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books i like

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Some early books of 2016

February 5, 2016

With much vigour, I threw myself into the task of reading last month. Funtertainment! quantity! being my goal. MOAR BOOKS THAN 2015. I drank down 6 entire books… which is a lot for me. Hopefully going towards a nestegg that’ll allow me to slack off in future months. Because I probably will when there is another sproglet in the housedom and my brain has LITERALLY SHRUNK and I am existing on 5 seconds of sleep + mugs of Nespresso by the dozen + pure hormonal bliss/despair and the most I will be able to concentrate on is Daily Mail headlines.

Kicking things off, I discovered Marian Keyes published a book in 2014 that I hadn’t read yet. 2014! How had I not known about it? Perhaps I was wrestling with The Luminaries at the time? Anyhoo for some reason, two years later, I stumbled across The Woman Who Stole My Life. Solid Marian Keyes story. Solid.

Twas followed by Brooklyn Girls: Coco by Gemma Burgess (if the Babysitters Club were all growed up & living in NYC & not babysitting anymore, sort of?) then Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. Erm, cripes, only 2 of Liane Moriarty’s books left for me to read! Better save em for later.

Next I fell into Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear, which closes out The Eternal Sky trilogy. I read books 1 and 2 exactly two years ago so I had a wee bit of trouble to start off with remembering who was who & what was going on but oh gosh. It almost didn’t matter. This is lush, wonderful fantasy. I wish it went on forever. I wish there were more books like these ones.

Then I read Techbitch by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (Devil Wears Prada goes digital) and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (80’s gamer geek wish fulfilment fiction!)

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A handy book for story planning

August 9, 2015
Kindle cover for Take Off Your Pants - outline your books for faster better writing, by Libbie Hawker

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

One of the biggest takeaways from writing Rukan is that I need to plan this shit better. I finished my first draft in December and I am STILL editing! I had (have) so much rewriting to do. My ‘cut words’ document (because I keep every single precious ickle one, just in case) has EIGHTEEN THOUSAND WORDS in it. Based on my average daily progress to finish the first draft, that means I have deleted 68 days worth of writing. 68 days of struggling at the keyboard, for nothing. Crushing. And I haven’t even finished yet.

I did not pants this book, but nor did I plan it completely. I mostly knew the ending when I started, but I had to figure out how to get there. I mostly knew my characters, but not all of them, and not what truly drove them. And that is where all this rewriting came from: having to go back & edit everything that changed as I wrote the book, as I discovered things unfurl. Entire chapters worth.

I can’t do this again. I don’t have enough lifetime to spend this amount of time writing each book. And I am, by nature, more of a plotter. I just need to do it harder.

So enter stage left: this book by Libbie Hawker (with a very awesome title, btw) and her really useful approach to structuring a story. Her method focuses on character arc, theme & pacing. It isn’t a dense book, and I won’t be following her method to a T, but it has been a really great help to clarify what my next story is about, especially my main character – I’ve really thought about who she is, what drives her, what her flaws are. I feel like I’ve taken some promising steps forward in the plan for my next WIP with it, so I’d happily recommend this e-book to any writer looking for ways to tighten their crafting process.

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A couple of lovely SF debuts

June 10, 2015

Lex Talionis by RSA Garcia

I was so thrilled to read Lex Talionis in print, as I first came across early draft chapters of this story on the Online Writing Workshop many years ago, when both the author & I were members. I knew it would only be a matter of time until it was published as a Real Book. Even in an early state, the story was intriguing, the settings imaginative, the characters compelling. And here it is! When I got to the end I got all the warm fuzzies from being thanked in the credits. I totally believed in this book from the start, yo!

The story starts with a young woman waking up in a spaceport hospital with no memory of who she is, or how she came by her terrible injuries. All she remembers is ‘lex talionis’ – the law of revenge. We follow her journey as she slowly pieces together what happened to her, and finds out who she really is.

I loved the characters with multiple POVs threading the story together, the moments of pure suspense, the space opera-esque scale, the mystery that slowly unfolds in front of you. The aliens, the tech, the settings – this is a world that feels fully realised and is beautifully pictured on the page. I just love books where I can vividly picture the scene and this is one. A highly recommended read, please check it out!

Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly starred review, and here’s Rhonda’s website.


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I found out about The Long Way… from a post on io9. The author finished this book thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and self-published, and it was subsequently picked up by Hodder & Stoughton. One of the reviews I read called this a ‘cosy space opera’ and it so is! There’s a wonderful cast of characters including the newbie who gets to explore the world for us, there’s interesting aliens, there’s a patchwork hyperspace-tunneling ship hurtling through space. It’s kind of Firefly-esque with less western & more aliens.

I absolutely love character-driven science fiction and this is precisely that. The science and the setting is the background to a story that is about people, but without it being too hand-wavey on the science front either. It’s a fun enjoyable read. Highly recommended as well!