Archive for December, 2013

Times like these I think about my goals for next year. What do I want to achieve? I’m a OCD level planner, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

I want to put a new short story on this website every week in 2014, and then soon after indie publish it. I’ve still got some back log to work with, but pretty soon I’m going to have to write more short stories, a lot more.

I want to write a heck of a lot next year. I’ve got a lot of ongoing projects, and I want to get them done so I can finally push them out of the nest.

Challenges: I love writing challenges! I want to join both nanowrimo camps next year, and of course the big event in November. I also want to try ‘story a day May’ (though I think I’m going to fail it spectacularly). And the 3 day novel challenge in September is calling to me. I find them a lot of fun, and it’ll give me more first drafts to edit, edit, edit.

Reading: I managed 61 books this year. I’m setting my 2014 goodreads challenge for 65 books, and I’m hoping to blow past that goal.

Publishing: otherwise known as: come on, finish editing that novel already.

What about you guys? Any big goals for 2014?

Overall I really liked this one. It seemed like a fresh twist on the vampire story, but not enough that they’re reinventing the whole thing. I mean, some things have to stay the same. You don’t have to make the vampires sparkle to see them from a different point of view.

Here’s the blurb:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Now, it lost a star because of the prose. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something so unlikable about the writing right from the start. And then the story drew me in and I didn’t care about that anymore.

The structure is odd. You get present day Tana, and then we get an infodump about the coldtowns or she tells us something about her past, and then back to present day Tana in the next chapter. The stuff we were told was interesting, but I couldn’t help but feel there might have been a better way to put it across.

Tana was an interesting character, not very likable, but interesting. She had a lot more flaws than I usually see in protags. I liked that, but I didn’t like her. Didn’t hate her either. My favourite character was our mysterious guy. He’s wonderfully broken, and really quite mad. In fact I was a little disappointed he wasn’t more mad. In my mind it pushed credibility that he had so many sane moments, and then swung to mad again.

The other characters were OK, but I don’t feel the book delved deep enough into any of them to develop more than a general feeling of like or dislike.

Now the setting WAS something to write home about. The descriptions of the coldtown are pretty awesome, and the world building was pretty unique. I think it was best summed up by Tana’s little sister who has a pictures on her locker of one of the most famous vampire hunters next to one of the medias most glamorous vampires. Vampires are hated, and they’re worshiped.

The plot wasn’t bad either, a little slow to start, but a part of me liked that. It meant time to drink in the cool world Holly Black built, and the terror Tana feels. Once Tana gets into coldtown things speed up, and I started to like the character more, because she started to do stuff. And there’s a twist. I won’t tell you what it is (but you might guess it before you get to it – I did), but it was pretty damn awesome. I found myself grinning from ear to ear at that part, and I’d guessed what was going to happen for a while.

Most of all I loved the books look into madness. Mysterious guy’s madness, and Tana’s madness (because by the end she’s pretty damn cuckoo). ‘Cause they don’t dwell on it. They stand up, broken and bleeding, and carry on doing whatever they’ve got to do. Tana’s internal pov had some angst, but particularly as we neared the end it was more ‘wow I’m messed up, now shelve that, how do I save my friends?’ And less woe is me.

All in all, I’d recommend giving it a go. It was a fun read, even if it didn’t draw me in from the first page. But in case you aren’t convinced, have a look at what others are saying about it here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12813630-the-coldest-girl-in-coldtown

This is a book I firmly believe everyone should read at least once. The author was very devoted to making this as truthful as possible. He interviewed many many people involved, and I got the idea reading it that their stories really affected him. There’s just so much feeling in this book: bad feelings, and good ones too.

We are shown humans doing horrible things to each other, but we’re also shown the kinder moments too. At school I was only given the basic facts. Evil Germans this, and poor Jews that. None of my teachers taught us anything beyond ‘this happened on this date’, ‘evil Germans killed this many people.’

Dates. Numbers. Stereotypes. None of it meant anything because no one cared whether we forgot real people were killed, all they wanted were the dates and numbers.

There’s a moment near the end when a few Jewish people are being transported in a normal passenger train by SS soldiers. A German citizen stands up, and glaring at the soldier gives one of the Jewish children some food. There were many small moments of defiance like this through the book and when you weigh it against the overwhelming risk and disapproval of being a ‘Jew lover’ I found them all so amazing.

