Fall Update + The Mighty Pens

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, but I actually have writing updates and stuff I can post about. Let’s get those out of the way before we talk about my favorite writing time of the year.

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Obligatory floof with some of this year’s new releases.

First and foremost – I FINISHED THE MOTHER F’IN REWRITE!

Eighteen months from start to a complete second draft, and I am THRILLED that is behind me. Draft 2 came out to 110k words, seventeen chapters total. I can’t remember the first draft count off the top of my head, but it doesn’t sound like much of a cut.

Much of the overall plot remained the same, but it was tightened a fair bit. I cut characters, added new ones that made sense. Added A TON of setting details and character stuff I neglected in the first draft. The resulting story is far and away a better version of what I originally wanted and envisioned. It’s finally *my* vision of Charleston, the main characters, and the plot.

Long story short on other things (because I really want this to be a shortish post):

  • Entered Pitch Wars, didn’t get picked*
  • Put up a blurb during #CPMatch and ended up with three new CPs
  • Pitched during Pitmad for the first time
  • Bought a new house!
  • Sold our old house!
  • Adopted a new kitten!

Before I move on, one other note and shout-out regarding my rewrite: I have been so, so lucky and am eternally grateful for my writing buddies/critique partners – Leah, Amy, and Lindy.

Leah, Amy, and I met at DFWCon 2015. We don’t write the same things, but we’re always there to support one another (oozing confidence is our thing). Lindy joined the fold after DFWCon 2016, and she’s been my alpha reader/confidante/sounding board pretty much ever since. She helped me hone my pitch, and read ALL of my chapters as I rewrote them for the WIP. Like, the last year of the rewrites were so much more bearable – AND PRODUCTIVE – because of her. All three of these wonderful ladies’ enthusiasm and support have helped keep me afloat; my tribe means the world to me, guys.

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Yuri On Ice ties with Pride and Prejudice (2005) for best-stress-reliever.

Okay, onto the other important thing.

I love NaNoWriMo. No, seriously, I do. NaNo taught me how to get shit done. (The drafting part, anyway.) I like charity and helping people in need when I can, too.

So it’s really cool that two awesome authors, Kat Brauer and Susan Dennard, put together a group (The Mighty Pens) which joins the writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo with fundraising for an awesome cause: the Malala Fund. You can read more about the group and fundraiser in the links posted, but in short, the Malala Fund is dedicated to providing twelve years of safe education for girls.

How does this relate to NaNoWriMo and/or me? Like a race or something like Jump Rope for Life (if you’ve heard of that, not sure they’re still doing it), people get sponsorships of donations depending on how long they run, or how many minutes they can jump rope. The Mighty Pen has a similar goal – drive donations and/or sponsorships based on how many words we write for NaNoWriMo.

MY GOAL:

  • 80,000 words, all of it for new projects. This isn’t for one book, either. I have three stories (technically more but I have to at least strive for an intact sanity by the end of November) I want to get started so that when I am finished with revisions, I have headway into new words. My ideal breakdown is:
    • 30,000 words on a paranormal romance
    • 30,000 words on a cyberpunk sci-fi
    • 20,000 words on a YA space opera

If you’d like to sponsor me, whether it’s $1 per 10,000 words or $10 for every $10,000 words, I would be so, so grateful and you’d be helping girls all over the world!

 

How will I know how many words you’ve written, or current progress?

  • I will be updating my word counts on my NaNo profile with each writing session.
  • Though I am going to try to stay off of Twitter and other social media to maximize writing time and reduce distractions, I will do my best to post my word count at least once a day.
  • Ask me!

 

That’s all I have for now. For any other writers – I hope to see you burning up your keyboards or notebooks with how quickly your stories are coming out of you. May your words flow bright and strong!

 
*I hoped I wouldn’t be picked, actually, which sounds sort of… counter productive, but I can go into that more sometime later if anyone wants. I definitely wanted to apply just to give it a shot, but was less stressed about not getting picked than getting picked.

 

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Latest Reads

It’s been a while since I’ve done any reviews, and there have been a few already released this year that I loved, so let’s remedy that, shall we?

