2018 Status Update – Something, Something, Bon Jovi Lyrics

If you can believe it, the year is over the hill. We’ve got less than six months to go; we’re halfway there! Cue terrible singing.

All right, enough of that.

The year is going by entirely too fast, that’s for sure. I’m not really sure what all there else is to say about it. So, I suppose I’ll just share some stats with y’all.

Yearly Goals Completed

  • Submit 2 short stories
    • Both Lifelike and The Cost of Rain have been out for submission since March. Neither have found a home yet, but both are consistently reaching high levels of consideration.
  • Publish 52 blog posts
    • This is the 59th post of the year, so I am blogging way more than I expected to! Hurray! This consistency is paying off, because the blog is having its best year by far, stats-wise.

2018 Word Count (so far): 80,367

Speaking of stats, how is the blog doing? Well, I’m glad you asked! The blog is killing it this year, with almost 500 followers! There’s been more audience interaction than ever before, with an average of one comment per post, and views are up. Each month of 2018 has out performed the views of any other year so far, and the total views for the year so far are just shy from outpacing the total views for 2017! I’ve also put in a staggering 45k+ words on the blog so far this year.

That feels good, let me tell you. Now, I feel I should mention that this blog is a small and mighty thing. I started it back in September of 2011 as a way to warm up my writing muscle in the morning and to hold myself accountable to my own goals. It had also been suggested by a guest speaker in a Novel Writing class that discussing works in progress on a website was a good way to prevent plagiarism. You know, timestamps and yadda yadda. I didn’t, and still don’t, care so much about this. I doubt anyone is stealing my work right now. Especially since no one else ever sees it!

But, the accountability thing? Blogging has definitely helped. It’s not fool-proof, of course. I am stubbornly my own worst enemy sometimes and no amount of blogging will keep me from sabotaging myself. But, this year is proof that it can work and does mitigate some of my most self-destructive (work) behaviors.

So, you might think 500 followers is no big deal. That outdoing previous years’ views isn’t that big a deal, but I’m celebrating all my wins, no matter how small. And for this blog, these are very exciting jumps in activity.

Another positive for the year so far is my reading goal! I’ve read 37 books so far this year, according to Goodreads, which puts me four books ahead of schedule. As usual, my reading has slowed down in the summer months, but my reading sprint earlier in the year always buoys me through.

I’m still (slowly) chipping away at The Steel Armada rewrite. This project looks much different now than I originally planned, and defining it as ‘done’ is something of a moving target. I’ll discuss that more when I write my Editing Check-In post next week.

Santa Sarita is on its last installment. I shared the first chapter the other night, and got a bit of a response. The readership is still there, so that’s a relief. Now if I can just post chapters on a steady schedule, I’ll be able to finally mark this monstrous project as ‘complete’. 17,000 words in, who knows how many to go? Certainly not me.

My yearly goals seemed to have been a bit small, now that I’m looking at them. I did much better the first half of this year than I anticipated. So, what do I do with the rest of 2018?

Honestly, there are a lot of options. I want to work on something new for NaNoWriMo this year, preferably not fanfiction. I might try out my newest story idea, an Urban Fantasy set in Arizona, featuring angels, demons, a badass bisexual, and lots of cats. It’s something I came up with earlier in the year, and it just will not give up. This story wants to be written.

Once The Steel Armada is ‘done’, whatever that means, I want to start editing Cards. It’s a project that I really love, but it will need lots of work. There’s also the rough draft of From the Quorum that needs finishing. I might do that for NaNo, but it depends on what project is more motivating when the time comes.

I also have a couple short stories milling around in my head. One is half written from earlier this year, the other is just an idea, a little scribble on a p-slip from the library. I want to work on them both, but don’t think I should until I really hammer out The Steel Armada. The ideas will keep, they always do. Plus, I want to keep my short story energy focused on finding homes for Lifelike and The Cost of Rain.

What else? Obviously there will be a giant gap in productivity in September, while we’re on vacation in Germany! I will plan for that accordingly.

2018 – Remaining Priorities

  • Finish The Steel Armada
  • Finish Santa Sarita
  • Sell Lifelike and The Cost of Rain
  • Decide on NaNo project
  • Keep reading!

So, yeah. That’s where I’m at. That’s the year so far. I’m feeling a touch lost at the moment, mainly because I’m wading back into my workload after a month of shutting down. But, when I look back at what I’ve accomplished so far, I don’t feel so daunted by the months to come.

