Sunday, January 31, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - January 2016

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.

Oh, and guess what came in the mail?? Just kidding, don't guess. I'll tell you. The Raising Dragons graphic novel! I was so excited. As a Kickstarter backer, I'd pledged enough to get a copy, so I've been following James Art Ville's journey of adapting a book into a graphic novel. He has worked so hard, and by the looks of these beautiful illustrations, it's really paid off!

January Films & Shows

  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - I didn't realize how much I loved spy/heist movies until watching this one. (My first MI, actually.) Seriously. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. The plot, the humor (Benji's lines were the best), the suspense . . . So good! Now I want to watch all the ones that came before. Also the Bourne movies. Really need to see those.
  • About a dozen Once Upon a Time Season 2 episodes - My sisters and I are almost finished the season. One of my favorite episodes was Manhattan. All the relational conflict! All the secrets revealed! The family relationships are seriously messed up, though.
  • Everest - I can sit back and calmly watch entire fantasy armies run at each other, or superheroes fight to defend a city, or teenage girls overthrow their government. But watching human beings attempt to scale Mount Everest--and not only try to make it to the summit, but to make it back down again safely--that is intense on an entirely different level. I literally gasped aloud numerous times. My forehead hurt from being scrunched into a frown of apprehension for so long. One character had it right: "This is suffering." People walk across ladders set up over impossibly deep crevasses. They endure the buffeting winds and freezing temperatures and freak storms. Some freeze to death. Some succumb to frostbite. Some, their brains swelling from the high altitudes, go crazy and do things that could (and do) kill them. Brave people on the way down to safety turn back to help their fellow climbers. And how do I feel about all this? Let's just say I won't be looking to climb any major mountains anytime soon!
  • Hotel Transylvania 2: 89 minutes of nothing. This was a sequel that needn't have been made.

January Reads

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 Writings

I'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?
To jog your memory, the goal was to finish the final read-through/edit of book 1. There was very little to do, but still. I did deal with a couple issues that had been hanging over my head the last few months as I worked on The Brightest Thread, so it felt good to clear them up for good.

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?)


  1. Are you ice skating in your...back yard? If you are, I envy you. I love ice skating and I actually used to speed skate as well before running and school got too busy. But I've only ice skated outside once. Congratulations on finishing your edits. Eight years is such a long time, but I've found that a lot of times, the books that took the author years and years to write are the deepest most thought provoking books. Good luck with querying next month!

    1. Haha, I wish I was! Though this public town rink is the next best thing. :) Ooh, you used to speed skate? That's awesome! Definitely an admirable skill. (I am not athletic at all. XD)

      Thank you!! That's super encouraging. <3 I sure hope this will be one of those deep reads.

  2. Skating, I only went once this year. Looks like you had a lot of fun :D
    You watched Rouge Nation! I'm so glad you like it, yes watch the other ones they're all very funny. The second one was the worst in my opinion. The Bourne movies are amazing, and the last one has Hawk-eye in it.
    I need to get Illusionarium! I read the Shadowmancer a few years back, and I remember having nothing but problems with it.

    1. Once is better than not at all! :D

      IT WAS SAKLFASJ AMAZING. Bourne movies, yesh... I was so excited to see Jeremy Renner in Rogue Nation too. (He will forever be Hawkeye in my mind!)

      Yes! Read it! Read it read it read it! As for Shadowmancer... blegh, I'm sorry you had to go through that. XD

  3. Looks like it's been a fun January! ^_^

    You are so brave to drive that far to somewhere you've never driven before. Driving is...not my favorite thing and I only drive to places I absolutely know how to get to. So I admire your courage!

    Oooh, you're going to be a bridesmaid! That's so much fun!!

    Wait, someone actually wanted to take a boot out of the store? And then offered you his wallet? LOL. Wow! XD

    Ice skating! How fun!! I've only been ice skating 3 times in my life. A sad fact, but we don't have a ice skating rink where I live, and obviously no ice to skate on outside. XD Looks like you guys had a blast!

    YOU GOT THE RD GRAPHIC NOVEL!!! SO EXCITING! You must tell me how you enjoy it!

    You read Illusionarium! YOU READ ILLUSIONARIUM!!! :D :D :D Isn't it just awesome? And the FOOTNOTES. So different and great. At first I thought they were annoying and distracting, but it wasn't long before I looked forward to every one. Jonathan is so funny. And LOCKWOOD. <333 And wait...was it your first book to read this year? Because it was MY first book to read this year!!! BRAIN. TWINS.

    That's a shame that other book was such a disappointment. It's the worst spending so much time reading something only for it to be blah. I value my reading time, so when a book falls flat it feels like I've wasted precious time, ya know?