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First up – THE MUSE by Jessie Burton. It’s completely different from her first book, THE MINIATURIST (you can find my review here) and totally works on its own. There is a freedom and something like joyous abandon in the voice and prose that goes beyond Odelle and Olive – the primary characters and narrators. Yet Burton hooks it all together through the mystery of the painting, of the Schlosses, of Isaac and Teresa. You won’t find magical realism here like existed in The Miniaturist, because it doesn’t need it. It’s compelling, gorgeously written, and I think has more of Burton in it than her first book. I’d give it a 4 out of 5!

 

Kameron Hurley’s THE STARS ARE LEGION is up next. If that cover doesn’t make you want to buy it, I honestly don’t know what to do with you. It’s an inventive sci-fi of world ships (actual whole planets!), and brutal women who have their own hidden agendas. Like the levels of Katazyrna, I know I’ll have to re-read it two or three more times before I truly get all the details and intricacies built into it. If you like Hurley’s other series, especially the Bel Dame Apocrypha books, you’ll enjoy this. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, also!

 

The last one I want to talk about is Aliette de Bodard’s THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS. Because Asmodeus needs a bit more room to be doted on =).  You like fallen angels, magic, and dragons? Good. Read this. Actually, read book 1 first, then come back.

The House of Binding Thorns picks up shortly after the events of HoSW, when Madeleine is returned to House Hawthorne and, unfortunately, under Asmodeus’s thumb/dagger. There’s a lot to love in this book: a deeper, longer look at the Dragon Kingdom under the Seine, and their growing interactions with the houses; Asmodeus marrying into the Dragon Kingdom; the Annamite community that makes the best of the magic-ravaged city, away from the Fallen; a glimpse back to House Silverspires; the introduction of a Fallen who has stayed out of the war and conflict between the houses, making a life with the one she loves on her own terms.

Oh, and Asmodeus kiss scenes. *swoons*

Seriously, read it. Madeleine deserves a medal, or something. We get a much better understanding of Asmodeus and what he cares about. Overall: gorgeous writing, lovely characters, and an amazing world I’ll come back to again and again. HoBT gets a 4.8 out of 5 from me!

 

The next books up on my TBR are THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas, DREAMS OF THE EATEN by Tex Thompson, CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber, and INFIDEL by Kameron Hurley. Are there any particular books you all *gestures wildly* are excited about releasing this year? Books I can add to my ever-growing TBR shelves?

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Rewriting…still

I’ve been working for a full year now and still haven’t finished the second draft of my UF book. Let’s just say it’s been a steep learning curve, and various crap happened throughout the year that didn’t make it any easier.

But – and there is a silver lining here – I’ve learned a lot. Just like a first draft, you kinda have to figure out a process for second and later drafts by doing it. Otherwise you’re flailing and wasting time and letting the voice of doubt sink its claws deeper into you….

I know, I’ve been there. I still flail, waste time, and want to burn the scene I’m trying to fix at least once a week. I don’t, though. I cut the words, re-write them over and over if I have to, until they make more sense.

Surely drafts three and on will be much, much easier.

 

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Assuming this guy lets me have some peace at the desk!

 

In any case, I’m sure there are tons of you out there looking at your NaNo or some other WIP first draft, positively cringing (or crying) from all the problems you see. Good news! NaNoEdMo is coming up in less than two weeks! Like NaNoWriMo, there’s a community undertaking the journey with you of trying to fix those words. Instead of 50,000 words, the goal is 50 hours of editing. That’s a little over 1.5 hours per day. Sounds totally do-able, right? Head on over to the website and sign up!

Having said that, I really, really don’t suggest diving in without some kind of plan.By that I mean jumping in feet first without looking over the first draft, thinking about what needs to change, characters that need to be moved, making notes, etc. It’s overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is what I tried:

  • Let the book sit (hopefully you’ve let it rest for a few weeks, if not a month, since finishing the draft)
  • Highlighted sections in different colors based on what changes were needed (green for setting, orange for plot, etc.)
  • Wrote each scene on a notecard
  • Made an outline for what actually happens in the first draft (even if you went by an outline while writing, it may be good to make this just to catch any differences that cropped up by accident)
  • Made an outline for draft two based on what needed to be moved/changed
  • Came up with an arbitrary date to finish the draft

 

What actually worked:

  • Outlines — these have made the biggest improvement, I think. Every time I changed something or got feedback from an alpha reader/critique partner, I readjusted the outline and was able to stay on track much better.
  • Scene cards — these helped to an extent. They’re nice if you want to lay them all out and see what happens when you move pieces around, but for me, there was too much information on them. My scenes were too big, so about a quarter through I stopped using them as my guideline.
  • Alpha/Beta reader — to be fair I didn’t have a reader/crit partner until about halfway through the year, but I highly recommend having someone read the revised/rewritten chapters as you get through one.

