What I Read in December 2015 (And maybe January 2016)

After Nanowrimo I kind of had a falling out with writing. I pushed on into December, but lost the fire not long after. I fell into a kind of writer’s block that was accompanied by depression. I threw myself into reading thinking that there was no better way to learn to write than by example.

It began with Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series. I threw myself into the fun steampunk series, emptying Christmas gift cards into procuring the rest of the series. I wasn’t let down, as you probably know. There are vampires, werewolves, dirigibles, and, of course, Picklemen. 51K4NcinI2L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

There was just enough money left on a gift card to pick up the kindle version of Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys. This doesn’t have the same fun that Carriger’s YA books had. It was more of a slow introduction to a very mysterious world, several of them. Steifvater introduces us to a group of teens somehow bound to one another by a magical, Celtic king.

51zb1Ggd5VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I haven’t picked up the rest, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.  I fell in love with Blue’s strange, mismatched family of psychics. I fell in love with Adam’s desperation to become more than his upbringing. I found my own little brother in Ronan. I think this means I need to renew my library card.

I’ve been eyeballing Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows for-practically-ever. I’m beyond thrilled that I found the print version and hubs bought it for me. It is beautifully designed and what’s on the inside is devilishly good. The reader follows six criminals through the biggest heist of their life and all of the ghosts of their pasts in the world that Bardugo built in the Grisha series.

Six-of-Crows

My only complaint was the ending. It’s not even a complaint really. It’s more a growl of frustration. Be forewarned. This is most likely not a stand alone novel like I had assumed. If it is… well, then I’m going to throw it very, very hard…. at Bardugo.

Somewhere in between these books I ran out of cash and turned tot he unread pile on my shelf. I must have picked up Unbreakable by Kami Garcia in the sale section of Books-a-Million back in Maryland and forgotten. I remember wanting it, thinking of it as a YA Supernatural. With nothing else to read, I thought “what the heck” and pulled it.

Kami Garcia/Unbreakable
Kami Garcia/Unbreakable

I wanted to love it. I wanted to defeat awful monsters and see some really kick ass girls. She worked on Beautiful Creatures and I remembered loving that book.

Nope.

The protagonist loses her mother to a vengeful spirit and finds herself pulled up with a group of kids whose families have sworn to protect the world from ghosts and demons. Sounds cool, but falls woefully short. Everything happens so quickly that character development feels very lack luster. One moment the protagonist hates her love interest and the next she’s swearing her love for him.

I was beyond frustrated with this book. It had potential. It had bones, but there was no flesh on the bones to breathe life into the story. I felt the protagonist’s dismay at being normal amongst all the weird, but Garcia let the romantic story take center stage and it ran away from her.

Carriger, Steifvater, and Bardugo did really well with their recent YA books. Choose Carriger for fun and espionage. Choose Steifvater for mystery and magic. Choose Bardugo for story weaving and world building.

 

Nanowrimo Fever

It’s that time of year again.

No, for once I’m not freaking out over Halloween. This time I’m freaking out because Nanowrimo is coming. It had helped me produce two shitty first drafts, one of which has been fleshed out into an actual novel.

Around this time last year was an exceptionally hard few months. I won’t go into detail because many of them are private or not my own, but I didn’t make it past the first few paragraphs of my Nanowrimo project. Instead, I sought refuge within the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I devoured it like a madwoman and perhaps, at the time, I was a madwoman.

Needless to say, for the first time in a few years I did not complete the Nanowrimo challenge. And it hurt. It stung like a thorn in my side. It was the voice that told me I wasn’t cut out to do this. It constantly whispered in my ear that I wasn’t all that I thought I was. I stopped writing almost altogether. Rejection letters only made the wounds deeper. My heart just wasn’t in it.

It’s about time things changed.

Typing

I’m doing the final revisions on my first novel and planning to set about the first revisions of the sequel so that I can self-publish soon. This is what I’ve always wanted, just short of the big contract deal. Screw rejection letters. Screw self-doubt. I worked hard on this book (and I adore these characters) and I can’t wait for it to see the light of day. (And don’t forget my uncontrollable desire to become self employed and leave the tyrannical cycle of entry level employment.)

So, this year I’m going to give myself a firm kick in the ass and really get to work. Since I haven’t done any revisions on book two of my series (and I know how much stories can change through revisions) I’m not going to work on the third book. Instead, I’m going to knock out my very first cozy mystery.

That said, I think crafting my own little survival kit might come in handy. I put this together with things I already had in the house because I recently got laid off from my seasonal job and I know we writers aren’t made of money. Often, we already own our own comfort foods/drinks and supplies scattered around the house.

