Archive for January, 2014

Too Many Books (and a ROW80 Check-in)

I have this problem, Squiders, where I start new books when I am in the middle of other books.

Normally it’s not that big of a deal. It’s usually only two books at a time–one on my nightstand for pre-bedtime reading, and one on my e-reader for when I am out and about.

Sometimes it’s three.

But I sat down yesterday and looked at the books I was reading, and it was five. Five at once!

(I finished one this morning, so I am down to four now. And hopefully I shall finish another within the next day and then we will be back down to a reasonable level.)

Looking back, I can see how I got here. I had my ebook and my bedtime book. And then, I had my bathtime book. This started a few months ago, because the bedtime book I was reading I had borrowed from a friend, and it was autographed and everything so I didn’t want it anywhere near potential water damage. And then I checked some books out from the library, and of course I needed to start the library books because I only have a short time to read them in.

The fifth one I found under the nightstand in the small, mobile one’s room, where I apparently last left it in August. But I remember where I was and what was happening, so it was added back in to the rotation.

The problem with being in the middle of so many books is that I don’t really want to read any of them, because it’s too much work to get back into the world because there’s too many worlds going at once. I think the only thing keeping me sane is that they’re all different genres. (I always ALWAYS try not to overlap genres. Trying to read two of the same genre at the same time is too confusing. I also tend not to read the genre I am currently writing in for the same reason. I am managing to read and write high fantasy at the moment, however, because the two worlds are so different that they have nothing in common.)

Speaking of writing, ROW80 continues to go well now that I have my handy spreadsheet. As of yesterday, I am 4 words ahead of where I should be, so that’s lovely. I’m also almost 40K into the draft itself, which means I’ve put in over 25K since I picked the story back up, and 15K since ROW80 started. It continues to be excellent to be writing a first draft again after the editing work I’ve been doing over the past few years.

How’s your Thursday, Squiders? We’re supposed to get about a foot of snow overnight, but I’m a bit skeptical. (Also, how many books can you successfully juggle at one time?)


When Books Hook You (and Blog Topic Generator Hilarity)

Today has been one of those days, Squiders, where trying to get anything done has been a huge drag and everything seems too hard. This, sadly, includes blogging. And so I took to the interwebs in search of inspiration (and instead got sucked into YouTube, alas), and I found a blog topic generator. You plug in some SEO keywords for your website and it spits out titles of blog posts for you.

So, I put in reading, writing, and fantasy. And it gave me:

  • Why We Love Writing (And You Should, Too!)
  • 10 Quick Tips About Fantasy
  • The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Reading
  • The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Writing
  • 7 Things About Fantasy Your Boss Wants to Know

Not sure what sort of fantasy your boss wants to know about, honestly. Anyway, I am generally amused, because they don’t quite work, but I kind of want to make them work.

But onto real content. You know how sometimes you pick up a book and you start reading it, and you fall in love with it immediately, with the style and flow of the words themselves? I have found one of those books. And I am reading it almost ungodly slowly, because it’s so pretty I want to make it last as long as possible. It’s frankly ridiculous, because I’m only three chapters in, and maybe the book will take a terrible turn halfway through and I will be horribly disappointed in the end.

To be frank, I’m a little jealous. You know how everyone says you need a good hook right at the beginning, something to drag your readers in and keep them reading? To be honest, I feel like most people aren’t great at this. Or they’ve got a really interesting first line/paragraph/page and then it kind of trails off, like they put a lot of work into the very beginning and less work into the rest. It seems really rare for a book to be uniformly good, in terms of prose, all the way through.

And, of course, what works is different from reader to reader, so no doubt something that I find great someone else will find plain, and something that someone else finds great I might feel is overwritten nonsense.

But for now, I keep my hopes up and shall continue savoring.

Do you have books/authors that hit all the right notes for you, Squiders? Not necessarily plotwise, but in the flow of the words? What are they?

Fanfiction Ponderings

Apparently we’re not out of the woods yet. Sorry, Squiders.

I go through these fanfiction binges. They’re quite terrible, and I don’t really get anything else done during them. They’re kind of random. Sometimes it will be because I’ve finished something and either need to wait for the next installment and can’t quite manage it, or because there will be no more installments. Sometimes someone else will mention fanfic or link to a story. Sometimes there’s mentions on social media that pull me in.

