Monday, January 31, 2011

A Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: 372

Quality Rating: 8
Content Rating: PG-13

I don't usually read romance novels, YA or otherwise, but Anna and the French Kiss is about an Atlantan in Paris. As an Atlantan who spent a semester in France, I couldn't really resist--and I'm glad I didn't. This debut novel was addicting. I simply couldn't put it down. I fell in love with Etienne St. Clair, though honestly who wouldn't. Minus his one huge flaw (he has a girlfriend--which is revealed at the very beginning so not giving anything away here), he's too perfect. I mean the boy is a British French American. He's handsome with a British accent and a bright future. What teenage girl wouldn't want that? The big flaw helps make St. Clair a little more realistic. Without it, I probably would have not enjoyed the book as much, for no one should be perfect. Anna, our MC, also isn't perfect. Through the book she does more than crush on St. Clair. She explores Paris, has problems with her parents, her brother, her best friend. She learns and grows. In the end she is a different person from the beginning--regardless of whether any romance happens with St. Clair. And really that's what I look for in a romance. That our MC at the end isn't some sappy, ready to kill herself Juliet, but is instead a strong woman--strong with or without the guy.

Honestly, it's been a very long time since I enjoyed a romance book this much, YA or otherwise. And I highly recommend it.

This book gets a PG-13 rating for some intense romance. Definitely not a middle school book. However, there is no sex, for parents who might be concerned about that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Book Review: Side Jobs

Title: Side Jobs
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 418

Quality Rating: 9
Content Rating: R

Read First: The Dresden Files (all of them, starting with Storm Front)

The Dresden Files is a series of books that fell in the blackhole of last year, meaning when I read a ton of books and didn't write reviews for any of them. Side Jobs is actually a book of short stories about Harry Dresden (the main character). I don't usually write book reviews for anthologies I read, but I thought this would be the exception. Really instead of writing a book review of side jobs, I'm writing a book review for the entire Dresden Files series.

So how do I sum up the Dresden Files? Intense. Uber intense. Harry Dresden is a PI in Chicago, a PI who also happens to be a wizard (and advertises that he is). What starts out as a series about Harry's random and unrelated cases escalates into an all out war between the wizards and well...another group (I don't want to give it away).

The Dresden Files is almost non-stop action. Seriously. It's to the point where I get stressed out reading the books. When Harry finally gets a break to talk to Michael or Thomas, I feel like I'm getting a break. When Harry is winded, I feel winded. It's extremely intense.

Vampires actually do play a major role in The Dresden Files (this will be to the surprise of my friends, who know I despise vampires). However, I can deal with them for the most part, since they're more like Dracula (as in evil and not sparkly--with the exception of Thomas, who almost convinces me that sexy, good vampires can exist. Almost.)

So if you want a series of high action, mystery, intense emotions, betrayals, conspiracies, mind control, monsters, love (romantic, parental, platonic, and brotherly), and secrets, then I recommend The Dresden Files.

As for the content rating, I have to go to R because of the intense and realistic violence. We're not just talking about swords. We're talking about guns. Bazookas. And the occasional clove of garlic. The Dresden Files also has demons--like of the Biblical sort, which earns it R points because demons really just freak me out. It also has some pretty intense sexual scenes. Not a lot, (as Dresden himself occasionally laments) but enough that I would not recommend it for our younger readers. However, I definitely recommend it for the older ones. That is, if you can stomach three different types of vampire.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Main Characters

In recent posting we've been discussing the beginning evolution of a story, or how a story springs into mind and develops. We've talked about the chaotic inception that happens in my mind, we've talked about the needed formula, and we've talked about world building. That leaves two other aspects of our formula: characters and conflict. Furthermore, I feel its important to divide characters up into three more categories: main characters, villains, and secondary characters. In this post, we'll focus on main characters.

Most of the time, a main character is the first thing I think of after the initial Question. Sometimes its just an image of the main character doing something. Sometimes its a comment that the main character will make. And sometimes its an action. With Spirit Riddled and Jess it was definitely an action. But the funny thing was Jess wasn't inspired by an action that actually happens in Spirit Riddled. The first thing I imagined the character that would be Jess doing actually takes place much later, in a sequel.

