Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Successful Summer

Summer is over, and I am back at school. I had a lot of goals for myself this summer, and I completed a lot of them! Today, I thought I'd share them with you.

Regrettably, several black holes have obscured part of this picture. 

I got out of school in mid-May. Almost immediately, I started searching for a job. I didn't want to work for my previous boss because I needed more hours than he could give me. I also wanted something with more human interaction as picking up trash in industrial parking lots is a solitary job. Well, I traded out a job with no human interaction to a job with constant human interaction. A hardware store hired me as a cashier. 

I enjoyed my summer job a lot! At least, for the most part. This particular hardware store has been in my city for ninety years, which means that it feels like you have just stumbled upon a gathering of your great-uncles who grew up on the farm and, therefore, know everything about nuts, bolts, watering systems, tools, paint, plumbing, and electrical, and don't mind talking about it. 
This kind of "Mom and Pop" atmosphere draws an... interesting crowd to the store. I helped contractors who were only interested in getting the tools for their current job. I helped little old ladies who only wanted to buy plants. I helped Asians intent on making sure each and every price was right. I helped Hispanics who were always ready to smile and talk with me. I helped people who clearly had never been in a hardware store and were only there to buy one thing and then leave as quickly as possible. I helped long term customers who sang the praises of the store. And then I helped people like Dean. Dean—and other old men like him—were always ready to flirt with me and the other young, beautiful cashiers. 

I worked approximately 340 hours this summer (72 of those hours in the last week of work, hence the lack of a blog post a few weeks ago), and I learned a lot about people. I have a deeper well to draw upon when I'm creating characters, that's for sure! 

From my Instagram

From the time school ended to now, I read twenty books. Nearly all of them were middle grade/YA books with a few nonfiction thrown in. I read the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I also read a bunch of standalones. Stay tuned for more on them in my summer reading list wrap-up post! 

Caution: Writer At Work

One of my summer goals was to finish the fourth draft of my fantasy-fairytale novel by June 1, which I did. You can read more about that in this post. I'm excited to begin draft five, especially since in my last blog post I announced that I am going to publish this book next summer! But, more on that in my next post.
In addition to completing the fourth draft of my book, I wrote approximately 20,000 new words. This includes five short stories and a blog post nearly every week. I participated in The Silmarillion Awards again this year, which was SO much fun!

Into the fog. 

I had a birthday. I'm twenty-one now! Which means that I am legal to do almost anything except run for national government.
I also did a bunch of Fun Things like climbing a mountain (albeit a small mountain, but a mountain nonetheless), canoeing with my dad and uncles and cousin, waking up at 4:00AM to catch a ferry so that I could spend thirty hours with my friends in one of my favorite places on earth, and exploring a stream with one of my best friends.

It's been a good summer! I'm excited to be back at school, though. I've missed learning, and I've missed my friends. I can't wait to see what adventures the next academic year holds.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Next Book

All summer I've been hinting at a secret writing project that I've been working on, and it's time to reveal all! 
But, first, some backstory to build anticipation. 

At the beginning of the year, my roommates and I were in bed, talking in the glow from our string of Christmas lights. I can't remember exactly what our conversation was, but it involved being old, single ladies traversing the world. Thus, I conceived a Story Child.

I wrote down my Story Child so I wouldn't forget it, and I fell asleep. I figured that maybe someday I'd write this story, but then I kept coming up with more and more ideas for it. I thought of names for the main characters. I bought a book for research.
Then, I came up with a title. 
Now, that is quite a big deal for me. You've probably noticed that I have trouble naming things (*cough cough* that fantasy-fairytale novel with no name, even after three years *cough cough*), so that I actually had a title for this idea is Big News.
I'll spare you more backstory. Here is the title (and, yes, it is taken from a Beatles song):

She's Leaving Home is about three friends. They haven't always lived near each other, but they have remained devoted to one another over many years. And they share the same dream: they want to travel around the United States. Now, though they are old and frail, the three friends decide to make their dream a reality. Japes ensue.

Basically, this story is about three grandmas who take a road trip.

I've done some research for this idea (though I need to do a LOT more), and I've done a lot of thinking about it. I'm not quite ready to start writing it yet, but I do want it to be the next story I write (though with a new semester of college beginning, who knows when that will happen).

So, She's Leaving Home is my latest story idea, but what will my next book be?

Huh? you may be asking yourself. But I thought She's Leaving Home is Abbey's next book?
Well, yes, it is the next book I want to write, but it is not my next book to publish.

*dramatic pause for you to catch on to my meaning* Need a little more help? Let me leave you with this...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Series I've Never Finished

Hello, my name is Abbey, and I have a problem. I read the first book in a series, and then I never finish the series. Even worse, I read the synopses of the rest of the series online because I'm curious to find out what happens, but I'm not curious to read the books myself!

