blogging, books

The Writer’s Book Tag (Not To Be Confused With The Last Tag I Did)

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Yes, I am on a tag spree! Well, such nice people keep tagging me, and every now and then, I need to write a little bit of something that does not count towards NaNo, so, here we go.

The last post I did was The Writer’s Tag — this is The Writer’s Book Tag, meaning it’s about books that writers read.

First Draft: A book or series that you’ve never read before.

I have never read anything by Brandon Sanderson (though he seems to be big in the fantasy lovers’ camp), and I never picked up the Percy Jackson series — any of them.

Second Draft: A book or series you didn’t like as much the second time you read it.

I’d have to say Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And I know these are both classics and very important to a lot of readers, and please don’t hurt me! Maybe there’s something about approaching some children’s tales with the innocence of a child’s perspective. While I loved Wilbur and Charlotte’s story as a youth, somehow re-reading it as an adult made me feel like, “Oh, please, spare me the bleeding heart!” (And I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger by any means.) And while I completely understand that the demise and return of Aslan is totally a metaphor for the events of the first Easter, re-reading this novel again in my adulthood absolutely broke my heart for Susan and Lucy — so young — having to witness all of that. I think if Lewis had made their characters a little older (say, 18 and 16), I wouldn’t have found it so traumatic.

Final Draft: A book or series that you’ve liked for a really long time.

Harry Potter. It’s one of the few recent series that I feel easily has the potential to become a classic, that I’ve re-read all the books and not found their impact to be diminished, and I can’t wait to share them with my own kids.

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Killing Off Your Characters: A book or series that made you cry.

Do I get to mention Harry Potter again so soon? So. Much. Crying.

Plot Holes: A book or series that disappointed you.

The sequels to Jackaby are at the top of this list. I really enjoyed the first, the second was pretty good, but seemed to have nothing to do with the whole arc, and the third totally killed my interest. A real shame.

Writer’s Block: A book or series you never finished.

Wow, there are plenty of these! I’m probably the queen of DNF (and usually have no qualms about it!). One that really digs at me is Jackaby, though — see above — I’ve decided not to even read the fourth and final novel.

Feedback: A book or series you’d recommend to anyone and everyone.

For fantasy, I’d say The Scorpio Races. For non-fantasy, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and if you need a contemporary, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella or Girl Online by Zoe Suggs.

Per tradition, I won’t be tagging anybody else, but if you need a blog post and fancy this one, have a great time!

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blogging, writing

The Writer’s Tag

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Hello, everyone! Yes, I am still here! Still working on two projects at the same time (yes, I’ll accept those care packages now!). And apparently this also makes tonight the perfect moment to undertake a new blog post!

Luckily I have been tagged by The Orangutan Librarian with a very appropriate topic, so I don’t have to wrack my brains for what to focus said post on! And so, here we go…

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Mostly fantasy, though my current WIP is a contemporary. I like to focus on themes of good versus evil, how do you define evil, family, friendship, world mythologies, and plenty of geek references.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was approximately very small (well, smaller than I am now). I remember taking my first stab at an actual novel in high school, and before that I tried my hand at poetry and short stories. So, at least 20 years. (That’s the closest I’ll get to admitting my actual age on this site.)

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. I’ve always felt the compulsion to craft the words and have them make sense and tell a story. And the idea of others getting satisfaction out of what I’ve written is pretty darn cool.

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When is the best time to write?

Usually morning (when the children are in school and less likely to bug me; and when the plans — and brains — are still fresh).

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

Loves:

  • When it all clicks. The “a-ha” moments.
  • You get a great new idea that you’re really excited to work on.
  • You craft a sentence or paragraph and realize it’s super good, and feel pride at creating it.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

Hates:

  • Writer’s block.
  • Children bugging while I’m trying to work.
  • Not being able to word.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Usually I just step away from the project causing the issue. Taking a break often brings new perspective. (If it’s a NaNo project — heaven forbid! — stuck in the throes of block, I try to enter at least a few hundred words that day, and then do something else, like blog or read or watch TV.)

