August Writing Update

Hello, much neglected blog! I’ve barely updated over the past month for a couple reasons. At first it’s because the writing wasn’t going well at all. I just found myself in a funk. I didn’t want to write anything longer than a tweet, never mind a novel or even a blog post or book review on goodreads. With a new project on the horizon, that wasn’t a good thing at all. After a few weeks of very little production (and, let’s be honest, all of it was pretty shitty), I decided the only way to deal with it was to completely change everything that I was doing, and hope for the best.

And you know what, it’s actually worked!

As someone who’s been writing in the mornings for over a year now, I decided to move my writing time to 9:30-10:30 at night. I also changed from laptop only writing to pen and paper. I scrapped the novel idea that’s been lingering in my head for a while now for one that I’ve only been mulling over for a few months. And instead of obsessing over word counts, I began to keep track of the amount of pages I had written. This project has only been going on for a little over a week, but it’s been going really well. I’m almost afraid to talk about it, as I don’t want to jinx myself! But needless to say, it’s a portal fantasy novel intended for adults, meaning I can be a little freer about the f-bombs than I was with my YA stuff.

Writing a lengthily project by hand provides an interesting challenge. It irritates my wrists a little bit, which have never been the same since I worked in a call center for two years and spent the whole day typing, but the fact that I immediately go to bed afterwards and don’t use them for a solid 8 hours helps a lot. It’s slowed down my production some- I write pretty fast, but I type faster- but it seems to be worth the sacrifice. I’ve also burned through four pens already, but given that the majority of my pen collection had, previous to this summer, been living in the old Civic for god knows how long. It’s a miracle some of them even work at all!

I guess this teaches me the drawbacks of being too comfortable. Do the same thing over and over again for too long and writing can just get boring. This is great motivation to switch up my schedule every now and then. Hopefully by next month, I’ll have written many more pages!

Everything I Read in July 2014

Very light on the reading this month. Guess reading all of those Hugo moms wore me out a bit. Links to to goodreads, when available.

Books
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Audiobooks
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson- BEST AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Short Ebooks
The Exchange Officers by Brad Torgensen
The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang- BEST SHORT FICTION OF THE MONTH
Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages
The Fisherman’s Net by Laura Lam

Graphic Novels
Justice League Dark, Vol 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire

Comics
All New X-men #29
Angel and Faith, Season 10: #4
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 10: #4-5
Guardians of the Galaxy #16- BEST COMIC THAT’S NOT SAGA
Lazarus #9
Rocket Girl #5
Saga #20-21- BEST COMIC OF THE MONTH
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6
Superior Spider-man #3-5
Veil #3
The Wake #8-9
Wolverine #9-10

July Writing Update

I used to do my writing updates around the end of the month, but given that I already do a couple monthly posts around that time, I’ve decided to move my writing based posts to more mid month. I’ll continue to talk about my goals and the projects I’m working on, but the posts will probably be a little more fleshed out. This isn’t to say that I won’t make any more posts about my writing outside of this general update, but it’s good to have a designated place for it.

So here we go!

At the beginning of July, I finished up the second draft of Hero of Darkwood. This means that the book is finally ready for my first readers. This is always when I’m at my most antsy. Hero of Darkwood hasn’t been seen by anyone but me since I started it for National Novel Writing month last year. That’s just over eight months! There’s always the terror that people won’t like it, or worse, they won’t be able to be specific about what didn’t work. It’s one thing if someone says “I found the magic system to be confusing,” because then you you know what the problem is, and can try to fix it. If they just shrug and say “it just didn’t work for me,” then you’re in trouble.

Since then I’ve put The Dragon Guard, a short story I wrote during the spring, through another round of revisions and submit it to a magazine. Hopefully, it will be accepted!

Looking forward, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what project I want to work on next. I have a great novel idea that I want to dive into, but I always assumed that I would work on it during National Novel Writing Month. Now, as I wait on my first readers, I find myself with some spare writing time. Right now, I’m submitting to agents (just did two today), but I know that I’ll only be able to do that for so long without going nuts. Part of me says I should work on short fiction, but none of those ideas are developed to the point where I’m ready to start putting pen to paper. But this new novel on the other hand…

The working title is The River King. The River King was actually my first NaNoWriMo project, which I did back in 2004 when I was a wee a sophomore in college. I managed to hit 50,000 words, but never finished the actual novel (a pattern that continued until my third NaNoWriMo, Leader of Darkwood). Unfortunately, the fact that it’s unfinished is the least of this novel’s problems. Beyond the typical issues that come with rough drafts, the novel has some serious issues with characterization and worldbuilding, and well… logic. Basically, the entire rough draft (or proto-draft) needs to be scrapped and completely re-written. So regardless of when I start writing it, I do need to tackle some prewriting first, a new experience for me. I do a ton of thinking about a project before I actually sit down to write it (as you can see, this idea has been in my head for ten years), but while I’m still not much of an outliner, I suspect that actually sitting down and organizing my thoughts will result in a stronger rough draft so you know, I don’t have these huge issues in characterization, worldbuilding, and logic (well, maybe logic just a little).

