Book Review – Changes (Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

This book was yet another wild ride with one Harry Dresden, Wizard. Probably the wildest installment yet, if I’m being honest. Harry is at his most desperate in this book, his back is up against the wall, and despite his better judgment he pulls his best friends and allies into the mix.

This was yet another wonderful narration by James Marsters. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks now, and it’s safe to say he’s my favorite narrator so far. I’m not sure all these Dresden books would keep getting five stars if it weren’t for his fantastic readings.

A point of warning: DO NOT read this book out of order. This book is very big on plot with a capital P. Now, thanks to the internet, I knew what happened ahead of time, which was at once disappointing and thrilling. I knew an event was coming, but couldn’t figure out how or when. I kept waiting for it to happen on every page. That definitely raised the stakes for me.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Now, because of the very… explosive nature of this ‘event’ this review is going to stay pretty vague for once. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

Without further ado, and only a tiny spoiler warning, let’s talk about Changes.

dresden changes
Notice that, unlike all the other titles in the series, this one is only one word.

As Chicago’s only wizard in the phone book, Harry is used to trouble showing up at his door. But when his ex-girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez, shows up, he knows it must be something really bad. Susan was attacked by a vampire of the Red Court way back in book three, leaving her partially turned. If she ever succumbs to her vampiric nature and kills someone, she will turn all the way, becoming a terrifying monster and shell of her former self.

Ya know, typical ex-girlfriend problems.

Well, Susan shows up, and her problem is a big one. The Red Court vamps have taken a child, killing the girl’s family, and are going to sacrifice her in a Bloodline Curse. The ritual will kill the girl’s entire family. You’d figure, so what? Her family’s all ready dead, per the vampire massacre.

But, of course, she’s Susan’s daughter. And if she’s Susan’s daughter… you guessed it. Congratulations, Harry! You’re a dad!

Eight years. That’s how old Maggie is. That’s how long Susan kept the secret of their daughter’s existence, and it is the final straw for Harry. He loves Susan, but this deception is the breaking point for him. He tells her that, no matter the outcome of their rescue attempt, there is no more hope for them to ever get back together.

Real talk here, I would have that this was the case ages ago. But, Harry is a stubborn fool, and it’s never more apparent than in this book. He goes to any and all lengths to rescue Maggie from the Red Court, consequences be damned.

Admittedly, the motivation of “that is my child and I will defend her with my life” did not work for me. That child may be his, but she was kept from you, secreted away without your knowledge. She doesn’t know you, and as calloused as it sounds, you don’t owe her anything. Especially not when Harry draws so many other people into the line of fire for her.

Dresden cast
Illustration from the Dresden Files Role-Playing Game by CharroArt

But of course, there’s the Bloodline Curse to tie up any lingering doubts in that regard, of which Harry has none. Thomas joins in willingly to save his own skin, seeing as his relation to Harry would equal his death should the Red Court succeed. But, Murphy, Sanya, and Molly? Yeah, they all want to help because they love Harry, but that’s a big ask, man.

Anywho, the gang is pretty much all on their own since the White Council is dealing with big problems of their own, as per usual, and even Ebeneezer’s plea that Harry let this be falls on deaf ears.

Harry’s immovable will is on full display in this book.

And really, that’s the bulk of the tale. Everything that happens to Harry in this book is directly related to his efforts to save Maggie. There are some past secrets that get revealed because of it, and (without going into too much detail) Harry sacrifices pretty much everything to try and save his little girl.

I’m already halfway through the next Dresden book, and will hopefully have it done by the time we leave for Arizona. I’m making slower progress on The Stone Sky than I’d like, but I still think I’ll finish it before we get on the plane. Dark Deeds, the third Keiko book, is next up after that, and it’s perfect travel reading, so I’m excited for that.

The Iron Gold book review will be up either Friday or Saturday, so keep a weather eye out for it.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

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Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 6

Hi Blogland,

It’s that time again! Let’s talk about goals!

