Questions for a Reader

I was invited to copy these questions and answer them myself. By invited, I mean that fellow blogger John Guillen posted these questions and knew that others would do so after reading his answers. If you haven’t read his blog, you really should. He’s hilarious, and incredibly opinionated about all things books. But, he’s open to criticism, and his posts regularly blow up with comments from other bookish types like myself. The friendly dialogue between writers and readers is often the highlight of my mornings.

Anyway, my writing has been a bit thin, but my reading is alive and well. So, in an effort to keep writing, even if it’s just here, I’m going to answer some questions about my reading experiences.

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
I don’t have to look at my shelves, or ponder. This one I know in my heart. ‘Lucas’ by Kevin Brooks. I found the book when it was sparkling new on a shelf in Borders sometime around seventh grade.It went everywhere with me. After I’d read it a few times, others in my life borrowed it, adding their own smells and textures to the pages. My mother, my crowd of friends in the cafeteria. My best friend’s mom. One by one this book swapped hands until it came back home to me.
One summer, when I was in college, I was at Trevor’s house. A huge thunderstorm rolled in, pelting the neighborhood with a micro-burst  while my car windows were down. ‘Lucas’ was on the backseat. I got there in time to save my upholstery, and to keep the book from falling apart, but now it has a thick wrinkle of pages instead of the slick feel of publishing. At first I was distraught. I’m pretty sure I cried at the damage, but now it’s natural to me. Right as rain.

2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
My current read is ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s finally starting to pick up again, and I’m excited to see where it goes. My previous read was ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s the first book of the series I’m reading, and it was just lovely. Magical. I keep telling myself that the book I’ll read next is ‘The Waste Lands’ by Steven King. It’s waiting patiently in my box at work, begging me to pick up where I left off. But, ‘The Way of Kings’ is calling me to reread it, and ‘The Dragon Prince’ by Melanie Rawn is looking mighty tempting…

3. What book did everyone like and you hated?
Plenty of school books. ‘The Cay’, ‘Tangerine’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The popular ones aren’t really fair to use for this answer, because I haven’t read them. For instance, ’50 Shades of Grey’. Not reading it, ever. No matter who claims it’s amazing. Also, and I’m sorry John, but I just can’t bring myself to read ‘The Hunger Games’. I’ve read excerpts of chapters for writing classes, and was unimpressed. Now with all the hype, I just can’t be convinced to give it a shot.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
The Hunger Games’? That’s not even true, I don’t tell myself I’ll read it, I tell the foaming-at-the-mouth fans, so they’ll get off my back. Probably some book that’s been turned into a movie. Like ‘The Winter’s Tale’ or ‘Water for Elephants’. I want to read them, but they’re just so far outside of what I usually read, that making time for them just isn’t likely.

5. Which book are you saving for “retirement”?
I’m not really sure what to make of this question. Is this something people do? Also, I’m not even 25 yet. That’s a lot of years on the shelf to not actually read something. Also, why put “retirement” in quotes? Is it a code word I’m just not getting? Or perhaps a subtle stab at the likelihood of anyone retiring? What do you want from me, you stupid question?

6. Last page: read it first or wait till the end? 
This… this is a real life problem. You see, I never start with the last page. I’m not that crazy. But, if a book is really good, I do inevitably flip through the pages, hunting for some hint or indicator about what’s going to happen. And I inevitably ruin some aspect of the story for myself. Usually I discover a beloved character’s death or betrayal. Then I slam the book closed groaning and moaning, and Trevor looks over at me and says, “Ruin the book for yourself again?”

