New Year’s, New Look – 2019

I’m so excited to share this new layout with all of you! I really like this one. It’s crisp, super easy to navigate, and very professional looking. It also feels a bit more dynamic than last year’s. I’m not sure if that’s because of the contrasting aqua and purple (my favorite colors), or the widgets, or the site logo, but I do know I like it a lot.

Now, let’s get down to business and talk about what the heck happened in 2018!

In 2018 I said I wanted to:

  • Finish The Steel Armada
  • Finish Santa Sarita
  • Submit 2 short stories
  • Publish 52 blog posts
  • Read 65 books
  • Maintain my yoga practice

 How’d it go?

  • Finish The Steel Armada
    • …Yes! As far as I’m concerned, right now, this project is stamped ‘done’. It turned out nothing how I planned, and became almost a complete rewrite halfway through 2018. The Steel Armada became Exodus: Descent, a SolarPunk novella. I sent it to Tim the Agent™ back in August, but have not heard from him. I’m shelving it for now, though I have plans for future novellas set in the same world. So, final status of this project is: Done for now.
  • Finish Santa Sarita
    • No. I thought so, and then BAM, another sequel appeared. I bit off a lot with this one, and I’m a little worried about it. So, this will be a pretty high priority in 2019. I don’t want this project lingering over my head anymore. Project status: In Progress.
  • Submit 2 short stories
    • Heck yes! This was much easier to do than I thought when I made this goal. So much so that by the end of 2018 I had three stories out for submission.
  • Publish 52 blog posts
    • Yep. And then some. This was, hands-down, the best year the blog has ever had. 119 posts, an average of one comment per post, and over 5,000 hits this year has really blown my mind. Consistency really is key. Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 8.55.52 PM
  • Read 65 books
    • Yes! I read 67 books this year! It wasn’t easy, by any means, but I had just enough time and graphic novels to really pad my Goodreads Challenge.
  • Maintain my yoga practice
    • Hahaha. No. I got bronchitis two weeks into 2018 and fell out of my practice. I’m contemplating trying again this year, but with two jobs and some lofty writing goals, I’m not sure if I can dedicate the time.

2018 Total Word Count: 149,331 

Honorable Mentions

2018 was an eventful year, both personally and in my working life. I received a scholarship to attend the Oregon Writer’s Colony Annual Conference in April, which really affirmed that I’m on the right track and making strides in this whole writing life thing. Right about that time I started submitting my short stories for the first time in over four years. That was a roller coaster all its own, and has been a great learning experience and growth opportunity for me.

June saw my traditional wave of summer depression. I coped by binge-playing Horizon Zero Dawn and eating way too many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

But, July and August were some of my most productive months of the year, with the completion of Exodus and the rough draft of my newest short story, That Which Illuminates Heaven.

September was the least productive month of the year, and reasonably so because we spent 12 days in Germany! It was an amazing trip, the exact vacation we so desperately needed, and our first journey abroad together. We hope to spend more time in Munich someday, especially for Christmas. And of course, we have other travel dreams! Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, the UK! The world is a big place, and I want to see as much of it as we can.

October was spent readjusting to working two jobs and outlining and researching for my new novel. Writing was limited and that sucked, but it was all part of the plan. It worked out, because I met my word count goal for November, with a startling 25k words! That’s about a third of the planned manuscript, which is kind of crazy if I think about it too much.

December is a busy month in our house, what with my birthday and the holiday. Add in the mental recuperation from Nanowrimo and it meant I just didn’t expect much from myself that month. But I did finish my reading goal while I let my writing muscle relax!Img bookstack 72

I read 16,300 pages across 67 titles in 2018!

I also flexed my editing muscle this year with The Audient Void. We released two issues this year, and are on the cusp of releasing a new chapbook of some of David Barker’s previously unpublished short stories, Half in Light, Half in Shadow.

2018’s word was FOCUS. It was my mantra, the thing I came back to when I felt out of control or like I was drowning in my workload. Based on how well my year went, I think it worked. So, I want to pick a new word for 2019:

INTENT.

