The Recap – February 2018

Hello Everyone,

I can’t believe February is over already! I think I feel this way each year, because it’s difficult for me to understand how missing a couple days of the month makes such a big difference. Two or three days should not make February feel like a blip on the radar of the year.

But, it does, and it makes working toward my goals that much more frantic.

What were the goals?

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

How’d I do?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Yes! I worked really hard to get two chapters edited on Tuesday and Wednesday, which means I finished 4 chapters in February and one in January. I’m feeling good about it.
  • Finish Sanctified
    • Nope. But, I’m close. Only a chapter and half left.
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
    • Yes? I’m not sure. I did another edit of it last night. I switched the POV from third to first person and added a much needed tweak to the ending, but I’m not sure if it’s ready for submission just yet. I like it, it’s headed in the right direction, but it needs fine tuning. I’m still calling this a win.
  • Keep reading
    • Yep! I read something like seven books in February, boosting my Reading Challenge and giving me plenty of fodder for book reviews.

Total February Word Count: 6,623

Any icing on the cake?

  • I published 10 blog posts in February
    • 3 weekly summaries, 5 book reviews, 1 monthly recap, and 1 craft discussion
  • Applied for a scholarship to the Oregon Writers Colony 2018 Annual Conference
    • I’m trying not to think too much about this, because I’m nervous and excited, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind. They’ll announce award recipients sometime in mid-March. Prepare yourselves for that post when it comes.Audient Void issue 4
  • The Audient Void #5
    • I’ve taken on more duties with AV, helping the graphic designer look through the proofs before he finalizes and prints. This is always exciting, because it means another issue is about to drop!
  • Sharing revisions of The Steel Armada
    • As of 2/26, Madhu and I are back to swapping pages for feedback. She’s working on something new, while I’m sending her the reworks of my novel, per her feedback from our previous swap.

March Goals

  • Edit five chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Submit The Seasons
  • Continue prepping Lifelike for submission
  • Keep reading!

Thoughts

I’ve got a lot of them. They’re bouncing around my brain and keeping my anxiety up. Mainly, I’m anxious about submitting The Seasons. I haven’t submitted a piece of short fiction for publication since… 2014? And I’ve never submitted a piece of genre fiction.

Caladria logo
RIP, Caladria

Okay, yes, there was that stint with Caladria where I wrote a handful of Fantasy short stories and they were published. But that was more like a volunteer effort. They asked for writers to pump out content, and though I got some great experience writing on a deadline and feedback from editors, those stories are no longer available for purchase. They just sit in my “Caladria” file folder, collecting virtual dust.

So, this feels much more real and scary. I like The Seasons a lot. I think it’s strong. I think it’s ready. But, I just don’t know if it’s pro status. And that’s the real issue. I’m only submitting to professional markets. I want paid for my work. I don’t want resume padding and feathers in my cap. I want monetary proof that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

And so, I’m terrified.

I’m also anxious because I really want to go to this writing conference in April, and I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if I’ll be able to attend or not. I know the time will fly by, but until I know for certain whether I’ll be going or not, I’m on eggshells.

Lifelike is coming along nicely. I did some quality reworking on it last night. I actually let my husband read it, which is something I almost never do. He’s not a big reader, so his feedback isn’t critical or experienced, but he’s smart and can give a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in a story. At least, from a reader’s point of view. I’ve also sent the story back to my friend Matt, who read a previous version of it, to see what he thinks of the rework. I’m going to let it stew for the next few days and come back to it next week and see what it needs.

Other than that, I’m just reading and editing. The Steel Armada is coming along well enough. It’s a big job, and there’s some major changes that take a considerable amount of time and rewriting. Characters are getting cut/absorbed into other characters, everyone is getting fleshed out more. Backstories and motivations are becoming clearer, to me and to the reader. And holy-moly there’s so much world building! I’m worried about pacing a little, but I figure that’ll get sorted in the next draft. Right now I just need to get everything out on the page and really nail down what’s happening and why. I can clean up the mess later.

The good news is that I’m editing about 2 chapters a week. If I keep the pace up, I’ll have this draft of The Steel Armada done by June. And that is some exciting shit. If that does happen, I’ll let it sit for a month or so, and really focus on writing. I’ll either return to writing From the Quorum, or write a new short story, depends on how I feel in June.Oathbringer

As for reading, I’m doing well. I’m currently two books ahead of my target, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. Hopefully I can keep up the pace and pad that Goodreads Reading Challenge before I finally crack open Oathbringer. 1,233 pages is no joke, and it’s going to take considerable time to get through it all. I don’t want to fall behind because of it, so I’m reading smaller titles and graphic novels for the time being.

