Book Review- The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Hi all,

This book review is fueled by David Bowie’s entire discography on shuffle. All hail the Goblin King.

Let me start by saying that I’m already a Jim Butcher fan. I love the Dresden books, although I haven’t kept up with them, and I’ve got The Codex Alera on my TBR list. Some things that stick out to me about Butcher’s writing is his strong, witty dialogue and concise action scenes. Both are in evidence in The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first in a new series titled The Cinder Spires, and yet this book exceeded my expectations.The Aeronaut's Windlass

What really delighted me with this book was the world building and character development. The Cinder Spires series takes place in a world where the planet has overgrown to the point where it is inhabitable for humans. As a result, humans live on these incomprehensibly huge spires, each with a name taken from its monarch, known as a Spirearch.

This story takes place on Spire Albion. Life on the spire is just similar enough to our own that we’re able to take the discrepancy in stride. Like vatteries, for instance. As far as I could tell, vatteries are alchemical wonders that grow various products. Bridget, one of the main characters, is heir to the foremost meat vattery. Gwendolyn is also an heir, to the crystal vattery, which makes her practically royalty. More on that in a bit. Her cousin Benedict is heir to nothing, but is his own intriguing, mostly unexplained mystery. He’s what’s known as a Warriorborn. As far as I can tell, this means he’s sort of like a Thundercat. He’s often described as “leonine”, and is super strong and agile. But, Warriorborn, while respected and appreciated, aren’t held in high esteem with the upper classes.

These three characters come together as they train in the Spire’s Guard. Sort of like a police force for the entire Spire. And wherever Bridget goes, Rowl goes too.

Rowl was probably one of my favorite characters. He’s a 30 pound ginger cat, and a prince. In Butcher’s series cats are feral, and run in tribes in the Spire’s ventilation tunnels.They tend to treat humans with disdain, if not outright malice, but Rowl’s tribe, the Silent Paws, has struck an accord with Bridget’s family, and they work together amicably.

I want to mention here that Jim Butcher has captured the essence of cat culture in the most convincing and humorous way possible. Rowl is arrogant, self-assured, and diffident. He is unwilling to admit that he loves Bridget, or that he likes it when she coddles him, and watching him battle with these facts brings much needed humor to the book.

Not to be forgotten is Captain Grimm, a disgraced former Albion Fleet Captain who’s taken up privateering. His ship, AMS Predator, is his home and a major setting for the novel. The rest of the characters find themselves as guests on Grimm’s ship after the Spirearch selects them for a delicate mission in one of the lower Habbles. As far as I’ve gathered, Habbles are the various levels, or decks, of the Spire. How many there are and what each one provides to the Spire is are unknown to me.

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Jim Butcher cosplaying as Captain Francis Grimm. Photo credit to Andrea Gonzales.

But, before I get ahead of myself, there are two more characters. Master Ferrus and his apprentice, Folly. They are what’s known as Etherealists. Basically, they are mages that wield the power of ether. For this story ether is an enigmatic power source. There are ether currents that allow ships to fly, creatures that produce ethersilk, which enhances ether-based abilities, and crystals which harness ether into electricity. It’s a very complex and well developed power source for the world, even if Butcher hasn’t showed all his cards yet when it comes to the stuff. But, the important part to keep in mind is that extended exposure to raw ether tends to deteriorate the mind, meaning that Ferrus and Folly are a bit… eccentric. Powerful, but absolutely batty.

So, this motley crew sets off to Habble Landing, a large, booming economic trade center, to seek out spies and combatants from Spire Aurora, who has recently declared war on Spire Albion.

You’d think it’s be pretty straightforward from there.

You’d be wrong.

The Auroran plot turns out to be much bigger than simple sabotage and warfare, as they have a powerful Etherealist of their own. Madame Cavendish is as ruthless and cold as she is crazy, and she is crazy as shit. And though she’s the main villain of this novel, it’s clear that she’s small on the scale of baddies waiting for our gaggle of unlikely heroes.

There are battles with Silkweavers, giant twelve-legged venomous bugs that produce ethersilk, which acts as webbing when fresh. So, man-sized spiders on crack. Awesome! There are multiple airship battles, and Butcher handles them with such tact and grace that my heart raced and my fingers very nearly bled as I gnawed away at them.

I will admit that the story was slow to build. There was so much world building to be done, and about ten characters that had to be introduced and fleshed out well enough that, in the heat of aerial battle, the reader would know what in all hells was happening.

And though slow, every moment was entertaining. As expected, the dialogue was sharp, clever, and funny. The dynamics between characters were natural and convincing, and I gladly read pages of conversation, hooked as if it were a matter of life and death.

