My bookish things for 2016 and thinking ahead to 2017

2016 has been a fun year for for me reading. I read 21 books, which doesn’t seem like very much when I think about it but I do feel like the books I attempted this year seem to be very long. The longest book was A Wise Man’s Fear coming in at 994 pages while on average the books were 366 pages. So A Wise Man’s Fear was like 3 books. Goodreads has done some cool stats on my year of reading which is awesome. You can check that out here.

I took it upon myself to do some other stats. I’ve felt for a long while that I do not read enough new books. This mainly comes from the fact that every year, when awards start coming around, I don’t know what any of the books are. In 2016, I tried to read a lot of books from previous year’s awards (mostly 2016 Hugos) but I’m not really sure if that worked well. Turns out I read more stuff published in 2016 then other years, so that’s cool. I hope to read more books published in 2017 during 2017 but we’ll see.

My stats were basically 10 books published in 2016, 5 in 2015 and 6 published in other years. So a little less than half were from 2016.
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This leads me into my goals for 2017. So far I have 3! First, I’d like to read one new book (published in 2017) for every old book (published before 2017). Second, I’d like to read  a female author, for every male author I’ve read. My 2016 stats on this are really kind of embarrassing. I read 10 male authors in 2016, only 5 female authors. I’d like to even that out a bit. As for my 3rd goal? I’d like to read a biography (maybe two) in 2017. I’m not sure who’s it will be yet but we shall see.

The books I’m most looking forward to in 2017 are:

After that, I’m not really sure. We’ll just have to wait and see. You might have noticed, that already my 2017 list is looking a little one sided. If you know of some female authors coming out with books in 2017, please leave em in the comments section.

To another year of awesome reading 🙂

UPDATE: I know updates are supposed to happen after you publish but it seemed the original post should stay intact even though I found at least two more list of books that have made me super excited and the fact that I just hadn’t hit publish yet seemed irrelevant. It’s still an update hahah. Ok here we go . . .

First list is the 9 modern women science fiction writers you need to be celebrating. A coworker sent me this list (you know who you are) and it looks amazing. And it’s a step towards my goal of reading as many women as men. So far the authors on this list that have books coming out in 2017 are:

The 2nd list is the 96 books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017. Obviously I can’t read everything on this list but here’s what I want to try to read:

So yea . . . this list is rather ambitious . . . we’ll see what happens.

 

 

 

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Easy Go: A Different Crichton

Easy Go - CoverMichael Crichton’s Easy Go was both a pleasure and a let down to read. The book was originally published under a pseudonym John Lange, and with the title The Last Tomb. I first became aware of “Easy Go” (and John Lange) through a Humble Bundle mystery bundle in which it was included. Though none of the other books in the bundle seemed remotely interesting, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Michael Crichton had a pseudonym . . .

And that I didn’t already know about him!

I mean this was MICHAEL CHRICHTON!!! The author of some of my absolute favorite books! Sphere, Timeline, State of Fear, Next! For god’s sake, he wrote Jurassic Park!! 

JURASSIC F–ing PARK!!

Hell, I even enjoyed Pirate Latitudes although it was a bit of a left turn for Crichton. But this whole time, John Lange has been lurking out there, waiting. And no one bothered to tell me. Le sigh.

Anyway, I looked up the synopsis and Easy Go promised adventure and danger, and romance. Honestly, it all seemed a bit more like one of those old pulpy adventure novels than a true Michael Crichton book. However, Crichton is an amazing author and I figured if anyone could do this right it was him. Plus the story takes place in Egypt and is about digging up a tomb. It’s exactly this setting and premise that I’ve been itching for modern authors to write but alas am unfulfilled.

Zero Cool

No Chill Brah

So how was it? A bit of a let down. While the synopsis had made it seem like one of those old pulpy adventure novels, the actual novel confirmed it. Most of the characters in the novel are hardly characters at all. They fill roles, and exist mostly to get the protagonist to the next portion of the plot. And there is no attempt to hide this from the reader at all. One of the characters, upon meeting another character, is like “Oh. You must be the [enter heist role hear] “.

