Another quick bite in the feeding frenzy here. These FF posts/emails are my attempt to catchup with all the little things I’ve been meaning to write about, but which have taken a backseat to getting “actual writing” done.
Plus, I just don’t want to overwhelm all of you.
So below are a few books I started reading but didn’t finish. You may have your own opinions on them.
Now, I’m known to give up on books. More often than not, probably.
Maybe I’m impatient? Okay, I’m definitely impatient, but it’s not just that. My time, just like everyone else, is valuable and finite. If I’m reading something that isn’t doing it for me, why spend my precious time on it?
I’m also pretty picky. I enjoy a wide variety of genres and styles, and I love finding something new, something experimental. Books that stand out. I’m obviously a sci-fi/fantasy fan, but an awfully big chunk of it just doesn’t interest me. So much of it seems the same to me. If this book is just like that book, I really don’t need to read them both.
I don’t just stick to SF/F, though. I like a wide variety of genres, including classics and “literature” from time to time (whatever that means).
I also find that I have to be the target audience. I generally can’t read kids’ or YA books. They’re pretty specifically written for readers of a certain age and mindset, and don’t fit that demographic. So it’s harder for me to get into those books.
Which brings me to this: THE FOLLOWING IS JUST MY OPINION.
Obviously, everyone’s tastes are different. I don’t make a habit of literary criticism because my opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. If you’ve read these books are liked them, that’s great! Please tell me so! Maybe I should have given them more of a chance.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
I generally tell myself I need to get to page 50 or 100 before I cast judgement on a book, but I’m not sure if I quite got that far.
I picked this one up at the library on the “for sale” shelves. It cost me like $2.50 and I had been eyeballing it for a while. I wanted to read a good pirate story, mostly to get a feel before writing my own. So I grabbed it.
I couldn’t help but have visions of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in my head as I read this. And soon determined that I might be better off just watching those movies.
It just didn’t grab me. The first character is the lazy, arrogant governor, whom I assume is not the hero of the story but we spend like the first 3 chapters with him, which isn’t very engaging. Then we spend a little time with the young hottie girl we knew was coming, before finally meeting the hero of the story, Captain Hunter. And the name says it all: he struck me as very stereotypical, very summer movie like—the handsome, tough rogue, in no way particularly interesting or creative.
Like I said: meh.
This manuscript was found in Mr. Crichton’s desk after his death and published posthumously. And I can’t help but think that I know why he left it there...
Crichton is one of the world’s most popular and successful authors. So again, that should speak for itself. Obviously my tastes don’t align with millions of other readers, so take mine with a grain of salt. I’ve read, I think, three other of his books in my lifetime: Sphere, Timeline, and Prey. I liked Sphere (except the ending), but the other two... Weren’t great, in my opinion. So it doesn’t surprise me too much that I didn’t really get into this one.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
I have a handful of Stephenson books on my shelf, all of which sound really interesting but are as thick as the Bible, and therefore intimidating. Since I don’t get a lot of reading time (but I’m trying more and more to carve it out—in the hammock and at bed before I turn out the light), I tend to dodge the really high page counts and go for short things, like graphic novels and short stories more often than novels. I know, I’m ashamed just typing that...
But anyway, this book is one of his shorter ones and is classified as cyberpunk, so I wanted to check it out.
And... I think know why his books are so thick. It seems to me his writing is 75% style and 25% story.
He has a very interesting voice and there’s a huge amount of detail and world-building to this book. Like ridiculously so. Like, too much so.
It took about 25 pages to deliver a pizza! That, to me, is too long spent on getting nowhere.
Now, that event helps set up the two main characters and, as I said, there’s a lot of world-building detail in there. However... I’m impatient, as I said. And if I have to wade through 75 pages of extraneous detail and style and get 25 pages of story out of it, it’s just moving too slow to keep my interest.
I came and went from this book several times, wanting to like it and get into it, but I just never did. Even now, as I type this, I think I should maybe give it another chance. But I know three pages in and I’m to feel immediately bogged down in the heavy narration that spends three pages describing something not that interesting about to the future, so... no thanks.
That doesn’t bode well for the three other giant tomes of his on my shelf. Not sure I’ll ever quite get to those now.
Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus by William King
This is a book with three novels from the Warhammer Fantasy universe in it. Good clean fantasy adventure fun. Bubblegum for the brain kind of reading. You don’t read it because you want to explore new, interesting ideas in the genre. Quite the opposite, which I knew going in.
I picked this book up while I was in nursing school. I needed something light and fun and quick and not taxing on the brain. And that’s what I got.