If you have a fear of unfinished series, look away now.

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
After reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was fourteen, my mom suggested that I read Anne of Green Gables. I didn't want to read Anne of Green Gables, and I wasn't attuned to the language of classics yet, so I never read beyond Book 1.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
This is another book that I read when I was fourteen that I didn't enjoy much. I read it because I love the movie that stars Martin Freeman, but the book fell short of my expectations (I still rated it four-stars on Goodreads, though? I'm confused. Maybe it's time for a re-read).

3. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve. Also, The Mortal Engines. 
I didn't continue with Fever Crumb because Philip Reeve killed my favorite character! After that, I lost interest in the story.
The two reasons I read The Mortal Engines is because 1) Jack Lewis Baillot raved about it on her blog a few years ago and 2) Peter Jackson is making it into a movie. I read the first book a few weeks ago and liked it, but I didn't like it enough to continue reading the series (especially after I read the synposes of the other books online).

4. Crater by Homer Hickam.
This is a great space book where people have settled on the moon. Even though I loved the first book, I've never gotten around to reading the rest of the series. I don't think I ever will.

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
Again, a great sci-fi book. I've heard lots of great things about Ender's Shadow, but I never got around to putting it on hold at the library. I think by this time, I'd have to re-read Ender's Game before reading the next book.

6. Heist Society by Ally Carter.
This is a book that a friend recommended to me. It's about teens that go around stealing paintings for a reason that I've forgotten. It was okay, but I didn't feel compelled to finish the trilogy.

7. City of Ember by Jeanne Deprau.
I've read this book twice and enjoyed it both times, but have never been interested in continuing the story.

8. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
I loved this middle grade book when I first read it. If I had been younger when I read it, I definitely would have continued with the series. Because I was sixteen, I didn't read any of the other books. It's on the "Books to read to potential future children" list.

9. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a fabulous book and a fabulous movie. I have several of its sequels on my phone, but I don't like reading electronically. I'd love to read more Pimpernel books someday...

10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
One of my good friends read the Eragon series and loved it. I gave it a try and enjoyed the first book, but *shame face* I read the synopses of the other books online. They are so long, and Eragon was similar enough to The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars that I didn't want to put time and effort into the series if I could watch the same plot in movie form.

11. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.
I've read this book twice, and, nope, I still don't have a desire to continue with the rest of the books.

12. The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer.
I picked this one up in the YA section at the library. It had an interesting premise, but too much romance. If the second book had been out at the time, I might have continued. Now, too much time has passed, and I can't remember the plot, so I don't think I'll ever finish this series.

13. From Earth to Moon by Jules Verne.
This book ended in a KILLER cliffhanger (and poor Jules Verne's audience had to wait FIFTEEN years for the sequel!), but the writing is so sciencey that I don't know if I could handle reading the sequel.

14. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
This is the only book I've ever rated one star on Goodreads. Yeah, I won't be reading the rest of this trilogy. Ever. The characters were caricatures, the plot was cliche, and the writing was passive (just like this sentence).

15. Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester.
I have a love-hate relationship with nautical fiction. I love it because of the sea, I hate it because I have a hard time reading it, which is why I never continued on with Horatio Hornblower.

16. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.
Because this book has weird formatting and takes place in space, I thought that I'd love it. Unfortunately, I thought all of the characters were the same, and the swearing annoyed me because it was blacked out. Either commit to having swearing in your book, or don't include it at all. All that blacking it out does is draw more attention to it.

17. Heap House by Edward Carey.
This is one of the most unique books that I have ever read. I highly recommend it if you want something unlike anything you've ever read before. I'd like to continue this series, but I need to read the first book again before I can do that.

Here are three honorable mentions:

18. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
I read this book right as it gained popularity and then read the synopses of the other two books. In 2015, I re-read The Hunger Games and went on to read Catching Fire as well. I doubt I'll ever read Mockingjay, so this series will stay incomplete.

19. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.
I love Inkheart. I think it's a fabulous book. I tried reading the sequel, but didn't like how dark it became. Also, Cornelia Funke killed my favorite character, so I kind of lost interest in the series after that.

20. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
I loved the first book in this series! The second book dragged in the middle but became exciting at the end. I tried reading the third book, but I gave up. Maybe someday I'll finish Mistborn. I'd really like to because I really like Brandon Sanderson. He also killed my favorite character, though, and that's when I felt like the magic left the series (I'm sensing a trend here).

What I think we've learned here is that I lose interest in series when my favorite character dies, and that if I'm not invested in a series, I will take the lazy way out and read the synopsis online.

Have YOU read any of the series on my list? If you have, which ones should I continue?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Strangest Browser Searches Tag

Madeline J. Rose created a tag and tagged me! This is going to be a fun one, folks.

