Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #7

Hey Blogland,

Yet another week has passed us by, with absolutely no regard for my feelings on the matter. As usual. Damn inconsiderate of it, really.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
    • Nope.
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related
    • Nope.

Weekly Word Count: 4,492

That’s an awful lot of words for no progress on either of my projects, so what gives? Well, back in December I signed up for a Valentine’s exchange in my Writer’s Discord, where we would basically be a secret admirer for another writer the week of Valentine’s Day and celebrate by creating content for them and generally making them feel loved. I ended up writing a Mass Effect oneshot (fandom speak for short story) in two days. I’m actually pretty proud of how it turned out.

Honestly, I think I needed the break. I’ve been pretty stuck with Tavi this month, and feeling pretty down due to the lack of writing. Busting out this story in such a short time and liking it as much as I did was a big ego boost. I needed it.

Between that, a bit of reading, and lots of working hours, that was my week in a nutshell.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi chapter 12
  • Write one tumblr prompt

Given my rocky, stumbling steps this month, keeping things simple and straightforward is really all I can do. As of this moment I’m feeling upbeat and hopeful. I’m reading, I wrote a bit last week, and I finally have some clue where the heck this scene of the novel is headed. Add some caffeine and sprinkle in a playlist or two and that should be a recipe for success.

But, Anthem releases on Friday. I have zero expectations after that. This is the first new IP from Bioware since… Dragon Age? That was 2009 y’all. It’s been TEN YEARS since Bioware made something completely brand new. And it’s beautiful, and the hype is so so so real. I’m warning you now, I am going to go silent for a while and that’s okay. I’ve planned for this.

plan gif

So. Yeah. Reading, writing, and video games. That’s the week ahead. Hopefully in that order. If so, I’ll be back later this week with a review of Lies Sleeping.

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

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Book Review – Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove

Blogland,

I’m a nerd. Between my reading habits and my video game obsessions, most of you are probably acutely aware of this fact. One of my many interests includes the early 2000s cult-classic television show Firefly, including the movie Serenity and a few of the graphic novel tie-ins. I read Mike Brooks’ Keiko series because the cover blurb sold it as “A Must Read for Firefly Fans”, and I loved it. It touched on what Firefly did so well: amazing world-building and characters that were impossible not to love.

Big Damn Hero is the first of a planned series of Official Novels™ written by James Lovegrove and edited by Joss Whedon. The books take place after the show but before the movie, which is the sweet spot that all fans want to live in. So, I had a moderate level of excitement when I saw this book come through the library.

Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Starsbig damn hero

As you might have gathered from the star rating, that excitement didn’t last long. Now, a quick word about how I rate things on Goodreads. I am a very generous reviewer. Ratings of three stars aren’t common, and anything below is really unusual. I rate based on my overall entertainment level and enjoyment of the book, whether that’s plot-based, characters, narrative style, or what-have-you.

So, let me start with the good. The characters felt true to themselves as based on the show. Mal, Jayne, and Shepard Book were particularly well done and I enjoyed my time with all of them. Particularly Book, because we FINALLY got to learn a little bit more about his past. The world-building was decent, but I feel like the majority of that work-load fell to the show and my familiarity with it. This is fanfiction. It might be printed and hardbound, but it’s still fanfic, and that means the bulk of the world- building is already done by the reader and their knowledge of the franchise.

The plot was all right. It felt true to form for the show, but was also really predictable. There were no surprises. Not one. Obviously, this might differ from reader to reader, but for me it was very disappointing. Also, the plot hinged on a character from Mal’s past, but they weren’t foreshadowed or even introduced until well into the last half of the book. I think that was intended to allow for Red Herrings, but all it really did was make the plot feel slow and plodding.

But the worst part, to me, were the tropes. So many tropes. Zoë’s in trouble with the law? Why not just unbutton her shirt a little and seduce her way to safety? (Side note: As a fan, I felt that this was wildly out of character for Zoë, which only made things worse. She actually referred to her breasts as her “bosom”. Zoë Washburne.) A dead woman was the villain’s motivation, and she only existed in the story to act as such. Yes, death of a loved one is sad, and it does change you, but that doesn’t mean you should create and then kill off your female characters just so your men can have some sort of purpose. In general, the female characters were two dimensional and just sort of blank. Kaylee may be the exception here, and River had some good moments, but Zoë and Inara definitely did not.

Knowing your tropes is so so so important. You need to know them so you can avoid them, or, better yet, so you can subvert them. When you know your tropes, you can twist them into something infinitely better and more interesting.  For instance, instead of Zoë just accepting that she had no alternative but to flirt with the Alliance officer, to the point where she actually seems sort of proud and maybe even a little exhilarated with her success, the narrative could have shown how disgusted she was that this was the only option she had. She’s hurt, she’s desperate, and she has to do something so utterly against her own ethical code. Just some internalization and we could have had so much more insight into Zoë’s character and a much more intense and impactful scene.