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The inside cover, showing the AMS Predator.

This novel, the world Butcher has built, and the characters that he’s shared with us that call Spire Albion home, are all far too big to discuss here. But I’ve told you what impressed me, and shared the one potential failing of the story. There’s not much more I can say within a reasonable amount of space, except that I highly recommend this novel.

And that I hate that I must wait for the sequel!

 

See you soon Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review- The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Well… this is awkward. I was supposed to write and post this about two weeks ago. And here it is almost halfway through November and you’ve heard nothing from me!

Downright despicable, that is.

Anyway, a couple small points before I dig in.

I didn’t win that writing contest, which is fine, since it’s an ancient story and I had zero hopes set on it winning.

Book Club meets today to discuss Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I’ve already finished it, but won’t talk about it at length until after the meeting.

Also, thanks to Book Club and various assigned readings, I only have to read three more books this year to meet my goal! That’s right! I’ve read 42 books this year, which when you think about all the school work and the whole 48+ hours a week thing, is pretty badass. I am super excited to reach this achievement.

Anyway, on with the review! Consider yourself warned, here there be massive spoilers and fangirlish squealing loud enough that you’ll swear you can hear it through your computer screen.

My paperback version, which is now mostly illegible thanks to the myriad notes...
My paperback version, which is now mostly illegible thanks to the myriad notes…

So, The Alloy of Law is what you might call a spin-off. It’s set in the same world as the original Mistborn series, 300ish years after the events of those novels. Which is awesome because-

A: I’ve never seen a fantasy world do that before. Grow, change, experience time in a moderately realistic way.

and

B: The reader gets to pick up countless references to characters from the old series, and figure just how they played into the development and history of the world. They have weight and value beyond just the old plots. They’ve become gods, statues, and tombs. Street names and slang terms. It’s really wonderful to experience.

So, Scadrial, the planet on which all of this takes place, is an active place with sense of time and history.

We meet Waxillium Ladrian in the prologue, as he’s hunting down a deranged serial killer called Bloody Tan. Even in these early pages Wax’s strong sense of justice and his wry sense of humor comes through. He’s immediately likable and intriguing, part lawman, part gentleman, and an Allomancer to boot.

Btw, being an Allomancer means he can use a type of magic (Allomancy) which allows him to “burn” a metal which grants him a certain ability. Every type of Allomantic metal creates a different kind of power, but most people can only burn one metal (unless you’re a Mistborn, then you can burn them all, but those seemed to have died out after the events of The Hero of Ages). In Wax’s case he can burn steel, which allows him to push off of metals and basically fly around. In the world’s layman terms, he’s a Coinshot.

Anyway, Wax hunts down this Bloody Tan chap to find that the killer has Lessie, Wax’s wife (more or less), held hostage. But, not to worry, they have a plan for this exact scenario. Lessie blinks three times, on three Wax fires, and Lessie jerks to the side. Perfection, right?

Oh, except for the part where Bloody Tan is on to them, and Wax’s bullet takes Lessie right above the eye, killing her instantly.

And that’s how Wax finds himself back in Elendel, seeing to his family’s estate, shrugging on the mantle of nobleman with decided discomfort.
Map_Of_Elendel

But, Wax’s retirement is short lived, as a series of train robberies mystify local constables, and one of his own shipments goes missing. Enter Wayne, Wax’s irascible sidekick, who’s equal parts confusing and lovable. He is easily my favorite character ever. I mean this literally. Wayne is my all time favorite character I have ever read.

Anyway, Wayne has returned from the Roughs (read: frontier) to pull Wax from retirement, but it isn’t until women are kidnapped at a wedding he was attending that Wax finally takes up arms.

I feel it’s important to mention here that Wax’s fiancée, Steris, is one of the kidnapees. It’s an engagement of necessity. Wax’s family, the Ladrians, are very prominent in society, and have a seat at the Senate. But, thanks to his uncle, they’re very literally broke. Steris’s family is loaded, but outside of that inner circle of nobility.

Anyway, once Wax and Wayne battle at the wedding, there’s no keeping the duo from following leads in an effort to get Steris back. They even get a new accomplice, Ms. Marasi Colms, who turns out to be Steris’s illegitimate sister. And a potential love interest for Wax.

As the story moves on, Wax figures out that the leader of the Vanishers, the enigmatic robbers responsible for disappearing train cars and the kidnappings of women with Allomantic genealogies, is none other than Miles Hundredlives, a Roughs lawman with an overwhelming ability.

