This Week, I Read… (2019 #21)

64 - Where We Land

#64 – Where We Land, by Abigail Barnette

  • Read: 5/17/19
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

As promised on the label, cute beta guy meets and falls in love with hardworking, frazzled but fun girl.

As usual for a Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette work, there’s tons of healthy relationship dynamics at play, and the characters address social issues instead of ignoring them. (This is certainly a #MeToo era work in tone, even if the actual movement isn’t a part of the story.)

I loved the characters, even the minor ones, and I’ve got no gripes with 95% of the book. This didn’t get a fifth star from me because I prefer my romances not to skip to a HEA ending as soon as the lovebirds confirm they’re together. The epilogue felt tacked on instead of being a natural conclusion.

For what it is–a meet-cute novella–it’s practically perfect. I just loved the characters enough to want to see more, the meat of the relationship that got skipped near the end.

65 - Read, Write, Love at Seaside

#65 – Read, Write, Love at Seaside, by Addison Cole

  • Read: 5/17/19 – 5/18/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (45/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

Opposites attract, but not in any interesting way. DNF @ 60% because there was no conflict and I got tired of waiting for something interesting to happen.

Leanna is a directionless hippie (with a backup trust fund she wants to use only for emergencies, so it’s okay that she’s an adult with no direction because she’s not in any danger of starving or becoming homeless. That would ruin the vibe.)

Kurt is a stick-up-his-ass neat-freak author (who immediately loosens up at the mere sight of sexy, sexy Leanna and becomes super-perfect in no time flat. Like, before the book was halfway over, he’d already been made over into the ideal man, and not even because Leanna was trying to change him, but just because he was so damn smitten that he did it all without being asked.)

THERE’S NO CONFLICT. EVER. They get together with only a token amount of resistance, Kurt basically remakes his entire schedule to fit her into it but that’s okay because she’s SO INSPIRING that he writes faster in less time so it’s okay. When I gave up, they were talking about moving in together and also somehow making room for her burgeoning business (that he wants to take further time out of his own schedule for to help with) AND IT’S ALL JUST SO EASY.

I can’t even call this fluff, because fluff still usually has conflict! Maybe it’s low-key, but stuff still happens to keep the protagonists apart or make their relationship more rocky-road and less vanilla-silk. It’s so bland. It’s so easy. It’s so boring.

66 - A Stone in the Sea

#66 – A Stone in the Sea, by A.L. Jackson

  • Read: 5/19/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (46/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 10%.

The prologue was overwrought and terrible. Having been introduced to both protagonists, I have no idea which POV it’s from, what horrible pain it’s meant to represent, or what its relevance is to the story. No clue at all. It’s just angst with no purpose.

Baz’s introductory chapter is too many mystery events alluded to with no groundwork laid. His band’s in trouble, or he is, or both. His little brother is important to him but also severely traumatized by something, maybe? The big European tour is canceled! …for some reason. Why? Keep reading to find out!

Too many hooks pulling my attention in too many directions. Should’ve just used one and made it more interesting instead of overloading poor Baz with so much obviously tragic backstory.

Then there’s Shea, who’s no mystery at all. She’s a gorgeous waitress working at her uncle’s bar. And that’s it. No depth.

But Baz finds her mysterious and asks her out. She says no, and does a pretty solid job laying out all the reasons it’s reckless and unsafe for a woman in a service industry to go out with guys who hit on her at work. Too bad it’s undermined by the event that came immediately afterward and made me give up on the book.

Baz assaults Shea. She’s said no, but he runs into her in the hallway before he leaves the bar, and he creeps up behind her, slides his hand from her back, around her side, and to her “heart.” Um, honey, if your hand made it from her back to her heart, then you’re touching her boobs at some point along the way, because you know, they’re on either side of her chest, where her heart is.

[Not that he should be touching her without permission at all, of course, but how he did it makes it sexual, and thus, worse.]

THEN he leans in and whispers in her ear, “Go out with me.”

The only response to this series of actions on his part that doesn’t support a narrative rife with toxic masculinity, rape culture, or abuse apology is if she immediately took him down with some sweet self-defense moves (or called her uncle who runs the damn bar for help, if she’s not able to manage Baz herself,) reports him for assault, and never, ever, ever goes out with him.

