Tag Archives: writing

May 2020 Recommended Books

Where last time I recommended all fantasy books, this month I decided to go in the complete opposite direction and talk up some science-fiction books I’ve read recently.


NINEFOX GAMBIT

by Yoon Ha Lee
(Science-Fiction)

The biggest compliment I can say about Ninefox Gambit is, I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Far sooner. Back when it’d first come out sooner. On the other hand, then I wouldn’t be able to immediately have access to its sequels, so there’s a huge positive about waiting until the trilogy is complete.

This story takes science-fiction world-building and turns it inside out and upside down, in a unique way, yet using older, easily grasped ideas. For instance, it’s a combination of military fiction with religious zealotry, using the fantastical element of never-ending life with political drama, all within a blow-by-blow space-siege operation. Continue reading

My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Application

Before I talk about my May prep, I feel I have to go backward, all the way to last year. Pre-corona, pre-quarantine, to when the world didn’t seem so bleak and 2020 was the epitome of hope, excitement, and expectation.

The idea of attending a workshop (I’ve attended two prior: a fiction writing one at 18 at a local college, and the Writers of the Future week-long one) came up in an email exchange with a friend, with us discussing some of the shorter, more accessible and doable workshops. For years, I’ve been stunted in this possibility, for logistically and financially my family just couldn’t make a six week course happen.

And yet, when I looked at the smaller, shorter workshops, I felt something snag inside me because what I really wanted, truly needed, wasn’t to be told how to write, but to have people look at my work, story after story, week after week, and tell me exactly where I personally struggled, where my specific weaknesses are, so I can focus on them and improve collectively, across all my work.

I started saving. Maybe for ConZealand, maybe for a short workshop, I wasn’t sure, but I saved regardless. Continue reading

February 2020 Recommended Books

This month has been more spring than winter where I live. Can’t complain about that XD Yet, I worry there won’t be that final frost to kill all the bugs and we’ll be beset with a gnat and mosquito swarmed, spider-cloud explosion in a month or two.

You know those days where the air is filled with delightful floating cotton balls reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web? We might have a difficult time dodging them this year. Ah, well.

I’ve recently joined SWFA (yay!). Now I’m officially a member!

Also just hosted a sixth book club meeting at my house, which means that it’s been successful for an entire year and looking strong. Going to have to come up with something fun for our anniversary meeting in two months. We shall see…


THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY

by Alix E. Harrow

The meta portal fantasy I never knew I wanted.

This epistolary novel is told from the perspective of a girl who has always felt in between. About the many doors to other worlds we, as readers, have always experienced, so there’s an instant ability to empathize. There are slow revelations and deeply insidious dangers that mimic the realities of most dangers of our world better than the average novel.

Thematically, the novel is about change. About clinging to, or running from change. About choosing the change we want, rejecting the change that doesn’t suit us. Even more, it’s about the fear of change that exists in every one of us and all the different ways we face it.

As much as Ten Thousand Doors is a portal fantasy, it’s less about the worlds themselves and more about the possibility of worlds and all they might contain.


STARLESS

by Jacqueline Carey

Starless is divided into three main parts, with these parts being so uniquely different from one another that it’s necessary to mention. The first section centers on Khai’s training, the second his introduction to court life, and the third an oceanic adventure. Part one is by far my favorite of the three, delving into a setting where the gods are physical beings that grant their blessings specifically and with an eternal reason behind it. While each of the sections is divided by tone and purpose and even cast to some extent, I greatly enjoyed the entire process, from child-in-training, to the dangers of court and city, and the travels beyond.

There are larger aspects dealt with in the novel, especially that of knowing and accepting oneself, though it’s done primarily through the scope of Khai and one other who is introduced in the second part of the novel. However, though there might be a few interesting questions and a couple of characters that add to the great diversity in the fantasy and science-fiction realm these days, Starless is much more an adventure fantasy from start to finish, which I happened to love.


SPINNING SILVER

by Naomi Novik

I picked up Spinning Silver in response to having read Uprooted and though I admit to loving Uprooted just a little more than Spinning Silver, that’s not in any way a complaint against this novel. For Spinning Silver is a beautiful fairy tale-esque story revolving around a moneylender and the people in her life as she strives to not just overcome the struggles of her family, but to best those conflicts entirely.

There’s an entire parallel world, one filled with a cold fae people and their own unique culture, that is brought to the forefront during this journey, as well as an enemy far closer to home. All the pieces of this novel expand across numerous characters and settings and yet, every single thread is interwoven tightly and meaningfully.

One of those books that starts slow by necessity because of all the introduced characters, but builds and builds into a rush of a climax. A really fun book.

Into 2020

I never made proper goals last year, so I don’t have a clear comparison. No way of showing whether I had a good year, a bad year, or some amalgamation of the two. I’m going to crop it all up to being good though, for I’ve had a lot of new beginnings, focused on what I (and we, meaning Steve and I) want out of life.

WRITING FRONT

I had three hesitant ideas back in February.

Firstly, to start submitting my short stories again. On this, because I had been focused on novels for the past few years, I had to first dive through all my old work, dividing everything into piles set for the trunk, for further consideration, or good and just needs a quick cleanup before being sent out. In conjunction with this, I began to do writing exercises with the intention of hopefully getting some flash first drafts that could be eventually included in my submission process while I was sifting through everything else. I didn’t keep up with my exercises as much as I would have preferred, but still completed between 60-80, with at least 10 of them being worthy of edits and submission.

