Thursday
Jan102019

Echoes of Understorey

So at first, this book was a bit jarring because it wasn't about Unar, the MC of the first book in the trilogy. But it appears that the setting (and secondary characters) are the only real constant with these books. The final book looks like it will be about yet another character.

Which is fine, especially since the MC of this book, Imeris, who was just a baby in Crossroads of Canopy, is a much more compelling character than Unar ever was. Where Unar was arrogant and self-righteous, Imeris is a practical, humble badass.

Everything about this book is so much stronger than the first. And since it follows a new MC, you can read Echoes of Understorey without having read Crossroads of Canopy and probably not be confused at all. Unar makes an appearance, as do many of the side characters from her journey. The familiarity is nice. But Imeris is a much stronger character, not just in terms of her abilities, but in terms of the author's craft.

Anyway, Imeris is out with one goal in mind: to kill the body-snatching sorceress who was at the root of Unar's problems in book one. A lot of stuff gets in Imeris's way, most notably being swept up in a historic Hunt called by the rulers of Canopy.

Imeris is quite possibly the best warrior alive in her world, but she is humble about it and just wants to do her duty to rid her world of the sorceress and then maybe take up farming like Unar has. Unlike Unar, Imeris doesn't want to be a legend at all, though she doesn't shun her legendary status once she achieves it. She uses it for good.

Like with the first book ending with Unar on a new, vastly different adventure, Imeris finds herself on the cusp of something new and exciting. The next book will focus on her brother Leaper, but I hope to see some of Imeris in her new role.

Anyway, the setting is superb, the action is excellent and the characters are all wonderful and well-crafted. Highly recommend checking this out!

Saturday
Dec292018

Hope at the End of the Longest Year

Like in 2017, this year was hard fought and draining. Trying to get things done amidst creeping fascism has been incredibly hard. And because having fascists loose everywhere else in the world wasn't bad enough, the greedy idiots here in Ontario had to go and elect Thug Fraud to premier. I truly, deeply hope that horrible man goes the way of his equally horrible brother VERY soon.

Anyway, when I'm not wishing death on The Worst people in power, I'm probably reading a book. Maybe writing one. I still hit a lot of my writing goals, though I've been lagging behind all of December because of severe depression.

Heh, you want your favourite creators to keep creating? STOP ELECTING FASCISTS

Anyway, here's the breakdown of how I did this year, despite all the bullshit.

Writing
I hit most of my writing goals this year, and the ones I didn't hit were because I swapped them for something else. I've done a lot of work on Blueshift 1, revised book 2 and rewrote book 3 for NaNoWriMo. Books 2 and 3 still need work, but I'll get to them later. I'm happy with the trilogy as it is right now and look forward to polishing the rest. I've been querying book 1 and getting some good feedback from agents, though no contracts yet.

I got Fireborn polished and out into the world and it's also had some positive feedback from agents. I will continue to query both books in the new year.

I wrote and submitted three short stories but, while one of my stories got shortlisted for an anthology, ultimately nothing has gone into print this year. It's a tough industry, but I'll keep working to improve my craft until I can wriggle my way in.

I've looked into novellas and have read plenty of what Tor puts out. I haven't attempted to write a novella yet, but I've started to outline one.

I didn't end up outlining the next two books in the Fireborn series for a few reasons. One is that I'm just not as interested in the series as I was, though I'm sure that will change once I deal with the fact that I'm not entirely sure where I want the next two books to go. And finally, there are a lot of compelling reasons not to work on the rest of a series until the first book is published. So instead of working on books I can't sell/publish right now, I plotted and started writing something different: The Spider's Eye, a stand-alone epic fantasy.

I'd wanted to get a good portion of Spider's Eye written by now, but I was sick for most of November so my NaNo goals fell short, and then I've been severely depressed all of December and didn't get anymore writing done. I've done some more research and some planning on Spider's Eye, but that's it.