She does none of that. She’s too overwhelmed by how attracted to him she is.

I don’t need to read the rest of the book now, because it just romanticized assault. THIS IS NOT ROMANCE. THIS IS ASSAULT. THIS IS NOT OKAY. DON’T NORMALIZE THIS BEHAVIOR.

67 - The Kiss Quotient

#67 – The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

  • Read: 5/20/19 – 5/21/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (20/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: An “own voices” book
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

This came so close to being a one-afternoon read for me. I didn’t want to stop but had to, to engage in real life again. I finished it this morning.

I loved it. I loved it so much I checked negative reviews for mentions of flaws I obviously overlooked, found a few I agree with and a lot I don’t. None of them retroactively make me love the book any less.

It helps that I love smut, because this book is NOT shy about sex, even if Stella starts out that way.

The story is an interesting push-and-pull of communication issues. Michael is excellent at talking about sex, and gradually shows how great he is at being attentive. While that comes from his job (both of them, as it turns out,) he’s never portrayed as sleazy because he’s a sex worker, and that attentiveness is what makes his building trust with Stella believable. Stella is great at being bluntly honest, and she’s upfront about most of her issues without ever defining herself with a label. Both characters spend most of the book failing to reveal their true feelings because of personal insecurity, which makes them a great pair on the page, even if it’s easy for me, the reader, to shout “just talk to each other already!” They’re so good about that up to a point, then they completely fall apart. Which, again, is believable. Most people find it hard to open up about their deepest issues.

I’m just such a sucker for romances where I can actually see the couple falling in love, instead of just falling into bed together. I realize that’s a low bar to set in general, but so many books fail even at that, while this one clears it by a mile.


5 More Writing Prompts to Develop Your Characters: Tattoos


What comes to mind when you think of people with tattoos?

That answer is going to be different for everyone, but according to the bulk of the romance genre, the major types boil down to “bad boy” and “hippie/free-spirited girl.”

Authors, we can all do so much better than that. Tattoos are so often used as shorthand to make a character fall into a certain stereotype, but in reality, many people get tattoos for personal reasons that have nothing to do with fitting into one of those types. If you’re going to give a character tattoos, why not make them mean something? Why not use them to add depth to their character instead of pigeonholing them?

Now, in modern times, a tattoo is a completely voluntary thing that someone pays to have added permanently to their body. (If it’s not, none of my advice applies, and you’ll have a different sort of explaining to do–I’m not touching it here.) So the first question is:

  1. Would your character have a tattoo, and why or why not? “Why not” might not be relevant to the story if nobody’s going to have tattoos at all, but “why” definitely is, because somebody’s probably going to ask them, at some point, what the story is behind their art.
  2. Where is the tattoo? Generally visible to the public, partially hidden, completely hidden? How did they choose where it went? Does their line of work require no visible tattoos? Does their family have strong opinions? Or does the character simply consider it private?
  3. How willing are they to share the story behind the tattoo with other people? Do they tell one story to strangers and another to friends or lovers?
  4. Are any of their tattoos, if they have more than one, mistakes? Do they regret any of them? Have they had any removed, or wish they could?
  5. At this point in their life, would they get another one, and why or why not? What would it be, and how would that decision interact with the story?

Writing Meme: The First Line Challenge

Which I totally stole from Tumblr, only I couldn’t manage to follow it all the way back to its source.

Rules: Share the first lines of the last ten stories you published, and talk about what they do or don’t have in common.

I don’t have ten published works, but I can muster seven if I include in first lines of my WIPs, along with their current state, so I can examine the difference between my polished work and my drafting process.

Grace and the Greek Warrior (serialized fiction, 2015)

Grace flashed her membership pass at the counter, but it was a formality, because Saturday mornings it was Glen in the booth, graying, cranky-happy Glen, and he knew her by sight.

What We Need to Survive (published novel, 2015)

Paul kicked a rock out of his path, watching it bounce and skitter down the highway.

[I did an entire blog post on how much work it was to get to this first line. Check it out.]