Last Week

  • Publish two additional blog posts
  • Finish Sanctified Chapter 32. Post chapter 31.
  • Finish reading Iron GoldIron Gold
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada

 

How’d I do? 

  • Publish two additional blog posts
  • Finish Sanctified Chapter 32. Post chapter 31.
    • Chickity-check. Got some good responses on chapter 31, feeling good about chapter 33.
  • Finish Iron Gold
    • Honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to get this one done. I should know better than to doubt Pierce Brown. He swept me along just as I hoped. Done.
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Barely. Sweet Baby Jesus this project is huge. And humiliating. And really satisfying when I get things done. Which I did. I’m planning a post later this month to discuss my experience editing these first five chapters.

Well, will you look at that. Another week where I managed to get everything done. This feels like some sort of magic at present, this whirlwind ability that has been gifted to me. Someday I’ll look back and credit determination and willpower, but for now: Magic.

Weekly Word Count: 2,893

This Week

  • Publish two Book Reviews
  • Start Sanctified chapter 33
  • Finish reading The Stone SkyThe Stone Sky
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada

This formula worked last week, so as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve got the review for Changes to do, and Iron Gold. I’m about 150 pages into The Stone Sky out of 419, so that should be doable. And if I could edit two chapters last week, I can do it this week.

Next week we’re flying down to Arizona for my cousin’s wedding, so there won’t be any goals or posts on my part other than the recap for this week. I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done on the flights, and that is about it.

When we come back there are a couple days left in February, in which I’ll be focusing my attention on getting Lifelike ready for publication.

So yeah, that’s the plan. Read, write, and edit. Lather, rinse, repeat. See you all soon with a book review!

 

BZ

Fanfiction – Pros and Cons

Hi Blogland,

When people hear the word ‘Fanfiction’, one of two things usually happens. Either, they roll their eyes, shake their head, and suddenly get very angry on the behalf of content creators. Or, their eyes light up, they grin, and probably blush as they rush to ask what fandoms you’re a part of.

I am an avid fan of Fanfiction. I’ve been reading Fanfiction since I was a teen, in the early days of fanfiction.net (or ff.net as it was to be known). It was a wondrous time, with hours spent searching out the perfect stories that would expand upon settings, plot points, and characters I had come to love so much. Like many in my generation, my gateway fandom (per urban dictionary, the community that surrounds a particular movie/tv show/book etc.,) was Harry Potter. Specifically, stories where Hermione and Draco were romantic interests for one another.

Draco disapproves
You’re not fooling anyone, Draco, we know the truth.

Over the last 15 years or so, my interests and tastes have grown and changed, as they do. Over the years I read not only Harry Potter stories, but Pirates of the Caribbean stories, Pride and Prejudice stories, Pitch Black stories, as well as Moonlight (the ill-fated vampire crime show of 2008), Veronica Mars, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age stories.

There are so many stories that I still remember to this day. Swashbuckling tales following a young Jack Sparrow, sprawling narratives that explored Elizabeth and Darcy as husband and wife, stories that ventured to guess how Riddick would overcome the  threat of the Necromongers. Fanfiction was a place for fans to let their imaginations play with the characters and settings they already loved. And it was an outlet for budding writers to learn their craft by mimicking the style and tone of the original author, or by tweaking the established elements into their own voices.

I dabbled with writing fanfic as a teen, and though I was courageous in sharing my early work, I never really committed to it. There are a slew of unfinished stories loitering on my ff.net profile, and so they shall remain, a testament to where I started and who I was when I was 15 and finding my legs. And though my writing was riddled with false starts, I never truly stopped reading.

Now, so many years and much more writing experience later, I’m not only a reader but an author on the much more navigable Archive of Our Own (or, AO3).

This leap, from quiet fan camouflaged in the anonymity of the internet, to active participant and creator was a daring one. I was terrified to share my first completed story, but I was proud of it too. Plus, there was a serious need in the community.

andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda had just released in March, and by mid-April most of us had finished the game and were desperate for more. There was a wealth of settings and characters that we couldn’t wait to explore further, and certain developments in the game were left dangling for future sequels.