And if everything goes well, I should start to cobble together the first draft in August. Now this might mean that I’ll be too burnt out to do NaNo this year, which would be a bummer (it typically takes a month and a half for me to write a rough draft, and I don’t see The River King as being any longer than Hero of Darkwood), but if I already have the idea in my head, and it’s quite well formed, what’s the point of waiting?

Presenting The Civic 2!

So on Friday, I brought The Civic in for inspection, a nail biting experience for the owner of a fourteen year old car. because whenever I bring my vehicle in to the shop, it comes out needing something that costs hundreds of dollars to fix. At first, this inspection seemed to be going pretty well. I needed new front brakes and rotors (a problem I had been noticing for a little while, but since their wasn’t any ice on the ground, I didn’t see it as being that big of a deal. God I hope my mom doesn’t read these), which would only cost me $300. Not too bad. Unfortunately, my back bumper also needed to be replaced, and since it was July 4th, the parts places weren’t open. The mechanic wasn’t sure how much it would cost me, but he said it could be another $300 dollars and he’d get back to me on Monday. So he started working on my breaks, and in the couple hours it took to do that, my husband and I started talking. Was it worth spending $600 on a car that wasn’t worth all that much more than that? Was I basically just throwing my money away every time I patched my car back together again? How long would it take before the next $600 repair came in? We looked at cars on sale online, focusing on lightly used vehicles that were just a few years old.

And the next day, I found myself the proud owner of a two-year-old Honda Civic!

thecivic2

So basically, it’s the exact same car as my old one, only A LOT newer (and white instead of black, which means that winter is going to be extra interesting this year). Days later, I continue to be baffled by the new features offered by this car. Like a gauge that measure what my exact gas mileage is, and how many miles I have left before refueling (seriously, this is pretty hypnotic). Or a USB port where I can charge my iphone. Ooh! And an auxiliary port so I don’t have to depend on faulty FM transmitter to listen to my audiobooks over the car speakers. And four doors instead of two! And a CD player that didn’t die five years ago! And air conditioning that works even when it’s 80 degrees or hotter. And windows that, when you roll them down, ALWAYS GO BACK UP.

I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy with this new car. It may even be worth having to deal with a monthly car payment.

The Fox is up at The Lorelei Signal

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My short story, The Fox, can be found on the July Issue of The Lorelei Signal, which focuses on telling great stories that feature complex female characters. My complex female character is Vi. As the avatar for The Fox God, Vi has been gifted with stealth, speed, and smarts, making her a worthwhile choice for theft, espionage, and the occasional assassination. Unfortunately, these gifts come with a price.

As I’ve mentioned here before, The Fox was my attempt to mesh together two of my favorite things: the snarky urban fantasy heroine, with a traditional fantasy setting. I had a ton of fun writing it for a lot of reasons, but I think what I liked the most about the experience was the fact that Vi is not really a nice person. I know I constantly feel pressured to be seen as nice or pleasant (admittedly, it’s kind of part of my day job, given that I deal with customers all the time), so it was really freeing to be able to write from the perspective of someone that didn’t care much about such niceties.

The story is currently up for free on The Lorelei Signal website (there’s even an awesome illustration by Marge Simon!). A print version will be released next month, under the magazine Mystic Signals.

Everything I Read In June 2014

As you see, I got a bunch of the short fiction reading done for the Hugos last month. Links lead to reviews on goodreads, but I’d be willing to discuss in more detail here. I went out of my comfort zone a lot last month. Sometimes the results were gone, sometimes not so much.

Novels
Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley

Audiobooks
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson- BEST AUDIOBOOK

Short Fiction
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal- BEST SHORT FICTION
The Waiting Stars by Aliette De Bodard
If you were a dinosaur, my love by Rachel Swirsky
The Snake Charm by Laura Lam
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day

Literary Magazines
Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014
Inaccurate Realities: Magic
Luna Station Quarterly Issue 018

Graphic Novels
Untold Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Gina Biggs- BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL
Avengers: The Enemy Within by Kelley Sue DeConnick
Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls by Scott Snyder

Comic Books
All New X-men #28
Angel and Faith #2-3
Black Widow #6-7
Cyclops #2- BEST COMIC BOOK THAT’S NOT SAGA
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #3
Guardians of the Galaxy #15
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider Man #2
Mighty Avengers #10
Saga #19- BEST COMIC BOOK
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #4-5
She-Hulk #4-5
Superior Spiderman #1-2
Velvet #5
Wolverine #7-8

Everything I Watched in June

Wow! Apparently, I watched a lot of stuff this month. Here are my thoughts!

