Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review for “Hoot”

Book Review: “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen

This was a delightful book! I read it in two sittings and enjoyed every page. I will definitely put this on the shortlist of books to read with my kids.

This story had it all, a boy, bullies, golf, cops, a runaway, and of course owls.

There is some mild swearing, but nothing worse than you would read in the bible. The book also deals with deadbeat dads, fighting with parents, suspension from school, and runaways. Just keep that in mind if you are reading this to really young kids. I think anyone over third grade would be able to handle the ideas talked about in this book.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

Weekly Writing Status
50,425 words so far.
Sunday starts 10/1000 *gulp*
***
The hardest thing this week was work. Once a month, the last week of the month in fact, we patch servers. All 400+ of them. It’s…fun.
It also eats up a ton of time.
Each day was a struggle to find the time and inclination to write. And yet I managed to get 10,000 words written in 7 days even though I only had a goal for 5250. Pretty damn successful I think! I’m certainly proud of myself. I hope I can keep it up.
15/750 (15 minutes of free-writing/journaling followed by 750 words written on my novel) per day has been working out. On a good day I’m finding 750 words can go by in less than 45 minutes. Sunday start 15/1000 where I’ll bump up my quota to 1000 words per day. 
I also read two books this week, “Hoot” and “9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.” I’ll post reviews for those shortly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Math time!

As much as I hate math, I find myself fascinated with numbers. I’m particularly interested when those numbers help me understand things I’m interested in. These numbers for me usually revolve around money. 401K size, how little is in my wallet, etc.

Today I want to talk about numbers surrounding my novel.

I’m currently sitting at 48,000 words.

In Scrivener, the software I use for writing, I have all my chapters broken up with scenes in individual documents. I’m currently at 42 scenes already written.

This puts me about 1100 words per scene. Only I didn’t start with 42 scenes to write, I started about 15 or so.

As I write a scene, I find I end up writing additional scenes. For every scene in my rough outline, I estimate writing two additional scenes. I either find I need to do more exposition, or my discovery writing method takes me in an entirely new direction that still requires me to write the original scene in order to move the story along.

So right now I have 36 more scenes left to write. If I assume these 36 scenes will more than double when I’m done, I’ll be left with 90 new scenes to complete. That makes for an estimated 132 total scenes.

If those numbers hold true, that means the novel will end up being around 142,000 words when it is all said and done. Or, I am about one third of the way complete.

I’m not sure I have enough story left, but scope creep always seems to rear it’s ugly head, and there is plenty of stuff swimming around in my head trying to get out.

Here is some more math for you.

I currently write 750 words minimum a day. Yesterday I wrote 876. Today I wrote 2023. Every two weeks I increase my minimum word count by 250. By October 24th, I’ll be up to 2000 words per day and an estimated word count of 125,750 words.

Now 750 words is a minimum, I always go over, sometimes by a lot. I keep track of all this in a spreadsheet. Entering today’s numbers my minimum estimate will be 128,818. My goal is to have my book completed by Oct 24th, which means I will need to make up a solid 24,000 words somewhere in there based on previous scene estimates.

Luckily excess is already built into my model. Since I have a quota I hit each day, anything past that will get me closer to my goal.

This is teaching me a few things.

First off, I talk way too much. On the other hand, the scenes I love the best in this book came from discovery writing and were not in the original outline.

Second, I will have a hell of a lot of editing to do. Anything over 110K words tends to turn off many publishers.

Third, I can’t allow scope creep to take over my novel. I have a deadline for completion of my manuscript. I will have to be picky about when I allow myself to invent new scenes and when I have to stick with that I have so that I have a complete storyline done by my deadline. New scenes are wonderful, but I have NaNoWriMo coming up and I don’t want to leave the book hanging without an ending for a month. I would rather see it done with notes on additional content to write during editing than leave it short while I work on something else.

Welcome to being a writer, Tom. Seems deadlines and having to prioritize work follows you around everywhere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik


Imagine an alternate history where Napoleonic wars were not fought just on land or sea, but in the air, on dragons. Imagine dragons so large that they command an entire crew climbing all over the large air-ship stand-in to repair the dragon from claw marks and have coordinated gunmen and bombers hand-dropping bombs from their mount.


Imagine if a navy man, captain of a ship and very set in his ways suddenly finds himself in charge of a newly hatched egg, and is pulled into the realm of England’s air fleet.
Yes, this book is that good. 


I’ll admit, I had a hard time getting into it at first. The first few pages are entirely set on a boat. Master and Commander but without all the exciting parts. I started this book three times before I finally got to the part where they finally found the dragon egg, then I couldn’t stop reading it.


