Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 4 + Wrap Up

I did it!

I pushed myself the last week and wrote 8,727 words in the last six days alone, and validated my count last night at 25,070 words written in the month of April. That’s 25k words on this rewrite, and I am so pleased to have gotten this far so quickly.

Of course, the work still isn’t done. As I texted a friend who was helping me stay on track: Now I get to… keep going… But I’m actually looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to continuing this story; there’s still tons of cool stuff that hasn’t happened yet! Things I’m looking forward to writing. And I’m looking forward to eventually finishing this draft. That’s the most exciting thing I still have to look forward to.

Things I learned this Camp NaNoWriMo:

  1. I’m still struggling with descriptions. Sometimes I remember to go back and add those descriptions, but not always. I’ve already made a note to myself that this is something to watch for and add where needed when I’m doing edits on this draft later on.
  2. I also struggle with putting my protagonists against each other. I struggle to write that sort of tension—between two of my protagonists who may not entirely get along for whatever reason—in a way I don’t struggle with when pitting my protagonists against my antagonists. I don’t feel like I’ve quite nailed it in this draft, so that’s also something that I’ll work on when I’m doing edits later.
  3. Sometimes you have to give your brain a break. And that’s part of the writing process too. Look, brains make basically no sense. They’re our greatest tools, but sometimes tools break or get dull or otherwise need some repairs or need to spend some time not in use. What I’m saying is, don’t break your brain by forcing it to keep going when it needs a rest. You won’t be doing your brain or your novel any good. (Caveat: Yes, obviously sometimes you do have to push past mental blocks or other mental nonsense that keeps you from writing. Knowing when it’s just a block and when it’s really time to take a break is probably a skill we could all develop and hone.)
  • Final Word Count: 25,070/25,000

I’m already planning on doing July Camp NaNoWriMo as well, and will set my goal at 25k words. (And yes, you can expect me to blog about it again, I hope you’re not getting tired of reading about NaNoWriMo and my experiences with it.) I expect that in May and June my writing will slow down a little bit, but I would really like to write 30k words in those two months combined (about 15k words per month). That would bring my novel to an even 80k words, which is my goal for this draft.

So now, onwards!

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 3 Progress

“Best best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, ain’t that the truth. If you’re keeping track of my word count (and I’m not sure why you would be, but I suppose you could be?), you’ll probably notice that I did not hit those high word counts this past week that I intended. I did spend some time beating myself up for this. I’m a failure, I thought. I’d been doing so well, I’ve been keeping up with my word count and my outline and writing (almost) every day. But now I’ve failed. I’ve failed this novel. This is where it all falls apart.

But then I remembered one important thing: brains are liars. That helped some.

Then Camp NaNoWriMo sent out an email that helped even more.

We’re just about halfway through the month, which means it’s officially time for a Goal Check Gut Check!

Never done it before? Here’s how to perform a Goal Check Gut Check:

  1. Go to your Camp project and look at your target goal.
  2. Ask yourself one question: “Does this goal still feel good? How’re you feeling about it, oh-gut-of-mine?”
  3. Revise your goal if your gut is telling you that it needs an adjustment. Maybe this means raising your goal to push yourself to even greater heights! Maybe you need to lower your goal because this month has been stormier than anticipated. It’s all about making your creative goals work for you.

It reminded me that one of the best parts about Camp NaNoWriMo is being able to set your own goal, and being able to change it—up or down—when your plans don’t go the way you think they will. “The best laid plans” and all that jazz. This morning I adjusted my goal, setting my target at 25,000 for the month instead of 30,000. Rather than beating myself up about it, rather than being resigned to meeting a smaller goal than initially hoped for, rather than any number of harmful thoughts I might be having, instead I’m psyched. Once again I have a goal that I know I can meet, but that will still be challenging.

At my last check in I admitted that I had a day when my brain just refused to brain, and then a day where I recovered from being unable to brain. Those were two lost writing days. This past week I lost another two: On Friday I straight up forgot to write. I was getting in bed that night when I remembered that I hadn’t written that day. On Saturday I went to a wedding, which was an hour’s drive away, and spent most of the day before that getting ready for the event (both physically and mentally). I remembered as I was getting in the car for the drive that I hadn’t written yet for the day. I shrugged it off.