What We Need to Decide (published novel, 2016)

Nina sat beside Paul in front of the fire and waited for him to tell her what was on his mind.

What We Need to Rebuild (published novel, 2017)

The first thing Nina had to do was get her hands on her backpack.

Unnamed NaNoWriMo 2017 project (incomplete rough draft, 2017)

Lucas Grimstad hadn’t expected anything as spectacular as a high-speed car chase down Main Street to enliven his first day on the job in [unnamed small town], but four hours into his decidedly low-speed patrol of the downtown area, on foot, he needed a break.

#rockstarnovel (second, incomplete rewrite draft, 2018)

Rob turned the corner into the park a few paces ahead of Avery, the sound of a basketball dribbling reaching his ears.

#spookyromancenovel (first, incomplete rewrite draft, 2019)

Someone was banging listlessly on the shop door.

Conclusions? My fully revised and edited first lines are shorter and more direct. I have a tendency toward long, complex sentences if left to my own devices. (What, you hadn’t noticed? Really?) I will, especially in a rough draft, tend to overload my future readers with too much information.

The stand-out exception to that pattern is certainly #spookyromancenovel. If the current first scene makes the cut, honestly, this spare line will likely survive as the opening to my novel. Because it’s romance-horror (or at least as much horror as I can manage to stuff in a romance) I wanted to start off with an ominous sensory detail right away, and I have.

Also, I’m cringing at that #rockstarnovel line, in hindsight. Yeah, it’s the second time I’ve tried to rewrite the damn thing, but its first chapter in this stage is new, so it’s rough-draft quality. And I’m still not sure I’m starting the story in the right place.

I wish I had more to share, but the only other project I could even find kicking around was a two-page draft of a story idea I had in 2015 and hadn’t looked at since. Seriously, the date I last opened the file was August of that year. I’d actually completely forgotten it existed, so it’s not worth showing, because I’m not at all invested in it now.

Officially, I’m supposed to tag people, but y’all know I rarely do that formally. So if you see this and want to join in, go for it! Either link back to me, so I’ll see it, or drop me a link in the comments, because I’d love to hear what you think of your own process when you examine your first lines.


This Week, I Read… (2019 #20)

61 - Children of Earth and Sky.JPG

#61 – Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay

  • Read: 5/6/19 – 5/13/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (42/100)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Kay is always an author deeply concerned with displaying the inner lives and complexity of his characters, but even for him, this is a gravely introspective novel, which leads to my only real criticism of it–all the characters read the same after a while, as uniformly thoughtful people.

Some were cleverer than others, some managed to approach impulsiveness from time to time; but mostly, everyone ponders everything at length, be it the political motives of a rival person or rival nation, the play of light on tree leaves, the love of a man or a woman who may or may not be awaiting their return.

It’s beautiful. It’s all beautiful. But there’s little variety in tone.

The plot sets out to accomplish a great number of things, and it does. Depending on which angle you consider this novel from, it’s about journeys. It’s about family. It’s about how small decisions can shape nations. It’s about how no one’s future is predictable in the moment, how even a simple life can go wildly off the beaten path. It’s about power, both political and personal, and yet, it’s also deeply about love, especially finding it, or its lesser shadows of affection and tenderness, in unexpected places.

That’s what I’ll carry with me away from this book, far more than what actually happened. But I do wish it weren’t quite so saturated with introspection that the individuality of the characters gets washed out by the scope of the themes.

62 - Random Acts of Crazy

#62 – Random Acts of Crazy, by Julia Kent

  • Read: 5/13/19 – 5/14/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (43/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF after two chapters, 10%.

Listen, I swear. I swear a lot. But not even your most stereotypical pirate swears more than Darla Jo here, and SWEARING IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A PERSONALITY. Neither is instant and excess horniness, because she picks up a random nude guy on the side of the road, turns out he’s higher than the highest kite and doesn’t remember the last 24 hours, and literally all she can think about is climbing on his dick.

If you’re going to sell me that ridiculous and ridiculously unsafe premise as the beginning of a romance, these characters have to have more personality than “always swearing” and “stoned out of his gourd.” Also, when Darla suddenly and viciously smashes the fourth wall, I wasn’t impressed, I was irritated.

