Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review: No Plot? No Problem!

"No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty

I loved this book. The author (who started NaNoWriMo) has quite a lot of humor to help keep things light despite the anxiety and stress you might be feeling in trying to write an entire novel in a month.

His basic premise is write, don't edit. Just write like made, worry about everything later. Get it on paper so you can pat yourself on the back. I think this is great advise for the NaNo crowd and for many new authors in general.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: The Wheel of Time

Review of "The Eye of the World" by Robert Jordan, Book One of the Wheel of Time

As a first-time reader of this series, I think I can sum up Eye of the World thus: Our heroes travel. They do a lot of traveling in this book. This turned me off a little bit, but only slightly.

What I loved about this book:

1. Jordan's writing is very accessible. I didn't find it overtly flowery, or too hard to read. I did have to keep a dictionary handy (glad I had the Kindle for it) mostly for rural farm-terms from ancient England.

2. Jordan avoided the 10 page descriptions and focused on moving the story ever-forward and interspersing description along the way. I really felt like I was right there along with our heroes.

3. The imagination, depth, and description of this world was amazing. Jordan really fleshed out the world by giving women the ability to wield magic, yet still keeping them in a typical fantasy setting where women rule the house while men do the plowing. I really liked this dynamic.

4. His women were strong, yet feminine. They thought for themselves yet still seemed accessible and vulnerable when it came to love. As a man I thought it worked. Some women may not agree :-)

I marked this down one star for three main reasons:

1. There were a lot of names at the beginning. First and last names, used interchangeably, along with titles thrown into the dialogue. It caused some confusion for me in the first few chapters, but once the core party was thrown together I settled in and could keep everything straight.

2. Sometimes he needed to describe things a little better. There were some things that he glanced over that I found myself turning back a chapter later to re-read (hard on a Kindle) because I didn't realize he was giving me an important piece of information mixed into a long dialogue. Perhaps this could have been fixed by having one of the characters ask for a retelling in the story.

3. Deus Ex Machina. The ending seemed a little too easy. I won't spoil it, but all the lead up for the main character seemed anti-climactic and I just didn't buy what he did. It seemed to come out of left field. Perhaps a few more chances for the reader to see foreshadowing of how the main character accomplished what he did.

Overall it was a great book. I'm a fan of epic fantasy and certainly will read the rest of the series barring major issues with the works.

Novel Weekly Status

So I'm up to 12,000 words. Longer so far than anything else I've done in the past.

Keeping up with my 15 and 500 method seems to be working out pretty well. I'll post up about that later.

Hardest thing this week has been carving out time. Works been pretty crazy. I wake up early, hoping I can get something done on the novel and next thing I know I'm doing problem tickets for work. Three hour time difference hurts a bit, I'm online by seven AM and the rest of my team's been working for three hours, they're getting ready for an early lunch and I'm just starting the day.
Oh well, such is life right? Needless to say I've gotten 500 words done each day this week, so I'm very proud of myself. It's hard to make sure you get what you need done. Writing is work. True Story.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: The Sleeping Dragon

Book review of "The Sleeping Dragon", by Joel Rosenberg.

I’m not all that impressed with Joel Rosenberg’s series, Guardians of the Flame. I just finished The Sleeping Dragon, book 1 of the series and I’m not sure I’ll read any more of the series.

I had a hard time following the 15 main character names in the book (7 main characters each with a first and last name, plus their character names for the D&D game, plus 1 for the DM that didn’t go with them) and the book swapped back and forth between these constantly. Add in names for a couple dragons, people they meet along the way, shopkeepers, boat captains. It gets very confusing very quickly.

If all the character names weren’t enough, the vast majority of the book focused on the arguments between all the people. No one got along in this book. One guy liked a girl but was mad because he’d never made a move on her. She apparently was sleeping with another guy in the group. A convoluted mess that I’m still trying to sort out in my head after reading the book. Italics were random thoughts of people mixed in with the talking, which made it harder to follow the arguments. To top it all off all the action scenes were abbreviated to allow for more bickering between the characters. End of one chapter they’d be in a town getting ready to leave, the next page (chapter) they were two months into their journey and had stopped at two other towns along with way with nary a description.

