Tag Archives: Thursday Book Talk

Last #WriteMonday (It’ll Be #WriteTuesday Going Forward!)

Just to warn everyone, this is going to be the last #WriteMonday.  I was thinking about it, and since I generally work on things on Monday (and so never really have a consistent time when I post on Mondays), I’m going to move the weekly update to Tuesdays instead.  That way I can do all my writing without trying to remember to post on here simultaneously! 🙂

Fitting in with this change, I also decided to move the monthly Tuesday Book Talk to Thursdays.  So starting this month, that will now be happening on the last Thursday of the month instead of the last Tuesday.

This last week has been full of brainstorming and worldbuilding and plotting, all for the Make Your Way Story I’m working on.  As I mentioned before, the story is going to be set in City of the Dead.  After finally finishing bingeing through the Pitch Meetings on Youtube (they’re by Ryan George for Screen Rant), I started thinking a lot more about this story.  I don’t know why, but I was having a really hard time working on it, so I forced myself to go over things and see what the matter was.

My thoughts led me off in some unexpected directions: the original story I envisioned had a man looking for his betrothed, but I wasn’t really clear on how he realized she was missing.  Thinking through that, I thought it made the most sense that they separated because of an argument and he realized she was missing when he went back to apologize to her.  But the more I thought about their argument, the less sense the story made as I had originally envisioned it.

What made more sense within the story was to have the lady looking for her betrothed instead. That meant I had to change some aspects of the characters I had originally envisioned, too.  At its most basic, she was originally going to be a revenant, but now he would be instead (revenants are the soul that remains when a zombie is made – I talk a little bit about it in this post from 2015, and wrote a short story dealing with revenants and zombies for Apocalypse Madness).  Making that change led to some unexpected worldbuilding problems within City of the Dead that I had to work through (specifically whether the world’s magic is capable of affecting a revenant).  That question took an unexpectedly long time to answer (about two days!)  But that was okay, because now that I have answered it, I feel a lot more confident about this new version of the story.  And now that most of the worldbuilding is out of the way, I’ve been able to start re-plotting the story.  That has (of course) kicked up a few more worldbuilding things I need to think about, which will hopefully take a bit less time than the last one did.  But no matter how long it takes, once I’ve figured all of this out I think both the story and the setting will be much stronger!

Once I’m finished with working through the plot and the few worldbuilding kinks, I’ll get back to actually writing the story.  Unfortunately the changes I’ve made mean that most of what I had already written will be scrapped.  But that’s okay, these things happen (remember when I was working on that story for the Dark Crystal Author Quest? I wrote 5+ drafts of that story, many of which involved huge structural edits like this!) The main thing is that no matter how many drafts this takes, I end up writing the strongest story I can! 🙂

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Tuesday Talk – Do You Read Strictly For Enjoyment?

Do I read strictly for enjoyment?  No.

I really wish I did.  I love reading.  More importantly, I love reading books I want to read.  But there have been many times over the years when that wasn’t possible.

School was a big reason.  I don’t want to count the times I was forced to read a book I hated.  Okay, forced may be a strong word; I could have chosen not to read the book I guess.  But I read them all in high school, and all but one in University (I was sick and didn’t end up reading one book from the assigned reading list).  I even managed to make it through the 500 page monstrosity that is The Golden Notebook in one week (that was a super tough read to get through, and wow was that a painful class – I was one of two people plus the prof who had read the book; no one else had anything to say about it during the entire discussion).

Once school finished, I thought I would be in the clear to go back to reading just the books I wanted to read.  But that hasn’t always happened.  I’ve read many books for strategic reasons, like choosing ones to review for work.  Or reading books that my brother has lent to me that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to read on my own (like The Alchemist).

So no, I do not read strictly for enjoyment.  But that’s okay.  If you read just for enjoyment, you may not push yourself outside of your comfort zone.  Sure, you might read some books you really don’t like.  But you’ll also find some amazing books you might not have picked up on your own.

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Tuesday Talk – Do You Read a Specific Amount of Pages Before Giving Up?

When I was younger, with the exception of Bunnicula, I used to read every single fiction book I started from start to finish. It didn’t matter if I liked it or not. If I started it, I was hell-bent on finishing it.

In some ways, this was a good thing. I’ve read books that I didn’t enjoy and so could comment on why I didn’t like them. I’ve also used examples of books I absolutely hated as comparisons to other books, showing why this book may be better or worse than that one. Over the years I was able to refine my reading taste, discovering that I prefer dialogue to lots of dry description, or that I sometimes get lost in written action scenes.

But as I got older, things changed. I remember one lady saying that she never finishes a book she doesn’t like.  In her words, “life is too short to be spent reading bad books.” And honestly, that’s very, very true. There are far more books to read than we will have time to read them. So why waste your time on something you’re not liking?

