NaNoWriMo 2020 Update

So we’re a little more than half way through the month! I hope your NaNo is going well. Here’s a little update on mine.

Before I get into it, I want to say that I’m sharing this update because I want to engage with you, not because i want to compare. Remember that my experience is just mine and yours is just yours and neither is better or more valid or more right than any other. We’re each on our own paths.

Ok? Ok. Ok!

So as of today 11/19 I have written 36,459 words. The Nano site is saying i should get to 50k by the 26th but I’m not really worried about that. I really wanted to get into Nano and a new project because I wanted to try to set some new routines for myself. Get up and use my scheduled time to write. Rebuild the discipline I used to have and look for things that help me to write :). So far this is going really well.

I wake up most days and write from about 6:10AM to about 7AM (that’s when I start work) and then depending on how much I got done I will do more writing later in the day. I’ve mostly done this with sprints, though in the last few days I’ve also been doing Writer’s Hour which is essentially a group of writers from across the world meeting and writing together for 50 minutes. I think I like it because writing with others makes me feel more accountable. Yes, I may get distracted by the links I left open from last night but then I glance at the zoom and see everyone else is working and I turn back to scrivener.

The other thing I learned (well really re-learned) is that I can’t write to podcasts. Well I can, but my words just don’t flow as easily. I need music. The music can have words but I’ve also found its better for me to listen to music that i have heard a bunch of times. Then it falls away into the background where as new music (or music I haven’t listened to in a while) tends to stand in the foreground. I’m dancing more! I’m singing along! Where did those five minutes go?

Another thing that I have found is helpful is thinking through the next scene at some point the day before. This is the part of writing that is the hardest to quantify and makes me feel like I’m not really working but I’ve found is the most critical to getting in flow. I don’t write an outline when I begin, and I told ya’ll I was cheating a little bit with this because I’ve written a similar story before (though I went off the deep end, don’t look at me like that), do looking a little bit a head helps me understand what comes next. It’s literally a scene or two. Anymore than that and I find I have a hard time actually writing the bit that needs to come next. And if I underthink it, I can usually figure out what should come next live but having nothing to start with is just more of a struggle. For me this sort of pre-planning/headlighting isn’t just thinking about the scene or the set up, its sort of play acting the scene with myself? Figuring out what needs to be said etc. It feels a little bit like a little kid playing with her dolls but when I’ve done it I find that I fall into flow.

And hunny, flow is the goal.

That moment when you forget about the clock and your fingers are just moving across the keyboard and you’re in your world. Flow is a beautiful place that makes all the other bullshit worth it.

Sigh.

I hope to be back there soon.

So tell me, how is NaNo going for you? What are you learning about your writing process? Are you finding flow? Share with me please!

NaNoWriMo 2020

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything and not just done some minor tinkering on my about page (I hope you’re paying attention to them) and I decided this seemed like a great way to engage a little bit more.

I’m a writer, even when I’m only getting a few words done and 2020 has been a year where I feel like I have tracked more zero days than I have just a few words. So to get a little more work done, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo with a crew of folks from one of my writing groups.

What’s NaNoWriMo you’re asking? NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month which is held every November. It started back in 1999 and it’s an opportunity to commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. You can get those 50,000 words however you like, though I have generally tried to get about 1700 words per day and use weekends to get that plus any catch up I need. The event has expanded to have whats known as Camp NaNoWriMo during other points of the year but Nano is an institution in November.

Nano is not about getting the words perfect, which can be hard for some folks. It’s more about hitting the words and committing to editing and making the words beautiful on the other side (I mean this last part, don’t just send the unedited words to everyone you know and some you don’t). It can be fun if you’re doing it with others and its just nice to have something to be accountable to.

So I am going to be accountable for November 2020 and try to get 50k done on a project I’ve been thinking about rewriting for a while. It’s a novel called, for lack of a better project title, Lycanthropy though it is more about gods and godhood.

Lycanthropy follows River, adopted wolf and …something else, as she tries to stay one step ahead of her former pack and becoming a sacrifice that will open the boundaries between the gods world and our own. Trying to help protect her is her new pack, and the woman she’s pretty sure she’s going to spend the rest of her life with.

I’ve written a few versions of Lycanthropy before but I’m looking forward to this round. I’m a different writer than I was years ago. As part of my accountability I’m going to do a weekly post about the process and how things are going. Hopefully its useful to you but also useful to me. I’m generally a pantser, verging on plantser meaning that I don’t plan what I’m going to do exactly or have an outline together to start. I know this world a bit but it always expands in my brain. I say I’m a planster because I have some thoughts about where I want to start and where I want to go but I haven’t written anything down and I like discovering how we’re going to get there.