I want to be purposeful in my writing, I want to take the time to better learn my craft and write with more intention. I don’t really know what that will mean for my writing just yet, but I bet I will by January 1, 2020.

What am I doing in 2019?

  • I am finishing the Tavi rough draft. I’m already a third of the way there. In an ideal world this rough draft will be done by the end of March/beginning of April. Realistically, this will take the first half of the year.
  • I will finish Santa Sarita. This is a big job still. I think, right now, I’m really stuck in my head about it. I need to sit down and start writing this story again and let it take the reins. I honestly think that’s the only way it’ll get done.
  • I will revise Cards. This is the project that comes after the Tavi rough draft. I wrote Cards back in 2014, and I’ve learned a lot since then. Much like The Steel Armada, I anticipate Cards will require extensive rewrites. But, I’m ready. I learned how to do that last year and I’m equipped with the skills and knowledge to do it again this year.
  • I will publish something! This is a tricky one. I don’t actually have much control over this goal. There are a lot of factors that go into getting a piece published and almost none of them are decided by me. But, I have three stories out right now. I want at least one of them to find a home.
  • I will publish two blog posts a week. I’ve got this into a rhythm now, so I’m confident I can do it again.
  • I will read 70 titles. I exceeded my reading goal this year, it only makes sense to increase it in 2019.

If time allows, I’d like to…

  • Make considerable progress (30k words) on From the Quorum. This novel is the first in a planned trilogy, and is my longest-lived idea. I first met these characters in 2009, and they are still around, patiently waiting for me to tell their story. I don’t know if I’ll make much progress on it this year, but  it will definitely be a priority in 2020.
  • Write a new short story! I have three out now that are performing well. It’s just a matter of time before one of them finds a home. It’d be nice to have one waiting in the wings and ready to go when that finally happens.
  • Submit Exodus to novella markets. I actually think this one is pretty likely to happen. But, with Tavi and Cards looming, this won’t be on my radar until the later half of the year.

There’s a lot to do in 2019. I probably bit off more than I can chew, especially since I’m working two jobs right now. There’s also always the reading and editing for Madhu and The Audient Void to consider.

So, in short, I’m a busy busy lady and nothing about that will change in 2019. I look forward to sharing that journey with all of you in the coming months.

I’ll be back later this week with the Monthly Recap!

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 32

Blogland!

We’re buckling up for another hot week here in the Pacific Northwest. The fans are blasting, with ample water in supply. Although, my yard is definitely worse for the wear. But, the writing den is cool and comfortable today, which means it’s time to get to work.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
  • Read Broken Homes
  • Read through The Steel Armada/send to Madhu
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
    • Yep! Early in the week I finished and posted a Dragon Age tumblr prompt to a few notes and comments.
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    broken homes
    • Nope. Only wrote 88 words on this project this week.
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
    • Nope. Not even a little bit.
  • Read Broken HomesYes! I didn’t think I’d make this one, but I finished it in the wee hours last night.
  • Read through Exodus:Descent/send to Madhu
    • Yep! This was a bigger task than I anticipated, which warranted labeling the file “Draft 2.5”. So now it’s sitting somewhere between drafts two and three.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yarp. Madhu’s been struggling a little bit as she’s slogging through the last pages of her rewrite. But, I’m diligent in getting her pages back to her in a timely manner.

Weekly Word Count: 2,927

So, not a crazy good week, but not a bad one either. Revising Exodus is really my top priority, so I don’t feel so bad about neglecting Ezra this week. The reading and blogging continue to be consistent. I’ve got tumblr prompts to keep my mind engaged and working on new content. Work on Ezra has slowed, mainly because I’m not really sure where the story is going, and I have a feeling a rewrite is on the way. But, we’ll see.

Saturday evening I received word that, yet again, The Cost of Rain made it to the final round but did not get selected for publication. However, the magazine offered feedback which, though brief, was actually quite good. I made the subsequent changes and sent it off to the next place.

