5 Writing/Reading Goals for June 2017

#1 Write 1000 words a day

I haven’t been very disciplined these last few months when it comes to daily writing. I’ve been doing a good amount of editing and writing new content whenever the need arose, but in June I want to set a daily goal of 1000 words. Not an astronomical amount, but something easily achievable.

My works-in-progress will benefit, as will my creativity flow.

#2 Make a plan for Where the Woods Grow in Flames

…Which will boil down to two factors: a.) recalibrate my outline and incorporate some structure changes, and b.) decide if to self-publish the sequel later this year OR take the project to Wattpad.

#3 Finish reading all the books I’ve started

May was a month of starting books and not finishing them. Not because I wasn’t enjoying them, but because I had a lot on my plate (and plenty of distracting hobbies as well). This month I’m (finally) going to finish The Beast of Talesend (Kyle R. Shultz), Aftermath: Life Debt (Chuck Wendig), and Lords of the Sith (Paul Kemp).

I’m also super excited to get my hands on the new Darth Vader comic coming out this month.

#4 Post four more solid chapters of The Broken City of Crows

As many of you know, I upload a new chapter of The Broken City of Crows to Wattpad every Friday. June will be my first full month of uploads, so I’m looking forward to getting four exciting chapters going. I’m hesitant to set any numerical goals in terms of reads or votes, so I’m just going to enjoy the process and make June’s chapters as good as I can.

#5 Create digital paintings for Gwinn and Ember

Speaking of tBCoC, after sharing my digital painting of Avora last week, a lot of readers asked whether I’d be doing more characters and if so, if Gwinn and/or Ember were on the to-do list. The answer to both those questions is yes. I’ve already started thumbnailing a sketch of Gwinn, and I hope to have completed paintings of him and Ember by the end of the month. Perhaps by the end of the summer, I’ll have painted the whole Red Vanguard. You never know!


What are some of your goals and plans for June? Let me know, and go get ’em! In the meantime, have a great day.

My 2017 Multi-Genre Reading Challenge

I’ve hatched a reading plan for 2017. Now, normally I ready almost exclusively fantasy. As a matter of fact, the last book I (tried to) read that wasn’t fantasy was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park , and I couldn’t finish it.

So I got to thinking the other day (a rare occurrence), and I realized I need a bit of variety in my life. So I proposed the following to myself: what if I read one book each month in a genre that I normally don’t read? I liked the idea, so I drew up a plan and here we are.

My self-imposed rules:

  1. Once I start a book, I have to finish it.
  2. I’m not allowed to pick a book I’ve previously read.
  3. Each book must be read within the month.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be following this chart:

January – Historical Fiction

February – Young Adult

March – Crime/Mystery

April – Play/Script

May – Thriller

June – Science Fiction

July – Graphic Novel

August – Biographical

September – Dystopian

October – Non-Fiction

November – Romance

December – Young Adult

Now, you may notice there are some popular genres I haven’t listed, such as horror, paranormal, etc. While I want to try a variety of genres, I also have to draw a line somewhere, and there are certain genres or elements that I simply will not sample for personal reasons. (Genres aside, I won’t read anything with explicit content, or strong language.)

You may have also noticed that I included Young Adult fiction twice (February and December). I figured it was a broad enough genre, and includes enough subgenres, that I should pick from it twice. Also, I had an extra month and had to fill it with something.

I have some ideas for a few of the months, but I’ll definitely need suggestions for most of them, so feel free to drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter! And if you’d like to do this challenge, or something similar, then join the fun!

In the meantime, have a great day.

Book Ratings: What’s Your Criteria?

Today’s post is a quick barfing of my thoughts on Amazon’s five star rating system, specifically when it applies to books.

I’ve finished a handful of books recently, and each time I go to review one of them on Amazon or Goodreads, I feel so limited by the five-star system. How can 1-5 stars accurately represent my reaction to something as complex as a novel, a novella, or even a short story?

I don’t think it can. I would much rather work with a 1-10 star system. I know Amazon will probably never do that, because, on a base level, their review system works. It’s just frustrating sometimes.

Here’s the criteria I follow when deciding how many stars to give a book I’ve recently read:

one-star-rating

One star reviews are harsh. I’ve never actually given a book a one star review before. To me, one star books are those that lack any sense of objective creative dignity. In other words, if I feel the author put any sort of effort into their product, I’ll be very reluctant to give it a one star rating.