This current bout happened on Tumblr. I do not tumble or whatever the appropriate verb is, but I do occasionally read other people’s Tumblrs because that seems to be where fandom has, in general moved to (I am a dinosaur and was active when fandom lived on LJ and haven’t quite managed to bother to make the shift. Not like I ever look at LJ anymore anyway.), and I like to see what people come up with. Anyone, someone linked a novel-length nu!Trek fic, and then I read that, and then I was talking to my writing community about losing time to that, and we got going on fanfic in general, and then we started talking about older fandoms and then I lost a lot more time to rereading some old fanfics that I really enjoyed.

(I don’t normally read multiple fandoms in one binge, but hey.)

Fanfic is kind of interesting. Sometimes you find extremely well-written, well thought out stories that rival the original source material, and sometimes you find stuff that looks like it was written by a 5 year old.

I’ve also noticed that I can only read fanfic for certain fandoms. This reasons for this have long eluded me, as there didn’t seem to be any sort of rhyme or reason to it, but I think I may have finally figured it out. It seems like each fandom has certain types of people who write fic for them, and so the fics tend to be somewhat similar in tone and structure. And the fandoms that have fanfic that I actually read tend to be ones where the fic authors focus on creating new things–new plot, new cultures, new magic, etc.–where they’re not just playing with certain worlds or characters, but actually expanding them.

What about you, Squiders? Fan of fanfic? (Har.) What do you like, and in which fandoms?

And I apologize about the really strange blog post subjects lately. I haven’t finished anything genre lately (though I did finally slog all the way through The House of Seven Gables, which I started around Thanksgiving) and I’m not quite sure how much you guys care about my individual writing projects.

More Doctor Who Musings

I know how it isn’t fun to read about someone else obsessing about something, and so I apologize about posting about Doctor Who again. But things are bothering me, and maybe the Internet at large can help me clear up some points.

I’m mid-way through season three (so, Ten and Martha), for clarity’s sake.

First of all, let me just say that I find the show a little jarring, the way people come and go. I understand why this is necessary–no one is going to want or be able to play the same character for the length of time the show has been on, but it’s very weird to get used to or to like a character just to have them disappear after a season or two. I mean, I finally got to like Nine, and then he regenerated. And then, when Rose goes, we lose not only her, but Jackie and Mickey too.

(That being said, I heart Martha. She’s my favorite.)

Okay, points for clarification:

1. Nine says he’s over 900 years old. Now, admittedly, I am completely unfamiliar with Doctor Who before Eight (I mean, I can identify some of the earlier doctors, but I have no idea about the focus of the show or anything) but it seems like none of his regenerations last particularly long. I mean, Nine only seems to have lasted a year. And I admittedly have no ideas how Time Lords count years, but it seems like there hasn’t been enough time represented, or even alluded to.

2. For there being a finite number of Daleks left, they are seemingly everywhere.

3. Let’s talk about “Blink.” I can see it looming a few episodes ahead of where I am. People have hyped up the weeping angels to me every since the episode was originally on. So I’m a little anxious about actually watching it. If it’s not as scary as I’ve been told, I’ll be a little disappointed, and if it is, I may never sleep again.

4. Also, last week I had a bad dream about Daleks and weeping angels, and I think it’s quite unfair to start worrying about them before I’ve ever seen the episode.

5. Also, it seems a bit ostentatious to call your species the Time Lords. But, then, of course, they’re all the Doctor, the Master, etc., so what do I know.

Right, bit rambly, and I apologize for that. Anyway, I shall move on to other subjects for Thursday. But feel free to discuss these and other points in the comments. (Seriously, though, Daleks.)

The Foundation Trilogy Readalong, ROW80 Check-in, and Miscellany

Good afternoon, Squiders. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover here today, so we’d better get cracking.

But, first, a public service announcement: My friend’s daughter is missing and was last seen on Tuesday in Tuscon, AZ. Please keep an eye out for her and let the authorities know if you have any information.

It’s time to start our first readalong of the year, Squiders! And in making a drastic move away from the YA fantasy readalongs we’ve been doing, we’re going to do Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation trilogy. I’m excited–I own most of the books but have never gotten a chance to read them. We’ll do one book a month, and change the schedule as necessary. We’ll start with the original trilogy, and then, if we’re having a good time, we might delve into the other four books which Asimov wrote later. So if you want to play, read Foundation by February 18, which is when the discussion post will go up.