See, Miles is a Bloodmaker, like Wayne, allowing him to heal by using stored health from his Metalminds, but he also can burn gold as well. It’s called compounding, and pretty much means that Miles can heal continuously, with no known limit. Aside from aging, the man is quite immortal.

Gunfights between Wax and Miles are intense, full of aerial acrobatics on Wax’s part, and require a ridiculous amount of cleverness from him as well.

But, in the end, it’s Marasi’s Allomantic power that saves the day. She’s been told her whole life that it’s useless, shameful even, but she can speed up time for herself. The outside world moves in a blur, as she sits inside a bubble of normal time. It’s the opposite of Wayne’s Allomancy, which allows him to slow down time.

Anyway, after clearing the hideout of all other Vanishers in a grueling gunfight, Wax singles out Miles and basically starts boxing him. At this point, Wax’s body is in bad shape, and he lets Miles take out his rage on him. While Miles is preoccupied, Marasi uses her Allomancy, and Wayne runs to get a squad or three from the nearest Constabulary.

And so they capture Miles Hundredlives, rescue Steris, and Wax earns an Honorary Constable Badge, allowing him to investigate crimes and perform arrests.

But, at the end, Wax draws the line between him and Marasi. She’s infatuated with him, and he likes her, but he’s engaged to Steris, and Lessie’s been gone less than a year.
Ironeyes

And so Marasi focuses on her schooling, in criminal justice by the way, and attends Miles’s death sentence. But, as she’s leaving, she sees something strange. An unusually tall figure, in a cloak, beckoning her to follow. Turns out it’s Ironeyes himself, a character from the original trilogy, come to deliver a handwritten book to her. He wants her to give it to Wax. And then he disappears.

And then I waited four long years to see what that book had to say!

Obviously, I am a huge fan of this series, as I’ve talked about it at length for about four years now. And it doesn’t look like I’ll be quiet anytime soon, since the next book comes out in January!
Wax and Wayne (Mistborn)

See you soon, Blogland, when I’m back to discuss Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.

Welcome Back

Ahh… It’s like clocking in to work, opening a fresh, blank page for blogging. This is how I get the creative ball rolling, and help myself focus on what actually needs to happen.

See, when I wake up, my brain tends to be full. It’s like a thick stew being stirred constantly. I can’t grasp any particular thought, and I have about a million of them before I even brush my teeth. By the time I actually get in the car I’ve had about 20 different ideas for what to blog about, but once I sit down to it, they will all have disappeared, leaving me to think of something fresh.

So, what’s today’s fresh thought?

Let’s start with the fact that I met my writing goal for last week. Friday morning Trevor woke up at a quarter to six, to take his parents to the airport. I woke with the alarm, and couldn’t fall back asleep. I tried, like hell, but as my brain came to I felt flushed with writing. The spur of creation. I knew where the scene was going. It had marinated, and on Friday morning, the metaphorical timer had dinged. It was time to write.

By the time I reached Starbucks it was 7:30. My shift started at 9. Account for setting up the computer and eating breakfast, I had about an 1 and 15 minutes of solid writing. Notice, I didn’t write a blog that day. In that time I wrote 1,553.

I believe NaNo Campers call that a sprint.

Let me also say that ‘sprinting’ felt good. It didn’t leave me exhausted, my brain comparable to pudding. Instead I felt energized. Thrilled, and in love with the scenes I’d written. And, after reading them today, I still feel that way. They were good scenes.

Those 1,553 words ended chapter 9, and put a solid intro into chapter 10. But, as I imagined, I got zero editing done last week. Which means I need to edit two chapters this week.

My Starbucks schedule this week isn’t ideal for writing, but it’s a good compromise between the Write Life and my personal life. Off today, which is always nice, a whole day to myself to really get good work done. Tomorrow I close, Wednesday I’m a late mid, so I get to have dinner at home. Thursday I close, and Friday’s another late mid. And then Saturday I close, off Sunday.

So, today I’m going to try and finish chapter 10. That’s a tall order, because it needs another 2500 words or so, but I’m sure gonna try. Tomorrow I want to edit at least one chapter, but I might get to two. That way Thursday can be a finishing/starting a new chapter day.

Also, and this is more for my entertainment as well as learning, I bought a paperback version of ‘The Alloy of Law’.
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I love this book. It’s everything I could ask for in a sort of Steampunk detective story, and I won’t lie, it’s a major source of inspiration for the novel I’m working on. I own a hardback copy that I bought from when the book originally released, and it was one of the books I took to the signing. I just finished rereading it for the third time, and I think I’ve fully absorbed it now.

