2014 Reading List

Last year I read thirty-two novels and five non-fiction books, which is (sadly) a fantastic year for me. This year my goal is to read forty books. Let’s do this thing!

Fiction
Control by Lydia Kang || Review
Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier || Review
Fragments by Dan Wells || Review
Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley || Review
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han || Review
Byronic by Sandi Beth Jones || Review

Sixteen Days Ago

My roommate, Mary Beth, and I were planning on moving into a new apartment the first Saturday of 2014. In preparation for it, we started packing mid-December. During this packing phase, Mary Beth ended up with some muscle pain; we figured she had pulled something. The muscle pain got worse (and moved places) over the Christmas holidays, and by the time I came back from visiting family, she had also developed a cough. She hadn’t gotten all of her packing done by the Friday night before our move, but she promised she would get up early Saturday morning so everything would be ready when our families and the U-Haul arrived.

I heard Mary Beth get up a little before eight. And then I heard a clatter and her groaning in pain. I found her curled up on the floor in front of the bathroom. This is not so uncommon an occurrence that I was unduly alarmed, but I helped her to sit up and got her some water.

I figured she might have the flu. I knew she was probably going to be useless re: packing and moving for the next couple of hours, so I started plotting how to handle this wrench in our schedule.

And then Mary Beth asked, “Is my foot swollen?”

It was.

That is not the flu or a pulled muscle, I thought. “Let’s get you to the urgent care,” I said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Icky Transitions

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with The Dying Shrine recently. (Just 1,442 words since the last post and 3,703 words for the entire month.) I’m stuck at the transition point between Act 1 and Act 2, and it’s those icky moments of change that have been stalling me.

The problem is that I really have no idea what the middle of the story should cover other than characters 1) running for their lives, 2) bonding with each other, and 3) getting ready for Act 3. I’m at the point in the story where I’ve already written so much that I can feel my options narrow under the weight of the 33,190 words that have come before. It’s a weird and unsettling feeling, especially since I continue to make things up as I write. Writing without an outline is scary.

But then again, when I looked back at my posts earlier this year, I realized I started this book with nothing other than a handful of scene ideas and laughably broad character sketches. I’m much better off now with character, world, and plot foundations already laid. I’ve done a pretty good job of making things up as I go along; perhaps it’s time I trust the skills I have and words I’ve written and just go for it.

A mess is at least more interesting than a blank page, right?

Since Last We Met

I’ve written a paltry 2,261 words for The Dying Shrine (that’s another chapter done) and 204 words for a random Cold Iron drabble (to lift Mary Beth’s spirits while she was stuck late at work). While a little progress is still progress, this all means that I’ve been spinning my wheels. I really want to show off Noriko’s home life before the next plot coupon tries to kill people, but right now that feels like an unnecessary indulgence. Unless I can figure out how to ninja in some plot (or trio development) into the domesticity, I am going to have to do a time-skip of about four days. This shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I’ve skipped very little time in the story so far, and to skip so much time annoys me.

I have been watching a lot of kdramas lately, including a complete rewatch of Secret Garden. Two and a half years and several levels of feminism later, I found a lot more problematic elements that I had either forgotten about or missed entirely, which made me sad. The bungled magical plot thread also bugged me a lot more this time around. (The first time around I was so thrilled that maybe we could actually have a Happily Ever After that I didn’t mind if some nonsensical shortcuts were taken by the writers.)

Then again, I always feel a little bad for criticizing the last four or so episodes of kdramas because I know that the writers, actors, and staff are suffering under crazy live-shoot system deadlines. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that if they had additional time they could have made the show better than it ended up being. That’s the luxury of novel writing, I suppose: I have lots and lots of time to edit, re-write, and figure out what on earth I’m doing.

This weekend I need to decide on a book for my next Rich in Color review. Now that it’s mid-June, I am craving a couple of books to read by the pool.

The Holiday Weekend

I had forgotten how much time and effort goes into prepping for a holiday weekend, having a holiday weekend, and then recovering from a holiday weekend. (That said, I loved seeing almost all of my immediate family again—and a good chunk of the extended family, too. I also learned how to make a cheesecake that didn’t crack. Please expect a recipe and pictures in the near future once I can make a pretty one all by myself.)

My word count for the last two weeks is unsurprisingly low due to the aforementioned holidaying: just 695 words. However, I managed a respectable 6,308 words in May (just 700ish short of my goal), which carried me to the next major area of the story. Unfortunately, the things that are stalling me now are 1) trying to figure out the main character’s family and 2) Heian weddings. I may just plunge ahead and include notations such as [research wedding clothing] or [we’re just going to assume there is a party, figure out the rest of it later] in the manuscript for the sake of maintaining momentum. I’m also going to have to write period-appropriate poetry, which should be an exercise in hilarity. At least I’m guaranteed to have the one terrible poem I need.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on Rich in Color. Last night my co-bloggers and I had a productive video chat, the highlight of which was definitely brainstorming who we could ask to stop by as future guests. We’ve already gotten two acceptances, and I’m hoping for many more.

Life continues onward, and I’m pretty optimistic about it. My goal for June is to hit 7,000 words. Wish me luck!

Rising to the Challenge

The week before last was a difficult one—I only wrote one day out of seven. While it was an awesome day (to the tune of 1,180 words and the end of chapter seven), my consistency left much to be desired.