I was instantly sent into the story. The tale of a dragon and his captain as they learn and grow together, get into battles, recruit men for their missions. It’s all very wonderful. I can’t wait for the next book.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

Weekly Writing Status

40,000 words so far.

Bumped up my writing to 15/750.

***

So I bumped up my word count per day on Sunday this week to 750 words per day. Every two weeks I’ll be increasing my minimum word count.

This week has been very busy. Work is ramping up, I was on call for the first time this week, which meant waking up earlier and staying at work later than I’d previously done.

Add to that my World of Warcraft raiding schedule, which admittedly is only two nights a week, but I had to really struggle to make sure I got my quota in each day before bedtime.

I’m trying to avoid writing late at night. I’m not usually in the mood. I’m tired, and just want to relax. As much of a night-owl as I am, I really do my best writing earlier in the day and I get the side bonus of having my quota done for the day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review: City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11

Book Review: "City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11" by Anthony DePalma

A definite buy if you are interested in the details of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath!

This book chronicles the lasting effects of the dust cloud that surged over Manhattan on 9/11 when the towers came down. The dust was a mixture of mercury vapor from the thousands of florescent tubes, gasses from the improperly burning jet fuel, asbestos, pulverized concrete dust from the structure itself, as well as untold hundreds of other volatile chemicals made from the burning computers, monitors, carpeting, clothing, and bodies that made up the mess at Ground Zero.

This Dust permeated buildings, schools, hallways, ductwork, and worked it’s way deep into the lungs of those that were there that day, pushing high levels of carcinogenic chemicals and concrete dust deep into their bodies. Those that worked at Ground Zero over the next three months had to deal with slowly burning jet fuel deep underground and the toxic off-gassing that came with it, breathing in even more chemicals as they worked tirelessly to rescue people and help rebuild our nation.

Not mentioned much outside of New York City, this book offers a very detailed look into the lives that have been affected by the dust cloud. It chronicles the sense of dread that hung over everyone that was there when the towers came down, the feeling of being blind when the dust clouds first hit, and the panic that even the governmental agencies felt as they took stock of the situation.

It was an unprecedented event that no one in government or business had properly prepared for. The sheer number of things that had gone wrong stupefied all the officials who were being pressured for immediate response and to come together with one resolute face to present to the public.

Our nation, led by Bush’s presidency, took a hard-line stance against the terrorists and pushed for rebuilding and recovery. We presented a strong, united front. We pushed for recovery speed over safety, strength over licking our wounds. This decision had lasting effects on those people who risked, and are now giving their lives, to help sort through the rubble.

A lot of mistakes were made, from all sides. We had never had an attack, or fought a fire like this before. The EPA did not have data on what health risks there would be for the thousands of contractors, firemen, police, and others who spent months cleaning up Ground Zero. We all hope the information gathered will never have to be used again.

My hats off to the author who presented many sides to the issue, from the businesses affected, the doctors who ran the free clinics, lawyers who sued years later, students who’s high school was shut down due to dust invasion, the firemen and police officers who felt unpatriotic wearing respirators while sifting through rubble, and the government agencies who’s own emergency response area had been destroyed in the attacks.

I think everyone should read this book. I for one am fascinated with 9/11 history, and this book provides a deep look into an ongoing facet of the attacks that still haunts America today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: “The Ruby Knight”

Book Review: “The Ruby Knight” by David Eddings. Book Two of The Elenium.

I enjoyed “The Ruby Knight” much better than “The Diamond Throne.” In the first book I think Eddings spent far too much time tramping all over the world, discussing politics, and meeting new characters in the first book, all of which were much better in this second book.

While there is still a lot of travel, there is a lot more action. We have a small core group of people that we follow for most of the book. This makes it easier to form a bond with these characters and care for them, as well as follow them. Ten people to keep track of was enough.

I loved Edding’s writing style. The characters in the book knew each other well and joked endlessly among each other. This made for a light-hearted times to help offset the gory battles and the constant danger the group was in.

I loved the ending. It had a good surprise. (Won’t spoil it for ya.) Can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Google Analytics

I setup Analytics a while back on this blog and was going through it this morning. One of the more interesting things Google keeps track of is the keywords people searched on when they found your site.

Apparently looking up the religious views of Brandon Sanderson points them to my post talking about Creative Commons using his novel Warbreaker as an example.  They go looking for information on Brandon being LDS, and end up with an article written by an ex-LDS atheist talking about a soft-core porn version of Warbreaker.

Brandon (if he even happened to have read my article) doesn't know me. Anyone that does knows that I joke about nearly everything. In fact it's best to put the smily face :-P after pretty much everything I write.