Because you’ve got to remember at the start a lot more German citizens did what everyone says they’d do now. They went against everyone (police, government, employers, family, friends) and spoke out against what was going on. What happened to those outspoken people? They were labelled ‘Jew lover’ and those that weren’t killed or imprisioned were shunned by society.

I’m truthful enough to say that I wouldn’t know what I’d do if that happened in my country. I’d have been raised to believe it was right for a start, and even if I managed to escape the mass brainwashing happening everywhere (not just Germany. America was the first country to sterile someone deemed to have inferior genes) I’d be considered inferior myself. I’m not Jewish, but I am disabled, and so many disabled met their ends in those gas chambers.

I’ve gone on a tangent. Back to the book. I’ve read things on world war two before (it’s a favourite topic of mine), but nothing has quite put across the sheer number of dead like this one. The book contained multiple povs (all actual people interviewed by the author), and each one saw so much death. There’s horror after horror, meaningless murder after murder. We lose men, women, children, individually and in groups of hundreds at a time. Some we get to know, others we catch only glimpses of.

Don’t let this put you off. All through the book are moments of humanity that show bright through the horror.

Schindler listens to the radio one night with a Jewish friend. He’s estatic. There’s been an attempt on Hitler’s life, and he believes the man is dead and the war is lost. And then Hitler comes on the radio and assures people he’s alive and the war will go on. Schindler (the German) is so distraught that his friend (the Jew) has to comfort him.

And then Schindler said something that stuck with me. He said ‘we will have to wait for our freedom’. Not ‘you,’ ‘we’.

That’s another thing the book shows so well. Unlike what my school told me, it wasn’t ‘Evil Germans’ against ‘Poor Jews’. So many people, including Germans were trapped by what was going on.

There’s something almost casually mentioned near the start of the book. One of the reasons why the gas chambers were made was because of the high suicide rate in soldiers who were forced to kill Jews. It got so bad that Hitler made several tactics, including different training and the gas chambers to fight against it.

One of the things I loved about this book was it showed so well what my school education didn’t. There are no black and whites here. Sure, there were horrible people who did horrible things, but there were also victims of all races, creeds, and even uniforms.

Just go read it. It’s one of those life changing books. I promise you won’t regret it.

And as always a link to more reviews in case you aren’t yet convinced: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/268302.Schindler_s_Ark

Maybe you’ve heard of this one. It’s got a creepy looking cover with a girl in a blood soaked dress.

9378297

Cool looking huh? Now there is some gore in it, but overall I’d say this isn’t that much of a scary book. You might disagree. Remember I’ve read a lot of stephen king, so your definition of creepy may differ from mine.

Here’s the blurb:

Cas Lowood, armed with his late father’s athame knife, kills ghosts. In Thunder Bay, Anna, forever 16, drips blood on her white dress from throat slit in 1958, and rips apart anyone who enters her house – except Cas. He makes new friends – high school queen Carmel, jock Will, admiring nerd Thomas and Tom’s voodoo grandpa Morfran – to fight this demon.

Full disclosure here: why did I choose to read this book? Because it reminded me of the television show supernatural which I love. If you love love love some supernatural then get this book. You’ll enjoy it. I mean it has this guy called Cas, who by the way is nothing like that wonderful angel, but makes up for it by basically being a younger version of Dean. Go read the preview and see if you agree with me. He sounds so much like Dean Winchester. For the first few chapters my mind kept going ‘Dean, why are you calling yourself Cas? Do you miss him that much?’

Now, the book does have a couple issues. There is a vibe of insta love going on. And our Cas/Dean protag does spend a large amount of the book dealing with teenage problems. The whole ‘I don’t need friends, I’m a badass ghost hunter’ kind of thing. And I felt some of the adults – particually grandpa Morfran – were less fleshed out. It was a little like those kid shows, where the adults drift in when they’re needed and then conviently disapear into the background.

Saying that, I think the mother was done well. She knew her son had to do this, that if she didn’t help he would sneak off and kill ghosts anyway. She helped where she could, and worried when she couldn’t. I’ve read a couple reviews that shun her for not grounding him, but I think she did what she could. She didn’t want to lose her son. I can understand that.