I also finally got my hands on The Audient Void short stories for issue #6. Doing the line edits took up one of my evenings, and I can’t wait for you all to see it! These stories are really good!

the audient void no 5
Or buy a copy here!

If you’re at WorldCon this weekend you can pick up a copy of The Audient Void Issue #5 at The Book Bin’s booth as well as get your books signed by a slew of wonderful authors!

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Foxglove Summer
  • Review Madhu’s pages

That’s it. I need to keep it simple this week. Submitting Exodus is my biggest priority. And the most complicated. In order to send it this week I need to finish the revision (currently adding some extras and honing the ending) and write and perfect the query letter. So, yeah. That’s a big job on its own.

Once that’s done I need to sit down and decide if I try to slog through Ezra as it is, or start fresh with that new take on it that’s bouncing around my brain. I’m increasingly thinking that it’s time to start over. But, that can wait until Exodus is done.

I am running out of time with these Peter Grant books. I have until the 21st to read them all, and I only have two left! That means, if I’m not writing, I’m reading.

And of course there will be time to review Madhu’s pages. I’ll probably even send her some snippets of the changes I’ve made to Exodus, just to be sure they’re working before I send it off.

So, yeah. There’s a lot of work ahead of me this week. I’ll be back, probably on Thursday, to share my review of Broken Homes, and then you probably won’t see much of me. I gotta get this biz done!

So until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Editing Check-In #4

Hey Blogland. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my progress on The Steel Armada, almost a month actually. There’s been a lot of development, and I’m really excited to tell you all about it!

First and foremost: I finished the rough draft!

celebration

That’s a huge relief right there. I sent the final chapter to Madhu on August 1st, and could have sent the entire manuscript, but we both agreed that since she wasn’t ready send me hers, I should take the time to revise and edit the rough draft first.

Which was a good idea, because the ending was terrible. No, seriously. It was bad. It focused too much on a side character and didn’t wrap up the main character’s arc really at all. I knew it when I wrote it, but I was so relieved to be able to call it done that I just sent it off to her without fixing it first.

But, I’ve since spent a huge amount of time going through the manuscript and making the changes the story really needed. Namely, the ending, but there were some small lines that needed added or cut to make sure character motivations made sense to the reader.

Exodus Descent progress

So, that was $8.10 worth of printing at the library and 16+ hours of editing. I spent about 2 hours on each chapter, doing a minimum of three read throughs of each one. I’ll get into what that entailed in a minute.

I also came up with a new title for the project! Now, I haven’t really referred to it as The Steel Armada for months now, at least, not in my head. That title never fit the story I was telling, and it especially did not fit the story I have on paper now. So, I give to you, Exodus: Descent, my new novella.

Exodus Descent RD

After my laborious editing efforts last Thursday and Friday I promptly “shelved” the manuscript and did my best to put it out of my mind. I closed the Scrivener document, I didn’t look at the pages, I read for fun and played video games. Anything to keep my mind off of the project. I needed to manufacture distance without having much time to do so organically.

Normally, after completing a draft, I’ll put it aside for weeks or even months. But, I don’t have that luxury this time; I have a self-imposed deadline. I want to send the novella to Tim the Agent™ by August fifteenth. So, I had to distract myself.

I have to admit, it’s been very interesting to work with a deadline in mind. Having a firm date in mind has really increased my focus and drive for the completion of this project.

Then, today, I sat down and slowly worked my way through the manuscript again (this time on the computer) and made tedious changes to word choice, sentence structure, with an eye out for repetition or any vague lines. It was slow work that took up my entire evening, but I got the entire manuscript done. I’m calling it Draft 2.5. And that’s what I sent to Madhu tonight.

That’s the general update, but I also want to share a little about what this process has looked like over the last week. I’ve talked about my time rewriting the novella so far, including my internal struggle with the idea that the story is a novella in the first place. But what the heck did I do for 16 hours?

Well, I started by printing out the manuscript, including the cover page. Then, on the cover I wrote a legend for the meanings of the various ink colors I would use and a spot where I could count up the total tally of -ly, as, and was instances in the manuscript.

