Book Update: So, about that

I am on a year-long quest to attempt to read more than I buy, in order to whittle down the pile of books I own but have not read. It’s been a couple of months since I checked in.

April: started at 117, ended at 122. Read a few, bought more.

May: started at 122, ended at 121. Yay! Still over my April starting point, but yay!

Here’s what I’ve read since then. Let’s say alphabetical order by title within each category.

Fantasy / Science Fiction & Related Genres

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold – I dole out Vorkosigan Saga books to myself as though they are the last box of very expensive chocolates that I’m going to get for the rest of my life. It’s a fairly long series, but when I get to the end, there will be no more new-to-me ones. So I’m reading it ve-r-r-y slowly because I really like it and want it to last. It’s a little neurotic of me, yes. Anyway, the Vorkosigan Saga is space opera / planet-side science-fiction-with-horses-and-feudalism and I won’t go on at length at how awesome it is because everyone else already has. This is a collection of three novellas, a murder mystery, an escape caper and a jailbreak story.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan – A pseudo-Victorian Proper Lady (I say “pseudo” only because it takes place in a set of fictionalized Europe-like countries) pursues her lifelong dream of being an amateur naturalists, studying the grandest of wild beasts. Great fun.

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes – Book 2 of the Rogues of the Republic series, the first one being The Palace Job; they are fantasy heist/caper novels. I liked the first and liked the second, but giant cliffhanger ending argh. At least the next book is up for release in October.

Stray by Andrea K. Höst  – Science fiction. Australian teenager suddenly finds herself on an alien planet. Clinging to survival follows, and then an army of hot superpowered alien cyborg ninjas who storm through pocket universes to fight ghost-monsters. Like you do. This was fun except that I have a hard time remembering all of the characters, their teams, their powers and everything else. That’s just my memory shortcoming, and not an issue with the story. It continues in a trilogy + epilogue, so I may continue once I get this monster TBR pile whittled down some more.

The Unwritten volumes 1-2, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross – Graphic novel. I’m only a bit into volume 3, and the plot is already tangled, so I’m not sure I can summarize. It’s about being the semi-estranged son of a reclusive bestselling author, but really it’s about the power of story and how it can be used, warped or wielded. And internet fandom / the media, and a bunch of other things.

Romance

Variables of Love by M.K. Schiller – I was all about the nerdiness of this book, but DNFd it after a couple of chapters. I don’t think it’s a bad book, but my view of the hero doesn’t seem to mesh with what the author wants to portray, so I think it will be uphill sledding for me. (You think a prank is cool and funny, I think it’s weird, misogynist and immature. Hmm.) Not a fault of the book, I’m just not on the same page.

Books About Writing/Publishing

Gotta Read It! by Libbie Hawker – About writing the description of a book, like the back cover copy or the description on a website. That sounds like it would be obvious, but there’s quite an art to it.

Invisible 2: Essays on Representation in SF/F, edited by Jim C. Hines – As I talked about in my last book post, when I read volume 1, this is a subject/cause in which I already believe. The “101-level” effect is not as pronounced in this volume, happily (reiterating ideas that seem obvious to me, although I realize that they aren’t obvious to everyone).

Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yardley – A short book on outlining fiction. If you just read one book on outlining, I’d still recommend Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants. But I went through the exercises in this book to try something different, and wound up with a (hopefully) cohesive outline for THR2. Hooray!

Other

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski – Yeah, NSFW. Sorry. I saw this recommended on one of the two webcomics I follow these days (also extremely NSFW, seriously, nudity all over the sidebars, people. All over) and picked it up immediately despite the price. That’s how compelling it looked. And was.

End NSFW.

Uh, and end post. Next up, I’m starting another nonfiction book, about not being a perfectionist. If I gain even a glimmer of insight from this book, it will be time well spent.

Friday Playlist: I am not taking this seriously enough

Every time I read about What I’m Supposed to Be Doing as a Writer, I want to throw something through my monitor.  I give up, y’all, I’m just going to write the unclassifiable wordstuff that I write and you can all give yourselves hives trying to figure it out instead. Back to my story about bitchy mages and the bitchier bards who platonically love them.

And ON TO THE SONG.

This week I got to write in two characters I’ve been looking forward to writing for some time. They’re classmates of Agna’s who have been counting their days under contract, being overbearing know-it-alls and not bothering to learn anything about their host city. Hmm, sound familiar?

This song was also on my Unserious Extras playlist for The Healers’ Road, but it’s more apropos here. With a whole passel of healers on hand (that’s the scientific term, passel), a lot goes into considering what they can do and what they’re about to discover. Bear in mind that at this point in the story-world’s history, nobody knows what germs are, and yet (because of healing magic) they can reattach limbs like it’s no big deal. Fun fun.