  1. Coffee/Tea: I practically live off coffee. The first things I do every morning is feed my cat and make my coffee. I love flavors like pumpkin and chocolate. It gets me out of my grump funk. Later in the day, I like to indulge in a cup of tea. Hubs likes his milky chai and I like a strong and clear black tea blend. Republic of Tea has the best flavors. Red Velvet is surprisingly delicious and Blackberry Sage is there for a kick of wisdom.
  2. My Notes: This year I’m trying to put together a series bible for my works (since I have plans for doing more than one). I bought a cheap binder at Wal-mart in a color that reminds me of my protagonist. The cat chewed through my printer USB cord and forced me to work longhand, which is way more malleable than a printed document. I’m enjoying the process of handwriting my outlines and character bios.
  3. A Pinterest Board: It is easy to procrastinate when you have a pinterest board for your nano-novel, but it also helps you visualize certain things. This can lend to some really vivid description and world building. Pinterest also has a secret board feature in case you have any tripidation about putting our story inspiration out there.
  4. My Stuffies: Yeah, I’m girly. When we had a bit of cash to spare my hubs spoiled me with two stuffies from Squishable. They’re basically giant, round pillows made to look like animals and such. I picked out the mini hippogriff and he surprised me by adding on the normal sized
    (which is huge) cerberus. They’re there when I need to release a bit of stress and there to keep me warm when we turn the heat down to save money.
  5. A Good Place to Write: Everyone needs a good writing zone. It comforts and consoles us, like my corner on the couch that sits in front of the electric heater. But don’t limit yourself. Soon, the surroundings will be leached of inspiration from all that plugging away. I like to switch things up and work in different places. You could take your laptop outside, if its warm, or save your work on a flashdrive or google drive work at your local library.
  6. Your Playlist: I like Youtube for this. If you hve an extensive music collection you can also crete an ipod playlist. While writing my 2012 Nano novel I would work my way through a lot of genres. I liked to listen to everything from Tyler the Creator to Breaking Benjamin while I wrote. It kept things flowing. This year I’m kind of feeling alternative 90’s rock, but we’ll see when I actually start writing.

I like to stay up after midnight on Halloween, with a stash of Halloween candy, and hammer away at my first thousand words. It’s a great head start when you have days that you just feel like a pile of crap or have to go to the obligatory family Thanksgiving (Gods help me, my husband’s family invited themselves to our house this year) and simply cannot write.

I wish all of you the best of luck in this year’s Nanowrimo, may you have words a plenty and your muse on a short leash.

Fueling the Nanowrimo Hype Train Because YES

There have been so many things going on in daily life that I almost forgot that Nanowrimo was sneaking up on me. National Novel Writing Month is waiting at the beginning of every November, giving us thirty days of writing pain and glory. A lot of people put off writing, claiming that they have other things to prioritize or that there is just too much stress in their lives already. I, on the other hand, cling to Nanowrimo as the one thing that holds me to my writing goals. I’ve pushed through novels during two school years and one year where I was living on the other side of the country for the first time.

I absolutely love everything Nanowrimo.

Here is my formula for getting through the month (yes, I know it isn’t for everyone):

  1. I begin as a planner, with a vague plot map and a character that speaks loud and clear. This will be my third year writing about the same character, but you might want to add a character resume to that map. Don’t worry. IT WILL CHANGE.
  2. I have a playlist. It isn’t a definitive list of songs, but rather a grasp on what is going to drive my writing for any given day. Usually this means pulling up specific songs on Youtube or praying that Pandora has what I need. It changes from story to story, one book needing Tyler the Creator and Breaking Benjamin while the next book needed Fuel and Godsmack.
  3. Know that without a doubt you are not writing gold. First drafts are trash and there is no way around that no matter how hard you hit your head against the desk. Once you let go of the need for literary gold the faucet will run freely. TRUST ME.
  4. Reward yourself for that awesome word count. Reward yourself for that cool idea you didn’t see coming or that one line that you’re so proud of. Give yourself something in return because writing is WORK. I like to splurge on iced coffee and spend time watching TV with my hubby as a reward.

Mind you, this is my method for writing fiction. You don’t have to write fiction for Nanowrimo. You could write a memoir. You could write poetry. Hell, you could write a cookbook. I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook.

It doesn’t seem easy at first and it won’t along the way, but it’s only a month. One month out of twelve. You will be tired at the end of the month. You will be ashamed of your work. You will be proud of your work. You will have created something that wasn’t there before. You will have done that.