Accomplishments of 2013

For better or worse, the year is over and whether or not we accomplished our goals, or neglected them 9 out of 12 months, this is the moment when we fess up to what we really did in 2013. At various points this year I tried Milwordy (writing 1 Million words in a year- 3 times, reading 40 books in the year, editing some books.)

Here’s what I actually did.

-wrote-

Wrote 223,000 words

Started a really cool YA Fantasy/SciFi series that blows my own mind.

-edited-

Finished the 2nd rewrite of my first book ever (which probably has three more to go but holy fuck it’s starting to look like a real book now.) >_<

Edited, reorganized/started rewriting my third book ever. (conveniently ignores the second book I ever wrote because wow is it terrible. Haha.)

-read-

Read 38 books.

Finally figured out how to effectively use my Goodreads account. >_<

-personal accomplishments-

Got married to my fiance of 7 years.

Found a job I love that leave me lots of time to write and read to my heart’s content.

In going back through my old Milwordy blog, and personal diaries to calculate my word count for the year I came across this thing I wrote on my very first Milwordy blog post back in February.

I want to look back on the year and say “Damn, I accomplished so much more than I thought I ever could.”

Welp, Dear 11ish months ago self, you did. Congrats. Here’s to 2014 and surprising yourself.

Happy Scribbling.

Top 12 books of 2013

So it’s that time of year again. The time for overly ambitious, hastily made goals that will likely be forgotten some time shortly after Valentines day. Rest assured, I will most certainly be joining in on that mad-holiday tradition, but for the next week or so I’d like to take some time to remember 2013. In keeping with that idea, I’d like to share with you my top 12 of the books I read in 2013.

For some context. I read 38 books in 2013 (also I realize I have a week left but honestly, who gets anything done when there’s families and partying refusing to be ignored?!)
Of the 38 books I read:
22 were Young Adult novels
11 were Adult novels (Fantasy/Scifi/Romance genres)
5 Short story anthologies

Of those 38 books, 6 were books I’d read before. For the sake of fairness I’ve excluded books I reread from my top 12 list, since they were good enough to reread and most of them would wind up on my top 50 books of all time (Which I haven’t actually listed, but now I think I’d like to…).

Without further ado,

1 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Set during World War II, this story is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. Truly, masterful story telling aside, this has beautiful word play that kept me engaged till the very last page. Of course when I reached the last page I sobbed with the book clutched to my chest for almost two hours. This was an emotionally devastating tale which follows the life of a young girl’s exploration into the world of books, both reading and writing them, while the war rages on and her family hides a Jewish fist fighter in their basement. It’s also narrated by death. Cause it needed another reason to be fucking amazing.

2 The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffennigger

Yet another story which made me weep uncontrollably. Clearly I’ve got an issue with abusive books. As a writer, I’ve never come across anything that is written in such a way, and honestly, I don’t think there is another story in existence that could support such a convoluted/broken method of storytelling and convey the character development that takes place in this book. If you haven’t picked this up, or have only seen the not particularly well done film adaptation, this story follows Henry, a time traveler, from the age of about 4 to 50 AND the life of his would be wife, for the entirety of her life. Aside from being a spectacular length of time to follow two characters around, the scenes of this book are out of order (sort of) because of Henry’s ability to time travel. If some people are born with a destiny, Audrey is certainly one of those people because no one else on earth could have told that story with as much grace and tragedy.

3 Looking for Alaska By John Green

Speaking of Tragedies. *sigh* If you’ve ever read a book (or seen the film adaptation) of any of Nicolas Sparks works (ie. The notebook, A walk to remember, Dear John, etc.) then you truly know romantic heartbreak. Nicolas Sparks makes it his mission to write the worlds most singularly beautiful love stories, filled with anguish, and impossible circumstances, only to have the lovers overcome everything in the second to last chapter of each book. The last chapter is where they die or worse forget each other. Feel free to disagree but I think Nicolas Sparks is a douche bag.
That being said, John Green is absolutely phenomenal. He’s also Nicolas Sparks for nerds. That’s right. John Green writes smart, snarky, insightful romances, filled with 3D characters (not just the lovers) and inevitably heartbreak. I cry every time I pick up one of his books, but his power as a writer is, I think, in his ability to make the reader think. To be curious and strive to be awesome, in spite of and because of circumstance. I can’t say enough good things about John Green as a person or a writer. He’s a personal idol of mine and I made it my mission this year to read all of his works, which is why he’s got three of the books on this list. Needless to say, I loved this book.
So instead of telling you what this book is about because I don’t know that I could write an accurate summary without spoiling my favorite bits, I’ll just give you one of my favorite quotes from this book.