These things happen. And that’s ok.

What matters is that you keep going. Those days aren’t failures; they’re just a different part of the process. You keep going, keep putting words together into sentences, keep stringing sentences into paragraphs, and eventually those paragraphs become chapters. But you don’t get any of that unless you keep going.

So for now, I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

  • Current Word Count: 14,650/25,000

(Full disclosure: There’s a last step in the Goal Check Gut Check process, which I omitted because it’s not particularly relevant to me personally. YMMV.)

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 2 Progress

Camp NaNoWriMo continues. In the past, Week 2 is usually where I’ve fallen off course for Camp. Life might get in the way, or I might just lose the motivation and self discipline to keep going. While my second week started strong, I did lose some steam towards the end. My challenge now is to keep going, despite the fact that I hit a speed bump.

There were two things that threw a bit of a wrench into the works this past week.

  1. I didn’t notice until it was too late that I skipped something in my outline, and I’d moved forward a few thousand words. I couldn’t just write a new scene and add it in, because of how I’d written what would have come after. So I either needed to go back, write the scene that I’d skipped, and then also rewrite a significant portion of what I’d written after so that it would fit, or I needed to rework the plot and outline to fit the thing that I’d skipped into the novel in a later place than I’d originally planned. On the other hand, the thing that I’d skipped, while necessary to the plot, had originally felt awkward. Like, say, it was in the wrong place. So I stopped writing and replotted. The thing that I skipped is going to work better now, and I can feel better moving forwards towards it.
  2. If you’re keeping track of the numbers at home, you’ll notice that I’m a little behind. Last Friday was a bad brain day. I could barely make myself summon the willpower to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do anything, even things I knew normally made me happy. Saturday wasn’t quite so bad of a brain day, but I wasn’t back to 100% either. No words got written either of those days, which is obviously not ideal. But Camp NaNo isn’t quite the same as NaNoWriMo: while I’m only accountable to myself during both events, Camp NaNo’s flexible goal means that I’m not only accountable to myself, but I can be gentler with myself than November usually is. In this case, that meant giving my brain a rest the same way you give I might give my body a rest.

I also realized that starting my daily writing at 10pm usually means that I’m not going to make my word count, and so I probably need to write earlier in the day. This is a time management issue. I’m not always great at managing my own time wisely, so this will be a challenge as well. On the other hand, figuring out what the problem is can be more challenging than actually fixing the problem, and I’m hoping that will be the case here. I’ll start taking steps towards fixing that issue right away.

Over the next week I’ll be upping my word counts to try and make up the missing days of writing. Despite being behind, I’m still feeling pretty good about this project. I still love this novel, and I’m still excited about telling this story. Maintaining that feeling—the love for the novel and the characters and the story—is just as important to me as getting out the words in a timely manner.

So is writing every day (or as near to it as my brain will allow). Part of the magic of NaNoWriMo—and so of Camp NaNoWriMo too—is that it’s a chance to build a habit of writing. I don’t believe that writing every day is necessary to Being A Writer. There is magic to be found in the down moments: the daydreams and the eureka moments when you’re doing something mundane like cooking. But I do believe that Being A Writer does mean putting words down on the page. The process doesn’t stop with those eureka moments or the daydreams or the brainstorming of the intricacies of your plot. Maybe the process never stops. But it certainly includes putting words on a page.

  • Current Word Count: 11,835/30,000

Keep putting those words down on the page, my lovelies. That’s the only way the story gets written.

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 1 Progress

Well! So far I’m trucking right along and am right on track! This is a pretty cool thing for me, as I’ve never made it very far in a Camp NaNoWriMo before. But then, before last November, I’d never won a NaNoWriMo before either. I feel as though I’ve crossed a major hurdle: now that I know I can finish a novel, the challenge lies elsewhere. (The challenge is probably plot related, honestly.) I suppose those moving goal posts can be a bitch if you let them, but for the moment I choose to be happy that I’ve gotten past one really big obstacle and can focus on the next one.

