Monday, May 10, 2021

REREAD: The Dying of the Golden Day, Chapters 1-5

If you read my post about finishing the first draft of The Heartfriends Book 3, then you know I'm embarking on a reread of Books 1 and 2! Which I was a little bit intimidated by, to be honest. I started writing The Dying of the Golden Day in 2013 and published it in 2016, so it's been a minute since I looked closely at it.

Now that I've started to reread it, I thought it would be fun to do a short blog series with annotations on the story, like what inspired certain choices, how I drew from my experience in Kazakhstan, and notes about my writing process. I'll do about five chapters at a time, so let's begin!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Road to Book Three--Part 1

 the words "The End" in Times New Roman

It's the first update on the Heartfriends Book 3! I started writing this book over a weekend way back in October 2019 at the Broadkill Writers Resort (thanks, Jen and John of RDSP!). Then the pandemic hit early in 2020, and it took me a long time to find my footing in terms of balancing work, job searching, and writing. But a year and a half after I first began this manuscript, I'm here to say that I have a first draft! 

That said, it's the messiest draft I've ever written, and it has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in the words of a friend, I now have "a whole skeleton of a thing," and that's the important thing! It's much easier to fix a story when you've got words on paper. Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” I've definitely accomplished this because there were a lot of elements I needed to figure out. Now I get to flesh those elements out.

The next step is to set the manuscript aside for a few months. I have two short stories I'm working on for anthologies, and those are due by the end of May and the end of June. I also want to dive back into a couple longer projects, including a mystery novel, and play around with those over the summer. Then I'm going to reread Books 1 and 2 and take notes so I can make sure I'm wrapping up all the loose threads into a (hopefully) satisfying ending. Stay tuned for more updates!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mike Flanagan Movies

It's been a while since I've blogged, hasn't it? I'll readily admit that the pandemic got the better of me (and still is some days), and I'm just now getting back into the groove of writing and writing-adjacent tasks. Bear with me! I've got some story releases later this year as well as fun podcasts and blog posts planned.

If you listen to my podcast (Positively Pop Culture) or know me in real life, you probably know that I've recently gotten more into horror films. I've always been okay with psychological thrillers, but I shy away from straight-up horror movies because I'm a big ol' baby. But last October, my roommate, who is very into the genre, encouraged me to watch more. Turns out I really like Mike Flanagan's films because they tend to balance the horrific with the emotional. He usually both writes and directs, so I feel like he's more tuned-in to the storytelling aspect than some other directors. I especially like that he focuses on characters and their relationships with one another.

Since I finished watching his back catalogue this week, I thought it would be a good time to do some blogging so I can reflect on what I liked about each film and give my tentative ranking of them. I'm not including The Haunting anthology because that's a whole different animal. Here we go! (In order from least favorite to most favorite)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

RELEASE: New Anthology

I'm pleased to announce that the anthology I've been working on with my classmates, The Secrets of Harrowgate Valley, is finally available! Though the eight stories can be read independently, they all take place at Harrowgate Valley University, which houses many secrets. We had a great time creating this world and working with each other, and we're eager for people to read what we came up with.

As editor, I read all the stories. One of the fun parts of that is I got to see first-hand how we took this concept and made it our own. Here's the blurb for my story, "The Mystery of J. L. Ward." 

Grad student Sophie finds a Prohibition-era journal and embarks upon a mystery that has far-reaching implications for Newtown,its history, and her own graduate thesis.

Find some of my fellow authors at their websites: 

Click here to get The Secrets of Harrowgate Valley in e-book.

It's also available from Amazon in paperback

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Upcoming Short Story

I have an story called "The Tower of Ithadir" in the upcoming anthology Reign of Queens from Dragon Soul Press. The anthology will be released on May 30th. 

If you haven't already, you can pre-order the Kindle version.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

Queen's Shadow, E.K. Johnston
It's no secret I love Star Wars. (This is a fact that doesn't need to be continuously reiterated, and yet I do.) It's also no secret that my favorite character from the prequel trilogy is Padmé. I was pretty ecstatic when I heard this book was coming out, especially since I've enjoyed what I've read by E.K. Johnston in the past. This book did not disappoint. It's kind of everything I wanted from a Star Wars universe book. I especially loved that it focused on the bonds Padmé formed with her handmaidens and friends. Getting to see Sabé have a larger, more defined role was a treat. This is definitely not as action-packed as the movies, but I really appreciated the focus on the characters, and I'm really excited that Johnston is writing a prequel, Queen's Peril, to be released this summer.

Rule, Ellen Goodlett
This book was quite the surprise! I downloaded it as an audiobook from my library because it was available and it had been on my list for a while, but at the time, I didn't know that much about the story line. What I appreciated about this book was that it featured three different point-of-view characters: Ren, Zofi, and Akeylah. They're half-sisters vying for their father's throne, but they each have secrets to keep about their pasts. Even though they start out suspicious of one another, by the end of the book, they've learned to trust each other as sisters and friends. I liked this so much and wanted to get to the end so badly that I actually just lay in bed after getting home from work and listened. That's not something I usually do! And although book two wasn't quite as good (and had one aspect I really didn't like), book one was a breath of fresh air.

The Protector of the Small series, Tamora Pierce
I only recently began reading Tamora Pierce. I think I would've devoured these books as a kid, but I'm making up for lost time! The Protector of the Small series is a four-book series featuring Keladry of Mindalen, who quickly became my favorite Pierce heroine. A generation before Kel, Alanna successfully trained as a knight, although at the time, no one knew she was a girl. After the king decides to let girls train as pages, Kel becomes the first. In the first book of the series, she has to deal with a lot of sexism, but by the second book, most of the characters have come to like and trust her. Lady Knight is the final book in the series. In it, Keladry is a full-fledged knight, and she's tasked with guarding a refugee camp. I found Kel as a character to be stubborn and charming, and I found her story to be fun, adventurous, and uplifting.

