So Currently…(6)

Reading….

I’ve been doing this more than anything this year. I’m challenging myself to read more genres and more widely.

To this end, I recently finished Rebel by Beverly Jenkins. It’s the first book in her Women Who Dare series and my first ever adult romance book. And…I kind of loved it. The book is seeped in the intricate world of Reconstruction era New Orleans with all its racial turbulence and hope for the future all the while showing a love story that I wholeheartedly rooted for. I loved Drake LeVeq with his passionate pirate blood and the hellion of a schoolteacher, Valinda Lacy. They have undeniable chemistry and I was also intrigued how their loved fit in with the historical setting.

Another little chapbook I finished recently was Elizabeth Acevedo’s Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. I loved every book I’ve touched by this author and this one is no exception. The poetry and verse in this explore Latin American myths and history and gives them a modern resonance especially as it touches on topics of racism, sexism, and the wider diaspora.

As of the current moment, I am reading The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. It was easy immersing myself in the voice of the main character, Nishat as the book starts out with her coming out as a lesbian to her Bangladeshi parents and their not-so-great reaction to it. I can’t wait to see where this book takes me.

Watching….

A lot of Community. A coworker turned me on to it a few months back but I only recently got really into it. It’s a comedy show that messes with its form with every episode and I’m absolutely here for it.

Listening…

I’m rededicating time to my old passion of just sitting and listening to music. I’ve discovered a few artist and albums that I absolutely fell for. I finished the Hadestown Musical soundtrack and loved how it reimagined the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Imagining the underworld as an industrial wasteland was a pretty interesting take.

Julien Baker released an album called Little Oblivions. I love the album as a whole but my favorite singles are “Faith Healer” and “Heatwave.”

Japanese Breakfast also released the single, Be Sweet, that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I can’t wait for the album!

Writing…

This among other things. I’m trying to get my thoughts together and put some organization into them. Hopefully, the fruits of that labor will show itself.

Happy Friday!

So Currently…(3)

Reading…

I’ve been reading more nowadays than I did in the whole of last month. I definitely needed lighter reads and on a whim, I decided to read Akilah Hughes Obviously. I really admire and respect her as a content creator and her biography was entertaining. I do have to admit that I wish there was more cohesion to how the book was structure. The beginning was great but the further in, I lost a little interest because the ideas seemed so random. I’m still happy I read it though!

Along with that, I recently started the novella The Black God’s Drum by P. Djeli Clark. I loved his book, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and picked this one up because of the promise of sky pirates and African Orishas set in some steampunk post-bellum New Orleans. I’m only a few pages in but I’m hooked. I mean, how could I not, right?

Writing…

Oh yes, it’s actually happening this week. I always find editing and revision the most daunting part of writing (I know, doesn’t everyone). Right now, I’m reading through the first Grim History arc, Hunger & The Hanging Tree. Expanding and tweaking and retooling some of the plot points. I’m also starting to rearrange events to fit into the revised outline. After the first initial edit, I’ll go back and check for instances of passive voice and maybe get around to actually getting further into the second arc. A good way to procrastinate on editing is working on a point further along in the timeline.

Later in the week, I want to write a post actually discussing the specifics of this story rather than tease the title. It’s been two years so…

Watching…

I’m watching shows again. I tend to get into weird periods where I can’t bring myself to engage in TV shows or the like. Not due to lack of interest but due to my fear of commitment. When I watch things, I tend to get consumed by it if I really like it. Or can’t get into it completely because…I’m honestly not sure.

I’m currently watching Derry Girls which is putting out some absurdist comedy vibes that I can completely get behind.

I haven’t watched anime for a good while and now I’ve picked up three shows (two courtesy of Mother’s Basement Summer review list). Namely, Rent a Girlfriend (more character depth than the title will have you believe), The Misfit at Demon King Academy (comedy gold), and Fruits Basket (season 2 is giving me all the feels with its amazing character drama).

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

So Currently…(2)

Mourning…

The loss of Civil Rights Leader and Congressman John Lewis. He was such an important figure in the Civil Rights movement participating in the first sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March in Selma. When I saw the notification he died yesterday, I had to pause to take that in. I just wanted to take a few words to honor his memory.

Reading…

I finished Lakewood a few days ago and I’m still parcing out my feelings towards it. It’s definitely a horror book dealing with real issues of medical and financial exploitation of people of color. It was engrossing but was told in a very detached style. The character slips into dreams, nightmares, and conversations without transition. I need a lighter read! I’m not quite sure picking up The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is it though. I’m strapping in for all the feels.

Feeling…

This’ll be a short post this week folks. I’m writing this at the tail end of a work weekend and I’m knackered (I had to get that British moment out of my system. Anyway…) But I wanted to write something and my black chai tea gave me the boost to sit down and write. Tea is the tactic I usually employ to get me in the mood for some productivity, no matter how fleeting.

I really hope you guys have a good week ahead.