But, as I was reading my hardback I found myself noticing that Sanderson breaks some rules I’ve been living and writing by. As I flipped through page after page I found myself itching to circle ‘-ly’ adverbs and ‘was’. Also, he teaches against using dialogue tags, but he does it.

I needed to know how often he breaks the ‘rules’. So I spent the eight bucks to get a paperback copy that I could write all over and not feel too guilty. So, for my pleasure reading I have a hardback copy of ‘Steelheart’ sitting in my box at work, and for my editing, I’ve got ‘The Alloy of Law’. While I waited for the computer to wake up I started my ‘was’, ‘as’, and ‘-ly’ circling, and let me tell you, Sanderson definitely bends the rules.

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And that’s just page two! What does this mean for my writing? Not too much. I think Sanderson’s stories and his clear writing allow him to get a little lenient with the ‘rules’. Also, when you take into account that the book is just under 100,000 words, there’s more room for scenes that bend the rules. Also, the circles and counting don’t help me actually analyze the sentences. I have to go back, make notes in the margins, and see if the sentences themselves are strong, even with so many circles.

It’s going to be a fun exercise. And that’s how I’m treating it, an exercise to see how Brandon’s finished work looks. Something to compare my manuscripts to and to learn from.

Anyway, I’ve killed enough time here. It’s about time I started writing!

 

BZ

Editing, or How I Decide to Drive Myself Crazy

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you how much they loathe editing. Brandon Sanderson has to bribe himself, though he calls it a reward system. For every x amount of pages, he buys a pack of magic cards. Otherwise he would never edit.

I’m curious to know how you guys feel about editing. Because I love it! Writing can be hard, because I’m not particularly good at outlining. So, I have a general idea as I write, but the details are vague, and the story tends to go its own way.

Editing is the time when I’m actually in control. I can step away from the creation, which tends to give me mega-tunnel vision, and look at the whole piece. And then I can tear it apart and make it better.

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I wanted to talk a little about my actual editing process. At least what I know of it. I’ve never edited an entire novel before, so the process may change as I go. Learning and what not.

Usually I begin by reading the chapter through, and taking as little notes as possible. If I do take notes they’re broad, like “A little vague here” or “clean up POV”. Large tasks that affect the tone of the chapter.

Once that initial read through is done I put three things at the top of the front page:

was:
ly:
as:

Then I read it again, circling any “was”, “as”, or “-ly” adverbs. Once they’re all circled, I count them, and put the corresponding numbers in their place at the top. I do this because “was”, “as”, and “-ly” adverbs are indications of weak and passive writing. Having them circled lets me hone in on where I can immediately start strengthening paragraphs.

Not too bad for the rough draft!
Not too bad for the rough draft!

After fixing these sentences I’ll consider word choice. I’ll look for repetitive words and sentence structures. This is the part that’s like a puzzle. Finding what’s wrong with a chapter and removing it, then replacing it with something better.

In the past I’ve been editing short fiction. The prime directive in short fiction is to be as concise as possible, and to cut anything not absolutely crucial to the plot. Every sentence should characterize, world-build, and move the plot along. And yes, writing a novel should be that way too.

But, going into editing ‘Vessels’ I knew there was a lot of content that needed added. So, for the first time in my writing career, I have notes of scenes that need added into chapters during the editing process. It’s weird. And, I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle that just yet.

It’s these early chapters that are the most difficult. The plot didn’t really exist yet, so there were no hints of impending action, and characters that come to play late in the story need introductions in earlier chapters. A lot of adding new scenes in these chapters. Which I’m excited about!

But, it makes editing them a lot harder.

Anyway, once the line editing is done, you know, word choice and all that, I’m going to start working on the additions. Also, everything I edit gets written straight on the page, and then gets inputted in the computer later.

See?
See?

Once a round of editing is done I’ll make a note of it at the top of the front page. I’ll put the date of completion, which draft number it is, and the phrase, “Ready for Retype”. That way, if I don’t get to retyping right away, I can come back and know which edit it is, when it was completed, and that it’s ready to move on.

For short fiction I could retype, print it, and then continue editing. I could keep tweaking and perfecting for ages, until I really didn’t think it could get any better. But, with the novel, I’m going to treat it as a whole. Chapter 1 has been edited and retyped, meaning that it is officially on Draft 2. When all the chapters are at that stage I will reprint and start editing all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Until I think it’s ‘done’.

This is going to take awhile…

I think editing is daunting to a lot of writers. It’s not as fun as creation. The sense of wonder is gone. You already know what happens and now it’s the mechanics of the thing. Magic-less.

I get that. But, you can’t say it isn’t challenging. And I love a good challenge.

Anyway, enough ramblings here. It’s time to get to work!

