Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 In Review: Reading and Writing

Here we are, the end of December 2014. Feels like it was just yesterday we were at the End of December 2013. Now we're moving into 2015. The midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century. Let's look at what happened.

WRITING: I don't have much to say about my writing. I wrote a lot. In bits and pieces. Really, this year could have been called the "Year of the Back Burner." Here's a review:

  • WINTER'S DISCORD, YA fantasy, 10th rewrite (131k)
  • THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JOBLONSKY, YA contemporary (38K), set aside for a rewrite.
  • SISTERS OF KHODA, YA fantasy, 3rd rewrite (87k written, ~25k left to write). Project backburnered to rethink about what I intend to do with it.
  • Various short works that will lead to bigger projects including a horror idea for kids about a baby monster. (~5k)
  • SPRING'S TEMPEST, YA fantasy, sequel to WINTER, 3rd rewrite (132k).
Based on this, puts me at about 393k for the year. A little more than last year, even though it doesn't seem like it. 

For 2015? Here's what I'm thinking in the immediacy:
  • Finish first draft of LABORS.
  • Complete a super detailed outline of the NEW SUMMER'S GLORY (SACRIFICE?), the last book in the SEASONS series.
  • Write my short (story/novelette) THE OFFICIAL VISIT.
  • Finish SISTERS OF KHODA.
  • Finish FRESH TRACKS.
  • Write some shorter works.
READING: Read 63 books by my count last year. My top five were hard to pick, but here goes:
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith: A book about the monster apocalypse loaded with the realism of being a teenager. Probably my favorite read of the year.  
  • The Riverman by Aaron Starmer: A mythic story combined with the fear of a child's abduction through the eyes of a child. Just brilliant. 
  • The Winner's Curse by Maria Rutkoski: One of the best YA attempts are writing something "Game of Thrones-esque." Brilliant worldbuilding and story.
  • Dare Me by Eric Devine: The tragic tale of male bravado, the dangers of the anonymity of the Internet and the seductive power of easy money. Brilliant and believable. 
  • Frostborn by Lou Anders: This was a tough call. I read Frostborn and Half A King back to back and they were both brilliant, but Lou Anders's debut wins out because it was more "fun" than Once A King. 
Honorable Mentions: Half A King by Joe Abercrombie. Andre The Giant by Box Brown. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Shield and Crocus by Michael Underwood. Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

No major disappointments this year.

As for 2015...what am I looking forward to?

I'm going to trying picking up Wheel of Time again. I'm going to read the third Sarah J Mass book, The Throne of Fire. As for the rest, I'm going to wing it. I'm aiming for 75 books this year again...however Wheel of Time may hinder that.

Happy New Year everyone! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Legend of Susie Snowflake

I love Christmas.

There, I said it. Feels good.

It's my favorite holiday by far. And not for the reasons you think.

I love the presents. When I was younger I used to get so excited about Christmas when I was younger I would make myself throw up. Seriously. Ask my mom.

And it's because of my mother that I'm writing up this blog post instead of writing or finalizing tomorrow's lesson plans. I felt it was necessary to tell you all the Legend of Susie Snowflake. Like, all legends, there is some nugget of truth but the nugget of truth that my mother is basing her legend upon is in fact a lie. I've decided to tell this legend because it needs to be told properly because my mother isn't telling it right to the world and I've had enough. So thus begins the Legend of Suzy Snowflake.

I was born in Astoria, Queens, New York and lived there for most of my early life. I don't have much of a recollection of having lived there except in tiny flashes here and there. Most of those have more to do with the massive amount of time I spent with my grandparents there than when I actually lived there. My parents were blue collar, working class kinds of people, so we didn't have a lot of money, not that I noticed because I was treated like a prince. I was fortunate enough to go to a very exclusive, private Catholic preschool. I was able to attend because my best friend was the pastor's son and they found a way to keep me at the school. I have vague memories of that school. I remember a water table in the classroom. I remember the pastor's son being named Trevor. I remember a little Mexican boy named Marcello. I don't remember the name of the school, though. I'm sure I could ask my mother, but quite frankly I'm kind of hold a grudge about this Susie Snowflake thing.