Two-star-rating

I assign two star ratings to 99% of the books I simply don’t enjoy (I try to be objective. If I don’t enjoy a book for purely subjective reasons, I probably won’t bother reviewing it). My motives for giving a book two stars include consistently poor editing, subpar plot or character development, or if it’s just a boring story.

3-stars

Three star ratings are where I have the most issues, because I feel there should be a much bigger gap between two stars and three stars. To me, three stars mean I liked the book. I finished it and I was entertained. Maybe there were a few mistakes, and maybe it wasn’t my favorite book ever, but there were no glaring faults to make me quit.

I think writers generally get discouraged by three star ratings because they’re perceived negatively. But for a bit of perspective, on a ten star rating system, these books would earn 6-7 stars from me. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

four-stars_0

For the aforementioned reasons, I generally skip straight to four star ratings if I like a book (a ten star system would give me a lot more flexibility, though).

Four star books are properly constructed and edited, and they rise above the base entertainment factor. Maybe there’s a character I really like, or a plot twist that caught me by surprise, or a subplot I was genuinely engaged in. They may not be perfect: a few typos here and there, or the occasional weak character or plot point. Those are all relatively minor issues that I can overlook as long as the main plot and the protagonist keep me turning pages.

get-five-star-reviews

I give books five stars quite rarely. For a book to get five stars, it has to meet all the qualifications of a four star book (see above), but it also has to impact me. That’s the determining factor for me. Impact. Whether it’s emotionally, intellectually, or personally, a story has to really hit me hard for me to give it a full five stars.


I know rating books is an incredibly subjective process. I’m definitely not saying my criteria should be the rule.

How do you decide how many stars to give a book? Is your thought process similar to mine? Totally different? Let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, have a great Monday.

 

10 Annoying Things Fantasy Characters Do

Ever notice how fantasy characters have the same habits in a lot of books? I have, and I made a list. Because I like lists.

Note: please don’t take this post too seriously. I don’t mind these things that much. I think it’s amusing more than anything else (except for #1, #2, and #10. Those need to stop). 

#1 Sensing things

The classic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” scenario. George Lucas isn’t the only perpetrator. These characters sense everything three paragraphs before it happens. Meanwhile, I’m lucky if I sense my alarm going off in the morning.

#2 Eating bread, cheese, and apples

I get it. There aren’t a lot of foods that keep well during a long journey. But still…give the poor guy a bag of trail mix, at least (also…bread doesn’t stay fresh very long. And wouldn’t cheese stink up the whole travel pack?).

#3 Setting a watch at night

If you’ve got an assassin on your tail, setting a watch makes perfect sense. But fantasy travel buddies often “volunteer to take first watch” regardless of the danger level. Someone’s gotta keep the bears away, right? Should’ve kept the cheese in a tupperware…

#4 Drawing swords

If I had a dollar for every time a character “drew his sword” I’d quit one of my part-time jobs. I get it, okay? Drawing your sword makes you feel cool and threatening. Suggestion: save yourself the time and just punch the guy.

#5 Avoiding roads

Unless you’ve got Ringwraiths hunting you down, what’s the worst that could happen? A toll booth? Is dodging hypothetical bandits really worth all the briars and wet feet? Come on. If you do run into bandits, just draw your sword. Or punch. You should have set that watch, Jimmy.

#6 Running into bandits

Sorry. But there’s gotta be more ways to give your hero trouble before the real action starts. Have you tried bears? Bears are stinking terrifying. I’ll take bandits over bears any day of the week.

#7 Blasting things

I don’t like obscenities in fiction. Honestly, it just cheapens the prose for me. On the other hand, substituting every single moment of explicit frustration for ‘blast it!’ doesn’t really work either. Unless it involves bears and dynamite. In that case, by all means, blast them.

#8 Scanning treelines (or other landscape features)

He scanned the treeline. He scanned the ridge. She scanned the beach. They scanned the road. He scanned his passport. Seriously, can you stop that? Blast your scanning! There are easier ways to find bears.

#9 Holding council meetings

Because that’s the best way to make urgent decisions (bonus points if it takes an agonizingly long chapter of dialog). Once I even read a chapter about a council of bears. Not even joking. (The book was Father of Dragons, by L.B. Graham. A council of bears! Bless that man.) 