 

BZ

Plot Twists and Goals

Progress! I finished chapter 7 yesterday, and the novel even surprised me with a plot twist I wish I were awesome enough to have planned. I mean, if I’m being honest, I was in denial about this plot path. I thought of it early on, but didn’t want to vilify one of the characters.

Turns out, he was a villain all a long. Though, like all good bad guys, he feels justified, even righteous in his decisions. I’m excited to write more in this direction, even though I know I’ll have to add more clues in the editing stage. Right now the clues are very small, and this discovery could come out of left field for the reader. I want satisfaction, not straight out confusion.

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Ok, so chapter 7 was long, and I admit I probably spent too much time world-building, and I can already think of a scene that will probably get cut. Of course I enjoyed it enormously, so it must die. Right?

The chapter ended at just over 3,500 words. A monster. But, it makes up for the couple shorter chapters leading into it. I also wrote just over 1,000 words of chapter 8, and I like it so far. We’re hitting the really good stuff. The world’s built, characters are developed, and there are subplots and secrets hinted at. Now it’s time to twist it all up and then unravel it!

I think.

It’s raining. Not unusual for the Willamette Valley, but it’s not the usual soft patter. The weathermen call it thunderstorms, but I’ve heard no such rumblings. But, the rain is angrier. It comes down hard, at an angle as it rides the wind. Which is blowing much harder than necessary.

For the record, I hate wind. It’s stupid. And it does nothing any good, except plants that propagate via spores. Otherwise it’s just a nuisance that blows my hair in my face and scatters pages everywhere.

Stupid.

In… not celebration. Acknowledgment of the weather I’m listening to Placebo today. If you’ve not heard of them, it’s not a surprise. They’re a UK band, and I would describe them as an acquired taste. The lead singer has this nasally, whiney voice, but it’s perfect for their sound. The music is pained and sort of lilting. Very cold feeling, hinting at emotions that don’t quite get the attention they deserve.

Album artwork for Placebo's 'Sleeping with Ghosts'
Album artwork for Placebo’s ‘Sleeping with Ghosts’

Lots of self-loathing and doubt. I couldn’t get enough of them when I was in high school. Trevor hates them. So, I don’t listen to them much, out of respect for his ears, and because too much Placebo leads to depression. At least in me.

So, limited Placebo exposure today in honor of the weather. Spoke with my mother today, which was wonderful. She’s loving ‘Cards’ so far and is asking all kinds of questions, and even brought up something kind of cool which I might steal. She’s also still working on the cryptograms and still can’t figure them out. I am damned proud of those stupid things.

Talked to my dad too. He started his new job this week, so he’s in Pittsburgh until tomorrow afternoon. Apparently it is 15 degrees there right now, and he’s miserable. But, he’ll be back in AZ on Friday, where he can enjoy the near 90 degree weather.

So, the goals for today. Work on Chapter 8, maybe finish it if it goes well. I’ve been saying for days now that I want to edit ‘Vessels’ chapter 2, and while it’s true, it may not happen today. But, I have three more days to get quality work in, so hopefully it will get done this week.

As of this writing, I am making my goal of editing and writing a chapter a week. Not too shabby. Also, I think I know what my next project will be after ‘Cards’, and anticipate the the rough draft will be finished before editing on ‘Vessels’.

Funny, and true.
Funny, and true.

Exciting times in the Write Life, and ready to keep it coming.

Have a great day Blogland!

Writing and the Community

A table finally opened up! I’m  not sure why Tuesdays are so hopping at the Bux, but for a solid 20 minutes it was standing room only. Not a very good way to write fiction.

Yesterday was productive. Slow, when I think about the time spent at the computer and the number of words produced, but it still felt good.

I ended my day at just over 2500 words, and chapter 7 is almost done. It’s gonna be a long one, and there was a lot of worldbuilding to be done, so I’m running a bit behind my ‘outline’.

Which I consider a good thing. It means the book is growing, leaving the constraints of outlining behind and becoming something real. Something alive. Plus, it means my word count will be more than anticipated, which is a good thing. For me.

So, first on the docket for today is finishing chapter 7. If the juice is flowing I’ll move on to chapter 8 and see where that takes me.

If chapter 7 fights me, as it did most of yesterday, then I’ll give my brain a break and turn to editing chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’. I have it sitting out, teasing me, and I’ve got to say, I’m eager to tear into it.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all. I came to WordPress almost three years ago with no expectations. A retired Literary Agent spoke in one of my creative writing classes and suggested blogging as a way to keep yourself accountable and a way to get your name out in the ether.

