Challenge Accepted

Early on Sunday morning I arrived back at the house where my family has lived for seven years. Since moving away two years ago I’ve come back for the occasional visit during breaks from school, but this time I’m here to stay for the foreseeable future.

I’ve written before about how I’m moving back in with my family and how depressing the situation is. I love my family, of course. But I’d already begun to establish a life for myself, and having to pack it all up because of money is discouraging. I had to quit my job and leave my new friends behind.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the difficulty I face looking for jobs. The job pool here in this small town is much thinner than the cities in south Florida. Now that season is ending, this is especially so. Now that the weather is warming up north and the tourists are packing up to go home, restaurants are now starting to slow business and even start layoffs.

I am making one thing clear: I will not waste time looking for any part-time job that will hire me. I’ve worked my ass off for two years gaining a degree, certification, and work experience. I’ve worked long enough to know not only what I am capable of on the job, but what kind of boss I want to work for. An employer who puts little to no effort in his/her business, with the expectation that employees will always be there to fill up the gaps, is not someone who should be in a management position, much less above me on the ladder. 

Moving on, the job hunt isn’t the only thing I’m going to be resuming. Starting next Sunday, I’ll be continuing the 52 Books Challenge that I started in January. Because it won’t truly be a 52 Books Challenge, I’ll start calling it the Book a Week Challenge. I’m going to start by continuing a series that I got into and fell in love with a long time ago, with Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah.

Script Frenzy also starts next week, and I’m going to work on a webcomic script. Ideally, I’d like to see it online someday, but that’s a ways off. I still need to outline much of the main plots! More information about my comic can be found here.

My plan was to release Poplar and Mint on March 31st. With everything else going on, that will have to be pushed back a bit. I’m shooting for the end of April, but details TBA. School’s done, I’m out of work, and I’m not any less busy. Though honestly, I couldn’t stand it any other way. Bring it on!

Advertisements

On Sacrifices

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that some of my plans for this year and the future will need to be put on hold. It’s depressing, but I don’t have much of a choice right now.

In This post I listed my resolutions for 2012, one of them being that I take part in and complete the 52 Books Challenge. I took a bit of a break in order to read and help edit some friends’ novel drafts, and I still haven’t finished that. In truth, it’s become draining to take part in this challenge with work and school taking up so much of my time, and proofreading drafts takes up more time and effort than simply reading them. Finding a new book, and reading it in its entirety before the week became up, was starting to become a chore for me. I’m of the opinion that when something that was once enjoyable turns into a task that must be completed, it’s time to give it a break. I’ll come back and read one book per week as soon as a graduate, which will be in one month.

With graduation comes another sacrifice I’ll have to take. Living in south Florida, for those who are unaware, is almost prohibitively expensive. A studio apartment in the worst parts of town can go for $550 a month or more. My loan payments, when they kick in, will set me back about the same amount. I won’t be able to afford both on my own. So when I graduate, I’ll be moving back in with my family in Port Saint Lucie, about two hours north of where I am now.

It’s depressing because it still feels like I’m giving up in a sense, and that I can’t handle the pressures of the real world. I’ll be a twenty-one year old college graduate who’s worked harder than some of my former bosses, and still unable to make it on my own. Even reading has become a challenge for me. But that’s the reality of my situation. I have to come to the realization that sacrifices don’t always mean giving up, it means looking at the cards I’ve been dealt and making the best of them.

Now I’m given more time to focus on my final classes and my job, before I have to say goodbye to both.

Revision Season

I won’t be posting reviews for a couple of weeks. It’s not that I’m putting my 52 books challenge on hold, but I’ll be taking the time to read some novel drafts from friends to help them in revisions. I’m also putting the finishing touches on Poplar and Mint, my own novel that will be available on March 31st.

I used to dread revision and saw it as the end of the creative writing process. Creativity comes in when you write the first draft, and all of your ideas are poured out on the paper. Once revision time comes, and through fresh eyes you see that many of your creative spurts aren’t as great as you thought they were. After a time it gets discouraging.

Then I read this great article from Writer’s Digest, which put the process in a completely different light. Why shouldn’t the creative process continue when the rough draft is finished? It made sense once I opened the draft of Poplar again. Even as I cut things out, there were and still are plenty of thin spots that could use more description. Some weak scenes need strengthening. Revision isn’t just about fixing your mistakes. It’s about doing whatever you need to do to make that manuscript better.

It does get rough at times. The mistakes wear on you. But remember that every change you make is for the better, and it gets you that much closer to a polished, publishable manuscript.

Week 5: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

My original plan was to give myself at least one week’s break before reading the next book in any series, like The Hunger Games and Millennium trilogies. This week, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer, so to hell with it, and finished up Millennium.

I was not disappointed. Much of the loose ends in Lisbeth’s backstory were tied up, and I got a strong sense of satisfaction while watching the people who gave her so much hell get taken down for good. I was left wondering whatever came of Camilla, who was mentioned so many times throughout all three books but never showed up in person. Still, it makes some kind of sense for her to stay in the background if she wasn’t so important to the story as a whole. Considering what a private person Lisbeth is in the first place, why should we know every little detail about her life?

