Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review, Part Two: Writing

How about that, a double post day...what is this, a flashback to my LiveJournal days?

2013, The Year In Review, Part 2: The Writing

I honestly believed in my heart of hearts that this was going to be the year that I got my deal. Obviously, it wasn't. But I'm not going to focus on that right now. Most of that is out of my hands now, so there's not much to carry on about. Anyway, let's talk about writing.

I felt like this was one of my worst years writing since I spent a good portion of time working on revisions and rewriting, so it was hard to do "word counts" for those things. And they look bloated because I may work on two chapters that only need light cleaning up in one night so it looks like I wrote 7,000 words and the next day I have a chapter that needs to be blown up and I only get 700.

I keep a writing log in Excel and I usually quit on it at some point (October this year) because I don't know exactly how to handle revisions/rewrites in my word counts.

Anyway, a review of what I wrote this year:
  • SISTERS OF KHODA, YA fantasy, 2nd rewrite (112k).
  • TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES, YA fantasy, plan, abandoned.
  • WINTER'S SORROW, Fantasy novella, 2 rewrites (31k).
  • TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES, YA scifi, 1st draft started, back burnered (~3.5 k done).
  • THE WRONG PATH, Fantasy short story, 1st draft. (3k).
  • THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JABLONSKY, YA contemp, 1st draft (~12k done).
  • WINTER'S DISCORD, YA fantasy, 9th rewrite (131k).
By my count, that's about 300k, give or take....maybe I was a little more productive than I thought. I think the last draft of DISCORD is damn good and I think the TOURNAMENT and LABORS have loads of potential. SISTERS does too. I have a really thorough beta reading it right now and she's already given me amazing notes for the first three chapters and how to fix them. I'm very excited.

As for 2014, what do I have planned? Well, I haven't gotten my official 2014 notebook, so I haven't written a formal plan, but as I see it, here's what I plan on doing:
  • Finish LABORS and TOURNAMENT drafts.
  • Rewrite SISTERS.
  • Plan the sequels and prequel novellas to DISCORD. Possibly draft one of the novels and the accompanying novella.
  • Plan and draft the follow-up to SISTERS, tentatively titled THE ROAD TO STANDISH. (Part of the YOUNG WEAPONMASTER series)
  • Work on a novelette or two based in the WEAPONMASTERS world.
  • Work on a short story or three.
  • Plan and write something that my daughter would enjoy.
  • Plan and write something that my nephew would enjoy.
I've written a ton on writing routines. Now it's time to stick to that routine.

Wish me luck.

2013 Review, Part One: Reading


If not for the birth of my son Cooper, I'd almost say this was a pretty crappy year. His birth actually makes up for a lot of the crappy things that happened this year.

Now, let me say, I don't generally like making blanket statements about something. (Like I just did.) But it wasn't a great year for me and I'm looking forward to 2014.

I'm going to avoid talking too much about school (2012-13 School Year: Meh, 2013-14: Worst Ever so far), personal issues (I'm really not destined to own nice things) or health (hip replacement was a miracle but tweaked back and stress have undone some of the progress I made from June 2012).

Let's focus on the things that this blog was supposed to be about: writing and reading.

Reading first.

I read 64 books this year. I intended to read 75, but such is life. I gave a "rest" to my WHEEL OF TIME read and will pick it up next year. I read a lot of graphic novels and limped my way through some good and mediocre novels. Here's my top five for the year of books released in the last 12-15 months (in no particular order):

  • Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole: Control Point, the first book of The Shadow Ops series made my list last year, so this was a natural. It's better than the first by far and it was my favorite treadmill read of the past summer. He ramps up the stakes while giving us a broader view of the world that he'd built. Myke is on the precipice of being one of the important voices of my generation of fantasy writers. Now, if I could just get him to appreciate team sports...
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: Lynch is a genius and Jean Tannen is one of my favorite characters in the modern fantasy canon. (Come on, a smart, strong fat guy that wears glasses? Yes, please.) Lynch juggles three different stories here and the flashback and the play they are performing are vastly more interesting than "A" story revolving around the elections, but THIEVES returns us to what makes Lamora and Tannen tick, a rollicking con with bigger repercussions than anything they've ever done. Lynch plants some nice seeds for the bigger series in this one and I can't wait for THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN.
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang: I am fascinated by idea of "Imperial America," in particular American foreign involvement and the conflicts created therein, so this book was a natural for me. And I loved it. Beautiful, vivid and an amazing tale that mixes history, legend and mythology while asking some pretty tough questions.
  • The Red Knight by Miles Cameron: A big sweeping epic with a huge cast of POVs focusing on the siege of a keep on the border of civilization and the Wild. Great characters, great plot and talk about painting a vivid picture with words!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: A loose retelling of the Cinderella myth (very, very loose) that is absolute genius. A rollicking fantasy adventure with hints at bigger repercussions for later books. Action, romance, love triangles, elder magic, tragic backstory (read the novellas), etc...it's like Sarah put all the tropes into a giant pot and made a damn near perfect pot of sauce. 
Honorable Mentions:
  • Bomb by Steven Sheinkin: A thrilling nonfiction account of the race to build the first atomic weapon.
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen: Hidden heirs and succession conspiracies. Feel like the 1st person POV hurt this book. Could've been a real Game of Thrones for teens if it were 3rd person close with multi POVs would've made this book top 5.
  • The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima: Good ending to a great series.
Top Older Books I Read:
  • Batman: The Killing Joke and Year One: Fantastic stories that I couldn't put down. Classics.
  • The Blind Side by Michael Lewis and Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissenger: Read quite a bit of nonfiction this last year in prep for the change over to the Common Core and these two stuck out as brilliant.

