Goals Summary wk 8

Well, Blogland… I did it. I finally did it. Well, sort of.

For about 2 years now I’ve talked about my ailing Macbook. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks to prolong its life, a new battery pack, deleting caches, empty my trash consistently and thoroughly. But, even then it was struggling.

Typically I use my computer with at least three programs running at once. Scrivener, iTunes, and Firefox. Occasionally it bumps up to four with Word. But, lately my computer has struggled to even run two programs at once, and if I open a second tab in my web browser, forget about it!

After a particularly frustrating session on Thursday, my husband convinced me to try out “our” Windows laptop. It was a Black Friday purchase a couple years ago, and though we bought it with the intent of it being a mutual device, neither of us use it.

Until now.

Sunday night I upgraded to Windows 10, and have spent the entirety of my morning getting programs downloaded and trouble-shooting my external hard drive. Turns out that, when I bought the thing four years ago, I formatted it for my Mac. At the time that wasn’t unreasonable, seeing as I had zero intentions of ever going back to PC.

But, here I am. So, I had to erase the entire drive, reformat it, and am now reloading all my writing, music and photos. Only then will I be able to put the files on the “new” computer. Hopefully. It’s given me a lot of issues already. And by issues I mean that I have had a mac for far too long and am PC illiterate.

But, this computer is nice. Just, weird. The keys are slightly farther apart, but they’re lighter. I don’t have to press as hard, and they’re quieter. There’s 10-key, which I love/hate. I love it because 10-key is awesome and convenient. I hate it because it makes the computer that much bigger.

Also, I am not a fan of the touch-pad on this laptop, so I’ll be getting a wireless mouse this afternoon. And, the backspace key is shorter than I’m used to, so I have to get used to that.

A bunch of tiny things that I won’t even notice, given some time. But, right now, they’re glaring.

But, It’s Monday, so let’s talk about goals!

Last week I wanted to:

  • write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
    • Didn’t happen. I wrote 346 words, but did outline the rest of the novel. 17 chapters to go!
  • read The Paper Magician
    • Done! And moved on to The Six-Gun Tarot.
  • publish 2 blog posts
    • Done!
  • continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Done! I’m on chapter 15 of my read-through, which has become much more active editing than anticipated. I’ve done a lot of world building already, and have set about answering some of the Betas’ questions. I also created a new Scrivener project for The Steel Armada, in which I will do my further edits, instead of relying on printed copies from Word. So, once I’m through with the read through and any handwritten notes, I’ll head back into Scrivener and get to work.

Al in all, not a bad week. That brings us to this week. What do I want to accomplish?

  • write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • read The Six-Gun Tarot
  • publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits

Hopefully by the next Goals post I’ll be fully moved in to my new laptop, and less gripe-y than I feel now.

You should hear from me on Thursday, when I post the book review for The Paper Magician. Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Goals Summary wk. 6

Well, Blogland, can you believe it? We’re six weeks into the year already! I hope everyone is working hard and achieving all the things they wanted to this year!

I’m waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It smells great, and I can tell it’s just about time I grabbed a cup. I’m hoping sitting today and taking it easy will help a persistent ache in my lower back, but we’ll see.

So, goals. What did I want to do last week?

  • Write the Interlude for From the Quorum
    • This was planned as a short, 1k word snippet. Turned out to be a full blown chapter, wrapping up at 3,508 words.
  • Read both William Ritter novels
    • Success, with each of their reviews posted. Here, and here.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yeah, blew this one out of the water. Published 4 posts this past week. Not normal, but damn nice.
  • Read, plan, and start The Steel Armada edits
    • YES! I’m still reading through, and am currently on chapter 9. But, there aren’t any big plots gaps like last time, it seems I’ve fixed those. I found some areas that are weaker and fixed those, or added some small notes. But right now, things are looking pretty good!

So, that means…. I am in the black this Monday! All goals were achieved. All that red marker was erased and replaced with black. That feels really good.

What also feels good is a multiple tweet long conversation with Mike Brooks, the author of the Keiko series, thanking me for my review (you can read it here) and then discussing books we’re looking forward to this year.