Looking back maybe I should have used Manga, fan-fic or even a YouTube short as my example, but I was feeling ornery that day and stand by my post. I still think it is a good example of a genre that Brandon would never get into but someone else might (not saying I would either, it was just an example). And let's be honest, there was a lot of sexual tension in that book. Include the magic system and you have the seed of a great um..."movie."

I hope Brandon understands I have the utmost respect for him and his novel. I used him as an example mainly cause I loved the novel so much, he's an author that I follow closely (I've watched pretty much everything he's been in on Youtube, and listen to his Writing Excuses podcast every week). He also happened to have a CC license on his novel and it was on my mind, so it all came together.

Not sure my post required an explanation, but here it is anyway :-) <- there's that blasted smiley.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Short Story Review: “Eros, Philia, Agape”

Short Story Review: “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky


I had a tough time with this short story. At it’s core it is a coming of age story about a robot that leaves his wife and daughter to find himself. Most of the story is actually backstory leading you back to the moment when he leaves.


We were not told he was a robot until later in the story, which really had me confused for a while.  The story introduced the robot then didn’t talk about him for a long time. Consequently I had to flip back and forth to the beginning a couple times to make sure the story was talking about the same character, which is not easy on the Kindle.


By the end I really liked the story, and if you are big into relationships, particularly sci-fi related, I’d recommend it, but for me it had a rough start and soured my opinion through to the end. Subsequent reading might improve my rating. That being said, it’s free on Amazon, so get it and enjoy, you have nothing to lose but about an hour of your time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

31,452 words so far.

15/500 is going well. I have thought about bumping it up to 15/1000 this Sunday, but I think I’ll give it one more week before increasing my daily word count.

***

So what did I have troubles with this week? Last weekend I barely met my goals each day, usually around 11:30 pm. I got the weekend after a long work-week and squeezing all my free time into writing that I just wanted to do nothing all weekend.

I realize we all deserve some breaks. We would probably go crazy if we didn’t, but if I’m to get this book done on the schedule I have (In time for NaNoWriMo) I need to make sure I write everyday without fail. Taking relaxing is fine, but make sure you don’t sluff-off so much that you miss your goals.

So far, I haven’t missed my goal but I did have a rough go of it last weekend. I also had a few rough spots during the week. Kids are starting up school, so homework, and meetings with teachers are clogging up time. Luckily work is being nice to me in my evenings. We will see what the rest of the month has in store as I go on call next week and we have patching every evening the week after that. I will have to really buckle down and make time for my daily writing in order to get everything done.

These are the times that test your resolve.

Book Review: First Flight

Book Review: First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal
Five out of Five stars for being imaginative.

(Said with the movie intro voice)

“In a world where people time travel, there is a woman.”

(Sounds of gunfire going off in the background, propellors starting up)

“One-hundred years in the making.”

(People screaming, slo-mo camera action of a guy in early 1900’s knickers running toward the camera).

“There is only one way to get it.”
(Orchestral tense music)

“There is only one way to get her there.”
(Building Up music)

“There is only one way she can survive.”
(Orchestral music reaches a crescendo and violins play faster while shots of various action scenes change every .3 seconds on the screen)

“There is only one….First Flight”
(Fade out while someone is lying on the ground, breathing their last breath. Applause, applause. Lights up)


And it’s free on Kindle! Get it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Draft Excerpt from my current novel:

I've received a few requests to see a sample of what I'm writing. Here is a section that I've cleaned up a little bit, but it's far from finished. I hope it explains a little bit about the magic system I have in my fantasy novel without giving too much away. -Tom H.



The small room was dark but for a single candle. In brighter light the velvet tapestries covering all of the wall from floor to ceiling would have been a deep crimson. In the dim light they were pitch black and looking at them you wouldn’t know if you were peeing into a deep cave or if they were a few feet in front of you. More useful as sound deadening capabilities then they were as decoration.

In the center of the room sat a rectangular granite pedestal, half a meter tall with an indent in the top in which an opaque orb rested, nestled slightly within the granite. The orb glistened wet in the candle light.

A lone figure sat in front of the orb on a small blanket, eyes closed, lips barely moving, breathlessly murmuring an incantation. The figure was hooded with a deep cowl that extended beyond his face.

The man opened his eyes as the spell completed, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through his mouth. To the side of the pedestal was a small bucket of water which he slowly ladled out carefully. He paused slightly before pouring it gently over the orb before him and quickly put the ladle back in the bucket.

Cupping his hands before him, he furrowed his brow until a bright orange flame danced across his palms. He frowned deeply and concentrated more on the flame, sparking a few millimeters off his skin. The flame died down and became darker, losing the brightness of flame. It grew more red, deep red, violet, eventually turning into a dark blue flame, lower and more sedate than when it was first summoned.