I only ever read the first “novel” of the three, and that’s where I picked up again this time. The first book is more like several short stories or novellas combined into one long adventure for our traveling dwarf berserker and his human poet companion. Which is exactly why I decided to read it again recently: so that when I got tired of it, I could just stop reading it without needing to know how it ended. Each section of the book is basically a story unto itself. I did stop reading this, most of the way through one of the longest stories, and I have no regrets about it.
You know, I keep saying these are going to be “quick bites” in this feeding frenzy, but they sure run long, don’t they...?
Have you read any of these and want to comment? Have any other reading suggestions for me? Let me know!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Does anyone actually believe it’s fall yet??? Sometimes it feels that way, but around here the temp is due to hit 90 again next week, so... Just as it feels like autumn (probably my favorite season), the confused cyclopean titans that run the Earth and its seasons get another cloud-full of soot in their single eye and turn the wheel the wrong way again.
I still try to get outside in my hammock to relax and do some reading as I can. I’m also on vacation this week, between quarters at the college where I teach, though my “vacations” are generally not much of an escape. My wife has started night school and my son is in third grade, so it’s not like I’m going anywhere.
I also try to get things done that have been in sore need for a long time while I’m off.
Monday I finally got our taxes done! I had them done by a professional this time, given the perilous circumstances of my situation. Why am I five and a half months late? Because Uncle Sam jacked up my W2 on my way out of the Navy. And, after a dozen phone calls and emails over the last six months, they are no closer to getting it fixed. But I’ve moved on. Taxes are finally done, using lots of other paperwork to support my true Navy pay and taxes paid, so... [SIGH.]
I also just came from my dad’s place, where I packed a whole year’s worth of recycling materials out of his kitchen into his truck and hauled it to a recycling center. That was a job! But he can see his floor again, so it was worth it. (Why does he keep all that shit for so long in the first place? That’s a long discussion you don’t want to have...)
Yesterday I tried to find and rent a power washer to hit the outside of the house with. I went to two different Home Depots and neither one had rentals! Even though the website told me they did. Frustrating...
So, yeah, that’s what I spend my “vacations” doing. How about you?
I also wanted to get more writing done on Secret Origins Book 3, but haven’t gotten very far on that front yet. But I’m getting there. More on that front in another episode.
So if this sounds like several mundane Facebook posts complaining about life, I apologize! Just seems like that’s what people talk about on blogs and in newsletters, right? What they’ve been working on?
Well, I do have more to talk about. Lots more. But I have a hard time taking time out from all that busy stuff above to sit down and write blogs/newsletters about the more interesting things I’ve been doing. Because doing that takes a timeslot or two in and of themselves. And who’s got time for that?
Well I’m going to make time! Thus the feeding frenzy: I’ve got several small things to write about and I’m going to break them up over time. Small hits here and there, like a school of worked-up blue sharks taking little bites out of you as they slowly but surely devour you.
Okay, bad analogy. It won’t be as painful as all that, I swear!
Here’s the first quick topic I want to share:
THE SECRET SANCTUM
A few weeks back, I went out and bought a simple desk and chair. The desk was $99, “rustic look” at Big Lots. The chair was an armless office chair, $40 at Walmart. It took me another week or two to get around to assembling them (!) but that task is finally done and now I have a secret little writing dungeon in the basement. Yeah!
I have an office upstairs, but as you can see from these pictures, it’s so busy and crammed with crap, that I can’t actually focus on writing when I’m up there. There are too many other things around to distract me. Plus, it gets hot up there for some reason. (Small room, single vent.)
(Btw, getting that office squared away has been on my to-do list since we moved in 16 months ago! Haven’t had enough vacations yet to get that task done, I guess... It’s on the list for this week, too, but today’s Wednesday already , so... Doesn’t look too likely.)
But the Secret Sanctum is down in the basement, in the only finished room down there, which is serving as a storage room full of boxes and junk. Therefore, when I go down there, there are no distractions! Just me, a simple “rustic” desk, and the blank wall in front of me. (It’s nice and cool down there too, just the way I like it. Plus, now I don’t have to go “rent” space at Starbucks for 5 bucks a coffee when I want to get away to write something.)
I haven’t actually made much use of it yet, but I’m about to. I’m going to try to get up early and go down there every day. Even if I only do 300 or 500 words a day, being persistent and consistent will get that next book done! Hopefully before Christmas so I can have it edited, covered, and out to all of you by the turn of the year! That’s the goal. More on that in a later FRENZY installment.
Okay, I think that’s good for now. I want to keep these short.