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside? 
I love reading the acknowledgements! And the dedication and author bio! These are snippets of the author, in a much purer voice. They are speaking to me directly in an effort to thank the bazillion people who helped them publish their book. Also, it’s a good place to find names of editors and agents, so I can start researching when it’s time for me to query such people.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
This question has me doubting my reading habits. There aren’t many characters I would actually want to be, they’ve all endured too much. But, probably someone from ‘The Stormlight Archive’, if only to experience that world.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
I have several. As I child I was a voracious reader, and many of my books were gifts, and so have inscriptions on the first pages. A copy of ‘The Black Stallion’ from my 3rd grade teacher. A hardback edition of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ from my grandmother. A copy of The complete ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. But my favorite is my copy of ‘The Complete Sherlock Holmes’. My dad found the tome at a yard sale, and wrote a lovely inscription. And though I’ve still never read it cover to cover, I cherish the book itself, and the message my father left for me.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you mean.
I mean, what are you fishing for here? Most of my books are bought from brick and mortar bookstores, preferably of the indie variety. There are several on my shelf that came from Estate Sales, and my Mother-in-Law’s work. She used to work for Bookbyte, they sell textbooks, but occasionally people send other books. Her boss would gather up the good ones and sell them for a buck, no matter what edition or print, and then match dollar for dollar spent and donate to a local food shelter. I definitely bolstered my collection, and didn’t see much of my tip money while she worked there. ‘The Dragon Prince’ would be one of those books.

This is where John paused, and wrote a separate post for the remaining 10 questions… but, Trevor’s still asleep, so I’m forging ahead.

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
I don’t think so. I’ve bought copies of cherished books for friends and family. But I’ve never given away one of my own. I send children’s books home to my young siblings for their birthdays and Christmas. Last Christmas the littles got a copy of ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and it’s movie, and I gave my oldest brother, who was 8 at the time, the complete ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. The year before that it was ‘The Lorax’, the book and the movie. This year the littles will get ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and its film adaptation. And Matthew, I’m starting him on Harry Potter this year. One book at a time.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
‘Lucas’. For a solid year it lived in my backpack. It’s traveled with me, my mom, and a bunch of my friends. I take it with me whenever I fly, and it’s even been to Paris and London.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
Kind of the opposite. I loved ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, and now it’s irritating. But, probably Shakespeare in general. I was impatient and unwilling to spend the time it takes to absorb and appreciate the language and word games he played. Now, I find him much more entertaining. Also, for the sake of honesty, I haven’t been out of high school for ten years yet…

14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
I find lots of things. Mostly odd bookmarks, like receipts, tissue paper, the like. But my favorite are notes. I used to hate the very thought of writing notes in the margins, but I do it now. I find definitions for words I don’t know, and jot them in, so that the next time I read it, I won’t have to look it up. Or, if I’m reading something critically, I make notes about the writing. But discovering other people’s notes is always the best!

15. Used or brand new?
This is interesting, because the other two answers I’ve seen to this question have both been ‘new’. I can’t fathom it. Unless it’s a book that’s just been released, I don’t tend to buy new. I buy new when there is no other option, as was the case in my hunt for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’.But, I love used books. There’s so much magic in them. But, I’ve rambled about this before.

16. Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
He took enough opiates for the masses… Sorry, that was rude, but I couldn’t pass it up. Just too funny. I love Stephen King. His short stories continuously blow me away, and his novels are wonderful as well. His style is gritty and visceral, and it leaves the hairs raised along your skin. Love him.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
No. I’ve seen movies come close, and be just as satisfying, but they are never better.

18. Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
So many! But number one for me would be ‘Eragon’. It was such a bad, bad movie. And an even worse video game, if that’s possible.

19. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks being excluded from this question?
The short answer to this is, I’m always hungry. Whether or not that has anything to do with reading, I just can’t say.

20. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
Patrick Michael Finn. He was my Creative Writing department chair in College. We have completely different tastes and styles of writing, and reading, but he’s never steered me wrong. Some of the most impacting stories I’ve read because he recommended it, or required it for a class.
Also, anything Brandon Sanderson name drops in his blog/tours/ or lectures.

 

And there you have it. A morning well spent, writing about reading. Happy Monday, and Labor Day!

BZ

 

The First Day Back

I’m about to log on to Skype and have my first ‘Speaking’ appointment for my french class.