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How did he find me?!

Talk about a great morning! And now I’m on my second cup of coffee. The sun’s out, the dog did some sunbathing, and suddenly I am all smiles despite the back pain.

So, what’s the plan for this week?

  • Write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • Finish Arcanum Unbounded
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits

I’m not 100% sure that chapter 13 will get finished this week. It could. Thursday could be very productive. I don’t know. But, right now it feels like a tall order.

I only have a few more stories in Arcanum Unbounded until that’s done. I’ve read a majority of them already, so I’m skipping around and reading the content that’s new to me. That includes the notes from Brandon at the end of each story, and the notes from the character Khriss at the introduction of each world. There’s a bit of new content, and it’s been a joy getting some more illumination on the Cosmere.

I’ve been consistent with my post publishing, and I doubt this week will see a change in that.

As for edits, I’m feeling really good about my progress there still. I sent the manuscript to a couple more friends to get some more varied feedback, and I think I have an email from my best friend who did a very detailed read and review. So, I have some new and forthcoming feedback to help me along.

My plan for now is to finish my read through, and then go back and flesh things out chapter by chapter, and address any concerns brought up by Beta readers. For the first time this project seems doable, and not so terrifying.

We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ll see you later this week Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Hello again Blogland!

Yesterday ended up being very productive. I wrote the Interlude for From the Quorum from start to finish, wrapping it at 3,508 words. For the time I sat writing, that was extremely productive. This book is writing itself!

Beyond that, I also finished reading all the installments of Locke & Key, as well as Low, vol. 1. That’s all the graphic novels I had checked out, so I get to return a bunch of items to the library today and move on to reading Arcanum Unbounded, which I’ve put off for far too long.

But, before I get too wrapped up in that, let’s talk about Ghostly Echoes. Beware the spoilers!ghostly-echoes

This was the largest of the three Jackaby books so far. The other two were under 300 pages, but this one had 352. And that’s because there’s a lot happening.

The book opens with Jenny and Abigail experimenting with possession. Yep. You read that right. Now, most of us sane folk would say, “that’s a terrible idea.” And it is. But, Abigail adores Jenny and wants to help her anyway she can. Even if that means subjecting herself to the disorienting and painful process of letting her friend take over her body.

But, the catch is, that when Jenny is in Abigail’s body, Abigail has access to Jenny’s memories. That’s really useful since Jenny can’t actually remember the circumstances of her death.

That’s the case they’re working on, by the way. Jenny’s murder.

Well, as they investigate they learn that Jenny’s murder is tied into the string of murders from the last book, and it’s all one big case. Add in some political ties, and this book gets interesting fast!

Charlie arrives out of concern for Abigail’s safety as she tackles this enormous case with Jackaby, much to her delight. I was a little bummed because he’s not very critical to the story. I mean, he plays an important role, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like.

So, all kinds of crazy things happen in this book. Possession, Abigail throws a brick in a vampire’s face, forcefully pushing him from their home, they cross into the Anwynn, a place between life and death, and Abigail is the one chosen to cross the river Styx to try and find a particular spirit that could help them solve the case.

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Except, she doesn’t find who she expects, but Jenny’s fiancé.

Yeah, this book is all over the place. But, when you’re reading it everything makes sense. It’s only in this summation that I see how wild some of these events are, but I ain’t even mad. This book was fast-paced fun!

Anyway, they learn that a group known as The Dire Council is behind all these deaths, and that they’re trying to create some sort of enormous scientific device, that has something to do with energies. And while Jackaby and Co., catch the main murderer, a henchman for the Council, they are no closer to actually thwarting their dastardly plan.

And that’s where the book leaves off. The next (and final) book is titled The Dire King, and I am ready for it now! I don’t want to wait until August!

Now, my favorite aspects of this book are Abigail’s newfound confidence. She loves these people she’s met and built a new life with, and she feels empowered by them to do anything for them. It’s a good look on her.

