Well, my friends, the first month of 2016 is almost behind us. I hope yours was a good one! Mine was. It started with a belated Christmas gathering, was sprinkled with various social doings, and ended up being a productive writing month in the midst of all that.
I stepped out of my comfort zone by driving to my friend's place an hour away, in a part of the city where I've never driven by myself before. I was going to take the GPS, but it went on the fritz, leaving me to check some maps, punch the address into my phone, and tape written directions to my dashboard. It sounds ridiculous, but I wanted to be prepared. Getting lost is not my idea of fun. Anyway, I'm proud to report that I made it there and back just fine, and had a great time with my friend to boot! I hadn't seen her in several months, so it was awesome to catch up.
City driving happened again when I spent an afternoon in the city with another friend, discussing the details of her upcoming March wedding. (I'm going to be one of her bridesmaids!) A few days later, we met up again to find bridesmaid dresses. They're going to be gorgeous: wine-colored, floor length . . .
Life at work has definitely been different than usual lately, as we've had a crew renovating certain parts of the store. Funny anecdote . . .
I met possibly the strangest customer yet--a young man (wearing rainbow socks) who thought he could take a pair of boots out of the store . . . without paying . . . in order to compare them to something in another store. Um, no. "What if I jezt take one boot?" he asked.
"Sorry, I can't let you leave the store with unpaid merchandise," I replied.
"What am I going to do wiz only one boot?"
I shrugged and reiterated the policy.
"Well, what eef I leave you my wallet? It has one hundred dollars een eet!"
Apparently there are people who think we still use a medieval bartering system . . .
On another note, Old Man Winter has been a capricious beast this month, first dropping the temperatures down to minus thirty degrees (Celsius), then warming up to near-melting weather. None of us are fooled, of course: a month or two of winter still lies ahead.
Between the bitter cold and yucky slush, I went ice skating twice and had so much fun.
January Films & Shows
Illusionarium by Heather Dixon: Remember me buying this last summer whilst on holidays in the States? I bought it solely based off Deborah's glowing recommendation, which is really saying something. [I almost never purchase a book that I a) have never read, or b) have never read anything by its author. If a UBO--unidentified bookish object--looks interesting, I'm much more inclined to get it from the library first. Anyway. Deb convinced me so thoroughly of this book's awesomeness, and the cover is gorgeous, and HELLO, STEAMPUNK, that I actually did buy it.]
And I don't regret a single nickel spent. This book is fabulous! The steampunk settings range from an aerial city to the Tower of London to airships to an alternate-reality-London that's all crumbling and decrepit.
The characters are just--gah, I don't even have the words. The first-person narrator, Jonathan, is so lovable and ordinary, with a dry wit and a smart, science-y brain. I love his family too. And then there's Lieutenant Lockwood, a cocky, eye-patch-wearing firebrand brimming with snark and mad fighting skills. I'd mention other characters, but it could be spoilery, so let's just say some of them are maddening and some are evil and some are both with a dash of sympathy thrown in.
This book definitely has a creepy factor, which I loved in a wide-eyed, horrified way. There's a disease that turns the victims' veins black. Later on, we meet people who are splitting . . . they have multiple eyes and noses and mouths and fingers and blegh, it's gross. But also fascinating. The whole concept of the book actually contains some great symbolism regarding moral choices and our sin nature. I loved it immensely.
Oh, and there are footnotes! Footnotes in a fictional book! Sarcastic footnotes! It's delightful. Go read it this instant, I command you.
Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor: Atrocious. I started my reading year off so wonderfully with Illusionarium, only to find in myself the desire to throw Shadowmancer across the room. See, I read book 2 (Wormwood) years and years ago, and liked it. But I hadn't realized there was a book that came before. So I picked up both books at second-hand book fairs some time ago, and finally got around to reading the first one this month.
Where do I even start?