I guess that’s really the point of all these goals posts and check-ins. Goals are easier to digest if they’re broken down in to manageable portions, after all. Thanks again for following along this far. I appreciate you. I sincerely hope 2018 isn’t treating you like crap.

Talk soon, Bloggos,

 

BZ

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Book Review – The Master Magician (The Paper Magician #3) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Blogland,

I embarked on this journey with Ceony Twill and Emery Thane over a year ago. I found The Paper Magician to be a cute, lighthearted read that appealed to me for a multitude of reasons. A young, determined heroine embarks on a chilling journey through her mentor’s heart in order to save his life. Also, the mentor just so happens to be handsome, kind, and a bit of an enigma.

dot dot dot yes

But, while I enjoyed the first story immensely, the second one seemed to be a bit fumbling. There were a lot of characters that simply didn’t get enough screen time, Ceony’s decisions were almost indefensible, and the ending was… terrible. I had to take a break from the series, it was that bad.

But, here we are, finally ready to talk about my stalwart slog through what was supposed to be the final book in The Paper Magician series, The Master Magician. Beware some spoilers below.

Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars

master magician

This book was… frustrating. Ceony was foolish, childish, and often downright manipulative throughout the book. She was obsessed with Saraj, and unwilling to trust the people around her to do their jobs, putting herself at risk and allowing others to jeopardize their lives and livelihoods to help her.

I did not like Ceony in this book. I waited and waited for her to get her comeuppance, her karmic just desserts, or face some kind of consequences for her reckless and hurtful behavior.

… nope. She has a complete tantrum with her testing Magician, and though he’s snippy with her, that’s it. In fact, he sort of respects her more after she “stands up for herself” by screaming at him. She passes her test with only the slightest of hiccups. And all her snooping into Saraj’s whereabouts pay off when she finds Emery doing the same and they join forces to nearly get murdered, but end up saving the day.

Ceony’s ability to break her bond to paper and rebond to any magic is told to one person and then swept under the rug, never to be addressed again. And her completely pointless falling out with her sister is resolved by another stern talking to and the promise of hooking said sister up with her surly testing Magician.

Yes. You read that correctly.

So, Ceony gets everything she ever wanted, despite the fact she was a terrible person throughout this book. What really pissed me off about it was that her actions and obsession with Saraj are attributed to her PTSD over the events in the second book. I think Holmberg meant for it to come across as her seeking closure, that Ceony couldn’t take the next step in her life (passing her Magician’s exam, marrying Emery, etc.,) until she put Saraj and the Excisioners behind her.

What better way to do that than hunt down a known murderer yourself?

I also had problems with Ceony’s methods. She tracked down Saraj multiple times using her magic, which was cool to see, I guess. But Criminal Affairs, you know, the freaking magic police, couldn’t find him? Give me a break!

By page 130 I was prepared to give up on this book. Truly. I rarely give up, but I was so frustrated and disappointed that I wasn’t sure I could get through another 70 pages. But, I buckled down, got cozy in bed with a bunch of pillows, and made it happen.

And… I’m glad I did. This was not a good book. It was not a good way to end this series. I, obviously, have a lot of issues with it. But, those last 70 pages were fun and easily the best part of the whole book. Seeing Emery and Ceony work together to take out Saraj was really awesome, and it was written surprisingly well. I’m happy that Emery gets his happy ending.

I just wish Ceony could have suffered more consequences and had a growth arc of some kind. Because she was a petulant child through this whole series, and that was never addressed.

the plastic magician

There is now a fourth book in the series, The Plastic Magician. It follows another newly graduated student as she becomes a Polymaker. I am not going to read it. To me, it sounds like The Paper Magician all over again, but with a ‘different’ character. A young woman come from America to study under a mentor in her field. There’s romance, intrigue, and magic. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Reviews on Goodreads are mixed, with most folks stating they like the main character more than they liked Ceony, which is understandable. But that the plot was just meh. Which, I also find likely.

Ultimately, I have so many other books queued up, waiting for my attention, that I can’t waste time on more Holmberg books. At least, not for a long, long time. Maybe in a year or two I’ll come around and decide to give it a chance. Maybe.

Ugh. I hate writing critical reviews. I know how much effort and work goes into writing a novel. I know that Charlie N. Holmberg loves her characters like they’re children, little pieces of herself that she put out into the world. I’m sorry. I really did love the first book. I just… didn’t love the other two.

I’m chipping away at Kill the Farm Boy and Side Jobs, and Brief Cases showed up on the hold shelf yesterday. I’ve got Nightflyers chilling on my entry table, along with Midnight Riot, and the digital audio for Bloodlist downloaded and waiting.

