Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


This concludes your NaNoWriMo session.  Please try again next year.

I didn't make my goal.  But guess what.  I'm a dad now.  Pretty good reason to miss writing for a couple of weeks.

Not going to post any pics of my baby here, sorry.  But--just so you know--she's beautiful.  And healthy.  And the best thing that has ever happened to me.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16, and The Death Cure

I was having trouble making progress on Gunlord, and so rather than just not write, I've been spending the last few days on other projects.  I finished a chapter and started another in my mid-grade time-travel adventure.  I submitted a chapter from it to the writing group last week.  I felt encouraged to pursue it when the reaction I got was, "Cyborg chimpanzee?  Cool!"  The story is all worked out in my head, so now all I've got to do is put it to paper... and figure out how to end something in 60,000 words or less.  Those mid-grade novels don't let you take up too many pages.  Also, what has been keeping me up the last couple of nights, (because my freak'n brain won't just go to sleep with all the awesome thoughts swimming around up there) is a new project that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I've had some characters worked out for a while, just waiting for the right story to pop them in to, and the workings of that right story have all the sudden decided now, when I should be finishing Gunlord, was a good time to knock me on the head and get my attention.  So my NaNoWriMo is getting spread out over a few stories.

The good thing, though, (and I have to keep reminding myself that it is a good thing, despite part of me wishing I wouldn't have had this creative bubble burst until Gunlord was finished) is that I'm writing.  I'm excited to write.  I want to write.  I have to write.  I can't stop thinking about writing.  This is such a welcome change from the last few months.

For those of you wondering, (all two of you) Gunlord is NOT getting shelved.  I'm way too invested in that story, and I know it kicks ass.  So yes, it will be finished.  I plan on writing the first three chapters or so for this new project, and then shelving it until Gunlord is done.  I don't outline, and so I have to hurry and get the bones of this new story down before it goes away.  Gunlord's ending has been in my head since I began writing it.  All that is needed is the time to get it typed.  Of course, that's the hard part, right?

Seven gods, I wish I was cashing checks for good ideas.  I seem to be bursting at the seems with them right now.

And now for the book review.  Death Cure, here we come!

This is my favorite cover of the series.  I don't know why, other than I really like snowy mountains.  Can't get enough of them in Skyrim right now.  Anyway, I have finished the final book in James Dashner's trilogy and all I can say is I'm tired.  Very, very tired.  I'm glad it's over.

The Death Cure (TDC) was quite a bit better than its predecessor.  If you haven't read my reviews of The Maze Runner, and The Scorch Trials, take a look at them in my backlog.  You'll see I was more than upset at the way the second book turned out.  Even though I think TDC was an improvement over TST, I wasn't satisfied with how it all panned out.

I read on Dashner's blog a few days before TDC released that he had been waiting years to tell readers this part of the story.  My response: really?  Why?  You've been waiting to tell people for years about a handful of teenagers that run around, making the dumbest decisions at every turn?  You've been waiting to not keep promises you made in the first book you wrote in the series?  Seems kinda, I don't know... weird, if you ask me.

I'm not as passionate in my disappointment in TDC as I was with TST.  Mostly because I wasn't expecting much going in to the third book.  But also because I liked several things about the final book.  I was surprised when Thomas became a little more active, rather than reactive.  That was a nice change.  Also, (SPOILERS) I liked that he didn't want his memories back.  It seemed true to his character.  And (MAJOR SPOILERS) I liked that Thomas and Teresa didn't have a reconciliation at the end.  Thomas never fully trusted her again until she got crushed under a building saving him.  I was with Thomas hating her all along after what she did to him at the end of book two.  I guessed she'd die early on, but it didn't bother me so much that it was predictable.

My favorite character of the series: Newt.  He seemed the most... in pain.  I felt sorry for him.  Orson Scott Card says the character in the most pain should be the POV in any given story, but I don't know if that would have worked out so well in this one, given what happens with him and Thomas.

The main reason I'm not jumping for joy over TDC is that it was just boring.  And the build up of Thomas taking on Wicked never pans out.  Sure, he fights a bit toward the end of the book, but I was expecting much more from all the build up.  This is where I think Dashner didn't fulfill his promises.  Thomas never took Wicked out, the terrorist group, Right Arm, did.