The writing was . . . passable, I guess. It had its moments. The comma splices were annoying, though. The POV was so distant that it floated around from head to head, never settling anywhere. We'd be with Character A knocking on the door, then suddenly we're observing Character B waking from a drunken slumber inside the building. I wouldn't even call this omniscient; it's just poor writing. And let's not get started on the all the botched sensory details! He could see, she knew, they could hear, he felt angry, she was sad, they were all THIS EMOTION THAT MUST BE SHOVED IN MY FACE BECAUSE I'M TOO DUMB TO PICK UP SUBTLER CUES. Ahem. Sorry for the rant.
Moving along. This is a Christian fantasy. I wish that were a good thing. In this case, it meant watered down Scripture references, weird (and inaccurate) supernatural dealings with angels and demons and a mystical object of power, and unrealistic stuff everywhere. Instant conversions. Instant turnarounds in beliefs and feelings and thoughts. People being good just because, or bad for the sake of being bad.
A character doesn't know which door to take when sneaking through the bad guy's house, so he prays. Fine, that's good. But then dust swirls up around the door to the right, and he just knows this is where God is leading him. The narrative even says something to the effect of: "He didn't stop to think that Demurral [the villain] could be behind the door." I'm all for praying for direction, don't get me wrong. And I totally believe that God guides us. But it's not usually with swirling dust, and it's usually guidance given in conjunction with the usage of our brains. You have a brain. Use it.
The book's pacing was off. The main characters were passive. Thomas, the Main-main character, hardly ever thinks about his dying mother, whom he supposedly loves very much. Kate, another main character, spends far too much time crying when she's supposed to be a rough-and-tumble tomgirl.
Demurral, the villain, blabbers his plans to just about anyone who'll listen. His backstory reveals a moment in which, surveying the land and its resources, he suddenly and instantaneously turns evil. (Because that is so realistic, and the path of evil is a sudden drop off a cliff, mm-hmm.) Every trace of goodness flees him. He is overcome by greed. He goes on to trick the current vicar out of his position (by getting him drunk and then racing cockroaches across a table--um, what?) and seizes the vicarage.
I could go on, but that rant is long enough. I normally don't like to bash books because I feel bad for the author, knowing how much work and heart goes into a novel . . . but in this case, it was a real slog to reach the final page. My family heard of my distaste, and asked why I didn't just quit the story. Problem is, I hate quitting.
Moving along! Those are the only two books I finished this month, though I'm well into a couple others. Apparently I had a lot to say about both January reads. Eheheh.
January WritingsI'm a rather happy dragon, because I reached my January writing goals a week early! Woot!
|I've no clue where this gif comes|
from, but isn't it cute?
My brain can hardly comprehend the fact that I'm actually . . . done editing this book. I've been working on it for years. In fact, this March will mark eight years since I first started writing it! As I was telling a friend this week, it feels like I'm lying to say, "I'm done." It can't be true, can it? Surely there's more for me to tweak and fiddle and completely overhaul? But no. This is pretty much it.
Maybe it will sink in when I start researching the querying process next month, something I'm super stoked about. Mind you, once this book lands on the desk of an agent or editor, I suspect there'll be a whole new round of editing to complete.
In other writerly doings, I wrote a guest post (it goes up in March--I'll announce it here when that happens), and got clonked over the head with an idea for Welcome to Absurdity. I've mentioned that little seedling in passing here, but haven't elaborated much. That's because I know next to nothing about the actual plot. But now I have a few very fun ideas. It's still percolating, of course, and I don't foresee having an opportunity to write this thing anytime soon, but I'm excited for when that day comes!
So that was January.I stepped out of my comfort zone, watched some great (and not so great) movies, read a couple of polar opposite books, and finished editing book 1. I'd say it was a good month.
Next month promises to be an exciting leg of the journey. I'll dip my toes in the waters of querying, for one thing. For another, I have some fun stuff planned for the blog! Stay tuned for a brand-new series of posts.
What did your month look like? What sort of dangerous quests did you undertake? Any dragons slain? (I hope you left the good ones alive. Kill all the Smaugs and keep all the Clefspeares, okay?)