Biggest Disappointments:  
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes: Billed as GAME OF THRONES for teens, it reads like a bad pastiche by someone that just read the Wikipedia entry on Game of Thrones and decided the most compelling thing about GOT was the incest part. It was just bad and it made me sad as someone that wrote a YA GAME OF THRONES type book.
  • The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy: What could have been a fun, rollicking adventure story about the Princes in your favorite fairy tales got caught up in it's own gimmick (a real problem in YA and MG right now). Healy plays with every trope all wrong and it comes across mean and not fun or silly at all.
  • Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes: I was really disappointed that I was so disappointed with this one. Sam is one of the coolest guys out there right now, but UNDERGATES was a big let down. I understand the appeal and there are some flashes of "what could've been" in it, but overall it didn't live up to the hype for me. 
  • Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar: Gratuitous, pointless and over the top for the sake of being over the top. It had none of the weight or point of the first one.
Books I'm looking forward to in 2014: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Dare Me by Eric Devine, Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison, Landry Park by Bethany Hagen, Frostborn by Lou Anders, Breach Zone by Myke Cole, The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron, The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen, The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

So, there's my 2013 in reading.  I'm aiming for 75 books in 2014 again. I think I can do it.

Writing post will be up a little later on.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nose Meet Grindstone

It's hard to believe that it has been almost 3 months since the last time I wrote a blog entry. It has been one of the busiest, most frustrating starts to the school year in my career and anything beyond that realm has been pushed to a back burner. There are plenty of days where I feel like I am holding on by the tips of my fingers. And when you consider that my son's sleeping habits have changed and we're not exactly getting great sleep at the Zeleznik Compound, it's a miracle I've gotten anything done that doesn't involve planning, grading, the Common Core or APPR! But I have, somehow, managed to get some things done. A major rewrite, some new words that have been impeded by the loss of Verdell (my home computer) for a little while and some advance thinking about what I'm going to work on down the line. Unfortunately, with that comes sacrifice, meaning I haven't been blogging as frequently as I would have liked. There's something about today that makes me feel like I needed to get something on to the blog. Could have something to do with tomorrow being the anniversary of my hip surgery, it could be the holidays or it could just be I want to occupy myself in a moment of thought where I'm going to act like a little baby.

I'm entrenched in this contemporary YA that I'm writing, but it's proving to be harder than I thought, especially considering I did a major rewrite of one of my fantasy books then tried to dive back into the contemp. It's not that easy and I sort of struggled getting back into the "head" of the narrator of the contemp. It's 1st person, so it's very, very different from what I'm used to writing and I have to sort of get into the mindset. Not having a computer over Thanksgiving break killed all and nay productivity...it's very difficult to write in a notebook while keeping an eye on a mobile 9 month old. Now that Verdell is up and running, I'm going to give a real run at hammering out the contemp as quickly as possible. I think it's a good story, I just need some good old fashioned butt-in-seat time. Hopefully, two weeks of Christmas break will help!

I need new words right now. I need them because I've been sort of in rewrite purgatory for the entire year...I took a break for the novella but still, I'm stuck in my own old words and I need some fresh blood in my writing because I'm looking down the barrel of some more rewriting, though it won't be as much as a rewrite as a straight up murder.

Between the rewrite and novella, I'm realizing that I need to pretty much write the second book of my SEASONS series from scratch, so I've got some planning to do. I realized that the pacing of SPRING is all wrong and I need to pretty much blow it up and rebuild. Sigh. Hashtag writer problems.

The plan, as I see it, is to spend a few days catching up on the school work I'm behind on (and there's always a truckload of that) and then sit down and do a real writing plan then get to writing.