I created the story of Spirit Riddled during one of the most interesting summers of my life. I was in Toulouse, France living with a French family. Every day was an adventure. Around every corner was something exciting and inspiring. But Jess wasn't inspired by my magical surroundings. She was inspired by my older sister, back home, who decided she was going to contact her biological father.

Now a bit of backstory. I have three siblings; I am Three of Four*. My older siblings have a different biological father from me, but two years before I was born, my dad adopted them. I didn't know any of this until I was in eighth grade. Up to that point, I thought we all had the same parents. When I learned about it, it didn't change anything for me. But when I was a senior in high school my brother decided he wanted to contact this man who voluntarily gave him up. Two years later, my older sister did the same.

I was mad. Really really really mad, when my older sister did this. She had spent the past two years saying my brother was stupid, that he was breaking up our family, and then she went in did the same. I didn't understand. I still don't understand. All I could think was why would you want to find a man who gave you up? I was born to my father, and that's awesome. He loves me, and I love him. But my siblings? My father CHOSE them. He didn't have to have them. He didn't have to love him. There was no biological imperative and he loves them anyway. They've treated him like crap in the past couple of years, and he loves them anyway unconditionally. And he chose it. How beautiful is that? How awesome is that? And wouldn't it be nice for once if someone was actually freaking grateful for that?

And thus was born Jess. I pictured this action, this choice she would have at some point. At some point the man who took her in (Mage, who we've discussed before) is going to ask "I chose you. Can't that be enough?" And instead of crying that no it isn't enough, or instead of running back to the man who abandoned her Jess is simply going to say "Yes."

Aha! Did you catch that? Jess wasn't just invented there. So was Mage. The two were invented together. Weird. It sometimes just happens like that. But Jess and Mage are an inseparable duo in my mind and in the story (well...until Jess grows up and marries---never mind. No spoilers. :)

Anyway, when Jess was created, Mage was created simultaneously, and the two were created to compliment and strengthen each other. And in turn their creation helped create their world, since Jess and Mage are the two "demon-possessed" we are following. The villains (or really antagonists) were created in reaction to Jess and Mage to create conflict, and the villains definitely shape the world as we will see in the next post

*Yes, that is my Borg designation. Yes, my mind really does think like that. And yes, my mom is a Trekkie so its kind of appropriate.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Book Review: Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time Book #13)

Title: Towers of Midnight
Author: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy ( the definition of epic)
Length: 843

Quality Rating: 9
Content Rating: PG-13

Read First: The entire Wheel of Time, starting with The Eye of the World and ending with The Gathering Storm

This is another book I read a while back but completely forgot to review, like Mockingjay; however, unlike Mockingjay this isn't because Towers of Midnight wasn't awesome. The Towers of Midnight was 100% awesome. My only critique was I got a little confused about the timelines. Rand's storyline is taking place at a very very different time from Perrin's, which I could tell because Tam al'Thor was in both...when he couldn't be. This made me confused as to when Mat's storyline was taking place. I'm not really sure I got closure on that front at all. However, there was lots of closure on other parts of the book. Can I just say I totally called it about Galad (not saying what--no spoilers) and that I KNOW WHO KILLED ASMODEAN. Though that last bit was totally a let down. I didn't even realize it was revealed until someone later posted about it on Brandon Sanderson's facebook page. (Yes, I'm a Brandon Sanderson stalker. Don't judge me. lol) However, it's totally in the Glossary--for those of you who want to sneak a peak. Anyway, back on topic. Brandon Sanderson has once again fulfilled all of my Wheel of Time dreams. I have great hopes for A Memory of Light and can't wait!

Like all of Wheel of Time books, this one gets a PG-13 rating for fantasy violence. I started reading Wheel of Time at 11, and it didn't scar me for life at all, so I recommend it for readers from middle school all the way up. For realz. My parents and I both read this series and have bonded over it a lot in the past decade. And in case you can't tell, I "heart" the Wheel of Time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World Building

Yes, finally, the long awaited post on World Building. I hope you aren't highly anticipating it, because I'm not sure it can live up to that sort of expectation.

So World Building...what is it? It's basically creating your setting. In the fantasy genre, this is literally building a new world. However, even literary and contemporary stories have a setting. The setting includes things like the local school, nearby stores, businesses, etc. However, I mainly write fantasy, so we'll focus on the fantasy genre world building.