 

What didn’t work:

  • Highlighting the first draft — there was simply too much that needed to be reworked. Since it’s first person POV and the main character didn’t cooperate very well in the first draft, a lot of it couldn’t be salvaged word-for-word.
  • Word/scene goals/timeline — hahahaha. I have broken pretty much every one of these I made. I underestimated how long it would take to rewrite everything, because my brain isn’t in first-draft-vomit-mode. It’s in make-everything-pretty mode. Luckily I’m not on a contracted deadline so I can take as much time as you want.
    • If it takes you a day to fix 50 – 100 – 1000 words, THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to try to do a scene a day.

 

I also read quite a number of articles on rewriting, editing, the second draft, etc. Many, many of them will be much more helpful than me, both in terms of process and motivation/inspiration. The edit caves are deep, dark, and full of hidden bears that will gobble you up if they get the chance… take a torch and a shotgun with you:

 

Chuck Wendig has three good write ups about editing/rewriting/second drafts. Hopefully you get a kick out of the profanity as much as I do.

Susan Dennard has a treasure trove of writing posts, from planning a draft to fixing one.

Delilah Dawson, whom you should follow on Twitter, often takes questions and runs through scenarios like starting a short story or what her process is for revisions. Might be a little difficult to find the edit/revision posts but worth a look.

NaNoEdMo has a ton of posts from previous years to go back through. One of my favorites is this one by Julie Hutchings.

 

You can also look up Rachel Aaron (Bach), Kristin Lamb, and Holly Lisle to fill your brain with more revision gooey-ness. There are so, so many others too.

Catch you all at NaNoEdMo!

 

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Top 5 Songs via Spotify – 2016

 

Late last year I switched from Pandora to Spotify for writing music, and for the most part I couldn’t be happier. Spotify is leaps and bounds better at finding new music based on tracks you already like. They’ve added customized suggestions too, like the Release Radar that updates late Thursday/early Friday every week and recommended songs at the bottom of your individual playlists. My ears have never been so happy, except when they keep putting rap metal into my weekly Discover Playlist.

Nowhere did I sign up for rap metal, end of story.

Anyway, I thought it’d be neat to go over the songs I found through Spotify this year and make my own Top 5 list. They have a playlist of top 2016 tracks for me but I don’t agree on the order, so nyeh. Anyway, these are the songs that have most influenced and helped with my writing this year:

 

#5 Tie between Lifelines by I Prevail and Happy Song by Bring Me the Horizon

Lifelines is upbeat and a little on the lighter side, but has a killer chorus. Brings to mind fight or action scenes wherein the MC is finally victorious or has some kind of epiphany after screwing up so many times.

 

Happy Song doesn’t exactly sound happy… unless you have a bit of a dark heart (like me!). But it’s inspirational, in its own way. From just a normal, non-writing perspective, the lyrics really hit home; no matter how shitty a day has been, or how bad my mental state is, all it takes is one song – an anthem for that moment – to escape the maelstrom and survive.

Gnarly bass, heavy guitars – be still my beating heart. Great background music for an anti-hero getting ready to kick some ass, or anyone for that matter.

 

 

#4My Soul is Empty and Full of White Girls by Slaves

No, I have no idea why it has this kind of a name. What I do know is that I love the bass line. The chorus is uplifting bordering on ethereal, kind of a magic in itself (which doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to visualize spells and magic). It’s been hugely beneficial when I get into a rut about my MC, specifically on the urban fantasy project, and need to remember where she’s going in the bigger picture.

 

 

#3 – Talking Body by Don Vedda (Tove Lo cover)

Going to slowwww it down a bit with this one. Covers are often hit or miss when they come up on the playlists, but this one gives my current favorite (Chandelier by Normandie) a run for its money. Once again, the bass line drew me in and the guitar solo sealed the deal. Like #4, this song helps remind me the story’s a marathon effort, not a sprint. Also not to rush the romance arc… which is how I ended up writing the payoff scene intended for one of the sequels. TLDR – great for romance arcs!

