Wednesday Check In

Hey all,

Just wanted to pop in and say hi! I finished reading The Alloy of Law last night, so you should the book review soon. Probably tomorrow.

There’s a lot of short fiction and poetry assigned this week and next for my African American Literature class. Not the most entertaining subject, but it is interesting, and a completely new genre for me. Gotta keep those horizon’s broad, right?

Anyway, if you pop on over to the “What I’m Reading” page, you’ll see updated reading. If that’s of interest to you.

This weekend is Halloween, and my costume game is strong this year. Expect pictures sometime next week.

Also, I submitted my short story Fallen Star to an ASU writing contest. It’s only for English majors, so hopefully the pool is small. Anyway, first prize gets $500, which would be ridiculous. But, I submitted on a whim, and it’s an old story. My writing has come a long way since then. So I have low expectations. I’ll know Monday the 9th, so keep an eye out for that.

Anywho, I gotta go. Lunch and then work. Then laundry and homework tonight.

I’m tired. Is it summer yet? Oh, wait, I’ll be taking summer classes…

Is it Fall 2016 yet?

See you tomorrow, Blogland!

BZ

Book Review- Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know I am a Brandon Sanderson fan. Like, the foaming at the mouth, squealing uncontrollably variety.

Me when someone mentions Sanderson.
Me when someone mentions Sanderson.

Anyway, Sanderson just released Shadows of Self on October 6th, which I’ve been counting down to ever since he announced it back in December of last year. Again, if you’ve been reading along, I’ve talked at length about The Alloy of Law, and it’s probably my favorite book of my adult life. Shadows of Self is the sequel, which I’ve waited four years for.

Brandon toured in support of the release, and he made a stop in Portland, so like any good fangirl, I requested the night off work and drove my happy ass on up.

Shadows of Self Release
#ShadowsofSelfie

As usual at these things, I met all kinds of people, some of them calm and nice, and just a little nerdy. Others… well, they are deeply entrenched in this fandom, same as me, but man are they vocal about it! It’s always fun to eavesdrop on the overflowing enthusiasm of these folks, and me and the fellow seated next to me giggled a lot.

Brandon talked a bit, and gave a really nice lecture about the power of fiction to cross distances, time, and cultures to give people something in common. In short, about fiction’s ability to bring people together. He spoke about nerdom’s recent trend of exclusion, and how quick we are to judge someone’s nerd level, and how eager we can be to find them lacking. He spoke against it, begged us to be more inclusive. And I gotta say, Sandersonites (yes, that’s how we refer to ourselves) are one inclusive bunch. We desperately want people to read Sanderson, we brag about him to any and everyone. And we’re more than happy to educate others on the intricacies of the Cosmere. And once we’re all on the same page, we start theorizing wildly!
SandersonPowells2015

Then he answered some questions, which I rarely participate in, mainly because I can never think of a question good enough. And then he read a chapter from the next Stormlight book, and I grinned the entire time! I am so excited for that book! Then came the signing, which took a while, so I read while I waited.

And then this magic happened:
SandersonFunPic

And of course I tweeted all of these things, and Brandon even retweeted a couple of them. So, needless to say, I was in fangirl heaven for the next 24 hours or so.

Now, on to the actual review! As per usual, there are massive spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk!
Shadows-of-Self_Mistborn_Sanderson

So, the book opens about a year after the events of The Alloy of Law. Marasi finished her schooling, but left her solicitor dreams behind to work in Elendel’s constabulary. She was hired on at a fairly high level, which has definitely stepped on a few toes in the precinct. But, she’s holding her own and proving her worth.

Wayne moved in to Wax’s mansion, where he proves to be a consistent, and much loved, pain in the ass.

Wax has been made an honorary constable, which allows him to continue his detective shenanigans, and keep him occupied while Steris continues to plan the wedding.

Yes, that’s still a thing. I hated Steris at the end of The Alloy of Law, but by the end of this book, I saw her in a totally different light, and I actually really like her.

Now, Alloy felt fairly episodic. Though it referenced from and drew heavily on the Mistborn trilogy, it was it’s own stand alone story. And that was how Sanderson originally intended it. But, as Wax’s story continues, Shadows suddenly becomes a very “Cosmere” story. If you haven’t read the original Mistborn trilogy, much of Shadows won’t make sense. The Kandra feature heavily in this story, and beloved characters from the original trilogy make an appearance in this novel.

Which was awesome! And now I want a SoonieCub so bad! (A stuffed animal based on the character in Shadows).

Anyway, Wax and company discover that there’s a plot against the Governor of Elendel, and they endeavor to save him from a homicidal kandra.

Now, about kandra. They’re immortal shapeshifters, which makes finding and killing them damn near impossible. So this book is full of brutal gunfights, insane Allomantic battles, and a ton of suspicion, paranoia, and plot twists.

Shadows wasn’t so much the wild train ride that Alloy was, and it’s actually a really heavy story. Wax’s faith in Harmony gets thoroughly rattled, if not completely obliterated. And by the end of the book, I didn’t even blame him.

