Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricanes and PayPal

So, if you follow weathery news, you've probably heard about Hurricane Sandy, which has been rampaging along the East Coast recently. As it happens, it's supposed to be hitting my area sometime between tonight and tomorrow morning. Syracuse University apparently cancelled classes until Wednesday (but, sadly, we were not so lucky). We've gotten a little rain, and there's more wind right now than usual, but at the moment it looks like it will be exactly as bad as the big hurricane thing last year (which name I've completely forgotten). By that, I mean we'll get a lot of rain (maybe), but that's it. I doubt we'll be seeing much flooding in my area (granted, we're on top of a giant hill, which helps).

Of course, this isn't stopping everyone here from being paranoid about it. I've gotten no less than two phone calls and half a dozen emails to the effect of "Stock up on food and water! Batten down the hatches! Be prepared to live in your room without power or running water for 72 hours!" I really hope the power doesn't go out--each floor on my dorm is opened by a card reader, so without power, we'd have to find a way to prop the door open if we needed to get in and out.

I'm really thankful that that's the extent of our storm worries. Other places along the coast, especially less inland places, have apparently been hit really hard. I've heard nothing but dire forecasts about this supposed "Frankenstorm" that's brewing; apparently, as Hurricane Sandy moves up, there's a big cold front or storm or something that's moving down, which will apparently make things worse? I'm not sure, and I only read one article about it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for minimal damage. In related news, I think my roommate's weekend visit to her family has been extended by the storm.

In unrelated news, PayPal is annoying. I'm glad they take identity verification seriously, but I'm at a loss as to how to provide proof of address. I don't pay bills! Doesn't help that I live in a dorm, which is *not* my primary address. I may have read things wrong, but it really seemed that the proof of address they want needs to be in the form of some kind of bill, which I decidedly do not get, especially not at my primary address, which is my sister's current residence (which will be changing come December, anyway). Bah.

And on a completely different note--NaNoWriMo starts on THURSDAY! Aaaaargh!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ariel Review and the Glory that is NaNo!

I'm trying yet again to be more regular in my bloggery. Since basically my writing life amounts to nothing, however, I think I'll be doing more book reviews. I like reading. Reading makes life better. And it doesn't even kill brain cells! It's a win, no matter what anybody says. READING = WIN. Period! Rawr!


So, I recently heard about this really good fantasy called Elegy Beach. I believe it was from Ilona Andrews' awesome blog, but I could be wrong, but considering the number of possible places I heard about this book from, I'm assuming this is the case. Anyway, I looked into Elegy Beach, and discovered it's actually an extremely late sequel (as in, published a heck of a lot later) to a book called Ariel. I checked my library site, and lo and behold! They had it on the shelves. And the darn thing sounded so interesting I just had to pick it up. So I did. And I read it.

And I cried.

A lot.

Ariel is bloody amazing. I loved it. I love urban fantasy, but genre was probably the lowest consideration; I enjoyed the writing, I enjoyed narrator Pete's voice, I enjoyed the world... I was really interested in the way author Steven Boyett handled his worldbuilding. There's a lot more I'd have liked to know about this strange world in which magic came into being at 4:30 in the afternoon one day and stayed. (However, I'm glad there wasn't more on it in the actual book, because otherwise the story would have suffered. Oh, the sad paradox of epic worlds...)

Basic premise? Five years ago, the world kind of switched over to magic. Tech doesn't work, guns don't work, apparently bikes don't work (though wind-up watches do). Pete Garey survived this switch, called the Change, and was on his own for three years, until he met Ariel--an honest-to-holy-hell-that-horse-has-a-horn unicorn. Who talks. And cusses. And is all around more human than half the human characters I've read in fantasy. Unicorns are rare, their horns have crazy magic, and there's a necromancer in New York City who is willing to do a heck of a lot for Ariel's horn.

(My only nit through the book was, why the heck was our antagonist called a necromancer? I don't remember him actually doing anything to warrant that title. Still. That's not a lot of nits.)