Also, there were some little things throughout the novel that made it really feel dated. I think the most glaring was the way women were depicted in the novel. Almost every woman in the novel except the main love interest was a prostitute. The pretty much constant innuendo between the male and female lead was bordering on exhausting (although there is a line from the female lead which calls this out. After the male lead makes some mildly suggestive quip she says something like “Wow. You’re so corny.” or some such nonsense).

I really threw in the towel when Lisa (the female lead) lights a cigarette for Pierce (male lead) and it’s noticed how capable she is at this task: “like a man”. Good lord. Kill me now.

However, it wasn’t all bad. Crichton seems to have done his research about ancient Egypt (though his depiction of modern Egypt seemed a bit stereotypical). So far as I can tell, all the pyramids were in the right place (I’ll be honest though I didn’t fact check) and a significant number of pharaohs are mentioned. It was this part of it that made the book feel the most like a Crichton novel. The rest of it was . . . disappointing.

In all I enjoyed the adventure as well as the fact that it had something to do with Ancient Egypt. As for the rest, I can see why he chose to write under a pseudonym though it’s a wonder he chose to write that way at all.

Until next time . . .

But Seriously, this is “How to Start a Freelancing Career From Scratch” by Aja Frost

Normally I post don’t on things like this. Normally, blogging is more about escaping work than starting it. But, if there is anything I’ve learned about writing, it’s that if you like it . . .  you should be payed for it.

I’ll admit that a lot of the reason I haven’t been posting very often recently is because I thought I had come to an important realization:

pablo (4)

This image is brought to you by Pablo. A little trick I learned from reading Aja Frost.

But of course . . .

I was wrong.

Aja Frost is getting paid to write. And she’s going to help the rest of us get paid too.

I’ve found myself reading articles from Aja through a variety of publications. First I read her articles on The Muse which I’d subscribed to for general professional advice and job postings. As I’d started doing more work online, the library bought a VR head set, and my journalism degree was starting to wind to a close, I was seeing connections between VR, journalism and web design in the heretofore unknown topic of User Experience (UX). Her article “What VR can teach us about UX” really tied it all together in a way I would never have realized on my own.

Of course I started following her newsletter. And when it was announced that she had released her first ebook! I had to check it out.

AjaBook1And so, I began reading “How to Start a Feelance Writing Career From Scratch“. I’ll admit that I gave freelancing a shot.  But I never quite figured out how to do it well enough to go full time and earn a reasonable living. It seems that every hurtle I came across and never surmounted, Aja has surpassed.

The beauty of this book is in its detail, and its specificity (and it’s only 62 pages!). For instance, there is a section of the book that talks about setting up a professional email account. It explicitly talks about the peril of trying to use your work email or school email professionally. Perhaps to someone just starting out, this seems like something that isn’t a terribly big deal (although it is probably one of the easiest things in the book to accomplish).

It is a big deal! I once contacted a prospective client through a “work” email address. My employer found out about it and seized control of the email account, then preceded to harass the client. I was able to get paid for the job I completed but I’ve never felt comfortable reaching out to that client for future work. I also don’t work for that employer anymore.

I will say that one of my strengths is writing emails. I’m always professional but also can “read the room” and often know when a more colloquial tone is appropriate. What I’ve never been able to do is write a contract. I’m not a lawyer and I always assumed that I needed to be one to reach an agreement with prospective clients. Aja takes the mysticism out of this and provides you with templates and examples. She’s done this a million times and knows what is what. Listen to her!

Finally, one of my favorite things about this book is its list of resources. There are hundreds of tools out there for someone looking to get into the freelancing game, and Aja knows which ones work best. I was happy to see we share some tools like Evernote (although I’m not entirely sure I didn’t start using Evernote because of something Aja wrote earlier on), but there were many I’d never seen at all. I will certainly be investigating.

In all, “How to Start a Freelance Writing Career From Scratch” is a quick read but a long study. I can see reading this once to get the general idea of the process, put coming back to it time and time again as I experiment with the different strategies (and tools!) listed within.  

Who knows? Maybe now that I’ve got Aja’s book at my side, I can give freelancing another shot.