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Are you working on something at the moment?

Oh, my, yes. Completing my final edits for Volume 2, and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo 2017.

What are your writing goals this year?

To release Volume 2 prior to the onset of the holidays. To finish NaNo (hopefully to win, but mostly just to reach 50,000 words on my new WIP without my head exploding). To feel ready to tackle my next endeavors (Volume 3 and the field guide) with zest and vigor!

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blogging, reading

Mini-Reviews: The Taking a Break from NaNo Edition

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It’s NaNo! Who has time to read?! you may be hollering at me. Well, remember when I recently posted the guidelines to surviving NaNo, and remember how it included taking time to do something other than writing? Reading is not writing — ergo, reading during this month is important.

(By the way, some of these selections I completed before November. I am not pushing myself too hard, don’t worry.)

So, after determining that I’ve exhausted the catalog of my local library (and I pretty much have), I’m taking great advantage of inter-library loan to obtain titles by authors I have only now heard of. At the moment, this includes Charles De Lint.

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I finished Tapping the Dream Tree, which is a compilation of short stories based on his Newford series (none of which I had read, so nothing like jumping into the deep end with both feet and no water-wings). But I was able to figure out what was going on in most of the individual tales, and some of them I truly enjoyed. This author has a style that’s now rare for adult fantasy, focusing so much more on telling the story than on shock value or hitting up a current political soapbox. It was so refreshing. He has a long bibliography (he’s been publishing for many years), and I’ve already hunted down some more of his work.

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Last weekend, wanting something light and easy, I picked up Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets. It’s pretty short (under 300 pages), and the cover is interesting.

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What was I thinking. I liked the first part of Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, but had forgotten that NoCaP is set in the same world as her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which made me hit the ceiling with its blatant sexual references and dark-and-nefarious-goings-on. I managed to survive intact, though there were several pages in this novella I had to outright skip over (puppets are creepy, folks!!!), and I had to look at a lot of super-cute cat pictures to be able to go to bed that night.

Moving on to one of my major disappointments in October — Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

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This is officially my last attempt at a Green novel. I didn’t enjoy Paper Towns or The Fault in Our Stars, but repeated gushing reviews of this author’s work kind of guilted/hyped me into trying his new release. ‘Tis much better to go with my gut. I had MASSIVE issues with the depiction of mental illness in this book — not only is it blindingly obvious (I’m a former psychology major) that the narrator does NOT have general anxiety, but OCD — yet the novel calls her condition “an anxiety disorder” throughout — this is also the singular thing the narrator’s entire life is about. She’s made of more cardboard than a cereal box. She has no personality, no interests, no anything other than her OCD. That simply isn’t factual when it comes to living, breathing human beings — which this MC is supposed to be. And her “best friend” is HORRIBLE to her, treating her as a burden, ignoring her serious health problems, and never trying to help her get better.

And there was a significant lack of turtles. I wasn’t the only one peeved about this. Turns out the title is a metaphor, based on some sort of astrophysics thing. I had to look it up to be “enlightened.” Some fans were saying this was great; I don’t agree (nor am I the only dissenter). It feels terribly pretentious and arrogant of an author to make his title wholly symbolic and not explain that anywhere in the text. I’m perfectly intelligent, so there’s no need to insult my intelligence because I didn’t know the reference to a completely theoretical and intangible construct, people.

Okay, onto a different category of whinge…

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was, sadly, a letdown, too. If there was an actual plot in amongst allllllll the pages of wandering the land and trying to become the Emperor’s mistress, I missed it.

Neither was Wild Beauty a fun experience…

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This cover is truly astounding, and I still like it even though I didn’t like the book underneath. I guess this author’s style — “magical realism” — just isn’t for me. It’s confusing — is there actual magic, or not? Are the characters’ “ability” to grow flowers out of thin air a metaphor for their incredible gardening skills, or do they really have powers? I couldn’t figure it out, and it bugged me the whole time. McLemore was altogether too vague for my taste — how could there be so many people in the family, and somehow they’re all female…? Supposedly their spouses or lovers always “vanished” — isn’t it much more believable that they simply left them? Or was there really some kind of curse — like, the evil witch gets her revenge on one of their ancestors who seduced the witch’s husband? Again, the un-concrete-ness of the plot induced frustration and loud grumbling noises from me.

