azhure: (me phoenix)

Thinking today about goals for the new year (and also, how the hell did it get to be 2013??).

I’m not usually one for resolutions. Most people end up making them too vague (like: Eat better, get fit, get thin) or just chucking them all after a week.

I would like to make some goals for writing and reading this year, however. And so, ten goals:

1. Write up my full story bible for The Crossing trilogy (books currently entitled Shaede, Daemon and Fae).

2.  Fully outline Shaede.

3.  Outline Daemon and Fae – at least a skeleton outline, but preferably full outlines worked out.

4.  Draft Shaede, deliver to beta readers, and redraft to get a stage where it is ready for submission.

5.  Outline Wintersun.

6.  Either write a first draft of Wintersun or a second draft of Never (after getting feedback from beta readers.)

7.  Write and submit at least one piece of short fiction.

8. Track my writing progress every day.  Aim for 1k per day, but any progress is a positive.

9.  Keep tracking reading in Goodreads.  No goal for numbers of books read.  Add short reviews for everything finished.

10.  Return to the much-neglected Her Words and Worlds project by reading through the work of Angela Slatter.  Choose future victims subjects.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

I have just finished listening to the latest Writer and the Critic podcast, in which one of the books discussed was Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear (which has also just been nominated for a Locus Award).  And so I am going to ramble about the books, hopefully avoiding spoilers.

As always, Kirstyn and Ian are worth listening to.  And hey, I got a shout out for my feedback (and I don’t mind at all that you talked politics with Oryx and Crake).  And as always, they manage to define some of my own feelings about books.

I read Doomsday Book recently, and loved it.  I was very happy to move onto Blackout and All Clear.  I really love the detail that goes into the historical world building (inaccurate thought it may be, I’m not in a position to be knowledgeable enough to make any statement there).

I will state at the outset that I am a massive World War II buff.  I just find the whole war fascinating, at times in a gruesome fashion.  It still amazes me that the world was so different, and that such awful things really happened.  Which means that I would probably volunteer to travel back in time in the world of Blackout/All Clear.

I loved reading both books while I was reading them.  I burned through them extremely quickly for books of their size, mostly because I was totally immersed in their world.  And Willis has a very good hand with cliffhangers at the end of chapters which make you need to keep reading, even if the cliffhangers are sometimes very contrived.

However, thinking back over the books now, I have many of the same problems that Ian and Kirstyn did.  And this is in no way to say that I didn’t enjoy the books, because I did – and I would happily reread them.

My major issue is the time travelling characters.  I get that they want to travel back and study the periods of history that they’re interested in.  But there’s no why.  There’s absolutely nothing known about them outside the fact that they’re historians.  I wanted to know why they were so determined to see specific events, and I wanted to care about why they wanted to get back to their real lives in Oxford (apart from the obvious reason for one character, which I shall not spoil).  Ultimately, I ended up feeling far more for the WWII characters and what they were going through than any of the issues the time travelling characters were going through.

Also frustrating were the characters who kept on trying to protect others by not telling them what was going on.  Seriously, you’re all supposed to be academics who should be vaguely mature – just be up front with each other!  It’s a personal bugbear of mine, when characters hide things from each other for no real reason, and it just feels like a forced plot point.

I think Ian was dead on when he said that these two books could easily have been written as one, much smaller volume.  Or, to justify this length, we could have been given a lot more detail about the historians.  I want a reason to care about them – as it is, it almost just feels like a massively selfish thing that they do.  I want to know more about the future Oxford as well as the past that they travel into.

These things aside, I did really love the books, and I know that I will reread them many times.  And I absolutely believe that they deserve all of the award nominations they’ve been getting.  I’m only a newcomer to Connie Willis, and I already count myself as a rabid fan.

 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

One of the best innovations of recent years has been the podcast.  I listen to a few podcasts (links to them can be found in my sidebar) and am constantly coming across new books through them.  It’s getting to the point where if Galactic Suburbia recommend a book, I want to read it.  And I’m pretty much reading everything that The Writer and the Critic review.