So, I just realized I pretty much suck at good reviews, too, but I can say this: this book made me cry. A lot. And, well, that doesn't always say a lot, because I cry easily, but... lately I've been somewhat less prone to crying at every little thing, so there's some slight merit in that fact, yes?

Ariel is one of those awesome books where the end is just... at once horrible and so bloody fitting. This book could not have ended any other way without ruining its integrity. (Doesn't change the fact that I desperately wished it could have ended some other way, but ignoring that...) And it's not a straight-up "good" or "bad" ending, which I really like. It's the bittersweet kind of ending you get with all really good coming-of-age stories.

I probably completely failed to do any sort of justice to this book. Suffice to say: five stars. Five billion stars. This ranks up on my list with the Kate Daniels series, which says a lot. So: five freaking stars. Great book, great world, great characters, great writing...

Well. Okay. On occasion, the writing got pretty stilted with the "I did this. I did that. I turned around and did the hula." type of monotony it's so easy to fall into with first-person narration, but it didn't happen often or obnoxiously enough to detract from the story.

Okay, fine, so I had two nits. Sue me.

In other news, who else is excited for NaNo? Anyone? I'm psyched. I'm re-attempting my NaNovel from last year, with HUGE changes (I think I mentioned this before), and my main goal for NaNo is to teach myself how to write out of order, because that's one of the reasons I find it difficult to continue with works in progress: I want to write a Really Awesome Scene(tm), but I can't make myself write out of order, and then I get bogged down in transition and forget that I actually *do* love this project. Which is a sad, sad thing. (That was a sentence fragment. Pretty pathetic one, at that...)

Anyway. For those not in the know: National Novel Writing Month is a frenzied, super-exciting, brain-slushing, epic... thing... and I can't think of a noun that would work in this case, so moving on. In November, thousands upon thousands below thousands (because I'm Just That Original(tm)) people attempt to write 50,000 words of some sort of novel in 30 days. (That's 1667 words a day, also known as 1337 words plus 330.) By the end, most participants are unable to form a proper sentence and their typos are breeding to make tiny typos which go on to mature in record time and make little baby typos of their own, and pretty soon the entire novel is pure gibberish, but that's totally okay because WORDS!

...and my roommate has gone off somewhere, so now I get to record my Japanese homework. This is me, being happy about this wonderful turn of events. ...yay.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Long-Late Tribute

I am very late in receiving this news.

I am a long-time off-and-on member of the Absolute Write forums, the single most wonderful site ever to occupy a URL. Just as in non-virtual life, on a forum, you make friends, and you look up to a lot of members you may not know personally, but you know they're excellent people.

You never think they'll end up not being there.

I have never had a friend or family member die. Today, months late, I've discovered that two members of AW have passed away this past year, and I can no longer claim that happy ignorance.

I hope I'm not sounding sappy. This is... hard. I didn't know either member incredibly well, but both were well-loved in the AW community, and I've had interactions with both.

MacAllister, our wonderful admin, shared the news of AW's own CactusWendy's impending end with the board in April of this year. On the twenty-eighth, she passed away, surrounded by family. Wendy had this wonderful habit of greeting all the board newbies with this beautiful, personal question: "How do you like your popcorn?" She was a beader, as well, though she came to know the joy of the art very close to the end of her life. She was an amazing, kind person, and really brightened the community. I did not know her as well as I wish I could have.

Last month, we lost Steve Sarber, username smsarber. He used to post regularly on the Weekend Progress Report thread. He's one of the people I knew the best on AW. He struggled for a long, long time with a lot of health problems, but he always came back, until this August. I remember being absolutely shocked when I learned he was only in his 30s--with all the health issues, I had thought he was much older. He passed away at far too young an age, and left his dearly beloved family behind. He was always so upbeat and positive. Over the years, I received about half a dozen reps from him, all consisting of a single, whacky smiley. All made my day, and make my day every time I take a look at them. He really cared about everyone, even when he was going through all his own crazy ridiculousness. He always came back to AW, even when he wasn't feeling all that well.