 

 

#2 – Mad at Myself by Issues

I had such a hard time picking between Talking Body and Mad at Myself for this spot, but ultimately had to go with MaM. Dare I say it? Loved the bass and guitars, and the switching between clean and screamed vocals. The dual personality fit MC well, given the two worlds she’s trying to fit into. It’s a messy sort of character anthem, and hella fun.

 

#1 – *Moth by HELLYEAH

Where do I even begin with this? It’s one of those rare unicorn songs that just fits perfectly with damn near everything. Dark, heavy, lovely; seriously I listened to this on repeat for almost a month straight when it first came on, and STILL haven’t worn it out.

Moth is one of those songs I expect will be on almost all of my playlists for sci-fi/fantasy writing projects. Midpoint/mirror moment? This song’s for you. Negative character arc? This song’s for you. Good vs. evil or grey vs. black climax battle? This song’s for you. Betrayal, loss of hope, renewal of hope, a thousand other things – this song’s for you.

*Warning – video contains bugs (moth and pupae), suggestions of domestic abuse and cutting (aftermath, not actual acts), and guy holding a string of fake severed ears for some reason.

 

And that’s it! Enjoy the songs, and hopefully one of them will spur your own creativity and imagination. The actual “Top Tracks for 2016” playlist that Spotify made for me can be found here. If the link doesn’t work, give a shout in the comments. And if there are any songs that really inspired you this year, let me know!

 

Happy Holidays to you all, and see you in 2017!

 

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Mission Report: September 16, 2016

So it’s been over…

*looks at last blog post and calendar*

*promptly burns the calendar*

Ahem, never mind. All that matters is the update I’m about to lay on you guys.

 

I’ve been heavy in the deep, dark, re-write cave since it feels like forever. Just to give a progress report, so to speak, let’s go over the goals I set several months back.

 

  • March thru April (…June): finish draft 2 of UF #1, send to betas; write query, synopsis, and pitches for Twitter  Nope
    • April 23 – 24 = DFWCon (not planning to pitch or consult w/ any agent)  Done, didn’t pitch/consult but I DID get a new CP/writer buddy and met several others! SUCCESS
  • June thru July: outline & flesh out DF idea  Nope
    • June 9 = Pitmad for UF  #1  Nope
    • June ?? = SFFPit for UF #1 Nope
  • July: Draft DF book for CampNaNo Noooooope
    • start prepping PitchWars submission Double nope
  • August thru September: complete draft 3 of UF #1; work on query, synopsis, blurb, etc. Nope
    • August 3 = PitchWars subs open (!)  Super nope

 

Seeing a theme, here?  Spoiler alert – rewrites take a long fucking time. I am making progress, it’s just a slow and steady race. Currently I’m sitting at 8 chapters re-written out of an expected 21; the first 5 have taken the lion’s share of the time to fix, and there’s still a couple in those that will still have to be reworked again for voice and plausibility before style and other proofreaderly edits.

In addition to grunt work, with the help of my fabulous CP, I’ve worked up three solid pitches for Twitter pitch parties. AND THE FIRST BOOK HAS A TITLE! Can’t describe to you how much of a weight is lifted off with finally having something to call this baby other than UF #1.

And no, not going to relay it here. Not until closer to the finished, query-ready manuscript draft, anyway. Just know that title includes a bird.  =)

 

Other goings on: I went to California for a week for work, and THEN went to Englannnnnd! FOR TWO WEEKS!

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My wonderful colleague/friend made the trip so much less stressful. Once her husband found out I wanted to go visit all the London touristy things, he planned a full route for me to see as much as possible in one day. The British Museum was the one place I actually went into, but we hit almost all of the other major sights: Buckingham Palace (as he called it, the Queen’s House), British Museum,  Hyde Park, St. James Park, Horse Guards Parade, Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, London Bridge, The Eye, the Shard. I rode the tube, and an above-ground rail/train to a station near their house.

They took me out to fish and chips. I tried gin and tonic (never again). Got to see the bad traffic on several of the M’s. Experienced the greatness that is Tesco, for lunch. And on and on… It was great, guys. Rural England reminds me very much of southwestern Virginia where I grew up, and although London/England was never on my top places to visit, it’s definitely on my list to return to.