Side note: it’s really strange to witness a character that was so wise and kind in one series intentionally hurt a beloved character in another one. My love for them conflicts, and my logical brain tells me that Sazed/Harmony wouldn’t do this to Wax if there was any other way. In a really strange turn of fictional events, I just need to have faith.

Now, there is a HUGE spoiler at the end of this novel. Like, just this monstrously awful thing that’s sort of gnawing away at my soul, even now. I’m not going to talk about it here, because it’s that big, and because it physically hurts me to think about it too much. To the point where, when I finished the novel last night, this happened:
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All in all, I adored this book. I fully intend to reread Alloy and Shadows, because the second read through always reveals something new. As Kelsier said, “there’s always another secret”. I’m betting Shadows has a few more I can figure out before Bands of Mourning releases in January.

And you better believe I am counting down to that release!
Wax and Wayne (Mistborn)

Thanks, as usual, for getting this far. I highly recommend this book, but you will need to do your background reading first, or else it’s just going to be a REALLY steep learning curve.

The Book Club meets tomorrow night to discuss The Perks of Being a Wallflower, so you’ll hopefully hear from me sooner than later!

BZ

Insomnia and the Trouble with Endings

It’s one of those nights. When thoughts trickle in through the seams of my brain, persistent like the drip of a leaky sink. The nights that curse me once or twice a month. Blame it on the caffeine, or over stimulation. Or call it by name.

Insomnia.

By definition I’m convinced that every person in the world struggles with insomnia. It’s not just the inability to fall asleep, but also difficulty staying asleep. Who hasn’t dealt with that from time to time? I will say that, once I’m out, I’m down for the count. Very little can interrupt me once I’m asleep. But, I’ll hear phones vibrate on the night stand, and awaken immediately for my alarm. I am not a snooze button kind of girl. However, I still consider myself a sound sleeper. I usually feel rested in the morning, and I don’t wake up sporadically.

But, there are nights, like this one, where the inner monologue just won’t stop.

This blog has seen its fair share of late night musings. They tend to be more poetic than the posts written during the day, but they also tend to make a lot less sense. Ramblings is a good term for them.

So. what has me riled up tonight?

You’re going to think me silly. I slipped up. I let myself play Mass Effect before finishing ‘Cards’. That’s right. Only one chapter and an epilogue left to write, and I didn’t do it. Instead I’ve spent about 10 hours finishing my second play through of my favorite game of all time. For those of you not in the gaming world, the last installment of the Mass Effect trilogy was a bit controversial. You see, most fans found the ending to be vague, and disappointing. And while I agreed with them from a player’s perspective, I saw the vision and the beauty from a writer’s perspective. This unique blend of perception allowed me to appreciate an ending to a most beloved series that the rest of the world hated.

They hated it so much that they took to the internet and demanded the developers fix it. We can stay up all night discussing the implications of such behavior, but that’s not what I’m really here for tonight. The development team stood by their ending, refusing to alter it in any significant way, but they did release DLC (downloadable content) that would add a few more cut scenes and more dialogue to deal with some of the ambiguity.

This game was released in March of 2012. The Extended Cut, as the revised ending is called, was released in June of the same year. Over the past two years I’ve downloaded all other available content, and have finally played them all. And tonight I was so excited to finally get some answers. I was ready. I could play it again, and ride the roller coaster of emotions that is the end of this trilogy. And so I played for almost six hours straight tonight. Only to discover, as the ending played out before me, that I never downloaded the Extended Cut.

This is what has me so pumped up.

How? Why?

I thought I downloaded it, obviously. But, as I think back, now that I know the DLC isn’t there, I remember thinking, “I’m not ready. I don’t want to play it yet, I’m not ready.” And so, out of a sense of emotional unpreparedness, I never downloaded the augmented ending. But, since we moved we haven’t connected the XBOX 360 to the internet, because we’re on the XBOX One much more. Without the internet, I couldn’t check to see what DLC was still available to me.

What this means is that I will have to play another additional three hours, after downloading the Extended Cut.

I’m trying to tell myself this isn’t a bad thing. It means I get to play again. I get to see all these wonderful characters, and interact with them. Again. But the thing is, the last three hours or so of Mass Effect 3 are hard on my soul.

I don’t want to get into details, because if you don’t know the characters, you won’t care. Some day, I’ll forgive you for that. But, there are two characters that I cherish more than any others. They are my wing-men. And one of them is my character’s romantic interest. They go on every mission with me, in every single installment of the game. My boys. And to go into the end sequence, which we all know is more than likely a suicide mission, is just downright painful.

Goodbyes, and lingering glances laced with things left unspoken.

You’re thinking I’ve lost my mind. That all of this can’t be in a video game. But, there are those that say these same experiences aren’t in books, and we both know they’re just flat out wrong. That’s the beauty, and the pure tragedy of good characters. They come to life in our imaginations. Spend enough time with them, and suddenly you know their movements, their every facial expressions, and their exact response to any given situation.

You know it’s true.

And so, playing this ending is painful. Even more so now that Bioware, the company that develops Mass Effect, has officially confirmed that the next installment in the franchise will be with all new characters.