But, fandom is rarely patient.

I scoured AO3 and ff.net for anything that would satisfy my craving for more time in the world of Andromeda. And while I found several that were to my liking, it still wasn’t enough. I found myself thinking up my own scenarios and before long I was writing them. And then I was sharing them. And then, the craziest thing happened.

People responded. Like, a lot. And the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

After years of writing fiction in a vacuum, where the only feedback was found in classroom workshops, reading comments on my fic felt like stepping out into the first rays of summer sun.

Not only did people like what I wrote, but they liked it enough to leave detailed comments and to reply when I responded to them. When I admitted short-comings, readers would offer to help me through them, and one such offer led me to Tumblr.

My whole internet life changed with the decision to create a Tumblr account. Not only did most of my readers/reviewers have Tumblrs of their own, but I was able to share links to my work that they would then share with their followers. My readers could ask me questions, tag me in games, and gift me with art and creations of their own. Suddenly, I went from the solitary writer, alone in her study, to a content creator people within the fandom recognized and enjoyed interacting with.

Now, this all happened on a relatively small scale. There are fanfic series that have thousands and thousands of hits, with hundreds of bookmarks. I am not that writer. My fandom is relatively small, but it is fierce and devoted, and frequently overlaps into other mutual fandoms.

This led me to branch out from Mass Effect Andromeda, and to experiment writing other characters in other worlds like Dragon Age and the original Mass Effect trilogy. When I reached over 5000 hits on my longest fic I hosted a giveaway, and wrote stories that really challenged me. Stories that involved other people’s original characters (OCs in fandom parlance) in situations and relationships that I wouldn’t have necessarily put them in.

Fanart 1
artist credit, top left: secondarysidecharacter, bottom left: vixilancia, middle left: chatnoir-art right side: blacksheep33512

By posting my fanfic and sharing it in an active community I was able to interact directly with my readers. I answered reader questions, took prompts for flash pieces (known as drabbles), and my personal favorite, I received fanart of my series. People who read my story liked it enough to draw scenes or moments from it and share them with me. Waking up to a notice that one of your followers has drawn something for you, completely unsolicited is probably one of the best feelings ever.

So, obviously, I tend to view fanfiction very positively. But, there are some negatives to being an active fanfic author.

For instance, it can be very time consuming. This last year I wrote 264,850 words of fanfiction. That includes every plotted installment of my large series, every random drabble that was prompted on Tumblr, and the occasional themed weeks of stories for various holidays and fandom celebrations. I still have another fic planned in my series and another Dragon Age story I want to write. The possibilities seem to be endless when it comes to fanfic, and I honestly think it’s because writing in an active community is so social.

Writing my own original content is a labor of love, devotion, and solitary obsession. It’s something I do alone, for myself alone, until such a time I think it’s good enough to share with someone else. My experience with fanfiction has been a very positive one, full of encouragement and mutual obsession. I’ve made friends online because of our shared interests. And that makes it hard to walk away and devote less time to fandom and more time to my own content.

What started out as a small, four chapter story turned into a giant series with more than five installments, including a short story collection. I was obsessed, and had the most output I’ve ever had in any writing capacity. But, I also didn’t get anything done on my own content hardly at all last year. It’s a difficult balance to maintain.

fanart 2
Artist credit, all: jozstanko-art

Another potential pitfall of fanfiction is getting pulled into fandom disputes. Fans are just that, fanatics. We feel very strongly about the various ships (short for relationships) and characters. We have opinions, lots of them, and they don’t always jive with everyone else’s. So, occasionally there’s drama within the community, and I’ve seen the fallout be quite harsh. Luckily I’ve avoided most of the conflicts, and have yet to be the source of anyone’s ire. Thank goodness.

To me, the benefits of my fanfic experience far outweigh the possible dilemmas. This past year taught me how to interact with a fanbase in a direct and genuine way, and to contribute quality content consistently. Now, as I continue my long series I’m also editing my first novel, teaching myself how to juggle the two projects and keep my output on a reliable schedule.

