February Reading & Writing Check-In

Last month, I finished the story I started in January and sent it away, and have since started writing another one! I’ve been making very small edits to the novel since I’m still waiting for a beta to finish reading & send me their feedback, but the changes feel like they’ve been important – they’re all tweaks or rewordings of scenes or phrases that have been bothering me since the first draft but that I didn’t change because nobody flagged them in editing. While there’s still one part I’m mentally picking over, I think most of them are a lot better for the changes I’ve made.

IMG_2307

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett – Because of when the first Sunday of each month fell I ended up reading two Pratchett book club entries this month. I really enjoyed Wyrd Sisters, since I enjoy Shakespeare enough that I could a) laugh at all the jokey references made to them and b) enjoy the glorious melodrama of the Shakespeare-inspired main plot. I love the three witch characters, and feel that there’s enough to the book to enjoy as a standalone fantasy work with themes of magic and stories as much as I enjoyed it as part of my Pratchett-reading project.

Arrows of the Queen & Arrows’ Flight by Mercedes Lackey – Speaking of enjoying things, my boyfriend bought me a Mercedes Lackey omnibus for Christmas because he was sure I would love them. And I do. I’m two novellas through the great honking tome. There are elements of them that are pure “teen fantasy”, involving running away from home and finding out you’re something special and making new friends, but what elevates Lackey amongst lesser entries in the genre is her keyed-in understanding and deep exploration of emotions. The protagonists’ troubled upbringing and experience leave her with a whole host of mental scars, and the book takes this trauma as genuine and explores the different messy ways people notice or don’t notice, try to solve it and fail or succeed, and the way it affects her when new things enter her life. It’s a very effective book, and this truly successful psychological realism melds wonderfully with the more fantastical adventure elements.

Pyramids! by Terry Pratchett – This month’s second book club read. While I won’t say it didn’t have issues, re: Pratchett’s recurring joke that everyone, deep down, is a middle class English person taking on slightly troubling colonial connotations when transferred to an Egyptian environment, I still really enjoyed it. It’s the best-paced Discworld I’ve read so far, and does lots of interesting and fun things with its setting and its ideas about mathematics and the cosmos.

Advertisements

January Reading & Writing Check-In

I’ve had a busy writing time the last month – I finished another editing read-through of my novel, polished up two stories to send in to journals, and have written a new story, currently in the editing process. I’m intending to send it off this month. I’ve decided to give my novel a rest for a month, then come back to it with fresh eyes in March – it gives the betas that haven’t gotten back to me a chance to finish it, and means that I’ll hopefully have a clearer idea of whether a few changes I have in mind are improvements or just fiddling.

So, last month’s reads!

12547341_1690452354535243_758429841_n

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney – I’d been meaning to read this one for a while – since I studied Linguistics in undergraduate, I’m interested in any story about language, particularly one with as sterling a reputation as this one. And it was worth it – its denseness made it a slow read, but it was fascinating, intriguing and entertaining, as well as very ahead of its time – possibly even still ahead of our time. Its intriguing ideas about language and society, as well as its effortlessly diverse cast of characters, would be the envy of many of today’s writers as something that appears cutting edge.

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis – It’s hard to recommend Bret Easton Ellis to people, not because he isn’t exceptionally talented, because he is, but because his work has so much oddity, so many bleak moments, that it would have to come with so many disclaimers that there wouldn’t seem much point. Less Than Zero is his first novel, and is about a college kid who comes home to 1980s Los Angeles for two weeks and becomes reabsorbed into the narcissistic nihilism of the friends he left behind. It’s absorbing, it feels like it was written by somebody who understands that subculture rather than somebody skewering it from the outside.

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson – This was a birthday gift from my partner – I’ve been slowly collecting Moomin comics for years, and he thought I’d enjoy one of the novels. I did. It’s very sweet, and the art is lovely, and it has the enchanting fairytale quality I’m used to finding in Jansson’s work. It is a children’s book, but a very good one, and one that’s as enjoyable as a modern adult as it would be to a preteen in the 40s.

December Reading & Writing Check-In

It does sometimes feel a bit backwards to be posting these at the start of the month after, but, well, it is literally my reading and writing from December. I’ve been making slow though not terribly exciting progress with editing – I’ve been spending a lot of time working on university assignments instead, but I’m over half way through my current read-through & redraft.

For the same reason, I have a smaller number of books read this month – also, since it’s been the holidays and I’ve not been taking the train most days, I’ve been having to make time to read in my free time. Imagine that.

IMG_1974

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings – I read the first book in the Belgariad a few years ago. It’s one of my mother’s childhood favourite series, so she gave me Pawn of Prophecy for Christmas one year. Then I sort of – forgot about it, until I decided to pick up Queen of Sorcery in a second-hand bookstore. Much like the first book, I enjoyed reading it but less than a month later keep forgetting that I read it. It’s plenty of fun, the characters are very cute, and it feels like a very “classic” high fantasy book in a nice way – but it doesn’t necessarily transcend that.