This Camp NaNoWriMo I’m focusing on steadiness. Yes, I could have set a time goal (e.g. 30 hours spent on this project) but I wanted a word count goal to track specific progress within the novel. So while my target daily word count is relatively low, the ultimate goal is for me to be writing every day. And I am! A few days have had lower word counts than target (Thanks, brain, you’re so helpful!) but with a lower target, I can make up the words the next days without too much extra effort.

In the first week I’ve also been learning to love this novel again. Last year I pulled out this same novel and resolved to start revising and editing it. But when I looked at what I’d already written, I just completely hated it. Nothing had quite worked the way I wanted it to. There were too many holes. I didn’t know what was going on in the middle of the novel. I gave up then because I really didn’t even want to look at this novel. So I put it away, and I worked on other things. And by the time I picked it back up again this January, I didn’t hate it quite so much. I got myself a notebook and did some major brainstorming for this novel. And sometime in the middle of the planning, I remembered why I’d wanted to write this story in the first place.

And, bonus! All that planning is paying off, since I can write the story without also making it up as I go—something Rachel Aaron talks about in (yup, you guessed it) 2K to 10K. To paraphrase: figuring out what needs to happen to move the story forward in the most dramatic and exciting fashion is already difficult, so if you can not do it in the most time-consuming way possible (in the middle of writing) it’ll be easier to keep momentum moving forward. So far, all the planning and prepping I did has proven to be the best thing I could have done for this novel.

Two things I’ve learned during Camp NaNoWriMo so far:

  1. I tend to leave out descriptions. So far it’s been mostly descriptions of people and places. (And maybe a little bit my MC’s feelings and emotions.) This has meant that I’ve been going back and adding the descriptions that are missing, which is working out fine. I’m not sure if I leave the descriptions out because I forget about them as I’m writing, or because it’s almost easier to add them where they go after the fact.
  2. When I get stuck, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t know. The last time I got stuck, I stepped back and asked myself what was wrong, and I realized that I didn’t know how the conversation I was trying to write was going to go. So I took a step back and thought about that for a few minutes. And when I went back to it, I mostly knew where I was going again. I just need to remember that when I get stuck I need to figure out what piece I don’t know yet, and more often than not, just identifying what I don’t know helps me figure out how to start moving forward again. Still, remembering that is often the hard part.
  • Total Word Count: 7,063/30,000

I’m having a really good time with this rewrite and Camp NaNoWriMo experience! I can only hope my second week goes as well as my first!

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2019 First Quarter Reading + April Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s been a little while since I’ve been around here. Last year I had a plan for posting here once a month, with the results of my reading efforts, and then somewhat more frequently when NanoWriMo rolled around so that I could share my progress. This year, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to post a list of what books I’ve read—though of course I still plan to blog this year’s NaNoWriMo. But without a plan, I also know I was likely to abandon my blog through neglect.

So here I am, with the books I’ve read so far this year, and a plan that will get this blog through the next year.

  1. The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll
  2. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1)* by Deborah Harkness (reread)
  3. Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2)* by Deborah Harkness (reread)
  4. The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy 3)* by Deborah Harkness (reread)
  5. » Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians 1) by Kevin Kwan
  6. The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy 3) by Katherine Arden
  7. The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air 2) by Holly Black
  8. » The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade 2) by Seth Dickinson
  9. » In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
  10. Affliction (Anita Blake 22) by Laurell K. Hamilton
  11. Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires 9) by Chloe Neill
  12. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
  13. The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons 1) by Jenn Lyons
  14. An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose 1) by Charlaine Harris
  15. » The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy 1) by N.K. Jemisin
  16. » The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy 2) by N.K. Jemisin
  17. » The Kingdom of Gods (Inheritance Trilogy 3) by N.K. Jemisin
  18. Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
  19. The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab
  20. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Last year, I gave myself permission to reread as many books as I wanted. It was my way of doing research; I was rereading books I loved with the express purpose of finding out why I loved them. Sometimes I wasn’t as successful, but sometimes I was. This year I have two goals in mind for my reading:

1) Read some nonfiction books. I tend to stay in my lane almost exclusively when reading, mostly because I love reading fantasy. But I know it’s good to expand one’s horizons, so with that in mind, I’m adding some carefully selected nonfiction books. And so far I’ve really enjoyed them! I’m not limiting the number of nonfiction books I read, but at this point I’m averaging about one every month. Considering most years I read zero nonfiction books total, even one every month feels good to me. Those are marked above with a ◊ (even though those long titles should be a dead giveaway).

