round of querying, and starting to see the end of the line for The Owl Bearer looming in the distance. I've probably queried half the agents I'd be comfortable working with, and only have one request for pages and two nice, encouraging rejections to show for it.

The good news: I'm deep in Act IV of Mender, and The End is in sight! I'm prediciting it will come in at right around 100K words.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Another Checky Check

Two-thirds through August!

I've written for 40 hours in August thus far.
I'm still in the midst of chapter 21.
Mender is now just over 76,000 words.

I was on vacation this past week, and unsurprisingly didn't make much forward progress on the draft. I did manage to work on it for 20-30 minutes a day, but didn't have the focus to work on the second-half-of-chapter-21 scene I'd just outlined. Instead, I tackled my growing list of "change this" and "add that" items, and am happy to say I completed the most complicated one (I changed my mind about one character's parentage, which involved making tiny changes to many scenes) as well as many of the simple ones. Today I plowed ahead and got 800 or so words on the new scene, and left off in a good place to pick it up tomorrow.

School starts the last day of August, and between now and then I'm taking my nephew and niece for an overnight, bringing The Son to doctor and dentist appointments, doing back to school shopping, tutoring and keeping up with the admin portion of my job, having our entire roof replaced, and probably doing a day trip to the coast with The Son's bff's family. Somewhere in there I'm hoping to write at least one and preferably two hours a day, but I may find myself pulling a marathon on The Son's first day of school to make 60 hours.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Top Ten Kick-Ass Female Characters

This was painfully hard to whittle down to ten. Rest assured that the runner-up list is long. But I had to go with my heart.

Listed in order of when in life I first encountered them (as near as I could get it):


1) Karana from The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.

Here's a young female character who kicks ass in a situation that would be daunting to anyone: having to survive alone on a small island that you are sharing with a pack of wild dogs. I'd probably be eaten the first night; Karana builds a fence out of whale ribs to keep the dogs out. Having sacrificed herself to save her little brother only to endure the agony of losing him, Karana lives alone for many years, becoming ever tougher and more resourceful, until she's such a boss she is able to tame an injured wild dog and make it her beloved companion. I admired the hell out of her when I was a kid, and writing this now, I'm finding I still do.


2) Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Such an obvious choice I worried it was too obvious, but decided I couldn't penalize 'Mione for being just that awesome. She's brilliant and ambitious and principled and driven, and in seven books never apologizes for being those things and a girl at the same time. She has the strength, skill, and bravery to face down all manner of magical peril, but also the moral courage to stand up for what she believes in when everyone else is rolling their eyes at her, to tell her best friends when they're being lazy or unkind or just plain wrong, and to fight oppression even when the oppressed are being racist jerks to her. She is amazing, and I wish I'd had the privilege of reading her when I was a young girl myself.


3) Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Another obvious choice, and another I couldn't pass up. Katniss is the ultimate tough girl, holding her own in a televised fight to the death against twenty-three other teenagers, some of whom have been training for this event their whole lives. While the hot temper and ace archery skills are entertaining, what I love most about Katniss is how morally gray she is, and how she sees that she is morally gray. She is not the Good Guy of her own story; she sees her role as protecting the real Good Guys (her sister and some of her competitors), and she is willing to endure unimaginable horrors to keep them from physical and moral harm. All of which makes her another, more complicated kind of Good Guy.


4) Admiral Jane Roland and Ensign Emily Roland from the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.

It's probably cheating to cite two different characters from a series when they are rarely on-page together, but since they are mother and daughter I'm giving it a pass. What I find so delightfully kick-ass about Jane and Emily is that they don't think they're extraordinary for being kick-ass women in the nineteenth century. Having both been raised in the subculture of the dragon pilots, they are in a way as ignorant of "normal" women as those women are of their existence. They don't know how disempowered they "should" be, and there is something amazingly refreshing about that. Neither is described as particularly attractive, yet both have fiery romantic relationships-- which take a firm back seat to the things that really matter, which are their military careers and their devotion to their dragons. They are bold and passionate, and entirely unconflicted about it. They are shining examples of how high women can fly if no one clips their wings.


5) Sadie Kane from the Kane Chronicles trilogy by Rick Riordan.