“So I walked back into my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

4 Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.”

5 An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

This is actually my least favorite of all John Green’s novels, but it has some of my favorite quotes by him in it, so here, enjoy them. 😀

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

“You don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.”

“Colin did not laugh. Instead he thought, Tampons have strings? Why? Of all the major human mysteries – God, the nature of the universe, etc. – he knew the least about tampons. To Colin, tampons were a little bit like grizzly bears: he was aware of their existence, but he’d never seen one in the wild, and didn’t really care to.”
6 Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman And 7 Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman Are both terribly hard to describe aside from saying that they were unpredictable. Both are collections of short stories, some much longer than other, some like poetry, some fantasy, some sci-fi some horror, but mostly very weird. They are the kind of collections that give you an idea of what other people’s nightmare look like. All in all, I’ve picked these up several times over the months since I’ve read them and while all the stories didn’t do it for me, the ones that did are absolutely unforgettable. Which is impressive when discussing short stories.
8 Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

I’m gonna be really honest with you. I picked this up because A) it was free for my kindle, B) I’d heard the name before and thought it was “classic”. This book wins this year’s What-the-hell-did-I-just-read award. This is a story about a man, who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s been changed into a giant freaking spider during the night. Yep. WTF.

9 Howl’s moving castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, and a few years ago they adapted this story into a break taking animated film that I fell in love with. So when the book came up for 1.99 on Kindle, I snatched it right up. The story is similar enough for the characters to be recognizable to me, and emotionally captivating, but the plot is rather different from the film. It also has a unique tone of story telling that is not quite fairytale like, and not quite high fantasy, but some where in between.

10 Crewel by Gennifer Albin
In a world populated with thousands of YA Fantasy series, this was a fresh idea among a host of repeats. This dystopian fantasy follows a girl’s life as she becomes a spinster, literally a woman who spins the fabric of the universe around us. From weather, to crops, to people, spinsters control life and death of everyone in society and as the main character quickly learns, things aren’t always what they seem to be. I originally got this because it was a daily deal on ibooks, but after reading it I immediately ordered hardcovers of the original and the sequel.

11 Dead Girls Dance by Rachel Caine
This is actually the second book in the Morganville vampires series, and while I read the first book this year too, it was this one which hooked me on this 15 book series. I suspect that quite a few more of those books will wind up on my top 12 for next year. My favorite thing about these books is that the main characters aren’t vampires, and everyone involved is very aware that vampires are pretty wicked, and they’ll eat you before they kiss you.
12 Matched by Ally Condie
So I actually read this entire trilogy (Matched, Crossed, Reached) earlier this fall, and it falls into that awkward place where I really enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes YA Dystopian, but I’m glad I don’t own it and I don’t think I’ll ever reread it. While the characters are multifaceted, and the story is compelling, there just isn’t any fun in this series. I don’t want to spend more time with the characters, even though they are good people, and while I loved the messages and points made in these books, I’m not convinced I missed anything on the first read. For other fans of the genre, I think this lacked the intensity of the Hunger Games, and the imagination and creativity of The Uglies trilogy. Just my two cents. I did really like that the series has three points of view as it goes forward though. Matched is narrated by Cassia, Crossed by Cassia and Ky, and Reached by Cassia, Ky and Xander.) I was impressed that the author was able to narrate with three people over the course of the series and they were each their own conflicted person.
Naturally I can’t follow the rules, not even my own, so here’s an honorable mention to round this list off at 13. ^_^

250 Things you should know about writing by Chuck Wendig

This is the single most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. And while I still occasionally flirt with other writing books, this is my mistress. Just so we’re clear.
So I think that just about wraps this shindig up. If you’ve read any of these books, and have any fantastic opinions you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below. Also, go ahead and link me to your own top books of 2013 if you got one, and I’ll see you guys later this week for those horribly ambitious goals we talked about. >_<

Happy Scribbling.