And my shiny (not so new) idea is still percolating in the back of my mind. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with it, though I'm leaning toward the novella format. And then I've got to do an epic amount of research and... I just really hate research.

Anyway, I've learned now to keep my writing goals flexible because I'm inevitably going to be more interested in certain projects than I think I will be and less interested in others. And I've got enough ideas to work on that I don't have to force myself to finish one thing if I (temporarily) stop loving it. So I didn't necessarily hit the things on my list, but I still did about the same amount of work.

Reading
So I hit this one out of the park this year. I've read 66 books! If I finish the one I'm currently reading over the weekend, it'll be 67! About a third of that has been the children's books I've read to my daughter (chapter books only, not counting any picture books). I've read a lot of novellas this year too, including a double-read of the Murderbot diaries because I love them so much.

I've read loads of books from the library and the vast majority of the books I read this year were by white women. I'd like to keep reading more diversely and I'm still not reading as many books by people of colour as I could.

Family
I've gotten really bad at family stuff, and a lot of it is the stress of the current political climate. I just don't have a lot of energy for things. What energy I do have goes more toward time for my daughter than to my spouse and the extended family. So we still did plenty of family activities, but my spouse and I have spent another year not having many date nights. We're both just so tired. Not sure what to do about it other than just keep trying.

Health
Hey, this one was a smashing success! I did all the walking until the weather got cold. I did plenty of kickboxing. And I even lost weight! I lost and have kept off 10 lbs! Now that I've found something that works (I'm using the MyFitnessPal app), I'm hoping to keep up this trend until my knees stop hurting. We'll see how it goes.

Travel
So this year was all about the travelling. I suspect that travel is partially my midlife crisis? It's also my creeping-fascism coping mechanism. So I went to more than two new (to me) national parks in both Canada and the US, including Yoho NP in BC and Volcanoes NP in Hawaii. I went to a lot of new places this year, and it was magnificent. I went back to the national parks in Tobermory as well, and returned to Sequoia NP with my daughter for a week before we went to WorldCon76. I am now out of money, but it was well worth it!

2019 Goals

Writing
Submit 3 short stories
Write Blueshift short story "Making Waves"
Plot & write Mage War novella
Plot Mage War novel
Finish, revise, and polish Spider's Eye
Do NaNoWriMo
Look into writing a MG series
Keep querying Blueshift 1 and Fireborn
bonus/swap in:
Research and planning for shiny idea
Start writing shiny idea
Start querying Spider's Eye

Reading
Read 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by POC

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Continue after school activities

Health
Regular kickboxing
Regular walks in warm months
Lose some weight (any amount will do)

Travel
One mother/daughter trip
One family vacation
Anniversary vacation

Anyway, 2018 has been the longest decade of my life. Congrats for surviving! We all deserve cookies just for that alone. If you managed to actually accomplish anything this hellscape of a year, bonus! Here's hoping we're all still here and kicking ass at the end of 2019.

Thursday
Dec272018

Crossroads of Canopy

So this book has a society of people living in the tops of mountain-sized trees, so you know anything I have to say about it is going to be heavily skewed by my tree nerdiness.

The setting really is the best thing about the book, to be honest. It's richly imagined and described and I love the heck out of it. Of course I do! I want to live in Canopy forever and ever! Seriously though, trees that are MANY THOUSANDS OF FEET TALL!!!

*cough*

And that's about all that's good about this book. There's not much in the way of plot and the main character is awful. There are some side characters that I like all right, but the story is from the POV of Unar who is naive and deeply selfish. And whoadang arrogant.

This is also one of those books where most of the problems can be solved by people just sitting down and actually talking to each other. When books derive most of their conflict from this, it really truly annoys me.

The third act picks up significantly and Unar finally realizes what a steaming turd she is. And then she's driven not by arrogance but despair, except that she's kind of mopey, which is a touch annoying.