2) Read some more diverse books. It’s not that I’ve intentionally read books by primarily cis, white authors, it’s that I wasn’t intentionally making the choice not to do so either. So this year, I intentionally went and found books that I already wanted to read that were written by people of color, people of non-Christian faiths, people of non-heterosexual orientations and books that feature those things as well and moved those books to the top of the TBR. Those are marked above with a ». (I already read primarily female authors, but that’s less a conscious choice than it is the fact that ladies happen to write the books I want to read.)

My Goodreads Reading Challenge for this year is set at 80 books. I got through 82 last year, so I think 80 is a goal I can meet and hopefully go beyond this year.

I’m also starting Camp NaNoWriMo today. My goal is to write 1,000 words per day, which is about three pages in the notebook I’m handwriting in, for a total of 30,000 words in April. I’m finally starting the rewrite of a novel that I’d previously written and finished. 30k words in one month maybe isn’t quite so intensive as November NaNoWriMo, but it’s still a hefty chunk of this next draft, which is the important thing. I spent the first quarter of the year brainstorming and plotting and even outlining, so I have a much better idea of what I’m writing this time.

And I’m excited!

I’ll be documenting the process here just like I will with November NaNoWriMo (regular NaNoWriMo? just NaNoWriMo?) and with July Camp NaNoWriMo as well. Which… yeah, should mean that I’ll be somewhat regularly here through the rest of this year. If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month, good luck!

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My Year of Rereads: Oct/Nov/Dec Review

Well, October ended up being a light reading month. I think it was because it was supposed to be a heavy NaNoWriMo prep month. But that… didn’t happen as much as I would have liked. And November was NaNoWriMo, during which I basically did nothing except write. (You can read about my NaNoWriMo prep and progress here.) In December I tried to catch up as much as I could on my reading, but at the same time I think my brain is too cold to decide what I want to read.

72. The Lost Sister (The Folk of the Air 1.5)* by Holly Black

This was a short little teaser, to hold us over until The Wicked King released. It was nice to learn a little more about the sisters and their relationship from the perspective of the other sister, but I’m still looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

73. A Companion to Wolves (Iskryne 1) by Sarah Monnette & Elizabeth Bear

This is a comfort read for me. I’ve probably read this book six or ten times since it was published, and it continues to be a favorite of mine. I should have been paying attention to exactly what I love about this book and what makes me reread it about once a year, but I love it so much that I wasn’t paying attention at all. I was just enjoying it.

74. The Phoenix Empress (Their Bright Ascendancy 2)* by K. Arsenault Rivera

I loved the first book in this series, and this book is no exception. At the same time, I was about 70% of the way through this book when I suddenly realized that this book wasn’t going to get quite as much done as I thought. That’s mostly all right, as there’s another book

75. Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass 7)* by Sarah J. Maas

There’s something about the last book in a series. All the rest of the books have been leading up to this, the final showdown. The author has built everything up, and up, and UP, and now that’s about to pay off. This book delivers on that. If there are any parts of this book that are slow, I honestly don’t remember them. The whole book just seems to barrel forwards with all the momentum of the six previous books, and it felt like non-stop action from the first page to the last.

76. Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy 3.5)* by Ilona Andrews

Nice little bridge between the first trilogy starring Nevada, and the second, forthcoming trilogy starring the next of the Baylor sisters, Catalina. I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of shenanigans Catalina will get up to in her own books, and this was an excellent teaser.