I have a lot of reading/listening ahead of me!

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

Bloggos,

Excuse me for a moment.

 

STARS AND STONES, THANK GOODNESS FOR THIS BOOK!

 

Ahem.

Right. Now that’s out of the way, on to the actual review. Beware some spoilers ahead, but let’s be real, this book has been out for almost four years. If you’re like me and arriving late to the party, you’ve probably come across worse spoilers on the internet than these.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

skin game.jpg

After two full books of Dresden moping over the events at Chichen Itza and the decisions that led him to be Mab’s Winter Knight, we finally see the Harry Dresden we know and love back in action!

Harry’s spent the last year-ish on Demonreach, keeping himself busy with homemade obstacle courses and shouting “parkour” at the top of his lungs. Let me tell you, hearing James Marsters yell that over the course of this book never got old. I laughed every single time.

Mab shows up and whisks Dresden off to a meeting with Nicodemus Archleone. Now, anytime Harry and good ol’ Nick are in scene together is damn good reading. Tension galore, and usually even more of sassy pants Harry than usual. You know how Dresden gets when faced with a “big bad”; snark-a-palooza.

So, turns out, Mab owed Nicodemus a favor? And as payment she’s loaning her Knight to him as he attempts to rob a supernatural vault filled to the brim with occult artifacts. Previous experience tells us that anything Nicodemus wants cannot possible be good, and Dresden does NOT want to help the Knight of the Blackened Denarius.

But we also know that Mab never reveals all her cards at once. And she’s always stacked the deck in her favor. So, off Harry goes to join a preternatural heist and he brings Murphy with him. Some old characters and new ones come in and out, including Michael, Uriel, Butters, Mouse, and Bob.

dresden-thomas
Who wouldn’t want more time with this guy?

This book felt like an old school Dresden book. There was adventure, forces of good and evil, sneaky faeries, and insane stakes and odds. Lots of sharp, humorous dialogue too. The only thing missing was some quality Thomas time, which I usually think is lacking because there’s always room for more time with Thomas Raith.

If you read my review of Cold Days, you’ll remember that I had a lot of doubts about Dresden and this series moving forward. Changes, Ghost Story, and Cold Days were all decent stories, but they were trying for me. I didn’t agree with Harry’s actions or motivations for most of those books and found my enjoyment of the series really depended on the side characters.

Skin Game does not suffer from that. This is the book where Harry gets his groove back, if you will. And I have to say, I am so glad he’s back! Of course, it remains to be seen what happens in the next book, since it still doesn’t have a release date, but for the first time in a few books, I have high hopes! This book really saved the series for me, I think, or at least revived it enough that I’ll be sure to come back for the next one.

I hesitate to say that this was my favorite of all the Dresden books, mainly because I loved Blood Rites and Dead Beat so much. But, I would lump it into a top three with those two in a heartbeat.

Here’s hoping that Peace Talks can keep that momentum going.

Yet again, James Marsters gave a stellar performance as Harry and company. I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort it must take to read and record these novels and keep the characters consistent across all of them. It really blows my mind if I think about it too much.

I’m moving on to the first Dresden short story collection, Side Jobs, just in time for the release of the second one on June 5th. Brief Cases appears to only be available in digital audio, which I am not okay with. I’ve got a hold on the hard copy book and suggested my digital library service purchase a copy of the audio, but have yet to hear back about it. either way, I’ll review it and share my thoughts with you all here.

You know, as per usual.

Honestly, I’m getting a little anxious about being all caught up on this series. I’ve had The Dresden Files as my back up read for so long that it became a sort of security blanket. If I ever found myself without a shiny new book, I could fall back on Dresden. Harry would always be there, waiting in the wings to whisk me off to Chicago for supernatural high jinks.

And now… now I’m done? I mean, yeah, there are a couple short story collections left, but that’s it! I’ve read all the books, I’ve read all the graphic novels. After these two collections, I’m stuck waiting for the next book like every body else!

Oh, God. That’s sounds terrible!

Quick! Someone give me a series recommendation!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Bloggos!

After a brutal migraine derailed my plans last weekend, I am finally here to talk about Blackfish City!

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

blackfish city
I absolutely love this cover, and it glows in the dark!

Blackfish City is Miller’s first adult novel, and it sets the bar quite high for his subsequent works. There is so much to love in this book. An extremely diverse cast in a wildly imaginative setting face horribly realistic challenges in world ravished by climate change.