 

The other, much less fun part of this update is about my absence from Twitter the last few days. You might be wondering why I chose to to title this post thusly. Two reasons:

#1 obviously, the Captain America: Civil War reference, which will make sense later
#2 Friday (Sept.16) was the last time I touched my WIP in terms of re-writing/revising

 

Warning: probably about to be some feels ensuing. Mine are a given.

 

If you’ve been following me on Twitter the last few months, you’ve probably seen posts about our cats. Cat pictures, volunteering, and the struggle with our “baby” Diamond.

 

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Diamond started having seizures in March. We went through medication, bloodwork, an MRI, consultation and testing with a neurologist, and more medication. They suspected her of having a metabolic disorder.

There’s no cure for metabolic disorders in cats. You basically just monitor their standard of living. If you’re lucky, you get to make the choice for them when they reach that point.

 

Diamond passed away Saturday morning. She had either one really big shitty seizure, or several small shitty seizures. Either way, her little 6lb body couldn’t handle it. As I held her on the way to the ER-Vet, I kept telling her to hang on even though I think I knew, deep down, she wasn’t going to come back from it. When the vet asked if we wanted them to try and stabilize her, I just nodded. I wanted to ask what the odds are of her having brain damage were, IF she stabilized, but I buried that down. And when she crashed, I nodded with H again to have them try CPR. It couldn’t hurt to hope, right?

I wish I would’ve just said my mind. I wish we could’ve just given her peace in those last few minutes.

 

I’ve experienced the death of close relatives, but I don’t think I grieved for them. Not like this, not like I’ve grieved for Commodore and Diamond. And that’s just two sides of what feels like a d20 in this whole situation: losing two pets, two members of our family in less than two years. We knew there would come a point of no return, we just thought we had another ~6 months with her. Even with Commodore it was about a 3 week downward turn. For Diamond, we had an hour, maybe.

 

I’m angry, because she didn’t deserve that kind of death. She didn’t deserve to have her brains scrambled to the point it wouldn’t function.

I’m lost, because how do I fill the time previously spent caring for her? What do I put on my schedule instead of “need to be back by x time to give her her medication” ?

I feel guilty. What if instead of feeling crabby that H missed her 3:30 AM dose Saturday morning, I’d just given it to her* when I saw he didn’t? Would that have made any difference?

I’m numb, because it’s the best way to get through the day without crying. Don’t think, don’t feel, just survive.

I hurt for her, for H, for us. The ER-Vet already sent a card, and I know it says “Sorry for your loss,” and I just can’t open it. I dread the next few days because I know there’s a call coming, at some point, to pick up her ashes. Then it will be real. Then she will truly be gone.

 

I hope you’ve found peace, little one. We miss you.

 

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading.

*I know this probably wouldn’t have helped. Anti-convulsants build up in the system, so one missed dose shouldn’t have triggered this. I feel guilty, regardless.

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How writer brains work

So just a quick post – sort of gushing about another “Ah ha!” moment, while also to show how your brain comes up with shit that will work if you don’t hamstring it.

I’m trying to finish all remaining rewrites (a.k.a. draft 2) on the urban fantasy project by end of June, plan being to send CPs/Betas the first half by end of May.  Which meant starting from the beginning. I rewrote chapter 1 and the first scene of chapter 2 in February or March at some point, then dropped them. Because the second scene in chapter 2 just wouldn’t work.

Can’t exactly avoid it any more, though. It has to get done or other goals this year *coughPitchWarscough* won’t happen.

I was supposed to finish it yesterday. Didn’t happen. The new words sounded just as boring and overdrawn as the first set. To bypass some of the stress and anxiety of missing yet another deadline, I decided to plow ahead to chapter 3 and come back. As I started jotting out the first scene in chapter 3, this is what happened:

“Okay, where exactly are all these things in this container?”

*Tries to sketch out how it’s laid out. Looks up cargo container packing pictures.*

“How is there any room for her to move in there? And why would they pack the stuff that they need to unload and hide IN THE BACK?”

Brain – What about making it a pirate ship instead?

“Don’t be silly, there can’t be any pirate ships in this thing. That makes no sense-”

*Googles old merchant ship holds.*

“How can I make this fit the rest of the world? How can a pirate ship fit in an alternate, modern Charleston?”