I could go on for a while longer, but I don't really care to.  TDC was a better book than TST, but it was a bit anticlimactic for me.  Longer series tend to end with a let down, (Harry Potter) but I was hoping Dashner would go out with a bang.  More like a punctured tire.

Oh well.  I think that if some decent writers got a hold of this they could make an enjoyable movie out of it.  I think I heard The Maze Runner had been optioned.  Here's hoping the script writers take out all of the fake swearing.  

The Death Cure gets 1.5 stars out of 5

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More on the state of modern speculative fiction

If you're interested, author Bryan Thomas Schmidt did a guest blog at adventuresinscifipublishing.  He discusses the need for positive messages in speculative fiction.  I weighed in on the discussion on the website.  You can check it out here.

Schmidt's post is along the lines of what I blogged about a few weeks back, when I was talking about the state of modern fantasy.  Check it out.  Share your ideas and thoughts at adventure's site.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9, and The Alloy of Law

Day 9, whew.  It went well.  I made my word count early this morning.  It was surprising.  It always makes the day go easier when I get all the writing done before going to work.  Then I don't have to feel all guilty for sleeping in or whatever.  That's all to report on the writing.

The real reason for the post was to review The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson.

I picked this shot of the cover because it focuses on some things I want to talk about before I give the review.  1. Look at the goggles around the neck of the main character, hanging there like he needs to take them along with him in case, I don't know, he needs to ride some kind of steampunky contraption.  Wouldn't that make sense?  Course it would.  Only problem is he never does this.  In fact, the only time the protagonist dons the goggles is when messing with some metallurgy.   No steampunk, sorry.  I only bring this up because this was kind of marketed as a steampunk, western-fantasy.  And, isn't it silly that goggles on a person dressed in certain clothing communicates steampunk?  It's not like you steamy guys and gals own the rights to goggles, sheesh.  2. If you look real close, behind the lettering, there is something that appears to be a steampunky contraption.  The only thing that could resemble that in the book is a crane on a barge, and it's in the story for like two seconds.  Funny that it ended up on the cover.  3. And last, the sidekick, standing all badass behind the dude in front, is holding what looks to be a shotgun or rifle.  Only problem there is that the sidekick wants nothing to do with guns, and won't touch them.  Isn't it interesting how a publisher tries to sell books?

Having said all that, the cover is awesome.  And it got me excited about the book months ago.  So I guess it did its job.  I just wish it wouldn't have made things up in order to sell the book.  Okay, on to the review (I wouldn't feel like myself if I couldn't rant about something for a bit).

The Alloy of Law, hence forth known as: TAoL, was my favorite of the Mistborn books.  I liked it a lot.  It hit all the right buttons, and was the perfect length for Brandon's style of writing.  (I always feel his books are way too long, despite being excellent).  For me, this wasn't my favorite of his works, but it comes in a respectable second.  (The Way of Kings still wins).

The story starts with a lawman named, get ready for this, Waxillium.  It isn't so bad when it gets shortened to just Wax, but Brandon didn't use nicknames nearly as much as he usually does this time around.  This made me sad, but oh well.  Anyway, Wax gets called back to the city to take up his dead uncle's position as Lord Ladrian.  He gives up his cowboy ways and begins to acclimatize to life in high places.  Until his old deputy, Wayne, shows up and enlists his help in solving a crime.  Lots of cool action scenes ensue, (ah yeah, Mistborn gun fights are very cool) and Wax and Wayne find themselves uncovering a conspiracy.  Can't say much else without giving things away.

The villain is one cool dude.  The girl is rather annoying, filling the academic role that Brandon loves to give to a character in every book he writes, and the banter between Wax and Wayne is fun.  It gets over the top sometimes, but usually stays within the bounds of humorous, rather than idiotic (Wayne is actually the funniest when he's away from Wax, doing his own things.  He makes a great character, and has a past that makes him rather interesting).

One thing I had a problem with: Wax is a twinborn, meaning that he can use Allomancy and Feruchemy.  I know that if you haven't read the Mistborn books you have no idea what these two terms mean, but I don't want to get in to explaining two magic systems right now.  If you want to know more, read the books.  Anyway, being a twinborn is supposed to be a rare thing in the world.  Problem is, the sidekick and the Villain have this rare gift as well.  Makes it seem a little less rare when three of the main characters can use two magics.  Just saying.  Mixing the two systems, however, make for some awesome action scenes.  It's really cool how Wax and Wayne use their powers together to co-op their foes into corpses.  (Oh, and if you care, Wayne and the girl are able to burn two metals that aren't featured in the trilogy.  Kind of fun to see new stuff in the world).