Sometimes kick-ass female characters can be a little intimidating. They have flaws, but often they're of the "she kicks a little too much ass" ilk. But Sadie Kane is a realistically flawed thirteen-year-old girl. She's impulsive and boy-crazy and self-aggrandizing and often unnecessarily rude. Unlike nearly every other character on this list, she cares a lot about what she looks like, and presents a carefully cultivated pop-punk image. Despite all this, she is kick-ass enough to host the kick-ass goddess Isis without being overwhelmed by her, and to describe it all with snarky, wonderfully British aplomb.


6) Peaceful Hortense Elaine Warren, aka Sister Peace, from the Castle Waiting graphic novels by Linda Medley.

A kick ass nun, y'all. Sister Peace is from an order of feminist nuns who all have beards, and, more importantly, strive to give everyone what they truly need. Peace is so funny and cool, and seems completely comfortable in her own skin-- beard and all. She's got guts to spare: the guts to run away from her tiny village and join the circus, the guts to save her best friend from a bad situation, the guts to resist becoming the abbess and wander the world instead, the guts to continually spar with (and defeat) a truly disturbing-looking demon, and the guts to devote herself to saving the souls of the residents of Castle Waiting-- but in such a low-key way they think she's just being a goofball.


7) Gratuity "Tip" Tucci from The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.

This twelve-year-old African-American girl in a slightly goofy alien invasion/buddy road movie Middle Grade novel written by a white man may be one of my top 3 characters of all time. She's brave and independent and hilarious and so, so smart, but what really gets me is her total honesty. She's honest about not having everything figured out, about being wrong sometimes, about her mom being kind of childlike, about the things that don't make sense in the world, about the racism she encounters, about her less-than-noble feelings. I adore her, I admire her, she makes me laugh, and she breaks my heart.


8) Flavia de Luce from the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.

Another twelve-year-old girl, this one a chemistry prodigy living in a rapidly declining manor house in post-WWII England and solving murders in her abundant free time (seriously, does she ever do any kind of schoolwork?). She's a bundle of contradictions: precocious yet naïve, aloof yet aching to belong, coldly dispassionate about the many corpses she encounters yet tenderly devoted to her father's traumatized manservant, constantly plotting to poison her older sisters yet longing for their love and acceptance. She's brave and resourceful and frighteningly intelligent, equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Pippi Longstocking, and Marie Curie, and steely English gentry to her core.


9) Senneth Brassenthwaite from the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn.

Senneth is a Fantasy rarity: a romantic heroine who is neither young nor beautiful. She's a crazy-powerful fire mystic in her late thirties, and her natural badassery is tempered by the wisdom of age. She pretty much does as she pleases, but often what she pleases is helping other mystics, whether by rescuing them from bad situations, mentoring them in the use of their powers, or being sent by the King to investigate crimes and plots against them. She is the heart of the band of adventurers the series focuses on, the sun around which the others all revolve. Her romance with the gruff King's Rider assigned to protect her on her journeys (hilarious because she could literally roast him alive with her mind if she wanted to) is one of the most grown up love stories I've ever read. She's strong without being show-offy about it, and vulnerable without shame. She's a kick-ass adult.


10) Betty, Dee, Hannah, and Violet from the Rat Queens graphic novels, by Kurt Wiebe and various artists.

While I have tried on this list to embrace the many different ways female characters can kick ass, I had to include this quartet of female mercenaries who literally kick all the asses. I love it that for all the angsty back stories and complicated romantic entanglements and PhD's in Bad Mofology, this is really a story about sisterhood. When it comes down to it, nothing matters more to the Rat Queens than each other, and that's awesome and unexpectedly touching for a graphic novel with so much blood splatter.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mid-Month Check-In

I have written for 35 hours in August thus far.
I have completed 20 chapters and am halfway through chapter 21.
Mender is now 75,500 words.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Numbers and a Random Assortment of Thoughts

One-third through the month, and here are the numbers:

I have written for 21.5 hours in August so far.
I have finished 19 chapters and halfway through chapter 20.
Mender is now slightly over 72,000 words.

And here are the random thoughts:

1) I forgot to factor the Olympics into my writing plan for the month. Don't know if you know this about me, but I am an Olympics freak. It's the only sports thing I really care about, and I watch a ton of the coverage.

2) I had my first dream about a character! I have plenty of dreams that I've incorporated into stories, but this is the first time I've dreamed about an actual character. It was Leopold, out of uniform, sitting on some stone steps and looking even paler than usual.