I also really loved the tender moments where Jackaby opens up about himself. There’s a lot of Jackaby’s history in this book, because The Dire Council needs him to complete their device. And so the history of how he acquired the Sight and how he coped with that gets fleshed out a bit. I loved it! He’s also more vulnerable in this book than in the others, because of his concern for Jenny. He’s hesitant to solve her case because he doesn’t want her business to be finished. He doesn’t want her to leave.

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Two of Jackaby’s companions

It’s not like Jackaby has a lot of friends.

There was a moment in the book that, while not critical to the plot, was really powerful for me. Early in the novel Abigail and Jackaby come across a transgender woman being attacked. They stave off her attackers and get her home, Jackaby never faltering in calling her ‘her’ and treating her with respect. Abigail does her best, but she’s a little bewildered by the encounter.

When she asks Jackaby if Miss Lee was, in fact, a man, Jackaby’s response is perfect.

“‘Underneath she was herself- as are we all. Lydia Lee is as much a lady as you or Jenny or anyone. I imagine a midwife or attending doctor probably had another opinion on the matter, but it only goes to show what doctors really know’

‘Shouldn’t a doctor be able to tell at least that much?’

Jackaby’s expression clouded darkly. ‘I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,’ he said soberly, ‘but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are.'”

It struck me as immensely profound, coming from this man who most doctors would label insane. And a true representation of his character that he would stand up for Lydia Lee and defend her in a manner less defensive and more educational, even to Abigail.

I love this eccentric, fictional man. A shame I have to wait all summer to see what happens…

You probably won’t hear from me again this weekend, but I’ll see you all on Monday!

 

BZ

Book Review – Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hello, Blogland.

I’ve been a busy little reader these last few days, and have completed both Jackaby novels, as well as a few installments of Locke & Key. Pop over to the “What I’m Reading” page to get a full update.

Today we’re here to discuss the second novel in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones. If you’ve not read my review of Jackaby, now would be the time.

beastly-bonesIn this installment, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves on a case in Gad’s Valley, which is lovely since that’s where Charlie Barker, formerly Charlie Cane, now resides. There’s been a string of murders, seemingly unrelated save for a peculiar wound to the neck: a single puncture surrounded by bruising.

Along the way they catch up with an old friend of Jackaby’s, Hank Hudson. He’s a hunter and trapper, with a focus on unusual creatures. He’s also huge. I pictured him like a frontiersman Hagrid, but less approachable.

On this adventure, Abigail is torn. The official reason they’re sent to Gad’s Valley is to track down a stolen fossil, and her paleontology roots call to her. It was really great to see Abigail in her element, and she had several occasions to one up the male experts who were quick to disregard her. Jackaby was proud of her, but her interest and aptitude meant that he spent a bit of his time on his own, hunting the unseen forces behind the theft.

being-clever

I’m still waiting for a moment like this…

As the story goes on, things remain relatively light. The two paleontologists bicker and argue over all sorts of minutia, there’s a femme fatale reporter who befriends Abigail, and Abigail has a few delightfully awkward encounters with Charlie, who is even more endearing in this book.

 

But, when it appears that an actual dragon, thought extinct for a few thousand years, is terrorizing the valley, things get dark quick. Houses are razed, a nearby couple are killed, and in the final battle the reporter, Nellie Fuller, sacrifices herself to give Jackaby and Abigail time to figure something out.

And, Abigail does. That was my favorite part of this story. Abigail saves the day, and Jackaby’s life. She’s the hero, finally the strong female character, even if she refuses to see herself that way. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Abigail even kisses Charlie by the very end! Very bold indeed.

But, the events of Gad’s Valley also trouble her immensely, giving Jackaby the opportunity to wax philosophical, as he often does, and it’s always a treat. But, the events also set the stage for the next book, and help establish a larger arc for the series.

I would say that this book is very much Abigail’s. Though she’s the main character of the series, the first book had to introduce us to Jackaby and his unique place and function in the world. Now, with all that established, Abigail had the opportunity to really grow and shine.

Ritter did a good job of making his likeable narrator even more so, and keeping things fun while he did.