#10 Speed-learning skills

Whether your protagonist has to learn how to ride a horse, fight with a sword, punch bandits, scan treelines, or blast bears and their councils, she’ll probably do it on the road (or off it, because bandits and bears), under the sage guidance of some old fart, and it’ll only take her a week or two to master the practice.


Thanks for stopping by, reader. Subscribe/follow for more bears! In the meantime, have a great day!

8 Popular Books I Couldn’t Finish

Everybody has different tastes when it comes to books. I enjoy mine, and you enjoy yours. Nothing wrong with that in the least. But just for kicks and giggles (probably more kicks than giggles), I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of eight hyped and/or popular books that everyone else seems to love that I couldn’t even finish.

Disclaimer: this is (obviously) merely my opinion, and yours may (invariably) differ. That’s no reason for anyone to get upset, so let’s all behave like grownups. 

Disclaimer 2: for a book to qualify for this list I have to have at least tried to read it. Therefore, books like Maze Runner don’t count because I know I wouldn’t enjoy it and do not intend to try. I’m just stubborn like that. 

#1 Divergent, Veronica Roth

I’ve tried. Believe me, I have. The first book is sitting on my bookshelf in my room where I see it every day. I’ve picked it up and started the first chapter about five times now. It’s just not happening. I’m sorry, but I find it…boring. There’s no other way I can describe it. I’m sure it gets better, but I haven’t yet been able to make it past the first five or ten pages without losing interest.

#2 The Wheel of Time (Series), Robert Jordan

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love fantasy books. It’s my favorite genre by a mile. But this…I just couldn’t stay awake. Literally, at times. I received the first book as a gift and really gave it my best shot, but it takes. So. Long. To. Get. Moving. I’m patient, normally. I don’t mind investing a few chapters in build-up if the writing keeps my interest. But this…this felt like watching molasses drip down the wall.

#3 Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton

The reason for this one is simple: I’m dumb. You can’t expect me to keep track of so much science mumbo-jumbo. Sorry. I mean, it takes a lot for me not to enjoy a book about dinosaurs running amuck in the present day. But I made it about 100 pages before giving up on Jurassic Park and putting it down. If I had a couple dozen extra degrees in the sciences I’m sure I would have stuck with it.

#4 Mistborn (Series), Brandon Sanderson

I tried so, so hard to get into the Mistborn series. Several good friends have recommended them to me multiple times, and again, fantasy is my favorite genre. I don’t own any of the Mistborn books, but I have had a chance to start reading the first one, and…kind of the same deal as The Wheel of Time. It moved too slow for me and it felt too grand (an odd complaint, I know).

#5 Pretty much any classic novel

I may draw a lot of fire for this one, but give me a book by Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Robert L. Stevenson, Harper Lee, Jane Austen, etc., and I’ll probably just chuck it out the window. I mean no disrespect to the undeniably successful authors of the past, but holy cow these books are a chore.

#6 The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

I enjoy The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not my all-time favorite, but they’re a fun read. So I don’t quite understand why I don’t like The Hobbit very much. It’s not the different style, or the simpler plot. It’s just…not my cup of tea.

#7 Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Chronicles of Narnia (The Horse and His Boy being my favorite of the series). But so many Narnia fans seem to think Prince Caspian is one of the best books, and I just don’t get it. It’s boring. In fact, it’s so boring that I don’t even have anything else to say about it. (Cheating a bit, because I did finish the book, though only out of necessity to continue the series).

#8 Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

I know this book is probably far less popular than the others on the list, but I’ve included it mostly because of how surprised I was that I didn’t like it. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I loved The Graveyard Book, Stardust was a beautiful story, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tear-jerker. So when I bought Neverwhere at the bookstore and only made it through a few pages before utterly losing interest, I was quite shocked and quite a bit more disappointed.


If you made a similar list, what books might be on it? Comment below! And in the meantime, have a great day!

30 Book/Reading Facts About Me

Here are some random facts about books, reading, and yours truly! Just for us to get to know each other a bit more. Also, they’re in no particular order.

#1 Eldest (Paolini) is the first book I remember buying (as opposed to borrowing or receiving as a gift).

#2 I’m not a huge fan of audiobooks.

#3 Fantasy is by far my favorite fiction genre, though I can’t seem to get into urban fantasy.

#4 Having to wait for the next book in a series to be released doesn’t really bother me. If it’s good enough, I can be patient.