It’s terrible, don’t read it.

63 - For the Record

#63 – For the Record, by Charlotte Huang

  • Read: 5/14/19 – 5/16/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (44/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ll be honest, one of the reasons this book made it onto my TBR in the first place was that (at the time) I was drafting a rock-star romance novel, and I’d seen several reviews saying this novel was heavy on practical tour logistics and other aspects of “real” rock-band life.

Having finished it, I can agree that it seems far more grounded in reality than most other band-focused novels I’ve read. However, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

There’s never any sense of place. Chelsea will narrate an entire tour stop as two throwaway paragraphs before moving on to a brief scene in whatever city something important happens in. Famous places are name-dropped but rarely described, and never in any depth, so if I don’t already know what they look like or what their history is, does it matter that they’re real places? Even recurring locations, like the band’s tour bus (or later, Lucas’ bus,) are barely sketched out, and I’m just not familiar enough with the inside of a tour bus (I knew I should have been a rock star!) to imagine it all myself without any guidance.

On top of that, scenes can be so short and so stacked on top of each other, rapid-fire, that the pacing is chaotic. I can appreciate that it might be a deliberate choice, to echo the chaos of what a tour is probably like–but does it serve the story? Spending two minutes on the bus in rushed conversation with band members who alternately tolerate or hate her before running away to do something on her own doesn’t do Chelsea any favors as a character. It doesn’t lend any weight to her active relationship with movie-star Lucas or her background attraction to band-mate Beckett. She doesn’t ever develop any real chemistry with either of them, mostly because there isn’t time devoted to showing that kind of growth. Since those two guys and her relationships with them are supposed to be central conflicts in the story, it all ends up feeling flat.

It’s a real mark of how uninvested I was in these characters, that when the ending is hopeful for a happy future for Chelsea with a new band, I realized I wouldn’t want to read the sequel it might be hinting at. (Or not, I have no idea if there’s any plan for this to be a series. Just that if it were, I wouldn’t read it, because I should care about shiny-happy-romance, but I don’t. They didn’t hook me.)

Tomes and Tea: A Sunday Tumblr Tradition

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Welcome to Night Vale

Sunday Tomes and Tea is a tag created by @bibliophilicwitch on Tumblr back in 2013. I’ve been participating since mid-2016, I joined the book-nerd, tea-lover party with this pic of Welcome to Night Vale that spring.

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Everything's Eventual

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Magic Burns

When I have delicious baked goods around, I make sure to include those too. (Both of these are from 2017.)

Sunday Tomes and Tea - The Dark Tower

When I’m lucky enough to be reading something with cool illustrations, I snap those instead of the book cover, because so few books have them! (2017, The Dark Tower.)

Sunday Tomes and Tea - The Death of Vishnu

Sunday Tomes and Tea - The Subtle Knife

Despite the name, it doesn’t have to be tea. My oatmeal looked especially pretty one Sunday morning, and a different weekend, I was chugging a smoothie for my poor sore throat. (Both 2018.)

Sunday Tomes and Tea - The Bookseller of Kabul

Sunday Tomes and Tea - The Awakening

Because my mug collection is vast, I try to coordinate whenever I can. (Both 2018.)

Sunday Tomes and Tea - A Darker Shade of Magic

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Misery

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Pigs in Heaven

But when I get a new favorite mug for Christmas, it starts showing up more weeks than not. (All 2019.)


Sunday Tea and Tomes - Children of Earth and Sky.jpg

And when my poor used book is missing its pretty dust cover, like this past week, it’s time to get creative and mess with what has obviously been my standard setup for all these years!

Blog Business: A Self-Assessment

When I started this blog, it was an author platform, because I needed to establish my pen name, my brand, and all that hullaballoo. Which, three books later, I’d say I have. I’m not a big name (not even close) but I’d say I have a brand: romance author who’s a giant book nerd with a million hobbies, crossed with I’d Like to Be Your Cool Aunt Who Gives You Good Advice.

Which honestly means my blog is a giant mess. I stick to my weekly book review posts like glue–they’re only postponed for vacations–but everything else? Up in the air. Over the nearly four years I’ve been at this, I’ve tested so many ideas for article series, and some are great, others so-so, others abandoned.