2017 was a very educational year, one I hope to expand on this year by continuing to interact with my fandom while pursuing my writing and editing goals. With lots of hard work, and even more luck, I hope I’ll be able to use my newfound skills interacting with readers of my own original work someday soon.

Best,

 

BZ

 

 

Book Review – Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

Welcome to another book review, this time yet another Dresden book as I slowly get caught up with this series. Maybe I’ll actually be ready when Peace Talks comes out…

I wanted to make a note about my rating system, since I suddenly realized that I am quite kind in my estimation of fiction compared to other reviewers. I frequently give out four or five stars. If I give a title three stars, it means I was pretty unimpressed by it, and anything lower than that you can just assume I did not like it. Period.

I should also note that I rate based on my enjoyment of the story, how engaged I was throughout the book, and how I feel about characters. My Goodreads ratings are not critical responses to an author’s craft or technique. While those are things that I take into consideration while reading, if a book is enjoyable I tend to think less about those qualities because I’m enraptured by the story.Dresden Turn Coat

So if you’ve noticed that my ratings and reviews are generally positive, it’s because I’m reading with entertainment as the goal. That and, well, I’m a generally positive person to begin with.

 

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Another audiobook narration from James Marsters that absolutely blew my mind. I’ve given up on ever reading this series in printed format ever again, and have stacked up my Dresden paperbacks for donation. No sense keeping them on the bookshelf, taking up precious space, when I know I’ll never touch them again.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s main plot line was predictable (I guessed the main villain’s identity in the early chapters), but the side plots and the outcomes of the main conflict were well done and though grim, satisfactory. These books keep upping the ante in regards to intensity and consequences, leaving me more impressed with each book.

So, without further ado, prepare for spoilers!

turn coat audio alternate

Dresden is minding his own business for once, when Warden Morgan, the Warden that dogged Harry’s every move since he was a teen, who trusted him least and hated him most, shows up at his door. Bleeding. Harry, being the unwilling paladin that he is, takes Morgan in and sees to his wounds as he listens to the Warden’s tale of being hunted by the Wardens and betrayal from within the White Council.

Morgan was clever in going to Dresden. No one would expect Morgan to go to his least favorite person, and even if he did, no one would expect Harry to actually help him. And they’d be wrong on two fronts. The problem with that, however, is that helping Morgan makes Harry an accomplice. Morgan is suspected of murdering a member of the High Council. Dresden is aiding and abetting him, which makes not only himself a traitor, but Molly as well.

Which means Harry has to figure out what actually happened before anyone figures out where Morgan actually is. As usual for Dresden, that’s easier said than done. Especially since Morgan caught the eye of a Skinwalker while he passed through New Mexico.

Skinwalkers, aka Naagloshii, are supernatural creatures from Navajo legend. In Turn Coat it is a powerful sorcerer and shapeshifter, a semi-divine being that reeks of Evil intent. It thrives on fear, gaining strength as its prey becomes more frightened. Dresden senses the Naagloshii’s presence but was unable to see through its veil. So, he opened up his Wizard’s Sight, and very nearly crippled himself.

Turns out, seeing the psychic and spiritual representation of a Naagloshii is highly unpleasant and could drive you insane.

hells bells
Dresden’s preferred exasperated curse.

But, Shagnasty, as Dresden refers to the Naagloshii, isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. His investigation of the funds used to frame Morgan leads back to the White Court of Vampires. And while he’s on good terms with his half-brother Thomas, Lara Raith is less than pleased with him.

Harry involves her anyway, pulling her into his struggle against the Naagloshii after the Skinwalker takes Thomas. Shagnasty,  wants to trade Thomas for Morgan, so Harry sets a time and place.

Harry uses Lara’s testimony and presence to trick the Council into meeting with him on the uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Harry calls it Demonreach, after communing with the spirit that resides there, and now has a connection to the island. he can sense what the spirit senses and know what the spirit knows, as long as he is on the island.

Pretty cool, and totally useful if you ask me.

