Friday, July 25, 2014

WIP Marathon July Check-In

I have a friend coming in town tonight, so I'm posting this a day early.

Last check-in: Finished Part One of the novel (14 chapters, 51,945 words)

Currently: Outlined Part Two. Finished chapters 15-18. Currently working on chapter 19.

Current word count = 66,783

WIP issues this month: Smooth sailing this month. Most of the scenes in chapters 15-18 were already written, so a lot of my “writing” was simple line edits.

In my last post, I mentioned two scenes that I had planned for Part One but decided to hold off on, since the long conversations were starting to drag. I ended up writing these scenes and incorporating them into the beginning of Part Two.

What I learned this month:

1. When I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed, the best thing to do is outline. It’s really hard to roll out words when I’m starting from nothing. Outlining not only helps me organize the scene so I know what comes next, but it helps my brain transition into writing mode.

2. I was originally planning on incorporating a lot of flashbacks, but my word count is getting dangerously high. I figured out a way to get rid of the flashbacks, though I’m worried that some of the inter-character relationships won’t be as strong without them. (I could write a whole novella using just the backstory.)

3. Writing in short bursts is actually a pretty good strategy.

4. Does anyone know an adolescent psychologist/therapist? Asking for research purposes.

What distracted me this month:

Rant ahead: My summer research is interesting on a theoretical level, but the work itself is tedious and dull. Part of the reason I decided to go into medicine was because I didn’t want a job where I’d be stuck in an office all day, working on a computer—and that’s exactly what my research is. My job involves reading medical records and filling in the information on a spreadsheet. My spreadsheet is finished, so lately I’ve been combining the data with the last research assistant’s. You’d think it would be easy, except that this student (a pre-med, not a medical student) is either incompetent or simply ran out of time. I’ve been spending the last week or two cleaning up her sloppy work. (Microsoft Excel is not designed for large chunks of text. There is no reason to copy-paste an entire MRI report when you can simply jot down the important bits.) I also don’t trust some of her information, but that data came from a different university, so I can’t access those records.

Thus, when I get home every day, I’m usually in a bad enough mood that all I want to do is gorge myself and watch Scandal--which is trashy but enjoyable on a good day, but usually makes me want to pull out my hair due to feminist rage. (Seriously, why is Fitz still around? He’s a spoiled, whiny man-child and he’s utterly boring. I’m so sick of all the will they-won’t they. Literally every other character on the show is more interesting than he is. Even Quinn, who is quite possibly the dumbest fictional character on television, is a hundred times more interesting than Fitz.)

I also finished critiquing a beautiful manuscript, and I’m working on a few others.

Books I read: Finished The Spirit Rebellion (it’s good). I also read the first episode of a couple of indie serialized novels, but I wasn’t impressed with either. Currently reading Born Wicked and Mission Child.

August goal: I start classes soon, so I won’t have much writing time. I'll aim to finish the first half of Part Two, but I'm keeping my expectations low.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Recommendation: "The Spirit Rebellion" by Rachel Aaron (book 2 in the Eli Monpress series)

Sequel to The Spirit Thief

This book had a slow start, but once the plot got going, it was pretty much non-stop. This was such a fun read, and considerably darker than the first book in the series. I will definitely be picking up The Spirit Eater.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

On Reviews and Book Buying

I follow at least five blogs that regularly post book reviews. The problem with reading book reviews is that I'm often overwhelmed by the volume. I have too many unread books sitting on my shelf (but which I mean the floor of my bedroom, since I don't let myself put a book on the actual shelf until I've finished it) and too many books on my to-read list that I'm not in a position to actively seek out recommendations.

So what draws my attention to a book?

-Usually, I have to hear about the book at least three times before it sticks in my mind long enough to think about buying it (or reserving it from the library).

-I usually scroll through most book reviews, unless the title or cover is intriguing enough to catch my attention. (Note: Covers with a man and a woman in a sexy/romantic pose are overdone and are an automatic "no.")

-If I've heard of the author before, I am more likely to read the book summary.

-If the book summary sounds like it has potential, I might add it to my goodreads to-read list. I will probably forget about the book within a couple of days.

-If I really think the book has potential, I might follow the author on twitter, so that I know if the book goes on sale. (I currently have no income, so it's hard to justify buying books that might be decent.)