As a Catholic school, Christmas is a big deal and like most private (and probably public considering this was the late 1970s and political correctness be damned) there was a Christmas pageant. Each class was assigned a song to perform. Now I don't know who was responsible for choosing the songs each class sang, whether it was the teacher or the pastor or the music teacher or whoever is lost to time. Our class's song was "Suzy Snowflake." A cheesy song that had nothing to do with the holiday. Quite frankly, we should've been doing a more religious song, but that wasn't for the little pre-K me to decide. To help you out, here's a YouTube video of said song:



As part of our performance, we were required to dress as Suzy Snowflake herself. The horror. I would love for this to have been for something more symbolic or metaphoric than it was. Being terrified at the prospect of the infinitesimally finite life of the average snowflake or the sheer creepiness of a winter themed creature tapping on a child's window being a nightmare for any child would fit my profile. But nope that's not it.

The five year old me was horrified. Terrified. Mortified. They wanted me...a little boy...to dress as a GIRL snowflake. This was the grandest of injustices. In my five year old mind, "playing" Suzy Snowflake was unacceptable. Don't judge me. Obviously 36 years later, I'm slightly more enlightened than I was then but this was perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to me as a five year old boy. I did what any child would do when faced with having to do something that scared them. I pitched a fit.

I obviously don't have any memory of said fit though I have been led to believe that it was epic. It went everywhere: the classroom, the hall, the street, my bedroom, the living room, the foyer...you get the picture. There were phone calls home, concerned discussions between adults and I'm sure dinner table conversations of my classmates. The Zeleznik boy flipped his lid about being a girl snowflake. It sounds so ludicrous now, but it obviously left an indelible mark that I'm writing this now. I'd write some pieced together extrapolation of what I imagine the fit was like, but, unlike my mother, I don't want to further perpetuate the falsities that my mother gleefully (and, quite frankly, delusionally) has via social network for years.

A compromise was reached in time for the Christmas pageant by the adults in my life at the time. One that was acceptable to all parties and one that is the crux of the argument/grudge I presently have with my mother each and every year at Christmas time. I was moved all the way up to the first grade to be a Silver Bell. A vast improvement. A precious metal. A musical instrument. And, quite frankly, a better song. I mean take a listen:



Now for some reason (probably her advancing years), my mother is perpetually under the impression that I was Suzy Snowflake, as if she weren't there and integral into my metamorphosis from a female snowflake to a silver bell.

But to clarify: I was never Suzy Snowflake. I was a Silver Bell.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Quite So Daring

The other night, as I was working on a rewrite of something, I started writing a chapter from the POV of a particular character. He is a new POV for the book but not for the series. He's kind of my Jaime Lannister. Anyway, I established some things about him in previous books and started putting them on their head in this book. Then I came to the chapter I'm working on now. It's a pivotal chapter in a pivotal section. I'm sort of hastening the book a bit and moving things a little faster in this draft. And it's working. But I came to this chapter and it opens with said character in bed with someone else. And in that moment, I stopped writing because I had a thought. I was going to make the person in bed with him another male character. I didn't write another word the rest of the night.

The thing that bothered me was my reaction. Why was I suddenly squeamish about this? He's just another character, why am I struggling with this sudden inspiration to make him gay? Was I afraid to write a gay character because I'm a heterosexual male? Was I just trying to wedge in a gay character because I wanted to force some diversity into a story I felt that had very little? I didn't know what the answer was and it freaked me out a bit. All I knew was that it made me stop writing for the night. The simple words: "...[redacted] stretched and rose from the mess of a bed, trying not to rouse the sleeping form next to him." had ground me to a complete and total stop as I contemplated making this change to the character.

It didn't fundamentally change the character at all. He's still this smarmy, obnoxious jerk but now there was something that made him stand out a bit. It actually made him more interesting to write and may have added some depth to my story and world. But yet, I could not do it because, the more I thought about it, it did change the character in a fundamental change to the character. In the end, I decided not to change the character. I had laid a foundation in the plot of who that person in the bed with him is and it makes more sense for the story for the character to be the female character I intended it to be. However, looking back, I had a perfect opportunity to introduce a gay couple to the story in a meaningful way that actually works for the two characters.

I'm still a little bothered by this, though. I'm still questioning the why and I'm not sure I like the answer. I like to think of myself as daring, especially in my thinking and my writing, but I guess I'm not.