By bringing the White Council and the White Court together, Dresden hopes to flush out the traitor, who he now figures must be a member of the heretofore unconfirmed Black Council. If all goes to plan, he’ll reveal the true bad guy to the Council, proving both the Raith’s and Morgan’s innocence. And, with the added firepower of the strongest Wizards and the White Court, just maybe he can get his brother back.

Well, in short, all of that does happen.

turnCoat_1920x1200

The Naagloshii is defeated enough to turn tail and run, though there’s no guarantee the creature won’t make an appearance again someday. Thomas is much worse for wear, reverting back to his most base tendencies thanks to Shagnasty’s days of torture, and he almost eats Molly. Thomas is swept away by his family, and we’re left unsure of how he’ll recover from the incident.

It’s revealed that almost every member of the White Council in the Edinburgh headquarters has had their minds messed with, at least a little bit, and though the perpetrator gets what’s coming to him, Morgan dies in the process. Dresden figures out who really killed the High Council member, but promises to take Morgan’s secret to the grave.

And, remember how surprised I was at Luccio’s romantic interest in Dresden in the last book? Yeah. That was because her mind had been tainted by the Black Council. She wasn’t really herself. And now that she realizes that, she calls things off with Harry.

So, basically, Harry is more or less victorious, but left without his girlfriend or his brother. It was a grim ending to be sure, and it made me extra eager to get on to the next book.

I’ll have the Changes book review out sometime next week, and hopefully I’ll be caught up on my reading by then to have a new batch of reviews ready to write. I’ve got most of a Craft Discussion post written up, and will post it this weekend.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

 

Goals Summary – Wk 5

Hey Blogland,

It’s late, so I’m going to make this quick.

Last Week

  • Publish 2 book reviews
  • Start Sanctified chapter 32
  • Finish reading Shockaholic
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season
  • Edit chapter 1 of The Steel Armada

 

The Results

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Start Sanctified chapter 32
    • Done. Wrote 1,517 words of it. Posted another installment to the related short story collection.
  • Finish reading Shockaholic
    • Done. Not my favorite, but a decent enough listen for my short commute.
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season
    • Done. My friend Matt got me his feedback before he went on vacation this weekend. Per his suggestions I was able to fine tune The Season and start a rewrite of Lifelike. I’m going to give The Season a bit of space to see if distance highlights any weaknesses, but I’m confident that it’s very nearly ready to submit. Lifelike is still very much in progress. This story has dogged me for years, and it’s taken a long time for me to uncover its bones. I have them dug up now, but they need proper assembly. This might take some time, but I’m feeling good about it.
  • Edit chapter 1 of The Steel Armada
    • Done. I was really hesitant to do it, as I’ve been with this whole project. But, I sat down and really hashed out a lot of my world-building issues and helped streamline some plot points by introducing them sooner. I also added about 500 words, which brought the word count total for that chapter over the minimum goal! Overall, I’m counting it a great success.

Weekly Word Count: 2,079

I’m pretty much flying high right now. It always feels so damn good to see my goals switch from the red pen to the black one as I complete them. It’s really nice to see things marked ‘Done’. Here’s hoping this momentum continues.

What’s Next

  • Publish two additional blog posts
  • Finish Sanctified Chapter 32. Post chapter 31.
  • Finish reading Iron Gold
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada

Dresden Turn CoatThis list feels pretty small, but there’s actually a lot of work here. The blog posts aren’t so bad. I’ve got the book review of Turn Coat to do, and a bonus Craft Discussion post drafted. This should be the easiest part of the week. I’m halfway through Sanctified chapter 32 already, so wrapping that up shouldn’t be too bad. It’s building up to the final action of the story, so it takes a steady hand, but it’s well underway.

Iron Gold

Iron Gold is really good so far, I’m just reading really slowly because I never seem to have free time just to sit. Audiobooks are saving my life, since I can listen to them while I drive or do chores around the house. Unfortunately, I do not have the Iron Gold audiobook, and quite frankly, I don’t want it. I’m really enjoying developing the voices of these new characters, as well as rediscovering Darrow’s. But, the book is due back on the 10th, and because there are holds on it, I can’t renew it. I have five days to read ~500 pages.