I’m doing this more for myself, to have it all in one place I can refer back to when I’m moving forward with new content, than to make you, my lovely readers, dig through my archives to find stuff you missed. If you want to, great! But some of it’s not going to be that good, necessarily, especially in the early year(s).

So let’s take a look, shall we?


Most recent post: August 2018

Almost entirely posts about my art journaling, which for a time was a monthly series I did. Except I haven’t been journaling much at all since then, so I’ve got no content for it.

Plan: Recategorize as “Art Journaling;” move the few unrelated posts to more appropriate categories; hopefully make it a monthly post topic again.

Book Memes

Most recent post: last week

Mostly my “Down the TBR Hole” posts, which are consistently monthly with brief interruptions. Plus a few random book-related tag games I’ve done for fun. This category is in better shape than most.

Plan: Keep chuggin’ along with it. Maybe try to do more community memes like Top Ten Tuesday and thus be more involved with other bloggers.

Bookish DIY

Most recent post: last month

This was supposed to be a monthly topic as well, when I first came up with it, but a) while I may be super crafty, this isn’t a craft blog; b) it’s a big time sink to generate content for; and c) I just don’t have that many ideas. How many bookmarks do I really need, anyway?

Plan: It’s not going away, but it’s going to be a special feature when I have something cool to post, rather than a regular one where I churn out mediocre crap.


Most recent post: December 2017

A holdover from my early days, most of this stuff belongs elsewhere (or already is) and I simply don’t need the overlap with this broad, nonessential category.

Plan: Eliminate it.

Currently Reading

Most recent post: June 2017

Not useful. “Currently Reading” was going to be an article series, but it never got off the ground, mostly due to my weekly book review posts coming along–if you’re going to read my review on Friday, why talk about the book on Monday or Wednesday too?

The few other posts in this category are about temporary/unplanned reading challenges I joined that didn’t fall under the yearly Reading Challenges categories–ie, #readwomen and so on. And I found a book meme from before I had a tag for that!

Plan: Eliminate it after recategorizing its content.


Most recent post: February 2019

Everything (I hope) that I’ve ever posted relating to my editing process, self-editing practice, various apps to help with editing. I tend to talk more about writing when I’m writing, and more about editing when I’m rewriting/revising/proofreading, so this is never going to be a series, but rather a useful catch-all for all sorts of posts related to the topic.

Plan: Keep it, though I’ll double-check to make sure both that it’s not holding any dead weight, and that it’s not missing anything.


Most recent post: January 2018

What the hell even is this category? It makes no sense.

Plan: Recategorize and eliminate.

Guest Posts

Most recent post: December 2015

This would be more useful if I’d ever done any others past the first set. It’s a category I feel like I should have, but don’t actually need.

Plan: Recategorize and eliminate.


Most recent post: February 2019

I know what I was thinking when I created this, and it was pretty straightforward. Either things that inspire me to write, or resources to help find inspiration. But it’s become weird and bloated and not helpful as a distinction. Especially because so much of it overlaps with Motivation (or it should, anyway.)

Plan: Keep it but clean it up.


Most recent post: February 2018 (though it’s missing a lot of later art journal posts)

This was supposed to be me talking about all my journaling, not just the art stuff, but it’s sadly thin in that department.

Plan: Find a home for the stuff that isn’t art, then eliminate it as overlap.

Let Me Tell You a Story

Most recent post: February 2019

A long-running series that I leaned on heavily in the beginning, then neglected for ages. I’m not entirely sure why–too much other content? Not in the mood to get personal? But it was the backbone of my blog for the first year, and there’s a lot of good stuff there.

Plan: Revive it!


Most recent post: June 2017

Another what-the-hell category that I created with good intentions, the last time I tried to get organized here on the blog, but never did anything with. (Also, why did I make it one word? That’s just dumb.)

Plan: Recategorize and eliminate.


Most recent post: this month

Like Inspiration, it’s big, it’s messy, it’s bloated. The two overlap far more than they should.

Plan: Clean it up, be more selective about posting to it in the future.