The rules:
-Access to your browser history and look through it.
-Pick at least 5 of your strangest searches you’ve had to look up as a writer.
-List them below with a short explanation as to why exactly you had to look them up.
-Tag 2-5 other bloggers.

1. "stab wound scar"
Google Images greeted me with some grisly pictures after searching this. I think I was researching scars because one of the characters in my fantasy novel has one and I wanted to make sure I was describing it correctly. Around this time, I also looked up "how do scars work" and "keloid scar" (which is a type of scar that grows on top of the injury. They are firm, rubbery, and raised).

2. "furious violin piece." And when this yielded unsatisfactory answers... "violin music angry"
Unsurprisingly, this was for a short story I wrote about a musician. He gets angry at his mom, grabs his violin, and goes outside to play away his frustration. I ended up choosing "Summer" from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi because I was already familiar with it.
Also searched for this short story: "saint-saens pronunciations," "shag carpet 80s," "how do middle school orchestras work," and "black silk dress."

3. "beauty pageants in ancient greece" 
Apparently, they were called "kallisteia." I may or may not have been researching this for a retelling of Snow White which I may or may not be writing in the next few months.

4. "how to tar a road/what is the machine that tars a road called"
I never found out the answer to this and had to use a different metaphor for my story. If anyone knows what these machines are called, please let me know!

5. "simple explanation of gravity"
I usually write/edit my church's VBS skits, and this year the theme was science. I figured that the kids would need a simple explanation of scientific principles because, y'know, they're kids (NOT because I know very little about science and needed a simple explanation myself *COUGH COUGH* Ahem).

6. "ugly color"
<Context not found> (but I know it was for a story)

7. "book about women working for boeing/women working in factories in WWII/rosies wwii"
This is research for my next book. Don't worry, all will be revealed soon! Anyway, I found only one book about women working for Boeing, but I found a lot of books about women working in factories during World War II. I read a few of them for general information. When I start writing, I will go to the Internet for more specific research.

I tag:
Jack Lewis Baillot
Kendra E. Ardnek
Zachary Totah
DJ Edwardson
and anyone else who wants to do the tag!

What's the strangest thing YOU'VE searched on Google for research?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Timey-Wimey Timelines

In all of my years travelling through time and space (via stories and not the TARDIS, unfortunately), I have noticed a trend.

Rather than write and publish books following the timeline within their books, authors tend to write and publish their stories out of order. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is the quintessential example of this. Does one start reading with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (in order of publication), or does one start with The Magician's Newphew (in chronological order)?
This question has sparked many brush fires between passionate Narnia fans. (Please no brush fires in the comment section. I've lost my fire extinguisher, and I would not be pleased if my blog burned to the ground.)

The Chronicles of Narnia is not the only example of this publishing order/chronological order debacle. I'm reading The Worlds of Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones right now, and she jumps all over Christopher's timeline from book to book.
Second Son, the sequel to Jenelle Scmidt's King's Warrior, is really a prequel focusing on one of the characters in the first book.
The fifth incarnation of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter is a prequel series.
Even I am planning on writing and publishing books out of order. If I ever finish my fairytale-fantasy novel, I'd like to write a collection of prequel short stories about a few of the characters (and after that, I have a four-book series planned about the history of my world. I may be slightly too ambitious).

So, why do authors write books out of order? I have several theories, the first of which is that writers do...

Authors are creators, and creators don't have to follow the rules. Of course, it is good to know the rules before breaking them. For example, I know that coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so—aka FANBOYS) are not supposed to start sentences, yet I have started this very sentence with one!
Likewise, it is good to know the rules of good storytelling, and, generally, good storytelling has a beginning, a middle, and an ending—in that order. But (see, I'm starting another sentence with a coordinating conjunction. I do that a lot, and a little piece of my soul cringes every time, but I do it anyway) that doesn't mean that every story has to have the beginning at the beginning. A series can start in the middle, and the sequel can go back to the beginning before the third book wraps up with the ending. It just depends on what story the author wants to tell first, which brings us to my second theory.

Often, authors don't think in a linear timeline. I know I don't. Sometimes, the story I want to tell right now is out of order with other ideas set in the same world. This could happen because we writers have one idea before coming up with the ideas for prequels, or it could be because we don't want to spoil a character's backstory.

Speaking of backstories, sometimes there isn't room enough within the main story line to explain a certain character or a particular part of the worldbuilding, so the author has to write an extended meander through history to share that part of his or her creation with the audience.

So, are out-of-order stories not as good as in-order stories?
No way! Although it can be confusing and annoying (because you want to get back to the characters and plot that you fell in love with during the first story) to read books out of chronological order, the author has a reason for publishing books in the order that he or she did.

Those are some of my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!