Uncategorized

What I Read in 2014

I have really enjoyed these lists in the blogs I follow, so thought I would do my own. I know, I’m such a follower. In 2014 I finally let myself buy a voting membership for the Hugo awards, so there are a fair number of items that were for that. Also, some of these may technically qualify as short stories, and yet others are short story collections where I don’t list each story individually. If my lack of consistency bugs you, I’m sorry. This is how I kept track of them as I read, so this is how they will be listed here.Some are kids books that were for the book club my kids and I belong to. I only included the kid books if the was the first time I read them myself.

Hugo works will be in italic, audiobooks in bold, and my favorites from the year in green.

Conversations with J K Rowling by Lindsay Fraser
Night Echos by Holly Lisle
Goblin Hero by Jim Hines
The Inheritance by Robin Hobb
At Any Price by Brenna Aubry
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Dolye
The Red Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Hollowland by Amanda Hocking
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
Into the Land of Unicorns by Bruce Coville
Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville
Clash of Kings by George RR Martin
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M Valente
Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang
The Exchange Officers by Brad R Torgersen
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
Parasite by Mira Grant*
Holly Lisle’s Create a World Clinic by Holly Lisle
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachael Aaron
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Winnie-The-Pooh by AA Milne
Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Dark Whispers by Bruce Coville
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Songs of Love and Death edited by George RR Martin
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Now that I’ve typed it out, I am tempted to go back and get rid of the green classification. Some were very hard to decide about, and there are lots of great books that just were not for me. I tried a lot outside my usual reading sphere this year. So a lack of green does not mean I think it’s a bad book. In fact, I don’t think any of these were books I actively disliked or was not happy that I read. This may be obvious when several books in a series are listed, but not green – I liked them enough to read more. The green books were just a better fir for my personal taste or ones I especially loved. So maybe the green is not useful, but I’m leaving it for now.

* One thing I found extra fun in this is that it takes place in/around the Concord/Clayton and Greater Bay Area in  California, and recognizing landmarks as I read is neat. So I recommend this to local folks for that reason.

Uncategorized

What I Read in July

Several other bloggers that I read regularly post a list of what they’ve been reading. Even though it just makes me want to read even more stuff that I will probably never get to, I like it anyway. So I’m stealing it.

Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Serger
This is mainly about screenwriting, but it promised to also apply to novel writing. I guess some if it did, but not as much as I was hoping. Although much of what it suggested, I’d heard or read in other places as well, so I suppose that supports it as being sound advice. I was just hoping for something new – to me anyway. Many of the examples I didn’t find useful, especially the ones involving commercials. Even really wonderful commercials I just don’t get a great sense of character from, so these examples just fell flat for me.

Even so, I was never tempted to skip ahead or stop reading altogether, and even if some of the suggestions were things I’d heard before, hearing them over again can only help to get them through my thick skull. So I’m still happy to have invested my time in this book.

Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy
This is less a book about cat behavior and more a memoir of Mr. Galaxy’s life. Although he does weave some cat information into the narrative because his life has been influenced by cats more than a little. He has struggles with multiple addictions in his life and goes into that topic in a good amount of detail. The cat behavior information is mostly good, solid stuff, but it was nothing new to me. I’ve never seen his show, so I had no expectations for the book, and I generally enjoyed it.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
As both a Scalzi and a Star Trek fan, I’d been looking forward to this one, and was happy to receive the Kindle version for my birthday. Honestly, I had a little trouble getting into it. I knew it was going to be a comedy, but the first few chapters just felt sort of. . . stupid to me. Then I realized this wasn’t a ‘playing it straight’ sort of comedy, but more of an over the top, full blown silliness kind of comedy, and I almost instantly started enjoying it more. A lot more.I couldn’t wait to make my family read it kind of more.

It’s a shorter book, and there are three codas at the end that tie in to the main story but happen outside the central narrative. I read several Amazon reviews that suggested not bothering with the codas, but I’m glad I ignored that. The codas were some of my favorite parts. By the time I was done, I’d gone from ‘meh’ to five stars in my opinion of the book.

http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?rt=tf_mfw&ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822/US/akarcre-20/8001/05231463-10c1-4957-a768-e64911612366 Amazon.com Widgets