So, that’s my thoughts/feelings/concerns etc., etc.,  about March. There’s a lot going on, but so far my efforts to piecemeal everything out into Monthly and Weekly goals is working. I’m getting shit done. And that’s really all that matters.

I’m off to work on Sanctified. I’ll be back over the weekend to share my review of The Stone Sky, so make sure you stay tuned!

 

BZ

Book Review – Iron Gold (Red Rising #4) by Pierce Brown

When I saw on Goodreads that there was another Red Rising book slated for a January release, I immediately went to my library’s catalog and put it on hold. Now, if you’re relatively new to this blog, you might want to take this opportunity to read my reviews of the previous installments of the series.

Red Rising
Golden Son
Morning Star

red-rising-trilogy-by-pierce-brown

Now, from those reviews, you might gather that I am a real big fan of this series. A big enough fan that my excitement for Iron Gold, though considerable, was wary. The series wasn’t really left open at the end of Morning Star. I was happy with how the author wrapped things up, and I wasn’t confident that the series needed to be reopened. Was this another mad-grab for cash like so many content creators seem wont to do? Would Darrow and company be belittled by a story that wasn’t really strong enough to warrant another book, let alone another trilogy as Brown suggested?

Thankfully, Pierce Brown shared a lot of my concerns. In his acknowledgments at the back of the book, he admits that he was hesitant to return to the world of Red Rising, that it took a long time to convince him that it was the right decision.

And, I do believe it was the right decision. Aside from a slightly predictable story-line in Darrow’s point of view, the plots and characters are very well done, intricate and dynamic, just as I’ve come to expect from the author. Character voices are distinct, their backgrounds diverse, and despite their actions and motivations, I found myself rather enamored with each of them.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Iron Gold

The only reason it didn’t get a full five stars is because of the predictable ending of Darrow’s point of view story-line. Otherwise this was a wonderful book. I would not suggest starting with Iron Gold. This is not the beginning of a new standalone franchise, but the continuation of what came before, set 10 years after the ending of Morning Star. Brown does not stymie his narrative with explanations of who established characters are, which I found slightly jarring since it’s been over a year since I read the originals, but I caught up quick enough.

The handling of new characters was also well done. Brown’s novels are very action driven, you learn who characters are through their behaviors and their reactions to the conflicts they’re faced with.  And man, is there a lot of conflict, and these problems weave through the various narratives connecting everyone into one large plot arc. It was really well done, and once I realized what was happening, really upped the dramatic irony.

Darrow of Lykos
All character artwork by Magali Villeneuve

So, who are all these characters? Beware minor spoilers below.

 

Well, there’s Darrow, of course. He’s the ArchImperator and leader of the Sovereign’s armies. He’s stubborn and righteous as ever, and he’s tired. Ten years of war will do that to a person. And it shows, not only in Darrow, but in Sevro and Victra, Wulfgar and Mustang too. There are familiar faces everywhere in Darrow’s chapters and it’s like coming home, only to find that the rooms you once cherished have been left in disarray in your absence. Worn and frayed. That’s the best way to describe the old Golds.

Lyria of Lagalos

There’s Lyria, a Gamma Red whose family has been freed from the mines only to sit in squalor in one of the refugee camps on Mars. It’s a very visceral and immediate way to understand the fallout of the Sons of Ares’ revolution. Lyria herself is very bitter and angry, quite understandably, but her vitriol for all things Rising left a sour taste in my mouth. I understood her, but that didn’t mean I had to agree with her. And I very much thought this divide would leave me disliking her, but it turned out I was rather fond of  Lyria by the time all is said and done.Ephraim ti Horn

 

There’s Ephraim, a Gray who’s seen and lost too much to feel his life is worth much of anything. He spends his days drinking himself to death, and his nights hatching heists for the highest bidders. He’s cold and sharp-tongued, all in an effort to hide away the pain of losing his fiance to the Rising’s war. Ephraim should not be an easy man to love, and yet I found him incredibly endearing. I desperately wanted him to redeem himself; I didn’t want someone to save him, but I needed him to save himself.