There’s another silver lining I’m trying to convince myself of. All new characters to fall in love with, and new adventures to be had. I did have a thought today though that bolstered me on this subject. I’m a broken record, but I thought of Mistborn. The original trilogy was filled with characters that really moved me, and I loved each of them. The end of that series drives me to tears every time. When Alloy of Law, a book set in the same world, but 300 years later, came out I was excited.

And skeptical.

I could never love these characters the way I loved Vin and Elend. Or Sazed and Kelsier. Never.

Except I do. And would now even venture to say that the Alloy of Law is my favorite book set in the world of Mistborn. Yes, saying goodbye to Commander Shepard and her stalwart crew is painful. It always will be. But, these new characters, and their new adventure? I can’t wait to meet them. To grow to love them all, as much as I love the characters in the current games.

For tonight though, I’m angry and disappointed. All at myself. I spent so much time, only to experience the exact same ending for a second time. The game gives you options for how the game truly ends, but because I thought I had the DLC I chose the same option, in order to see the difference. Well, that didn’t work out.

So now I have to play again, and pick the same ending. Again. Because it’s my ending. The way my heart says it has to be. In the future, with other incarnations of Shepard, I’ll make other decisions. For curiosity’s sake. But, for now, it’s got to be this ending.

I’m supposed to be waking up for work in about four and half hours. Yeah. Another one of those nights. I find that, as I age, sleep just seems less and less important. I can get by on two hours of sleep. In fact, I did it just Tuesday. I slept nine hours last night, but had been up for a straight 22 the day before. And now I’m here, hoping that this post will get the rambling echoes of thought out of my head. That maybe now I can put my head to the cool side of the pillow and feel relaxed.

My eyes are starting to feel sluggish. Unwilling participants in this little exercise. And my head does seem calmer. The sentences don’t flow in that same harried pace, and I can pause to consider my thoughts. But, there’s still a spark in there. I know what it is. It’s the hint of creation. I want to write a Mass Effect fanfiction, but I know better than to go down that path. Fanfiction is the product of obsession. But, I can use this spark. The character that’s caught my eye, that is begging to be written…

I can use him. Not really him, obviously. Not his name, or his abilities. But his essence. I can take the characteristics from him, the things that helped me fall for him in the first place, and put them into someone of my creation. And I have an idea for who.

But, this is a dangerous topic. I’m not quite finished with ‘Cards’ yet. I can’t start working on something new until it’s done. That’s how this writer thing works. At least for me. I’m off again Monday. I’m aiming for completion then. I know it won’t happen before then, since I have to see this Extended Cut, and Trevor and I are both off Sunday.

Monday is the day. I’m feeling good about it. Well, not literally. In fact, I feel rather guilty for putting it off. But, that guilt will help me sit down and write it, once Monday rolls around.

I’m not completely cured of this wakefulness. But it’s definitely better. And this post blossomed into something much larger than I originally anticipated. My mind is settling, which means it’s time to get some sleep.

I’ll see you Monday, Blogland.

 

BZ

Reflections on Sanderson

Hey All,

I finished the Mistborn Trilogy the other day. Though I knew where the ending was headed, it still had a strong effect. I mourned the death of characters I’d spent nearly a month getting to know. I mourned the end a series that taught me so much.

The first time I read the series I’d only just started writing myself. So I read with different eyes. I only saw characters and plots as they related to the enjoyment of the story. But this time, I truly saw the magic and prowess Sanderson possesses.

With new eyes and an expanded mind I read Mistborn. And I saw a world expertly crafted. Believable and concrete. Dying. I met characters, each of them with their own complexities. Even characters who ultimately would die, or prove to not really affect the end of the story, were round and dynamic. And characters that seemed to be introduced as after thoughts unfolded over the course of three books to be heroes and favorites.

The plot, so much less a mystery to me this time around, was still incredibly captivating. I waited, anxious, for scenes I remembered, and ones that my untrained mind had forgotten. My mind now was working overtime to both enjoy the story for what it is, and to simultaneously tear it apart. I had to learn how to craft a world and convey information without seeming to “info dump” which Sanderson does beautifully.

And so the series ended.

With minimal pause, to absorb the ending and allow my mind to think, I moved on to a side novel set in the same world, The Alloy of Law. This novel is much different than the other Mistborn novels. Where the Trilogy was dense and almost hard to read, Alloy flows with a straightforward simplicity. Characters come to life immediately, and conversations are much more informal. Overall, a much more welcoming novel. The reader doesn’t have to work as hard to understand the world, or the magic, though both are more complex after 300 years.

It’s also only about 350 pages. Half the size of any of the Mistborn books.

And so I finished it in less than a day. I appreciate this novel because it’s much more like what I want to write. Reading the Mistborn books, or any of Sanderson’s larger works, is daunting. I can’t imagine writing such complex and long stories. But Alloy of Law is ideal. It sets a standard.

Now I’m reading Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. It’s a staggering 1,252 pages. Apparently the manuscript was over 400,000 words. It’s insane, mind-boggling, and completely terrifying.

I can’t wait!

 

Much love,

BZ