This is something I learned to do in college. Adverbs detract from your writing. Remember that Stephen King quote: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. As and was are both indicators of potentially weak or passive writing. Find them and you can hone in on where your writing is lacking and address the issue.

So, I read through the manuscript the first time just to read through it. If something is really jarring I’ll underline it so that I know to do something with it on a later read, but I don’t change anything otherwise.

On the second read through I go through and circle each and every instance of -ly, as, and was that I can. Obviously, out of 23k words, I miss some of them. And, I don’t fix all of them. That’s how you get boring, repetitive writing. But, it draws my attention to spots that I might want to change and helps me decide which sentences are a priority and which aren’t.

IMG_20180808_233725

That’s the second read through. On the third is when I finally whip out the red pen and put it to good use. And the green pen, for when I see something I really like or am proud of. Positive reenforcement is important, people! This is the stage that takes the longest time. I’m going through the entire manuscript, line by line, and making it the best I can this round. I’m cutting, rewriting, adding new material, anything it takes to iron out the wrinkles and get to the next stage of the manuscript.

And after that, I go back through and make those changes in the computer. Usually even more, smaller, tweaks happen in this stage simply because I’m seeing the words in a different setting. That’s why I do the bulk of my editing on printed pages in the first place, because getting a physical version of the manuscript changes how my brain perceives it and lets me see it in a more objective way.

work work work

And then I put it aside and do anything but think about the project. In this case, I read for fun and played Dragon Age: Inquisition for the bazillionth time. I let my mind wander away from the novella and relax.

Then, I came back to it today to make more small changes, this time on only in the computer. This is the honing phase, where I really implement elements of craft (what is this, college?) and make much more conscious decisions in my writing than I do in the initial writing process.

Once I got to the end I made sure both my Scrivener document and my .docx version were identical, and then sent it to Madhu for her feedback. Once I get it back, depending on how extensive the revisions need to be, I’ll probably print out another hard copy and start the whole process over again.

But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I’m hoping that there won’t be much new critique and that I can spend the last week just sharpening the writing before I query Tim the Agent™.

So, that’s the state of things right now. Once I consider it “done” I’ll post a Project Wrap Up and talk about the entire project from start (back in 2013) to finish. And then it’ll be goodbye to Val, at least for the time being, while I work on something new.

How exciting!

Talk at you all soon,

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 31

Blogland!

This week was extremely productive. Like, the most productive week I’ve had in a long time. It was also exhausting, and then suddenly very relaxing. Apparently I was all over the place this week!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit The Steel Armada
  • Write 1k words for The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Whispers Under GroundWhispers_Under_Ground
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I Do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
    • Yep. The first of the month saw the upload of The Recap and the review for Bloodlist is up now!
  • Edit The Steel Armada
    • Good Lordy bajornies, YES! It took about 16+ hours of work, but yes. It’s done!
  • Write 1k words for The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yep! Still have no idea where this story is going but I’m happy to spend time with these characters.
  • Read Whispers Under Ground
    • Yarp. I think I finished it on Tuesday?
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • You know it!

Weekly Word Count: 4,163

Y’all. Holy Crow what a week! There was lots of reading (Whispers Under Ground, The Productive Writer, and Here There be Gerblins), a ton of editing that rendered my brain into gray pudding and brought about a level of crankiness I hadn’t experienced in years. Also, there was a stupid amount of iced coffee just to keep me functional and even that still felt like running on fumes come Friday afternoon.

Exodus Descent RD
Notice the title? More details on that later this week!

Thursday and Friday were days off for me. I printed out the rough draft on Wednesday (all 81 pages), and then woke up on Thursday with one goal in mind: I would sit down and edit as much as my brain could possibly handle. I knew the ending needed rewriting, and I wanted to get that done on Friday if I could. Which meant I needed to get more than half way through the manuscript on Thursday.