Mort by Terry Pratchett – The Discworld Book Club is trying to knock out the last of the “early” Discworlds over the Christmas break, so I’ve been mostly reading Pratchett this month. This is the first Discworld book we’ve come to that I hadn’t already read as a child, so it already feels different from the others in that I’m actually having to use my brain to pay attention to what’s going on instead of filling in vague gaps in old memories. I’d been hearing a lot about how Discworld’s Death changes over the course fo the series, so it was intriguing seeing the first book to make a big attempt to flesh him out as a character.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett – The final “early” Discworld! I think this may be the one that I struggled with the most out of the five, since the start of it is a bit difficult to slog through, particularly with the double viewpoints – instead of just having one slow fifty-page intro to get through, you’ve got two. It was definitely odd for me, as for some reason I’d imagined Sourcery as being book four and being the second part of Equal Rites in the same way that The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are two halves of a whole, so it was a bit like going back to a childhood home and realising that you had, in fact, been imagining having a garden.

November Reading & Writing Check-In

It’s been a slow but steady writing month due to work – I’ve been making word-level edits to my novel draft all month, as well as pulling together a list of bigger edits from the full-draft feedback I got from my workshop group. I’m hoping to knock the rest of the edits out over the Christmas break ready to (gasp!) potentially start submitting to agents while working on Novel 2.

Because I’ve been working quite far out I’ve got a lot of reading done this month, thanks to the train rides.

IMG_1743

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett – It feels like almost cheating to include this, as I was half-way through it last check-in and it’s already merged in my head with The Colour of Magic again. I still thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this – I really enjoy reading about Rincewind and Twoflower, and the ending even managed to be a little sad.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey – I picked this up second hand aaages ago, so it was good to actually get it read. It has a really intriguing take on the zombie story, and the different viewpoint characters all have a great depth to them. It’s not perfect – Justineau becomes a flatter and flatter character as Parks gains depth, which caused me to fall out of love with it a little towards the end – but it’s definitely worth a read if you’re trying to read good modern genre fiction.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin – Since Equal Rites riffs on this quite a lot, I wanted to read this before I read it – as well as just having wanted to read them for a while. I really enjoyed reading The Dispossessed during my undergrad, so I was intrigued to experience Le Guin’s fantasy works. While the first one is a little bit simplistic-fantasy-book-for-actual-children at points, it definitely ramps up towards the end, and the latter two built on the foundations of the first to create intriguing and often dark reads. Part of what’s interesting about them is how different they all are – A Wizard of Earthsea is a fun fantasy adventure novel, The Tombs of Atuan is a much weirder tale about a cult that’s geographically remote from the rest of the series, and The Far Shore is a corrupted version of the adventure tale that deals with existential horror about the idea of mortality. Reading them all together has been really interesting, and I’m glad they hold up to their classic reputation.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett – Another read for the Discworld book club. This is, infamously, the last Discworld book I read the first time I tried to read the series. It didn’t grip me quite as much as the first two did, but this version of Granny Weatherwax as an ornery witch who’s never been outside her village before is quite fun (though I’m told she’s basically a different character in later books), and it was a nice gentle read during a stressful week. I can definitely see where it riff on Earthsea, with the mountain villages and very gender-split magical philosophy.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine – This book was actually left to me by an American friend with not enough room in their suitcase for all of the books they accumulated while living here. I’ve read Lydia Davis’ prose poetry before, so I didn’t have any issues with the “genre” of the book in a way that I’ve heard debated – it’s a very powerful, emotional read based on the writer’s experience and musings on racism. It’s very creative with the way it’s put together, with pictures and multimedia that make it part poetry book and part art piece.

October Reading & Writing Check-in

I did intend to take a picture of last month’s reads, but the idea to do so came to me after I had already returned The Red Tree to the library. Instead, here is a picture of my other read next to a shawl I’m knitting.

IMG_1635

There are a lot of colours in it, but none of them are actually red. I know, I’m an eternal disappointment. Anyway.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan – I loved this. I was recommended it ages ago and decided to finally go for it when I found it in the library. It has several of my favourite things in it – it’s a New England horror story told in the style of a diary left by a deeply self-loathing writer who moves into a farm cottage to attempt to finish her manuscript after the death of her girlfriend. Very creepy, blackly hilarious and the kind of book I enjoy even more as a writer who can, perhaps unfortunately, empathise.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett – I’ve read this before, but I’m starting a Discworld book group with my friends, so I’ve reread it. I never got terribly far with Discworld, so this doesn’t have the wow-so-different feel I know some fans of the series find on a reread, but – I enjoyed it. Even thirty years after publication it’s still hilarious. I’d forgotten it was written as interlinked short chunks rather than a cohesive whole – but it somehow adds to the feel of it, the unusual structure reflecting the older fantasy novel it parodies.

In writing news, I bit the bullet, and finally sent a lit.fiction story I’d been working on to a magazine. One of the recently successful graduates from my Creative Writing alma mater is Kirsty Logan, whose early blog is a tally of how many short stories she’d written, sent off and received acceptances & rejections for. This… will not be that kind of blog. I write short stories far too sporadically for that to happen. I have a science fiction short story that I feel needs just-one-more-draft, so if all goes well I’ll be telling you about sending that off too in a few check-ins time.