I know I’m barking up this Feminism tree again, but damn. I am so tired of seeing caricatures of women in fiction. I am tired of men writing as if they’ve never actually noticed that women are people too. I am sick of female characters existing solely to serve a role for the male characters. It’s exhausting.

mal gif
Me, reading this book.

I’m also angry because I know, without a doubt, that there are better Firefly novel length works posted on Archive of Our Own right now. FOR FREE. Written by fans, for fans. But this book gets added to the canon and snapped up off shelves while Titan Books and Joss Whedon make a pretty penny.

So, yeah. I won’t be coming back for the sequels. Which is a shame. They had such potential. I do sincerely hope that Lovegrove enjoys his time in the ‘Verse. According to the book’s average Goodreads rating, there are readers who like his interpretation of it. I’m just not one of them.

I’ve moved on to Lies Sleeping now that it’s back in my hands. Hopefully I’ll finish it sometime next week, since the Rivers of London books usually read quick. Barring any other important news/events, I’ll talk at you all on Monday.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #6

Blogland,

As much as I like to complain about math, for once it just made me really happy.

Remember a few posts ago when I realized I had seven rejections in the month of January? That number hit me hard. I’m still not entirely sure why, but man, it hurt. Like… Seven? In one month? Yikes.

But then, I did some more math. *GASP*

Image result for the horror gif
Me whenever someone suggests I do math.

Guys. Thirty percent of my rejections in 2018 were personal. 30 PERCENT! That feels amazing! I did that math and I was over the moon.

But, do you know what doesn’t feel so amazing? Another fucking migraine.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 2k words on Tavi
  • Write something Santa Sarita related

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Nope. I started to draft a second post for Saturday, but that obviously didn’t happen.
  • Write 2k words on Tavi
    • Nope. More on this in a second.
  • Write something Santa Sarita related
    • Nope. Not even a little bit.

Weekly Word Count: 980

So, this week was rolling along just fine until Friday night. I didn’t feel well the further into my shift at the library, but I went out to celebrate the one year anniversary of a local business anyway. My first clues should have been the smell sensitivity and the hot and cold flashes. But with the weather so out of control here, I didn’t think anything of it.

By the time I went to bed Friday night, I knew there was a migraine incoming. I took a dose of advil migraine and went to bed. I had Saturday off and could spend the day nursing the headache if need be.

Except this was the worst migraine of my life. I didn’t leave my bed for two whole days unless I was puking. I tried to eat easy things, ramen. Crackers. Water. Nothing stayed. So I just lay there listening to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and wishing I could sleep or eat or something. i'll be gone in the dark

So, yeah. That’s why nothing happened over the weekend. I’d planned on writing another blog post, writing more on Tavi, and maybe even working on Santa Sarita a little.  I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, let alone look at a computer screen. But, I did have a little breakthrough on the chapter I’m working on, so at least I know where I’m headed for now.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related

I have to try and make up for lost time. We all know that as soon as I get my hands on Anthem next week it’s all over for me. I’m going to fall off the radar for awhile. That means this week will have to carry the bulk of my word count for the month. I’ll admit, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic about my odds right now.

But, I’ll do my best, like I always do, and hopefully that will see me through.

Until later, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #5

Well, last week did not go as planned, at all.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1,500 words on Tavi
  • Write something Santa Sarita related

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yes! Actually, I published three blog posts. So there!
  • Write 1,500 words on Tavi
    • Nope. Not even a little bit.
  • Write something Santa Sarita related
    • Nuh-uh.

Weekly Word Count: 0

What the heck did I do last week? I worked 52 hours and did the only thing that sounded the least bit of interest to me: played video games. Between Kingdom Hearts and the Anthem demo, my limited free time was booked solid. And I am okay with that. I knew going into this month that 12k was a stretch, and that video game releases would prove problematic.

Submissions continue to continue. I was a little down about this yesterday when I wrote my Monthly Recap for January, but I know there’s still a big mountain to climb in this regard. I’ll keep going until there’s nowhere left to submit. That’s the plan.

What’s Next

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 2k words on Tavi
  • Write something Santa Sarita related

That’s it. I’m keeping things low key in hopes I can climb back out of this little funk and get back on track. But, I’m also unwilling to guilt myself for decompressing with things I enjoy, like video games. I’m working a lot, and I want/need to make progress on this novel. And I also need to stay sane. Sometimes, escaping into a good video game is the only thing that helps.