The author left off so many chances to enrich the storyline. In one of the cities they were in there was a price on their head for freeing a captive of the town. A huge price was put on their heads but nothing came of it. The author saw fit to bring up this huge bounty, but barely mentioned it later on in the book. Seemingly the group should have had the entire town after them, but they didn’t.

Treatment of women, and rape. One woman was assumed (by the guys in the group) to sleep with a captain of a ship in order to secure passage for the team across a lake. Then they got into an argument about it (of course). Later on when the entire group was captured both women in the group were repeatedly gang-raped. One of the women seemed okay with it afterwards, while the other suffered massive psychological trauma and was unable to speak and screamed at the slightest touch. Very dark. I’m not easily offended but this still disturbs me the way rape was portrayed in this book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Changing Careers - My Thoughts

I want to change careers.
Someone looking to change careers mid-life probably would either have to take a skill they'd been developing for the last decade as a hobby, or would have to go back to school for it. Going back to school means long hours, working a job plus going to school at night for 3-4 years before they can take the plunge. I've been at this a year and I've already gotten a lot better, I've done a ton of research, and I'm reading a lot more as well, which is pretty much research for a writer
At this point my goal for each day is 15 minutes of free-writing every day, without fail. If I do that for a month or two, then bump it to 30 minutes per day I could accomplish a lot of writing slowly over time. When I’m in the groove I can write 1000 words in 45 minutes. A hour of writing daily can conceivably produce 1000 words per day, 7 days a week (cause writers write every day w/out fail, it’s a lifestyle, not a job at that point.) That’s a third of a million words per year! That’s a lot of cheese!
100K word books means I could crank out rough drafts of three books per year, add in all the editing that I’ll eventually need to do and I could possibly produce one book per year, with editing and some working with others. That’s around 1 hour per day, not too shabby, I just need to do it.
What I'm doing now are developing the habits and patterns of a writer. My daily free-writes help with that. I also read heavily to work on vocabulary, devouring as much as I can in my chosen genre, plus reading up as much as I can on how to write this to me is time well spent on something that I want to do as a profession. At some point I can turn this into mandatory writing per day, say 500 words following the free-write, or just keep it stuck to a time limit. Something done a little every day can add up to huge dividends down the road.
I do enjoy writing, I love it. I’m just not practiced at it right now. Practice Makes Perfect, and I sure need a lot of it.
I am committed to becoming not only a published author, but a career writer. If I’m able to do it full-time as my only job or if I just do it part-time as a supplement to my income, I’ll be happy.
Even as part time, the supplement to my income would be awesome. If I manage to write a book a year, from an hour a day of writing, I get paid $25K or so, that’s an extra $25 large that I wouldn’t have had before. That’s a huge jump in salary for me as well, allowing me to pay off my mortgage that much earlier. I could find myself a lower paying job that I absolutely love to do, maybe go to school for the fun of it, hell, help Jennifer go to school for the hell of it. Help her launch a career that she can love and be involved with. That’s kid’s college funds paid for with an hour per day. That’s extra time with the kids cause I don’t have to be in a job that requires an extra 20 hours per week dealing with on-call stuff.
It’s a good dream, now it’s time to make it a reality.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Review of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert A. Heinlein

This book took me a bit to get into. The language was a bit of a barrier as well as learning how Heinlein's characters live their day to day life on the Moon. However, once I got past the first couple chapters, the language (read it with a Russian accent, it helps) wasn't as big of an issue and I really got into it.

This is a political book, as are many of Heinlein's works. Be ready to endure page after page of dialogue between characters discussing the politics of revolution. I personally enjoyed it and felt Heinlein brought up some thinking points in the dialogue like what sort of things would you be willing to lay down your life for, or how to fund a revolution.

I loved the book, highly reccomend it. It's a well-done tale of people standing up for their rights. I'm giving it 4 stats versus 5 because of the learning curve getting into it. Give this book a chance, I'm glad I did.