So using the example of Spirit Riddled, how did I create the world? Well the world was hidden in the question: "What if people with magic were viewed as demon possessed, sort of like the Salem Witch Trials, rather than seen as a higher class in society?" The core of the society is in that question: a society that views people with magic as demon possessed. This brings up several other aspects of the world. In order to have demons, the world must have some sort of religion. So now we need a religion and a clergy that push this belief that magic is evil. So what happens to these demon possessed people? Do we just decapitate them immediately? Hmm...well that would not be much of a story (see we're thinking about Conflict and Plot here as we world build), so we need a religion that does not want you to directly kill these evil demons (unlike the Salem Witch Trials). But they still need some sort of trial. Some way to purify abandoning them and leaving them to their Creator's will. So where do these abandoned go? Well now we need to create some sort of undersociety, thieves, murderers, criminals. Where we have criminals we need people to fight them--like a guard or police. To have a guard or police we need a government.

See how this works? Think about one aspect of society leads to another. Everything is related to create a society where people with magic are evil.

The question doesn't always lead to a world, as is the case with my new story about Joshua. However, sometimes I just get a really good idea for a world. In this case, in the back of my mind had been sitting a world without any characters, without any plot. A world Joshua became perfect for.

I don't want to give away the details of the world, but there are a couple of points to be kept in mind when creating a fantasy world.

  1. You don't want it to be cliche. Most fantasy worlds take place in a medieval environment. Change it up a bit. Think about other time periods.
  2. Technology, technology, technology. Make sure its consistent. You can change the way technology develops--allowing certain things to develop before others. But you need to think about it. You don't need to be a technology expert, but just remember: you don't get interchangeable parts from blacksmiths.
  3. Location. How do you make your fantasy world not cliche? Maybe you shouldn't place it in the equivalent of England. Where do you live? Maybe your fantasy world should take place in the fantasy equivalent of Colorado. For a unique fantasy environment, I recommend Brent Week's Night Angel Trilogy. It's certainly not in England anymore.
  4. Clothing. Seriously. Clothing should not be overlooked. This can help make your world unique. Maybe it does take place in England, but in an England with an Indian culture. So you're people are wearing saris or dhoti.
  5. Government. There are many types of government in the world, and you're not even limited to what actually works in our world. Take two governments and mush them together. Be creative. Look at ancient governments like Republican Rome, Greece, Carthage, China, Egypt, and even Biblical governments.
  6. Religion. You can't really ignore it. All societies on Earth created some sort of religion. It doesn't have to be central to your story, but religion affects the way your characters think and behave. Even if your characters don't believe the religion, the fact they live in a society with that religion in it, will affect them. Fantasy writers can't really get away with ignoring religion. If you want to ignore it, write SF.
  7. Culture. How do men treat women? Are they equal? Different? Does your society have distinct classes? Or is everyone equal? How do they treat their elders? Their children? This can and will tie into both religion and government. Everything is connected and that's the way it should be.
Really this is all to say you should just think about your setting, your world, your society.

Take the time. Make a story bible. Think about it. And make your world unique.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Book Review: Mockingjay

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Dystopian (YA)
Length: 398

Quality Rating: 8
Content Rating: PG-13

Read First: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire *

When I was pulling books out of my shelf to write all the reviews I've meant to write since Christmas, I realized I had not written a review of Mockingjay, despite the fact it is the finale of The Hunger Games series, the conclusion to the only book I've ever given a Perfect 10 on this blog. How could I forgot this book? How could I have overlooked it? Well there are two very good reasons for that.
  1. School started, and when school starts all other aspects of my life suffer.
  2. It wasn't amazing.
Not amazing? You might be incredulous at that. How can the finale of The Hunger Games be not amazing? Well, part of it was that The Hunger Games (book one, not the series) was amazing. Nothing could really live up to that. It's sort of like comparing A Wind in the Door to A Wrinkle in Time. A Wind in the Door is good, but after A Wrinkle in Time, it just seems less. However, it was more than just comparing it to a legend that made this finale seem less. The Hunger Games was a very focused book. It was about Katniss and her experience. And that worked. It was amazing. However, since all these books are in first person, it is still just about Katniss in the finale. But somehow it didn't feel like Katniss's perspective could cover the true depth of what was happening. At times, I felt confused. I wasn't sure what was happening, and didn't realize a character had died until pages later. The ending was beautiful and poignant, but somehow this finale was a disappointment. I want finales to be better than the first book. A series should build up to the climax of that last book, in a Battle of Hogwarts scale of epic-ness. Instead sometimes the last book doesn't hit the mark, and a final book can make or break the series. I won't say Mockingjay broke the series and will still highly recommend these books to everyone. However, after The Hunger Games, it was a little disappointing.
Mockingjay gets the same PG-13 rating as the rest of the series for lots and lots of violence. If you could handle the first two books, you can handle this one. Though be prepared for deaths that mean something to you. I'm not just talking random kids in the arena. We're talking Fred Weasley type deaths. People you care about. (But clearly not Fred Weasley, as he died way before the events of The Hunger Games.)