All right, now onto brighter, happier topics!

I won a giveaway hosted by The Orangutan Librarian! I used the prize to order these two novels in a MG fantasy series that White Fang read book 1 and wants to finish.

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Please, let’s take a moment to appreciate how unselfish and lovely I was to pick something for him and not myself.

Also, if you wouldn’t mind praying for a speedy and safe delivery, that’d be ace! 🙂

And, my pre-orders of All the Crooked Saints and Warriors: Darkest Night are finally ready to ship!!! Since Darkest Night didn’t come out until yesterday, I had to wait quite a while to receive that notification (I placed the order in late September). I consider this a successful exercise in patience.

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Now get back to your NaNo-ing! Good luck, everyone!

 

blogging, writing

How Not To Calendar: Or, Release Date Announcement (And, No One Throw Things)

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One day…I shall learn how to create less wordy titles for blog posts… But it is not this day.

So, here’s what has happened to my schedule: I forgot to let myself be aware of its existence.

Hence, I was genuinely surprised to realize I cannot be writing/editing next Monday, as Muffin has a specialist appointment out of town. Which I knew about a month ago.

And then NaNo is starting…

And here is me, with my editing: Currently only 75% done. With the formatting yet to go.

And here is Time, to me: HAHAHAHA, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Leading to the following announcement — the projected release date of November 1st for Volume 2 will very most likely not occur. My new (more realistic) goal is to have it ready for sale around November 15th.

For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of The Order of the Twelve Tribes, first know that I am immensely grateful for your dedication to my little series. Believe me that I really had hoped to be moving a bit quicker on this process, but there’s just no way around it. And I want to make Volume 2 the best it can be, rather than release a manuscript I’m not completely sure about. And that takes time.

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So — and trust me, this is going to work — I will finish Volume 2 as soon as I can, complete what I can each day for NaNo, and not care if I finish NaNo or not. Depending on how well everything goes, I may decide to toss off the shackles of NaNo’s strict deadline and just conclude my draft for “How To Be A Savage” via my own reckoning of writing time.

The outcome has yet to be determined…

There will still be the Masters and Beginners book club meeting on Monday (though I may actually be a little late getting to the comments!). Please do visit this space when you’re notified of the post going up to share your thoughts with me and other readers.

And I will be at least somewhat keeping up on Twitter and Goodreads in November.

Somewhat. I’m putting my foot down about not overcommitting.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge and a joy when we conquer it. It’s a special and important thing for writers to participate in. I am proud of winning my first year (last year), but am not holding myself to that expectation again.

And I’ll admit, this is a little hard for me — because I like to push myself (yes, really, me, the autist) — the thrill of seeing the finish line come onto the horizon (not that I run, but it’s a good metaphor) is fulfilling.

But keeping my sanity is really fulfilling, too.

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Therefore, in the interest of looking more like the cat below rather than the poor cat above, this is the new plan.

And you can take it from me — knowing what’s on your calendar and sticking to it is also an ace move.

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blogging, reading

Mini-Reviews: The Pre-NaNo Edition

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Okay, so here I am, for one of the few posts I will be doing in the next few weeks! I am doubling down to finish Volume 2 on the original timetable (time apparently hates me, what have I ever done to it?!), AND somehow start NaNoWriMo on schedule. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

Rather, it means I am venturing forth on continuing my authorly dreams, and spending more of my brain power and calendar on writing fiction than writing stuff like blog posts. We’ll see if I feel the urge to write a review on Goodreads, on a book that I simply must share my thoughts now (before they slip out of my head, and because I do love to share with my friends).