I will always remember him as the guy who repped me a smiley urinating a smiley into the snow. Weird, but it made me laugh and cringe at the same time. He had a talent for brightening people's days. He was a great writer, a great AWer, and a great person.

So farewell, CactusWendy, and farewell, smsarber. I'm sorry my tribute comes late, but know it isn't any less heartfelt for it. I'm glad I knew you both.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I REALLY Suck at Timely Updates

But we already knew that, now, didn't we? (And holy crap does Blogger look different now. Yay, I get to re-learn the entire layout and stuff...)

So... wow. Haven't actually taken a look at the blog since I posted the review on The Demon's Lexicon in March. I do believe that's the most number of comments I've ever gotten on a single blog post. That was exciting! (And to everyone who said the end of the book explained the main character's jerkiness: Honestly, I'm glad there's a reason, and it's not just what's-his-face is a jerk to be all I'm a Badass. I'll just have to take everyone's word for it that the books get better in spite of that, though, because that level of jerkiness pulls me out of the story, and there are thousands of much, much, much better books out there that I'd rather spend my time on than reading about an insufferable egotist. ...but that's just my opinion. I'm glad other people are able to enjoy the book. Just not my cup of tea.)

And with that rather long aside... um, well, aside: Updatery! Yay!

Not that there's much to update. Well, um, I'm kind of doing a full-time writing thing this summer... until my mother and sister decide to ban me from food until I get a "real" job, because it's not like writing is work or anything... (*glare of RAWR*) Ahem. Anyway, seven hours a day of strict writing stuff (and this blog totally counts because I'm posting goals about writing and... okay, no, actually I'm doing this on a food break... because I r responsible, or something.) I have two short stories (sadly, previously written) that I've been working on edits for, and which will maybe get finished up this week? Maybe? And also two other shorts that I have yet to write that I am really excited to write, and both of them I have potential places to submit to percolating in the back of my mind. I am halfway through a weird stream-of-conscious outline for the first, and plan to begin writing it today, and sometime later during this week I'll be outlining/writing the other.

So, I'm making it a goal to blog every week to post my goals for the week and report on what I did the previous week and dang I hate repeating the word "week" like that. And thus, my goals for this coming week are:

I. Finish outlining Story 1 and start/complete outlining Story 2.
II. Write at least 2k on Story 1.
III. Write the first opening scene for the current novel WIP (which actually has a fairly complete outline! Squee!)
IV. Complete outline for the current novel WIP.
V. Come up with a working title for said WIP because "current novel WIP" is a bit clunky.
VI. Remember to blog next week.
VII. Oh, yeah, and edit those other two stories. Well, fix the opening on Bone, at least...

Yep. There they are: seven shiny new goals, and hopefully doable. Yay!

We will see how long this lasts...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Demon's Lexi-Yawn

[Please forgive the horrid, horrid pun.]

So, I tend to avoid book reviews, mostly because I always feel awkward writing them, but since it's not like I have any great nuggets of wisdom about writing to share, and since my life is about as exciting as watching slime mold grow (no offense, George), I figured I might as well try my hand at the reviewing thing again.


The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan, is a book with what I thought was a fantastic premise--teenage brothers living with their erratic mother and being hunted by evil magicians, the older brother gets a demon's mark that is basically a death sentence, suddenly it turns out there are a whole lot of secrets the younger brother doesn't know. I'm not the best summarizer, and I didn't actually finish the book (which I'll explain in a minute), but that's the basic gist.

I discovered this book through a bad review. Sadly, I don't remember who reviewed it or where, but I recall the book being described as "badly disguised Harry Potter fanfic with a Supernatural bent" or something of the like. (Incidentally, this same review finally pushed me into watching the show Supernatural, and I love it to bits.) But, this reviewer also described the book's premise in an extremely intriguing way, and so I thought--might as well give it a try, right? So, off to the library website to put it on hold.

Fast forward to a week or so later, and a much-anticipated reading.