Secondly, I wanted to read more. More specifically, fantasy and science-fiction in the novel and short story departments. I wanted to read more new books, more old books, wanted to become familiarized with newer series as well as test out lesser known authors to find more I enjoy reading. One of the other positives in this respect was to improve my own vocabulary and writing capability, which I think grows with everything experienced. As of yesterday, I’ve read a total of 89 books for the year, not counting those I gave up on, and read a little over 100 short stories, which is not nearly as many as I’d hoped. I’ve also read more nonfiction articles as well, but I unfortunately kept no count on those and honestly, will likely not keep count next year either. All in all, I’m happy. The books went beyond fantasy & science fiction, ranging from nonfiction, to classics, to graphic novels, to even my first foray into YA in an attempt to find good ones since I’m trying to create a shelf full of age-appropriate fun books the kids can grab as they shift from middle grade.

Thirdly, I wanted to begin putting myself out there socially. This was the scariest of all. I talk a little more about this in the personal section, but the shortened idea is that I’ve been conquering my shyness one conversation at a time in the past decade. I will never not be scared, and I accept that, but I subscribe to the belief that practice makes permanent. So I made a reddit account and began commenting. Tried to post once a month on Facebook. Drove up to Balticon and listened to panels because I haven’t quite gathered the courage to make the leap of asking to actually be on any panels myself. Was going to attend Capclave, but a wedding Steve was officiating took precedence, so it’s on my goal sheet for next year.

Quantifiable Writing Achievements:

2 sales and publications: Cessation of Civilization to DreamForge Magazine and I Thought Them Starlight to Flame Tree, both short pieces I like very much.

80,000 words written (this is the bottom level amount that I kept better count of and doesn’t include a lot of writing exercises). Not even 1k a weekday, so I can definitely do better here.

55 submissions.

I’m going to skip counting social media posts because I did not do well. My attempts there were sporadic and scattered.

WRING GOALS 2020

For next year, I hope to complete:

1) 250,000 words spread between short stories, writing exercises and novels.

2) Maintain a rolling 7 submissions out at any given time.

3) Attend at least 2 conventions (I toyed with the idea of requesting to be on panels, but I’m allowing myself to not fulfill that eventual goal.)

4) Not disappear off social media.

Capable goals. Not too arduous or terrifying I don’t think, but perfectly good at keeping me going in the right direction. Wish me luck :)

PERSONAL FRONT

As a family, one of our biggest goals a few years ago was to begin traveling more, focusing on experiences with the kids. In November ’18 we bought an pull-behind RV so that this year we would be able to take home with us, so to speak, and make it a little more affordable. We took three trips total. First, to Williamsburg for a few days over the kids’ spring break where we did tours, saw and talked to most of the shops, and attended the trial of Israel Hands one evening. Then to the Outer Banks during the summer, which is where my family vacations once a year. We hadn’t been in three years and the kids ended up falling in love with the freedom of biking around the KOA. Lastly, we went and stayed outside of Philidelphia for a few days in September. Did downtown Philly, Liberty Bell, etc., one day, Longwood Gardens, including the light display at the fountain one night, and then visited one of my aunts further afield and took a hike up Hawk Mountain.

Socially, I’ve also been working on reaching out to try and maintain or cultivate friendships. Along with a sister-in-law, I started a tiny book club that meets every two months. We do trivia games for fun and I get to chat about books in a few different genres. Steve and I put in a patio (I think I mentioned this in another post because, wow, was that a lot of work and I didn’t even do half of it) and began inviting people over for a few cookouts before the nice weather disappeared. I’ve been working on saying “yes” more often as well. Said yes to a number of events I would normally shy away from: school events, work events, even library events I never would have gone to without making this resolution and coming leaps and bounds over the past few years. Even sucked up my fear enough to host a party for my son and his friends over Halloween. People are still scary, but I’ve learned a smile goes a long way.

Speaking of smiles, I have to mention health for a moment. I’m so thankful for finally discovering what’s been wrong with my face for the past year and a half. With my cracked tooth gone, the nerves in the right side of my face have healed and no longer throb and I’ve found a whole lot more energy that I didn’t even realize I’d been missing.

PERSONAL GOALS 2020

For our New Year’s Resolutions, the girl decided hers would be “to smile all year” and I liked it enough that I think I’m stealing it. So we’ve got:

1) Brave the cold and don’t limit my exercise to the warm weather. I can wear plenty of layers if need be, because this goal is more about not letting the winter derail good habits.

2) Keep saying yes, even when all I want to do is say no.

3) Remember to smile.

There you have it! Hope your 2020 is glorious and successful however you define success :)

Cessation of Civilization Published

December marks the publication of my 6th professional story and my first appearance in DreamForge Magazine :)

Cessation of Civilization features a student struggling over her final project, all the trials of every step in creating something as immense as an entire world.

This story originated from the idea of playing god in other people’s lives, getting to look down and push and prod them into action. Similar to how, as a writer, you get to design whole worlds, destroy character lives or make them worth living, worth reading about. Yet, it’s also about failure, success, and the beauty found in both of those things.

If you get a chance to read this one, I hope it makes you smile :)

This story isn’t available for free to read, however, here is a limited time only discount for a DreamForge subscription :) The stories are well-written and diverse and the gorgeous artwork that goes along with each one is something you truly don’t get with most magazines.