Anyways, more to come in November. Hope you’re looking forward to it. If you’re doing Nano drop me a line and check in with me. We can be accountability buddies.

Review: Magic for Liars

You can find Magic For Liars on sale at Amazon or any fine independent retailer. I listened to the Audiobook and have to say that I love Xe Sands as a narrator.

You may have noticed from my work that I’m a sucker for magic. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey is a fantastic debut novel that is pouring with power and prophesy.

Non-Spoiler Description: When a teacher at a prestigious magic school is seemingly murdered, Private Investigator Ivy Gamble, non-magician, is called in to help investigate. She discovers a world of secrets, danger and lies, non-greater than her own. I would describe this novel as Harry Potter & The Magicians meets Cormoran Strike.

I love Ivy as a main character. She’s been stuck in the shadow of her sister, a magician, since the moment her sister’s magic was discovered and though she enjoys her work, she’s still dealing with being the twin sister left behind.

The magic in the book is really cool. Because we’re in a school for magic and dealing with a non-magician we get to hear a bunch of descriptions of how magic works, even if it doesn’t always make sense. We get to see a lot of spell work and its effect on the world.

I also love the mystery here. It lays out the potential suspects early and twists and turns. I figured out who it was going to come down to pretty quickly but the ride it took me on to the final reveal was awesome.

That being said the final pages weren’t my favorite but all the moments leading up to it are worth it.

Time for the Spoilers friends!

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I mean it, I am going to tell you the ending bro. Turn back now.

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OK, like I said I really enjoyed this book. I listen to most audiobooks on like 2x speed because it feels like everything just moves so slowly. I listened to this on 1.5 speed and really enjoyed getting into the details of the story.

Ivy is not only non-magic but she’s also jealous of the power her sister possesses. She believes that her sister could have saved their mother’s life (she died of cancer) with her magic and she wishes she could go back and change her mother’s fate. Ivy is literally all of us if we found out we couldn’t do magic.

And coming to the academy to solve a murder is her chance to see how the other half lives. It’s not the first time you’ve seen this kind of story before, but I do really love the way it plays out. Ivy lies by omission in most cases but occassionally she outright lies because she wants to know what its like to be the woman with magic. The woman with power. And even though her ability is limited she is able to keep up with the students at the college.

Ok, let’s get to the biggest spoiler and the thing that was the most frustrating…

The murderer is Ivy’s sister, Tabitha. Except, is she a murderer? The reason why she killed the teacher is because she wanted to save her life. It turns out the murdered teacher had cancer and Tabitha tried to cure that cancer using magic but made a mistake at the last minute.

She also abused a child.

Lied to her sister and drugged her.

But instead of turning Tabitha in, Ivy lets her go. Tells her to move on to a new town. And for me that’s the part I liked the least. All the lead up to discovering who the killer is is so satisfying and awesome (the bit about the prophecy that feels like a throwaway but is not). And then to get to the end and not have Tabitha have…any repercutions? It’s a little bit of a let down.

To some degree I get it, Tabitha is Ivy’s sister, her twin, she’s going to try to protect her but I still with it felt like Tabitha wasn’t getting off Scott-free.

I still really liked the book and I likely will had a physical copy to my library (as I do for all the books I really like).

If you’re looking for something to feed your Harry Potter Mystery fix with queer and adult characters, well friends, you should check this one out. Just ya know, don’t expect an especially satisfying ending.

Review: Kitten by Jack Harbon

Quick note to say I received this book as an ARC from the Author! Kitten will be available on Amazon May 20th, 2019 and you can pre-order it here.

If you’ve read my writing before, than you know my general mandate in life is “Make it Queerer and Browner” because as a kid I never saw people like me in the things I was reading. Particularly queer and brown stories that had happy endings. So it won’t be any surprise to you that I really enjoy romances with queer and brown people taking center stage. Kitten by Jack Harbon is exactly up my alley.

Non-spoiler description: Kenneth “Kit” Bayer is going through a rough time. He’s recently graduated from college, gotten out of a bad relationship and staying with his big sis in NYC. When his sister finally pushes him to get a job he ends up at Yellow Fall, an ad agency with a less than sparkling reputation. Kit becomes assistant to Roman Li, total asshole, control freak, and it quickly becomes difficult for Kit decide if he hates Roman or if he’s attracted to him. As you might have guessed from the genre Kit and Roman get together but not without a ton of drama and heartbreak along the way.