Those who have been with me longest know that I struggled with the accountability aspect for a long time, and when I lapse between projects the blog suffers too. Sad, but true. Though I’d say I’ve made strides in this department since I started ‘Vessels’.

My writing has not only been more consistent, but it’s getting better. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure as hell helps.

Now, as for getting my name out there… I really didn’t care three years ago. I had no fiction published, and no attachment to a last name I’d always resented. But, a lot has happened in these years. Four short stories have been published under that last name, and as I find myself hurling toward the date when it will no longer belong to me, I’m panicking.

I may have talked about this before, but I’m going to continue to publish under my maiden name. It’s a standout name, and I’m the ONLY Brittany Zelkovich in the United States… Possibly the world. Though I’ve never checked that one. It’s become precious to me, a representation of the brand I am trying to build.

But, the blog wasn’t an instant fame generator. Obviously. We all know that. I’d get a view here or there, and I would titter and bounce with excitement. I still do when I see the views reach toward higher double digits.

It’s exciting! To know that people I would never otherwise meet or know can read my daily thoughts, and comment on them. I now have conversations with writers all over the world. People who write totally different things than me, whose fiction I might not read if I didn’t follow their blog.

And thanks to Twitter, this community is really burgeoning. The writing community on Twitter is large, and while a lot of people are pushing their self-published books, and pushing them HARD, a lot of other people are having great conversations about the Writing Life. We can commiserate when we know the last hour spent will actually end up cut out of the finished work, and share the joy when one of us lands an Agent, or even better, an actual publishing deal.

The internet, and the social media I participate in, has made the world so much smaller. It has brought me into contact with so many people that I can’t help but be grateful. It’s truly amazing.

And so I want to thank you all. For reading. For responding. For sharing my blog or Retweeting something of mine. For all the Favorites and the Likes. And for all the support these past three years.

I came to WordPress with no expectations, and have found a virtual home. A community I am proud to be a part of. Where I can share thoughts, ideas, and my woes at being a writer, and have people there to remind me that it’s all worth doing.

Also, just a small, very small, celebration. The blog surpassed 1500 all-time views a few days back! And while this is horribly pathetic to most other bloggers, I think it’s amazing! I smile every time I see the numbers on my stats page.

So, with that smile, and the warm, fuzzy feelings from the internet, I’m off to finish chapter 7.

Have a great day Blogland!

 

BZ

Books, Books, and… Oh! Books.

Today has been slow going. I spent a large amount of time ‘visiting’ my mother-in-law. She works for Bookbyte, a company that rents and sells textbooks. Her boss fills his office with ‘junk’ books. Books that people throw in when they ship books to them, books that the company can do nothing with. His office is shelf upon shelf, and large stack on the floor. And he sells them. $1.00 a piece, and the company matches each dollar and donates to a local food bank.

So, I took two five dollar bills and four quarters with me. Cash is preferred, and I knew I’d need the limit. This is what I walked away with:

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Now, Trevor and I have an agreement. If I want to bring more books into the house, I have to make room for them. So, I’ve had a large stack of books waiting to go to Book Bin, the local indie book store, for a while now. But, I’ve been filling in those gaps slowly but surely. Now I have 11 books to find space for. I realize now that I need another bookshelf.

Anyway, I took the stack to Book Bin, but they only took a few, which I expected. The trade credit I received for them found itself paying for two more books, which I had no business buying. One was the first book of the ‘Change Series’ by S.M. Stirling, titled ‘Dies the Fire’. It’s a post-apocalyptic series that’s set in the Pacific Northwest. For $4.10 I had to buy it.The other book is ‘Kingdom Beyond the Waves’ by Stephen Hunt. I’ve never heard of him, but he writes books with Steampunk elements, and I’m excited to read it. But, I took something else away from my my trip to the bookstore.

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I looked for Steampunk books specifically, since both novels I’ve written so far have been in that genre. I like the look and feel of Steampunk books. They all have awesome covers that are kind of gritty, but whimsical too. They tend to have great titles, like ‘Cold Copper’ and ‘The Rise of the Iron Moon’. And they seem to linger in trade paperback, as opposed to mass paperback.

But, I had a hard time finding books like mine. A lot of the Steampunk out there is considered ‘Alternate History’, meaning that the book includes real places, and even real events, but from fictional characters’ points of view and with the addition of Steampunk or magic.

Or, in the case of the ‘Age of Steam’ series, which looked so promising, it has too many genres thrown in. I like the occasional vampire story, but personally, I’ve always hated Werewolves. But, the ‘Age of Steam’ features a rugged Bounty Hunter main character who is, not only a Steampunk badass, but a sufferer of Lycanthropy.