Fly Girls:  How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, Keith O'Brien
Fly Girls tells the story of female pilots in America in the '20s and '30s, focusing mostly on Amelia Earhart, Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. O'Brien gives a lot of background on the planes, what flying was like for men at the time, and what the sexism the women were up against. He tells their stories with empathy, and I often found myself reacting out loud to the audiobook as I drove. I was elated and inspired when one of the women triumphed, and I was dismayed and nervous when pilots were crashing or close to crashing. I was also struck by the fact that O'Brien included information about what happened to these women after the heyday of flying. For a lot of them, the answer wasn't glamorous. By turns exciting and emotional, this is definitely my favorite non-fiction book of the year.

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
This series blows me away. I listened to the first book in 2018 on a road trip and loved it but wanted to give myself some time to savor it. Also, the narrator changed between books one and two, and that was surprisingly disappointing. I ended up not listening to this one, book two, until 2019. (And yes, I got used to the new narrator.) Book one was pretty sprawling with back-and-forth timelines that could get confusing. Book two narrows the focus on Breq, who was once the ship the Justice of Toren, who had thousands of ancillary bodies but now has just the one. Here, she goes to Athoek Station, where she takes it upon herself to protect the family of Lieutenant Awn, whose fate was revealed in book one. There's also lots of tea, and the preoccupation with it made me chuckle. One of my favorite things about this series is that Breq's language doesn't recognize gender, so she's constantly referring to everyone as "she." Leckie leaves it up to you to decide what gender everyone is, basically. Even though I found book three on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble and have easy access to the audiobook through my library, I've been putting off reading it. I think it's because I don't want the series to end. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Favorite TV of 2019

Runaways/Cloak and Dagger
I know what you're thinking. I'm cheating on the very first one! Yes, you're right. I try to keep these lists to five items, but these two shows are interconnected enough that hey, I do not feel bad about this decision! Runaways was one of my favorite shows last year, and I was eagerly anticipating this season, although I'm sad that it's the last. The show was really finding its groove, and there's so much potential for a few more seasons. But what I liked about this season was that the kids know who they are now. They know their powers, they know their strengths and weaknesses, and they know they have to stick together. And found family is one of my favorite tropes!

Like in Runaways, in Cloak and Dagger, my favorite aspect is the relationship between the main characters, Tandy and Tyrone. I thought that really grew in season 2, and I absolutely loved the cross-over episode between these shows. Tandy and Tyrone brought a different vibe to the Runaways group, and for such a heavy episode, it was also pretty funny. I'm sad both of these got canceled because they both deserved bigger audiences.

I didn't expect to like this as much as I do, but one of the reasons for that is the support cast. Camrus Johnson as Luke, Meagan Tandy as Sophie, and Nicole Kang as Mary are all great in different ways. The story focuses on a Gotham that hasn't seen Batman (or Bruce Wayne, but no one connects the two because comics!) for three years. Kate Kane rolls back into town and back into her complicated family when her ex-girlfriend is kidnapped by a villain named Alice. In her efforts to save Sophie, she accidentally gives Gotham hope that Batman has returned. Only he hasn't, so who is going to step up to walk in his shoes? Kate can only do it with Luke's help, and I'm looking forward to seeing whether she lets other people in on the secret during the second part of the season. For a show that's just getting started, I think this has a lot of potential.

Schitt's Creek
Okay, I had to split up the superhero shows a bit. This was an unexpected find for me. I have a few friends who were raving about it, so I finally decided to check it out. I'm really glad I did even if it took me until about season 2 to really get a feel for the show and the characters. It follows the Rose family, who lose everything and are forced to move to a town they bought as a joke years ago--Schitt's Creek. They end up living in the motel, where they befriend the proprietor, Stevie, who is probably my favorite character. The Roses have a hard time adjusting to their new lifestyle, but eventually they learn to appreciate the town and its interesting characters. The townspeople learn to appreciate the Roses' eccentricities, too, like Moira's wig collection, every item of which she has named. There are five seasons of 13 episodes available on Netflix (and a sixth currently airing on Pop TV), and the episodes are short enough that I can fit one in when I just need a little break to laugh.

Legends of Tomorrow
The only one of my hold-overs from last year, and no one is surprised because it's one of my favorite shows ever. First of all, time travel! Second of all, as already discussed, I love the found family trope, and this show really leans into that. Sometimes that means characters I love decide their path lies elsewhere and they leave. And a lot of times, that means new characters I will come to love jump onto the ship. Although I didn't like season 4 as much as I liked season 3, this remains one of my favorite shows, and I'm looking forward to season 5 starting later this month.

Gentleman Jack
A friend and I watched the first episode together, and then I liked it enough that I watched the rest without her! Suranne Jones plays the main character, Anne Lister, a real historical figure who lived in Halifax, England, in the 1800s. And she's a marvel in the role. Anne is a force to be reckoned with, refusing to live within society's rules by loving who she loves and taking care of her own property and controlling her estate's coal business. Sophie Rundle plays Ann Walker, who is the polar opposite of Anne Lister--shy, not confident, and thought of as unable to make her own decisions. As they fall in love, they also grow as people. And let me be clear--this period drama is lush. Intricate costumes, gorgeous landscapes, soaring music. This is simply a wonderful show all-around.