Before I get into spoilers I want to say that I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It is melodramatic (soap opera vibes all up and through), funny, young and sweet. It’s got a bit of age difference (Roman and Kit aren’t crazy far apart in age but its there) and while there is some sex, this is more about Roman and Kit’s sweet relationship.

Almost as much, if not even more than Kit and Roman’s relationship, I loved Kit’s relationship with his sister, Bria, and also his best friend, Chad. Now maybe I love this because as a queer kid I love the idea of these relationships being so central to him and Harbon’s realistic portrayal of black families but mostly I think it’s because Kit has the kind of relationships I wish I had and loved seeing all of the inside jokes and care between the characters.

Now that being said, if you don’t want to get into spoilers, I’ll say: if you don’t love drama, or if Gen Y lingo is going to throw you way off, then this may not be the novel for you. It’s high emotion and drama which to me was fun but might feel a little one-note for some. There are also a lot of subplots in this story, they are easy to follow but if you’re looking for something simple, this isn’t it.

Alright…Let’s get into these spoilers!

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Alright. Let’s get spoilery! I mentioned above there are quite a few subplots, let’s dive into those.

Subplot 1: Someone is stealing from Yellow Fall. This is a pretty major one! Kit gets his job at Yellow Fall and when someone begins to steal from the company he’s of course the first person that they look at, though as a reader we know Kit has nothing to do with it. Though it’s a pretty key subplot it does feel like it’s not as high on Kit’s priority list of things to worry about. That ends up being to his downfall, Kit is fired from Yellow Fall because the real thief framed him and he ends up losing Roman in the process. We’ll circle back to who the actual culprit is in a second.

Subplot 2: Kit’s relationship with his parents. Its perhaps no surprise to black queer people that Kit’s parents have an issue with both their children being queer. Bria and Kit have left home and live together, making their own family and not looking back…until their mother shows up begging to come back into their lives. Kit is rightfully skeptical but it becomes clear that she’s in it for the right reasons. The same cannot be said for Kit and Bria’s father who comes with an agenda. I think this subplot feels really realistic and though painful, an interesting side jag from Kit’s relationship with Roman. If I’m being honest though, this one feels like the one plot that could go away easily and I wouldn’t notice.

Subplot 3: Kit’s becoming a professional. I thought this was great and not generally a struggle we get to witness in novels. Kit is having to tone down some of his extraness in order to fit into the workplace and that’s very realistic. The part that isn’t so realistic is the things that Roman let’s Kit getaway with. There are quite a few times when Kit’s smart mouth would get him fired but I suppose that’s the benefit of having a boo who is also your boss.

Subplot 4: Kit’s friendship with his bestie Chad and new friend Michelle. This is pretty key. Kit’s in a new moment in his life, he’s starting work and that means all the free time and party time he had is disappearing. So it’s not a shock that Kit is happy that Chad and Michelle get into a relationship. He’s happy his friend is happy and he likes the new girl: she’s sweet, kind and thoughtful. Or so we think. Eventually we find out that Michelle is actually Sadie, Roman’s former assistant and controlling ex. Now this subplot is pretty key because Sadie is actually the one who’s stealing from Yellow Fall in a very complicated revenge plot toward Roman.

I mentioned above, if the drama isn’t for you then this is going to be difficult for you to get past. I didn’t mind this major plot twist (I thought the thief was literally everybody but Michelle/Sadie) but I also wasn’t sure it was earned. We don’t find out about Roman’s past relationship (that he is apparently scarred from) until after Roman and Kit break up because he believes Kit is stealing from Yellow Fall. Then we find out she’s actually his former assistant after Kit realizes that the thief is Michelle/Sadie. These links feel a little too convenient and like there wasn’t enough set up for them. But friends, as I said, the high soap opera level of drama allowed me to accept this information but if definitely stood out for me.

As if that’s not enough, Michelle/Sadie tries to act like she’s pregnant in order to get sympathy, telling them she’s pregnant with Chad’s baby. It’s a lot.

Ultimately, I found this book a ton of fun to read and the high drama is part of that. I also loved the language in the book, all the cultural references were a ton of fun and as I said, I liked the relationships in this book. If you, like me, love drama and brown queer love then you’ll want to sit down with a glass of wine and enjoy Kitten.