Let me say something: at this point, I had already seen, I think, the entire first season of Supernatural. Like I said, I loved it. I like urban fantasy. But, this book kind of crystallized something for me: I freaking HATE swords in urban fantasy. Hate them. Loathe them. Despise them with the fiery passion of a billion frozen stars, or some other somewhat mixed metaphor thing. (With the much-deserved exception of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, which is pure awesomeness distilled into book format, but the magic in that world isn't a hidden thing, and it makes sense to carry a sword, 'cause you can use a sword even when the magic makes your opponent's gun unusable...)

So, when the book opened with,

"The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink,"

I was immediately put off. Swords are tacky, I think, in urban fantasy. They just are. They totally don't fit with the modern world. Some worlds, they're acceptable; for me, in most urban fantasy I've seen, they're just... y'know... tacky.

So, already unimpressed, I read on. And discover: this kid is a freaking jerk. That's the only way I can describe him. Nick in a word: a jerk. A big, fat, completely self-centered jerk. Oh, I'm so depressed, my life sucks because I'm chased by magicians, everyone else is a stupid idiot if they think they have occult problems because I have REAL occult problems. The brat has no empathy for other people. He doesn't care. Completely egocentric and misanthropic and--I think I got almost 100 pages in before deciding I wasn't going to keep spending time with this kid. No way. I get enough of jerks in real life; I don't want them in the books I read, too.

To be fair, he's a teenager. And he kind of does have a point. It's the attitude, though. You can tell, this is a guy who really doesn't give a crap about other people, except maybe his brother. I find it hard to sympathize with someone who hates people. (Somewhat ironic, considering who's talking here, but my I-hate-people phases are always short-lived and always directed strictly at jerks and mean idiots and mean idiotic jerks, so I'm going to pretend I'm not actually being a hypocrite here.) One of the things I love most about Supernatural is, the main characters care about people. They want to help. That's what sells it, for me (that, and the, y'know, paranormal craziness that is the selling point of the show, but that is completely beside the point).

So, I'm not sure if I can technically call this a book review, considering this is one of the few books I've never finished. (Actually, I find that as I get older, I'm more inclined to just stop reading a book if it bores or angers me in some way. Case in point.) I'm not saying the book itself is bad, because I didn't read enough of it to tell. (Although, a kid going up against a flock of murderous birds with a sword is a little dumb in my opinion, but considering my bias against swords...) Definitely, Brennan's got a great handle on Nick's voice. All jerk, all the time. Probably perfectly realistic, too (re: teenager). Which is exactly why I couldn't handle reading further.

I put up a valiant fight, too. Kept telling myself, just one more page. One more page of jerkface. One... more... and then the exciting part of the plot will pop up and it won't matter how much of a jerk the POV character is, because PLOT! And SECRETS! But... obviously, did not work out.

Conclusion: The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan. A potentially awesome book that simply didn't work for me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Le Updatery

And in case anyone was wondering, Firefox apparently does not do its spellcheck thing in the title box. Because "updatery" is totally not a word.

Soo, despite life, I am currently on day 33 of 100 words a day or bust. And it's awesome. Last night was possibly the worst night of the semester, what with family and emotional issues and I had an essay to write that I really shouldn't have put off so long but of course did, but I got 753 words in anyway. Pretty good words, too. Probably not great ones, but they're words, so I'm totally not complaining. Which brings the currently untitled fantasy to a grand total of... wait for it... 20,957 words! Epic! (I'm probably totally hitting 21k tonight. Yay!) So that's exciting. And I'm still sort of working on my NaNo Redux, though I'm not actively writing on it at the moment, for various plot-related reasons (namely, the lack thereof...).

So. George.

George is the name of my pet slime mold. I know I mentioned him before, though I don't remember if I'd named him yet. I really like George. He is the closest thing I can get to having a pet in the dorms. No, he's not fuzzy, and he's not cuddly, and I don't really want to touch him because that would be kind of gross... but if I can't have a rat, or my kitties, or a dog, I'd rather have a slime mold than nothing, you know?