I’m still reading, slowly. I’m still writing. I’m still posting here. The world is not crumbling around me, no matter what my brain says. I’m here, I’m only a little bit behind schedule. Nothing is beyond the point of no return.

Breathe.

… Better?

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ

The Recap – January 2019

Hey Bloggos,

January felt long. And yet, it went by entirely too fast for my liking. I feel like I spent too much time sleeping or otherwise recuperating from all the work hours I put in, and not nearly enough time on writing. I’m sensing a trend for 2019 already.

January Goals

  • Write 12k words on Tavi
  • Write 1k on Sanctuary
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading!

How’d I do?

  • Write 12k words on Tavi
    • No. Which, wasn’t entirely unexpected. I did get pretty close, just under 1500 words short of the goal. I’ll take it.
  • Write 1k on Sanctuary
    • Yes! I also wrote a tumblr prompt or two.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yep. On and on and on.
  • Keep reading!

Total Monthly Word Count: 12,552

This was a busy month. Lots of writing, a lot more reading than I expected, and more time spent playing video games that I SHOULD have expected. I’m trying my best in all areas of my life, which is exhausting. So, sometimes that means a weekend of video games, or a week of no writing. It’s going to happen, because my mental health is going to make demands. And the less I fight it, the better I’ll feel and the quicker I’ll get back to work.

Writing went well until it didn’t. I’ve spent a week away from it now, and think I’m just about ready to figure out this scene. Tavi’s been working this way so far, in a whirlwind and then stalled. I let the scene marinate, until she calls me back and I can work on it again. It’s a different rhythm, but I trust it. It’s led me to more than 35k words so far.

Reading continues, slowly but surely. I’m not feeling particularly drawn to anything, so I’m trying to get through the Firefly novel in my down time. big damn hero.jpg

The short story submissions continue. I had 7 rejections in January. Seven. That stings. I’ve never looked at the number of rejections in a single month before, and I don’t think I want to again. Ouch. That’s a third of what I had all of 2018!

And yet, they continue. As Utada said, “On and On and On”.

February Goals

  • Write 8k on Tavi
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Write 1k on Sanctuary
  • Keep reading!

So yeah. That’s the plan. Write a bit, give myself permission to relax, and schedule in gaming time. I knew going into this year that Kingdom Hearts and Anthem were going to take their toll on my free time, and they already have. I need to schedule that in if I hope to get this manuscript done before the summer.

And that is still the plan. I want to finish the rough draft in April so that I have May and June to revise it before the writing workshop in July. Granted, I only get to go if I’m awarded a scholarship, but it’s WAY better to have a prepped MS and not get to go than arrive with nothing to share.

Writing 8k on Tavi doesn’t seem like enough, and it isn’t, but I think it’s a big ask for the shortest month of the year. We’ll see how it goes.

See y’all tomorrow to talk about this past week!

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – January 2019

Blogland,

In a strange turn of events, I didn’t read any Fiction in the month of January! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, other than I’m a bit disappointed to have no book reviews to share with you this month. I’ve tried to write my usual, in-depth reviews for the Nonfiction I’ve read these last 30 days, and I just couldn’t make any of them work. So, instead of an individual post for each book, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Welcome to the blog’s inaugural Reading Round Up!

Title: Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures
Author: Nick Pyensonspying on whales
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Pyenson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: It’s about whales, so I knew I would like this book going into it. My personal bias aside, I found the author’s narration to be well done, if a little fast. I normally speed up my digital audio, but I didn’t need to with Pyenson’s narration. The book was a really great mixture of narrative storytelling and educational fact, not always told in a linear, chronological order. Facts were delivered as they related to the narrative at the beginning and ending of each chapter. I think that really helped me digest the more technical passages. That being said, it is still a lot of science speak and I found myself zoning out on more than one occasion. Not sure if that’s my fault or the book’s.
Recommended: Yes!

Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Author: Neil deGrasse Tysonastro for people
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Neil deGrasse Tyson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This was a tough one. I liked the narration a lot, but the subject matter was still way over my head. I’d have moments of clarity where deGrasse Tyson said something that I thought I understood, only for the information to flee my brain a moment later. Also, his voice is entirely too soothing; I kept falling asleep! I’m sure in comparison to the true, complicated nature of the subject matter, this book is very approachable and accessible, but to me it was still taxing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think you need to know your learning style if you hope to retain what deGrasse Tyson is trying to teach you. I’d go with a paper copy, personally.
Recommended: Sure.