He looked away briefly to breath away from the flame. When he looked back the flame had gone back to deep violet. He concentrated harder, beads of sweat forming on his forehead as the flame morphed into a low blue flame that didn’t spark at all. Blue became darker and lower, barely perceptible in the faint light, then took on a green tint.

At last the flame was to his liking, deep emerald green with no sputtering. It reminded him of an algae filled bird pond, ripples dancing lightly across the surface from a slight breeze. Beads of sweat on his face had coagulated and were dripped down to his chin, but he didn’t notice or dare break his concentration.

Slowly he moved his hands toward the orb, cupping the deep green plasma. He carefully let his hands part and watched as the emerald flame slowly drizzled out of his hands and onto the glistening orb. Once all the precious fire had been deposited he sat back and watched as the orb began to spin.

Opaque became clear and the green flame coating the entire surface was absorbed within it’s surface. Soon the orb was spinning faster and faster, a green-filled fire-infused orb. Little splashes of water hit his face as the orb spun faster and faster till it was a blur of energy.

A nervous smile spread across his face as the orb was now complete. He wiped off his face with this cloak and pulled his hood back.

The figure began mumbling intelligible words, intent on the orb. A face slowly materialized in the green swirl.

“I have been waiting for your report,” the hooded man in the orb stated.

“I am sorry, My Lord, but I have failed you. The woman got away.”

The man in the flame raised his eyebrow for a moment and nodded slightly. “I figured as much, and what about the old man?”

The man in front of the orb brightened a little bit. “We got him my Lord, he is being…questioned as we speak.”

“See to it that he never leaves your dungeon.” The Master pondered something for a moment and a small hint of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “But do not kill him, we will need him for later.”

“My Lord, this is another matter.”

“What now?” The irritation in the man’s voice was striking and the man in front of the orb hesitated a moment before speaking.

“There is a boy, my Lord. We did not know she had a son. Both the old man and her were talking about him when we ambushed them in the forests outside of town.”

“And where is he now?”

“Still in town, he…he is with his father, my Lord.”

“Does he show any promise?”

“Too soon to tell, he is only a small boy.”

“The father?”

“A simple pusher my Lord, as far as we can tell. He works in the mines and was raised here his entire life.”

“So the witch had a son did she? I wonder if the father know how much trouble he is in for laying with the likes of her.” The Master reared his head back and laugh. He lowered his head with a genuine smile. “Finally you bring me some good news. See to it that the boy is watched closely. Alert me when he is finally tested. He could be very valuable to us if he inherited enough of his mother’s blood.”

“Very well, my Lord.”

“See to it that you do not let another slip through your grasp. Not everyone is as patient as I am.”

The Master waved his hand in front of his face and his image dissipated quickly.

The man remained kneeling and silent as the orb began to wind down. His eyes were intent on the green flame inside. He held back blinking as the flame grew dim and finally disappeared. When the orb was finally finished, he released a deep sigh of relief and blinked his eyes to rehydrate them.

He looked around the room. The lone candle was slowly flickering in the corner. Shaking slightly, his tunic drenched in sweat, he stood up and blew out the candle. He listened at the door for sounds on the other side. Not hearing anything, he raised the cowl of his cloak back over his head, and carefully exited the small room.

Book Review: The Diamond Throne

Book Review: The Diamond Throne by David Eddings, Book 1 of The Elenium 

Three out of Five Stars: I liked it


An exiled knight returns after 10 years to find his queen deathly ill and encased in magic stone in order to prolong her life. He sets out on a highly political and violent quest to rout out who is behind her mysterious illness and thwart those people that would want to usurp her throne.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was a fun read. It was also a fast-read. I made it through it’s 435 pages in 6 hours or so.

What enjoyed the most would be some of the quotes. Eddings made sure the main characters were constantly bickering and bantering back and forth, throwing out jabs and one liners at each other. This kept the story light and I found myself laughing out loud (quite literally) at least a dozen times during the read of this book.

He also had some deep entrenching religions in his world that ultimately believed in the same gods, but different aspects of the gods, much like we do now. This led to some interesting relationships among some of the characters. The constant proselytizing by one of the religions did get a little old, but religion is integral to the storyline, and I’m hoping the reasons why will be fleshed out later.

I had a rough time with the names. There must have been at least 7o different names (people as well as places) to keep track of all within it’s pages. This got confusing. I ended up concentrating on the core group of adventurers and glossed over details of who they were speaking to.

