Since I started my Poly-Reader Notes posts, cataloguing the running list of “currently being read” books I have cycling at any given point, I’ve always intended to write summaries of the ones I’ve finished in a given month. Usually, I forget. So I’m going to start posting brief* End-Note summaries of any books I’ve finished this month, simply to force myself to make note of any take-aways.

 

The Castle of Llyr – Bug and I read this one before bedtime for most of this month, and it’s been great fun revisiting a childhood favorite of mine. Mostly, I was pleasantly surprised that it’s not just a wholly “rescue the princess” story. I mean, it is largely, but I hadn’t remembered how active Eilonwy is in her own rescue at the end (arguably, even, saving everyone, including herself, when the situation is the absolute most dire and the heroes are truly incapable of surmounting their enemy without her). And then, of course, there’s just Alexander’s tight middle-grade prose, delightful magical beings, and truly heartwarming characters. MAN, I love this book!

Work Clean  Read this one after hearing some high praise for it by a number of online creative friends, and I’ve got to say, this one was amazing. While I’m not certain it’s entirely the most applicable for creative work, it contains a lot of food for thought, and I gotta say, practicing the “clean as you go” method in the kitchen has seriously made my usually hideous pile of dishes vanish…FOR THREE WEEKS. It’s sustainable! WHAT?! I love having a clean kitchen! It’s a whole load of stress off my shoulders, and it’s not even HARD. This is what they talk about when they talk about “life hacking.” Seriously. It’s also a great read if you have any tendency towards ADD, I suspect. It offers some simple ways to focus your energies without getting distracted by the numerous other things you could be working on. I’ve found it very helpful so far, even as just a rough template, and plan on buying a copy of this book for myself to both annotate and lend out to friends I think could really benefit from it’s organizational ideas.

Barrayar Oh, Vorkosigan Saga, how do I love thee? I cannot count the ways. This is my pick-me-up, bubblegum reading these days. If you know me at all, you know I tend to avoid series. I don’t know why, though I suspect it’s because I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer length and bulk of an extended series. I don’t know why it strikes me as a contract–thou shalt finish the series thou starteth–because I won’t keep reading a series I don’t like. *sigh* I don’t know. Call it a weird tick. I just don’t typically approach series. BUT ZOMG I’m so glad I picked up the audiobook of Shards of Honor this past year. Seriously, these stories have made my life better, simply by being so damned fun and charming and awesomely space-opera-y. LOVE. IT. This one is the book between the previous two I’ve read (SoH, and Warrior’s Apprentice), so now I’ve got all of Miles’ backstory. And I love Grover Gardener’s voice: he just…reads. And it reminds me so much of my mom or dad reading to me when I was a kid–slight voice shifts for gender, and tone, but subtle, never distracting. I’ve learned, however, that I cannot listen to one of these books prior to my day’s writing session, because then everything I reread or write starts to sound like Grover Gardener. Which is not bad, but not quite right for what I’m currently writing.

Quakeland – This one’s the latest in what I’m now calling my sci-adventure genre kick (see also: Blind Descent, One Breath, Into Thin Air, The Wave, Shadow Diversand Heart of the Storm). (Although I link these to Amazon, I would highly recommend you check their availability on thriftbooks.com to get them used and cheap!) However, while I learned a fair bit about human-induced quakes and a bit about earthquakes in general (like the rupture of one can create shifts in pressure that make distant faults rupture, too), I don’t come away awed. Maybe I’d set my expectations too high after seeing Kathyrn Miles on The Daily Show, but I didn’t feel all that enlightened like I did after almost all of the above mentioned books. Maybe I already know a fair amount about earthquakes, but I’m no seismologist, so I think I just wanted a little…more. And it felt a bit more sensationalist than the others (even The Wave, which was where I learned quite a bit about tsunamis but also just the mechanics of wave science and rogue waves in general–fascinating). This one felt like: “Ooooo, earthquake! You’re all gonna die! OH NO! SCIENCE-ISH-NESS!” I don’t doubt Miles’ science or the facts presented in the book, I just felt like a lot of the tension in it was created more by speculated worst-case scenarios, which–while supported by a good deal of fact, is still just speculation (one of the points highlighted in Quakeland is, in fact, the unpredictability and odd behavior and how little we really know about how and when earthquakes strike, so…) I don’t know. I really wanted to love this one, and I wouldn’t quite say it was dull, just…a bit flat. Not *cough cough* earthshaking.