Most recent post: October 2017 (though I can think of at least two more recent posts it’s missing; also why-t-F didn’t I capitalize it)

Yeah, I’m primarily talking about writing books, but I have quite a few articles about drawing inspiration and advice from other sources, including movies. This is a category I need to have, but it needs work.

Plan: Rename to TV + Movies (probably.) Find the missing content. Make sure I don’t misplace content in the future, but it doesn’t need to be a regular feature.


Most recent post: August 2017

Pretty much the same deal as “movies.” It’s missing stuff, but I need it. And I could do more to develop it.

Plan: Find the missing posts, spruce it up, talk more about it in the future because music is a huge part of my life?

Out and About

Most recent post: July 2017

Supposed to be about travel, or otherwise getting out of the house. The first two posts are me writing what sounds like mini fics, only they’re not fictional, because I did actually go those places. Weird, and under-utilized, because while I do travel some, I don’t actually talk about it much? Privacy concerns, and all.

Plan: Eliminate it.


Most recent post: February 2018

I see what I wanted to do with this: have one place to find any posts that used primarily my own photography, or were about photography. But it’s just not that useful a category.

Plan: Eliminate it.


Most recent post: February 2019

A catch-all for posts about or containing writing prompts–I have several series that do this, including Writing Homework, which has its own category, but many of them do belong both places.

Plan: Keep it. Check for missing content. Probably rename it to “Writing Prompts.”

Quoll Writer

Most recent post: October 2015

So, yeah, I made an entire parent-level category for a writing app I don’t really use anymore. (My most recent project saved in that format is NaNo ’17.) My bad.

Plan: Rename it to “Writing and Editing Apps.” Find other content that would fit there (TTS Reader, Hemingway, etc.) Give each app a subcategory.


Most recent post: August 2015

Once upon a time, I wrote serialized fiction for my blog. I had planned to do more after I completed the first story, and never did. Since I have a separate page for it in the header, I don’t really need this anymore.

Plan: Eliminate it.

Social Media

Most recent post: September 2018

I have written articles specifically about social media before, and I probably will again. But I’ve been scattershot about applying this label so far.

Plan: Set myself some guidelines on how much social-media content a post needs to qualify, and check to see if anything needs to go in this category that isn’t.

Spooky Romance Novel

Most recent post: January 2019

I did the smart thing, in theory, and made a category for my “current” WIP. (As of now, it still is, though I’ve picked up one old project as well.)

This is where things get tricky. I want a category for each WIP, so interested parties can find everything at once. But some WIPs, if I make a category for each (or subcategory under a parent “WIP” category) will overlap with my yearly NaNoWriMo categories (which should also be subcategories of a parent) and some will eventually become finished books and not WIPs anymore. (Like all my What We Need books, which have their own categories.)

So collectively all of those need a total overhaul.

Plan: Shuffle it around until it makes sense, but have a plan for relocating posts when WIPs are no longer active, be they finished books, or abandoned for other projects.

Things I’ve Read

Most recent post: last week

So, this had a purpose, once. In 2015, any type of post that talked about a book I’d read when into this category, since I didn’t do formal book reviews (yet.)

Since the beginning of 2016, that is all I’ve done. I don’t do posts comparing two recent reads, a formal I tried out early on. I don’t write up an entire post about a nostalgic childhood book I reread.

So it really doesn’t make sense to have this category anymore.

Plan: Replace it with “Book Reviews” for the actual reviews, and either find other homes for the remaining posts, or create a “Random Book Stuff” catch-all. We’ll see which works better.


Most recent post: January 2019

I’ve gotten lazy about keeping up with my self-imposed vocabulary expansion program, though to some extent it depends on what I’m reading, of course. But I could be doing more.

Plan: Fix the label (again with the lack of a capital? What was I doing?) and be more diligent about posting when possible.


Most recent post: June 2016

Under-developed, under-utilized. Also, pretty sure it should be hyphenated.

Plan: If I can find other homes for the existing content, eliminate it. If not, fix it up, do it better, work on adding more relevant stuff in the future.

Writing Homework

Most recent post: February 2019

My most “successful” monthly topic, though of course some months I miss it because I can never quite get a consistent schedule going. Does it need its own parent category, though? Probably not.