One thing that did bother me is similar to what bothered me about Fire. I mentioned in my last post that Lisbeth has a strange ability to make the average stuffed shirt crazy about her. Mikael Blomkvist has this same ability with women, to the point where a police officer who worked with him for about one month was already falling in love with him. In Dragon, we saw one of the Vanger clan fall for him after a brief affair. Even Lisbeth discovered that she had feelings for him, and grew extremely bitter when she discovered that they would never be returned. Erika even lampshaded this phenomenon toward the end of Hornet. It comes off as more of an informed ability, as while I consider Mikael to be a likable character, I couldn’t see myself falling for him.

This is still a great ending to the trilogy. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the story is done.

Week 4: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

I finished reading this late last night, or really early this morning. Despite having a long day at work and school with a lack of sleep the night before, I could not bring myself to go to bed until this book was finished. That shows how good it is.

This book shifts the series’ focus almost completely to Lisbeth. In Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we had more insight into Mikael Blomkvist’s character. Fire has him somewhat less prominent without being missed.

One thing that really bothered me was toward the beginning of the book, where Bjurman is thinking to himself about his blackmail situation. He’s thinking over what he did to Salander with no remorse whatsoever, even though he knows that what he did was wrong and that it could ruin his life. Okay, fine, we already established that he’s a world-class asshole. His reason for why it started is bothersome.

He was turned on by Salander in ways that he couldn’t explain, as she is not his usual type of woman. This would be more acceptable if that thought didn’t also cross the minds of Blomkvist and Armansky. It strikes me as odd that three men who would before not give a woman like Salander a second look are suddenly attracted to her.

Besides, that, I found the rest of the story to be interesting and enjoyable. I couldn’t help but laugh sometimes at some of the cops during the extensive investigation. Only two of them seemed to be in their right minds, more interested in solving the investigation and following it down whatever path it may have led. The rest of them, so sure that they knew Salander was behind the crimes at hand could not be convinced of otherwise (despite the little evidence against her), that focused more on finding her. Then there was a media circus surrounding the cases, that somehow turned a triple murder into the story of a lesbian satanist cult. I’m willing to guess that there was a heavy amount of social commentary on the author’s part in this part of the story, without knowing enough about the social climate of Sweden.

Finally, a lot was revealed about Salander’s backstory. It was certainly worse than anything I could have imagined. I can’t wait to see what else will be revealed in book #3.

How to predict the future!

This idea came to me while reading the comments in the most recent Girls With Slingshots webcomic.

I confess, I’m still trying to find the key to predicting the future. Even today’s so called psychics lack real skill. If I could learn how, I wouldn’t use it for personal gain (okay, maybe win a lottery or two), I’d use it in my writing.

While many writers and artists over the years have tried to depict what they think the future will hold, they almost always miss the mark. Sometimes, they’re so far off that the result is comical.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we had an international moon base and frequent travel between Earth and its satellite. It’s 2012 in the real world, and our feet are firmly planted on the ground. The Jetsons was set in 2062, and while we haven’t reached that date yet, I see no reason to believe that things will suddenly change in that direction in fifty years. (What happened to the land?)

Granted, many such examples are created for entertainment purposes. But this phenomenon is older than television. Take a look at these pictures of the year 2000, in France in 1889. Ladies’ Home Journal once ran an article that predicted what life would be like 100 years after its publication. (Sadly, I can’t find the date for that article. My guess would be 19th century.)

A common obstacle that comes in planning future settings, I have noticed, is that each depiction retains the style and fashions of the time period in which it was created. The worlds of The Jetsons and 2001 have a strong 60’s vibe. The scenes in Back to the Future have an 80s feel no matter what time the characters are exploring. The above images are unmistakably 19th century. We’re all well aware that fashion evolves, but seem to have trouble thinking of how design would evolve further.

TVTropes.com has names and more examples for this phenomenon, known as I Want My Jetpack and Zeerust. Be warned! That site is one of the most effective time-sinks ever. I don’t recommend clicking on the links unless you have an hour or so to spare, but at least you’ll be entertained.

Week 3: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I finished The Hunger Games last night, wrapping up another week in this 52 books challenge. To be honest, I’m surprised not only that I’ve made it this far, but that I’ve managed to develop a rhythm and am still enjoying myself. While of course I do like reading, this is much faster than my usual reading pace, and I expected to feel the beginnings of a burnout about now.

I’ve heard many good things about The Hunger Games before I started it, and I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a while. After finishing, I can say that I was not disappointed. I like the setting of a post-American dystopia and the fact that the author was not afraid to show some blood. This is especially important, because I don’t think it would be possible to pull off a story with that kind of premise while being shy around the violent bits.

The only thing that put me off was the narration, and even then only in certain parts. It can be explained by the fact that the speaker is a sixteen year old girl, and a very informal girl at that, but there are places where her style of speech is jarring. Example:

“The girl with the arrows, Glimmer I hear someone call her—ugh, the names the people in District 1 give their children are so ridiculous—anyway Glimmer scales the tree….”

Collins, Suzanne (2009-09-01). The Hunger Games (p. 182). Scholastic Books. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I liked it, and will be getting to the other books in the series soon.

Week 4’s book will be The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.