In Theaters
The Fault In Our Stars- Watching this movie really made me feel old because my party (which consisted of my husband, my mother-in-law, and my mother-in-law’s boyfriend) were clearly the oldest people in the theater. Reality check aside, The Fault in Our Stars was a strong adaptation of a very good book. Yes, there were a handful of moments that felt stronger on page then on screen, but the fact that they were clearly committed to bringing The Fault in Our Stars to the screen rather than trying to turn it into a Nicholas Sparks or Twilight-esque film really worked well for me. The actors (especially Willem DaFoe!) are well cast, and the film does a great job of balancing the funny moments with the more serious ones. From what I’ve heard, the success of this low budget film may result in two more John Green adaptations (Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska), which I am looking forward to. B+

Edge of Tomorrow- Where did this film come from?! Edge of Tomorrow takes familiar tropes (a Groundhog Day-type scenario, an alien invasion) and really makes them their own. The suspense is appropriately nail biting, the action is top notch, and the acting is really good as well. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt play off each other quite well, she as the experienced solider, and he as the coward who is forced to become a hero. The movie possesses some occasional nonsense, but it’s pretty forgivable. Wish more people would see this one. B+

How to Train Your Dragon 2- While not quite as memorable as the first one, How to Train Your Dragon 2 does a fabulous job at expanding the known world and bringing our characters to the next level. I love the fact that even though Hiccup more resembles the more traditional leading man now, he’s still the same guy from before: all about communication and innovation, not violence. There are some really touching moments in this film, and is succeeds on a visual level as well. I loved the unique creature designs for the numerous dragons, as well as the exciting arial sequences. B+

Maleficent- And well… they can’t all be great. Maleficent isn’t exactly a bad film, but the wasted potential is just painful. Angeline Jolie gives a compelling performance as Maleficent, and the feminist retake on the Sleeping Beauty myth is very well done. But ye gads! What sloppy storytelling. Even as a relatively forgiving viewer there were far too many events that occurred because they needed to keep the story going in the direction they wanted to, not because it made any type of logical sense. Also, the “good fairies” annoyed the hell out of me, and the CGI was kind of inconsistent. I liked the character of Diaval though. I’ve always had a soft spot for shapeshifters. C

On DVD/Blu-Ray
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a webseries that ran on youtube from 2012-2013, retelling the classic novel Pride and Prejudice in the form of a vlog. I enjoyed watching it so much that I supported the kickstarter for the DVD release the day that it was announced. Numerous delays later, I finally ended up getting my DVD. it’s a really nice product. There are some sound issues with Lydia’s cellphone vlogs that become VERY OBVIOUS when dealing with the bigger screen, but I found that I ended up really enjoying watching these all over again. It does such a wonderful job of updating this classic tale, knowing just when to stick to the source material, and when to diverge. Every character is wonderfully cast and the show is very well paced. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is clearly something special the only comes around once in a great while. I’m quite happy to have my own copies of the DVDs now. A

Hero- And now for something completely different! Hero is a gorgeous Chinese wuxia film that came out a little over ten years ago. It focuses on a name called “Nameless” who has said to have killed the nation’s deadliest assassins for the King. Only it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s easy to focus on Hero’s beautifully choreographed action sequences and scenery, but what really draws me in is the role of storytelling. With every retelling of Nameless’s story, the stories become more complex, the characters more real, which continues to enhance the viewers experience. The resolution to the tale is probably not going to mesh well with many western viewers, but its unconventional take on heroism certainly provides the viewer with food for thought. A-

Wreck-It Ralph- Some movies just get better with every rewatch. Wreck-Ralph is a fabulous film about the secret life of video game characters. What really impresses me is how well this kids film deals with issues that adult ones struggle with. The cast is juggled expertly, with every one of its four central characters having a clear character arc. It also handles the issue of gender exceptionally well, and the plot has some genuine surprises. As an animated film, it’s true that the animation itself is beginning to show its age, but the voice acting remains top notch. Very happy to have watched this again. A-

On Netflix
The Host- Welcome to the awkward cliff notes version of The Host! Where it’s clear that the film makers care about keeping hard core fans pleased by keeping in all of the key scenes from the book, but don’t give a shit about making a good movie. Watch, as certain elements that work fine on page look absolutely ridiculous on screen. If you’re just looking for a relatively faithful adaptation on the Stephenie Meyer book, then you should do fine. If you care at all about pacing, set pieces, script, or (despite the actors’ best efforts) performances, do not watch this. D

Robot and Frank- How did this little gem of a film pass me by? Robot and Frank is a charming movie about an elderly man who gets a helper robot so he doesn’t have to go into a nursing home. At first, he resents it, until he realizes that the robot can help him reclaim his past as a jewel thief. Robot and Frank is a wonderfully acted film that mulls over the relationship between humans and technology, as well as the realities of aging. Add in some fun caper elements and a few twists and you get a genuinely enjoyable film. A-