Yikes.

And of course, last is the biggest hurdle of them all. Editing chapter 1 of The Steel Armada was less painful than I’d imagined. I’m really hoping that proves to be the case throughout this process. To help myself along, I’m reading The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield, and doing my best to do the exercises and implement her strategies. It’s good so far, but I’m only 61 pages in. We’ll see how it goes as I dig deeper into her book, and mine.The Last Draft

So, basically, I have a crap-ton of books to read, a novel and two short stories to edit, and somehow not nearly enough time to do it all. Or, at least, that’s how I feel. But, these past week’s of summaries tell a different story. I’m doing well, setting achievable goals and meeting them. Mostly.

And damn if it doesn’t feel good.

Until later, Blogland.

BZ

Book Review – Small Favor (Dresden Files #10) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

I started to write the Turn Coat book review, and realized that I never wrote the Small Favor book review! So, this is my attempt to dig into the depths of my memory and discuss all the gritty details. Buckle up and get ready for a ride.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

As usual, James Marsters’ narration was splendid. He really is synonymous with Harry Dresden for me now. I’ll never be able to hear him as anyone else. Now, tread with care, there are spoilers below.

Small Favor

Murphy calls in Harry to investigate an explosion one cold winter night, and that is just the beginning of his troubles. Turns out, Marcone owns the building, and the mafioso is missing. To make matters worse, Queen Mab (yes, that Mab) has enlisted Harry’s help to find the mob boss.

Whenever the Fae are involved, Harry knows he’s in for a bad time. As Winter’s Emissary, Dresden finds himself the target of the Summer Court’s assassins, known as gruffs. Yep, as in Billy Goat. Except, bigger, badder, and a whole lot scarier.

gruff dresden rpg
An example of Gruffs from the Dresden Files RPG manual.

So, with gruffs of varying sizes on his trail, Harry has to find Marcone’s. The hunt leads him to Union Station, where some of the mob boss’ blood samples have been secreted away in a locker.  Dresden can use the blood to track Marcone, but first, he and Michael Carpenter, of the Knights of the Cross, have to survive an onslaught from the Summer Court.

Sounds straightforward enough until, Luccio, Commander of the Grey Wardens, shows up with the Archive in tow. For those of us that don’t remember, the Archive is a little girl whose maternal bloodline carries all of human knowledge. If it has ever been written down, Ivy (as Dresden calls her) knows it. And the fact that her train was at the station was no coincidence.

Nicodemus, leader of the Order of the Blackened Denarius and all-around super villain, has requested her presence to act as a neutral third-party in negotiations between himself and Dresden for the release of Marcone.

So, you know, as if Fae squabbles and Marcone AWOL weren’t bad enough, now Harry finds out that the Denarians are at the root of it all. Dresden just can’t catch a break.

To no one’s surprise, Nicodemus is a liar. He was never going to negotiate anything. He just wanted to get to Ivy. Despite everyone’s Herculean efforts, six Denarians is just too much to handle. They get the girl.

If Nicodemus was unwilling to bargain before, he’ll be impossible to coerce now. He has all the power. Unless Dresden makes him an offer he simply can’t refuse. If Ivy were to take up one of the coins of the Blackened Denarius she would be an unstoppable force of evil. He can’t let that happen, so he offers the only thing he knows Nicodemus would want.

All the coins the Knights have recovered, as well as Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith that he’s been entrusted with ever since Shiro’s death. It’s a ballsy bargain, but it’s one Nicodemus can’t turn away. So, they set a time and place, on an uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Dresden and company head to the island, unsure of what they’ll find, but determined to be prepared for it.

Was Harry wasn’t prepared for was a sense of familiarity with the island as he set foot on it. He had never been there before, and yet he knew where to step to avoid detection, knew that the Denarians were awaiting him at the dilapidated cottage at the base of the wrecked lighthouse.

dresden lighthouse
That looks about right. Creepy af.