Plan: Roll it into “Writing Resources” below as a subcategory.

Writing Prompt Responses

Most recent post: October 2018

I used to do drabbles and flash fic a lot in the early days of the blog, when I hadn’t yet developed my various advice columns, didn’t do book reviews, etc. And I don’t want all that to disappear–in fact, I wish I could make more time to write flash fiction, but I tend to feel guilty these days if I’m not working on my main project.

Plan: Keep it, hopefully write more.

Writing Resources

Most recent post: this month

The catch-all for everything related to writing, be it an article I wrote, links I’ve gathered, YouTube videos I think are helpful, etc. And I need all that. But it also needs to one be one giant bin I throw everything into.

Plan: Organize the hell out of it into as many subcategories as necessary, staring with the aforementioned “Writing Homework” and going from there.

If you actually read through all that, I’m impressed, and you’re too loyal and dedicated for words. And I hoped you learned something about blog organization from all my mistakes. Expect the changes I’m making to roll out over the next few weeks, because it’s going to take some serious doing to fix all this!

This Week, I Read… (2019 #19)

58 - Prince of Thorns

#58 – Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

  • Read: 5/2/19 – 5/3/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (40/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

I had to make myself finish this book, just to be sure I could criticize it properly. And unlike my usual write-it-blind method, where I don’t read other reviews first, I did some digging, so I could react to them and really let what I did and did not like about this book crystallize in my mind.

Jorg is a reprehensible person, I have no argument with that. Everyone using the “worse than Joffrey” image isn’t wrong (except I think if Joffrey had been around longer, we would have seen him sink far lower, but that’s a comment on ASoIaF, not this book.) Jorg can’t go five pages without raping a girl (tastefully [ahem] off-page,) knifing a “brother” because the dude pissed him off, pushing someone off a cliff, using a weapon of mass destruction, and so on. If he’s not actively committing a crime or a sin, he’s strongly considering his next one.

Was this off-putting? Oh, absolutely, at first. And there’s my problem. Even if it’s not the author’s intention to condone any of this behavior in writing about an obvious psychopath doing these things, by putting the narrative in first person, we’re living inside Jorg’s head and seeing his reasoning and eventually, maybe, sympathizing with him. By the end of the book, I wasn’t cheering for Jorg exactly, but I did get swept up in the action and read the second half of the book in one long sitting, whereas at the beginning I had to take frequent breaks to deal with my disgust.

I won’t criticize anyone, ever, for indulging in escapist fantasies, and yes, that includes reading/daydreaming about committing atrocities. I’ve thought about killing someone before, especially back in my angry teenage years. It’s an outlet for anger that doesn’t harm anyone, as long as you understand that’s all it is. But I didn’t do it, and Jorg does. And the book makes it seem cool and edgy, and oh look, what a terrible life this kid’s had and here’s how awesome it feels to get revenge.

That, I have a serious problem with.

Moving on from the fundamental issue with “murder, yay!” messaging, there’s still a lot I don’t like.

The frequent pre-chapter character notes about Jorg’s “brothers” were a lazy way to (attempt to) give them depth, usually right before they were killed. One in particular towards the end of the book mentions a name I honestly don’t think had ever been included before, a brother the reader hadn’t been introduced to. (I may be wrong about this, because there are many brothers and they die off like flies. If Young Sim actually was mentioned earlier, he wasn’t significant enough for me to remember.) I can rationalize in my mind that making Jorg’s band of brothers interchangeable and disposable fits his psychopathy, and it does, but it doesn’t make for interesting reading. I wanted the secondary characters to have more personality. Even Makin–I mean, the dude was the head of the royal guard, and he becomes a brigand in order to stay by Jorg’s side. Why is that not given more page time? That’s a great hook! Write a book from his POV while he watches his charge devolve into a monster–how does he deal with that? What would break his loyalty?

