Diving Right In

Ten days ago, I finished the third draft of a novel. I’d been working on it for… far too long, considering the end product. Including my time outlining, I was occupied with the thing for over a year. (I started outlining in December 2016.) And I’m not even close to being done with it. I know it needs a lot of editing, starting with some cuts in the beginning. The first act of the story, which should be approximately the first quarter of the book, is a tad on the long side. Plus I’m considering redoing the entire book in third person rather than first. First person is really, really, really hard to write well, in my opinion. (I will point you to the many mediocre first-person novels out there. There are a ton of them.) I’m not sure if this book really requires first person, the more I think about it, so a rewrite may be in store.

I don’t like to edit immediately after finishing something, though, so I put that manuscript aside. The day after I finished it, I started editing something else. It’s another manuscript I finished back in 2015, meant to edit, but then never got around to it. A writer’s work is never done, you guys. Anthony Trollope the prolific (and financially successful!) Victorian novelist wrote every day—even if he finished something. As in, if he still had time left to write after finishing, he started on his next project that very same day. Brandon Sanderson, a modern novelist who is very, very successful (he writes fantasy and supports his family with his writing, which is basically my dream), wrote thirteen or so novels before he got published. And it wasn’t the thirteenth one that was published first. It was the sixth or seventh that managed to spark an editor’s interest and launch his writing career.

Now, I don’t want to jinx anything or get ahead of myself… but that manuscript I mentioned above, the one I finished in 2015 that I’m editing now? I actually sort of like it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot in it I have to fix. I’m reading through it now and have almost five pages of notes already. But I feel like it has actual potential. I’d love to get it into a state where I actually feel comfortable pitching it. Because I’ve never pitched a novel before and that’s something I want to do this year.

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Ivan Bunin

While reading the weekly roundup of Imperial Russia-related news over at Royal Russia News this weekend, I found this great quote about Russian author Ivan Bunin, a White émigré, fervent anti-Bolshevik—and the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

[Cursed Days] is regarded as one of the very few anti-Bolshevik diaries to be preserved from the time of the Russian Revolution and civil war.

His scathing account of his last days in Russia recreates events with graphic and gripping intimacy. His criticism of Bolshevik leaders is unparalleled, referring to them as “pitiful, dull, mangy-looking creatures”.

On hearing of the death of the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, in January 1924, Bunin gave an emotional speech in Paris, in which he dubbed Lenin a degenerate by birth, who committed the monstrous crime of crashing the world’s most powerful nation and killing several million people

[…]

Bunin was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1933). He was revered among White emigres for his anti-Bolshevik views, and regarded him as a true heir to the tradition of realism in Russian literature established by Tolstoy and Chekhov.

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin died in Paris on 8 November 1953.

I’ve wanted to read Cursed Days for years, but still haven’t got around to it. However, that little excerpt I quoted above makes me want to read it even more. I have so many Russian books on my to-read list, it’s ridiculous. And I take forever to read in Russian, so I often avoid doing it. Meanwhile, the list grows and grows and grows… That’s just the Russian to-read list, by the way. I have a to-read list of English books, too.

Sigh. So many books, so little time.

A Year of Nonfiction?

Last year, I read almost exclusively fiction. Now, I haven’t actually gone back and calculated, but it feels like I read a higher percentage of fiction last year than in prior years. I did read some nonfiction, but those books were few and far between.

Ever since the start of 2018, I’ve had an insatiable appetite for nonfiction. Now, I have read some fiction—by my count, three out of the ten books I’ve completed so far have been novels—but by and large, nonfiction has been holding my interest. Two of the books I’m currently working on are nonfiction, as are most on my to-read list.

I’m not saying I’ll never read fiction again. I’m looking forward to a certain novel’s release later this year (Thrawn: Alliances), so much so that I’m actually counting down the days. But I do wonder what a year of (mostly) nonfiction would be like. Maybe I’d be all nonfiction-ed out by December—though I certainly would have learned a lot, that’s for sure.