If you liked the Mistborn books, or any of Brandon's other novels, you'll like TAoL.  I only hope that it doesn't take too long for the sequel, because the ending, although satisfying, leaves much unanswered.  (It is okay to do this when done right!  I'm glaring at you, Scorch Trials!)  I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Michael Kramer, who does the Wheel of Time series, Mistborn, and The Way of Kings.  His narration is excellent as always.  Go and get this book!

The Alloy of Law gets 4 out of 5 stars.

One last thing.  Well, two, really.  Like you were ready to stop reading... There are NO Mistborns in this book.  You heard me.  It's a Mistborn book without Mistborns.  They don't exist in the world anymore.  Something to do with the end of the trilogy.  I thought that was interesting.  And last, (it really was last... this little tid-bit happened in the epilogue)  a character from the trilogy shows up in a little cameo.  Which character, you ask?  Ha!  You think I'm gonna spoil that?  All I got to say is it made me smile, and maybe pump my fist in the air... maybe.

*Reaches arm up, closes fist... stops.  Tells himself to grow up*

That's all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8, and The Scorch Trials

So NaNoWriMo is freaking hard.  Write 50,000 words in a month, work a full-time job, and get ready for your first baby?  Seriously?  Yeah, it isn't going as well as I hoped.  However, I am still plugging away, and my writing schedule has gotten back to what it was a few months ago, so it has been a good thing for me right now.

I'm still so pumped about Gunlord.  A western fantasy just seems like such a brilliant idea to me!  And it's nice that Brandon Sanderson has had a similar thought and written The Alloy of Law (just out today).  I'm glad, though, that Sanderson isn't playing up the western part so much, as it is a huge part of Gunlord, and I don't want to be thought of as ripping off anyone.  For the record, I started Gunlord last January, before Sanderson ever announced Alloy.  The writing group will back up my claims, right, guys... yeah?  If anything, I stole the idea from Stephen King, except that his Dark Tower series isn't very western either, only has a gunslinger protagonist.  That series got way too weird for me!  I quit after book three, then read the summaries for the rest of the series.  Boy, am I glad I didn't bother with the rest of that story!  (After reading about how it ended, I decided it was officially the stupidest ending to a series in the history of stupid endings).

Anyway, getting off topic.  I doubt I'll get 50,000 words this month, but the good news is that it's shaping up to be my most productive month in a long while.  That's a good thing, I'd say.

And now to The Scorch Trials, sequel to The Maze Runner:

I'm gonna say it up front: I didn't like this book.  I'll give you my reasons why, without spoiling anything, so have no fear, you may read on!

I read and reviewed The Maze Runner a few months back (the review was one of my first posts).  I had some issues with that book, but overall thought it was a fun read.  The Scorch Trials, (TST) however, really upset me when I shut down my ipod yesterday after the last sentence... it left me totally unfulfilled.  I felt cheated, lied to, and shoved through a meat grinder.  Funny, since this is probably how the protagonist, Thomas, was feeling right then, too.

Just because the POV character is feeling like this, doesn't mean the reader should be as well.

My main issues with TST were the plot and twists.  And lack of interesting characters.  But I can live with the last, since I still enjoyed TMR despite its flat characters.  I bet the age group TST is written for won't have any of the problems I had with the book, but good YA should still work for adults, so I'm holding TST to higher standards.

Everything felt so forced.  Everything happened because the plot demanded that it be so.  Every chapter ended with a cliff hanger, because the plot demanded that readers feel tension.  Each new twist felt so contrived that I screamed in frustration several times.  And Dashner (the author) gives you tension and twists with one hand, only to take them away with the other.  All of the suffering Thomas went through was absolutely pointless.  Not one of his experiences served to do anything, other than to move the plot forward--which, honestly, isn't even clear about what it is.  Oh sure, there are questions.  But are there any new answers?  Nope.  Not a one.  I know nothing more about Thomas's situation after TST than I did after TMR.  (Yes, there was some kind of disaster and disease in the world, but that doesn't count as answers, since knowing this only gives me twenty more questions).