It still left me not fully understanding the intricacies of the dialogue. I followed the conversations while they were happening and by the time we came back to the same character later in the book I had no mental connection to their previous conversations. This made for some confusing conversations later on in the book when the author did not introduce the character, instead relying on me having kept up with his myriad of names.

I liked that traveling took some time. One does not simply hop on a horse and by the end of the day be at another town on the other side of the country. They travelled for days, sometimes weeks to get around. Much of this was sped up with a couple vignettes during stops to describe the heros as they worked their way across the land. Because of the speed-up during traveling I lost sense of time. The entire book takes place over the course of quite a few months but I didn’t feel like it really did. It felt more like a couple weeks.

As I neared the end of the book I wondered how they were going to wrap up the entire storyline that quickly, and they ultimately did not. This book was written as part of a trilogy and while plenty happens in the book, nothing really is resolved by the end and the hero is given the knowledge that will launch into the next two books.

Overall I had fun reading it. It was fast-paced, witty, and engaging. The multitude of characters that came in and out of the story made for a confusing read and the disappointing ending to this book made for a bit of a let-down. I would recommend it if you are committed to reading the rest of the trilogy, which I am currently working on now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

15 and 500

Trying to sit down and re-learn to write is tough. I tried outlining. I tried discovery writing. I tried writing long-hand. I tried dictating into my iphone’s voice memo app.

Nothing jived with me. Sure they worked for a little while, but eventually I would abandon them, no steam left. I still had ideas, but they fizzled out rather quickly. I had time (we all have time, we just have to use it well) but faced with writing or doing something with the family, I chose family. (That couch looked pretty good after a long day of work too). Don’t get me started on responsibilities.

When I started, I found myself really energetic the first week, then it tapered off. Anyone that followed this blog last year can attest to that. It’s the story of my life. I have plenty of ambition, just not enough stick-to-it-iveness. Luckily, habits can be formed. If you do something every day for a month, it will become a habit, for good or bad.

Good mantra to follow. After starting and failing a few times with my blog (which I’ll get into in a later article), I decided I should be spending my time working on an actual novel. If was to get myself worked up to 1 hour per day writing, I needed to start even smaller. I chose 15 minutes per day of freewriting.

Freewriting is great. You pour your thoughts into paper no matter what they are. Don’t know what to say? No problem! Just type over and over “I don’t know what to say” till something comes to you. Trust me, it will.

Do this for long enough every day and it’s amazing what sort of ideas will come out of you. Talk about your friends, family, pets, and idea you had as you were at the ATM. Document your dreams and ambitions. Use it as a sounding board for ideas you need to flesh out. It’s a wonderful tool. I use it as a way to bridge the gap between my stressful life and writing.

Fifteen minutes of raw writing. That was my goal. I did it for an entire month. Not quite every day, but it got to the point where I was constantly aware if I haven’t done it that day. The step that I’m currently working on is to write 500 words on my book. I already have an outline (more on that later), so I can sit down and pick a random scene and just start writing. Following 15 minutes of freewriting, my mind is generally clear and I’m ready to delve into my book.

500 words takes me 20-40 minutes depending on how well my muse is fed that day. There are days when I look up and find I’ve written 700 or even 1000 on those rare days, but 500 is my goal and that’s what I’m doing every day. I had a 2600 word day last Sunday. It was a very good day!

Right now I’m around 28,000 words in my novel. I feel good about that. 500 words per day means I’ll hit an average novel length of 90,000 words (very ambiguous goal here) in about half a year. That’s not bad honestly. Of course the greats pump out 3-4000 words per day, but they also do this full-time. I’m spending less than an hour per day. I’m very happy with my output.

After while I’ll increase my word count requirement to 1000 words/day, but I’m in no rush to reach that. I’m happy just doing what I’m doing. I think it’s much more important to develop the habit rather than overwhelming myself by trying to bite off more than I swallow.

NaNoWriMo is coming up. I hope I’ll be ready for the 1600 words per day needed for that.

Bit by big, little by little. I’m getting there.

Till next week, keep writing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: “A Memory of Wind”

Short Stories, they say they are a dead medium, but I find them fascinating. Some days I don’t want to sit down and start a new novel, especially since most of the books I like to read are trilogies at minimum.
This story is about a girl named Iphigenia, set in the time of the war of Troy. She becomes the wind, and this story gives us background into how she becomes the wind.
It was a nice story. It has a lot of dream-like qualities to it. Her memories jump from one to the other and weave together a beautiful background to her life and her relationship to the one who will sacrifice her. My only complaint was the jumping around made it a little hard to latch on to the storyline in the beginning. Knowing more about the Greek myths and recognizing the people mentioned might have helped me get into the story sooner.
I wish I would have known more about Greek myths to know where she fits in. It leaves me with a thirst to seek out more writings set in those times.
Did I mention it is free on the Kindle? Go get it now!