So Currently…

Reading…

I’ve been picking up and setting down several books these last few weeks. I recently finished a cute little comic by Lucy Knisley called Stepping Stones which is semi-autobiographical about the author’s time adjusting to a new family and the New York countryside when she was young. It was a cute little book and I’m always a huge fan of Knisley art and comic style.

I’ve also been jumping back and forth between The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and Lakewood by Megan Giddings. The former is a tome of a nonfiction book about the period of the Great Migration, where black people from the South moved up North to escape the Jim Crow caste system. Lakewood is a bit of a mystery at this point. I want to classify it as some psychological horror involving science experiments and the like but I’m not sure of its direction yet. It’s intriguing though.

Writing…

I’ve very tentatively started trying to edit my Hollow Grove series. I just can’t seem to get myself in the right head space for them (or writing in general to be honest). But I rewrote the intro of the Grim History (which I count as a win :)) and have dedicated more of my daydreaming towards the Festival of Shadows rewrite.

And blog wise! I’m here! I’m writing!

In my life…

Since this whole pandemic thing started, I’ve gotten really into cooking. The bug has always been there if my Youtube history is any indication. Recently, I’ve been studying Korean and Asian cooking and have experimented with a couple of recipes and foods.

I usually fail when I first try things. I tend to absorb a lot of info and then go off the cuff when I make a recipe. The Bibimbap I tried on Friday was a little off. It was mostly the way I prepared the vegetables and the Gochujang sauce I got from Target was actually barbacue sauce which is embarrassing. The sauce tasted good but was way sweeter than I was expecting.

But a couple of wins for the week included some fried potatoes I made for breakfast, a tex mex bowl with all the fixings (this time I added fire roasted corn and green salsa which made a HUGE difference) and a strawberry mug cake.

I’ll be talking about cooking way more in the future because it’s become such a big part of my life and it brings me so much joy thinking about recipes and experimenting with things in the fridge.

To All The Books I’ve Read Before (February Book Roundup)

Hello Friends!

I have to confess something. I didn’t think I got too much reading done last month. Finding the time to read was a bit of a struggle. Or, at least, it felt that way. In between fighting the flu and balancing reading and writing on my head while working, divvying up my time and energy for it was…something. But after reflecting on the month, I managed to get through some pretty interesting and varied titles!

So without much ado!

The Poison Squad
Deborah Blum

Poison SquadYes, I just finished it this month. I am a dutiful library patron and I had to give it up for a few weeks. It was really popular in my neck of the woods and one of the downsides of the library system is that you have to give it up if you don’t read it fast enough. Such is life!

The Poison Squad is a lesson in how we have to continually fight for the social change we want to see in our government and the world at large. The book circles back to the argument that we have to keep fighting for the institutions and protections set in place for us. The book was essentially about struggle. Struggle to get the national spotlight on how food gets adulterated and tampered with to make it on the cheap. The struggle to get laws passed to hold companies accountable. Struggle to enforce, struggle to maintain, struggle to update with the times.

I was reminded that history is a long game. Nothing happens overnight. Our modern regulation of food is a century-long struggle that is still happening each and every day.

Diary of a Tokyo Teen
Christine Mari Inzer

tokyo teenAn okay graphic novel about the author’s trip to Japan and how she connected back with her roots. The art style was fun and it was filled with a lot of good info about Japanese culture. It was only okay for me because I didn’t feel like I learned anything new from it. I studied Japanese a fair bit and even visited a place or two in the book myself during a college so I didn’t come across anything I didn’t know. The most effective parts were how she discussed her reconnection with her culture and lessons about growing up. How the world can be a big, exciting and sometimes confusing place and how that’s okay!  If you want a fun primer on Japanese culture, I highly recommend this!

Looking for Lorraine
Imani Perry

A1+3MQC3caLThis is perhaps my favorite book I read in February. I first heard about this book on the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and decided to pick it up after seeing it on the shelves of my local bookstore. This is a lovely memoir about the short life of Lorraine Hansberry–writer, playwright, queer and civil rights activist. She’s most known for her play, A Raisin in the Sun, but this book showed she was so much more than that. I most enjoyed how this was written taking elements of traditional biography and prose. Imani Perry also offers up some self-reflection and her sense of connection of Hansberry on her own life. The writing was very affecting, pulling from Hansberry’s own writings and painting a clear portrait of her life, her passions and her struggles. If you are at all curious about Lorraine Hansberry and the moment she occupied in history, I highly recommend this book.

Clara Voyant
Rachelle Delaney

clara voyantThis is one of two middle school reads that I picked up this month. Clara Voyant is a fun mystery about aspiring journalist Clara Costa who, as a newbie on her middle school newspaper, gets stuck with the horoscope section instead of the hard-hitting news she craves. She believes that horoscopes and other mystical things are a whole bunch of “woo” which she gets enough from her mother and her equally eccentric new friends in Kensington Market. But things get strange when her horoscopes come true and the school’s mascot goes missing. This was honestly a fun little book with interesting characters. It was a real pleasure to see the (sometimes funny) interactions between Clara and her mother. Who can’t relate to a parent you are sometimes embarrassed to be around. Also seeing how middle school politics play out in what’s considered noteworthy gave me a genuine shot of nostalgia as I think back to my (cringy) middle school days.

