This Year in Reading

2017 is here. I can’t believe it. My time has been spent on a lot of things, many of which haven’t been into reading, and I’m not exactly happy to have not read as much as I wanted to this year.

But whatever.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville: The story itself is an explosion. The images scatter around you, shrapnel of surrealism, digging deep into your thoughts. Here is a world about Paris, of World War II, of Germans, of paintings, and exquisite corpses, and many other things best left unsaid. Better for them to be explored with your own eyes. This is a book full of wondrous treats.

Bloodrush by Ben Galley: The biggest asset this book has is it’s Prelude. It opens up borders, letting everything in. We learn the world isn’t so different from our own and things exist here, things from books, myths, legends, and stories told by drunk men in bars. Though, I have mixed feelings for this book. The start was really interesting. It’s fun to watch the main character, Hark, develop into a better person as the story progress. The early chapters were well-written, tight, and full of eerie dread that makes a point that there are a lot of weird stuff in this world. But the final quarter of the book felt a little unpolished, a little rushed.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan: As a former student of Brandon Sanderson, McClellan has adopted the same, shall we say, minimalist style is quite alluring. Also, the powder magic system is pretty cool.

The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie: What strikes me about this book, it’s not entirely a trilogy. It’s not even what China Mieville called an “Anti-trilogy” when he described his three Bas-Lag books. Rather, Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea felt like three different but interlinked standalone books. There are gaps in years and we brave the sea in the eyes of new characters per book. It might be worth noting that, Book 1 had only one POV. Book 2 had two. And book three, you guessed it, had three POVs!

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt: A lot of people compared this book to Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series. Maybe because it’s a dark fantasy with gunslingers? They’ve also compared it to Narnia, because the characters end up in a different world. I don’t know. All I see is a story. Much like “Bloodrush,” I felt the beginning was it’s strongest asset. A lot of emotional development in it. Also, “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree” is one of the most brilliant titles I’ve ever heard.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft: Now this is a story that deserves to have a Studio Ghibi treatment. The story is imaginative and creative in every single way. It has a simple premise, a mild-mannered teacher lost his wife on their honeymoon in the Tower of Babel, and he must seek out for her. As Senlin, the main character, explores the tower in search for his wife, we are met with strange adventures, weird cultures, a world that simply explodes with thought.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence: I have to admit I had struggled a little bit here. It was a slow read for me, as I didn’t find the main character as interesting. The rest of the characters and the world itself kept dragging me into it.

Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown: Yeah, I read the entire thing. I started late on October and finished the three books by December. I’d finish sooner, but my wife and I had a power struggle with the Kindle on who gets to finish the entire trilogy first. Suffice to say, I haven’t had that much fun in reading books in a long time. I can hardly wait for the upcoming “Iron Gold” trilogy.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: It’s a story about a girl entering an assassin’s school. That’s all you need to know about it, and its infinite amount of awesome.

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This Year in Writing

In 2016 alone I must have written over 500,000 words. Less than 80,000 had gone to my works-in-progress. The rest went to the broadsheet I work for. A small, but significant fraction goes to the website that I co-founded.

This year in my writing feels like a good one, in an odd sort of way. I didn’t finish anything. But I managed to pick up a few scraps of ideas here and there from the old notebooks and quick, short conversations with friends, and managed to reconstruct a thing or two out of it.

In a rushed job, between August 2015 and January 2016 Project Ashes has 30,000 words. But it was a mess of a job. I skipped chapters and entire arcs, from the early events I jumped to the climatic battles that had been dancing in my head for months, I developed too many characters in a book I targeted to have 70-80,000 words. I rewrote scenes, leaving the original texts in the first draft, and redid entire chapters within the same chapter. I thought it was fine. Then I focused on my wedding preparations, the wedding itself, and the post-wedding events, plus moving in to the new apartment, and other things. By the time I went back to Project Ashes, I realized to my mortal horror how much of a screw up I did. May to September was spent on editing the first draft to make it coherent and have a smoother flow. More than half is going to be culled and I’m going to need reduce some characters’ roles, if I want to retain a 70,000-80,000-word novel.

As if I didn’t learn, between sorting out all the chaos, I jumped way ahead and started writing Book 2 to relax my aching head. It turned out well. In fact, it flowed so well, I am seriously considering abandoning Book 1 and focus on Book 2. And why not? It starts out in media res, with a new character, in a very different location. The original characters became an afterthought and their current situation feels like an even better hook than how they were introduced in Book 1.

The thing about Book 1 is: It’s an underdog tale. It’s “The Lord of the Rings” with a touch of “The Hunger Games” and a bit of “Ender’s Game.” It’s a montage how the protagonists rise and find their way into Books 2 and 3. So, no matter how tempting it is, I can’t simply abandon Book 1, not with so many foundations needed for Book 3.

With Project Ashes being so disorganized, I had to set it aside and work on something fresh, something a little bit less dark. That’s how Project Sherlock was born. Right now it has a sturdy 10,000-wordcount. This is a story I hope to get done between writing Project Ashes’ Books 1 and 2. It’s going to be a massive book.

Then there’s the “Year of the Red Whale.” The second half of October to the entire November I was able to put 30,000 words into the story. There is a strong potential for expansion. I’m excited about it. But for any of those plans to reach the light of day, I need to finish this book soon. Here’s to a hopeful first quarter to 2017 into completing it.

Somewhere down this year a bunch of new cool stuff went into my head and has been brewing there for a long, long time. Older concepts are getting revisited and newer ones are being forged. I’m really excited to get into them.

For my writing in 2016, it was all about exploring ideas and hoping they would work. Now in 2017 it’s going to be about pushing through these ideas and make them work.