#5 I watched the Harry Potter movies before I read the books, and I loved both.

#6 It really, really bugs me when overrated authors make loads of money off mediocre (or just plain bad) storytelling.

#7 Every movie director that thinks they can add to a story already told in a book deserves a slap on the face.

#8 I’m more emotional than most would guess, but I don’t recall ever actually crying over a book.

#9 I really want to read the Percy Jackson series (even though I’m a decade behind schedule), but I’m saving up for a nice box set.

#10 I’m a sucker for fantastical creatures/races in books, except for elves and dwarves. They’re just not as interesting to me.

#11 In general, I prefer fantasy adventure plots over fantasy war plots.

#12 I have a hard time getting into books with more than a handful of main characters/plotlines.

#13 My attention span when reading is shorter than I’d like it to be. I need frequent breaks to move around.

#14 However, I can’t stop reading in the middle of a scene/page. I have to reach the next page break or chapter ending before putting the book down.

#15 I’m not afraid to skip over entire description/technical/jargon sections if they’re too complex for me to follow (which is probably why I avoid sci-fi novels).

#16 I’ve never purchased a book at a Barnes & Noble.

#17 Besides English as my native language, I also speak Spanish and Catalan 100% fluently, since I live in Barcelona. However, I don’t enjoy reading in those languages as much.

#18 Most of my reading takes place in the evening or at night.

#19 I haven’t been to a library for non-research purposes since I was a kid. Don’t judge me.

#20 Most of the time I don’t use bookmarks or other placeholders. I find it easiest just to remember the page number where I leave off.

#21 Bittersweet endings are, in my opinion, the best kind of ending.

#22 The book I’ve read the most times (I think) is Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code.

#23 I only read multiple books at a time if one of them is an ebook and the other is a hard copy. Don’t ask me why.

#24 I prefer cream-colored pages over white pages, and will change my Kindle settings to that end.

#25 I can read over conversation, but if the T.V. or radio are playing, I have a really hard time focusing.

#26 I absolutely love maps in books. I try to memorize as much of the map as possible before I start reading.

#27 I don’t like reading dialogue spelled out with a heavy accent. Sorry, Mark Twain. It just gets on my nerves. I draw the line at Hagrid.

#28 I’m frequently disappointed to see English-speaking authors try to incorporate foreign languages into their dialogue and fall short of the mark, especially with Spanish.

#29 I honestly don’t care if chapters have titles or not.

#30 Most of the time, 1st person present-tense narrative annoys me, which is why I enjoyed the Hunger Games movies more than the books. Sorry, guys. I’m a 3rd person reader.


What are some readerly facts about you? Do we share things in common, or are we totally different? Write your own post with 30 facts if you feel like it, or comment below!

6 False Assumptions About Readers

#1 Readers care about your characters by default

For a reader to invest in your protagonist takes time. Don’t expect much of an emotional response in the first chapters of your book. Establishing that connection between the reader and the character requires practice and effort.

#2 Readers actually read long description chunks

I’m a reader as well as a writer. I skip those pages of description, especially if it’s just linear location description (ehem, Tolkien). In all honesty, unless it’s super relevant to the story, I probably don’t care too much what colors the drapes are. Should you avoid all description? No, of course not. It can be relevant and it can be interesting. But don’t assume readers pay attention to all of it.

#3 Readers need constant reminders

Readers have better memory than we often give them credit for. If you slipped in hints about a plot twist, or foreshadowing, or anything of the sort, you probably don’t have to keep bringing it up to make sure readers haven’t forgotten.

#4 Readers won’t pick up on subtleties

Similar to #3. Readers are smart. They’ll catch nonverbals, hints, and between-the-lines suggestions. To state everything in an obvious way is to dumb down your story. Don’t give in to the I have to make this super-clear, otherwise they won’t catch on urge.

#5 Readers read at the same speed you write

Duh. It’s not hard to figure out, but I often forget. It’s important to not make this assumption without realizing it in terms of pacing. What feels like a super long chapter to you as the writer may only take a few minutes to read.

#6 Readers need attractive protagonists

I know I’ve talked about this before, but it still irks me. Authors and cover artists, I’m begging you to listen: if you rely on attractive bodies and front-cover models to sell your story, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Please, please, please stop! Readers should invest in real, human characters regardless of physical appearance. Don’t assume hot protagonist = happy reader!