Next up: when is this? At first, I thought it was separate-world fantasy. Then classic authors start getting thrown around–Plutarch jumped out and grabbed my neck and smashed my face in the idea that, no, actually, this is our world. Okay, alternate history then? Except eventually we get clues that this is actually a far-future world, post-apocalyptic, and the “castles” the kings occupy are skyscrapers or other modern-world structures. As far as that goes, I’m on board, except that there are very few answers given, the descriptions of those structures are so vague I can’t picture most of them (I had no idea what kind of facility the Great Stair was a part of, though some of its bits were clearly reinforced concrete fitted with a high-security steel door,) and there’s so little done with this concept that I’m afraid it’s just supposed to be cool flavor instead of real world-building.

The revelation near the end, and the ending: oh, so someone messed with Jorg’s mind, setting him up to be able to be like, all that crap I did may or may not have really been me, I was being guided, now I’m not necessarily so horrible going forward. I call bullshit on that. BULL. SHIT. If the protagonist is a psychopath, own it, don’t erase it so he can be less awful in the next book.

And finally: this is 110% male fantasy. The women are beloved but dead (Jorg’s mother,) evil (the crone, Jorg’s step-mother,) objects of desire (Katherine,) or victims (everyone else who is raped, killed, or both.) So whether or not you might be okay with the other problematic content of the book, there’s no way around its inherent sexism.

I can’t recommend this to anyone, because even as a piece of escapist fantasy where it’s okay to want to kill people, it’s just not any good.

59 - The Opposite of Wild

#59 – The Opposite of Wild, by Kylie Gilmore

  • Read: 5/4/19 – 5/5/19
  • Challenge: Challenge: Mount TBR (41/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

This only gets a second star because of Maggie. I know the “grab life by the balls” old lady character is a stereotype, but she is by far the best thing about this book.

Our heroine here I couldn’t stand pretty much from page one. She’s obsessed by her own childhood mistakes (The Humiliation was embarrassing, sure, but does it still deserve capitalization more than ten years later? Grow up, maybe?) The second anything goes wrong in anyone’s life around her, she tries to steamroll over them with solutions, especially her pregnant older sister. I mean, help your sis and the baby, sure, but planning the rest of your life in five minutes around being the kid’s second (and implied, better) mom? This woman is not at all reasonable. Especially later in the book when she acts like her life is ruined because her sister decided not to go along with that plan. Co-parenting in a non-standard family situation is a difficult and thorny topic, and it’s not handled with any realism or delicacy here.

Then there’s our hero. He’s actually not that bad, compared to her. I didn’t like that he uses the recently divorced women of his acquaintance through his job as a source of easy sex, because I think that’s sleazy, but it does fall under consenting adults, and all that. And I don’t think his “falling in love” arc with the heroine is convincing at all–they’re basically falling in lust. And she treats him badly, and he puts up with it for a long time before he does anything about it.

So he’s an idiot and kind of spineless, but he’s still far more mature than she is. Also, his B-plot about reconciling with his alcoholic dad felt completely pointless and tacked on.

I also don’t like the tone of fat-phobia in this. Half of The Humiliation centers on how heavy the heroine was as a teen. Her internal monologues as an adult mostly show that she’s convinced she needs to be thin to be happy, and the hero’s observations of her as an adult the first time they reconnect directly correlate her hotness to her weight, or lack thereof. It’s minor, and there are far worse problems with the plot than this, but it’s worth noting that in Clover Park you apparently can’t be overweight and happy at the same time.

60 - Split Second.JPG

#60 – Split Second, by Kasie West

  • Read: 5/4/19 – 5/6/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (19/48)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

My expectations were reasonably high for this, and it didn’t disappoint, but it wasn’t better than Pivot Point, either. One of my complaints about the first book was that I didn’t get as much of the Para world as I wanted, and this certainly solved that issue, as Para intrigue is most of the book.

What I’m less thrilled about is splitting the book between Addie and Laila, rather than Addie and other!Addie. I know the latter wouldn’t be possible now, and I like Laila, but her romance with Connor lacked the spark that I got from Addie and Trevor.

Who I’m quite pleased with now that the story’s finished, don’t get me wrong. Trevor continues to be the A+ stand-up guy he was before, and I only like him better now that he’d pitched into the deep end of Para weirdness and swims through it like a champ.

I’m glad I got the ending, but it wasn’t as strong as the opening.