To Continue? Or Not To Continue?

…that is the question.

No, dear readers, I’m not talking whether to continue writing this blog or not. I’m talking about a book I checked out of the library last week.

Do I like this book? Or don’t I? That is (also) the question.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve probably gathered I’m a fast reader. I actually have to force myself to slow down and enjoy books sometimes, as opposed to completely inhaling them. That’s why it’s surprising that this book, The Madagaskar Plan by Guy Saville, is taking me forever to get through. I’ve had it for a whole five days now and I’m maybe a third of the way through, if that.

It’s odd because though I don’t dislike the book, I also don’t love it. I feel completely neutral about it. It is an odd book because though it’s supposed to be a sequel to The Afrika Reich, which I also read, you don’t really need to have read the first book to read this book.

I have yet to decide whether to finish it or not. I keep reading bits and pieces of it sporadically. By the time I do decide whether it’s worth finishing, I’ll probably already be done and there won’t be a decision to make then.

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Charlotte’s Biggest Fan

No, I’m not talking about a little green parakeet named Charlotte—I’m talking about the British author Charlotte Brontë, who is one of my favorite writers.

Thanks to me, two of my coworkers are now reading Jane Eyre (it’s only the best book ever). I’m happy that I had a long, extended conversation with these two coworkers about the merits of the Brontë sisters and their work. We came to the conclusion that Charlotte is our favorite sister and that the Brontë sisters’ work is much easier to read than Jane Austen’s. Not that I don’t love Jane Austen, but sometimes I do find her prose a little… turgid.

Spoilerific Review of ‘Thrawn: Alliances’

You guys, I wrote my Goodreads review, as promised! It is full of spoilers—seriously, if you don’t want to know a lot about the story, don’t read this! I’ll say it again: there are a ton of spoilers in this review! Proceed with caution! 🙂

Thrawn:  AlliancesThrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting for this book for a very long time. (Anticipation tends to make time drag out.) It did not disappoint.

Even though this book is a sequel to Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, you really don’t need to have read the first one to understand this. (You should read it, though, because it’s AMAZING. Seriously, Thrawn single-handedly turned me into a Star Wars fan.) Eli Vanto is mentioned once, and Commodore Faro showed up at the end of the previous book, but that’s about it. Instead, this book has references to some of the prequel trilogy, to other books, and to the TV shows Clone Wars and Rebels (I haven’t seen the shows, so I discovered that by looking up a few things I didn’t understand).

Random obscure references can be frustrating, but don’t let that stop you from reading this book. It’s excellent. I really enjoyed the interactions between Thrawn and his crew—he really is a good leader, so much so that I wish managers at work would emulate him more—as well as Thrawn and Vader, past and present. Yes, dear readers, it’s true: Darth Vader is in this book (he is a main character, as you can probably tell from the cover) and Zahn writes him well. I could hear all of his blunt, pithy statements being said in James Earl Jones’ voice from the movies.

I really enjoyed how Vader didn’t want to reveal his past. A few times, Thrawn makes reference to the fact that they met before, which Vader denies. By the end of the book, Thrawn knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Vader is Anakin Skywalker. Of course, the two of them don’t have some heart-to-heart about this. But I still enjoyed seeing this mystery play out.

Another unexpected part of this book was the inclusion of Padmé. I love Padmé! Unfortunately, her sections were the weakest, mainly because Zahn had so little to work with concerning her. The Star Wars canon has never done her justice, unfortunately. The good news is Zahn did the best he could with what he had—you’ve got to start somewhere.

By the end of the book, we discover a big secret about the Chiss—they navigate through hyperspace using Force-sensitive kids, whose strength in the Force diminishes as they grow older. These children, some of whom were kidnapped by the Grysk, a new species of alien, were the source of the disturbance Palpatine felt at the beginning of the novel. Thrawn and Vader have completed their mission and developed a grudging respect for each other. (Seriously, one of the most entertaining aspects of the this book is seeing Vader snipe at poor Thrawn for almost the entire time.) Vader promises to back Thrawn’s TIE Defender project. Thrawn says the emperor is interested in expanding the Empire to the Unknown Regions, something Thrawn is an expert in. The threads are all wrapped up by the end of this book, unlike in the prior one. I’m not sure where Zahn will go with a third book, if there is one (and I dearly hope there will be because MORE THRAWN).