That was… taxing. I’ll share an Editing Check-In this week where I’ll talk about the entire process (how I start, how I know when to call a draft done and move on to the next stage, what problem areas I focus on when, etc), but let’s just say that it was a freaking gauntlet.

work work work

After that, I was pretty much useless. A migraine and a completely wrecked sleep schedule later, I sank some hours into one of my Dragon Age: Inquisition playthroughs, read a little fanfic, and played Gloomhaven over the weekend. Which only worked out because I had finished all of my other goals by Friday night.

I’m beginning to think that the writing I’m doing for The Fall of Ezra Clarke is actually just background/foundation work. Right now its too passive, too high school drama. But if I can understand their pasts I can write their futures into something much more compelling. So, I’m just going to keep on until I hit on the actual story. I’ll hone it in from there.

There’s a sudden sense of freedom having The Steel Armada deep in its editing stages. I can work on… anything! I still have short stories out for submission, I’m working on a new sci-fi story (Ezra), I have ideas for a new novel series and a new short story. I have Cards to revise, and the rough draft of From the Quorum to finish. For the first time since 2014, I finally fee like I have options.

I'm free

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
  • Read Broken Homes
  • Read through The Steel Armada/send to Madhu
  • Review Madhu’s pages

That’s a busy week. Lots of bullet points. But it’s mostly reading, some editing, and a little bit of writing. Lucky for me, I (mostly) enjoy all of those things! I’m still a little tired, my mind not quite as sharp as I’m used to, but that could just be because I haven’t had my coffee yet.

So, I’m off to remedy that, and probably snag some breakfast while I’m at it. I’ll be back this week with the review for Whispers Under Ground and an Editing Check-In. So, until then, I hope you all had a good weekend, and that the week ahead treats you right.

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

Book Review- Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

Hellooooo Blogland!

Sorry for the delay. I’ve been doing a TON of edits on The Steel Armada, and fully expect to be done with it before the week is out.

Let me just say that one more time.Keepin it classy

I am going to be done with the second draft of my novel sometime this week…

WHAAAAAAT?

Ahem.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. For those of you who follow me on Goodreads, you’ll even see that my reading has slowed considerably, although I think I should be done with House of Many Ways by Wednesday.

So, let’s talk about this thing! This thing being Brandon Sanderson’s newest novella, Mistborn: Secret History.

Let me start now by saying that, if you haven’t read the original Mistborn trilogy, DO NOT read this review. Pretty much, this novella can not exist without the original trilogy, and honestly, would make a ton of sense without the Wayne and Wax books. If you’re not caught up, turn back now!

Last chance…

Ok! Here we go!Secret-History-cover

So, this novella, which was actually quite long, follows Kelsier after his death at the hands of the Lord Ruler.

Yup. You read that right.

This book is weird. It doesn’t follow Sanderson’s typical storytelling methods, and it reads a bit rough.

Kelsier basically talks his way out of passing into the true afterlife, and gets stuck in limbo. From there he’s able to witness the events of the original trilogy, and even has a very important role in the outcome.

To be honest, I’m not going to be able to rehash this tale in my usual detail. It’s too convoluted and complex. I’m still not entirely sure of everything that happened, so you’re going to have to read it yourself.

Some things I want to mention:

Despite my undying love for all things Mistborn, especially Kelsier, I’m still not sure how I feel about this story. There were a lot of moments where I wasn’t sold on the writing. A first for me when it comes to Sanderson. I think that’s directly linked to the lack of worldbuilding in this novella. In limbo, everything is just mist, occasionally taking on the reverse forms of the real world. Also, Kell is alone for most of the story. He’s a fantastic character, and by the end I remembered why I love him so much, and was so glad to have his continued story, but a novella of mostly monologue was…

Slow.

That being said, there’s a ton of Cosmere references in this story. As a reminder, the Cosmere is the universe that all of Sanderson’s major works take place in. There’s a larger plot concerning the Cosmere as a whole, but it’s not remotely clear yet, and won’t be until all the worlds and books are explored. I was dying to understand what was happening, and I know there were some heavy drops sprinkled in. I just don’t know enough to recognize them yet.