*So I realized that I should include this "Read First" section in my reviews, because it might be hard to tell sometimes when a book isn't the first book in a series. I don't want someone to accidentally pick up Mockingjay and be incredibly confused because they didn't read The Hunger Games. So in future book reviews, I'll include this section that lists the books that should be read before the book we're reviewing. And I'll list them in the order they should be read. I'll also link it to previous reviews. Hopefully this will minimize confusion.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Not Today

Ok, ok. I lied. No post on World Building today. Instead of crafting a post I got lost in North Druid Hills, returned a rental car to the airport, went to class, and got groceries. This is what happens when you've been gone for a week, your roommate's car breaks down, and you have to return a minivan.

But next week you will get posts. I promise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tomorrow and the Next Week

So I literally just got back from Albuquerque, NM and wasn't able to post in advance today like I did on Tuesday. Therefore, my planned post on World Building will be put up tomorrow instead of today.

In addition, I read a ton of books on my trip, which means a lot of Book Reviews. But I don't want to flood you with a million Book Reviews in one day. So I'm going to spread them out. Basically this means you'll have one post every weekday until I run out of book reviews. Tuesday/Thursday will be our regular posts and MWF will be Book Reviews, until I run out.

Alright, that's all I have to say tonight. See you tomorrow with a post on World Building.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Story Idea

In my last post, we talked about the very beginnings of an idea and how it begins to develop. Usually I get the spark by asking myself a question, but a question is not enough to make an idea for a novel, not even a short middle grade one. So how does it go from question to idea? Well, you saw the jumpiness of my mind in the last post, how I was suddenly creating things, but I'm an engineer so let's make a formula. First I'll define the variables:

The Question: the spark of the idea
Example: For Spirit Riddled the question was "What if people in magic were viewed as demon possessed, sort of like the Salem Witch Trials, rather than seen as a higher class in society (as is often the case in fantasy)?"

The Character(s): the people who will act in a story to help me explore this question
Example: A society that views magic as evil gives us Jess, a girl who is abandoned by her parents because of her abilities. However, it also gives us Mage--the man who has used his abilities and the fear others have of him as a bargaining chip to rise in society.

The Setting: where the story takes place, the setting that creates such a question
Example: We need a SOCIETY that views magic as evil. Bam. That's the setting right there. Magic means its a fantasy type society. But if a society hates magic, how will that work--how will they keep magic down? Perhaps the priesthood would do it....this leads us into World Building, which is a post for another day, but it also brings us back to The Character(s) because now I need a High Priest who will work against Jess and Mage.

The Conflict: the action/driving element that explores The Question, The Character(s), and The Setting simultaneously. Characters can be in conflict with each other and the Setting. So in Spirit Riddled, Jess is in conflict with the High Priest, Thief King, Mage, herself, but also at conflict with the Setting--her society.

So a Question leads to Characters, Setting, and Conflict and...

Character + Setting + Conflict = A Story!

Look forward to more exploration of our "variables" in future posts.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Inception (Not the Movie)

So I just thought of a new idea for a novel at the beginning of this week, and I thought this would be a good chance to take my readers through the process of creation that happens in my mind. For those of you who are writers, it'll just be a curious glimpse into another writer's process. For those of you who aren't writers, it will help you to understand the chaos of my mind.