Luccio explained the phenomenon, telling Harry that it meant that the island would be important to him sometime in his life. It was an ability some wizards got as they aged and gained experience. Not foresight exactly, but almost a stronger version on deja-vu.

Both Marcone and Ivy were on the island, both worse for wear. The Denarians were torturing the child in an effort to get her to accept one of the coins, to accept the Fallen Angel into her mind and soul. So far they had been unsuccessful, but it was only a matter of time before the child broke.

So, Dresden did what he does whenever he sees an innocent in trouble: Raised hell.

It’s an epic battle, in a really cool setting that’s just as creepy as the Denarians themselves. As planned, Marcone’s people fly in to extract Harry, Sanya, Murphy, Michael, and the two abductees. Of course, Dresden insists on going last, sending Michael up before him.

Except, the Denarians have no intent to let them go that easy. They shoot Michael as he’s being lifted up into the helicopter, and Marcone’s people are forced to leave, abandoning Dresden on the island. That’s about the time when the Eldest Gruff shows up.

Nothing can ever be simple for Dresden.

jelly in thy donutHe talks his way out of a duel with the gruff, and even gets a doughnut out of it (not even kidding), and then nearly kills Nicodemus, but the Denarians daughter interrupts just in tame for Harry to get rescued by Murphy and Thomas. Whether or not Nicodemus survived strangulation and unconsciousness in the lake remains to be seen.

The book ends with Harry checking in on Michael, who’s in surgery. He’ll live, but the prognosis isn’t good. Sanya, the only other Knight of the Cross, gives Harry Michael’s sword, Amoracchius, to keep with Shiro’s. Michael Carpenter, though alive, will never be able to wield it again.

As Harry wallows in guilt over the state of his friend, Annastasia Luccio comes to him and suggests that they get something to eat. It’s been a long day, and as the dinner goes well, it turns into a long night as well.

Now, I have to say something about that end scene. I was not happy. First of all, Luccio is his commander. You don’t sleep with your boss, Harry! Second of all, that seemed like a really weird thing for Luccio to do, in my opinion.  I mean, yeah, she’s in that young body now, and yadda yadda yadda, but still. This woman has been austere and severe the whole time we’ve known her. It rankles.

Also, one of your best friends is mortally wounded, because of something you dragged him into, and you’re getting laid? Harry. You’re better than this.

But, these tidbits aside, this book was quite wonderful. It did a lot of setting up for the future, which is typical of Dresden books. They’re always setting the stage for the next thing, always turning things up to eleven.

A lot of my favorite characters were in this one, and for the first time I found myself very emotionally invested in the series. I cried when Michael got hurt. I don’t even consider him one of my favorite characters, but dammit, he didn’t deserve that.

I felt like this book was probably one of the more intense installments. What I didn’t know was that it was really just the primer course for the next two.

I finished Changes today, and will have the review for both it and Turn Coat out sometime next week. Thanks for reading, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

 

 

The Recap – January 2018

Blogland! Hello again!

Today marks the start of a new month, and the start of a new blog post series! I’ve always been a firm believer in the efficacy of setting small, achievable goals. I talked about it a lot while I was in school, breaking down my semesters into digestible, weekly bites. I was very successful during my hectic life balancing school and two jobs, and have spent the last year and a half sort of drifting in all this free time.

So, how do I get back to that level (or similar) of productivity?

Spend less time looking at the big picture! I know that sounds counter-productive, but honestly, I think I have to. When I think about editing The Steel Armada, I feel overwhelmed, unsure how to begin let alone how to get all the way to the end. And yet, I was able to tackle the first chapter last night, and am really proud of the outcome. It was like ripping off the band-aid, or getting a shot; much scarier in my mind than on paper. I’ve been approaching and thinking about this project all wrong for years, and I’ve allowed it to keep me from reaching my goals.