Random Thoughts

It’s funny, I hit 20,000 words last week and started getting nervous that the book would end up being way longer than 100K. Now I’m 27K into it and I’m finding I’m actually around ¼ of the way done. I think my initial estimate of 120K words might ring true. I was thinking it might be more like 200K. 120K I can deal with and trim 10% bringing me down under that 110K word limit that a lot of publishers seem to like.

Course at this point I should not be worrying about word count. I should tell the story the way it needs to be told. Editing and trimming come later.

I find that for every scene I had outlined ( a very rough outline) I add two extra scenes. The one I’m working on now I’ve actually added five, owing to the need to get more backstory. The original scene had me jumping into a major action scene with very little backstory. I needed to add a bit of lead-up to it and a lull from the last action scene.

Such is writing. I can only imagine what my rough draft is going to look like once I’m actually done. Scary. I’ll worry about editing later. Currently the only editing I do is spelling. Unless it’s particularly egregious it waits until the end of my writing session.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book Review: “The Legend of Witch Bane”

“The Legend of Witch Bane by Kevis Hendrickson

I couldn’t finish this book. I really tried, as he had plenty of 5-star reviews on it, but I just couldn’t. Now I’m not an expert, just someone who enjoys reading and there are very few books that I refuse to finish or just give up in the middle.

What I had a hard time with:

I thought the kids were far too young. For what they got themselves into, I just couldn’t believe that a 10 year old would be as proficient as he was at 10. Even as a king’s son he wouldn’t have started training in combat till at least 7 or so, and I just don’t see him being as good as the master fighters in a few years of training.

How convenient. There were far too many times in the book where the kids found themselves captured or unable to complete a task, and the kids just “happened” to have what they needed on them to complete it. I think the worst example of that was when the kids needed to get across a lake, and the boat-master refused to let them across but wouldn’t tell them what sort of payment he wanted. One of the kids happened to notice he was wearing a necklace that was missing a gem, and wouldn’t you know it, they just happened to have that gem on them.

The fighting. The older two children constantly fought. There was no back-story detailing why they fought so much. I understand the oldest girl was a step-sister, but I really needed some more information to understand and empathize with their bickering.

More convenience. The kids would fight, but lose, with these massive wounds. On a 10 year old he would have been dead in minutes based on the description of the wounds he suffered. Then you wait the 10 minutes or so for the bad guys to leave (they never finished him off). The the sister would come and cry. Then finally a mysterious man shows up with herbs to cure the kid. So the kid’s been bleeding on the ground with massive wounds for at least half an hour and a total stranger shows up to heal him. Oh and the stranger used to be hunting them but had a change of heart. Right.

What I liked:

I like that the author is self-publishing these books on the Kindle. I think that is bold, and I hope he is able to make a tidy profit from them.

I liked the price, even though I couldn’t finish it, $2.99 for a book of that length was appropriate.

I like the scope of the fairytale he was trying to tell. Three young adventurers set off on an epic tale of adventure to save their kingdom and defeat the evil in the land. Epic idea, just poorly executed.

Looking back I wish I would have read the sample first rather that just buying the book outright. The believability ultimately is what did me in on this work. I just didn’t empathize with the characters, I didn’t believe the bad guy’s motivations, I didn’t believe how they managed to get through the day.

Normally if I can’t finish a book I give it a 1 star, but I’m giving the author one extra for the effort and the storyline. I don’t want to just give 1 star as I feel my review would just be ignored, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this book for reading unless you have little children who won’t mind all the plot holes and lack of substantiative characters.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

22,641 words so far.

Still keeping up with 15/500. Though I had a couple days where my 15 turned into an entire article online (like yesterday’s thoughts on copyright).

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What did I have to overcome this week?

I had to get over sitting down and writing a chapter I wasn’t ready to write. I’m about 4 solid weeks of daily writing into this novel. This week there wasn’t any day that I didn’t want to write, I’m still feeling the urge to write daily. What I had was anxiety over what I would write.

The way I’m writing, with a basic outline that I can modify (and do almost daily) through discovery writing, is working well for me. When I sit down to write I can choose any scene and start working on that one. Usually I finish off scenes that I love pretty quickly.

That leaves me with scenes I’m dreading. And I’m right in the middle of one right now. I don’t have a lot of ideas in my head for this particular chapter, so I’m struggling.

Once I sit down and spend about five minutes typing I find that I’m actually getting into the scene and I have plenty to talk about. It just goes back to the adage that writers should be writing. It’s amazing how easily the words start flowing once I get over the mental block of sitting down and starting.