 

A Properly Unhaunted Place
William Alexander

a properly unhaunted placeRosa Diaz and her mother are library appeasement specialist move to the town of Ingot, a properly unhaunted place. But things are not what they seem. After being invited to the local history festival by Jasper Chevalier, they both figure that all is not what it seems. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s full of fun and scary spooks, some good pacing, and some really fun characters that I loved following. There are also some really important lessons on honoring the past and coming to terms with the more unsavory history of person or place. There were some really good quotes that were beautiful in sentiment.

How NOT To Open A Story [An Analysis]

I’m currently reading C. B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick, a YA book where  Jess, born to metahuman superhero parents, tries to discover her natural talents by taking up an internship with a villain (unknowingly so, of course). It has an interesting premise and an inclusive cast of characters.

I’m only 50 pages into the story and…I already have opinions. It’s still too soon to judge the book by its story but the opening checks off a number of boxes for what NOT to do in an opening.

I just wanted to get these thoughts out there because it gave me a visceral pang. A bad opening can turn a reader off to a story. This is such a good premise but its execution doesn’t bode well if these mistakes creep up later in the narrative.

I’ll also preface this list by stating that I’VE COMMITTED THESE MISTAKES.

guilty

The first draft of my Festival of Shadows story is a great example of some of the worst things you can do at the beginning of a novel. Hopefully, this will help an aspiring writer who wants some tips in revising their opening chapters. I know it helped me!

So without further ado…

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Nothing turns off a reader fast enough than burying them under a mountain of information. The book started out promising enough. It kicks off with some excellent opening lines illustrating a moment of action:

Jess grits her teeth, going for a running start. The gravel on the trail crunches under her feet, the wind rushes through her hair, and she can taste success. This time. This time, she’s gonna make it.

But as the story continues, so much is thrown at the reader. I feel like in the first fifteen everything about this post-apocalyptic world is thrown at the reader, including but not limited to: solar disaster, the onset of World War III over resources, initial nuclear destruction, Jess’ family dynamic, Jess’ parents status as superheroes, her personal insecurities with her lack of powers, how class differences influence driving habits, and a whole host of other things.

It’s hard to get truly invested into a world when the writer gives you so much to digest. It slowed down my pace as I tried to keep track of everything.

INFORMATION REPETITION

It’s one thing to have to take notes on the story you’re reading due to the volume of information. It’s a whole other beast when you see the same information explained to you again later. Sometimes within the same chapter.

One example I found was how the narrative keeps relaying the fact that Jess’ parents are the “C-list local superheroes, Smasher and Shockwave.” This wouldn’t bother me so much except that it’s constantly stated within the first few pages in a similar manner.

Smasher and Shockwave are the two resident superheroes of Andover. C-list as they may be, they’re celebrated here. Jess knows them as Mom and Dad. [5]

…but her parents were good C-list heroes, constantly working for the greater good of the country, and their home reflects that. [8]

Jess flops on her back and spots the framed photograph of her parents, dressed as Shockwave and Smasher, vibrant and powerful, the pride of their small city. [10]

Playing devil’s advocate briefly, this repetition could show how present their reputation is in Jess’ life and how her initial lack of demonstratable abilities compounds how inadequate she feels next to them.

But note the page numbers. See how frequently the writing reminds the reader of this so early on. It became a real issue for me as I found myself rolling my eyes muttering how I already know this.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Okay, so you’ve all heard this one before.

To top off the other issues, most of the information is told. Sometimes shown, then explained needlessly!

I know that when world-building, it’s tempting to just explain how the world works especially if it’s very unlike our own. Some things have to be explained because not doing so may leave the reader confused. But if something can be shown, do it. Certain scenes in this story could’ve been redone and shown later.

There was one really glaring example of this in the first 15 pages.

The context: Jess has just returned home. She reviews the messages on her Data Exchange Device (DED) all the while saddened by the possibility of not being a metahuman when…

Warm fondness for her best friends distracts her from her disappointment.

Did she smile at the messages that her friends sent her? Did her heart feel lighter? Why not show this through character movements? This sounds more like a vague stage direction than narrative.

As I said before, I’ve been guilty of all of these. Everyone has. As I was reading, I kept thinking back to my own stories where I just threw all the information I could think about the setting in the first few pages. I was still ironing out the details myself. Still discovering different aspects of the world that I didn’t want to forget as I was writing.

Revision is a good way of catching these. If this helps in any way to the aspiring novelist, I’m happy about it. And, I must state that despite my griping, I still fully intend to continue reading. The premise is good and I can’t wait to see what happens (hopefully, after the initial hurdle, it’ll get good!)

But now I want to know…

Were there any books with good premises ruined by awkward writing? Did an opening chapter almost turn you off to a good story?

Or are there any fun little writing misadventures that any of you had with your opening chapters? I would love to talk about them.