I do tend to hunt down novels off awards shortlists if they catch my fancy, too, though far too many are languishing unread on my shelves.  But that makes it really easy to grab them when someone talks about them on a podcast, at least.

So.  No writing today.  I am feeling better – the iron tablets are doing their work, and while I’m nowhere near 100%, I can sit up and have some level of focus.  I’m not looking at writing at all this week, likely, so I’m taking the opportunity to get some reading in.  It helps that the kid has been taking epic naps this week ;)

And so these things combine to bring me to reading some amazing authors.  Several of which I should have read long before now.

One such author is Connie Willis.  Who I really, really wish I had read before now.

I recently read The Doomsday Book for the Women of SF book club, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  And when The Writer and the Critic announced that they were going to be talking about Blackout and All Clear in an upcoming episode (after it was shortlisted for the Hugo Awards), I figured that it was as good a time as any to pick Blackout up.

I started it yesterday, I think.  And thanks to some epic napping from the kid, I am only about 50 pages from the end.  This is a big, fat book, and I am currently reading somewhat slow, since my concentration is still a bit all over the place.  Draw your own conclusions there ;)

Now, these books aren’t going to be for everyone, of course.  I know people who have very valid reasons for not wanting to read anything to do with WWII.  Which is totally fair.  I used to not be able to stomach reading or watching anything about WWII, but over the years, I’ve developed something of a fascination for the time.  It seems a world that is totally foreign from ours, at once far away and yet just a step behind us.

I am counting down the moments until I can dive back into Blackout, and will be moving onto All Clear as soon as I finish it.  Glad that I have the two books together to read, and in gorgeous hardcover.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

Fiction

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis*

Shadow by Will Elliott

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz*

Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek*

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

 

Non fiction

The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis*

 

*Books I particular enjoyed and would recommend.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

2010 was a year in which, for me, I read very little.  I like to aim for 100 books a year, but I managed only 65.  I did, however, continue to accumulate books on my to-be-read shelf constantly, so I have a decent backlog to start reading this year.

My favourite books of the year, in no particular order:

  • Managing Death – Trent Jamison
  • Death Most Definite – Trent Jamison
  • Macabre – Angela Challis and Marty Young (editors)
  • Dead Sea Fruit – Kaaron Warren
  • The Girl With No Hands – Angela Slatter
  • Mysterious Skin – Scott Heim
  • Madigan Mine – Kirstyn McDermott
  • The Red Tree – Caitlin R Kiernan
  • Liar – Justine Larbalestier
  • Guardian of the Dead – Karen Healey
  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

Thanks to a conversation on Twitter, I was alerted to the existence of two book clubs – Women of Science Fiction and Women of Fantasy.

I am going to take part in both of them.  Some of the books I’ve read, and others I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.

Join me?

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me window cross)

I’m halfway through listening to the latest episode of Galactic Suburbia, in which one of the discussions is the speculative fiction books they read during their first foray into the genre.

It’s interesting hearing them discuss the books they consciously chose as genre when they were teenagers (David Eddings being popular) and then, as they thought back, how many books they read previously that were genre.

As always when I listen to this podcast, I’ve been reflecting on my own reading history.

The first time I became truly aware that I was reading fantasy was in early high school.  I remember vividly the Magician books being dreadfully popular, to the point where there was a waiting list for each one.  As curious then as I am now, I started reading them.  And promptly fell in love with Feist and fat fantasy epics.  I moved on to the series he co-wrote with Janny Wurts, the Empire books (which remain my favourites of his, along with Faerie Tale).  I read some Eddings, but was never a huge fan of his.  Then I joined the Doubleday SF and Fantasy mail order book club and was lost.  I discovered an awful lot of good authors through that club in the days before the internet.

And thinking back further, to some of the Young Adult books I read, before they were really classified into genre.  I missed stuff like The Hobbit and the Narnia books somehow (I blame it on having parents who didn’t read sf themselves – though I read a lot of stuff like Alice in Wonderland and the Faraway Tree books, which are arguably genre).  I remember scouring the YA shelf at the local library for anything that looked interesting.  Same goes for the book sales catalogues we got at school.