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My advice for the week: Force yourself to sit down and start typing. Push through it no matter how much you dread it. The Words will Flow. Trust me on that.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Copyright and Brandon Sanderson

I just finished reading “Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson last night. Wonderful book, read my full review of it. As a writer, I came up with at least a dozen fabulous ideas while reading his book that I would love to act upon. 
Here are a few:
Re-do part of the story as a Manga book.
Novel detailing the Manywar and how the nations split after that.
Trilogy about how the gods started, or how the magic system came to be.
What if, 3000 years in the future, science caught up with magic. How would that play out? Airships powered by nuclear plasma that train colors behind them?
Sentient Lifeless. “Number 305 Came Alive!”
Fafen turns out to be a beatnick breakdancer, going on to win competitions, and helping her Idris citizens out of their slums. We’ll call it “Step Up: Monk Style” of “Save the last Breath”
One word: Steampunk
Two words: Paranormal romance. (With shiny, colorful, 8 foot tall were-bunnies. And Jacob.)
Three words: Soft core porno. (Bow chicka bow bow)
***
So there you have it, some great ideas. I’m sure there are some better, but what can I do about them?  Not much. I can write some fanfic, but I can’t make money off it. I could paint but, well, I can’t draw to save my life.
You can read Brandon’s Creative Common’s license text here. And before I launch into the meat of what I have to say, I have to again commend Brandon for releasing his work under the CC license. I think what he has done was bold, calculating, a little risky, and I hope it all pays off for him in the end.
That being said I wish more authors would release their works under different CC licenses that allowed for commercial gain.

Here’s my rationale:
Brandon publishes his book, containing a wonderful story, an imaginative and unique magic system, some lovable characters, and a whole world to explore.
I write something else, let’s say something opposite of his main genre of fantasy. Let’s say I put together the porno. I know, I know, but hear me out.
Brandon is LDS, and a fantasy author. I, producing said porno, could conceivably introduce Brandon’s world to a bunch of people that would not have been likely to see it. We all know how the soft-core LDS market is booming lately.
I put out the “movie”, making sure I attribute the ideas to Brandon, and introduce thousands more to his unique magic system. “Awakening” inanimate objects takes on a whole new meaning, but we won’t get into that.
Now under my ideal CC license, I start making money. On my website, I lavish praise upon Brandon for his wonderful system, encouraging people to go visit his website to find out where it came from. One bleary-eyed morning, Brandon gets his royalty statement from his agent and notices a large spike of “Warbreaker” sales shortly after the latest Adultcon.
He then throws caution to the wind, and pimps my um...creative work… to his audience. Some of them come to check it out, like it, and purchase it. I make money, he makes money. Everyone’s happy.
Now imagine if people kept doing this for the next 40 years. Every few years some artist discovers Brandon’s work (or mine), gets inspired, and does something. They paint murals, make movies, write sequels, star in off-broadway plays “Joseph, and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” could go off in an entirely new direction. All of these are attributed back to Brandon and pimped majorly by their respective inventors. Each time Brandon sees a surge in sales of his novel that people never knew about or had forgotten. He pimps back, everyone’s happy.
He retires comfortably on his own floating island above Provo, after reaching the Tenth Heightening.
Does my idea have holes? I’m sure it does, and I’d love to have them pointed out. But I think it has some merit. Not all IP would work well with this method. I think very unique systems that have never been thought of or produced before can benefit from this the most. Single artists that put their work out direct, or as direct to the public can benefit from this more. Well-flushed out magic systems might be the hurdle an author needs to get his first novel completed.
I think the main reason why this works over our current locked-down system with rights payment is innovation. If I have to pay to be able to use Brandon’s ideas in my work, I’m much less likely to even try. If I knew he wouldn’t come sue me, I’m much more likely to release my creativity and create something mutually beneficial to both of us.
Those are my thoughts, how bout yours?
And download and read Brandon's wonderful book: Warbreaker. It really is good!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Review: Warbreaker

"Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson
The story follows two sisters, Vivenna and Siri. Both royalty from one kingdom, who are thrust into another kingdom during a time of major political upheaval. They both have to struggle as their cultures, morals, and ideals are all twisted and turned inside out. They are forced to view their old kingdom and this new one in a different light from what they’d always been told, and decide what to believe, and who’s side they really are on and why. Through all this both girls grow and change in their new environments, realizing that not everything is as it seems and you can’t trust anyone!
Sanderson’s LDS (Mormon) upbringing really shines in this novel, particularly from the girl’s perspective and their obsession with maintaining modesty. He’s spoken of this before in his podcast “Writing Excuses” and it’s very understandable that ones religious views would make it into a novel like this.
 Because of that I have have to give kudos pushing the boundaries of his moral code in this novel. There were a few scenes that really made you think about how, despite how moral of a life you might lead, there are times when none of that matters, and survival, no matter how debasing it might be to yourself, is of utmost importance. While reading it I imagined Sanderson writing these parts and having a tough time with how he treated things. I think he did a wonderful job.
Some minor quibbles. I felt the character Jewels could have been fleshed out a little more. She played a minor role in explaining one aspect of the story, but I felt like she was thrown in just for that purpose. She has a story, I would have loved to hear more of it.
Their modesty obsession turned me off from the story quite a bit, but I don’t think most people would notice unless they understood (and didn’t care for) this aspect of the LDS religion. It felt unduly pushed in the first half of the book until the girls got over it. As much as it may have irritated me, I really liked how the girls got over their moral issues and dealt with actual issues at hand.
All in all this is a wonderful political fantasy novel. It took me a bit to get into it, as the magic system of colors and breaths is a little confusing at first, but eventually you get it enough that you can get into the storyline. Once I fully understood the system I really enjoyed it. I felt it was robust and imaginative.
This was the first Sanderson novel I’ve read and I will be definitely purchasing the rest of his novels if this is any indication of the quality and depth of his characters and story. I commend him on making this novel available online in pdf format for free (this is how I read it). 

Get with it J.K.!

According to http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ipad-kindle-reading.html it’s faster to read on the printed page. I’m not sure I believe it that much. Another website that speculated on this wondered if it was because page turns on the Kindle are slower than a book. I think that’s a bunch of crap, clearly someone’s never read a book and the Kindle back to back. Page turns are far more disruptive to the reading flow than hitting a button halfway through the last line on the e-ink screen. By the time my eyes make it back to the top of the screen, the page has been refreshed and I keep right on reading. At least this is my opinion, you know where to stick it.
I’d love to see more of the testing procedures. Were the people involved in the testing used to reading on e-ink displays? I’ll admit my first time it took me a good hour or so to get over the differences, but once I got into the book the Kindle too a back-seat to the reading experience.
Perhaps it was the source material as well. They read poetry as far as I could tell. I know I read slower when I read poetry. Not sure if that had something to do with it. They could be reading a full-page poem, formatted for that page in the printed book, but when formatted to the Kindle and sized to a comfortable reading font, you ended up having to skip pages in order to read the entire poem.
At any rate, I’m skeptical of the testing results, not that it matters to me. Novels of nearly any type I’d prefer to read in ebook format. There is something nice about carrying around 200 books in your backpack. Granted I still love printed books, and over half my reading is still in paper books, but a lot of that is because I’m catching up on series I never read from years ago that haven’t been published in e-book format yet. Harry Potter? Yeah, I’d totally re-read that in ebook format. Hell, I’d buy it just to have in ebook format. Get with it J.K. Rowling!

New look.

I'm getting a little tired of the black blog. I think it's time to come out of the (darkened) closet and make my blog a little easier to navigate.

Let me know what you think! Should I go back? Should I change the color scheme?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Status as a writer.

I know I haven’t updated this blog in a while, mostly with book reviews, but I’m going to take a few moments to bring my three readers up to speed with what I’m working on. 
First, an announcement:
I hit 20,000 words!
Yes, that’s quite an accomplishment, considering it only took me a year to write that much. To be fair this is my…fourth…book since I started up this blog last year. One has around 10,000 words written, another is languishing around 6000, and another I have about 21,000. 
“So Tom,” you say, “why is this an accomplishment when you’re still behind your other novel?”
“Well,” I’d say, “It’s because this one is working finally.”
After a full year of floundering, false starts, reading a crap-ton (that is a measurement) of books about writing, I finally have a process that seems to be working for me.
I’ve tried a lot too. I tried discovery writing, didn’t work. I tried outlining. Never made the outline. I followed some author’s recommendations, I tried to make stuff up as well. None of it seemed to work.
Today I finally have a process that seems, (so far) to work for me.I have a story arc that I’m very invested in, a world that I love and has a lot of options for me as an author, and I have a character I think I can really get behind.
Also, I don’t have to research New Hampshire college towns.  Trust me, not as fun as you think. And yes, that’s one of those up there that are on hold, possibly forever.
Most importantly, I’m writing. I’m writing daily. I’m writing daily, sometimes twice a day, I’m even finding myself wanting to sit down at the computer and write a little bit more before bedtime. Incidentally, I did that last night and that’s what finally got my over the 20,000 word mark.  
Strangely enough, writing seems to work for me, and I’m happy with that.