 

 

 

 

Casually Absurd and Hilarious: Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid

A dude singing with Butterflies coming out of his wrists. Yup! Casual.

A dude singing with Butterflies coming out of his wrists. Yup! Casual.

This book is just a romp. That’s really the only way I can even consider describing it. From the first page until the last, I was intrigued, curious, concerned even. Bust most importantly I was giggling, laughing and generally having a great time. I’m sure a few times my roommates were confused as to why I was laughing or smiling while reading. My only response would be: “You’ll never believe the absurd shit that’s happening in this book.”

Chester Anderson’s writing, and his characters, seem to have a certain nonchalance that I found totally unexpected and completely refreshing. For instance, after watching a young gentlemen turn into a cloud of butterflies, which is very much out of the ordinary in this world (Greenwich Village during the 60’s), two of the main characters find that they are absolutely without explanation for what they’ve just encountered. They posit:

“Contact High?”

“Right.”

“Obviously.”

It had been that kind of summer.

Completely reasonable. Really nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day in Greenwich Village. You know, casual.  Well it wasn’t casual for me. Now I was in love! Ok maybe not actual love but I was certainly enjoying myself watching these characters stumble, bumble, perhaps a few times even tumble, through this misadventure with more than a few misfits. Truly this story, as they might have said in the 60’s . . . is a Gas!

I was told about The Butterfly Kid from a co-worker. She said it was good and I thought “I guess I’ll check it out.” She remembered it because apparently it has an interesting back story. It is apparently part of a trilogy with Unicorn Girl (Michael Kurland) and The Probability Pad (T.A. Waters). While wikipedia shows the volumes as being sequential, my inside sources tell me that they are perhaps all a single episode told from three different (perhaps drug fueled) perspectives. Interesting. I should certainly like to get my hands on a copy of the other two volumes and see if/how they compare. The wikipedia articles appear a bit scarce. Maybe I’ll have to change that after some digging.

Or maybe not.

Anderson’s book has plenty to recommend it even putting scandal aside. It was nominated for a Hugo back in 1967. Recently, it made the first spot for i09’s weirdest science fiction novels that you’ve never read. Well now I have read it (although no promises I’ll read the other stuff on that list. I have too many reading lists already!) and it was certainly one of the weirdest. But also one of the funnest. 

I’m about to hit 500 words and honestly, it’s a bit late. If I haven’t convinced you yet, go track down a copy. It’s well worth whatever trouble you’ll have to read it. Later folks!

An Apprentice to Elves

Beautiful Cover!

Beautiful Cover!

Admittedly, An Apprentice to Elves, is a bit of a slow boil. In fact I was surprised when I checked Goodreads and saw that it was only 336 pages (I read an advanced copy for Kindle). The writing style takes some getting used to, as does the world of Iskryne. However, if you spend the time and get to know this piece, you’ll be rewarded with a rich world with likable characters and some interesting modes of living.

The humans are short lived and seemingly violent. The Svartalfar are stifled by their rules, etiquette and tradition, while the Aettrynalfar seem reclusive but open minded. Of course there are the mysterious trolls which we learn little about except that they are pretty darn magical but most likely evil. And of course, there are wolves as well. The main character, Alfgyfa perfectly placed to belong to each of these groups but lacks a feeling of belonging to any. She appears to be the deepest and most interesting of any of the characters in the novel; however, her story doesn’t seem to be her own. She moves within the plot to solve other’s conflicts but I never felt that she got ‘her’ happy ending.

There was one line that stood out to me. A line that was ‘heavy’ you might say. The inquiring Alf, Idocrase, asks Alfgyfa about the human’s short lives and their lack of tradition. He asks her: “Without traditions how can you trust?” She responds that it’s our stories that build trust. This seemed very important to me somehow that I haven’t worked out yet.

In conclusion, An Apprentice to Elves, is not a novel that will inspire the raw enthusiasm of a new Jurassic Park movie, but there are some interesting pieces in their to explore if you can sift through the rest.

PS: I might check out A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men first. I haven’t read either yet but I get the impression it would definitely have added to the experience. Have a few other things I’ll be looking at first, but I might go back to them 🙂