Damn Fine Story – Finally rolled through the last couple segments in this book yesterday, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. It’s very functional, which I suspect will make it a book I do revisit a lot in the future for specific issues. I really enjoy Chuck Wendig’s philosophy on characters and plot, and this books breaks all that down in minute detail, which is great. Yet somehow…I don’t know, I struggled a bit to get through it. I don’t know if Wendig’s off-the-cuff style just gets old after a few chapters, though I found myself chuckling aloud more than a few times, or if the book is SO packed with information that it just feels heavy. It feels heavy. That’s kind of my take. It’s got so much information and good advice, I feel like I may not have processed it all: like the mindcup just filled to the brink after the first couple chapters, and after that, everything just kind of slops out. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so? I gave it three stars on Goodreads, though info-wise, it probably should be a four, but then it was just such a chunk to chew through, so…? Your mileage may vary. I’m left feeling like I read this book too early–like my brain isn’t yet ready to absorb what’s being dealt–but I also feel like I may come back to this one in a couple years when I’ve developed a little more and be like OMG THIS BOOOOOOK GUYZ!!! So, yeah?

*HAHAHAHAHA–you thought I meant ACTUALLY BRIEF. Oh boy. *wipes tear*

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Well, we’ve caught the crud again (yay preschool!), so I’m going to keep this post a bit on the short side (and, given the madness of the past few days, hopefully on the light side!). Here’s a few things I thought you might find interesting from the past week:

First up, ZOMG, they’re doing Dawn by Octavia Butler as a TV show. If you haven’t read the book, DO YOURSELF A LOVING FAVOR AND READ IT. Butler is one of my favorite writers of SF. I love her stuff. Dawn showed me how aliens could be interesting again. // Upcoming in October is this comic book, titled These Savage Shores which looks like an amaaaaazing genre take on colonialism, and the article that follows the announcement by author Ram V is wonderful reading. Cannot wait for this to come out! // Then there’s this Soviet Walking Excavator, courtesy of my husband on a particularly slow night float shift, because he knows I love Miyazaki-ish robots and OH MAN do I love this freaky thing. // This article on Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters was fascinating reading, and definitely a must-check-out for anyone writing stories staring women. // And this last oddity, because the first time I saw it, I almost peed myself laughing, though I feel so bad for the poor guy who looks almost as scared of the chicken as the chicken is of him! And I really needed to laugh a bit today. And it’s Toto, so…:

Hope your weekend is germ free and delightful! :D

A while ago, I started following author Sophie Overett’s blog via the Sunday Circle group hosted by Peter M. Ball, and I became totally obsessed with her “Friday Finds” posts. They always consisted of a brief list of cool things, from videos, to photo galleries, to articles, and inevitably there were at least two or three things in any list that seriously made my weekends more informed and, honestly, just more fun. Sadly, she’s discontinued her blog for the time being to focus on other work (completely understandable–blogging takes a lot of time, I’m realizing!), but I thought perhaps I could keep the memory of those delightful Friday Find posts alive here, reincarnated as Random Inspirations posts. I don’t know that they’ll be every week (I’ll try), and I don’t know if they’ll end up on Fridays or on Wednesdays when we all need a little distraction from the grind, but we’ll play it by ear. And while I can’t promise to be as epic a curator of the interwebs as Overett herself, perhaps I can share a few of the cool things I come across from time to time.

Like this post on The Cut about Anna Delvey, a conwoman extrodinaire who took the New York socialite scene by storm (and by wallet) / or this song I’ve become obsessed with by Empathy Test because damn, it’s so sad, but so pretty /  or this post by Chuck Wendig about the evolution of a mad twitter feed horror story between him and author Sam Sykes that is now a movie I REALLY want to see. Do yourself a favor and read the original feed story, too–it’s delightful.

P.S. – And do yourself a favor and check out all of Sophie Overett’s “Friday Finds” here!

That’s right, I’m sick. Because, of course, Bug started school last week, and then got sick, and that means I’m sick, too. (Fun Fact: In the sickness-induced zombie apocalypse, the mothers go first.) But despite this, I at least managed to write 1k on the novel rewrite and 700 on a short story rewrite I’ve been avoiding. So not a terrible day, productivity-wise.

I definitely need to spend more time just thinking before I tackle a chapter. But that means I need to schedule time for thinking, which is difficult. Especially when sick. But! I remind myself: I wrote even with my nose pouring snot out like a fountain, so that’s got to be some kind of “serious author” bingo point, right?