And, I do think my distance from the original trilogy made reading this story more difficult. I didn’t remember a lot of the more subtle moments, or the less momentous. Even though I’ve read them three times, I never can quite remember all the minutia.

Anyway, the story follows Kelsier post-death as he follows the events of the trilogy. So you’re seeing the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages from his spiritual perspective. He has limited vision and hearing, and he can’t really communicate with the living, so his point of view is a very different and complex take on the trilogy.

But, it does explain some key elements from the original novel, and hints that not everything is as it seems in the Wayne and Wax books.

kelsier
Mistborn: The Final Empire Brazilian cover art by Marc Simonetti

That’s right. Kelsier never actually acquiesces his soul, so he’s still roaming limbo, using his limited abilities to effect the living. I’m not sure what all he’s done, but I have a feeling, if I reread some, I can find him, pulling string from beyond the grave.

But, the real highlight of this story for me was seeing Vin and Elend again. Post-death. I cried, just like I cry every time they die. It was so bittersweet, because Kelsier’s affection for Vin is much better explored and fleshed out. It was rough on my emotions. As usual with these characters.

So, without context, this book absolutely does not work. And honestly, if you’re just a casual fan of the original trilogy, I’m not sure you’d like it. This novella poses a lot of deep questions and toys with what you think you know upon completing the trilogy. It’s not for the faint of heart.

But, if you’re in this deep, like me, then it’s worthwhile. For me, it felt like stolen time. Kelsier was the first Sanderson character I fell in love with. He was my favorite, and he still has a special place in my heart. So, spending so much uninterrupted time with him was magical, even if the ramifications this novella causes are mind-numbing.

And I think that’s really the best part. This novella was incredibly nostalgic for me, while offering up a ton of information and questions for the continuation of not just the Mistborn series, but the Cosmere at large.

So, if you’re like me, and all caught up and dying for any kind of answers, give this novella a try. It’ll confuse you, but it will give you at least some sort of answers while we wait for the last Wayne and Wax book.

I plan on finishing House of Many Ways by Wednesday night, so I should have a book review out on Thursday. From there I’m reading Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. From there, I’m not entirely sure.

See you soon, Blogland, and as always, thanks for reading!

 

BZ

Book Review- Purple and Black by K.J. Parker

Back, as promised, to discuss Purple and Black, a novella by K.J. Parker. A quick Goodreads search showed me that Parker actually has quite a few titles to his name. I hadn’t heard of him until I saw this book float by me at the check-in terminal at work. I won’t lie, the cover art really caught my attention, so I read the quick synopsis on the jacket flap, and then shelved it.

Except my brain wasn’t ready to shelve it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, wondering how an Epistolary fantasy novella would read. And so I wrote the title down, and vowed to add it to my list.

Flash forward a week, and here we are at the Review.

Be ready, this one’s gonna be spoiler-y.

PurpleandBlack

So, as I learned in my Intro to Literature class (though I’m sure some level of my brain already knew this), an Epistolary story is one told by correspondence. Letters, emails, etc,. Parker’s novella is 113 pages long, told by a series of correspondences between Nico (short for Nicephorus) and his best friend, Phormio. Nico is the Emperor, and Phormio is his newly appointed Govenor of Upper Tremissis.

The story takes place in an Alternate-Byzantine, according to the jacket, and though I don’t know the first thing about actual-Byzantine, the language shared by Nico and Phormio seems unlikely to me.
byzantine_empire_1355

Both of them speak in common slang and euphemism. There’s plenty of cursing, which I’m not generally opposed to, but it felt unnatural given the setting of the tale. Aside from the frequent mention of locations that sound like they’re from a Fantasy world, the letters themselves could be from anyone.

Maybe that’s supposed to help the reader identify with the main characters, but I was a little disappointed. Because the mentions of locations, and a couple battle descriptions from Phormio are the only world-building present in the novella.

So, the main premise is that Nico has been newly crowned Emperor after all his remaining family killed each other off in an effort to gain the throne. He doesn’t trust anyone currently on the cabinet, and so appoints all his college buddies to positions of power. They’re the only people he can trust.