The first one I remember vividly is a book called We Are Tam, which no one else reading this has probably read.  As far as I can tell, it’s well out of print.  I sold my copy of it, regrettably (I used to sell of my books all the time when I was younger so I could buy new ones, something I regret a lot now).  It was pure science fiction, with a time travel plot.  I’m pretty sure it was set in Australia, as well, though I’d have to do some googling to confirm that.

The other two books I know people will recognise: Margaret Mahy’s Aliens in the Family and The Changeover.  I vividly remember clamouring to have the television to myself while the miniseries adaption of Aliens in the Family was screened on ABC in the blessed 5:30pm timeslot.  I have copies of both of these, thankfully, and must reread them sometime soon.  I also must hunt down some of Mahy’s other work one of these days.

It’s interesting, looking back, at some part of that path that led me to where I am now, a huge sf and fantasy fan and writer.  My father reads a lot, but mostly crime and spy novels, though he has a good deal of sf in his library now, mostly thanks to me getting him addicted to space opera like Peter F. Hamilton.  Neither of my siblings are huge readers, and neither of them are huge genre fans.  It’s going to be interesting to watch my son’s reading habits as he grows up in a house full of books and with two parents who are both voracious genre readers.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

I’m halfway through listening to the latest episode of Galactic Suburbia, in which one of the discussions is the speculative fiction books they read during their first foray into the genre.

It’s interesting hearing them discuss the books they consciously chose as genre when they were teenagers (David Eddings being popular) and then, as they thought back, how many books they read previously that were genre.

As always when I listen to this podcast, I’ve been reflecting on my own reading history.

The first time I became truly aware that I was reading fantasy was in early high school.  I remember vividly the Magician books being dreadfully popular, to the point where there was a waiting list for each one.  As curious then as I am now, I started reading them.  And promptly fell in love with Feist and fat fantasy epics.  I moved on to the series he co-wrote with Janny Wurts, the Empire books (which remain my favourites of his, along with Faerie Tale).  I read some Eddings, but was never a huge fan of his.  Then I joined the Doubleday SF and Fantasy mail order book club and was lost.  I discovered an awful lot of good authors through that club in the days before the internet.

And thinking back further, to some of the Young Adult books I read, before they were really classified into genre.  I missed stuff like The Hobbit and the Narnia books somehow (I blame it on having parents who didn’t read sf themselves – though I read a lot of stuff like Alice in Wonderland and the Faraway Tree books, which are arguably genre).  I remember scouring the YA shelf at the local library for anything that looked interesting.  Same goes for the book sales catalogues we got at school.

The first one I remember vividly is a book called We Are Tam, which no one else reading this has probably read.  As far as I can tell, it’s well out of print.  I sold my copy of it, regrettably (I used to sell of my books all the time when I was younger so I could buy new ones, something I regret a lot now).  It was pure science fiction, with a time travel plot.  I’m pretty sure it was set in Australia, as well, though I’d have to do some googling to confirm that.

The other two books I know people will recognise: Margaret Mahy’s Aliens in the Family and The Changeover.  I vividly remember clamouring to have the television to myself while the miniseries adaption of Aliens in the Family was screened on ABC in the blessed 5:30pm timeslot.  I have copies of both of these, thankfully, and must reread them sometime soon.  I also must hunt down some of Mahy’s other work one of these days.

It’s interesting, looking back, at some part of that path that led me to where I am now, a huge sf and fantasy fan and writer.  My father reads a lot, but mostly crime and spy novels, though he has a good deal of sf in his library now, mostly thanks to me getting him addicted to space opera like Peter F. Hamilton.  Neither of my siblings are huge readers, and neither of them are huge genre fans.  It’s going to be interesting to watch my son’s reading habits as he grows up in a house full of books and with two parents who are both voracious genre readers.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

Books

May. 13th, 2010 03:57 pm
azhure: (Default)

What have you read recently that’s been awesome?

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

Books

May. 13th, 2010 03:57 pm
azhure: (me phoenix)

What have you read recently that’s been awesome?

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

I’ve been despairing about the lack of words in my life, as most of you are probably tired of hearing.

This morning, I decided to make a commitment to bring them back.