77. A Queen From the North (Royal Roses 1) by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

I didn’t know that I needed modern royal romances, but apparently I do. I loved this book, and the premise. I reread this because I realized that there’s no news on the sequel the authors have announced and I needed more modern royal romance. I am really looking forward to the sequel!

78. Time’s Convert (All Souls 4)* by Deborah Harkness

This book felt like a novella, even though I think it’s the size of a novel. The three main books were loaded with plot and plot twists, which made them suspenseful in their telling. There was no suspense in this book. I had complete faith that all the characters involved would come through, their troubles only momentary. That’s not to say that this wasn’t a delight to read, because it was! Marcus and Phoebe are characters that I wanted to know more about in the main trilogy, and it was nice to spend some time with them and learn more about them. The author has said that she’s working on other novels about other characters from this series—last I heard, we were getting a novel that would feature Phillipe heavily, which is would be amazing—but honestly anything by this author is sure to be delightful.

79. 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

This is probably my favorite writing book (though honestly I haven’t read many) but this reread was specifically focusing on how to work some of these techniques into my own writing. I even marked up my copy of the book, highlighting sections that I thought would be the most useful.

80. Morrigan’s Cross (The Circle Trilogy 1) by Nora Roberts
81. Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy 2) by Nora Roberts
82. Valley of Silence (The Circle Trilogy 3) by Nora Roberts

Look, sometimes I just need a little romance, and Nora Roberts is my fave. It’s possible that these books were the first Nora Roberts books I ever read (or at least were some of the first), so these books have a fair amount of nostalgia for me. These three books are ones that I haven’t reread before, and the first time I read them was in 2007, so it’s been a while. I chose to reread these ones now because the ones that involve magic are always my favorite, and because I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a something that leans a little heavily into the romance genre, and I wanted a reminder about how that could be done. There’s something to be said for the formula that a romance follows, and how that formula can be changed and adapted to fit the sort of romance a person might write. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to playing with.

2018 didn’t end quite as strongly as it began, but that’s ok. I feel really good about the books I read last year, and the things I may have learned while reading—which was at least partially the point.

I think this rereading experiment was a success. I didn’t quite read as many books as I hoped thanks to the last few months of the year being… weird, but that’s ok. I wanted to beat my previous record—87 books—but 82 is still pretty impressive. This year I set my Goodreads challenge to 80 books. I don’t know if that’s ambitious or not, but right now it feels doable. The list I’ll be drawing from this year is… longer than the list from last year.

This year I happen to be starting with some rereads for no real reason other than “I want to” and I’ve given myself permission to not feel guilty when I reread books now. But as soon as I get through the books I’m rereading, I’m looking forward to diving into some new books.

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Best Books I Read in 2018

One night recently, I was thinking about Duchess Meghan. I was thinking about when her wedding was, and when her baby was announced and how far along in her pregnancy she is. The wedding was just a few months ago, I thought to myself. Was she pregnant during the wedding? And then my thoughts ground to a halt when I realized… that Meghan and Harry’s wedding was in May. (For those keeping track at home, guesses on the internet put conception in July.)

All of this is a way to illustrate that I have a poor grasp of how time passes. May was not “just a few months ago.” Somehow, even though there have been days that seemed to last an entire week, the year flew by. There have been some struggles this past year, things that will continue to spill over into years to come, but there have been some great things too: one of my oldest friends married his partner of 15 years and I got to be there to witness it; I spent a long weekend in Portland, OR with two of my favorite humans, and we all went to our first polo game; and of course, I won NaNoWriMo with 50,039 words.

This year I mostly focused on rereading books I’d already read, but this list is made up of books I read when I deviated from that plan. They happen to be As always, these books are listed in the order that I read them.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
     Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
     To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
     As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Holly Black and faeries. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say more than that for everyone to know immediately that I loved this book. It seems like Tithe was the first book I read about faeries (rather than fairies) and now they’re one of my favorite supernatural subjects. While I wasn’t as big of a fan of her non-faerie books, all of Holly Black’s fae books have ranked high on my list of Things I Like. (It’s an extensive list.) This book was no different, and I’m delighted that we’re getting a few of them! I can’t wait to see how Jude and Cardan get through all the things they do to each other. Luckily for me and other fans, the next book, The Wicked King, will be published in early January.

Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron
     Dear Reader,
     There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.
     But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.

I think every book in this series was on my “Best of” lists. With everything that Rachel Aaron built up in the first four books, how could book five not be on this list? Like the blurb says, it would be impossible to talk about this book without spoiling something, but what you can expect in this book is to hit the ground running, and not really stop until the end. There’s so much action that happens in this book, but at the same time Rachel Aaron does a really good job of balancing all that tension so that the reader isn’t on the edge of their seat the entire time. Despite the previous books setting everything up, I found that there were still things that surprised me—whether it was the way the author did something I was expecting, or something I wasn’t expecting entirely. The end of a series is always sad, but Rachel Aaron has already released Minimum Wage Magic, the first in a new series set in the same world. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it in the new year.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
     Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
     Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
     Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Maybe I’m a little biased—and really, aren’t all “Best Of” lists in some way biased?—because Emily is a friend, but this book was lovely. It’s somewhat of a departure from my usual reads, but that’s not a bad thing. And I loved this book. It brought me to tears at least twice—and also self-righteous anger on behalf of Leigh at least twice. One of Emily’s biggest strengths is in her descriptions. I felt like I could have been in Taiwan alongside Leigh, learning about the culture and eating the food. Emily is currently working on her next book, another YA standalone, and I know that I’ll be picking that up as soon as it’s available.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
     While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
     Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
     Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
     As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
     Welcome to the Sixth World.

I don’t put these book in any order except the one I read them in because putting them in order of how much I liked them would be too tricky. If I did put them in some other order though, this book would certainly be very close to the top. This was one of my favorite books of the year. Urban Fantasy is probably my favorite fantasy subgenre, and this book was an explosive addition to said subgenre. I was hooked on page one, and by the end of chapter two—a chapter which prompted me to text a friend who was also reading the book and was slightly ahead, “Holy shit, this book goes hard.”—I knew I would read everything Rebecca Roanhorse wrote.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
     Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
     Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

I got this book years ago, shortly after it was first published and then… never read it. Not for any real reason, I just read other things. I didn’t know the author then, except a YA series I’d seen her name on (The Archived) but hadn’t read. Then I read A Darker Shade of Magic and its two sequels, and then I followed V.E. Schwab on Twitter and Instagram, and I got to have a little glimpse into her world. A world which included rewriting the sequel to Vicious, Vengeful. She got my hyped for that book, and by extension the first one. This book got bumped up, up, up the list. I read this (and the second one) right before I got to see the author in Denver on her US book tour, and she’s every bit as delightful in person as she is on the internet. And this book. This book. I think I liked this book slightly better than the sequel, which I think is partially a product of reading them back-to-back, and partially a product of my particular preferences. The author has already said that she’s toying with ideas for further books in this world, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
     Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke. Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.
     But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought―and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other.
     With Marcella’s rise, new enmities create opportunity—and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.

While I might have liked Vicious slightly better than Vengeful, this book was still an amazing read. (Obviously, it made it onto this list.) Victor and Eli took center stage in the first book, but they share the stage with some badass ladies in the second one. Marcella is one badass lady, and though she plays the part of the villain in this book, it’s hard not to sympathize (or empathize) with her. That’s one of V.E. Schwab’s strengths: making you feel for all of her characters, even the ones you might not like. Schwab is one of the busiest authors I follow, and while she’s said that another book in the Villains series is in the works, it’s going to be a long wait for it, as she’s got other things on deck. I’m perfectly happy to wait—especially since it means that I’ll have other things by V.E. Schwab to read in the meantime.

The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera
     Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.
     Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.
     As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?