Phormio has been sent to Govern a small city in the northern extreme of the Empire, where there’s been reports of rebellion. And he hates it. He hates the village, the weather, and his position. He never wanted power. Yadda, yadda.

He and Nico bicker back and forth, showing their familiarity and comfort with one another. Phormio complains about freezing to death in Tremissis, Nico sends him a scarf and socks.

It’s funny, but… it seems just so incongruous with a setting that is still waging war with swords and shields. Not the humor, of course, but the delivery of it.

Anyway, as the story goes on, the friends mention their other friends, and the good old days at college. And how they dearly miss their one particularly dead friend. And it’s in moments when he’s mentioned, or when Phormio suffers a defeat, that you really come to like Nico. He’s caring, devoted, and doing his damnedest to do right by the Empire.

And then Phormio betrays him.

You see, and you will see it coming, because it was rather obvious, the dead friend the Nico grieved so much? Not dead. In fact, he’s leading the rebellion, and has Phormio in on it with him.

Phormio begs Nico to see their perspective. He quotes their college selves, and their thoughts on power and politics. He and Gorgias (the not-dead friend) are mad at Nico for not dissolving the Empire and implementing the changes he said he would when they were all drunk in their favorite bar near the school. You see, Nico had a lot of revolutionary ideas when he was young, and so did his friends. And so did we all.

Young Nico and his friends had come to the conclusion that Power corrupted to the point of Evil. That man was meant to be free. That government hobbled man until he could no longer see how enslaved he was, that he would be grateful and beg for his decision to be made for him.

But, with age supposedly comes wisdom. Nico’s only had his throne for a few months, and though he does want to make changes, he has to get some stability first. Which is why he can’t do what Gorgias and Phormio want. He tries to explain, but he knows it won’t matter.

And even after all the hurt, and betrayal, he still writes at the end of his letter that he’s glad to know Gorgias is still alive. Even after his two best friends have declared war on him!

What a great guy! What an outstanding human being! At this point, you’re straight-up rooting for him, and I was seething at Phormio.
byzantine building

And then you read the last correspondence from Phormio to the Emperor, but this time it’s to His Majesty Gorgias. They ousted Nico, and though it’s customary to kill any threat to the throne, they allowed him to live. They just gouged his eyes out. You know, can’t run an Empire blind.

After all they’d said and promised, Gorgias was unable to do anything any differently than Nico. He doesn’t dissolve the Empire, he doesn’t even attempt to cast the power from himself. Though he claims he never wanted to be Emperor, much like Nico.

And the finally letter is from Nico to Phormio. He’s living in a monastery, where Monks feed him and read to him. He can’t do much for himself, being blind, but he’s not unhappy. In fact, he says he’s happier there than he’d been in a long time. He writes to Phormio, telling him of Gorgias’s visit, and asks that Phormio himself come see him soon.
roussanou-monastery-meteora-in-greece

For a little book that started out so funny, it ended on a very sad note, and raised some serious questions.

Parker plays with themes of Power and Good and Evil. What makes men Evil? Is it Power? Knowledge? Ambition? Gorgias saw himself as a revolutionary, doing the right thing, and then became the exact thing he worked so hard to be rid of. At the cost of a dear friend’s well being.

But, Nico… Nico never came off as power-hungry or evil, even when he sat on the throne. And after his “retirement”, he seemed even more at peace, having witnessed his friends’ failure. He’s free from the responsibility of the throne, and free from rebuke. He behaved and acted as best he could when his best friends laid siege to his empire. And then they tortured him and left him an invalid in a monastery where they wouldn’t have to look upon what they did.

So, is Parker claiming that freedom lies in morality? Knowing that you did the right thing?

I’m still not entirely sure. This story was, obviously, quite political. Much more so than my normal reads. I liked it, but calling it a fantasy novella seems like a stretch to me. Or at least, it doesn’t fit with what I typically think of for fantasy. There’s little world-building, the setting is an alternate-Byzantine, which makes it fantasy by nature, but there’s no magic. There’s no imaginative or mythical creatures.