Anyway, I didn't feel like Dashner gave readers a beginning, middle, and end in this book.  It all felt like middle.  That might sound dumb, since it's the middle book in a trilogy, but each book in a series ought to have its own story structure that fulfills promises to the reader.  TST failed at this.

I really like James Dashner.  I've met him, and heard him speak at a few different events.  He's a great guy, and is quite the motivational speaker.  I have no hate for the dude.  But The Scorch Trials just didn't do it for me.

The Scorch Trials gets 2 out of 5 stars.

I'll finish the trilogy, because there are some things I want answered.  Hopefully the Death Cure won't disappoint.  I'll have that one finished sometime next week.  As of right now, I'm halfway through The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson, and will post my review of it when I'm finished.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2, and two vivd dreams

I know, I know, November just started.  It's not like I've progressed very far in my 50,000 word goal for the month.  But I had to note that so far, after two days, things are going great.  I've more or less reached my writing goals both days, (first day I went over, today I went just under) and something surprising happened.  Gunlord snuck up on the 80,000 word mark.  Ain't that grand?

I've been saying I had 70,000 words for so long, that it's pretty damn awesome to now think of it as plus another 10k.  And I think I just wrote the best chapter of the book so far.  It's a completely new POV, (I'll probably add her in as a prologue POV) she's a total beast, but gets some mega sympathy points.  It'll be fun to share this one with the writing group when it comes to submitting it in a couple months.  (Still have 3 chapters ahead of it to submit).

If the novel reaches the lowest estimate of finished word count, I'm half way there.  If it takes to the highest estimate to finish, only a hundred-thousand more to go!  (ugh... I've got to write faster!)

That's all.  Time to get some sleep, so I can wake up extra early and plunk out some more words.

*Cue chime music and air whooshing sound effects.*

Okay, it's the next morning now.  I had two weird dreams and I didn't want to do a whole new post for them, so I'll stick them in here.

Dream 1: George R R Martin and I, and one other dude who I have no clue was, went to the Hoover dam and walked around.  In the middle of the river below the dam, there happened to be a huge rock formation, kind of like Bryce Canyon, that you could go hike on.  George didn't want to go down there, though, so we just walked around the top of the damn.  Then we (me and GRRM) split off from the random dude and got in George's crappy blue Honda CRV to drive back to Vegas.  On the way, I tried on GRRM's thick nerd glasses, and continued to tell him my life story of wanting to become a writer.

I told him about David Farland's Writer's Death Camp I attended last November, sure that he'd be impressed that I had been to a seminar put on by a New York Time's Bestseller.  Also, I told him about the hike My wife and I, and another Death Camp attendee, went on with Dave and his family in Zion's.

The closer we got to Vegas, the more the landscape looked like Idaho in winter.  And then we nearly hit a horse and sleigh.  (GRRM isn't a very good driver in the snow).  I told him how much I loved Hunter's Run, even though A Song of Ice and Fire is my favorite of his work.  (I didn't want to fawn over the series everyone had read, so I picked one of his less-popular novels :-) ).  And then we arrived at the Con we were going to, and GRRM hurriedly excused himself from my presence.

Dream 2:  I'm on this bus going who knows where, and besides me and one other guy, the bus is full of women.  My friends Jo and Jane are there, and I have no idea who the rest of the gals are.  The other dude with me starts out as one person, then changes into another halfway through the dream.

The other dude starts off as my dentist.  Now I know it is very weird to dream of your dentist, but mine happens to be a family friend, so I know him a bit better than most probably know theirs.  (We've helped each other build cribs... his for his granddaughter, mind for my baby girl).  Anyway, so we're on this bus and he has to give me a check up, so I sit down on the examination table (of course there is one, though why it's on a bus I have no clue) and begin to have my teeth cleaned.

Then, without warning, my dentist changes into my chiropractor.  Again, I know my (I use my loosely... I've only been to get adjusted by him once, but I'll go back to him in the future) chiropractor a bit better than normal, because his wife runs a wedding supplies business out of a building my dad rents to them.  I proceed to have my back adjusted in this bus full of women.

End of dreams.  I'm just wondering now what in hell my subconscious is trying to tell me.  Any dream interpreters out there?

*crosses fingers in hope of GRRM dream meaning that he will have greater success than the master of fantasy himself... thinks the passing of the nerd glasses points to this unarguably*

*bangs head against wall beside his computer because the second dream is just weird*