 

Ok, it’s not really my french class. It’s this sort of, ‘hey don’t be completely unprepared for french 102″ thing. I think I talked about it. Basically, my instructor is totally awesome, and offered to let me participate along with the class, so that I don’t get rusty. Or, in my case, to shake off the four years of rust I’ve layered up since my 101 class.

And though the alphabet and numbers are beyond familiar to me, I’m still really nervous. I haven’t spoken french in around four years.And I’ve never spoken into a microphone, direct into another person’s ear, so they can hear every little nuance. What if my accent is terrible? What if I completely choke and say something so incredibly wrong that she laughs at me?

Gah!

Add to it that I don’t really know how to use Skype, and I’m wigging out a little.

But, I used to be really good at French, and I have to remember that, most of the people she listens to have never spoken French before. My accent will probably be one of the better ones she hears this term.

But, I have to humble. Don’t want to get cocky in 101 only to get my ass kicked in 102.

And now I’m back to nervous…

It’s like a performance, in front of someone I don’t even know. I have no idea what she sounds like, or if she’s even nice. That’s not entirely true. She was nice enough to include me, and in my experience most professors are nice. It’s hard to be a total douche bag educator.

Fifteen minutes to go. A part of me wants to cram and re-read everything, but I know that I’m as practiced as I’m going to get. Time to put on that good old ‘fake it ’til you make it’ face.

The worst part about all these nerves? This isn’t even for a grade.

…I have really got to pull it together.

 

BZ

The Healing Powers of a Weekend

Friday’s post was a bit humdrum, and here I’m sitting on a new Monday feeling refreshed and motivated. It’s amazing what a weekend can accomplish.

Trevor and I were both off Saturday, our first day off together since our return from our Wedding Getaway. We slept in, cleaned house, and then opened any lingering wedding gifts and put them to good use.

An old co-worker of mine has returned to Salem, and is now a new co-worker of mine. He and his girlfriend came over for dinner, and true to form, Trevor pulled out all the stops.

Using the Apple Green KitchenAid stand mixer his parents got us, we made our own Spinach Spaghetti. We’d never had fresh pasta before, and I think I will never have boxed pasta ever again.

Trevor cooked down chopped bacon in white wine with cloves of garlic, and once that was done he cooked shrimp in it. The result was garlic bacon shrimp in a white wine sauce over spinach spaghetti. Add side caesar salad and garlic bread, and we all stopped talking for a solid thirty minutes.

Our mouths were otherwise engaged.

And so we spent the night, until we lay down, tipsy on wine. And finally I slept, relaxed and happy.

I’ve felt renewed since then. And wishing there had been leftovers.

Anyway, today’s goal is purely writing. I edited enough over the last couple weeks, but my word count has dwindled. I aim to fix that this week.

I’m still reading ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’, though my progress has been slow. The book is great, I’ve just been busy this past week. Hopefully the next few weeks will find me reading more.

Anyway, there’s work to be done, and only a few hours to spend on it. Have a good Monday Blogland!

BZ

The Comedown

I feel worn out. I’m not sure if it’s just the final comedown from all this wedding excitement, or if I’ve just reached the maximum amount of social exertion. It has been a very active week, going out with friends nearly every night. And, thanks to weird scheduling, I haven’t written anything new. I’ve got some editing done, but no writing.

I aim to change that today. Though my time is still short. I’m still reading ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ and haven’t made nearly the progress I would like; only 176 pages in.

Anyway, music is pumping along the umbilical cord that is my headphones, extending a lifeline and an escape. With headphones in the world around me fades out, leaving me alone in my head to coax characters to life.

I don’t feel like writing, if I’m honest. But, right now, I don’t feel like much of anything. I feel grey. I’m not sad. But I’m not happy, or even content. Nor am I angry or excited. I just am.

And tired.

Keep an eye out for a new page. I’ve considered it for awhile now, and realized that it’s something I should have included from the outset of this blog. Almost three years later I’m finally including it.

Anyway, I’ve got work to do. See you around.