There’s two men writing letters to each other to the tune of betrayal.

Add to it that the plot was rather transparent, and this story wasn’t that great. But, I’m not so sure it was meant to be. I think this novella was written with a very real message to convey. Parker wanted to explore specific themes, and force he readers to confront them as well.

I think the characters and plot were just the best method for him to do that.

It’s a short book, so if it still sounds interesting to you, you should give it a try. Or if you’ve already read it, let’s compare notes!

See you soon,

BZ

The Word Count Discussion

Blogland,

I thought I’d spend my time today talking about something pretty important that, as of yet, has not been tackled on this blog.

Word Count!

Word count is a tricky thing, in that it can be encouraging and completely daunting all at once. But first let’s talk about some basic rules of thumb for word count.

So, what’s a good word count for a novel? I wish I could give you a nice, tidy graph of exactly how long your work should be, but of course it’s not that simple.

Wikipedia (I know, I know) says that a novel is anything over 40,000 words. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) sets a goal of 50,000 words. And most small presses seem to agree that 80,000-100,000 words for a debut novel is best.

I don’t want to excluded any one’s writing here, so here’s a rough guide for other forms of writing, as according to Wikipedia:

Novel = 40,000+
Novella = 17,500-40,000
Novelette = 7,500-17,500
Short Story =  0-7,500

If you want to talk Microfiction, it can vary completely on where you’re submitting. Personally, I think Microfiction is anything under 1,000 words, but magazines have categories like ‘Flash Fiction’, ‘Microfiction’, and ‘Short Stories’, all with separate requisites. So, try and find a magazine that fits your work, not the other way around.

Now, if you’re writing YA Fiction, your word counts will be slightly less than that of an adult novel. Don’t let this daunt you though, remember that Harry Potter was rejected due to length.

What I find really interesting is, when I Google ‘word count’, all I see are posts from writers whose word counts are too high. Numbers like 135,000 all the way to over 200,000 are pretty common.

Those numbers are absolutely staggering! The longest thing I’ve ever written is currently at 24,000 words and is over halfway done with the rough draft. That puts it at less than 50,000 words by completion. Then take into account editing, which almost always lowers word count as you cut out the unnecessary, and I’ve got one tiny book.

Which is why I haven’t written anything for it in several months.

I let word count concerns keep me from writing my book. I was obsessing over it. Every time I sat down to write, my eyes kept wandering to see how many words I’d written. If I’d been working for two hours, but hadn’t written 1,000 words, I’d start berating myself for not writing better.

And so the novel sits, abandoned on my laptop. Not quite abandoned in my brain, because Kevin Foxx is still very much alive in my mind, but still, he’s neglected.

Then this new idea hit me, Val’s story. I started writing, emphatically. I couldn’t get my fingers to type fast enough. And then, chapter 5 really threw me for a loop. I fought with it, and fought with it. But, I refused to give up. I told myself that the chapter was NOT allowed to end until it was over 2,000 words. And I did it!

But, it’s only 2,009 words, and suddenly the nagging worry that my writing was failing hit me. I started to fret, out loud, that I would never be able to write a full fledged novel.

Thankfully my Fiance was sitting at the computer desk playing Runescape while watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and paused his show to look at me.

“Just write the book,” he said.

I was floored. It was so simple! Just write the book! You’ll never know how long it will be if you let word count worries keep you from writing. And so I’m taking his advice. I’m just writing the book.

But, I have made a commitment to each chapter, that they will be at least 2,000 words. Because, really, anything less is only part of the story.

And so, for a sense of conclusion, let me say this. Word Count IS important. It’s EXTREMELY important. But not until the first draft is done. Worry about word count when it’s time to trim. Or in my case, add.

Anyway, it’s ridiculously sunny out right now, and all I truly want to do is sit on the patio of my Starbucks and read The Well of Ascension.

So, that’s what I’m gonna do. Have a great day Blogland,

BZ