Now my favourite character of all was Thomas. Think Xander from the television show buffy when he was all shy. (There’s also a Giles like character who helps with research.) Thomas was just so darn cute. All plucky and determined, and then a girl walks up and he’s blushing and falling over himself.

The plot wasn’t bad. There’s a decent amount of action here. One big twist near the end, but not much in the way of twistiness before that. For me it was like watching a television show (more like Buffy than supernatural). The plot was good, but not brilliant, but that didn’t matter because it was the characters that made me stick around. There were some hefty loose threads by the end, but there is a sequal that might explain those.

So if you like Buffy, or Supernatural then go read it. And as always here are some more reviews if you aren’t convinced: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9378297-anna-dressed-in-blood

I’ve read 53 books so far in 2013. Some good, some not so good. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite, but if it came down to it, I think ‘Angelfall’ by Susan Ee would be the one.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

After reading that I wasn’t sure. I mean, on the face of it: warrior angels, that’s cool right? And I do love a good apocalypse. But then the doubts set in. Teenage girl protag, and a possibly angst ridden supernatural entity who is obviously meant to be a love interest. What if this girl ‘Penryn’ spends the whole book fawning over the mysterious guy with superpowers? What if he sparkles?

Well folks, I read it and am pleased to report that the nearest he comes to sparkling is when he’s covered in blood. Phew. This is a badass angel, and best of all he actually does stuff! No moping in a corner the whole book going ‘woe is me.’ Sure the angst is there, but it’s more of a ‘I’m gonna get my own back and kick their asses’ kind of vibe. I can deal with that.

And I loved Penryn! She wasn’t this passive thing waiting for a big strong man to save her. The whole book her focus is on her sister, like an actual human being. No fawning. The only reason she sticks with Raffe is to get her sister back. She hates him and is terrified of him in equal measure. Yet she fights all this to use him to get her sister. Any feelings between them are always secondary.

Now lets talk for a minute about the book outside the relationship between these two (which by the way I think is the most realistic relationship between a human and supernatural entity that can kill them at any moment I’ve read). This is a dark book. People die. Things happen that some might consider worse than death. It’s about an apocalypse, and it reads like one. There were moments I felt like crying when I turned the page to find another horror that happened. And as the book went on the horror and the mystery got even worse, until the final reveal (which I won’t reveal except to tell you my stomach rolled and my heart flipped over).

I could talk about what I liked about this book for ages. It’s just so darn good. But what I loved the very most was that the people acted like people. Penryn was the determined protective sister (which when you read her back story makes so much sense). Some people gave in, some despaired, others fought. Everyone was just so flawed and human.

My recommendation: READ IT NOW. But in case you need any further persuasion check out others reviews here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11500217-angelfall

I miss it already. I didn’t make my 150k goal, but did reach 72,737 words, the most I’ve ever written in a month. Not bad. I’ll be pushing myself again next year and seeing what I can come up with. I’m determined to get at least 100k next time!

Now, to address a few questions that might come up:

Why would you do that!

To me nano is the ultimate holiday. I clear my decks and try to do nothing but write (and the bill paying job, and everything that pops up saying ‘oh hey you forgot about me.’) It’s my chance to see what I’m capable of, and to just have fun and create. The atmosphere is exhilarating. It’s the only month of the year where I’m surrounded by people who love writing just as much as I do.

50k in a month? Isn’t it a load of crap?

About as much as 50k over five months, or ten months (less for me because I’d forget things if I take too long). It’s a first draft – editing comes later. In fact if you do your research writing slow is a recent fad. A heck of a lot of the classics were written in very short spaces of time.

I still don’t get it.

The best reason for doing nano is to see what you’re capable of. I know now I can write 72,737 words in one month. Actually I know I can write more because I had some 0 word days in there. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

That novel you’ve been dreaming of for ten years – nano is the time to challenge yourself to get all or some of it on paper (or computer screen). Maybe 50k is beyond you, but by trying you might get 10k or 20k.

My first nano I failed with something like 17k. My next I made it to 51k. And this one I made it to 72k. If I didn’t challenge myself I wouldn’t have known what I can do, and I wouldn’t have improved year on year. It’s only by pushing our limits that we find out where they are.