And now, excuse me. I’m going to stuff tissues up my nose and watch Victoria…

Made a good start on the novel rewrite last week, even with the kiddo having a sick day on Friday. Ended up with a first chapter, which I’m hoping to review today in order to get my head in the right place for Monday.

What am I working on this week?
This week, I’m diving into Chapter 2 of the novel rewrite, and keeping up the 1k/day goal. I managed to hit it every day last week, so it seems a reasonable goal. I *would* like to make some time to start the rewrite of a short story I’m hoping to get out to markets by the end of the month, but that may mean setting aside some time either on a weekend or choosing one day a week to focus solely on that. If I get back to my ordinary pace of closer to 1k/hour, I may have time after the chapter’s work to take a stab at the short piece, but the novel rewrite gets priority.

What’s inspiring me this week?
Still plunging through Work Clean, and very much still enjoying it (and my kitchen is still unnervingly tidy!). Making my way through Quakeland, too, and while it’s interesting, I’m not finding it as engaging as I was hoping it would be. It may simply be an issue of too-high expectations, but I’m hoping to wrap it up this week.

Also just watched Otherlife the other night with Andy, and really enjoyed it. The idea of giving someone a prison sentence within their own mind that feels like X number of years but actually only takes five minutes in the real world is absolutely haunting. It sounds great on paper, but really thinking through the ramifications of that gives me the heebie-jeebies. And it was science-y enough that the neurologist beside me only complained about the nasal tube for a long-term coma patient and the portrayal of the seizure (though one could argue that the seizure occurred within Ren’s mind, and therefore *would* perpetuate the common misconceptions about seizures unless she had witnessed any actual seizures in her life from which to cue the memory). But overall, he complained much less than usual, and about such a neuro-based concept, that’s like a 9/10 from him. XD

What action do I need to take?
I need to look at what I need to get done for the short story to get it out by the end of the month, and break that into reasonable chunks I can schedule into my day. I also need to find Bug a new PCP, since insurance changed again (RAWR) and we can’t see our usual pediatrician anymore. Bah.

August was a great month for reading. Strange, given that I feel like otherwise everything else fell by the wayside, and I definitely wasn’t reading the entire time. Hmm… But I did finally pick up a couple graphic novels/comics that I’ve been meaning to check out, and boy am I glad I did! I finished Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (loved!) and the first volume of Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (ZOMG HEAD-EXPLODEY-AWESOME). I’m seriously obsessed with Saga now, and am trying to figure out how to get my dirty little hands on the next volume as soon as is earthly possible. I mean, a ROBOT MONARCHY?! With cravats and enormous ballgowns and princes and kings and- and- Oh, Saga, where have you been all my life? *sighs dreamily*

A trip to the local library also means I stocked up on some other books I’ve been wanting to read, too, so the list has grown, rather than shrunk, but meh. Don’t care!

Notes:

Damn Fine Story – I am still working on this one. It’s still a bit of a slog. I have no idea why it’s striking me as a slog, because the information is really good, and has already elevated my understanding regarding how or why a story works. So I’ll keep chugging away at it, because it’s definitely WORTH the read.

Work Clean – I picked this one up as it’s often mentioned in the Sunday Circle crew, and so far I am really loving it and my kitchen is insanely clean (and has been for FOUR DAYS IN A ROW)! *what is this witchcraft?!* I’ve finally decided just to read through it cover-to-cover and not worry too much about the exercises, because while I’d like to do them all (ALL OF THEM), I’ve only got the book out for two weeks from the library and don’t want to get hung up. Should finish this one this month.

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – I…haven’t been reading this one at all. But I really need to. I need to commit to just getting it done, because I can tell how rusty I’ve become on conceiving short fiction, and there’s nothing like reading a ton of great short fiction to get one’s brain in gear about the form. Don’t know if I’ll double down on it this month or next month. Will have to see.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – I need to get back to two pages a day on this one. It would be easy. It should probably be my before-bed read, because I’ll bet it’ll give me the craziest tripped-out dreams (if it doesn’t just keep me awake spinning thinky-thoughts). I really enjoy it, but I need to commit to it, even in small chunks, if I want to finish it by the end of the year (which I do, but damn, it’s good brain food!).

Barrayar – Had to had to had to start another Vorkosagan Saga book, because it’s been too long, and I missed my pals there. This time, stepping back to Barrayar and Cordelia while pregnant with Miles (I’ve already read Warrior’s Apprentice, so actually know what happens in this book, but not the HOW). It’s satisfying my space opera itch, and I’m realizing SO probably needs to be a regular portion of my reading diet, as I always come back to it (and always end up writing it).