In my novel Spirit Riddled, which I will very soon be furiously revising, a girl is taken off the streets by a mysterious man who most of the world thinks is evil--but he's not. At the beginning, the main character doesn't know if the mysterious man is evil or not. One of my critiquers commented "I really hope [mysterious man] is evil and in the end [main character] has to kill him."

My response was "No. No. No. No. No. Never in a million years would that happen in Spirit Riddled. That's a completely different story." And then I never thought about that comment again until this week.

Sometimes my mind does curious things. I was sitting in my lab, messing with the star tracker, when the comment popped back in my mind. And you know what, it is a different story. A kid gets taken in by someone he thinks is good but who turns out to be bad. Sure, a stereotypical twist maybe, but its just the beginning of an idea. Its the initial thought that can spring into a 50,000 word novel.

I immediately assumed this story would be Middle Grade, like Spirit Riddled, though I had recently been working on a lot of adult stuff. I really do enjoy writing Middle Grade and I really wanted to write this story from a boy's perspective. I suppose I could have done YA and made my MC (main character) 15 years old, but every YA I've started to write has given me tons of trouble. YA just has themes and issues that I don't really like to deal with. Middle grade, however, is perfect. Then my themes can be family and familial betrayal, something I know a surprisingly lot about.

As soon as I decided the MC would be a boy, the name Joshua almost immediately popped into my head. I think it was because V started up again, and Joshua is the name of the doctor alien who was part of the 5th column. I really like the name Joshua, but its one I haven't used before, and I refuse, as a matter of rule, to reuse names I've used in past stories. Once a name is associated with a character, its retired.

I needed Joshua to be dumped by his parents somehow early on, in order for him to be taken in (both literally and figuratively) by someone new. But I didn't want to have him actually abandoned, since that's Spirit Riddled's thing. My next thought was dead parents--dying in some sort of tragic accident. And instead of a stranger taking him in it would be his estranged uncle. And to add to Joshua's internal conflict, I decided his mother would have died long ago, leaving him with a father who is still mourning her death. His father wastes away their money trying to forget the mom, and the family is in poverty. Poverty is really all Joshua has ever known. When Uncle comes for him, Uncle is rich.

Hmmm....too like Spirit Riddled. Uncle isn't just rich. Uncle is part of an elite ruling class of their society. In a society that has a chasm-like split. There is the rich wealthy fabulous ruling class, and the impoverished everyone else. Two classes in one nation, and the two classes have completely different cultures and ways of life. So it's not just that Joshua goes from poor to rich. He goes from one culture and society to another. Suddenly, I'm world building.

And world building is a post for another day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Treacherous Walk

I drive my car the entire 1.6 miles to work every day for a very good reason. Living in the border between midtown and downtown Atlanta isn't exactly safe. However, recently, the an apocalypse of snow and ice has hit Atlanta. Georgia Tech has been closed for two days. TWO DAYS.

In all my 5.5 years at Georgia Tech it has never closed. Not for tornado warnings, snow, ice, or anything. But we have gotten 4 to 5 inches of snow covered in a nice thick layer of ice. Georgia Tech is closed.

However, if you read last Thursday's post, you know that my research team is crazily trying to finish building a satellite which means shortly after I learned Georgia Tech was closed on Monday I got an email from my project manager that said, "You WILL be coming in to work tomorrow."

Of course. Let me just drive my little car up the icy, hilly streets and...yeah that's not going to happen.

So instead I pulled out my boots, my scarf, my hat, my long john's, my turtleneck, my sweater, and my jackets and bundled up like that kid in a Christmas story. I then walked the entire 1.6 miles in the snow with no problems.

That was yesterday. Today was a little different because you see while yesterday I walked to work in snow, today I walked to work in ice.

There were literally parts of my walk where I was sliding down the sidewalk, praying that I wouldn't fall and break something, and using a nearby building to balance.

I watched a car spin out and nearly take out a few other pedestrians.

I was then walking by a church when I heard a strange sound. I looked around in alarm, fearing that a car was careening towards me when suddenly I was being pelted by icy, hard snow. Snow was falling off the roof of the church and on to me.

Once I finally got to the AE building, I couldn't actually get to the first door I tried to access, because the door is on a slight incline that was covered in ice.

Man, I hate the snow.