Because this song is a giant knot of outdated medical terms, here are the lyrics.

Things that exist now

– The next book’s cover, at least a working draft thereof:

healertownthumbnail

(Cover design: RLSather. Typography by me, after the THR cover, obv.)

– The next book’s title, The Healertown Passage (title not final, until I decide whether it sounds like a children’s TV show after all)

– The next book’s outline – YES! OK, I had several scenes written before I backed up to outline, but I made it all the way through an outline without “uh, stuff happens for a year or so” in the middle. I’ll make a plotter out of myself yet.

– Hope

– Motivation

Those are all good things.

Happens in real life, too

A story about modern mobile clinics of the sort that partially inspired the Benevolent Union clinic in The Healers’ Road. Retroactively, I wish that THR had gotten more into the issue of trust and the sense of outsiders/insiders with regard to health care providers, which is an interesting and important factor.

The issue is slated to come up in THR2/Healertown, in some form. The research wing of the hospital in Wildern specializes in reconstructive surgery, a field dominated at this stage in the world’s history by magical healers. Healers come in at least two flavors, though – the Tufarian priests, who are of the people and have deeper roots in the community, but find some fringes of the field to be morally suspect; and Nessinian healers, imported from the Academy, who have no such qualms about pushing boundaries. As the city grows and gains fame for its medical advances, the two groups will find plenty to debate.

Edit to add: Still don’t have a song for tomorrow. I think we’ll stick with “Loser” as a meta option.

Friday Playlist: Reason Left to Create

Repetition or not, I gotta go with this song this week. No more Go! Team for a while, I pinky-swear.


So far, my personal favorite on the new album is the closer, “Reason Left to Destroy,” but this one is pretty representative, and fits into this playlist thread better. (RLTD is a bit mopey for a Go! Team song, which is like saying “it’s slightly darker bright yellow.”) The Go! Team is in its Marching Band Meets Sesame Street mode through most of album, and the title track has a jangly, sparkly, weekend afternoon sound. As usual, the vocals are buried so far into the background that they’re hard to make out, so don’t worry about the lyrics so much.

There’s the hopeful song for today.

If my posts seem like a lost soul tacking desperately in one direction after another, that’s probably because that isn’t far from the truth. Life imitates art in that regard, in that the course of the series is now caught in a question of What You’re Supposed to Do vs. What You Want to Do.

What You’re Supposed to Do: Write a funnel book that will be cheap-or-free, appeal to a wide audience, and rope as many people as possible into the series, like a gateway drug. Ever wonder why there are so many perfectly cromulent free books on Amazon? It’s a universal marketing tactic, and it’s quite successful. (You’re supposed to write this first, but Agna and Keifon ran off with my motivation, so their book got done first.)

What I Want to Do: Follow the characters into the next phase of their lives, and play out a bunch of plot threads teased in the first book. (Yanweian politics and charming rabble-rousing ex-boyfriends, the tension between regions/cities in Kavera, the new hospital in Wildern and its effects on the growing frontier town, the fate of the Despana Agency after 200 years in Agna’s direct line of ancestry…)

I’m not demanding that the world want the same things I want, or buy it in droves, or even care. For my own stress levels, I’m going to stop trying to square this circle and just write some more circles.

I care about the backstories of these characters. There are pieces of the Academy years that I want to get into. But maybe not now, and maybe not as an introductory novel. Right now I’m thinking that Agna’s backstory can form a second-narrator thread in another book (backing up Rone or Esirel), or it can be bonus material, like the lore documents that I eventually plan to use that way.

THR2 now has the dorky working title Healer Town. And that sounds like a children’s TV series, so a proper title is TBD. It and the second-pen-name rewrites are the priority this summer.

What time is it, where are my pants

Missed my usual Friday post, oops. Still chugging through the craft website’s enormous. freaking. backlog.

Writing-wise, it’s been frustrating lately, but I have a lot to think about. I mean to release all of the stories I’ve talked about, but I need to consider how and when I do so – as full releases, as bonus material, etc. I’ve given myself permission to ease off on the prequel and try working on the sequel for a while, along with a second draft on the possible-other-penname SFR story.

It continues, day by day.

Exchange on this, between my husband and me:

Me: I’m super frustrated with the prequel.

Him: And that’s whose, Agna or Keifon?

Me: Agna’s. Of course. Keifon’s would be all, like, tragedy tragedy tragedy.

Him: …

Me: What? …Oh, you think people would actually read that?

Him: Angsty bisexual boys? Uh, yeah.

Me: So you think I’m leaving money on the table.

Him: I think you’re setting money on fire.

I still don’t feel up to writing Keifon’s prequel, on account of all the tragedy tragedy tragedy (happy for five minutes, then more tragedy). But who knows, someday.