I’d like to say that I started following this advice right away. But that wasn’t the case. You see, I also was taking a Masters in English Literature at the time. Which meant that I had to read an awful lot of books very quickly. And unfortunately, most of these books were not things I enjoyed (there’s something else I discoverd – I am not a fan of a lot of capital L-Literature). So I forced my way through a lot of books. Some surprised me in a good way (I enjoyed them). Others surprised me in a bad way (I disliked ones I thought I would love). And many were things I would never have picked up if given the choice. So this was a very good time in many ways, helping me broaden my reading horizons.

Unfortunately it also burnt me out on reading a bit. I’m still able to read books. But I lose patience with them much faster than I used to. Where in the past I would push myself through a book I wasn’t enjoying, now I just stop. But I do try to give the book a fair shot before stopping. If I’m not enjoying the book by about 100-150 pages in (depending on its size and whether or not anything at all seems to be happening), it’s game over. And really, why should I keep going if I’m not enjoying myself? Life’s too short to waste reading “bad” books!

This Tuesday’s Talk topic came from the Tuesday Talks Goodreads group.

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Tuesday Talk – What is the Longest Series You Have Read?

Over the years, I’ve read many books.  As I mentioned last time, I tend to read a lot of fantasy.  And fantasy tends to have long series that never seem to end (I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time).  But as I also mentioned last time, I prefer shorter stories made up of standalone novels or trilogies (for the record, I have not read through the entire Wheel of Time series; I only read book one).  But does that mean I have never read longer, multi-book series?  No it does not.  I’ve read several over the years, with some ongoing to this day.

When I was first contemplating what the longest series I have read is, Everworld  by KA Applegate came to mind.  Everworld is a twelve-volume juvenile/young adult story about five teenagers who are transported to a magical land half the time, and have to live their normal lives during the other half.  While twelve books sounds like a lot, in actuality it really isn’t; the books are around the 150-200 page mark each.  And as I mentioned, they’re written for a younger audience, which makes them super easy to read quickly (there are less words per page than on something like any of the books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series).  And honestly, twelve books of this size is nothing, even within my personal reading history.  I made it through about 25 of the Animorphs books when I was younger (at a quick guesstimate, I think they averaged about 150 pages each).  And about 30 of the Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister books before that (which averaged about 100 pages each).  I stopped reading both series when I realized I could polish one off in an hour.

Also, to put those books into context, even though 30 books sounds impressive, at a rough guesstimate we’re talking about 3000 very easy to read pages in the case of the Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister books.  If you look at something like George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the first two books total about 1,802 pages.  The Song of Ice and Fire pages are also much denser, with many more words per page.  A Game of Thrones took me about a month to get through.  While I can’t give an accurate estimate of how many hours it took, I know it was more than thirty between the two books.  So even though I read more books in the Animorphs and Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister series, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings together were a bigger series based on sheer size.

So obviously, something more adult is going to be the longest series I’ve ever read.  The six books of Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid Chronicles would be the next obvious contender.  But at approximately 320 pages each, these total only 100 words more than the two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire that I read in their entirety.  So that’s not as impressive.

Oh yeah, and the books in the Iron Druid Chronicles took me on average a day or two to read.  So we’re talking about half a month to read six books, vs one month to read one.  Once again, A Song of Ice and Fire seems to be in the lead.

So what other contenders can challenge the combined might that is A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings? Only the books of my favourite two authors of course!  First up is Terry Brooks’ Shannara series.  This is a loose series which spans generations of mainly the Ohmsford and Leah families.  I say mostly because Brooks also linked the Word and Void series into Shannara, which took place long before the Shannara family line existed, never mind split off into the Ohmsfords.  That series is currently made up of 27 books with one forthcoming this summer; I’ve read 22 of those (and have the remaining five ready to go when I get around to it).

The other serious contender is Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series.  Like the Shannara series, the Heralds of Valdemar series is made up of mainly smaller trilogies that all take place in the same world; like the Shannara series, these smaller trilogies take place over a large time scale. The Heralds of Valdemar series is currently made up of 34 books (plus 9 anthologies); I’ve read 26 of those (plus 1.5 anthologies).

So how do these compare to A Song of Ice and Fire?  The Shannara series is a bit harder to guesstimate page numbers because the original books were much longer than his newer books.  At a guess, after The Wishsong of Shannara, his books tend to be approximately 350-450 pages each.  Lackey’s books  are a little more standard, approximately 350-400 pages each.  So at a very rough estimate, I’ve read 9,300 pages worth of Shannara and 9,750 pages worth of Valdemar.  Even if my guesstimates are off, that puts both of these series well ahead of the 1,802 pages of A Song of Ice and Fire.