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published in 2017 by Atria Books

 

I’ll tell you a secret about me from the outset: I love glamourous drama. I’m a Real Housewives fan, I follow royal scandals and I’m generally up-to-date on hollywood gossip. So I was probably just the kind of person the author and publisher of this book wanted to pick it up.

 

The non-spoiler description is this: Famous and Infamous film star Evelyn Hugo has decided to sell all of her famous gowns to give funds to breast cancer research. She reaches out to a famous magazine to get a very specific writer, virtual unknown Monique Grant, to write a story about the sale. Or at least thats what she claims. It quickly becomes clear that what Evelyn Hugo wants is far beyond a simple article, she wants to share her sensational life story.

 

I’ll get into spoilers in a bit, but for now let me just say what a delight this book is. It’s got the right mix of drama, trauma and happiness that makes it a book you don’t want to put down. I listened to the audiobook, and that was probably an even more enjoyable experience because they put the money in for voice actresses to play Evelyn and Monique, giving their voices more clairty in the listening. Evelyn’s rise to fame is not easy, and though most of what she does feels like the sorts of things you’ve heard about Hollywood before (sex, booze and abusive husbands) there is also so much that is unique and fresh about this book. And while I saw the final twist coming, more on that later, it was still satisfying. I’m probably not the first review you’ve seen of this book but let me be the last before you pick it up for yourself!

 

Alright, let’s get into these spoilers!

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Final warning: You will be spoiled if you read further!

 

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There’s a few central questions that this novel turns around: the one the populous wants to know, who was the love of Evelyn Hugo’s life? And the one focuesed on our other narrator, why does she want Monique Grant to tell this story?

 

Well, the truth is the love of Evelyn Hugo’s life was a woman, Celia St. James, another hollywood film star. Secret lesbians! But no, even more satisfying, Evelyn Hugo makes incredibly clear that she is bisexual. She has loved men in her life and while Celia was the love of her life she won’t let anyone else dictate her identity, and as a bisexual woman I relate to that and love it.

 

The book follows the lead up of her falling in love with Celia but it also follows the heartache that follows. Their relationship isn’t perfect and there is a lot of complexity as to why that relationship doesn’t always work. In fact Celia and Evelyn are broken up almost as much as they are together in this book and I think the great thing is that while there are some clear reasons why that happens, choices Evelyn makes and a lack of communication, there is also so much more going on then just good or bad, right or wrong. They are in a difficult situation, it’s the 50s. Women are not given the rights they should be, AND, in case this wasn’t clear, it wasn’t ok to be queer. This book explores the decisions you have to make both to be famous but also to survive.

 

I also loved the way this book handled race. Evelyn Hugo was born Evelyn Herrera, a woman of cuban descent but to make her meteoric rise to fame she denies her heritage, changing her name, changing her look and crafting a new backstory that erases her history. The novel doesn’t shy away from that, Evelyn is confronted more than once by what she gave up by putting her heritage to the side. Also, Monique is a mixed race black woman, which is also fantastic. While the author doesn’t explore what this means for Monique very much it still comes up and the difficulty her parents had when they first got together is also part of that.

 

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for. The answer to that second question: Why did Evelyn Hugo, world’s most famous actress and known recluse, choose Monique Grant, divorcing, nothing special journalist, to write her biography?

 

Let’s step back. One of the big things we know about Monique is the complicated relationship she has with her father. He was a hollywood photographer, really talented, and he died in a car accident. Monique loved him but has always had to get past the difficult story that her father was driving drunk when he died. Except maybe he wasn’t. No, he definitely wasn’t.

 

Monique’s father was in a secret relationship with Evelyn’s male best friend. And that best friend was driving the car. And he was drunk. And Evelyn Hugo found them and made it look like Monique’s father was driving.

 

Of course, this is difficult for Monique but if you were paying attention to the way this story was told, you sort of knew this was coming. Evelyn skirts over it in a way she hasn’t with every other fact of her story. So when she tells Monique you know what she’s going to say. And Evelyn doesn’t ask for forgiveness. She knows what she did was wrong but she also knows she would make the same decision to protect the people she loved.

 

And as if there wasn’t enough conflict about what you think of Evelyn’s decisions, you also realize, through Monique, that Evelyn intends to kill herself. This is another complicated decision that can be polarizing.

 

Suffice it to say I really enjoyed this book! There is so much to think about and consider, would you make the same choices? Would you still get what you want if you did it? Such a great book that I can’t even truly do justice.

 

GO READ!!