In writing news, ROW80 is going well thus far (which is admittedly only a week and a half). Getting a spreadsheet helped immensely. I don’t seem to be able to manage to write every day, so I’ve been writing when I can and just pushing for longer and bigger word counts than my daily. I’ve got just over 6K for the challenge, which looks measly but is over 10% of my goal and more or less on track, so there is that. And I’m over 30K on the draft itself, which is also shiny, though I am not so sure about my pacing.

In random miscellany, apparently my husband’s coworker loved Shards to the point where she is now reading this blog (Hello, husband’s coworker!), which is rather a nice compliment. And I found a lovely video review of Shards as well (warning: bit plot spoiler-y in the middle).

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Why Self-Pubbed Books Get a Bad Rap

I always mean to read more self-published books. I’ve meant to for years. I feel like it’s important to be aware of what’s out there on the self-pubbed, indie, and traditional levels so I can be more informed and not look like an idiot when I talk to other people in the industry.

In that vein, I’ve been downloading free Kindle ebooks for years. However, I don’t use my Kindle very often and I haven’t touched a one of them. (I also download classics and the occasional free traditionally-pubbed book, and pick new books to read based on my mood.)

I may have never actually gotten around to it except I finally got around to looking at the Goodreads groups that I belong to, and I discovered that a couple of them offer read and review programs for all authors, self and indie and traditionally-pubbed, provided you can find a way to get an ebook copy to the volunteer reviewers for free. (I have Shards up for March.)

It’s a wonderful idea–authors get much needed eyes and feedback, and readers get free books. Now, I like free books as much as the next person, so when the group mods release the new books for the programs, I’ve been taking a look and volunteering when something catches my fancy. I’m in the middle of my second book that I’ve gotten through these programs, and both have been self-published.

And the editing is terrible. Both have editors mentioned on their copyright page, so I assume the authors paid someone to edit their book, and I am just horrified but how bad it is. Like, distractingly bad. I’ve read fanfiction with less punctuation errors. Some of it is content editing errors, such as saying the same thing two different ways, one right after the other, but most of it is grammar and punctuation. I don’t know if I’m more sensitive since I am an editor myself, but I can only take so many comma splices or improperly used semi-colons before I kind of want to set something on fire.

Part of me wants to write to the authors and implore them to find a better editor, someone who knows when they should use a comma versus a semi-colon and can discern if you’re using the right to/too/two.

But on the other hand, the guilt may not lie all with the editors. It’s why I almost prefer the authors I work with to not name me in the finished product. The thing about self-published works is that the author has the final say on everything. As an editor, I’ve made suggestions to authors that they’ve ignored. I’ve had authors who have rewritten all or part of stories after I’ve proofread them and published them without having them proofed again.

So maybe these people have perfectly creditable editors and just didn’t bother to go through a proper editing process before publishing their books. I don’t know. All I know is that if it were me, I’d be a little embarrassed at the quality of the book.

If you are self-publishing your book, please please please have someone proofread it before you publish it! I’m sure there are plenty of self-pubbed books out there that are just as clean as traditionally-pubbed books (which usually have a couple missing quotation marks and periods in them and are by no means perfect, but are mostly perfect), but my sampling thus far bodes ill.

How about you, Squiders? Do you read self-pubbed books too? What has your experience been like?

Fly and Die

We have a saying in crew–fly and die. Essentially, it’s when you come out of the gates going at an unsustainable pace, get part of the way through whatever you’re trying to do, and then fall apart because you pushed too hard at the beginning. We used it mostly in relation to 2K tests, which are horrible things that only take you somewhere between 7 and 9 minutes and yet destroy you for the rest of the day.

I kind of feel that way about ROW80 at the moment.

Oh, not that I’ve come out of the gates too fast. Oh no, far from it. We’re four days in, and I think I have 2 and a half days’ worth of words.

To continue on with my rowing analogy, the way to get through a 2K test is to have a relatively good idea of what pace you can maintain for the entire 2000 meters. Normally, the best way to do this is to base it off of past 2K times, times from other tests (such as 4 or 5Ks, or 500 meter sprints), how you’re feeling and what shape you’re in, etc. If you’ve still got a lot of energy at the end, you know to go faster the next time, and if you just barely make it through, you know you’re probably going at your limits.

ROW80 is an unknown to me. I don’t participate in a lot of writing challenges, so I don’t necessarily have a good idea of what works for me outside of Nanowrimo. And I can’t help but feel, even though we’re only a few days in, that I didn’t pace myself well and am sort of flailing about in an unproductive manner.

And it’s making me anxious, which is no good. Writing is fun, so stressing about it is counterproductive.