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William Ritter

That would be my number one selling point of these books. They’re fun. The characters are endearing and well-developed, and the city of New Fiddleham feels like home. I want to spend time in this world, with these people. I’m happy to report that the third book is probably the best of them all, and the next book is due out this summer!

There’s no shortage of time with Abigail and Co., just yet.

Unrelated to the actual plot or books, I found out that William Ritter is a local author. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, about an hour south of Salem, near Eugene. He’s an educator, and I look forward to catching him during his promotion of the next book, The Dire King.

Aaaand, I just read that it’s the conclusion of the series. I am not OK with that. Not in the least. How can that be the end? There’s too many possibilities! You can’t just wrapghostly-echoes everything up in one book, right?

Now I’m sad. Damn it. Well, I’ll see you all tomorrow when I return with the book review for Ghostly Echoes.

Until then, Blogland…

 

BZ

Editing: What I’ve Learned

Blogland,

Today marks the start of the second round of edits for my first novel, The Steel Armada. It was supposed to be yesterday, but I spent over four hours on the phone catching up with my grandma. Sorry, not sorry. I love that lady, and I relish our time spent gabbing.

So, today then. This is something I’ve been working toward for a long time, in fits and starts. I started editing the rough draft on March 8th, 2014. I know because I always write the date at the top of each chapter when I dive in. I was six months into school then, and a few days into my new job at the library. I was working 60 hour work weeks.

So, understandably, I didn’t complete the edits on the final chapter until December 8th, 2015. It took almost two years to finish editing the rough draft. I wasn’t very committed to getting the thing done. It was something I did when I felt overwhelmed by school and life, and needed a quick escape.

This time around, I’ll be much more diligent and disciplined. I have a timeline, and the time to stick to it.

So, what’s my plan of attack? I’m not one hundred percent sure just yet. What I need to consider is what I learned from editing the first draft.

  1.  Editing is so much more than grammar and punctuation. I mean, these things are important, and I spent a lot of my editing time cleaning up lines by honing in on weak sentences and strengthening them. But, all the cleaning up and tightening doesn’t do much to help gaps in the plot, or under-developed worlds and characters.

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    Page 1, Rough Draft and Second Draft

  2.  Rewriting is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how much I love a scene, if it doesn’t work, it does not work. In that case, things get cut and possibly replaced. There were some scenes that I had to try from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes that worked; more often than not it gave me clarity to re-approach the scene from the original point of view in a way that was more effective.
  3.  New content comes along. When there are gaps in the story, or characters who need fleshing out, new material is the answer. The rough draft is not the end of writing. It’s writing your novel within the structure you’ve already created, which I found fun and challenging. It’s like your novel is offering you writing prompts!
  4.  Have a support group! No matter how much time I spend away from this book, I can’t seem to get quite enough distance to diagnose the draft one hundred percent. And I think that’s normal. This is something I made. 181 printed pages of my imagination. It is a part of me, no matter how long I try and ignore it. These characters are part of me, this world is part of me, and these happenings are mine. Having outside opinions helps me peer through all that unavoidable bias, and give me an ego boost when I’m swimming in writerly loathing.
  5.  There’s always more work to be done. This is the hardest one, for me. It’s hard to want to keep editing, to keep plowing on, when I keep finding things that aren’t perfect. When I called the rough draft complete, and officially started referring to it as “Draft #2”, it was bittersweet. I was proud of the work I’d accomplished, and the changes between drafts were pretty dramatic, but I knew that there were mountains yet left to climb. And deep down, I don’t know if I’ll ever cease discovering new peaks. I don’t know when to call it “done”. I’m hoping I’ll just magically know when the time comes.
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Final page, Rough Draft and Second Draft

There’s always more work to be done… That is the truth. So, what are my goals for Draft #2?