Brain – Here’s all you need to know to tie it into this moment and recent past.  *Dumps out ideas and possible subplot threads.*

“…NOW CHAPTER TWO WILL BE SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

 

And now (well not right now) I can go back to chapter two and give it the oomph it deserves. It won’t be pirate ships… exactly.  Mwahahah.

Moral of the story: don’t quash the little voice that offers up what sounds, at first, like an outlandish idea. It might be the solution you’ve been banging your head on the keyboard for.

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Over the middle and through the words…

March is halfway over now, which by association also means I’m on the downward part of the NaNoEdMo hill. In 17 days I’ve rewritten around 6 scenes. I say around because the final fight isn’t cut into neat sections.

Six-ish scenes in almost 28 hours of work.

It doesn’t look like a lot when you compare the numbers, but it is. I’m rewriting pretty much every chapter in this draft. And if I’m going to rewrite a chapter to fix voice, I might as well widen the stroke to fix other major issues. Plot beats and structure are being hit too. The foundations for setting, world, and secondary characters are getting reinforced.

When I *tried* to start revising in February and wanted to bang my head on the keyboard, two of my friends suggested to try approaching it as another first draft. I had no idea what they meant at the time.  Now I do: give myself permission to write complete shit, AGAIN.

The funny thing, though, is that it’s less shitty the second time around. Maybe it’s been given a pat on the back and upgraded to crappy. I’m still way over-writing scenes and struggling to find the POV heroine’s voice, but there’s a bit of light poking holes in the angry revision cloud of doom.

Obviously I’m not going to finish draft two within 22 more hours of work. Or even by the end of the month. If I can find a revision process, and lowering the amount of time it takes to rewrite a scene or chapter, I’ll be ecstatic.

 

I actually decided to update my writing schedule a.k.a. goals. Clearly I am crazy because, again, I’ve only rewritten 6 out of god knows how many scenes for this freakin book. This is what I’m talking about:

 

  • March thru April (…June): finish draft 2 of UF #1, send to betas; write query, synopsis, and pitches for Twitter
    • April 23 – 24 = DFWCon (not planning to pitch or consult w/ any agent)
  • June thru July: outline & flesh out DF idea
    • June 9 = Pitmad for UF  #1
    • June ?? = SFFPit for UF #1
  • July: Draft DF book for CampNaNo
    • start prepping PitchWars submission
  • August thru September: complete draft 3 of UF #1; work on query, synopsis, blurb, etc.
    • August 3 = PitchWars subs open (!)
  • September thru October: complete draft 3 of UF #1  if not finished, send to CPs/NTSFW; additional plotting/planning for UF #2
    • PitchWars revisions (if picked)
  • November: finish draft of UF #2 for NaNoWriMo; work on query, synopsis, Twitter pitches, etc. for UF #1
  • December: finish draft of DF; work on draft 4 for UF #1
    • December 1 = Pitmad for UF #1
    • December ? = SFFPit for UF #1

 

So yeah. Wouldn’t that be nice if all those things got done? I’d probably hate myself next Feb. with all the revisions I’d have to look forward to. But it’d be so worth it.

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Ready, set, NaNoWri- , er, NaNoEdMo

*Crawls out of first draft slag.*

Suffice to say neither January nor February went according to the revision plan, but that’s the good thing about being an unpublished, un-contracted writer – you determine the deadline. If you need more time to fix the story, or talk yourself off the “All these words are complete shit” cliff about fifty times, you have it.

Finding a revision process that works for me has been the most frustrating thing. I’ve littered my desk with scene cards, post-its, notebooks, and craft books. I still don’t know if any of that will do any good, but hey, at least I’ve got a more cohesive, concise outline! I’ll just have to throw myself off the deep end and figure out what works. Much like drafting.

And to help kick me into the pool’s edge, NaNoEdMo begins tomorrow! It’s similar to NaNoWriMo, only it’s for editing/revising rather than drafting, and the goal is 50 hours rather than 50,000 words. Granted, 50 hours doesn’t sound like a lot… until you’re staring down the barrel of a character who won’t cooperate. Now, I’m not very good at making and sticking to my own writing goals, but NaNo’s have always worked for me. So thank heavens NaNoEdMo has a similar suggested structure. Just a touch over 1.5 hours a day for 31 days will get you to 50 hours. Substantial rewrites, grammar/spelling errors, and the like all count as acceptable “edits” for the event.