Anyway, here are some summaries of my feelings about some stuff I recently finished…

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling:

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White Fang and I are both reading this textbook/field guide/lovely supplemental material to the world of Harry Potter. The handwritten notes are so cute. And I love getting a little more insight into this utterly amazing realm Rowling created.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry:

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I have to say, this was a disappointment. It has a really interesting premise — set in Puerto Rico (sadly relevant right now), it follows the tale of a teenage boy who gets caught up in a possible legend-come-to-life. But I only gave it 1 star, because the plot was all over the place; we’re never given a concrete reason for the affliction Isabel suffers from; nor is that affliction itself ever firmly defined. Too much of the story wandered back and forth, between teenage crushes and the serious business of missing persons, and I didn’t feel that enough of the premise became grounded in the very realistic setting.

And I Darken by Kiersten White:

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I didn’t finish this (with about 75 pages to go), because I had very conflicted emotions on it. The writing style is superbly dark and intriguing, true to the atmosphere and feelings of the time period, and I’ve read all the fictional and historical accounts of Vlad Dracul, and agree with the author that so, so much about this man is simply conjecture and the truth is probably lost to the winds of time. But what really got to me is the quite straightforward fact that her portrayal of homosexuality in the Ottoman Empire/Middle Ages Eastern Europe was just a grab at pushing a modern viewpoint. How both those cultures felt about such a lifestyle in that century would’ve resulted in heads literally rolling (or even worse), full stop. No closet gays would’ve been protected by the palace of the city. And I am not sorry in the slightest that this may offend the sensibilities of modern readers — I don’t concur with that, I don’t sanction it, but I know it is how it was, and I don’t think covering up the outdated and barbaric views of cultures long dead and gone is beneficial.

A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin:

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I didn’t finish this, either, and won’t be continuing with the series. The reason is that I simply am not one for the explicit content. It’s a personal choice. That aside, I honestly am so impressed by Martin’s skills with plotting and character depiction, and I wish him all the best in releasing the long-awaited conclusion to this epic!

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg:

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I just posted a long and gushing review on Goodreads about this little gem. It has the best rep of panic attacks I’ve read in a while, and the family is BEYOND AWESOME, and I am sooooo grateful to the author for developing such a supportive and nice cast. It also covers the very real and very important topics of being careful what you share on the internet, and whether connecting too much to people online versus your close friends in real life is healthy. Since all of us are reading this post online, we can verify that sometimes we come across other screen names/commenters who are just wonderful to interact with — but is it okay to base our self-esteem on our online success, or do we need to first keep in mind how our IRL people think of us? The narrator learns some hard lessons, and never once does the writing feel preachy or like the author is trying to sway our mindsets one way or another. Her narrator has to decide what works best for her, and that is vital for teenagers growing up in a culture of conformity to figure out. I highly recommend this one!

And there we are! I’ll catch up with you all for the book club meeting on the 30th! Take care, moths!

blogging, books, tags

The Totally Should’ve Tag

Hello, all! What, another tag, you may say? Well, yes, it is — I’ve been tagged by the lovely The Orangutan Librarian — and, truth be told, I am pouring all my creative energy into Volume 2 and 3, so here’s to having no ideas left over for blog posts!

Totally Should’ve…Gotten a Sequel:

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I’m so going with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater here. It’s interesting, because on the one hand, I appreciate a YA author actually determining to write a standalone and stick to it. However, since I also honestly feel that The Raven Cycle could have been condensed into a duology (no one hurt me!), and that The Wolves of Mercy Falls seriously could’ve been a standalone (just Shiver), it shows that while I like this author, I don’t always agree with her choices. Whereas in her other series I thought she got too long-winded, in The Scorpio Races there was SUCH a rich and vivid worldbuilding that I wanted to know more about. I think a sequel, say, in 10 years or something, maybe with an adult Kate/Puck or with her kids, would be great. It could explore things like, do the Races continue indefinitely or will they eventually get shut down? Did Kate and Sean stay together? Did anybody who intended to leave the island ever come back? All the good stuff.