3) I've been stalking the PitchWars mentors on twitter (like you do), and holy crap, I am so glad I'm old enough to get away with eschewing social media. No fucking wonder so many people I know seem so consumed with crippling anxiety over the state of the world all the time. The human brain was not designed to know every bad thing that happens on the planet in real time.

4) I wasted one of my PitchWars entries, and I'm grumpy about it even though it's 90% my own fault. Basically, I applied to one mentor team, and only scanned the second's mentor's blog post about her PW wish list. The first one was like, "I'll read anything with Romance in it!" and listed all the Sci-Fi books and TV shows as personal favorites. After I submitted, I took a closer look at her co-mentor, who was all "WE WILL ONLY CONSIDER CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE DON'T SEND US YOUR SCI-FI SHIZZ". Like I said, my own fault for shoddy research, but also 10% co-mentor disconnect.

5) Today I was working on a scene that takes place in a graveyard, and I was trying to remember the ways snow accumulates on old gravestones. I thought, "I should just drive to a graveyard and check it out." Then I remembered that in the real world, it's summer.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top 11 Most-Read Authors

I've seen this on BookTube as "Top Ten Most Owned Authors", but what makes more sense for my reading habits is Top Ten Most Read Authors. Although I had a tie for 10th place, so in my case it's 11.

Judy Blume: 8
Naomi Novik: 8
Laura Ingalls Wilder: 9
Jacqueline Carey: 9
Caroline Lawrence: 9
Colin Cotterill: 13
Rick Riordan: 18
Sharon Shinn: 19
Ursula K. LeGuin: 19
Lois McMaster Bujold: 19
Beverly Cleary: 22

Fun Facts!
*There are only 2 male authors out of 11 on this list.
*My 3 favorite authors are tied for second place.
*I do not own a single book by 3 of these authors.
*5 are children's lit authors.
*6 are Sci Fi/Fantasy authors.
*1 is both.
*4 are authors I had never read before 2010.
*2 I haven't read anything by since 1985.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August Goals

60 hours a month has been working well for me, so I think I'm going to go for that again this month.

It's not gonna be easy, though.

Here's the breakdown:

This week, The Son is not in any camps. I can manage an hour a day.

Next week, The Son is at full-day camp. I'm planning to get a lot done here-- like, 30 hours in the 5 days of camp.

The week after that, we are on vacation. I am bringing the laptop because I need to check in with work every day, but realistically I will probably not be able to do more than "touch" the story every day. My family is not going to want to share me with the book while we're on vacation, and I can't really blame them for that. If I get 1-2 hours done the whole week, I'll be thrilled.

The week and a half after that is the prepping-for-the-return-to-school time. My mother-in-law will probably take him for a few outings in here, which will give me more time to write. But I'll probably wind up having to write in evenings and/or pulling a weekend marathon to make the goal.

Another wrinkle is that the Pitch Wars submissions open on Wednesday. My plan was to tweak my submission packet without counting that time as writing hours, on the theory that the 60 hours should count only toward the book I'm currently writing. I already worked on my query, and did not count that time toward July's hours. However, I need to edit chapter 1 tomorrow, and given how scarce my writing time is right now I think I'm going to go ahead and count the hour or two I spend as "hours written in August".


Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Goal Wrap-Up

I wrote for 60 hours in July.
I am very close to done with chapter 18.
Mender is now 66,340 words.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Series Thoughts, Part 4: Series I'm Undecided About Finishing

And now for the last post of my series series. If you've read these series, feel free to weigh in and nudge me toward yay or nay.

Series I'm Undecided About Finishing:

Middle Grade:

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Fun stories about the young scion of a legendary Irish crime family and his dealings with the fairy world. I've read 5 books and there are 3 left to go. I'm not opposed to finishing it, but I keep not getting to it, and there's a chance I never will.

Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was a kid, but never read any of the other books. I don't have a particular desire to do so, but it's a Fantasy classic and I feel like I should.

Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis. This is a very strange series about a very strange child. The Son loves them, and they have grown on me over 3 books. However, if he loses interest or outgrows them before the series is over, I'm sure I'll never read another one again.

Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler. I listened to the first book of this on audiobook. It had a lot of cool elements-- 1930's setting, creepy magic, books as portals to other worlds-- but I just didn't connect with the characters. I think part of the issue was the reader, who read it in this super breathy little girl voice that got on my nerves. I might be willing to give book 2 a try, though. Bonus points to the author for having the same first name as one of my late cats. 