-If it's the type of book I want to see more of (NA speculative, villain/unlikeable protagonists, LGBT, nonwhite protagonists, books with no romance, scifi written by people who actually know science), I am much more likely to buy the book, though I prefer to wait for the paperback release.

-If I loved something else the author wrote, or I'm a huge fan of the author's blog, I am much more likely to buy the book.

-If it's a bestseller or over-hyped, I am much more likely to request it from the library.

-If I checked it out of the library and loved it, I might offer to buy it for a friend on his/her birthday.


Books I've bought and read in the last year:

1. Secret for a Song (S.K. Falls) - NA about protagonist with Munchausen's
2. Control (Lydia Kang) - science + author is a doctor
3. The Painted Darkness (Brian James Freeman) - it was cheap
4. The Wicked We Have Done (Sarah Harian) - NA speculative
5. The Secret of Isobel Key (Jen McConnel) - sounded interesting + on sale

(Most of the books I actually have read were taken from the library or ARCs I collected at BEA. The thing about library books is that you have to give them back, so there's an actual deadline on reading them.)

Books I've bought in the last year and haven't read (or finished) yet:

1. The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Tad Williams) - loved Otherland
2. Charm and Strange (Stephanie Kuehn) - sounds totally up my alley
3. The Onion Girl (Charles de Lint) - sounds unique
4. American Gods (Neil Gaiman) - one of the few urban fantasy writers I actually like
5. Feed (Mira Grant) - heard great things about this book
6. Dark Places (Gillian Flynn) - I've wanted to read her books for awhile
7. Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers) - loved Cracked Up to Be
8. Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie) - I worship this lady
9. Arclight (Josin L. McQuein) - wanted to read for awhile + on sale
10. Born Wicked (Jessica Spotswood) - loved one of the author's blog posts + sounded interesting

So that's ten books that are sitting in my room, staring at me, tempting me, that I still need to read. (Along with the books I bought long before then, which I won't bother listing.) The thing about buying books is that you already own them, so there's no rush to read them right away.

I'm looking at this list right now and punching myself for all the awesomeness I'm probably missing out on.

(Hence, I will not be buying any new books for a long, long time.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: Premeditated

I was very annoyed with this book at first, mainly because of the writing style. I never realized there was a thing as too many clever quips, but this book manages to achieve that. Pretty much every paragraph ends with some sort of snarky comment, to the point where it seriously slows down the narration. (It also doesn't help that most of Dinah's clever quips aren't all that clever or funny.)

One of the reasons I was excited to pick up this book was that Dinah sounded like a smart, scheme-y character (what with planning a revenge campaign and all). That...definitely wasn't the case. Most of the "plotting" and brainwork (all of it, actually) were carried out by Dinah's two friends, Tabs and Brucey, both of whom were much more interesting characters than she was. (I'm kind of sad that I don't have a Brucey in my life.) Dinah, meanwhile, misses a lot of very obvious developments. She's kind of an idiot, actually. (I don't know about you, but when someone tells me that his best friend isn't allowed on the property, the first thing I do is ask why.)

One of the big reasons I started getting excited about this book was that I guessed the big reveal a little over 100 pages in and I wanted to keep reading to see if my theory was right. (It was.) In fact, I think most attentive readers should be able to guess it by the time they're halfway through the book, since by then it's fairly obvious.

Premeditated did get better as it went along. There were some very powerful scenes involving Dinah's cousin, and the author took good care to really develop a couple of her secondary characters. The romance was also well done.

I'm on the fence as to whether or not to list this book as "recommended" or not. I'll leave it up to readers to decide for themselves.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Recommendation: The Broken Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin

Book Two in The Inheritance Trilogy 

The Broken Kingdoms was, in some ways, a necessary sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in that it addressed the far-reaching consequences of the events of the first book. It also complements THTK by featuring a protagonist who is a commoner, rather than a noble. This allows readers to get a much fuller view of the world outside of the Arameri palace. Like its predecessor, The Broken Kingdoms has a really cool mythos and a high-stakes plot.

However, I didn't love this book the way I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Oree's magical ability was really cool, but I wasn't won over by her as a character. (Though I'm sure a lot of people will appreciate the way N.K. Jemisin avoided the "magical cure" trope.) Most of the secondary characters weren't very well developed. There was also too much of a focus on the romance for my liking.

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