    YOU FINISHED EDITING! YOU FINISHED EDITING! YOU FINISHED EDITING!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!1 CONGRATULATIONS. I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU! EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! And next...QUERYING. I just want to scream from the rooftops my excitement. You've finished editing and going to get it out there and get published and AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! SO HAPPEH! :D :D :D

    1. It has been rather eventful! :)

      I was nervous about it, but thankfully it turned out just fine. There weren't too many turns or changes in direction. ^_^ I did make one minor wrong turn on the way back home, but it was easily corrected.

      It is! I'm really looking forward to it.

      I know... some people!

      Aww, sorry to hear you've missed out on skating and whatnot! At least you *have* gone a few times. :) You will just have to come visit me in Canada sometime. In winter. (Even if that will reinforce all the stereotypes. LOL.)

      *salutes* I will do that!

      IT IS FANTABULOUS AND SUCH WOW AND ACK, I LOVETH IT. :D Those footnotes were hilarious. Jonathan's adorable, Lockwood is just--there are no words--and yes, basically everything you said. Whaaaat? This was your first 2016 read too?? HOW EVEN DO WE DO THIS?

      Exactly my feelings! I read less than I used to these days, so I want my reading time to count for something.

      *bear hug* You are making me ecstatic and excited and thrilled (and every other happy word) all over again! Thank you!!! :D

    2. *creeps into conversation* It's because I recommended it to you guys and you just KNEW it was the perfect thing to start the year out with! >:D Bwahahahaha.

      (...Ahem. >.> No seriously, I'm so thrilled you guys read and liked it! ^_^ *huggles Illusionarium*

    3. Aha, so you've been the one plotting these "coincidences," huh? XD

      All kidding aside, we are eternally grateful that you introduced us to Illusionarium. *nods*

  4. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! You're going to be querying?? OH MY GOODNESS, I JUST CANNOT HANDLE THE AWESOMENESS THAT IS THIS NEWS. Okay, so I kinda knew you were planning to query, but I think I missed one of your posts when I was taking a break from reading blogs. SO YESH I AM SO EXCIIIITED!!!!! :D :D :D

    Ooh, bridesmaid dresses! It's kind of odd for me to think about my friends getting married, but I do love weddings! I was a flower girl I think twice (?) when I was younger. Unfortunately, I don't remember anything other than the fact that I got a pretty pink dress. :P

    Oh gosh...that customer. XD Yeah, you can totally take the boots without paying. Mhm. ;)

    All those ice skating pics are adorbz! Ice skating is one of my favorite winter activities! ^_^ (Your hat, by the way, is completely adorable!)

    ILLUSONARIUM. I have heard of its wonderfulness from Deborah. I really should check to see if it's at my library. *nods* The other book you read, on the other looks awful. I can't stand it when authors feel the need to tell you everything. Because we obviously can't understand what's going on without them spoon-feeding it to us. (Wow, I'm using an excessive amount of sarcasm in this comment. XD)

    It sounds like you had a fantastic January! I've been trying desperately to figure out a post for this weekend, but I can't seem to come up with anything. If you don't mind terribly, I might steal your idea and do a recap of the month. I'm not sure if that's what I'll end up doing, but at least it's an idea. (That is, if you don't mind.)

    1. WELP, YES! It's exciting and scary and suuuuch a new learning curve! I'm super pumped because February starts tomorrow (hence, researching agents might start tomorrow). :D

      I know, what a thought, huh? To think that our peers are getting married? Aww, pretty pink dresses are fun. ;)

      Yep, go right ahead. I'll just keep your wallet here, and our inventory will be messed up, but that's no problem because we have your $100. XD

      LOL, thank you! ^_^ I love mah toque.

      Yes, do look for it! I think you'd love it, if only for the humor and steampunkyness! (How are you with the creepy factor, btw?)
      Ugh. It's a huge pet peeve of mine. Sarcasm is sometimes the only way to deal with such books. XD

      No, no--go right ahead! After all, my S&S posts are largely inspired by Deb's Ishness posts and Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Doings at Drakenheath posts, along with lots of people's monthly summaries. So have at it. :) (Speaking of which, I've neglected to comment on your most recent lovely post...)

    2. I checked in the online catalogue at my library, and it looks like they have it! I MUST CHECK IT OUT. (Mmmm...I'm okay with some creepy stuff. It probably won't bother me as long as there isn't anything else that I should be concerned about.)

      Please don't feel like you have to comment on all my posts! I understand that you're really busy and, honestly, I haven't commented on all of your posts either.

    3. YAAAAY!
      (I don't think there were any other concerns. Not that I recall, anyway. They may have used 'bloody' or similar British things, but that's about as bad as the language gets. No adult content. Just some sweet romance on the side.)

      Oh, I know I don't *have* to! It's just that I *want* to. :) I have this habit of reading my favorite bloggers' posts almost right away, but not commenting until later. Sometimes much later. >.<
      And of course, there's absolutely NO requirement for you to comment on all my posts either. ;) The very idea would be rather demanding and pretentious, methinks.

    4. You're too sweet! We're in the same boat then because I honestly love to comment on all your delicious posts. AND I DO THAT TOO. I'll read a post right away and then procrastinate and forget to comment. >.> So shameful...