BZ

The Literary Crevices of Salem, OR

I finished reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ yesterday. I toted the book around with me for the rest of the evening, unwilling to relinquish it to its place on my bookshelves. In fact, it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for me to decide I’m ready to put it away.

Buying the sequel will help. I spent most of my day off loitering the stacks of Salem’s various indie bookstores. That’s one of the things that enamored me to this small city. There is no Borders, no Barnes and Noble, not even a Walden’s Books in one of the malls.

But, there’s The Book Bin downtown, which has new and used books spread over two floors. Being downtown it tends to cater more toward the older generations, with a large selection of literary and general fiction.

The Book Bin Downtown

The Book Bin Downtown

But, they have a second location, just down the street from my work, The Book Bin East. This location, formerly Borders, caters more to my generation, with sprawling shevles crammed with Sci-Fi/Fantasy, both new and used, and a children’s/teen lit section that rivals any big chain.
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There’s The Book Habit, which is tucked away beneath a restaurant. Only used books live there, stacked two deep in horizontal rows on the shelves. They don’t even use a computerized register, and their organization and inventory are both mysteries. I only visit the ‘Habit’ when I’ve got the time to kill on an adventure in book hunting.
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The Paperback Exchange sits on a one-way street, in an old building whose windows are thick with the dusty grime of novels left neglected for too long. This store is probably my least favorite. It feels like sifting through the forgotten remains of someone’s former life. Dirty. The pricing makes no sense, and often can’t be found. I once stacked up a pile that, according to the numbers penciled onto the title pages, should have cost me upwards of $20, but once at the register the clerk/owner/hoarder told me the total was $14.

To this day, I’m not sure how she came to that total. The books are cheap there, and occasionally you’ll find an unexpected gem tucked away in some cobweb encrusted corner.
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Across the river I discovered The Reader’s Guide, a wonderful store in West Salem. They have new and used books, and today I found a real gem there; a hardback copy of ‘The Way of Kings’! I tore it from the shelf and cradled it against my chest, as if hugging a long lost child. Needless to say, I bought it, and at a steal of a price, $14.

This store is in a great location, but the building doesn’t have a proper sign. Instead there’s a hand-painted “Books” at the top, and then A-frame signs on the sidewalk. It looks rickety and sad, until you walk through the door into a wide room filled with shelves, all organized, with the spines all neatly facing out. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Just one glimpse into the large store.

Just one glimpse into the large store.

About 20 minutes outside of Salem, in the tiny town of Independence, is a great little bookstore called Second Chance Books. It has a similar feel as The Book Habit, though a bit better organized. I don’t go there as often as I’d like, but if I find myself with a bit of free time, I’ll go there, pick out a book or five, and then grab a slice of pizza from the shop next door.
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And then there’s my favorite. The bookstore that hid from me for two years, right under my nose. Ultimately, the search for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ led me back here, to the place where I found ‘The Name of the Wind’. Back to Escape Fiction.
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This bookstore is something special. It’s a sprawling combination of warehouses, dedicated solely to fiction. There are about 8 different rooms, all bursting with different genres, and all organized neatly. But, there’s a quaint imperfection, some shelves housing novels in the usual, upright fashion, and some others stacked horizontally.

There’s magic in the twisting walkways defined by the placement of floor to ceiling shelving, a similar magic that can be found in the books themselves. It’s a place that makes my nerve endings light up, and at once soothes my soul and makes my heart race. They carry used fiction almost exclusively, but have an entire room dedicated to new Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It was here that I found the book I’d spent the better part of three hours hunting.

I’ll admit that I was holding out for a used copy. ‘The Name of the Wind’ had called to me, found me, and demanded in its own bookish way that I take it home. I wrote about it recently, claiming it full of magic.

I went to the Book Bin East on Monday, knowing I would need to find the sequel soon, but all their copies were new, and bound so tightly as to make flipping the pages difficult, as if the book were reluctant to share Kvothe’s story with me. I put each copy I touched back on the shelves.