Part of it is that I can’t tell how far behind I am, and I don’t know where I should be exactly, and that’s only going to get harder as time goes on and I have to do harder math. Actually, I think that’s a lot of it. Since I don’t know what my pace should be, I can’t tell where I am and how far I have left to go.

So, no doubt, that’s the next step. Figure out my pace. It won’t be hard–there’s tons of Excel worksheets floating around the interwebs that people have made, so I just need to find one and adapt it for my purposes, and then hopefully I shall feel better about the whole endeavor.

And then, it’s back to writing.

ROW80 Goals

So, I’ve been generally aware of A Round of Words in 80 Days for a while. Billing itself as a writing challenge for those who have a life, you’re supposed to set a writing goal and regularly check in, so there’s a level of accountability. It runs fours times a year.

So, Kit, you say, why are you doing ROW80?

Well, squiders, you may remember that around Nano I was waffling about whether or not to participate, since I was working on marketing for Shards‘ release. And I did eventually decide not to play, for my own sanity, and I do think that was the right decision. And, at the time, my good friends Siri Paulson and Erin Zarro were going through the same dilemma (although not, obviously, because of Shards marketing).

So, having all decided that Nano wasn’t going to work for us, we agreed to do a writing challenge slightly later. Say, the beginning of 2014. And it just happened to line up with ROW80 and ROW80 would work for our goals, so here we are.

You’re required to have a blog for the challenge (check) and post your goals (working on, obviously) there. I’ve been kind of ditzing about looking at other people’s goal posts, and they’re really complicated. Multiple projects, multiple steps, writing and editing and researching, oh my. Maybe I going to be doing this wrong. But you know me, squiders. I think having one main and one side project at a time is the best way to roll.

And so, for the first round of ROW80 of 2014, my goal is:

  • Write 50,000 words in the third book of the Ri’shan Trilogy

Tada! That’s it. A single project. It breaks down to a little less than 700 words a day, which is totally doable provided I get my act together, which was not yesterday and may not be today if I don’t get on it.

I mean, sure, I have other writing goals, but they’re little things like working on my serial or submitting short stories. Don’t really seem like they’re worth sticking in the challenge when I’m totally going to do them anyway.

How’s your 2014 thus far, squiders? Any new goals or challenges you’re trying? (Aside from this, I am also doing a 6 day a week, 6 week boot camp challenge at the gym. I am two days in and I both love and hate it.)

Reading in 2013

Happy 2014, Squiders! I hope your holidays were lovely, or at least non-stressful.

For those of you just joining us, or those who have joined us recently, I am a nerd, and I like statistics.

And at the end of every year, I do statistics on the books I’ve read for the year. My goal is always to read 50. I usually reach that, but sometimes it’s a near thing.

So, without further ado, my reading stats from 2013:

Books read in 2013: 50
Change from 2012: -2

2012 was down from 2011, so this is NOT ENCOURAGING.

Of those:
19 were Mystery
15 were Fantasy
4 were Science Fiction
2 were Gothic
2 were Historical Fiction
2 were Magical Realism
1 was Children’s
1 was General Literature
1 was Mythology
1 was Nonfiction
1 was Romance
1 was Thriller

Children’s and YA genre is included with the genre.

New genre(s): Mythology, Magical Realism
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: Science Fantasy, Horror, Chick Lit, Paranormal, Young Adult

Genres that went up: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Gothic
Genres that went down: Thriller, Romance, Nonfiction, General Literature, Children’s

Man, that mystery binge really destroyed everything else.

29 were my books (7 were ebooks)
18 were library books (4 were ebooks)
3 were borrowed from friends/family

Average Rating: 3.36 (out of 5)

Top Rated:
Shades of Grey (5)
Murder with Peacocks (4.3)
We’ll Always Have Parrots (4.3)
Forged by Fate (4)
Inherit the Stars (4)
A Great and Terrible Beauty (4)
The Moon Pool (4)

Howl’s Moving Castle also got a 5, but it doesn’t count because it was a re-read.

Also Shades of Grey (not to be confused with 50 Shades of Gray) was amazing.

Most recent publication year: 2013
Oldest publication year: 1898
Average publication year: 1992
Books Older than (and including) 1900: 1
Books Newer than (and including) 2010: 13

I actually read several books that were published between 1900 and 1920, which brought down the average significantly.

How many books did you read last year, Squiders? What ones did you enjoy the most? What’s your reading goal for 2014?