Totally Should’ve…Had a Spinoff Series:

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Definitely Harry Potter! I would happily read anything about Hogwarts, more about secondary characters like the Weasleys, the history of Voldemort’s war on other wizards and the start of the Deatheaters, what happened to people like Neville and Luna after school… (Sorry, Ms. Rowling. I do actually respect her decision to write about other subjects. I know that if I felt ready to wrap up a series, I wouldn’t want folks bugging me for more.)

Totally Should’ve…Ended Differently:

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All right, John Green fans, don’t throw stuff at me. These are the only two novels of his I’ve read, and I think it’ll stay that way, because I take issue with how he chose to end them. This author apparently has a real talent for twisting the last 50 pages, so that what I anticipate will happen so does not, and not in a good way (in my view).

I know this will be a bit controversial, but I seriously thought it would be Hazel who died in The Fault in Our Stars, and in Paper Towns I really wanted Quentin to tell Margot to go bleep herself after he went through all this stuff to find her and she was just like, “Oh, hey, what the heck are you doing here, go away.” I’m very aware that most people who read John Green think he can do no wrong; but this is just my opinion, so, there you go.

Totally Should’ve…Had a TV Show:

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Given alllll the information about the Faction System that’s only hinted at in this trilogy — especially the massive twist on its origins — I think a TV series could’ve done better justice to explaining all the complexities of this than squeezing an action-based plot into 2-hour movies.

Totally Should’ve…Had a Film Franchise:

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White Fang and I are of one mind on this — a set of Warriors movies would be awesome.

Totally Should’ve…Had One Point of View:

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This is a novel I really struggled with, anyway; the multiple POV did not make it any easier. I don’t think Auggie’s POV should even have been focused on; I would’ve liked to read the whole thing from, say, his sister’s perspective, or one of his classmates.

Totally Should’ve…Had a Cover Change:

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Yes, I know I am The Invisible Moth. But the little flitty things on the U.S. cover for Strange the Dreamer just made my skin crawl. Why can’t we have the more elegant and mechanical drawing-ish UK version here, too? That I wouldn’t have felt the need to hide every time I tried to read more of this title.

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Totally Should’ve…Stopped Reading:

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Yup, this is me, bashing the Shadowhunters series. I simply felt it’s gone on too long. I finished City of Glass and loved the resolution — Jocelyn was awake, she and Luke were finally getting together, Clary and Jace were free to be a couple, Valentine was dead, Simon would’ve been a great nerdy vampire and Izzy was fantastic with him, Alec and Magnus were established — BOOM, perfect, wrap it up. The 4th, 5th and 6th books weren’t necessary at all, in my view, nor the spinoffs. Sorry, fans.

Totally Should’ve…Kept the Cover:

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Okay, this is an old book, that I don’t know if it’s even still in print in the USA *sobs*, but this is the original cover on the copy I first read from a library *cough, cough* a long time ago. I like the almost art deco look to it, because it perfectly fits the 1950s setting of the story. But when I tried to order a paperback from Amazon a few years back, this is what arrived:

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In my opinion, too cheesy, too modern, too trying to make it a YA Mills and Boone (which this story is not). Big sigh.

Totally Shouldn’t…Have Pre-judged:

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After getting about 75 pages into this and returning it to the library (twice!), finally I finished it, and was super glad I did. The first few chapters of this novel are kind of plodding, and a bit depressing, and I really wasn’t hooked. But when I embarked on the re-read-to-the-completion, the style got me going enough to continue (personally, I love Holly Black’s style, even if most of her subject matter isn’t to my taste), and in fact that the dark and dreary setting serves well to set up all the twist-to-positive-character-growth by the end. I’m really glad that I went back to The Darkest Part of the Forest in spite of my earlier misgivings.

And there we have it! As usual, I won’t be tagging anybody specific, but if you’d like to tackle this, go for it!

 

 

blogging, community

Okay, There Is No Way It’s The End Of September…

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First, the requisite part of the monthly recap where I scream into the void for approximately 5.6 minutes about how it is possible that time moves so bloody fast.

All right. Now, onto actual things.