Final verdict: if you’re a Star Wars fan, a Thrawn fan, a Vader fan, or all of the above, you will enjoy this. I wasn’t very happy with some of the references I didn’t understand, but those are few and far between and do not take away from the story.

View all my reviews

‘Thrawn: Alliances’ Was As Good As I Expected

Cue the music, everyone. Perhaps the Imperial March from Star Wars is appropriate, because the book I’ve been waiting for since last October is here.

At long last, Thrawn: Alliances was released into the world this past Tuesday (four days ago). The library copies arrived and were processed into the system, so on Thursday morning, I went to the library to collect the copy I’d reserved.

Here it is sitting on my coffee table!

I read it and finished it already! I’ll probably write a spoilerific review on Goodreads at some point, but my overall impression is that it’s decent. Timothy Zahn took the story in a direction I didn’t expect, but that’s not a bad thing.

I expected the book to be a direct sequel to Zahn’s prior book Thrawn, but that wasn’t really the case. In fact, I think you could easily read Thrawn: Alliances without having read Thrawn, which I find very odd. I was hoping some of the unresolved problems from Thrawn would be explained, but that didn’t happen. Perhaps there will be a third book to tie it all together. (We can hope!)

Edited to add: According to this interview, Zahn has pitched two sequels! Thrawn: Alliances was one of them, so there could be a third book in the future!

Another thing that was unexpected about Thrawn: Alliances is it’s not a very good entry point into the Star Wars universe. I read Thrawn without ever having read a Star Wars book. I hadn’t seen most of the movies, either, but it still made perfect sense. I didn’t get that same feeling with Thrawn: Alliances. If you try to jump into the Star Wars universe with this one, you’ll probably be confused. I was confused about some references, to be honest.

So was it worth the wait? I’d say yes. Seeing Thrawn and Darth Vader sniping at each other (okay, let’s be honest, most of the sniping is coming from Darth Vader’s side) was pretty funny. And this dedication is priceless. I even took a picture of it because it made me laugh.

I’m so glad Timothy Zahn has a sense of humor!.

As scary as this sounds, I’ve worked with people more horrible than Darth Vader was in this book. Just pointing that out, in case anyone was wondering. There was a reason I left my previous toxic job…

Writing Woes

You guys, writing is not for the faint of heart. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I’ve spent the past week or so struggling with a book that just wasn’t working. It was an old idea I was trying to outline and brainstorm. It involved vampires and Moscow and was supposed to be awesome, in theory.

Unfortunately, in practice, it was not so great. Maybe it’s a bad idea, or just not the right idea for me right now, but it was totally not working. I saved my notes, but put them aside. Now I’m back to working on a second round of edits on the novel I was working on before. I think I’ll have to redo a lot of the first act of that book. Better to discover that now than later, I suppose. I am also the world’s slowest editor, so this is going to be very slow going. Maybe I’ll write some short stories in order to take short breaks during my editing…

Happy July!

Can you believe it’s July already? The year is half over now!

Anyway, I have some excellent news. Remember that graduate program I was talking about? Well, I got in! And I got a fellowship! Now I need to pay a deposit to reserve my place because I’ve decided I’m going to go for it. Next year at this time, I’ll probably be questioning my judgment since I’ll have to balance working and studying. 🙂 But I have my fingers crossed that some of the accounting concepts will be a bit easier this time around since I’ve done a lot of accounting at work in the last four years.

What else is new? Well, I’m scaling back on social media use this month so that I can get some work done on a fun novel I’ve outlined. It’s urban fantasy and it takes place in Moscow. And there are vampires. I’ve been looking forward to doing this idea for a while now, so it should hopefully be fun to write.

ONE MONTH!

One month, dear readers! Actually, as of today, June 25, less than a month remains until this book is released!