  • World building. This world has all the potential to be something great. But, The Steel Armada was my first attempt at Fantasy, and it shows. Since writing this book, I’ve written another Fantasy manuscript, am half way through another, and wrote four Fantasy short stories for publication. Not to mention the mountains of reading I’ve done. My ability to build worlds is growing every day, and it’s time to flex that muscle in Val’s world.
  • Character development. These characters aren’t bad. A couple of them are even well-drawn and fleshed out. But there are quite a few that fall flat for me. There’s more to them, and I need to give them the time they deserve. It will only help.
  • Tone. I know what this story is about. I know where the plot leads and that there’s a pretty political overtone. But that’s not consistent through the novel. That needs fixed.
  • Completion. I want to get this novel to a place where I am content to let it rest. I want to feel good about this book. Confident. Proud that I can call it my first book. Willing to query an agent with it. That’s the real goal of this round of edits.

That’s where I am, heading back into editing. These are the things I’ve learned, and the things I want to accomplish. I’m nervous, and excited. Getting The Steel Armada into a “final draft” means I’ll be free to start editing Cards, and I am dying to do that. But, I’ve been stalwart this entire time. I refuse to start editing the next manuscript until this one’s done. I won’t break now.

No. Now the real work begins. Again.

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk 5

Well, I was hoping for an über productive day today. Get up early, drink coffee, have a small breakfast, maybe load the dishwasher, and then sit down at the desk and do all kinds of work.

It’s currently 11:30am, I am in pajamas, feeling the barest remnants of yesterday’s migraine, praying for the coffeemaker to hurry the hell up.

I’m scratching the kitchen off my to-do list today.

Last night, mid-migraine, I still found some energy to finish hole-punching the second draft of The Steel Armada, and to empty the recycling bin that was overflowing. Then I spent the remainder of the evening reading.

The goals for last week were:

  • Finish chapter 12 of From the Quorum
    • Done and done! Finally! It took an additional 1,924 words, but it’s done.
  • Read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
    • Also done, and you can read the review here.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Actually published three!
  • Print, read, and plan edits for The Steel Armada
    • This was a close one. I printed it, as previously mentioned, and did a rough outline of the editing schedule, but did not get a chance to read it.

So, I’d call last week a success. It feels good to keep meeting, or getting really damn close to meeting my goals each week. What’s the plan for this week?

  • Write the Interlude for From the Quorum
  • Read Beastly Bones and Ghostly Echoes, both by William Ritter
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read and plan edits for The Steel Armada, ideally complete chapter 1

That’s the plan. The weather is shit today, and it hasn’t really stopped raining since mid-afternoon Saturday. Half the town is threatening to float away, and the dog is extra reluctant to go outdoors.

I have zero plans to leave the house today, or to change out of my pajamas. I might though, I have a terrible preference for jeans over all other pants. Plus, it’s just hard to feel productive in fuzzy grey snowflake pajamas.

Anyway, I look forward to chatting at you all later this week. I have a rough outline of an editing themed post for tomorrow, and of course there will be book reviews, as usual. So, a busy week ahead of me.

Now, where’s that coffee?

 

BZ

Book Review – The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

For once, I can barely hear the clack of the keyboard as I write this. Instead, my office is overwhelmed by the jilted crash of my $30 printer doing its damnedest to give me a refined physical copy of The Steel Armada.

It’s mostly working. It can only print about 20 pages at a time, so I have to keep stopping to refill the paper, and the contraption is housed in a less than convenient place, so I have to get out of my seat, grab a sheaf of papers, and then kneel under my desk to actually feed the beast.

But, having a physical representation of all the hard work that went into making draft #2 look as good as it does feels amazing. Now that it’s sitting here, all pristine and shiny, I almost feel bad about tearing to pieces over the next few months.

Almost.

But, we’re here to discuss The Last Unicorn.

This was the flast-unicornirst book of Book Club session #3. We were all pretty excited for it, and it was a quick read. I was thankful for that because I cut it pretty close trying to read a million other things. But, it only took about two days to read Beagle’s fantasy classic. Only myself and one other person showed, the rest being ill. So it was a quick meeting too!

I would say that this story is a modern fairy tale. It doesn’t follow any of the writing conventions I’ve been taught, which made it a little difficult to read. Sentence structures are often awkward, and character perspective shifts all over the place. These are things that would be a death sentence for a book seeking publication today, but Beagle’s novel managed to get away with.

Probably by the virtue of its romantic whimsy.