Uncategorized

Kindle First Impressions

I got my Kindle Keyboard at Christmas, so I’ve been using it for around 9 weeks now. So, it’s time to share my impressions as a new Kindle user. I think most of the things I like about my Kindle are probably true of most other brands or e-readers as well, but I only have experience with the Kindle.
What I like about it so far:
1. I love the size and weight of it. It’s easy to hold in one hand if I want. The screen is a perfect size for reading in my opinion, probably because it is close to paperback book sized. I have both the Kindle and Nook aps on my Android phone and I almost never use either of them to read with because the screen is so tiny, I’m almost constantly scrolling. How easy it is to hold is the major feature that surpasses paper books in my opinion. Especially if you like long-ish books like I do. Have you tried to lay on your side and read a big honking book? There’s no comfortable way to do it. The size also makes taking it everywhere with you much easier than a paper book most of the time.
2. The e-ink screen. Speaking of screens, I also like the e-ink screen much better than the bright screen on my phone, or trying to read on my computer. Again, it is much closer to the experience of reading a paper book, and is much easier on my eyes. I have almost no eye strain reading ebooks this way. I suppose it might be nice to be able to read in bed without another light on, but I think I’d rather have to add a night reading light than to be forced into a backlit screen all the time. I can also read outdoor in the sun with no problems at all. 
3. The battery lasts forever. Since I’m famous in my household for letting my phone die because I forget to charge it, I find it very handy to almost never need to charge up my Kindle. My understanding is that if I leave the WiFi turned off, the battery lasts even longer, but I know I’ve forgotten to turn it off more than once and still, I’ve never had the battery die on me. I’m usually ready to plug in to add a new title well before I need to plug in just for charging.
4. I can add my own files. Amanda over at A Fortnight ofMustard turned me on to this great usage. I can add my own drafts to read over as I edit. I can add notes as I read, and having the document on a different screen lets me see mistakes that I may not otherwise catch. I do usually have to convert my files to a .mobi format since most pdf files I have are a little harder to read on the Kindle, but it hasn’t been hard to do the conversion so far, and I’m a tech dummy. Reading pieces for my writer critique groups is one of the main things I use my Kindle for.
5. The note making feature. See above. It’s very handy for my own pieces, and those I’m critiquing for others. I almost never make notes in novels I’m reading for pleasure, but I know some folks like that kind of thing. In fact, there is a feature that lets you highlight text, and see what lines have most often been highlighted by other Kindle users. I had to figure out how to turn that off, since I found other people’s highlights to be distracting and annoying as I read.
Things I don’t like:
1. The buttons on the side. I have to be very careful when I want to hold the Kindle in one hand, because I’ve pushed the side buttons many times when I didn’t mean to. Then I have to try to figure out if I accidentally moved forward or backward in my text, and how far I went. Also, the buttons were slightly unintuitive for me. For quite awhile I would hit the button on the right to go forward a page, and the one on the left to go back a page. That isn’t how it works though. There is a large and small button on each side. The large one goes forward, the small one goes back, no matter what side it’s on. Now that I’ve used it more I’ve gotten the hang of it and almost never mess it up anymore. In fact, being able to go forward or back without changing my hold is starting to grow on me. But it was a learning curve.
2. I can’t give a book to a friend when I’m done. This is a big hot button topic in the ebook world in general I think.  I know I’ve seen it mentioned many times as one of the reasons some people feel ebooks should cost less than paper books. My solution for the moment is not to by the ebook version of a title I know I’m going to want to hand off to my husband or my mother when I’m done with it. For example, my husband and I are both reading the Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. When ‘The Daylight War’ comes out, no matter how tempted I am to download and read it right away, I will buy a physical book to share with Robert. 
So those are my early impressions. I also feel like I’m actually reading more since I got my Kindle than I did before, even though I still mainly read paper books. After all, I still have a bookcase full of titles I haven’t gotten to yet. Maybe this is the excitement of having a new gadget to play with; maybe it’s all the pieces I’m reading for critique (I very rarely did this before since I didn’t like to read on my computer screen). I think it’s too early to tell for sure. I keep a reading journal, so later on, maybe after 6 months or a year, I’ll be better able to compare my total reading volume.
Uncategorized

Starting Over – Again

I’ve started my novel over. From the beginning. When I wrote my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, I did it in true NaNo style. That is, fast, and without a lot of deep thought. I had an idea about the sort of story I was trying to tell, so I didn’t try to outline or do much planning. You see, Id actually written this same story once before – back in 2005 when I first started writing again. Then it was a 7000 word short story. It was dreadful. The first helpful review I got was from a fellow called Bob over at Writing.com who explained this writing idea to me of showing vs. telling. Yep, that version was 7000 words of telling. *shudders*

It was Bob’s review and advice that started me on my way seeking out more information about the craft of writing. Before that, I though writing was some sort of talent. It was so exciting to learn that there were some very powerful techniques that I could learn that would help me improve my writing.

