March 2018 To-Be-Read Pile!

I somehow have ended up with some actual creative plans for the month of March!

  • Write 31,000 words.
  • Do my morning pages every day.
  • Restart The Artist’s Way (I’m doing this in a buddy system with a friend).
  • Finish — or come close to finishing — a Dragon Age 2 fanfic I’ve had hanging around for far too long. The goal is to have it finished by 04/30/18, so I can spend the summer working on original fiction.

It doesn’t sound like a lot once it’s written down, but I know from experience that TAW is a big commitment, time-wise and emotionally. I won’t start till Sunday, officially (there’s just something nice and symmetrical about starting at the beginning of the week), so I have a bit of time to prepare.

One benefit of doing TAW in the past is I’m now aware of how important it is, as a writer, to keep reading extensively and constantly. I’ve dealt with horrible, exhausting levels of writers’ block in the past, and a lot of the time, it’s because I haven’t been reading, and so my well of creative energy has run dry. Sometimes I’m just tired, and need to take a break, but I’ve found ever since I read more constantly (rather than in big chunks!), I haven’t had to take such long breaks from writing.

My reading plans for March 2018 look like this:

  1. Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel: I’ll probably finish this today, since I’m at 88% as of this morning. I adore this series, and the meta-narrative aspects are so well done. It dovetails nicely with Horizon Zero Dawn, which might be my favorite video game ever. I can’t wait for the third book!
  2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: I read the first book in this series last year, and have kept meaning to get back to it.
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  4. After Atlas by Emma Newman
  5. Embers of War by Gareth Powell
  6. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

That should get me through the month, if I don’t get distracted and want to gobble up all the other books that cross my path. What can I say? I’m weak!


Waiting On Wednesday – Only Human (Themis Files #3) by Sylvain Neuvel

really need to stay on top of my blogging game! If only someone would pay me to read and write full-time, sigh.

(Baby steps, Bee; baby steps.)

Waiting on Wednesdays is the brainchild of Jill at Breaking the Spine, and I was inspired to take part by Tammy at Books, Bones, and Buffy.

This week, I am eagerly awaiting:

only humanIn her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.



I absolutely adored the first book in the series, and am currently devouring the second. It’s going to be a tough wait for this one!

Weekly Round-up!

I always feel like I need to yell WE MADE IT at the end of the semester, especially on a Friday. Because oof, working in academia as support staff means the last two weeks of every semester are just one solid crisis.

But I am here, I have survived, and now finals will just trickle into the lovely peaceful silence of winter break — which means lots of writing, lots of reading, and lots of being sat on by my enormous and imperious cat. 20171215_064350

The aforementioned feline, being both enormous and imperious.

I think, instead of a looking-forward Friday, I’ll do a weekly round-up on Saturdays, and then look ahead a bit at the same time. To that end:

Books Read (12/09/17-12/16/17):

  1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  2. Strange Dogs by James S.A. Corey
  3. Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
  4. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  5. Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
  6. All the Little Children by Jo Furniss (started 12/15/17, unfinished)

I’m pretty delighted with everything I read this week; Life After Life was recommended by a coworker who also introduced me to Tana French (with whose books I am obsessed), and I’ll definitely be looking into more of Atkinson’s novels, even though this one gutted me. Seriously, this was a tough, sad read.

Strange Dogs and Persepolis Rising were such solid entries in The Expanse series — not super-thrilled about one subplot in Persepolis Rising, but I won’t talk about that for a while, in case of spoilers (the book’s been out a week and a half).

Old Man’s War was an interesting take on the general story that Starship Troopers and The Forever War have already told (and takes a ton of inspiration from both), but man, am I tired of a white dude being the default protagonist. The book itself was a fun, fast read, but I didn’t feel super-connected to it.

Red as Blood and White as Bone is one of the Tor Books e-novellas; they’re usually $0.99, so I don’t feel guilty about snapping up whichever ones strike my fancy. This is probably my favorite of all the ones I’ve read so far, and I really want to check out more of Goss’s work now.

It’s too soon to tell if I’ll like All the Little Children, but I do like my apocalypses (fictional ones, that is), so I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy this one!

I also tried to read Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw, and Storm Front by Jim Butcher, since I’d heard good things about the Harry Dresden series, but neither of them grabbed me, and I was just sort of turned off by how Harry Dresden/Jim Butcher felt the need to talk about how “feminine” every female character was. It was a weirdly quaint kind of objectification, but the rest of the book wasn’t interesting enough to keep me reading.

And life is too dull to read boring books!

Next up: I’ll finish All the Little Children, then finally get around to reading Ann Leckie’s Provenance, and after that, I’ll probably read A God in Ruins, the sequel to Life After Life.

Words Written: 

Only 8,004 words this week — not terrible, but not great. I started the great TVP rewrite, then spent the rest of the week too sleep-deprived to write much, though I did write a quick Destiny ficlet for a friend on Tumblr, and started a short story that I’ll hopefully be able to finish tomorrow.

Writing Goals: 

  1. Keep up with morning pages every day
  2. Stick to a more consistent writing routine
  3. Write 1,000 words every day
  4. Finish the new chapter two of TVP
  5. Finish the short story (it’ll sit for a few days before I revise it).

That all seems quite doable, and pleasant, and somewhere in here, I’ll find time to go see The Last Jedi.