Like most fairy tales I’ve read, there are a lot of consistent themes in this book, and when they raise their head they take the form of lines so startling in their beauty and truth that they stand out from the rest of the clunky prose.

The Last Unicorn is a book about beauty, love, and time. The Unicorn, for she has no other name, is a creature whose beauty is unmatched, and her immortality leaves her immune to love and time. She wants nothing, needs nothing, and likes it that way.

But, when she hears two hunters say that all the unicorns have vanished from the world, she is driven to leave her secluded wood to seek them out. An unwilling adventurer, the Unicorn soon realizes that men cannot see her true form, because they no longer believe that unicorns even exist.

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Schmendrick meets the Unicorn, artwork by Mel Grant

But, not everyone is so convinced, especially not those who have any hint of magic in them. Schmendrick is one such man. A magician of the bumbling variety, he is plagued with doubt and ineptitude to the point that his rescue of the Unicorn from an evil circus owner turns into the Unicorn rescuing him from a furious Harpy.

He’s also my favorite character.

Ever hopeful and bumbling, Schmendrick accompanies the Unicorn on her quest, and they soon meet up with Molly Grue who is a bitter and cynical woman who lived with a would-be Robin Hood. But, the glory days of their robberies were far behind them, if there ever were such days, and upon seeing the Unicorn Molly Grue leaves the band of thieves behind.

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King Haggard’s Castle, artwork by Mel Grant

And so the story goes on, and it follows a very fairy tale formula, while at once mocking the fairy tale formula. I think that tongue and cheek element also redeems the story from its choppy delivery.

In order to save the Unicorn from certain death, Schmendrick turns her (quite accidentally) into a startlingly gorgeous human woman. The three of them then visit the castle and gain employment with the bitter and cursed King Haggard. Ah, but the cursed king has a noble son, Prince Lír, who promptly falls in love with the Unicorn, now known as Lady Amalthea. And the longer she’s human the less she remembers of herself and the more she falls for the Prince.

But, in the end, Molly Grue and Schmendrick figure out how to release the unicorns, and help Amalthea return to her true form. But, her love for Lír has changed her forever. She tells Schmendrick that some small part of her will always be mortal, will always long for something, though she wants nothing, and that time suddenly matters to her, though she is immortal again.

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Molly Grue meets Schmendrick, artwork by Mel Grant

And that’s all sad and whatnot. But what I think was the more powerful element in the story is the love that blossoms between Schmendrick and Molly Grue. They started out as bitter opponents, literally keeping to their own sides of the Unicorn, and by the end they were an unspoken team. After the Unicorn leaves their presence, Schemndrick watches Molly laugh and shake her head until her hair fell loose around her shoulders, “and she was more beautiful than the Lady Amalthea”.

They came together naturally, and their normalcy is only enhanced by the presence of the Unicorn. Her undeniable otherness shows just how beautiful normal love can be. Another line that struck me was when Schmendrick lifted he and Molly Grue up the cliff face. “The magic lifted her as if she were a note of music and it were singing her.” It’s such a delicate and pretty line, made all the more meaningful because it’s Schmendrick’s newfound magic it refers to.

I should add that I’ve never seen the film, though I hear it’s currently on Netflix. I’ll have to add it to the queue. And, I’ll have to add this book to my shelf. It deserves a place with my other favorite fairy tales, Howl’s Moving Castle and Stardust.

I really wish I’d seen the movie and read the book as a child. I think it would have been more powerful and influencing to me then. Now, as an adult, I read everything a little too critically to fully appreciate the magic in it. At least, I feel that way sometimes. The clunky passages wouldn’t have mattered to 12 year old me; I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But 27 year old me got stuck on each one.

But, 12 year old me would have had a completely unhealthy crush on Schmendrick, so at least I avoided that. Who am I kidding? I loved the guy! I just get to move on a bit quicker. On to Jackaby!

Anyway, this is mandatory reading for fantasy fans. It’s an essential of the genre, that knows its tropes and uses them purposefully to show how silly they are. It’s clever, and poignant, and fun to read.

Now, I just have to watch the movie!

 

BZ