2017: My Year In Books

I meant to write this post ages ago, like at the end of December so it could be scheduled and published towards the beginning of January, but that didn’t happen. Still, it’s better late than never, so I figured I’d write about my favorite (and least favorite) reads of 2017.

First off, I read a fair amount of books in 2017. 105, to be exact. That is fewer than the 2016 number of 126, thank goodness. Reading-wise, 2016 felt very stuffed to me. I didn’t like feeling stuffed. Books are good, but reading to the exclusion of other fun things, like knitting, is not good. If you’re interested, I wrote a post about my 2016 reads last year.

But back to 2017. Goodreads has a nice little summary of everything I read that you can access here. (Note: if you’re a Goodreads user and you want to share your own summary, you have to use the share links at the top right. Don’t just copy the URL because that URL doesn’t have your unique user ID and therefore people will not be able to see your unique summary!)

If the books I read in 2017 had a theme, I’d have to say it was very much a science fiction and fantasy theme. I haven’t actually gone back and counted, but I feel like I read a ton of fiction in general, especially science fiction and fantasy. I don’t think I read much nonfiction at all. In fact, I think I’ve read more nonfiction so far this month than I did all of 2017. I’m not sure why that happened—I didn’t deliberately plan that!

Anyway, to get into the details: out of everything I read, here’s what stood out, both good and bad.

Best general fiction

I think this one has to go to Sarah Shoemaker’s Mr. Rochester. I rarely buy brand-new books, but I snapped this one up as soon as I saw it in the book store because I am a Jane Eyre enthusiast. It did not disappoint. I think you have to read Jane Eyre first to fully appreciate it… but if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, what are you waiting for?!

Best science fiction

If you don’t know my answer to this, you probably haven’t been reading this blog for very long! 🙂 Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn was by far the best science fiction of the year. It’s one of my favorite books, period. And there is a sequel coming out that I’ve posted about (and have a countdown for on this blog—only four more months to go!), so go read this book if you haven’t already.

Best historical fiction

This book, Mary Doria Russell’s Doc, was a surprise hit for me. I thought it was just going to be okay. It was fantastic. It focuses on one year in Doc Holliday’s life (though it mentions a lot of other parts of his life as background) and the quality of the writing is fantastic. I finished it months ago and sometimes I still think about it. To me, that’s the mark of a good book. I’d never heard of the author before I picked it up, but I will have to read more of her work.

Most disappointing

Thus far, I’ve talked about books I like. Now I’m going to be a little less positive. One book I was really looking forward to reading was Sean Danker’s Admiral. The title is awesome, the cover is awesome, and the summary sounded awesome. Unfortunately, the book itself is not awesome. It starts off decently enough, but then devolves into an uninspired tale of first contact. The book is a first in a series and I don’t think I’ll be reading the other two books (I think it’s a trilogy but I’m not sure) because of my disappointment with this one. If you haven’t read it—well, let me just say there are better works of science fiction out there.

Best nonfiction

I don’t want to end this post on a negative note, so the last book I’ll spotlight is best nonfiction. As I said, I didn’t read much nonfiction in 2017, so this book didn’t have much competition… but even in a year where I read solely nonfiction, I think this one would come out on top. I’m talking about John Laughland’s Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice. You know when you read a book and sometimes you have to go back and read things because they’re so amazing? And you learn so much from even just one sentence? And then as you read the book, you realize that the author is basically a genius and no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to come up with all the original thoughts and connections he (or she) has? That’s what happened to me when I read this book. Laughland is brilliant, there’s no question about that. I’ve been following Balkan history and politics for about ten years now and I have a very contrarian view. Laughland does as well, and his book makes you think.

So, that’s my year in books! What books did you like (or dislike) in 2017? What books are you looking forward to in 2018?