Title: Zen in the Art of Writing zen in the art of writing
Author: Ray Bradbury
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: Don’t hate me. I was… unimpressed? I love Bradbury’s fiction, especially his short fiction, but this collection of essays lacked that inarguable punch that is so typical of his writing. I think it actually comes down to the fact that this book did not age well. There are several passages that are kind of sexist (a standout one refers to an actress as a “porker”) and though he cites multiple women authors and their works, he never once refers to the reader as anything other than “he”. It’s ultimately a small thing, and really a non-issue considering the age of the book, but it still irked me. That said, there were several lines and paragraphs that stood out for good reasons. I took pictures so I could refer to them as needed. But, this book is much more a memoir on the craft than it is an actionable account of how to live your own writing life. Maybe this was an instance of an author not living up to my imagined expectations, but this book just didn’t do much for me.
Recommended: Eh.

Title: The Business of Being a Writer business of being a writer
Author: Jane Friedman
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this book! Friedman answered more of my publishing questions than I even knew I had. From querying an agent, to signing the contract, to developing your online presence and “brand” Friedman tells all. And if you’re more interested in the Self-Publishing side of the writing business, don’t fret, because it’s all in there. Even how to do your taxes! What I really appreciated, besides the sheer quantity of information, was the approachable language and conversational tone of the book. It felt less like reading a textbook and much more like sitting down for several in depth conversations with a VERY knowledgeable friend. Navigating the publishing industry is scary enough without author resources adding to the fear factor. This book gets that, but doesn’t do you the disservice of holding your hand either. Friedman tells it like it is, giving you the information to make career decisions with confidence.
Recommended: Heck yes! I will be buying a copy for my office.

Well? What do you think? Hopefully this is a quick, painless way for you to decide if a book is worth trying for yourself and I still had all the fun of writing a review, even if they were condensed versions.

Don’t worry, I promise I’ll still post full reviews for any and all fiction I read over the course of the year, but now I’ll add these Round Ups for Nonfiction and Graphic Novels.

See you in February, Bloggos!

 

BZ

An Introduction, of Sorts

I realized last night, as I read The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman (highly recommend, btw) that it had been a really long time since I’d talked about who I am and what exactly this blog is for.

Like. A really long time. Like, maybe never. When this blog started, way back in 2011, I had a viewership of zero and expected it to remain that way. I also had no experience or expectations to guide my posts and the content I shared. 2011 was truly the Wild West of this site. I was 21 and still coming to grips with the reality that I wanted to write fiction for living. I was young, in so many respects. So, so young.

Now, almost ten years later, allow me to introduce myself.

Hofbrau Pretzel
Ah, Munich. I miss you and your pretzels.

Hi! My name is Brittany, but if we’re friends you probably call me B or BZ, and this site is my home in the virtual cosmos of the internet. I created my WordPress blog back in 2011 after a guest speaker visited my Planning and Structuring the Novel class. He suggested that having an online presence would make us more visible to agents and editors, help keep us accountable to our goals, and that having consistent blog posts where we discussed our writing could help protect us from potential plagiarism and theft.

Just as I do now, I thought the plagiarism bit was kind of funny, because that implies someone has read my work and liked it enough to steal it. But I liked the sound of all the other bits. Visibility? Accountability? Sounds great, sign me up!

Almost a decade later and I’m still here, and I can tell you that you’ll only get out of your blog what you’re willing to put into it. Like so much else in life, time and energy are the keys to making anything successful. Maintaining a blog is no different.

So, what does this blog do? A lot of things actually. Mainly, it holds me accountable. I talk about the things I want to do, the goals and dreams I’m striving for, and then I either get to tell you how I succeeded or how I failed. Guess what? It’s a WAY better day when I can say that I’ve succeeded. And that’s motivating as heck. If you’ve been a reader here for long, then you’ve noticed the weekly, monthly, and yearly Goals posts, where I talk at length about my various projects and how I intend to complete them. It took years to get to this level of routine and habit, but I think I’ve finally found a system that works.

april whiteboard
My whiteboard is the linchpin of all of my productivity, and the blog is my virtual whiteboard.

The blog is also a place where I can write down my thoughts when they get to be a little overwhelming. This happens less and less as the years go by, thankfully, but occasionally I just need a way to clear my head, and writing has always been there for me.

I also share book reviews and my observations on writing, editing, and publishing. I’ll admit, the latter posts are fairly few and far between, mainly because I’m not sure I have much authority on the matter. I’m in the thick of it, learning and growing with every experience, and that’s what I share here on this site. I’m building a writing career, slowly but surely, and I’m documenting every step along the way on this blog.

If you want to know more about me, or to contact me, you can click on any of the links in the upper right-hand corner of this site to find my various social media pages. You can also find these links and my official author bio on the About page of this site.

Thank you so much for stopping by. After all this time, it was really nice to meet you.

 

BZ