One more time: WE MADE IT!


(Belated!) Waiting on Wednesday!

Oops, late by a day! Without further ado:

embers of warThe warship Trouble Dog was build and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.

But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be.

Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy.

If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

I’ve been reading a lot more science fiction than usual this year, because The Expanse set off a fire that cannot be quenched, and this seems right up my alley! Political intrigue, found family, a spaceship that is really the main character — bring it on!

Embers of War)

Why Does Monday Keep Happening To Me?

Boy, is it ever Monday.

Which means, as always, that I’m sleep-deprived, grumpy, and hungry, as well as dreading the long stretch of week still ahead of me. I’m the only one to blame for my sleep deprivation — Persepolis Rising, the seventh book in The Expanse series, came out on 12/05, and I held off on reading it as long as I could, but now I’m devouring it every moment I get. Thank goodness for 40-minute bus rides, right?

Still: being so tired and grumpy doesn’t bode well for my plans to go home and write. I’ve spent the past week and a half either not writing at all (aside from morning pages), or picking at the same few beginning chapters of TVP. I made the mistake of asking my parents to read over the first few chapters (I know, I know, but I was getting itchy without feedback!), and my mom pointed out that my current first chapter didn’t grab her.

It’s a slow start, certainly, and my goal was to set the mood for this particular character’s plotline (I’m trying to avoid the standard prologue that seems to feature in 90% of the fantasy novels I read), but she does have a point — every scene, every sentence in a story needs to be pulling at least double-duty, and few more so than the first scene and the first sentence. They need to set the mood, and create a hook to grab the audience; later, my scenes/sentences need to build character, world-build, advance the plot — but none of that matters if I haven’t gotten anyone’s interest.

(To be fair, my dad liked the first chapter, and so did my best friend — my mom did too, but that bit of crit has put a bug in my ear.)

(And, to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, if someone tells you something isn’t working, they’re usually right. If they tell you how to fix it, they’re usually wrong.)

So I’ve been trying to write new material to fit around the old, to add tension and excitement and interest, and while I’ve written some bits I’m very fond of, nothing has felt quite right. A little voice has started whispering in my ear: it’s time to set aside the 70K+ words you’ve already written, and start fresh.

I’ve been writing long enough to know that that voice, however much it stings, is usually right. I should be able to salvage large parts of that first draft, but it’s time to start again. The plot is streamlined in my head, and I can cut away a lot of the dross, the fat, that kept the story from moving along.

No writing is ever wasted. Every word I write makes me a stronger writer for later, and I learn something every day I sit down at my laptop and get to work.

But — how can I create tension? Where’s my hook?

My current first sentence is:

Owen’s charges were still fast asleep when he swung through the attic window.

Which is all well and good, and the scene definitely goes on to set a nice moody, wintry tone, but nothing really happens. There’s no hook, no energy. Just a guy swinging through an attic window. I like it, and I can probably use the scene later, in a trimmed form, but I don’t think it really creates interest. It simply exists.

My new first sentence, the very first sentence of my new TVP draft?

Somewhere beyond the Anatomical Chapel, a child was crying.

Now that, to me, is a far better first sentence: you’ve got the crying kid (she’ll be fine!), which immediately sets the “something’s not right here” tone, which I can either play out or subvert as needed, but before that, we have the Anatomical Chapel. What is it? Who’s in there? And why is there a kid crying nearby?

Questions are good. If readers have questions, they’ll want to keep reading, in case they get answers. And the questions that keep readers reading all boil down to what happens next?

So: tonight, I will go home, eat french fries for dinner, pet my imperious and enormous cat, and then I will start fresh.

It feels weird to say it, but I’m excited!



Looking-Forward Fridays

Time to see if I can’t get another weekly post going! I really enjoyed doing the Waiting On Wednesday this week, so how about something along the same lines: Looking-Forward Fridays!

These will be about the books I’m planning to read, as of this Friday — though that may change if I hear about something I really want to move to the top of the to-read queue. As of this moment, however, I’ve got these books on deck:

  1. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
  2. Strange Dogs by James S.A. Corey
  3. Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

I’m a bit surprised that I’ve managed to keep going through my reading queue without bumping those two Expanse books to the forefront. But that Kiste book sounds fascinating — what a great title! — and I don’t read too many short stories (the only other one I can remember reading recently was Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life and Others, which was magnificent, as is all Ted Chiang’s work).

Then it’s all Expanse, all the time. Between the book I’m currently reading — Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson — and those three, I’ll only need three more to hit my goal of reading 60 books this year. I can do it!

Happy Friday!

Waiting On Wednesday: Semiosis by Sue Burke

Thanks to Books, Bones, & Buffy‘s inspiration (an excellent blook blog, by the way!), I’m going to try taking part in Waiting On Wednesday a little more regularly!

This week’s Waiting On Wednesday book is Semiosis, by Sue Burke (click through for the Goodreads page!).

semiosisIn this character driven novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke, human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance.

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet’s sentient species and prove that mammals are more than tools.

Forced to land on a planet they aren’t prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape–trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

This is hitting so many of my favorite buttons — space exploration! Aliens! Issues with colonization! Creepy new worlds! And that cover looks amazing. I’ve had some great luck with stories that deal with new worlds being settled by humans (Children of Time, Planetfall) and some not-so-great luck (Noumenon), but this looks excellent.