I found it on Star Wars Wiki here.

And in case you haven’t noticed, I can’t wait! Not even joking, I may have to call in sick on Tuesday, July 24, so I can stay home and read. 😉

(Okay, I am kidding… I’m on a massive project that will still be going on at the end of July, so I’ll probably dutifully end up going to work anyway. But the temptation to just not go in will be strong.)

A Nice Self-Editing Checklist

I don’t always read Kristen Lamb’s blog, but when I do, I am rarely disappointed. Kristen, if you don’t know her, is an author and editor who dispenses sage advice on her blog.

Last Monday, she wrote a post that was so timely for me. It’s like she read my mind and knew that I needed this post: Self-Editing: 7 Tips to Tighten the Story & Cut Costs. I am currently editing a novel right now, so this post was right up my alley.

Granted, I’ve read most of her tips in some form or fashion in various sources before, but it was nice to see them all in one place.

I don’t know if I’m going to hire a freelance editor for my manuscript. Ideally, I’d like to. I’m sure I’d learn a ton. But first off, it’s crazy expensive, and second, if all goes according to my Master Plan, I won’t need to.

(The Master Plan, for those not in the know [and that’s probably all of you, because I don’t think I’ve posted this publicly on the blog before!], involves me getting a massive book deal for this trilogy of novels after a bidding war among the biggest publishing houses of the country. In this fantasy, fantastic editing services come with this book deal. Yes, I realize this is unlikely to happen, but a girl can hope, right?!)

Studying Story Structure (Part The Second)

Two years ago, I wrote about studying story structure. Back then, in February 2016, I was still participating in the Writing Challenge on Twitter (let us pause for a moment to mourn that group’s demise—yes, it’s still around, but it’s not the nice supportive group it was back then) and had been studying story structure for almost a year. I originally wanted to learn about it when a beta reader read a novel of mine that was rather… amorphous. The plot just didn’t have any structure and trust me, that was not a good thing.

I’m happy to say that I’m still reading about story structure and incorporating what I learn into my writing. In the past two days, I had two epiphanies about my current work-in-progress. Just adding one element into the story is going to make it a lot more powerful. Part of the epiphany involves introducing the antagonist a lot earlier and tying that to what my protagonist wants. I think I have a good antagonist for the story but he was too much in the background and only made an appearance at the end of the novel.

I am so excited to share this novel with all of you. Believe me, I’m going to query like crazy to hopefully get a book deal and if I don’t, I think I’ll publish it myself as an ebook. Since I can’t query or publish it until it’s edited, I’m going to cut this post short while I go edit, as it’s getting rather late!

Structural Editing In Progress

You guys, I’m really pleased with the editing I’ve done so far on this manuscript. This is the one I finished drafting back in February. I let it sit for two months, then dove in to a first round of edits last Friday. I spent the past week just reading the manuscript. I put it in iBooks so I wasn’t tempted to change anything along the way and I took notes as I read.

I finished the read-through today. I’m really pleased with what I have so far. I’m going to add a subplot, probably delete some stuff, and add other stuff. Right now, my main concern is making sure the story is structurally sound. I don’t want there to be any plot threads hanging or anything that sticks out as not making sense.

One thing I won’t be changing very much is the ending. There are a few scenes I plan on adding towards the end, but as for the actual ending scene itself, I won’t be changing much. I’m really pleased about how it wraps up the story. I think it sets the stage for book two (yes, this is a series!) as well.

You’re probably wondering if this book will be published or not. Right now, your guess is as good as mine. I certainly plan on submitting it to agents and seeing if I can get a deal. I have heard that a lot of publishing contracts are quite bad nowadays (some have non-compete agreements, I’ve heard, which is absurd), but some people get really good contracts, too. And while I know that going the indie route (as in, putting the book up for sale yourself on Amazon and other assorted e-retailers) gives you more freedom, there really is nothing like having a big publishing juggernaut behind you.

So yes, I do hope this book will be published at some point. I just don’t know when that point will be. If I am fortunate enough to get a contract, I will definitely announce it on here!