Lysander au LuneAnd then there’s Lysander. Yes, that Lysander. He was ten years old the last time we saw him, when Cassius swept him away to save him, and to fulfill the hole that Julian’s death left in him. Now, Lysander is no longer a child, though he struggles to know who he is as a man, especially in Cassius’ shadow. Lysander’s viewpoint was probably my favorite. He’s eloquent, perceptive, and oh so naive. Of course, he’s cursed with the arrogance of youth. Lysander doesn’t think he’s naive, he thinks he is the silver-tongued heir of Lune. Which I guess he is to some extent, but not to the amount he thinks.

The book leaves everyone on quite the cliffhanger, and I am regretting my decision to read the book so quickly after its release. Now I have to wait until who-knows-when for the sequel! But, I’m sure it will be well worth the wait.

I’m on track to finish The Stone Sky this week, and will hopefully speed read through Dark Deeds so I can start Semiosis while we’re in Arizona. Don’t expect to hear from me after Monday, until the following week. If you do, consider it a bonus.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

Book Review- Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Hi Blogland.

I’ve had a bit of a rough week. I’m exhausted. Overworked. I haven’t been reading as much as I should, and I didn’t write a single thing. And finally I knew I had to admit something to myself.

I have anxiety. Legitimately. There are behaviors that I’m used to, that I’ve always considered a part of me, that aren’t “normal”. My mind never stops, and I’m constantly second guessing myself in every action and thought. Simple interactions become critique sessions, usually ending with the conclusion that I am “weird” or “dumb” or some other adjective that isn’t very kind. I’d like to say that I know my anxiety could be worse. I don’t have it as bad as others I know, and I am so incredibly thankful for that.

But lately these thoughts have been out of control.

Every week that I don’t meet my goals adds to the weight on my mind. Every book that I don’t read. I’m being too hard on myself, and yet, these are simple goals. Why can’t I achieve them?

I don’t know what the next step is. I’m reading up on anxiety. What it looks like, how to combat it. I’ve also looked into how anxiety and ADHD interact, because I have both. But short of medication, which I’m not currently open to, there doesn’t seem to be many options.

Exercise and eat better. Ok, yeah. I could do that. But when? I already don’t have time or drive to do the things I really love, let alone something I hate. Like jogging. And for the most part I don’t eat terribly. I eat at home mostly. Fruits and veggies, homemade meals, and I don’t crave carbs as much as I used to. I don’t eat many sweets, and I drink water more than anything else… well, besides coffee.

I think I just need a vacation. But there’s no free time in sight.

Anyway, before I let this post spiral out into some depressing lament of my current state of mind, let’s talk about Morning Star.morning-star

I loved this book. Seriously. Every single page upped the ante in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Brown does a wonderful job of tying up all the pieces, leaving no story arc unfinished.

Roque? Dealt with. Cassius? Dealt with. Aja? Dealt with. The Sovereign and the Jackal? Oh, fucking dealt with. And every single one was unique and powerful. They all fit their characters. Darrow’s interactions and decisions were believable, and often poignant. Darrow, and in turn the reader, held so much love for these Golds, despite their betrayals. And in Aja, the Sovereign, and Jackal’s cases, so much hate. Brown did a really wonderful job of treating them all.break-the-chains

I will say that the ending was a little conflicting for me. On one hand, my critical reading/writing mind thought the ending was too tidy. Everything wraps up in this tidy, damn-near pleasant bow. But as a fan, and someone completely obsessed and madly in love with the world and the characters, it was perfect. I cried and cried afterward, because I was sad and happy all at once.

This book, this whole series has everything you could ever want. Intense one on one combat. Seiges, large scale battles, and space battles galore. There’s awesome technology that is at once fantastic and yet understandable and believable. It’s fast-paced, intricately plotted, and character driven. It’s brutal, gritty, and yet sometimes damn poetic.

I would call Morning Star a triumph. I consider it the best of the three, but each book really stood out and earned a place in my heart separately.

I still find myself in a bit of a Red Rising hangover. I’m listening to playlists constantly. Thinking about Sevro and Darrow and Mustang still. I was so immersed. So enraptured in the world and the relationships. It’s proving to be difficult to move on, which is making the next book on my list so much more difficult to get through.

Poor thing never stood a chance.