Qaanaaq is a floating city anchored to a geothermal vent in the arctic circle. All its heat and energy are siphoned from the vent below the city’s eight arms. I pictured it like a giant floating, eight-pointed, star-shaped steel dock. Each arm is a neighborhood, distinct from the others in wealth, culture, and populace. The city is very vibrant and alive, very much its own character in the story, as shown in the City without a Map segments of the narrative.

Technology plays a very vital role in the city, and Miller’s leaps in tech uses and ability are at once incredibly original and wonderfully plausible. Implants that act as smartphones, podcasts delivered direct to your ear via vibrations from the implant, etc. I’d love to get my hands on some of that!

I was extremely impressed by how much I loved Qaanaaq. And how quickly. It’s a gritty, visceral place full of despair and hope, and that’s established within the first few pages of this book.

Blackfish City Alternate
Alternate cover

Some ratings and reviews I’ve read complain about the early pages of the book, citing that it was too slow and the learning curve too steep. I, personally, disagree. The pace is purposefully meandering, showing the full breadth of Qaanaaq as the reader follows the characters through their ever day lives. The book is very atmospheric in tone early on, and then shifts to a more plot-driven pace once all the pieces are set in place.

Speaking of characters, there are several. The first we meet is Fill, a young, wealthy gay man who has just been diagnosed with the breaks, a sexually transmitted psychological disease. More on that in a minute. He’s also the only point of view character who is white. Everyone else is Inuit or part-Inuit.

Then there’s Ankit, an assistant to Arm Six’s political representative. She hates her job, but she worked hard to get it, and it gives her a slim opportunity to actually help the people around her.

Kaev is a journeyman fighter, owned by the a crime syndicate and paid to convincingly throw fights in the syndicate’s favor. Fighting is all he knows, all he lives for, and all he’s good for. Kaev shows us what the breaks can do to a person, shattering their consciousness with interruptions of memories that aren’t theirs until eventually they “break free from their body”. Their minds snap and their bodies die. And there is no cure.

And then there’s my personal favorite, Soq. Soq’s a messenger who uses magnetic boots to basically skate around the city at breakneck speeds to deliver anything and everything, legal and… not so much. They are genderfluid, use they/them pronouns, and are beyond pissed off at Qaanaaq. They can’t decide if they want to watch it burn or bring it to heel, but all they know is that someday, they’ll have the power to make that choice.

Masaaraq
Sketch by the author

And of course, there’s the Orcamancer, the woman whose arrival sets the story of Blackfish City into motion. Masaaraq, the woman who came to the city on a skiff pulled by a killer whale, accompanied by a polar bear.

Miller does a wonderful job of weaving the various character narratives into one another, in subtle and very interesting ways. My only complaint, and I hesitate to even call it such, is that the ending did feel a bit abrupt.

I wanted more. I want to spend so much more time in Qaanaaq. I’m satisfied, mostly, with the ending as far as the characters are concerned, but the world? Nah. I don’t want to leave Blackfish City just yet.

Sam J. Miller tackles a lot of themes in this book. Capitalism, deregulation, climate change, revenge, regret, what it means to be a family, and the lengths people will go to in order to save the ones they love. All of these come up and are explored within the relatively short span of 336 pages. And they are handled well.

Honestly, I loved this book. I’m going to buy a copy, and I sincerely hope that Sam J. Miller will find his way back to Qaanaaq eventually, so that I can too. I’m going to find his short story Calved, his first adventure in this setting, simply because I can’t get enough.

Oh! It’s also worth mentioning that Miller’s first novel The Art of Starving (which I’ve yet to read) is nominated for a Hugo Award, the first year for the Best Young Adult Book category!

So hurry up and read his stuff already!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Cold Days (Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

Sorry this book review is so late. It’s been a while since I finished the audiobook, so there are only minor spoilers below. Beware that I am a bit Dresden critical in this review

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

cold days cover

Harry’s back in Chicago for less than six hours and he almost dies at least twice. The stakes are high in this book, as they always are whenever Mab is involved. There’s a lot of tension and fallout between Harry and his friends/family over what he did in the last couple books. It’s been a long year, and everyone in Chicago has felt Dresden’s absence.

So what’s he up to? Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Preventing a horde of spiritual inmates from escaping into the world and rending it asunder. All while coping with a power grab from Maeve and dodging the Summer Lady and her Knight. Oh, and it’s Halloween, so all kinds of weirdness is afoot.