Why? Wasn’t the magic system and the world building cool enough?

And so I searched, and searched. But, I found very little that actually piqued my interest. Until I found Stephen Hunt’s work. I hope it’s good.

Anyway, that’s been my day so far. Trevor’s working a different shift, so he won’t be off work until 8pm, so I’ve got plenty of time to get work done. The plan then…

Today I want to start chapter 7 of ‘Cards’, and hopefully edit chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’. I’m not feeling one project over the other just yet, and I can tell I need to eat something or nothing will get done. Also, I have no real goals for completion today. No pressure. I just want to work.

The sun is out, and it’s supposed to hit 70 degrees today. I’m prepared in jean shorts and a tank top lies in wait under my blue San Diego sweatshirt.

Anyway, time to order a sandwich and get some work done!

Any books you guys recommend? Share with us in the comments!

 

BZ

 

 

Making Progress

It took longer than I’d like, but I finally finished my second reading of ‘Vessels’. I’m still a little impressed by it. Like, “wow. I wrote this. Cool.” But, there’s a lot of work that it needs. Roughly, 10 handwritten pages of notes worth of work.

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There are quite a few little inconsistencies. Like, early in the book I say one ship has bright red sails, when later I say a different ship has bright red sails. That’s easy. That’s one word that needs changed. Pfft.

Then there are the big gaps. Things that need to be added into earlier chapters so that they make sense at the end. Information that needs sprinkled throughout the book so that the ending can make more sense.

But, the most work is going to be adding and fleshing out subplots. I wrote one plot. 187 pages of ‘Val saves the world’. But, what about the subplots I glossed over? What about Val’s relationship with Ethan? What about Ethan’s mom, and her disdain for Val? What about Marcus, a mentor figure, and his secret, simmering relationship with Reema, Val’s adoptive mother?

There’s a lot of story that didn’t make the book. And, really, subplot is what makes books great. It’s what brings characters to life and what brings the reader satisfaction. When all the little plot lines come together and find themselves resolved in some way by the end.

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So, aside from the little details that need sorted and the sentence structures and word choice that needs seeing to, there’s a lot of writing still to be done. Which is exciting, because this book is short. And I desperately want to add some length to it. I’m curious to see where it ends up.

I’m thinking 55k-60k once it’s totally done. Which is good. That’s over 200 pages, which would be awesome!

But, I’m not going to start on any of that today. Or tomorrow. Today I’m going to make lunch, write a little on ‘Cards’, and then go to work. Tomorrow is my day off with Trevor, and I’ve vowed to not do any work other than housework. So Monday I’ll start in on editing, and hopefully get some writing in on ‘Cards’ as well.

Then I close Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’ll get good work in. Then I’m going to the Portland Art Museum with my father-in-law on Thursday, which will be awesome!

Anyway, I’ve got work to do and soup to eat! Catch ya later!

 

BZ

The Verdict on ‘Vessels’

I’m going to start by saying I slept like shit. Excuse my french. It poured buckets all night, and while some rain is soothing, a ton is not so much. It gives me nightmares about drowning.

So, I was up a lot of the night. Add to the general insomnia an intense excitement, and trepidation, about reading ‘Vessels’ today, and it was just not a good night.

But, I was a good girl. When I woke up at 6:30, I got ready for the day and came to Starbucks. I just finished reading the novel. From start to finish. Took me about 3 hours. And you know what?

I loved it.

Yes, there are some gaps, especially toward the end, because I was writing in a frenzy then. And there are spelling and grammar mistakes, though most of them are just typos. And there are adverbs and passive voice things that need sorted. But these are all little things. These are things that are easily fixed.

My overall impression of the story is general awesomeness. I love it. I’m really excited to dig in to it chapter by chapter, though I need to read it through one more time and take some notes. You know, things that need changed, how I want to change them. Where there’s a gap, how do I want to fix that.

And while cutting it up and tightening the writing will be time consuming, and hard, the novel is actually in WAY better shape than I was prepared for.

Don’t let the lack of exclamation points fool you, I am really excited. And pleased. And proud. Just exhausted.

I was prepared for a piece of writing that was going to be barely worth the effort to make it decent. What I found was a fast paced YA/Teen Fantasy novel. There are a couple gaps. Some things that need added in order to smooth things out, and probably could be helpful in slowing it down a little. Because after the halfway point, this book does not slow down.

But, after reading it, I know that I didn’t waste six months of my life writing it, and I’m not going to waste another six months editing it. This story is worth all the effort I’ve put in, and it’s worth all the effort I plan on putting into editing it.