But it did give me a lot of perspective and great ideas for a new story I'm writing. (I know, I know, I'm always writing a new story. Doesn't help my New Years Goals). Snow isn't something I have a lot of experience in. Atlanta, GA is the furthest north I've ever lived. My life was spent everywhere from Hawaii to Florida, but no where that has snow regularly. And my new world I've created is a cold one. It can't help it. That's just the way the orbital mechanics of the world is.

I now know what it feels like to have snow crunch under my feet (walking in thick snow is kind of like walking in sand, which I have a lot of experience with). I now know the dangers of snow falling off roofs. I now know how terrifying having no control on your footing because of ice can be.

Yes, lots of good ideas came from my rather treacherous walk this morning. Hopefully I'll get even more ideas on my way back...and less bruises.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


School did not start this week, yet I've spend everyday chained to my desk working diligently. Though I have no homework, I have something even more important: a research deadline.

My research involves designing (and fabricating when necessary) the attitude determination and control system for a student made satellite. This satellite is being built as part of the University Nanosat Program, which is basically a student satellite competition. That competition final (called Flight Competition Review or FCR) is on January 17th.

In case you've never been around a bunch of engineering grad students preparing for a major deadline, I can sum it up for you in two words: chaos and panic. We might seem calm. We might just be sitting on our desks working on one of the three posters we have to have, but our minds our reeling as we try to fathom everything we have to get done in the week we have left.

It's true that January 17th is more than a week away, but as of today we only have a week left. Because we have to drive to Albuquerque, where the FCR is. Why aren't we flying? Well....let's just say that none of us trust a satellite to be put under an airplane. That and the torque rods aren't allowed to fly until actual time for space flight, because time in the air can mess with the annealing we had done.

Albuquerque is really really far away from Georgia Tech. According to Google maps, the trip is going to take us about 23 hours, or 11.5 hours a day. That's not including meals, getting gas, and other rest stops.

So while we're preparing for the chaos and insanity that is FCR, we also have to prepare a roadtrip. Next Thursday is solely dedicated to packing the satellite.

For me preparation also requires one other thing. Books. Lots and lots of books.

I've done a lot of roadtrips with my family (roadtrips, moving, tomato, tomahto), and the best way for me to get through them is to read. However, I also read really really fast. So it's necessary that I get a couple of books. What's on my list for the total 46 hours (if you count both ways) I'm going to be in the car?

  1. XVI by Julia Karr: If you like YA dystopian books, you should be following the League of Extraordinary Writers. If you like to write books, you should be following the League. In general, you should probably be reading the League. Julia Karr is the first of the League to get published this year. I've been dying to read this book since I first heard about it, and the temptation to read this book before my road trip has been overwhelming. I will not give in! But it will be the first book I read on my trip.
  2. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner: This is the sequel to Maze Runner, which left me completely hanging. Will Thomas and the Gladers survive yet another test? What has happened to the world? And are those crazed people zombies? So many questions. I hope this book will answer them all.
  3. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore: This book has a movie coming out, and as a rule I like to read the book before the movie. I'm not even entirely sure what it's about. All I know is three people are dead, and the narrator of this book is going to be next. Seems interesting.
  4. Beastly by Alex Flinn: Yet another book with a movie coming out soon, and a movie that has one of my favorite actors in it: Neil Patrick Harris. He doesn't play the main character, but he's in it. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in the modern world. I love Beauty and the Beast, so I'm sure I'll love this book.
  5. Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson: The long awaited book four of the Alcatraz series! I need to know what happens! NEED TO KNOW! This might require me rereading all the other books on the trip as well. But I'm cool with that. I have plenty of time. Though the Alcatraz books have a tendency to make me literally laugh out loud. I hope the other people in the car don't think I'm crazy.
  6. The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb: I've never read a Robin Hobb book, but she's published a lot of books and the back of the first book of this trilogy sounds really interesting. And it's epic fantasy written in first person. When does that ever happen? I also felt the need to round out my reading list with my usual genre. Epic fantasy. Yum.
So here's how I imagine this going down. I'll read books 1 - 3 on the first day. They're all YA, and I can read a YA book in about three hours or less. So that's about 9 hours of reading. Eventually it'll get dark and I won't be able to read anymore unless I find a light, so for those hours I'll just have to suffer. I imagine that the second day I'll read book 4 and reread the entire Alcatraz series. There may be four books, but they're MG, so even smaller than YA. Then on the ride back I'll read the three books in 6. I may not make it through all three. They're kind of long (we're talking on the order of 600 pages). It depends on how good they are. I read the Mistborn trilogy in 2 days, so its possible.