A Rainy Weekend

It’s been a dreadfully rainy weekend here u Natashi (at Natasha’s), which means outside activity (i.e. walking) has been impossible. Therefore, I’ve mainly been inside reading, writing, and making macaroni and cheese.

The reading material has consisted mainly of nonfiction. In fact, I’ve read nonfiction almost exclusively this year thus far, but more on that in a later post. The most recent book I finished was Albert Speer’s Spandau: The Secret Diaries.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read that book. I think I read it a few in high school, but it’s been over ten years since I read it. I think I remembered the book as better than it actually is. Don’t be me wrong, it’s fascinating as a historical document, but I’d forgotten how miserable and depressed Speer was at times, which makes those sections difficult to read.

As for writing, I didn’t write at all yesterday, but I’ve done 2,000 words so far today. My book is rapidly approaching the end, so things are getting very exciting and dramatic. I love writing epic confrontation scenes between characters and my poor protagonist is about to have the biggest confrontation of her life. (Granted, she’s only seventeen, so she hasn’t exactly had that many confrontations before, but there are some nasty surprises awaiting her.)

I have to work tomorrow, but I wish I had another day off to write fiction and write more blog entries… and to spend some time walking since I couldn’t go on a walk this weekend. Too bad I couldn’t have worked today during all the rain so that I could have tomorrow, which is supposed to be nice and sunny, off!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Shortly after I wrote my prior post,* I went to the Balmy Tropics. It… wasn’t the best trip to the Balmy Tropics. The weather was great but the certain events continue. At least my mom and I went shopping and out to eat multiple times when I was there.

I wanted to start the year off right, so I wrote over a thousand words today. I still need to post my 2017 writing report—it probably will be lackluster, but I’m just trying to push forward and keep working on my writing. I’m planning to finish the draft I’ve been working on and I have a couple of short stories to edit.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a good New Year’s Day. It’s back to work tomorrow, which I’m not looking forward to because I haven’t gone to work in over a week! It’s going to be a rude awakening tomorrow…

*In my prior post, I mentioned a book I’m excited for later this year. In fact, I’m so excited that I put a countdown in the sidebar of this blog! It’ll be in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page, depending on what device you’re using to read this blog. If you’re reading via RSS or email, I think you have to click through to the blog.

‘Thrawn: Alliances” Has An Official Cover

As I mentioned in this post, I read some Star Wars books earlier this year. I specifically mentioned Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, but I actually got started with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, which came out earlier this year. I picked it up on a whim and ended up loving it. The quality of the writing is better than the aforementioned Thrawn Trilogy. The trilogy came out in the early 1990s, so I think Zahn improved as a writer in the intervening twenty-something years. Seriously, Thrawn is fantastic. I liked it so much I read it twice in a couple of months, which is something I rarely do. (I do reread, but usually not in such a short period of time.)

That’s why I was thrilled—I was literally jumping up and down—when I found out there’s going to be a sequel to Thrawn. At first it was just the unnamed sequel, then I found out it had a name: Thrawn: Alliances. Then, in late November, the cover art was officially revealed.

I missed the official reveal back in November. It was right before Thanksgiving, when my mom came to visit me. (I think the official reveal may have been on the actual day she arrived. I didn’t go online much that day or for days afterward.) Anyway, I saw the official cover this past weekend and it is amazing. I just had to share it with all of you. If you’ve seen it already, you can marvel at it again. And if you haven’t seen it, get excited because it’s really, really good.

Ready for the awesomeness? Here it is.

I found it on Star Wars Wiki here.

I love it. I think the cover artist did a really fantastic job. And I am really, really, really looking forward to reading it. If the first book is any indication, it’s going to be amazing. Unfortunately, we have to wait until June 2018 to read it. It comes out on June 26, 2018. (Can you tell I’m counting down the days?!) If only I could get my hands on an ARC… if the publicist for it is reading this post, please send me an ARC so I can read it as soon as possible!

What news books are you excited about next year?