This book took me a while to get through. I thought that I was just reading slowly, or that I was distracted (I read this in October when I was trying and failing to plot for NaNoWriMo). However, since I do all my reading on my Kindle, I didn’t realize while I was reading that this is kind of a long book. The first book was written as a letter. Now that the lovers have been reunited, the letter scheme wasn’t going to work a second time. Instead, Shizuka tells Shefali how the years passed while she was away. A lot happens in this book. Revelations are had, plans are hatched and executed and new plans are made, monsters are slain. At the same time, the ending snuck up on me because I thought more would happen. There’s a whole other book where that “more” will likely occur, and you’d better believe I will be getting the next book as soon as it’s available—which might be summer 2019, and might be sometime in 2020. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing both how this story ends, and the format in which it’s told.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
     Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…
     With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.
     And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.
     As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

Like Last Dragon Standing, this is the last book in the series. And like that one, this is a lot of action, right from the start. There were a bunch of things that I didn’t expect in this book, which is doubly surprising for me! I like to be able to predict things that will happen, even if I don’t know how they will happen. I think this gets easier in a series, because the books set up the pieces for the reader. Recognizing those pieces and patterns as a reader is a way that I can learn as a writer. But this book surprised me! I was already sad to leave this world when I started reading this book, but it was a fun read!

You can find all my “Best Of” lists here. Enjoy!

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NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 4 + Retrospective


This was my 12th year doing NaNoWriMo, and it’s my first win. I’m so proud, so amazed at all the words I put down. The story isn’t done because I haven’t gotten to the end yet, but there are 50,0045 words of it so far. That’s 50,045 words than I had on October 31, and that’s not nothing.

The support I had during November was incredible. My husband made every effort to make sure that I had uninterrupted time to write on the days when I didn’t go out to a write-in, and he asked every day how the writing was going and if I was on track. When I did go to write-ins, my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers helped me keep track of how many words I needed each time, and even occasionally worked through logistical plot problems with me to make sure that I never slowed down too much. They say writing is a solitary pursuit, and while one person might be the one putting down the words, other people can still be such an important part of the process.

Week four was a tough one and has both my lowest wordcount day and my highest wordcount day for this year of NaNoWriMo. I was overly optimistic about my ability to write words during the holiday. Thanksgiving with my in-laws is pretty chill, and I thought I would be able to hide in a room and make my wordcount. Spoilers: I did not.

But I continued to write, even if it was just a little bit. I fell farther behind on Thanksgiving and the Friday after it, but then… I made up all those words! It was hard, but I caught up again, and with four more days left to NaNoWriMo I was again ahead of the count. I even managed to stay ahead all the way to the end. After I won on the 29th—a whole day ahead!—I needed a bit of a break, so I didn’t add many words on the 30th; just enough to get the “Updated Word Count 30 Days in a Row” badge.

I can’t quite express how proud of myself I am. Just looking at those numbers fills me up with happiness.

Day 22: 201 (34,223) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 36,667)
Day 23: 915 (35,138) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 38,333)
Day 24: 2,791 (37,292) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 40,000)
Day 25: 3,102 (41,031) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 41,667)
Day 26: 2,549 (43,580) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 43,333)
Day 27: 1,792 (45,372) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 45,000)
Day 28: 1,360 (46,372) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 46,667)
Day 29: 3,372 (50,039) (NaNoWRiMo Goal: 48,333)
Day 30: 6 (50,045) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 50,000)

I’m really looking forward to writing the rest of this year and into the new year. I’m excited to finish this story, and then maybe to finish some others. I’d like to say I have a taste for finishing my novels now, so fingers crossed that I can maintain that excitement. Now that I’m so close to finishing one story, I’m already excited to write and finish others.

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NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 3 Progress Report

Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…

Well, I was behind this whole week. Never very far behind, but behind nonetheless. And now the holiday weekend is upon us. I know a lot of people worry about being able to keep up the pace during the holiday, but my husband and I are planning a relatively chill long weekend. There will be family time, of course, but there will also be plenty of time to write. And with a weekend write-in, I have faith that I’ll be able to catch up now so I’m not desperately trying to hit word count on November 30.

Despite still being behing, my takeaway from this week is that even though I’ve been behind, and even though I haven’t made my word count on some of the days, I still kept writing. I wrote every day, even when it was hard, even when other things had to happen in my life, I still found the time to write some words. I’m still developing this habit, and rather than being discouraged by those smaller numbers, I choose to be encouraged by the fact that I kept going. I’ve continued to keep writing, just a few words, a few sentences, a scene or two.