And each store I visited today was the same. Either they didn’t have a single copy or it was new and secretive. There was no magic. But, in Escape Fiction, I found a copy that had promise. It’s still new, but it has the faint spark of magic, a hint at becoming what it’s predecessor is.

I bent to grab the book, and impatiently flipped through it at random. The binding was tight, but flexible. It promised to loosen up if I only gave it a chance. The words leapt at me from fresh, silken pages and again the smell wafted up at me. That familiar scent of printing and paper and glue. And though this copy lacked that warmth that comes from years spent read on patios and dinner tables, and in the wee hours under a blanket, they smelled of something else.

These pages held a fresh, clean smell. An eager smell. I cupped the book in my palm, and despite being over 300 pages longer than the first novel, it fit the same way, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in ‘Rothfuss’, spine in my palm, and my fingers wrapped comfortably around to the back.

Used books tend to hog all the magic, but occasionally a new book is born with a hint of it. I’ll be honored to help ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ gather its own worn version of magic.

And so my day was spent exploring the literary crevices of this town I now call home. Then I ate lunch and read about 85 pages of my find. I was hoping to write, or maybe edit today, but my time is running out. Tomorrow I work some weird hours, but Friday I should be in, and finally able to sit down to write.

I’m still excited for this story, and scenes are coming to me as the characters continue to develop. I will admit that the writing has been ridiculously easy this far, and though I fully expect for that to come to an end, I won’t fret about it.

When the writing gets hard, you just keep writing. Right?

I’m also excited about the edits I’m working on, although retyping and printing is looking like less and less fun. But, I’ve got a few people eager to read the second draft once it’s ready, and I’m just as eager to get it cleaned up for them. I could use the feedback.

Anyway, I’m off to work on editing a chapter while I wait for Trevor to show up. See you Friday, Blogland!

BZ

Freaky Fruit and Fiction

Nectarines look like butts.

I’ve thought this for a while now, but staring down the last part of my breakfast this morning, I was struck by it. My fruit has a butt crack. It should be disconcerting. I don’t want to eat a butt crack.

So I flipped the nectarine back to right-side-up, and tried to burn the mental image of the Crackterine.

And, despite its incredibly awkward appearance, that fruit was delicious.

I spent most of my evening reading last night. I hit page 432, and decided to call it quits. Kvothe had finally hit a happy moment in his life, and I figured it wouldn’t last long, so I’d better stop there.

I’m going to focus on my fiction today. As much as Kvothe’s story is calling to me, it’s not something I want to speed read. I need to read it and absorb it. And I want to enjoy it.

Yesterday I edited chapters 9, 10, and 11. That means I only have 10 more chapters to go and ‘Vessels’ will be in draft 2!

So, the music is on, I’ve had my breakfast, and my requisite coffee. It’s time to get to work!

BZ

The Proverbial Cover and Book Conundrum.

Some days are just slow. Not lazy, or laid back. Not even lackadaisical. Just slow.

I woke up and spent the beginning of my day reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. I bought the book secondhand on Tuesday. It’s Thursday and I’m 300 pages in.

I’ve had Rothfuss recommended to me many times, and I’ve picked it up in stores before, but always put it back. The main character’s name really put me off. I know it seems stupid, but I hate it when I don’t know how to pronounce character names.

Kvothe. I read it as Ki-vo-th. And it was cumbersome on the tongue. I put the book back on the shelf, and I ignored it every time I saw it.

But, on my visit to my favorite bookstore I found a copy and it was magnetic. The spine was well-creased, probably read multiple times before it was traded in. Those creases demanded to be touched.

I reached out, caressed the spine, and then pulled the book from its lonely spot on the shelf. I knew as I felt the weight of the book in my hands that I was going to buy it. There was magic in that book. Magic I couldn’t deny, though it didn’t keep me from trying.

Many of you are readers and writers, and you know what I’m talking about. Not every copy of a book is created equal. And though used books tend to hoard all the magic found in print, occasionally a new book is born with it.