Ideally, I’d love to be reading and writing in every moment I could.  But the reality is different – even when I have the time while Liam is napping, I usually have other, more pressing things to be done, or I’m just too damn tired.

Which means that I need another plan.  I will return to writing when time permits, but for the time being, I can at least begin to fill the well again.

I have a stack (or three) of books to be read, but I lack the focus to do justice to new novels right now.  Instead, I’m going to dive back into old favourites – into the books that inspired me to write in the first place, and the books that make me want to be a better writer.  As I go along, I’m going to blog about them and the influence they had on me.

I’m going to begin with the books that originally made me want to write – L.M. Montgomery’s Emily books.  Now I just need to steal some time to read.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

At the moment, I’m not writing and I’m not reading.

I’m thinking about writing, but it’s not the same as putting words on the page. And instead of reading, I’m watching far too much television (for example, I just rewatched the first two seasons of Skins over the last week). Watching TV can be useful for analysing characterisation and the like, but again, it’s not the same as examining words.

I barely have the time to sit down and read. And when I do, I find it difficult to concentrate, to fully immerse myself, because I’m always listening to Liam, even when he’s napping. I’ve always read a lot in the evenings when I’m settling myself to sleep, but at the moment I’m usually too damn tired or I don’t want to have a light on in the bedroom because it’ll wake Liam (and his sleep is a precious, precious thing).

How do other mothers do it?

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

This not writing this is weird.

And that said, I don’t think there’s any way that I could be writing right now.  I’m exhausted 90% of the time, dizzy a good chunk of it and completely brain scrambled the rest.

Despite that, even without my fingers moving over the keyboard, I’m still writing somewhere inside.  The men in the basement are still working.

I’m trying to plan out what I’m going to work on when I return to writing (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later, but we’ll just have to see how things go – I could be a zombie for the next six months.).  I had planned on working on Never, but I’ve gotten some really amazing feedback from my beta readers on The White Raven and I’m finding myself itching to dive into the next draft.  I guess I’ll just see what decides to take over my brain when I’m coming back to it.  Either way, I plan on definitely doing a decent amount of plotting on Never, even if I don’t start working on writing a draft of it immediately.

In the meanwhile, I’m trying to just keep on top of review and awards reading, as well as getting some fun reading in.  I couldn’t help myself from buying Under the Dome yesterday and have been stuck into it since, even though I have a tonne of other books on the go already.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

Who’s doing it right in the urban fantasy/paranormal genre?

I’ve already mentioned Palimpsest, and a comment reminded me of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s work (of which, admittedly, I’ve only read two of her books – but have the rest on order or on my to-be-read shelf).

Someone who’s really doing it right, but is as-yet unpublished in terms of novel-length work, is Shira Lipkin (mostly active at livejournal as shadesong – if you don’t already read her, you should).

Others, who you might argue don’t really write in the genre (it can be difficult to define its boundaries, and honestly, I don’t really want to get into a discussion about what defines it right now, maybe another day): Storm Constantine, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Marr.

I’m sure that there are many more whom I’ve missed, as well.  Feel free to add to the list.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (Default)

The Guide to Literary Agents is one of the most useful blogs I read.

Some wisdom from the last few posts:

The Top 10 reasons agents stop reading

10. Overdone description that doesn’t move the story forward
9. Spoon-feeding the reader what the character is thinking
8. Having the characters address each other repeatedly by name, as in, “John, let’s go!”
7. Introducing a character with first and last name, as in, “John Smith entered the room.”
6. Beginning a story with dialogue
5. Opening with a cliché
4. Yanking the reader out of the action with backstory
3. Not giving the reader a sense of place or where the story is going
2. Characters are MIA until bottom of page 2
1. Telling instead of showing

And a quote from an interview with Greg Daniel that all writers need to pay attention to:

“Read deeply and widely in the area you want to be a writer. It seems that so often I receive queries where not only are the authors not at a point where they should be approaching agents yet, but they also appear to not even be astute readers of the categories they’re writing in. In addition to writing, writing, and rewriting in order to be a better writer, I’m a firm believer that the more intelligently you read, the better writer you’ll become.”

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

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