I defiantly feel that version 2 of this story – the 2010 NaNoWriMo version was much, much better than the 2005, short story version. Yet, 60,000 words in, I could see it wasn’t working well, but I’m not so experienced that I could easily see a way to fix it. The I watched the video by Dan Wells about the 7 point story structure and tried to plug my novel into that structure. That showed me that my ending didn’t make any sense. Actually, more than that, it showed me I didn’t really have an ending. Using the 7 point structure, though, I quickly came up with an ending, and a middle, and some sub-plots that all made the story fit together so much better. I was so happy! Now, I told myself, I have something to work with.

Last night, the downside of all these insights hit me as it came time to stop playing with outlines ans structure and get writing again. That was, I had to start all over again. To create the structure I wanted, I had to make some really fundamental changes to the story I already had. Mainly in the characters. The characters are completely different now. Better, but different. Beyond a revision. Have to start over. When I look at all the work I already had, this made me a little sad.

I wondered why I even want to keep trying with this story. Why not scrap it and start over with something new? I hope that since I’m still interested in this story enough to keep writing it (again) that’s a sign that it may be interesting enough for other people to enjoy reading if I can ever get a draft finished. That’s my hope, because I really do want to keep writing it. That almost amazes me more than anything else.

So, my fellow writers out there. What would you do in my shoes. Start over, or start something new?

Uncategorized

The Proper Order of the Chronicles of Narnia

Until this week, I had no idea there was controversy surrounding the order of the Chronicles of Narnia books. I discovered this by accident.

While learning about Lions, we picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe book on CD from the Library. We enjoyed it enough, that we decided to get the next book. I thought the next book was Prince Caspian, but the CD box at the library told me it was volume four in the series. I trusted the box over my own memory, and so we went home with the CD that told me it was the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew.

At this point I was feeling very befuddled because I didn’t remember The Magician’s Nephew at all, and I would have put money on the fact that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, was the first book. Everyone knows that, right? And yet the box told me otherwise. Maybe, I thought, it wasn’t the first, just the most famous or something like that.

Finally, I had to find a written order to get myself oriented again. This whole experience had left me feeling lost, and my understanding of my little world. I needed grounding again, so I turned to my trusty friend, Google.

And so it is that I learned that there are two schools of thought on the chronology of the Chronicles of Narnia. One puts them is order of publication – this is the order that my set of books (and my own memory) used. The other method puts them in chronological order of the story’s time line. This reminds me a little of FOX changing the order of the Firefly episodes – why change the way the creator chose to unfold the story?

While I personally really enjoyed The Magician’s Nephew , and highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it, I have to say I don’t think I would have liked reading it before The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Part of the appeal of it, is knowing what is to come in the future, and it is written in a way that assumes that the reader has that knowledge. I suppose it would be fine if they didn’t, but not quite as fun methinks. In the same vein, I think knowing the extensive backstory before The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe would have been just too much information, and taken away most of the mystery.

This isn’t the only change in order, but it’s just the one that has affected me personally thus far. Actually the only book the two numbering methods agree on is The Last Battle as the last book. I think I’ll go by the author’s ordering system and ignore the CD boxes from now on.

Out of curiosity, if you’ve read any of the Chronicles of Narnia, what order did you rad them in, and do you have an opinion on it?

Uncategorized

I love Harry Potter, but. . .

Yep, I’m a Harry Potter fan. Love him. We, my husband and I, started reading the book, one chapter a night, during then last months of my first pregnancy. We read all the books this way, I think there were four at the time, and when a new book came out, we’d snuggle as a family in bed and read a chapter each night. It’s become a nice tradition for us.
When we were expecting our second baby, we decided to start the series over again (yes, we liked it that much) Now we just got our pre-ordered copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows”, but we’re only about halfway through book six. We aren’t ready for the new book just yet. I admit, I’m tempted to just whisk through the rest of six on my own so I can quickly read book seven to find out what happens. There’s so much hype and peer pressure to read it right away, it sounds like a fun thing to do, but we’re resisting the peer pressure. So even though we may not even start on the new, exciting book for over a week or so, we love our special family story time, and we’re keeping out tradition.
Just don’t dare try to talk to me about book seven for at least a month! I’m doing my darnedest to avoid spoilers.
I do love the Harry Potter books, but I love our special family time even more.

Uncategorized

New shop. New zine.

I finished my first zine. It has super short stories – all with a family theme (about kids, parents, husbands, family memories, etc.)
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6084172

I was afraid people might assume that my zines were children’s stories if I put them in my Karabu shop (everthing else there is for kids) so I opened a second Etsy store: Paper and Words – http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5162914
I plan to add other paper items – more zines, greeting cards, blank books, and so forth, in future.