Then when I get back on January 21st, I will write reviews of all these books plus some others I've read and forgot to review. So be prepared. There is going to be a mass of book reviews posted on this website very soon.

Oh, and don't worry. I'm going to be in Albuquerque for a while, but I'm going to write all my posts for that time in advance and schedule them to post on the regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

Albuquerque here I come.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Goals

It's the beginning of a new year, and with that new year comes new hopes and dreams. At the beginning of each new year I see this vast blank page, waiting for me to fill it, waiting to to fulfill all my hopes and dreams.

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, but I always envision the incredible things I might do in the New Year. So this year, I am making New Year's Goals.

Since my life is divided in three main ways (Christian, writer, and engineer), I'm making those goals in those three categories.

And this year my friends is going to be a BIG year. Why you ask? Well, you'll have to read my goals to find out.

Engineer Goals:
1) Graduate in December 2011.
Wow. Graduation. Again. But this time, for realz. This time, I'll walk that graduation stage in a hooded robe to get my Master's Degree and there will be no going back. No going back to school that is. With that degree I'm going to be done, and I CAN'T WAIT!

2) Get a job at JPL.
That's a big one. A life goal actually. But since this is the year I graduate, this is the year to realize this goal. Fingers crossed my friends! Hopefully this time next year, I'll be looking for an apartment in Pasadena, CA.

3) Complete my design of R3's ADCS.
This one is sort of necessary to make either 1 or 2 happen. I can't graduate without completing it, because this is sort of my master's thesis. I can't get a job unless I graduate. And designing a complete ADCS system from scratch is a great way to get the attention of JPL.

Writer Goals:
1) Make the FINAL revision* on Spirit Riddled.
I don't know if my final revision will be the next revision or two more after that, but I want to get this story done this year. I've been working on Spirit Riddled for ages (school really slows down the writing process), and I'm ready to be done.

2) Start querying Spirit Riddled.
Yes, with final revision done I can finally query! For the non-writers who read this blog, that means I will start sending out a letter describing my book to agents in hopes that they will represent me. Woo! Perhaps this goal would be better if I said "I will get an agent for Spirit Riddled", but I've never seriously queried a book before** so querying is a big step for me.

3) Finish a first draft of ANY other book.
I believe I've expressed before that I have writer ADD. I have a hard time focusing on one story. School also sort of sucks all the time out of my life. Most of my stories make it to about 10 chapters in until something else takes over my life. Namely school. So I would like to have another first draft done, so once Spirit Riddled is done done I can start another set of revisions.

4) Not be a slacker critiquer.
If I've ever agreed to critique something for you in the past year, I apologize. I'm going to once again through school under the bus, but its the only real excuse I have. This year, I'm actually going to respond to the people I'm critiquing for in a timely fashion. Woohoo!

Christian/Personal Goals:
1) Be a nicer person.
So 1/3 of my family thinks I'm like a really mean person. (1/3 being two people, so more than you might initially think). I'm going to work on that one. I don't mean to be mean (is that a pun? it's not intended). I don't think my friends think I'm mean, so maybe its just that I'm too harsh on my family. Maybe I expect too much of them? So this may actually come down to me not caring as much. (That's my little sister's advice). We'll see how this goes.

2) Actually have a regular quiet time.
Once again, I blame school for this not occurring. But by golly, I'm not going to continue allowing school to take over my life. I'm going to schedule regular quite times and its going to happen!

So that's my New Year's Goals. Any else out there have goals? Any thoughts on mine?

Happy New Year!

*By final revision, I mean my final authorial revision outside of the revisions my agents and editors will probably ask me to do. Most agents and editors do have suggestions and want changes. I'm cool with that.
**This is not to say that Spirit Riddled is the first book I've ever tried to write. I've always been a really harsh judge of my own writing and I've shelved numerous stories for various reasons. This will be the first time a story has made it this far in my personal judgment court.