Young Adult:

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. Dark Science Fiction about a society on a colony planet in which all the men can hear each others' thoughts. I read so many raving reviews of this series, but while I was very impressed by the worldbuilding and the style of the writing, I found actual story unstructured and repetitive (seriously, how many showdowns did Todd have with that one guy? How was he not dead yet??), and was annoyed by the cliffhanger ending. It's been years since I read book 1, and my desire to finish the series wanes more every year. But I haven't given up completely.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor. Epic Urban Fantasy about a war between angels and demons. I loved book 1. Book 2 was good, but most of what I had loved about book 1 was no longer a feature of the story. I was excited for book 3, but 50 pages in I just was not feeling it. The book introduced a brand new human character that I did not give a rat's ass about, and the plot wasn't grabbing me. I chalked it up to just not being in the right mood for it, but now it's been a few years and I haven't felt the desire to pick it up again.

The Queen's Thief series. Adventure/Fantasy tales in an Ancient Greek-like setting. I enjoyed the first book, and I've heard from multiple sources that the subsequent books are even better, but it's been so long since I've read book 1 that my interest has waned, and while I certainly haven't ruled out finishing the series, it's not on my "get to soon" TBR-- which means there's a real chance I'll never get to it at all.

Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore. Feminist second-world Fantasy. I liked book 1, but not as much as I'd expected to... but I now strongly suspect that was mainly due to really not digging the audiobook production of it. If I do read the next 2 books, I will be reading paper copies rather than listening.

To All the Boys I Loved Before companion duology by Jenny Han. Light contemporary Romance. The main character was appropriately immature, but she didn't grow enough over the course of the book to keep my old-ass self from being annoyed with her behavior and choices. Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger, but it was still a satisfying enough ending for me. Still, I could see myself picking up book 2 some day if I'm in the mood for a zippy YA love story I can read in a few hours and that won't challenge me much.

Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson. I appreciated a lot about book 1-- the Hispanic-influenced Fantasy culture, the heroine's struggles with her weight, the beginnings of a slow-burn love story based in mutual respect-- but then I read like 25 pages of book 2, and my reaction to the big event that kicks off the novel was that I could have sworn I had read the exact same scene in book 1. I had no desire to continue, so I put it down. But now I keep reading reviews touting the awesomeness of this trilogy, so I haven't given up on the idea that I might pick it up again some day.

Adult:

Kingkiller Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss. I loved The Name of the Wind, but then I read a few highly disparaging reviews of book 2 (the argument was that the main character's Mary Sue-ness becomes intolerable), and it made me wary of committing to such a long book. Also, there's a ginormous gap between books, so I'm not feeling any urgency.

Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. This is a Science Fiction Romance series with a fanatical fan base. I enjoyed the first book I read (Agent of Change-- probably the most well-known and oft-recommend one), but then tried to back up and read the series from the beginning, and I thought the next book I read was... not that good, on a lot of levels. It's left me iffy about giving it another try.

Goddess Summoning series by P.C. Cast. Six-book Fantasy Romance series that are retellings of myths and fairy tales. I think the first one I read was the strongest of the books, which had the unfortunate effect of leaving me slightly disappointed by the others. By the time I read book 4, I was getting fed up with how formulaic they are. But I'm not saying never again, because they are fun reads.

Comics:

Sex Criminals. I book Vol. 1 to give to a relative for Christmas, and read it first (tacky, I know). I liked it, but apparently not enough to get Vol. 2 from interlibrary loan. If it popped up in my face I would read it, though.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It's fun and light and ridiculous, and I've read 3 volumes so I'm obviously not saying no to it, but nor am I going out of my way to get more. I'll continue to read it if I  stumble across it at the library.

Web Comics:

Vattu. I loved this when I was reading through the archives, but lately the story's been feeling unstructured to me. I think this is down to the comic updating less frequently rather than any actual flaw in it. My new approach is going to be to just check in with it 2-3 times a year.

Dicebox. Same story as Vattu.

Namesake. I was madly in love with this comic for a while, but the last chapter has been a bunch of metaphysical worldbuilding mumbo-jumbo that I have not been feeling. I'm sticking with it, but with a more skeptical attitude than before.