Going Clear – Set this one briefly on the back burner while I plowed through some slightly more relevant work regarding the dark fantasy novel I’m rewriting at the moment, but I look forward to getting back to this one, because it’s well written and it’s very, very interesting.

Enchanted – I…really want to like this one. I really, really want to like it. But right now, I’m afraid I’m just a bit bored with it. The story is bouncing all over the place, the through-line is muddled, and I’m kind of meh about the characters. I feel like a lot of questions are asked, but very few are satisfactorily answered (rather than just dropped or passed over) which makes for a rather frustrating reading time. Honestly, I’m waffling on the edge of probably every polyreader’s dilemma, which is, when do I decide a book isn’t worth pushing myself to finish? And I hate that I’m asking that about this book, because I really, really, really want to like it… I love the author’s short fiction, but this one, so far, just hasn’t done it for me. *sigh*

Quakeland – I’ve wanted to read this one since Trevor Noah had author Kathryn Miles on the Daily Show a few months back, but it’s always been checked out or full-price on Thriftbooks.com. But last week, I checked our local library, and BAM! There it was, so I picked it up. So far, it’s pretty good, though definitely a little sensationalist in tone, and a little helter-skelter compared to other books in this genre I’ve read recently. But I am enjoying it, so I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Will likely finish this one this month.

Making Your Own Days – Haven’t touched this one in a while, but I’ve been absorbed by other books and not really in a poetry mood. But do want to pick this one up again and learn a little something sooner rather than later.

An Ocean of Air – Haven’t made much progress on this one, but it’s pretty much in the same category as Quakeland, so once that one’s done, I’ll probably get back to this one.

The Castle of Lyr – Third book in the Prydain Chronicles!!! YAY! We’re plowing through it at bedtime, and things are about to get exciting! So thrilled that Bug likes these books, even as young as he is. I’m perpetually impressed by how well these ones have weathered the test of time, more so than many of my other fondly-remembered childhood favorites. This should be considered the gold-standard for what writing a children’s books ought to be: clear, concise, simple but not easy or boring, with beloved characters and deeply emotional core.

(That’s all for now, but let’s be honest, I’ll probably pick up Saga #2, #3, and #4 (and all of them) over the course of this next month…I kid you not.)

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted a Sunday Circle check-in, mostly because August was a crap month in which very little got done and most of my good habits fell by the wayside while dealing with some other day-to-day issues. But with those issues somewhat in hand, or moving towards being in hand, and with Bug becoming a school kid (WHAT?! Where did the time go?), I’ve now got a chunk of time every day to write and focus entirely on that. It’s…it’s magical, you guys. And hopefully here on out, I’ll be a bit more active, and a bit better at keeping up with the Circle! :)

What am I working on this week?
It’s preschool season, which means a guaranteed 2 HOURS of writing time! It’s…beautiful, and a bit overwhelming, but I’m loving it. So this week, I’m starting Draft 2 of the dark fantasy YA novel about a spunky con-artist trying to rescue her sickly brother from a malicious clockwork cult leader (codename: Frosthaven). I’ve got a ton of index cards, lots of scenes, and am trying really hard not to think about how much work it’s actually going to be. My working goal is 1k/day like the first draft, which worked pretty well, and I’ve got more plotted out this time, so that hopefully won’t leave me creatively drained as much.

What’s inspiring me this week?
Over the past week, I read Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, and you guys…I’m in love. I didn’t even know I needed this story in my life until I finally picked it up at my local library, and I’m losing my mind over it. ROBOT MONARCHIES? *dies happy*

Also just started readinging through Work Clean as mentioned in previous Sunday Circles, and I’m loving it, too. There’s something about the concept of mise-en-place that I find incredibly satisfying on a day-to-day basis. I haven’t applied it much to writing-work as yet, though like The Clockwork Muse I can see how it could be usefully applied, but it’s been a small revolution in my kitchen in terms of keeping on top of dishes (a perpetual bane and source of stress in my day-to-day life) and cleaning as I go. My kitchen has seriously never been this consistently tidy–it’s shocking. And with so little adjustment necessary–amazing.

What action do I need to take?
This week is really all about committing to the habits I want to have moving forward into this new phase: walking every morning, getting a solid two hours of work in, reading when I say I will, and practice writing every day for a little bit. I need to lock these habits in early so they stick around when other challenges and schedule changes inevitably arise.