I see the big picture, I know the end goal: Call The Steel Armada “Done”. But, the road to “Done” doesn’t have to be an eight lane highway. It could just as easily be a collection of many narrow country roads. Honing in my focus helps prevent distraction and my propensity for over-thinking, which then allows for increased focus and productivity.

But, the other big part is acknowledging that I’m a little out of my depth here. I’m comfortable editing short fiction, and actually really enjoy that process. But a novel? There’s so many moving parts, so many characters with their own motivations and goals, and so much more world-building to flesh out. There’s just so much! Now, whenever I feel unprepared or uncertain, what do I do?

Research! I work at a library. I live in a time with mobile access to the internet. I am privileged with incredible access to knowledge, why in all hells should I wade through this daunting task blindfolded? Why do I feel as if educating myself on the process of editing and revising a novel is somehow cheating?

It’s stupid, and I’m done with it.

I can hear you now, “That’s all fine and good, Brittany, but what does this have to do with the blog and setting goals?”

This epiphany (can you call it that if you’re realizing something you already knew?) has led me to redo my whiteboard, which means I need to reevaluate how I set, meet, and discuss my goals. I’ve been doing the Weekly Goals Summaries, and have found that checking in weekly helps keep me focused and accountable.

Whiteboard update
Writing on whiteboard as a Lefty is sketchy at best. Sorry for the crap handwriting.

But, trying to tackle several goals for the year by breaking them into weekly goals is… daunting. It leaves me feeling as if I’m wrestling with an octopus or something, all flailing, slippery limbs.

Enter Monthly Goals!

God, it seems like such a no-brainer when I write it down. Why haven’t I been doing this all along? Adding monthly goals adds even more structure, giving me more footholds on this giant rock wall I’m calling 2018.

Yearly goals get dissected into monthly goals, which get further broken down into weekly goals. It allows me to tackle small, attainable goals that will stack back up into the bigger, over-arcing goals for the year, without giving me a panic attack.

I don’t know about you, but avoiding panic attacks sounds like a good idea to me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t set detailed goals for January, but I still want to look at my overall accomplishments for the month.

January “Goals”

  • post a book review each week
  • write one chapter of Sanctified
  • write two give away fics (about 5k words total)
  • edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
  • keep reading
  • plan The Steel Armada edits

How’d I do?

  • Post a book review each week
    • I only wrote two book reviews this month, but I’m building a pipeline for reviews right now, so there should be plenty of reviews in the future. I’ll take it.
  • Write one chapter of Sanctified
    • I did write chapter 31 of Sanctified, and started chapter 32. I also posted chapter 30.
  • Write two give away fics
    • I finished my two give away fics to some praise on Tumblr, so that’s nice. The intended audiences were very happy with their gifts, which always feels good!
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
    • Done. Sent them out to a couple of friends for feedback.

      short story edits
      Gotta love that red pen!
  • Keep reading
    • Slowly but surely. I’m spread pretty thin between several books and audiobooks, so the progress feels slow. But, it’ll avalanche nicely.
  • Plan The Steel Armada edits
    • Barely. I did edit chapter 1 last night, but that was just a tippy-toe in the lake of this project. But, I’m thinking about it and moving forward with it into February.

Total January Word Count: 11,825

Considering that I went into January without any real plan other than my weekly goals, I feel pretty darn good about my output. Now that I have a more structured approach, what will I accomplish in February?

February Goals

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

This list feels short, but February is already a short month, and I’ll be on vacation for five days of it. We’re going back to Arizona for my cousin’s wedding at the end of the month, and there will be absolutely no time for writing or editing while I’m there. Reading on the flights is likely the only thing I’ll accomplish. Setting realistic, achievable goals is key, and acknowledging when I won’t have time is crucial to that.

With only two chapters left in Sanctified, February will be an editing-centric month. Expect book reviews and lots of discussion about my experiences revising my first novel.

dual wielding laptops
Dual-wielding laptops like a boss.

And probably a lot of complaining about my computer situation, because I hate it. You’ve been warned.
I’ll see you soon with a book review, Blogland. Until then, thanks as usual for reading this far!

 

BZ