It also means that in theory I’ve read more Valdemar books than Shannara.  But my math on those two was really sketchy, so I’m not sure which one is the clear winner.  But I do know that even if Valdemar is currently winning, I’ve got a Shannara trilogy I’m planning on reading in the very near future, so Shannara will either be tied or ahead of Valdemar soon!

This Tuesday’s Talk topic came from the Tuesday Talks Goodreads group.

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Tuesday Talk – Gardening and Invasive Plants

The weather’s finally warmed up around here and I’ve had gardening on my mind for the last week or two. So rather than talk about the normal writing/video game/book sort of thing this Tuesday, I decided to talk about gardening instead.

Last fall I bought several shrubs for my back yard. I planted them beside the sidewalk in the back with the intention of building a garden where they were.

Shrubs!

So this summer I started actually putting the garden in. I’m only going to make it half the size I was originally considering, so just from the right of the table. I’ve changed my mind about where I want most of these shrubs to be (most notably I planted a dwarf shrub BEHIND a non-dwarf), so I’m in the process right now of tearing out the grass and moving everything around.

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While I was trying to figure out where to move everything, I discovered that one of my shrubs, the Turkestan Burning Bush (Euonymus nana ‘Turkestanica’) may be an invasive species (it’s the shrub that I’ve now moved into the right corner in that last picture).  Or at least the regular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is considered very invasive in warmer hardiness zones. Originally from Asia, this species has been spreading throughout eastern North American forests. Right now, its sale is prohibited in New Hampshire and Massachusetts; as far as I can tell it is otherwise still available elsewhere in North America.

I haven’t been able to find a lot of information on the Turkestan Burning Bush beyond very general care instructions and so cannot confirm or deny whether or not it is considered invasive. Apparently it is not native to North America (I’m not entirely sure where it’s from, but I’m assuming Turkestan?) But just because it’s not from here doesn’t mean it is automatically invasive. Invasive plants typically produce many seeds and do not have many or any predators because they are not native to their new environment; as a result they are able to flourish, outcompeting against native plants. I found this list that details what makes a plant invasive if you’re interested in more information.

At this point, since I haven’t been able to find anything saying the Turkestan Burning Bush is invasive, I’m not too worried about having it in my garden. I’ve only had it since last fall, so I haven’t had enough time to see what it’ll do over the growing season.  But the City of Calgary’s 2014 pamphlet “Yard Smart Perennials” advocates having it in your garden, so hopefully I have nothing to worry about! But now I know that a plant’s invasiveness is something else to research before buying.

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Tuesday Talk – What Do You Think About Really Long Series?

I am a big fan of standalone novels.  I love being able to read a self-contained story, where I don’t have to know or remember events that happened previously or characters who I met in passing several books ago.  But more and more, it’s getting harder to find good standalones, especially in genre fiction like fantasy (my usual go-to for pleasure reading).  For awhile it was always trilogies, which aren’t so bad when I hoard them until the last volume comes out.  Then there was a time when quadrilogies (if that’s even the word) were coming out all the time.  These were stories like the Eragon series, or Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles where the stories were too big for volume three, so book three got split into two to make a four-part story.  But more and more, I keep finding stories with no end-point in sight.  Or the end is somewhat in sight, but still years and years away.  In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a large story told over many books.  If the characters are interesting, the world is intriguing, and the plots aren’t stale, why not stick with a massive story?

For me, the problems are multiple.  For one thing, my reading time has been severely limited over the last few years.  I used to routinely read over 50 books a year.  For the last few, I’ve been lucky to hit 50.  Sure, I’ve wanted to start Stephen King’s The Gunslinger; I hear it’s an amazing book.  But it’s also part one of his Dark Tower series.  Which means that if I like it, there are SEVEN other volumes in the series, which all get progressively longer.  And that’s something I not only do not want to commit to, but really CAN’T commit to right now.  I know what you’re saying: just read the first one and go back to the others later.  Well, that’s not how I usually roll when it comes to books; if I like a series, I am going to read it right through to the end, if possible.

Which brings me to my second issue with big long series: I tend to stop reading them once I catch up to the most recently published one.  That’s because I’ve had issues with trilogies, where I’ve dutifully read every book as it came out, only to realize that I didn’t remember most of what had happened in the previous book.  And really, why would I remember more than the basics?  I read the book over a year ago.  And read many books between then and now.  So now I tend to hoard all the books in a trilogy until they’re all published.  Then I can read them all in a row without having to worry about forgetting characters or plot points.