If you’d like to join me in revision nightmares funtimes, you can sign up at http://nanoedmo.com/ .
** If you have problems registering, contact the Webmaster (see Contact Us page) and he can help set you up.

 

See you all after the first breakdown! Har har har….

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2014 / 2015 Housekeeping – Pt. 1

Let’s just say I’ve fallen behind on putting up book reviews. I mean, behind. We’re talking 10 books from 2014 and 3 from 2015 – by release date, because I’m pretty sure I read more than three books this year…

Anyway, in the spirit of moving to a new year, time to get those puppies done! *Note – may be some spoilers in the reviews, so be warned!

 

1). Crimson Son by Russ Linton – A superhero story that doesn’t center on the super hero, Spencer is the son of Crimson Mask (the world’s most powerful augment), but doesn’t have any powers. Spencer’s one part cynic and two parts hormonal teen, which made connecting with him a bit of a struggle. The pacing, at times, seems to drag despite the urgency of Spencer’s quest. But the extended list of characters, from Hurricane and Hound to the Black Beetle himself, help round him out. It’s a story of survival, finding the truth, and, in a way, coming home. The truth and reality Spencer gets in the end aren’t butterflies and rainbows, but it’s enough for him to begin to heal.
Rating – 3.5

 

2) Premonitions by Jamie Schultz – I don’t know whether to call this a supernatural heist book, or maybe just urban fantasy heist? In any case, it was a fun read. Getting to know Karyn and co. takes a bit of time. There’s kind of an obligatory typecasting – there’s a silent guy who serves as the muscle, a magic-user who’s a bit more neurotic, Karyn as the leader and pre-cognitive Ace-in-the-hole. And then you have Anna. I still don’t know what Anna’s purpose is, other than a foil to Karyn and possibly the main gun. Strange to say, the highlight of the book is Karyn’s addiction. To keep her pre-cog abilities from rendering her to a comatose state, Karyn has to take an illegal drug called Blind. Her source dries up at the time shit is really hitting the fan. Seeing Karyn’s breakdown and flight from her team hit all the right notes. Her struggle is what brings the book together, and whether she gives in or overcomes it, well… you’ll just have to read!
Rating- 3.5

 

3) Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier – As always, Juliet is a master of elegant prose and fantasy with a historical feel. Blackthorn and Grim are two unlikely companions, but work well together. The premise promises to be interesting throughout the series –  saved from execution by the Fae, Blackthorn must give help to anyone who asks. If she can do this for seven years, she’ll get her revenge on the very man who imprisoned her in the first place.  Her first task is to help save a company of women nearly drowned in a local pool. It turns out one of them is betrothed to a local prince, and when she doesn’t fit the mold or personality he expected, he elicits Blackthorn’s help too.  It’s not a heart-pounding pace, and sometimes Blackthorn’s attitude makes it difficult to sink completely into the story, but has a happy ending typical of Marillier’s work – somebody ends up happy, but maybe not the titular character.
Rating – 3.8

 

4) Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – This is the one we’ve been waiting for, guys! The book where we finally get to meet Roland, Kate’s notorious father who eats, sleeps, and breathes magic – and it lives up to the hype, though in a different way than expected. Kate is as sharp and sarcastic as ever as she tries to unravel the mystery of who actually killed a Master of the Dead. Hugh returns, still a giant pain in the ass. Packed with action, sprinkled with a few dark moments, and we get to see more of what’s in store if Kate fails against her father. It didn’t hit me as hard as Magic Slays or Magic Rises, but from this point, the clock starts ticking to when Kate will have to actually fight her father.
Rating – 4

 

5) The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley – Wow – this one was a ride. Plant magic, parallel worlds converging, and gender-bending societies made this a helluva standout in epic fantasy. The multiple POVs lend well to the broad scope of the problem – to the worlds converging and the threatened destruction/subjugation. Though Lilia is a problem child, she promises to be more important as Oma grows closer in the sky (meaning book 2, Empire Ascendant). Parts of the book reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness in the way Hurley deals with gender identification and roles. The ending did feel a bit rushed, and not as clear as it needed to be in explaining what Lilia was doing. That said, it’s a refreshing addition to the epic genre.
Rating –  4

Side note: Hurley is one of the writers whose blog you should be following if you aren’t already. She gives bluntly honest, down-to-earth insight on her struggles and successes as a writer. Especially great for young writers or aspiring writers who think they’re going to make it big with one book and then not need to have a day job to support their writing.