It’s a really nice affirmation of what I’m doing. I really like this novel. It’s good. It has great bones, and for a rough draft, is really clean. The next few months will be spent hammering out the details. Then getting feedback from trusted readers. Then taking that feedback and tearing it apart again and hammering out more details.

But, what’s really exciting about this is that I thought very little of this draft. I already think that ‘Cards’ is worlds better than ‘Vessels’. And I still think that after reading the manuscript.

Which is proof of how much I’ve grown over the last few years. It’s proof of how practice really does pay off, and how I can only get better from here.

Today, as sleepless and horribly rainy as it is, has been a wonderful day. And that just seems to be how this whole week is going.

Now, I’m going to wrap this up, head home and try and take a nap. Or at least relax some before my shift starts at 5pm. If I can’t relax I may be back to work on ‘Cards’.

We’ll see.

Anyway, thanks for listening Blogland. See you around.

 

BZ

One Giant Step for the Manuscript!

Not even three in the afternoon, and already I feel more accomplished today than I do in most weeks!

Woke up at about 9 and languished in bed, enjoying the spring breeze coming through the window above me. Now, it wasn’t a warm breeze, but that was ok because I was bundled up under the blankets. Cozy.

I considered calling to touch base with my out of state family members, but most of them would be working, or just waking up. So I stretched and pulled my phone over to browse Facebook.

It was ringing. My dad. Huh, he was one of the people I’d thought of calling.

Now, in case I hadn’t posted about it here before, my father lost his job just before the holidays. He has three children under the age of ten, a teenage girl, and his stay-at-home wife to provide for.

And, he is the sole contributor to our wedding fund.

Needless to say, things were a bit hectic for everyone come January. My dad did his best to still provide for our wedding, and we made a serious effort at paying for as much as we could on our own.

But, the last conversation with my father was tense. He’d just put the house on the market, and he wasn’t sure where his family was going to end up. Would he have to move all the kids to a new district? Would the six of them have to relocate to the 1300 square foot rental property in the middle of nowhere, until a job came along?

NOPE!

He just told me today that he has found a new employer in his native Pittsburgh, PA! Not only does he get to travel to his homeland more often, but he also makes, I’m assuming, considerably more than his last job.

And so, we’ve been given the green light. All is well on the wedding front, and that’s a big relief to us all.

So thanks again for all your help, Dad. I don’t think I can ever truly express how much it means to me that you’re helping us as much as you are. But, that won’t keep me from trying!

That was a wonderful way to start my day. And then I look outside and see sunshine, and a mostly blue sky. It’s 65 degrees in Salem today, and it’s wonderful. No jacket for me today, and windows and moonroof were cracked to let the air in as I ran errands.

Speaking of which.

Made another car payment today, and we’ve officially had the Kia Soul for an entire year. That’s crazy to think. Then I bought the printer and paper and binders and all the good stuff that allowed me to reach a milestone in my life.

I printed my first manuscript today.

Let me say that again, mostly for my own sake. I printed my first manuscript today!

GAH!

The First Page
The First Page

I do want to take a moment to applaud the performance of my $30 printer. It printed all 185 pages without jamming, or any sort of shenanigans whatsoever. It is loud, and it is basic, but that’s all I really need. I’m thoroughly impressed with it’s performance.

And so, it printed, I did some damage with  a 3-hole punch, and then organized my novel into chapter segments. Already there are things I know need fixing, and I haven’t even read it yet. But, I’m reprimanding my brain for that, and preparing myself for the first read through.

The Middle
The Middle

And so I’m basking in this awesome feeling, even as the sun is swallowed up in the Oregon clouds. I just keep singing to myself, “I wrote a book, I wrote a book.” And it just doesn’t get old.

But, I do need to remember that this feeling is going to fade. Probably as soon as I read the first page. Right now I’m glowing in a sense of achievement, but once I realize the incredible amount of work that needs done, I’m probably going to cry.

The Last Page
The Last Page

I was going to start reading it today, but now I’m approaching my plans with the best friend. And I really want to read it from beginning to end, uninterrupted. So, I’ll try and read it tonight, but I’m probably going to end up reading it tomorrow before work.  And once I’ve read it through the first time, just for enjoyability, I have to read it through again and take notes.

That’s when the work will begin. All with chapter 1. And, hopefully I’ll make enough progress that, in a couple months, the rough draft will end with chapter 21. And then the second draft will be done, and I can finally let Trevor read it!

Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up. Just wanted to post that I’m keeping on track so far. Wish me luck as I dive off into a new adventure in writing!

Doodle by Jonezy Artwork
Doodle by Jonezy Artwork

BZ