I’ve been attempting this same thing with Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, which I absolutely loved when I read.  I read voraciously through the first three books, going out to buy books two and three immediately after reading book one because I loved it that much and needed to know what happened next RIGHT NOW!  But I haven’t touched the series since finishing book three.  Book  four wasn’t published yet, so I had to stop.  I do have books four and five in the series now (I’ve had them since they came out in paperback).  But my logic is that so much time has passed since reading them (I finished Blood Bound in 2009).  So of course I’m not going to remember what happened in book 10, which is forthcoming in 2017.  And that one isn’t the last one in the series, so at this point there’s no reason not to just wait until they’re all out.  I’ll have to reread the first three anyway; why make it so I have to reread more than that by the time the final book is out, especially since my reading time is limited?

That’s basically the same thing that happened with Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  I read voraciously through the first six books because they were out, but I haven’t looked at the series since catching up to the publishing schedule.  Sure, there’s only supposed to be three more.  But by the time book nine comes out, am I really going to remember the major things?  Probably not.

So while I do like the idea of big long stories in theory, especially when I can read through them in their entirety, in practice I am not a fan.  I currently don’t have a lot of time to throw at reading through a multi-volume epic.  And even if I did, if the entire thing isn’t published, I’m going to lose interest once I catch up to the most recently-published book.  So to all those authors and publishers out there: please, please, please write and publish some smaller (genre) stories.  Trilogies are alright if you must, but good standalones are what I  would honestly prefer.

This Tuesday’s Talk topic came from the Tuesday Talks Goodreads group.

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Tuesday Talk – Your Favourite Antagonists in Fiction

I missed last week’s topic but like it better than this week’s topic on the Tuesday Talks Goodreads group, so that’s what I’m going to talk about today.  Who are my favourite antagonists in fiction?

Fiction is a rather broad term.  It can cover everything from movies and video games to books.  So I’m going to talk about my favourite antagonists from all three since the topic doesn’t specifically say which to refer to.  I’m also going to warn you that there will be spoilers as I talk about them; these are all older works though, so hopefully it won’t be a problem for anyone.

When I first saw this topic, the antagonist who immediately sprang to mind was CLU from Tron: Legacy.  CLU is one of the most fascinating and tragic antagonists I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the movie, CLU (more accurately CLU 2) is a doppelganger program made from his creator, Kevin Flynn.  Flynn wanted CLU to make the perfect system.  CLU betrays Flynn and takes over the grid.  The really interesting thing about his character though is that he is always just following Flynn’s orders all along.  When CLU first stages his coup against Flynn, he first asks if he’s still supposed to make the perfect system; when Flynn answers “yeah,” CLU rebels.  Even later in the movie, this comes up again, with an older and wiser Flynn admitting that he was wrong to program CLU to pursue perfection since it is unknowable (and can be messy, not orderly).  Every time I watch Tron: Legacy, I’m always struck by how tragic his character is: CLU is always trying to do what he was ordered to do, and keeps asking Flynn if the order still stands.  And because Flynn is too naive to realize what is happening, he keeps giving the same order over and over again, dooming them both.

A video game antagonist didn’t spring immediately to mind.  But with a bit of thought, I’m going to give this to Sekto from Stranger’s Wrath.  If you haven’t played this game, stop reading and GO PLAY IT RIGHT NOW!  It’s a lot of fun and has some very surprising twists.

So anyway, Sekto.  Sekto has dammed a river, causing a major drought in the area.  He’s also caused a species called the Steef to become extinct.  He’s offered a bounty on any of the last remaining Steef to be found.  He also believes the main protagonist, Stranger, knows where they are hiding.  After some crazy twists and turns, Stranger eventually manages to fight his way to Sekto’s lair.  After defeating him, it turns out that Sekto himself is a Steef who was controlled by a parasitic octopus-like species.  This was such a crazy twist to a very villainous character; it’s managed to stay with me after all these years.

I actually found the book villain the hardest to come up with.  I think I’m going to give that honour to King Haggard from The Last Unicorn though.  Haggard is a thoroughly miserable man who has just been trying to find something that makes him happy.  Almost everything he tries helps for a time, but inevitably fails.  The only thing that actually does make him happy is watching the unicorns.  So he sent the Red Bull to capture them all so Haggard could have them all to himself.

Well there you have it.  My three favourite antagonists: CLU from Tron: Legacy, Sekto from Stranger’s Wrath, and King Haggard from The Last Unicorn.  They are all very tragic figures; they’re relate-able, even though they do drastic and often despicable things. That being said, there are many other awesome antagonists who I haven’t named here, like Darth Vader (pre-prequels), the Prophet of Truth (from Halo, only in Halo 3 though) and others who are not coming to mind.

Who are your favourites?

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