I imagine that the criteria is different for every reader, but we all have it, and we all know when we’ve found a book that will be precious to us.

Firstly, ‘The Name of the Wind’ fits in my palm perfectly. The spine tucks into the flesh of my hand, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in the author’s name at the top as my fingers curl comfortably around to the back cover.

That was the first moment, when I felt that jolt of satisfaction at the feel of the book. Then I flipped through the pages, their edges brushing against my thumb easily. No snags, no sharp edges. Just a smooth rush against the pad of my thumb.

And then the smell hit me. I knew then that I would not be able to put the book back on the shelf. The warm, soft smell of old books wafted up to me as the pages brushed past my thumb, hinting at a past filled with late nights and traveling in purses and cars. This was a book that had been cherished.

Finally, I opened it. I flipped its pages carefully, reading the title page, the dedication, and the acknowledgements, all while getting a feel for the pages themselves. They’re thin, but not brittle.

All these pieces came together to weave a magnetic magic, binding me to the book, just as the pages are bound to the spine. It was undeniable.

And so I tucked it under my arm and continued through the store with my friend, as she explored the shop for the first time. As we walked I mulled over all my reasons for not buying the book.

I can’t pronounce the character’s name. I don’t like “traditional” fantasy stories. I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’. That pretentious guy at the Sanderson signing wouldn’t shut up about Rothfuss.

But, I knew, even as I tried to talk myself out of it, I would buy the book. I also knew that I’d start reading it that night. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be able to put it down, or that all my preconceived notions were completely wrong.

Calling this book a ‘Traditional’ fantasy novel is so far from accurate, it’s laughable. As for the character’s name? Kvothe? He tells you how to pronounce it, and by page 300, I’ve got it down; ‘Quothe’.

To say I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’ isn’t entirely truthful. ‘The Waste Lands’ hasn’t been cracked open in a while now. Somewhere in the story my interest faltered. And though I don’t intend to give up, I’m still struggling to find the motivation to pick it back up.

Now, as for the pretentious guy… Well, even jackasses can be right about things, they just tend to lord it over anyone who will listen.

I will say though, that everyone I’ve spoken with/overheard talk about Rothfuss praise him for his flowing and lyrical prose. And yes, for the genre, I think he’s definitely very poetic.

But, there haven’t been many lines that make me pause. Lines that force me to see the beauty in the language. Maybe I haven’t read far enough, or maybe I’m being too critical.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not criticizing the writing. He’s great, it’s crisp, flowing, and full of striking imagery. And it’s definitely not as spartan as authors I’m used to reading.

But, coming from a general fiction, and short story background, Rothfuss isn’t flowery, or even all that poetic. But, he’s not as cut and dry as Sanderson. Rothfuss’s words flow and have a life of their own, but not enough to take away from the story.

It’s kind of an ideal style. And I’m glad I’m reading it now, as I’m beginning my journey into the biggest world I’ve created.

I think that might be why my venture into ‘The Dark Tower’ slowed. A lull in the story coincided with the end of one novel and the beginning of another, and a venture into a totally new world and tone.

I wanted to read something gritty and sparse while I wrote ‘Cards’, but Jordinn’s story is totally different, and I think I needed help. I read Sanderson almost exclusively while writing ‘Vessels’, and though I don’t think my novel can even compare to something Sanderson wrote, I definitely took a lot of lessons from his prose.

In order to write Jordinn’s story, I needed to read a book that would teach me how. I think ‘The Name of the Wind’ is that book. At least for now.

Anyway, I’m supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she hasn’t responded to my texts yet. So, until she does, I’m going to be editing ‘Vessels’ and keep working on the new novel.

I wrote about 600 words on Tuesday while I waited for a friend, and though that is small progress, I want to keep the momentum going.

If you haven’t read Rothfuss, I recommend giving him a chance. So far I’ve found ‘The Name of the Wind’ highly addictive. It’s the first of three, and the third has yet to be released.

I’m already worried about the potential of having to wait.

Have a good day, Blogland!

BZ