Blessedly, this book is full of characters I want to spend time with. Thomas, Murphy, Butters, Molly, Mouse, and Bob all play major roles. Which is for the best, because Harry is on a slippery slope and it won’t take much for him to be on the fast track to unlikable.

I think that’s good tension, story-wise, but as a reader it is exhausting to read book after book of Harry internalizing all this supposed temptation. Dude. Molly has been your apprentice for years. You’ve known her for more than a decade. We get it, she’s hot. But you shouldn’t still be distracted by the fact. Move on.

The sexualization of every single female character is a big part of why I’ve stepped away from this series for a moment. I get that the White Court Vampires are inhumanly gorgeous. They are succubi, they are literally supposed to preternaturally sexy and tempting. And I have zero beef with Dresden spending a paragraph or two describing and coping with the Raith sisters’ insane sex appeal.

molly stupid stance
She’s looking at something slightly to her left. So of course she angles her body toward the right…

But Molly? Dresden has known her since she “was in a training bra” (which is his super cringe-y way to say he’s known her since she was a kid, btw), she’s the daughter of his BEST FRIEND, and yet every single book we get a paragraph or more to see just how incredibly hot she is and how Harry constantly has impure thoughts about her that he has to beat back with a mental baseball bat.

There’s a word for that…. Oh. Right. Gross.

And it’s not just Molly. Murphy is starting to get this treatment too. Now, she gets a lot more respect from Dresden’s narration, mainly because Karrin would kick his ass if it was ever otherwise, but now that they’re addressing the sexual tension between them and talking through the idea of the two of them dating, suddenly Murph is reduced to physical descriptions and lips that “taste like strawberries”.

Yep. Strawberries. After a crazy midnight ride through Chicago with the Wild Hunt and an even longer day coordinating movement against bad guys and helping Dresden, Murphy’s mouth tasted like strawberries.

I call bullshit. What did she do, pop an altoid right beforehand? Does she have a secret strawberry stash in her Harley’s saddlebags for just this exact reason? Please.

molly_wildcard
The most modestly dressed Molly is ever portrayed, but it’s all skintight. Because sitting criss-cross applesauce in jeans that tight is even possible.

This is a little bit of a tirade on my part, and I apologize, but this really took me out of the story. I was walking through a parking lot, listening to the audiobook in my headphones, and I went from cheering that they kissed to screeching at how preposterous that was. It made me so mad. It was a stupid little superfluous line and it ripped me from the book completely.

But, there are some really good elements in this book. Thomas is in peak form, giving Harry the patience, care, and good sense of humor he probably doesn’t fully deserve. Murphy is realistic and a total badass when it comes to standing up to Harry when he’s wrong and holding her own once she’s made a decision.  Molly has truly come into her own, and seems to have coped well from her time as the Rag Lady. And even Butters has grown into a character with some semblance of spine.

Queen Mab
She changes her appearance at will, but pale and icy blonde tend to be the favorite interpretations.

And, surprisingly, Mab was fantastic. I have never once liked Mab, in all fourteen books. I still can’t really say that I like her, even now. But by the end of this book I saw Mab as more than a force of cold devastating power, as more than just a mad, tyrannical queen. For the very first time, I saw Mab for what else she is; a mother, a woman, a person.

And man, that was a powerful moment.

Mab
Mab concept

I’ll be frank, this was my least favorite Dresden book. It dragged. It was fifteen discs, and only the last six were actually fun or enjoyable. Everything before that felt like needless preamble. Another big problem is that Harry isn’t as likable to me as he used to be. I struggle with him. He says, thinks, and does things that make me sigh and roll my eyes.

Increasingly, my enjoyment of this series is reliant on the side characters. And that is a dangerous thing for a series. I shouldn’t like the secondary characters more than I like the main character, especially in a first person narrative. I guess I just have very little patience for Harry right now.

Which is why I’ve taken a bit of a break from the series. I keep meaning to start Side Jobs, but I can’t seem to muster the will to do so. With Brief Cases coming out in less than a month, I really need to finish Skin Game so I can read the book when it comes in at the library. So, I’ll be changing my reading page once more to reflect my decision to listen to the fifteenth book in the series, and then the first short story collection.

I’ll be back this weekend with the review for Blackfish City. I’m excited to talk about it with you all!

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

 

P.S. It should be noted that, once again, James Marsters narration was fantastic! I absolutely love his voice and his efforts to give each character something unique in their tone or cadence. I always know who’s speaking, even before the narration explains it to me. It’s the main reason I keep coming back to this books. So thanks for that, James.