Anyway, I recommend the series to anyone with an interest in Science Fiction. It’s a fantastic series that never quite twists in the ways you’d expect, and hits hard in all the feels, all the time. A great series.red-rising-trilogy-by-pierce-brown.jpg

Until next time Blogland,

 

BZ

 

Book Review- Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I love the internet. Seriously, as messed up as it frequently is, it’s also a beautiful thing. For instance, in order to better get in the right state to talk about Golden Son after so long, I turned to 8tracks. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s pretty much the best.

People make playlists and share them with the world. But, you can tag them, and search accordingly. Apparently video game and book nerds are alive and well on 8tracks, because I typed in Red Rising and was offered a dozen or more playlists inspired by the trilogy.

I’ve done this for other books and video games before, and there’s nothing better when you’re stuck in a story hangover.

Anyway, you might want to read my Red Rising review before you jump into this one.

Ready? Let’s talk a bit about Golden Son. Be warned, spoilers abound!

goldenson
It’s been a couple weeks since I finished the second book in Pierce Brown’s trilogy and I have just under 200 pages left in its conclusion. For a series that so underwhelmed me at its onset, I have been utterly captivated by these characters.

So, Golden Son opens with Darrow at the Academy. Roque and Tactus are with him, as is Antonia’s older sister Victra. Spoiler alert, she’s way cooler than her bitch sister. Still a bitch, but way cooler. Anyway, the Academy is to teach Naval warfare. Darrow is a Praetor of a fleet, and must dictate their motions and actions. It’s going well, he’s got Karnus au Bellona (Cassius’s brother) on the run. Until a trap is launched and Darrow loses. He comes in second overall, but losing to the sworn enemy of house Augustus makes him worthless in Nero’s eyes. His contract will be sold at the Gala celebrating the end of the year of Academy.

But, Darrow has other plans. A ton of them. One of my favorite things about this series is the plotting. There’s a large cast of characters, and they all have their own ambitions and schemes to achieve them.

darrow
Amazing Darrow fan art by PhantomRun, found at the Red Rising Wikia page.

The Jackal plays a pivotal role in this book, mainly as a tentative ally to Darrow. And there’s a lot of tension over this alliance. Roque disagrees as a matter of principal. Tactus thinks it’s risky at best. Victra wants to put Jackal out of their misery. And Mustang warns Darrow that nothing good could come from aligning with her brother.

Spoiler alert. She’s right.

But, before the Jackal bares his teeth, Darrow duels Cassius at the Gala, earning Nero’s favor again, and preserving his position at the ArchGovernor’s side. And then all hell breaks lose as the Sovereign attempts to murder the entire house Augustus.

It’s exactly what Darrow wanted. Civil War. The Golds of Mars have entered into war with the Sovereign, and Darrow uses the promise of making Nero the new Sovereign to keep the man moving in the direction Darrow wants.

But, per Pierce Brown’s usual, nothing goes quite to plan. And although Darrow is largely victorious by the end, the toll is high. Characters die, and it’s not until you read their last words, their last breaths, and Darrow’s reaction to them, that you realize just how deeply you cared for all of them. Even obnoxious dipshits like Tactus.

And he takes the ultimate risk. He takes Mustang to Lykos, he shows her the truth. And she runs from him.

Only  then does Jackal makes his move, murdering his father, and others, as well as capturing Darrow. All with the help of Roque. To his credit, the Poet of Deimos cries when he betrays Darrow, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. The betrayal burns hot in you, and you hate that little man you once loved so much, even as you mourn the guilt he’s feeling.

sevro
More from PhantomRun, this time of Sevro.

And that’s how the book ends. We know that Sevro, Mustang, and the Telemanuses (Pax’s father and brother) are missing. They weren’t present at Jackal’s slaughter. And Darrow is now in his evil hands, to be dissected to discover how he was Carved.

End. Scene.

Now, I’ve glossed over a lot, and I mean a lot, of the larger plot points. There are quite a few revelations as far as the Sons of Ares is concerned. There’s a ton more word-building, and character development is on point throughout the book.

What Brown really does well is pacing and plotting. This book flew by, dragging me with it as it twisted and turned. I mourned characters. Their deaths, their failures, their heartbreaks. I cheered for them. Their triumphs, their joys.

And that’s why I hurtled into the next book. And already I’m mourning the end of this series. Mourning the very thought of saying goodbye to these people I’ve come to love so much. I’m just not ready.

Anyway, I’ll probably still finish the book sometime this weekend. Ugh. I’ll see you all then.

 

BZ

 

P.S. I’ll leave you with this gem, sang by Sevro in Golden Son. sevro-song