V.E. Schwab happened to put into words recently the problem that I’ve been butting up against for the last few years. I’ve spent so much time not writing, telling myself, “This isn’t a good time, I have to wait for the right time, for when the time feels right.” But as she said (and of course I’m paraphrasing), there will never be a right time. Life won’t stop, it won’t hold still, it won’t make the time for you.

You have to make the time. And if it’s really important to you, then you’ll figure out a way to make it happen.

Day 15: 2,161 (24,307) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 25,000)
Day 16: 722 (25,029) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 26,667)
Day 17: 2,340 (27,369) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 28,333)
Day 18: 1,879 (29,248) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 30,000)
Day 19: 1,007 (30,255) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 31,667)
Day 20: 2,096 (32,351) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 33,333)
Day 21: 1,671 (34,022) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 35,000)

There are some smaller word counts for this week in there, but I feel good knowing that it’s not because I got stuck or because I just didn’t want to write. The 16th was a close friend’s birthday. That I managed to write 722 words before heading out for birthday dinner and drinks makes me really proud of myself. The 19th was evening plans with another friend, and much fun was had, and I still managed to write 1007 words before heading to sleep that night. Dedication and discipline!

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NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 2 Progress Report

Writing continues! And it continues to amaze me that if you just keep putting one word after another, you create sentences, which create paragraphs, and all of that adds up. I am… slightly off count, but not so much that I don’t think I can get back on track. That’s what the weekend is for, right?

You’ll have to pardon the slightly late update (which I wrote and then forgot to post). Somehow I’ve been managing to work a full time job and not alienate my husband completely and occasionally have a social life and on top of all that… write a novel. All of that is somewhat astounding to me. I don’t think this breakneck pace is sustainable outside of the magical month of November, but I do feel like I might be able to continue a writing habit once NaNoWriMo ends. That feels kind of magical in and of itself.

I haven’t lost interest in this novel, which is also astounding. At the beginning, the magic of something new is keeping you going. But as you get further in, that new novel smell has started to fade, leaving you with… Yeah, ok, I got lost in that metaphor. But (spoilers!) I’ve made it halfway, and I still like the story I’m writing! Or at least, I still like this story, even if the execution is… well, it’s the quality of an extra fast first draft.

I realized early in week 2 that I needed to move my plot along a little faster than it was going. I’m sure this novel will end up being more than 50k words—as most published novels are anyway—but I’m already halfway through NaNoWriMo and I am definitely not halfway through this novel yet. But that’s all right! I’ll just keep writing, because now I’ve developed my writing habit. If I just keep stringing words together, making sentences, making paragraphs, eventually I’ll get to the end.

In week two I was less diligent about writing during my lunch breaks. Looking at some of my numbers, I do think that getting in some words earlier in the day does seem to help me stay on track, so I will probably try to do that again in week three. It’s somewhat more intimidating (and difficult) to have to write all 1600-2000 words all in one sitting. Even 300 words during my lunch, really helps ease that burden.

Day 8: 1,905 (13,919) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 13,333)
Day 9: 557 (14,476) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 15,000)
Day 10: 2,813 (17,289) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 16,667)
Day 11: 1,174 (18,463) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 18,333)
Day 12: 1,542 (20,005) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 20,000)
Day 13: 1,730 (21,735) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 21,667)
Day 14: 441 (22,146) (NaNoWriMo Goal: 23,333)

There are a few light days there. Day 9 was just a slow day. I fell asleep briefly on my iPad while writing, so I decided to call it a night without hitting the word count. Day 14 was Neil Gaiman night! Tickets for the event were purchased in the summer, so it wasn’t a writing reward. It was a pretty great night, though. And I managed to write a little—on my phone!—while in the theater waiting for the event to start, and then a little more when I got home before I went to sleep. Now we’re heading into the holiday long weekend, so I’m determined to catch up. Positive thinking!

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