So, not a heck of a lot went on here or on social media during the month of September, due to the fact my whole family came down with some horrific cold/virus that did not want to go away. The boys each missed a week of school (luckily not exactly all the same days), and between taking care of my smol ones and being sick myself, I did hardly any editing on Volume 2, housework, or really anything else. I was extremely not pleased with this situation. Yes, I got some reading done, but mostly because that was all I had the energy for. These circumstances are not recommended.

Anyway, other than that, I did manage to get a few posts out there, and provide you all with at least a bit of information on how the revisions were going once I was finally able to tackle them. So, here is the news on Volume 2…

It’s a very slowgoing process, but I have gone over all of the beta-read feedback, and am revising/editing (meaning, delete a lot of words, enter a bunch more, repeat), chapter by chapter. My plan is still to have the final manuscript ready to go to printing before November 1st. There are a couple of reasons for that. Keep reading after the cat to find out specifically what they are.

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One is that I may participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who are staring at your screen blankly), which takes place the whole month of November. I won it last year, by the skin of my teeth, but it was worth it, as that document turned into the final draft of Masters and Beginners. And realistically, this year I’ll have more time each day to put into NaNo, meaning I could possibly finish earlier. And I certainly have writing projects I could enter. BUT, in the interest of my head not exploding (it already has about 4 times this calendar year), I may bow out gracefully and happily. We’ll see.

The other major reason I want to have Volume 2 ready to bring joy to readers’ lives no later than the commencement of November is that I am itching to move on to other work. For example, finishing the canon series of The Order of the Twelve Tribes. And there will be a prequel! And a field guide! Anticipate both sometime in 2018!

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to release my short story collection for purchase! Some of you may remember that ages ago (like, last spring, I think?) I posted a few short stories I’d written at random points over the last couple years. It was always my intention to put them all together and compile author’s notes on the influences that shaped them, and now I am so doing! Expect a formal announcement about this new project in the very near future!

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So, as I was whinging earlier, not a lot of other stuff got accomplished in September. Including, actually, reading. That’s because, while I was lying around trying to get better, I only finished a few books — and they weren’t even on my TBR. That’s right, my brain was so foggy I didn’t even remember to check my TBR before I went to the library.  It’s why it took me a while to get started on A Clash of Kings, and to recall that Maggie Stiefvater’s new novel is out soon, and new Warriors publications are forthcoming. I am a bit of a mess. Hopefully I’ll be all caught up by the holidays.

I’ve also made some decisions regarding further marketing, based on time and what it will not do for me. I shall not attempt a Wattpad account at the moment. Nor a newsletter (maybe next year?). Nor shall I even select a subscription box (that could be my Christmas present to myself?).

Okay, and in the interest of progressing forward, I am going to focus much more now on promoting Volume 2, and the rest of the series. To all of you who have so far read Volume 1 and loved it and helped me promote, THANK YOU. This literally cannot be said loud enough to show how much I appreciate all your support and help in getting this little passion of mine off the ground.

To celebrate, I am hosting a book club on the blog! We’ll go through each of my publications, starting with Masters and Beginners, and on October 30th all you have to do to join in is read the discussion post I’ll put up that day, and comment your thoughts! Obviously you’ll have to have read the book, but that’s the only requirement.

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In other, non-writing-non-reading-related news, both my boys are officially in school. White Fang is in 9th grade — that means high school — and apart from the sickness, doing pretty well so far. Muffin is attending a special needs preschool, where he receives all his physical/speech/occupational therapy, as well as the basics of numbers/shapes/colors/letters and working with others. Yesterday his class went to the swimming pool at one of the local colleges, where the kids were paired up with students in Special Education. Muffin is loving every minute of it, including riding the bus and trying new foods at lunch.

I have survived reconciling the fact that I now have a high-schooler and a pre-schooler, and that I’m not as young as I used to be. Trust me, that was the hardest part.

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Otherwise, things are finally reaching something resembling normal after the great illness. So I wouldn’t call it exciting, but also feel we’ve had enough excitement lately.

You’ll all be relieved to hear that Toby made it through this trying time completely unscathed.

Here’s to a healthy and productive fall!

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