  5. I've heard good things about Illusionarium, and I just saw now that my library has it! It was a bad month for reading, but maybe things will improve in February.

    You're querying? You're querying! (throws fist in the air and lets out a battle-cry) That's thrilling! I hope it goes well!

    I see the message thing at the side of your blog. I'll send a note.

    1. Your library has it? *happy dance* It's such a fabulous book. I have no doubt I'll be shoving it into many people's faces. XD

      Yeah, my reading was rather low this month as well. Like you, I'm hoping for more books in February! *constructs a nest of books around myself*

      D'aww, you're sweet. (And you make me laugh.) I shall keep you questers posted on my querying pursuits.

      Awesome, looking forward to it!

  6. YAY! Congrats on your finishing of edits, you awesome person you!!! :D *throws confetti and gives you hot chocolate and cake*

    I have never been ice-skating before. There was this one time when a creek near us froze over when it was really cold, and I walked on that... but really there's just not enough freezing, let alone ice, in Texas. XD (I also love your pics! And your snowy pics from before and just SNOW and YOU! :D Also you look a lot like one of my cousins, which fascinates me. ...Sorry, I'm weird... >.>)

    Seriously, someone actually buying a UBO (I love that! XD) on my recommendation?? :O I'm so... like... honored. And I'm SO glad you enjoyed it! And your description of Lockwood: "a cocky, eye-patch-wearing firebrand brimming with snark and mad fighting skills" YES SO MUCH. :D (You always have such a way with words. :D) And yes, Jonathan, and the footnotes.

    (Also I'm slightly amused reading other comments and seeing this spread of Illusionarium-dom among the masses through me and people I recomend it too. XD)

    Kill all the Smaugs and keep all the Clefspeares <--THISSSS. <3

    Awesome post! I love your wrapups and... well, all your posts, even though I don't always read right away or actually comment... (Blogger has a feud with me... >.> Ahem.) I hope you'll have a lovely month of writing and things! ^_^

    1. *picks confetti out of hot chocolate and cake, then proceeds to devour it* Thank you, Celti!!!

      Never been skating? To my Canadian mind, 'tis a tragedy. XD But Texas doesn't lend itself to winter activities, so like I told Christine, you'll just have to travel north someday. ;D
      Ha, that's cool that I remind you of one of your cousins! (I don't think that's weird at all.)

      I DID
      I LOVED IT
      It was fabulous, and it's all thanks to you that I got to read it. ^_^ Lockwood and Jonathan and footnotes and ALL THE AWESOME.

      (See? You're starting something!)


      Ahhh, thank you! (I'm sorry Blogger has it out for you. I feel slightly like a foreigner when I use Wordpress myself.) It means so much that you're reading, whether or not you comment. <3 I hope your February is completely lovely too!

  7. OMGG PROTECT THE DRAGONS. *cuddles dragons* I set mine to do editing and cleaning basically instead of ever slaying them. Ahem. But noooo, I didn't meet ANY of my January goals. XD I'm rather pathetic, but I blame it on the obnoxious heat. Gah. I do like summer? But I also like to walk without melting so yeah, it hasn't been agreeable to me. xD

    I'm glad you liked Illusionarmium! I really want to try that one since I see people talking (and flailing!) about it so much. ;D

    And congrats on driving to your friends house. THAT IS AWESOME IT IS. And I'm cracking up over the dude and the boot. People can be very strange....Also ice skating looks like SO MUCH FUN. <3 One day...I will see snow and ice and skate on it. XD In it? Something. :P

    1. Ooh, good point. Sending the bad dragons into servitude would be immensely helpful. (If only I could get Smaug to do my laundry...)
      Haha, I forgot it's summer in Australia. Poor Cait, melting in the heat! *sends you ice cubes* Anyway, here's to a doubly productive February, then!


      Thank you! I am admittedly proud of myself. "People can be very strange" <---that's an understatement right there. XD Makes for good people-watching.
      Oh my goodness, that would be awesome if you could find an opportunity one day to experience snow and ice and skating and sledding and snowball fights and snow forts and just--EVERYTHING WINTER. XD

  8. I got very, very behind on the comments, because school. But I am back, and now dying to read Illusionarium! I love steampunk, and books with footnotes = love forever.
    Funny story: I was super nervous to drive out to your place for the first time, too! So much character building happens when you successfully navigate your way somewhere. You navigated the city, and now you can take on the world! :D
    Loved the skating pics. Everything here is melty and green, after about two weeks of winter.

    1. School is a very legitimate excuse! (I'm behind on some blogs *cough* including yours *cough* and my only excuse is life in general.) I think you'd love Illusionarium!

      Really? I always assumed you were a cool cucumber of a driver. XD That makes me feel better! It is an empowering feeling, to successfully navigate unfamiliar territory.

      Thanks! As of today, everything is melty and brown. :P Or at least the streets are. Green sounds wonderful. *sighs wistfully*