I decided this week to change that and challenged myself to write at least a thousand words every weekday. In the end, I didn’t achieve perfection, but I did write four out of five days. Those four days gave me 3,942 words and the entirety of chapter eight. All of those words didn’t come easy, especially since I am still writing without an outline. But they still came—I just had to sit down at my computer for a few hours each day and force myself to write.

Rich in Color continues to be a highlight of my week. Jon has been working on the site re-design—it’s fantastic. I read The Summer Prince last week in preparation for our upcoming group discussion on the book, and I’ve asked another author if she would be willing to do a guest post/interview for us. She has accepted, but we’re still working out the details of it all. Our followers continue to grow on Twitter (67) and Tumblr (77).

In other words, life is good. I’m going to challenge myself to write a thousand words a day this upcoming week as well. I also need to finish Range of Ghosts and ready Awakening. Wish me luck!

British Scones

When Mary Beth went to the U.K. a few years ago, she returned with a number of marvels, including a delightful cookbook. One of my favorite recipes in that book is the scones. This recipe will make 10 to 12 scones, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. Just serve them with fresh whipped cream and jam, and you’ll have a delicious summer breakfast or dessert.

As a friendly reminder to not be like me, be gentle with the dough and handle it as little as possible. Otherwise your light and fluffy scones will be neither light nor fluffy.

Scones

2 oz. butter, diced and very cold
1 lb. flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar (caster/baking if you have it)
9 fl. oz. milk
Sparkling sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together.
  3. Cut in butter until mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar.
  4. Add milk and mix to form a soft dough.
  5. Roll dough out to ½” thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut scones with biscuit cutter and place on baking sheet.
  6. Brush scones with milk and sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if desired. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
  7. Let cool. Cut scones in half and serve with clotted/whipped cream and jam or fresh fruit.

Almond Chicken Croissants

In honor of the warming weather, I made almond chicken croissants. When I was younger, a cold mixture of meat, fruit, and mayonnaise was the last thing I would’ve eaten, but now that I am older I can appreciate just how delightful it really is. These sandwiches would be perfect for a bridal/baby shower—or whenever you want something filling and spring-ish.

This recipe is from The Gathering of Friends, Volume 3, by Michelle Huxtable and Abby Jane Green. I have had the privilege to go to Michelle Huxtable’s home and eat her food a couple times over the last few years, and it has always been amazing. You really should check out her cookbooks. I have two of them, and all the recipes I’ve tried have turned out amazing.

Sandwich

3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed as desired
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¾ c mayonnaise
2 tsp. mustard
1 ½-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 stalks celery, diced
1 ½ c. grapes, halved
½ c toasted slivered almonds
croissants

  1. Mix Worcestershire sauce, mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  2. Fold in remaining ingredients.
  3. Cut croissants in half. Fill with as much filling as desired.

Off to a Good Start

Thanks to two astounding writing days, last week’s word count topped out at 2,702. It’s the first time since March that I’ve written over 2,000 words in a week, so I’m rather pleased by the numbers. April netted me a total of 6,987 words, and my goal for May is to surpass that by hitting 7,000 words at least.

Rich in Color continues to grow. We’ve officially topped 50 followers on both Tumblr and Twitter, and my co-bloggers and I have hit all of our posting deadlines. Last week my contribution was a short essay called “It’s the Pattern that’s the Problem.” I’m thrilled at how well we’re doing, and we’re continuing to brainstorm ways we can get better like a site redesign.

This weekend I need to read The Summer Prince for our first group discussion and Shadows Cast by Stars for a review. In the meantime, I’m going to watch another episode of You’re Beautiful, AKA the kdrama in which an apprentice nun cross-dresses as her twin brother in order to take his place in a kpop group and shenanigans occur. So many shenanigans.

A Rather Social Week

While this week’s word count isn’t spectacular—just 1,287 words—I have officially completed the initial plot hook and moved on to part two of the book. This would be way more exciting for me if I had actually figured out what needed to happen in the mountains with all the wandering ghosts and the final member of the trio, but I wanted to try writing this book without everything mapped out beforehand.

Unfortunately, all that leaves me to go on is confusion and second-guessing at the start of a new chapter. I really ought to tattoo it’s okay if the first draft sucks in inspirational font on the back of my hands. Barring that, the best strategy I have to deal with new and uncertain things is to tackle them with a sledgehammer. My rather ambitious goal is to write 1,000 words each on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe by the end of that I will have figured out what on earth should happen in this next segment.

I spent Monday evening hanging out with Gwynne, who was in town for family stuff. It was a blast to catch up with her face-to-face, especially since we staked out a table at Café Zupas for three hours and did not budge except to refill drinks. Instead of boring you with all the details of our conversation, I’ll sum it up in a single sentence: there are few things as delightful as talking to somebody who understands your drive to create worlds with words.

Tonight was a lot of fun as well. I met up with Mandy, Trever, and Beto for dinner, and afterwards we rendezvoused with Steven; his sister, Rachel; and his mom, my Aunt Maria. I’ve never been to a mission call opening before, and it was exciting—especially when he got called to the mission my family is in! Now Steven will have to learn to conjugate his Spanish verbs. Best of luck to him on that.

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