Next up: BOOKS I STOPPED READING. Maybe you’ve read them and can tell me whether they were worth it or not? Maybe you were thinking of reading them and will change your mind after you read this. We’ll see...
It is September and, even though the equinox hasn’t come quite yet, it sure feels like autumn in Ohio. The leaves outside this window are turning yellow even now! Seems too early for it, but I’ll certainly take the low-70s temperatures we’re getting.
(And for those bracing for hurricane weather, be smart, be strong, and be safe!)
It seems like I had plenty to write about off and on over the last few weeks, but blogging and idle chit-chat just don’t have a lot of weight when I’m trying to decide what to spend my limited time on, you know?
My wife and I went to the movies and saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I felt compelled to write about that.
(...Such as how it's basically a 2.5-hour nostalgia piece with no actual storyline. What the hell was Margot Robbie even in the movie for? All she did was go watch her own movie! So if you aren’t that into Hollywood or the 60s, save your damn money.)
I’m finishing up reading a SF trilogy, which I started last year, off and on. I’ve started three other books I am not likely to finish because they just don’t keep me interested. After not really being into comics for decades, I’m actually following a current limited series on the X-Men and could talk about those, and more reading material besides.
The new desk and chair that I bought last week and have yet to assemble for my new basement writing room. I plan to shoot pictures of the new storage room with the simple desk versus my very busy and messy office and discuss the difference and why I’m doing this. (Fascinating, I know...)
The new upside-down that is our family life right now with my wife going back to school in the evenings. (Thus even less time for blogging and writing and such.)
The next IDCU-SF-WWII novel I’ve finally come back to (lots of acronyms there), which I hope (hope!) to have out by Christmas (but that seems kind of unlikely, since I currently spend more time grading papers than writing them).
And probably a dozen other things I could offer my unsolicited opinion on.
But if I’m blogging or emailing out my personal opinions or mundane adventures in day-to-day life, then who the hell is making dinner for my son? Grading all those papers for my students? Who is going to write my books???
I envy bloggers who have the time for that stuff. And I hear (this is me, the crusty old luddite) that there are people who make a living at blogging??? Whhaaaahhh???!!! Who pays them???
Of course, I’m not totally convinced anyone makes a living at writing book yet either. But supposedly that’s a thing...
Anyway, maybe someday in the near future I’ll get around to telling you about some of those things. (Especially the books I’m reading. Or you could tell me about the books you’re reading. Feel free to email me!) But for now, I have too much else to do to blog/email out those day-to-day trivialities.
Which leaves me with mostly self-promoting stuff to talk about, which believe it or not, I also get very tired of! I’m not one to talk about myself. But I guess if I don’t tell people about my writing projects, no one will.
I do have an awesome new cover design for one of my Identity Crisis Universe (IDCU) books. Invasion has needed to get with the program for a while now in order to fit in with the new look on the other series in that universe. And now it has--in spades!
Artist Henry Ponciano (https://www.deviantart.com/henryponciano) made the first Invasion cover for me years ago.
I had a vision of art deco stuff from the 1920s then, and ideas for all three covers for this eventual trilogy. (Invasion started out as a short story idea that wrote itself into a short novel, which easily lends itself to becoming a trilogy. Go figure.) This first cover, then, was to resemble the Statue of Liberty. Future ones would be take-aways from King Kong and that famous Atlas statue of him bearing a huge globe. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think I am probably the only person who would get it...
But now to get with the times and kick a lot more ass, here’s the newest version! (I hope Henry doesn't mind me sharing his prelim sketches above.) He remade Ballista and her spider prey here and I did the rest of the cover. What do you think?
I freakin’ love it. Although I have had rough negotiations with Amazon these past few days in submitting the paperback version for printing approval. They don’t like the interaction with the titles and author name because they worry it could be mistaken for printing errors that they’d have to refund customers over... (Lame!)
But, hey, they print the books and have all the power, so what can I do? So if you happen to order a paperback, it won’t look quite as cool. Sorry.
(BTW, there's also an awesome audio version on Amazon, Audible, and iBooks! I like it better than the readable version--the voice artists are amazing!)
Okay, I have to wrap this up and go pick up my son from after-school daycare. (I’m writing this Thursday afternoon and hopefully I’ll get it out Friday sometime.) If you’re still reading this far, THANKS for doing so and I’ll be in touch later in the month or possibly October. After all, I should be writing the next novel, not telling you about my overly busy yet somehow not productive enough day. But if I get the time, I would like to tell you about these books I’m reading someday soon!
Happy September and enjoy your weekend!