Anyway, anyone who loves trees as much as I do will probably like this book just fine, you'll find the setting is enough to buoy you through the dull bits. Otherwise, probably give this book a pass.

Thursday
Dec202018

Depression, Life and Art

I have neglected this blog right along with almost everything else in my life for a couple of months now, in large part due to being utterly busy and also because of depression. I'm sure people who don't have to muddle through the dark cloud of depression would have been able to get through my days with more time for a blog (and a lot of other things). But this is my reality, and I have to cope with it in what ever way works.

I've learned over the years that when depression starts to weigh me down, I have to cut away obligations until I can get my head above the surface again. And this blog is definitely expendable.

It didn't help that I just didn't have anything to say. The books I've read the last little while have all been the children's books I read to my daughter, or an epic re-read of the Murderbot diaries, which helped me through last week's epic low point.

In the last two months, I've mostly just struggled to exist, to pass the time until the seasons warm up again and the days get longer and I know I'll feel better. I bought a SAD lamp, though so far it doesn't seem to be doing much. I'm going to therapy regularly. I'm trying to engage in only the things that bring me joy.

I did NaNoWriMo again, as an ML again, and it's one of the things that brings me joy, even if it was a little stressful this year trying to keep on top of all the events plus my writing when I was struggling through physical and mental illness. I had this low-grade but draining cold for most of a month. By the time I shook it, the SAD had settled in for the long haul.

It's still hard most days, even days like today where the sun is shining and it's a little warmer. I haven't done any writing since NaNoWriMo ended. I've been doing some research for my current project. I've done some revisions and sent more of my writing to publishers and agents. But no actual writing yet. I just don't have the spoons for it right now.

I've weathered this before. I just need to do my best to hibernate. To surround myself with the people and things that bring me joy and fulfillment. Sometimes that means writing difficult letters to politicians. Sometimes that means binge-reading my favourite series. Sometimes it means going back to bed.

I fight the good fight when I have the energy, and I do my best to recover when I don't. This is winter for me and I've learned to accept it.

One thing that absolutely does not bring me a single ounce of joy is my continued presence on Facebook. That website is evil. There is real and actual evidence to show the role it has played in the radicalization of good people and the degradation of democracy. I have never liked that website or how people tend to interact on it, and it's long past time for me to delete my account.

I have tried to curate a better experience on FB. I've blocked shitty people. I've used software extensions to block out shitty content. But none of it helps, and as the Cambridge Analytica investigation continues, it becomes clearer and clearer that I cannot, in good conscience, continue to use that site. So I'm working on an exit strategy.

Twitter is not much better, but I have at least been able to curate that experience more deeply. But as I (and many others) pull away from social media and the devastating effects it's had on society, I expect this blog to get more active again. I might even resurrect my newsletter.

So this blog will probably start seeing more activity again. It will also likely get more political. I got a lot of bad advice early in my writing/editing career that I should refrain from politics in regards to my business. But to be frank, I do not want to be associated with clients or bosses I find politically adverse. I'm not going to work for fascists. If you don't like my politics, I'm perfectly happy for you to take your business elsewhere.

Wednesday
Oct172018

The Fated Sky

So, it's hard to say much at all about this book without spoiling The Calculating Stars so I won't. If you liked the first you'll love the second.

The things I had issues with in the first book didn't go away for this one. The social issues that serve as antagonist were personified in Stetson Parker, first man in space. So it was interesting to see him get a bit of a redemption arc (though I never felt bad for him) while the social issues never really went anywhere. They were overcome to a point, but yeah... racists gonna racist.

The book was fun and infuriating and heartbreaking in equal measure, but it ends on a uplifting note. I had a lot of questions about some of the characters from the first book who weren't really in the second, but it looks like Mary Robinette will be writing more in the series, so I look forward to that.

Both books are really good. Mary Robinette's research is so extensive and it shows (and only rarely does it show a little too much). So go check out Calculating Stars, and if you like it, this one won't disappoint.