 

6) Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews – Woooo buddy I needed a cold drink after this one. This new series by Ilona and Gordon promises to be a scorcher. They build another impressive world where magic is hereditary, and houses form out of the families with the greatest abilities. Nevada is good at being a private eye, helping keep her family afloat so they don’t lose their home and livelihood. Even though she gets in over her head, she does what’s necessary to level the playing field. She’s not a chosen one. She doesn’t come from a great house. She doesn’t get rescued. She’s headstrong, but not in the same way as Kate from the Kate Daniels series. With Mad Rogan in the mix, I can’t wait to see the fireworks in the future books.
Rating – 4.5

 

7) Clariel by Garth Nix (biggest letdown of 2014)

Nix’s Old Kingdom books were probably the biggest reason/inspiration I got into writing. The world is so different from the standard dragons and wizards; magic is free, potent, and dangerous not just to the living, but the dead as well. There are gates in death, and those who die aren’t truly at rest until they pass beyond the final one. I hoped Clariel, would give a greater picture of the Old Kingdom before the Great Charter Stones were broken with royal blood, before the role of Abhorsen became incredibly important. I guess it does, to some extent, but fails to explain any of it. Clariel is unlikeable throughout the whole story; she has virtually no arc or development. She continuously ponders about ditching her parents’ ambitions and living in the forest as a ranger, yet does nothing about it. The plot is shallow, and the antagonists’ motives/plans are so easy to read it’s honestly like watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith all over again. But those things, really, aren’t the biggest letdown – that award goes to the world building. The story takes place mostly in Belisaere, with Clariel’s mother taking position there in some respect to her goldcraft. Very, very little is done with respect to building up the guilds, their history, and their importance to the city and King. Basically all the magic and wonder created in the other Old Kingdom books is completely missing here. It’s just unpleasant all the way around.
Rating – 2

 

8) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (favorite of 2014)

Part historical, part suspense, and with what seems like a speculative element thrown in – it’s an unusual, but fantastic combination. Nella begins as a romantic hoping her new husband will love her, and by the end she’s no token wife. She truly becomes a head of the household, at least what’s left of it. The miniatures are as stunning as the writing is beautiful. And I still don’t know who the miniaturist is! What floors me, though, is how much this book brings to mind British and American literature taught in late high-school and undergrad. Oddly, it reminds me of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. But better, way better than the Dickens, Chopin, and the like taught in college. Seriously a fantastic read,  and I can’t wait to read Burton’s The Muse coming out later this year.
Rating – 4.8

 

No, I didn’t count wrong. The other five reviews will be put up in the next week (probably while I’m procrastinating revisions). Maybe I’ll stop letting them get so out of control this year!

 

Read on, write on, eat cake. Happy New Year!

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Life Lessons – the dentist

If you have a bad experience with a dentist, don’t wait more than a year to find a new one. Especially don’t wait five.

Short story time!

My first root canal (~5 years ago) went poorly. I received no pain medicine ahead of time, and they had to numb me three times before I could no longer feel the drill digging through an old filling. After the roots were out, the dentist felt the need to marvel at them with the assistants while I sat patiently angrily waiting. When it came time for the permanent crown a few days or maybe a week later, they filed or drilled down a healthy tooth on the top to get the crown to fit.

Needless to say I never went back.

About five years and one checkup later and I now need:

-wisdom teeth out(granted, knew this was coming)
-two root canals

And that’s just what they’ve highlighted as the most pressing issues to take care of. Knowing my history with cavities, if I’d gone sooner they probably could’ve gotten by as just needing fillings.

I do brush and floss, I swear. Some people are just more prone to cavities, and other people more susceptible to gum issues.

If nothing else, the new dentist and hygienist we’re going to now seem to be wonderful. They explained everything, assuaged my worries about the wisdom teeth, and didn’t bombard us with every little thing wrong – just the most urgent issues. For tomorrow’s root canal, I’m optimistic that it’ll be a much smoother and less painful process.

 

So yeah, don’t put off dental healthcare, it’ll just come back to bite you in the ass later.

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