Awesome books and a multitude of head trauma

I’ve had seven concussions in my life.

Seven.

As you can imagine that’s an impressive number for anyone at any age. I’m twenty three, so it’s safe to say I’ll probably have a few more concussions before my life is done. (Though hopefully I won’t die of all this head trauma :D) Still, it’s also safe to say that my brain isn’t always at the top of it’s game.

Mostly this is a pain in the ass. My short term memory is shit, I stutter when I’m tired, and sometimes I can open the refrigerator door ten times before I remember what I’m looking for and the name of the big fucking cold box I’m opening and closing.

But today I’m here to share the one pleasant upside to multiple dead spots on one’s brain.

Every time I reread my old stories they’re brand spanking new! Which is really useful. When I put down a manuscript for a few months, all the information drops out of my head aside from the basics.  Usually I stop working on a book when the material is so dead to me that I would rather burn all my notebooks than try and fix the problems with my characters or plot. Sometimes I really do rage quit my projects and obliterate them. But mostly I set them aside until I have completely forgotten everything about them but their existence.

Like the project I’m reviewing today.  I went back to the document looking for one key description of a character who is featured in a separate story. Instead of taking the five minutes I should have needed to look this up and be done, I’ve spent about an hour rereading sections of my story with awe. Not only because it’s not entirely a steaming pile of 1st draft crap, but also because there are some really intense moments in this book. And I have no fucking clue what happens next. Literally. No clue. If not for the general back story and the names of the characters, which I generally remember, I could have been handed this book and never known I wrote it.

It’s like a magic trick. My brain is a light switch. Two positions, work mode and oblivious. Of course now that I’m looking at the draft I’m itching to work on it and get back to these people who are slowly  becoming real to me again. But still, this is pretty cool.

So what’s the moral here? Well, I’m not saying that head wounds will help you be a better writer. But….

No really. Protect your squishy brain. That being said, maybe we should all make a little more juice with those sour yellow oranges life tends to throw at us. Seriously though, what the hell are those called?!

Nanowrimo losses and plans for 2014

Well, for the first time I’ve lost Nanowrimo…

Not so long ago, I would have counted that as a huge failure, but right now I’m feeling rather content. This November birthed a fantastic new novel idea, some fantastic characters and a spectacular setting that I’ve fallen in love with. What I did write, about 28 thousand, is well written and concise.

One of the many “tips” that inevitably rears it’s ugly head for Nanowrimo is to write as much as possible whether that means using prompts that serve no plot purpose, or create extravagant 4+ part names, or simply to explore every tangent. While Nanowrimo is about writing a lot in a short period of time, I do not believe that quality/content should be blatantly ignored in favor of more words. If your story is about aliens in outer space, then using a prompt which requires your characters to go to the store to buy milk and run into antagonists makes no fucking sense. Yet every year, people suggest equally ridiculous things in order to up word counts.

If you are writing just for the sake of writing something novel length, then more power to you. But I write with the goal of telling a moving story, full of characters you feel for, and content that makes you rethink your preset notions. Someday soon, I hope to be published. And not just once, but many times over. I plan to make a career out of writing so rambling for 50k is a somewhat pointless exercise for me.

To each their own of course, but I sincerely hope that those of you who participated in Nanowrimo feel accomplished, whatever your word count, and that you managed to polish some beautiful ideas over the course of the month.

 

So now that November is over, it’s time to get back into normal life mode. If you’re anything like me, January/the new year seems to be when I try out all new methods of being super productive/netflix addictions. Last year I tried milwordy from February-April, and subsequently spent the next several months recovering. I’m not entirely sure what my plans will be for this coming year, but I’ve got some ideas. Primarily I’m going to be reviewing what I read both here and on my new youtube channel, so stay tuned for links and lots of angsty YA reviews. And of course, I’ll be writing. If anyone has any suggestions for productivity or monthly/yearly challenges like wriye etc. feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy Scribbling.