Sadly, George is having some "behavioral" issues. Really, they're not his fault at all, because it's his nature to grow. That's the problem: growth. He continues to grow beyond the bounds of his petri dish a lot faster than I can feed him and hopefully convince him to go after the inside food. So, right now, he's sitting in a Ziploc bag, and his little yellow masses of tendrils are spreading all over the place. I really, really don't want to ever get rid of George. Ever. I love George. He is awesome. (And, yes, I'm emotionally attached to him, a bit, which is really, really weird, but I'm having a hard time adjusting to the whole transition to adult life thing so I think it's understandable.) But that will be difficult if he continues to do this growing-unchecked thing.

Sigh. Life is hard.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Slime Molds and Updates and Bears, Oh My

...okay, going to warn you ahead of time: there will probably be no actual mention of bears. Except for right then. So there kind of was. Hah! I'm awesome. (Not really.)

But seriously, folks...

So, today was a lot better than Tuesday, when I had a panic attack and literally no way to get in contact with anyone to talk me out of my panic because I have no way to pay my phone bill because it's paid online and so my phone service has been cut off. Yeah, that sucked. Today was much better. And now I have a pet slime mold.

What's a slime mold? It's slimy. It's moldy. And it magically transforms from DEMON BLOB FROM SPACE to a spore-producing not-so-slimy thing and back again for random reasons I wasn't quite able to make out from the fungus demonstration where I got my pet slime mold. (Slime molds are not technically in the fungus kingdom, but they're still included in mycology, apparently. Fun!) Actually, I like fungi. And learning about them. They're quite fascinating in a strange way. Part of my interest stems from the (not so productive when looking at my original goals) research I did for my NaNo novel, which involved material-based magic. I was not able to find much on medicinal or other popular and historical uses for mushrooms, but I did learn random interesting facts which I've totally forgotten by now and also saw many pictures of rather fascinating non-plant things. Which somehow resulted in me taking this introductory plant pathology course focused on mushrooms.

It's actually a really fun class. The professor's freaking hilarious.

Anyway, speaking of my NaNovel (if you remember from way back when thirty bajillion words ago, because, y'know, I'm awful wordy), I am re-doing it. I'm calling it the NaNo 2011 Redux, or Redux for short, because it still has no title. And some things are sort of different about it.

And one thing, or rather, one person is very, very different.

So, first draft, the draft I was "writing" during NaNo (the one that sucked beyond all description, except maybe for a couple of places, but surely this time I'm not just ragging on it because I wrote it...) has this character named Del. Del is very quiet. Reserved. Has, like, three lines in 32,000 words, despite being a main character (to be fair, he actually only shows up in like two scenes, but still... wow, kind of non-present for a main character, wasn't he...). He just. Doesn't. Talk.

Cut to this new version, with mostly everything the same except better and there's this dude, right? He's a fed, or pretending to be one, and manages to involve himself in FMC Lyssa's life. Earlier today, I wrote a 455-word scene snippet where this guy and Lyssa exchange some pretty awesome banter-at-gunpoint.

You can tell where I'm going with this, right? I'm not exactly being as subtle as I think I'm being. ...or something like that.

Yeah, that dude? Del. Del is now a chatty federal-agent-imposter-person. Of course, the important part is still the same--he's still a "demon," which is short for "I don't have a better term for these guys so I'm just going to call them demons even though that word has the wrong connotations for what I'm looking for."

Anyway, did I mention the 100-words-a-day thing? Probably. I think I did. Anyway, that's still working out great. I think my writing's improved already (*stance of happy*). But, for now it's changed a bit--it's now 200 words a day. 100 on the project I've been working on these past two-ish weeks, 100 on Redux.

I'm kind of worried that I'm losing momentum on the first project, but I am NOT dropping this one without a fight. I will drop it when I literally have to pay for each tortuous new word with sweat of blood, and not a day earlier! Rawr.

...geez, I'm a freak.