August 2018 Books

And it’s time for my monthly reading recap! I’m proud to say I actually did well this August. At the beginning of the month, I was 4 books behind my Goodreads Reading challenge, and now I’m one book ahead. To be fair, two of these “books” were comic volumes, but hey, I needed the boost.

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Aaand, starting us off, we have a sci-fi classic! To Say Nothing of the Dog is about a bunch of historians who time-travel, and find themselves pulling forward into the future an member of an extinct species: a cat! And before this destroys the time-space continuum, Ned Henry and Verity Kindle must return the  cat and fix the incongruities they’ve introduced.

This was a lot of fun! Although I found the beginning quite tedious and a little difficult to get into, once you pass the quarter mark, it gets very entertaining. And the end offers a really pleasant twist that you might not have seen coming. (Not the butler though; I saw the butler thing coming, hehe.)

13190596The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

A year ago, I read the first book in Courtney Milan’s “Brothers Sinister” series, “The Duchess War,” and ended up thoroughly enjoying it even though it was one of the rare times I ventured out of my SFF comfort zone. Earlier this year, I read the follow-up novella, and this time, I was up for a short, fun fluffy romance after the roller-coaster ride I got with To Say Nothing of the Dog. And I was already confident that Courtney Milan’s style and characterization would give me what I was looking for, so I went ahead and read the prequel novella. It did not disappoint! I think I will do something really unusual and read this entire romance series.

Mythspace Vol. 1 and 2 by Paolo Chikiamco

Mythspace is a 3-volume graphic novel about a young man who discovers that the folklore his grandmother used to tell him are actually true! But not in the way he thought it would be. This graphic novel reimagines Filipino folklore in an SFF setting, showcasing mythological creatures from the manananggal, to the capre, and laho. I really enjoyed reading these two volumes, and I was a little sad to find that the volumes aren’t being sold anymore at Kobo.

8511599Eskrima: Filipino Martial Art by Krishna Godhania

I started reading this a few months back, because I needed an introduction to Filipino combat system as part of the research for my story. At first, I was a little skeptical of this book, and it seemed like it made assumptions about its audience (specifically, that you’ll be male, as there was a scene the author asks you to envision, where you might need to use self-defence when you’re out at night with a member of the opposite gender and you guys somehow come across sketchy people who have bad intentions towards your date — needless to say the image that popped in my head was probably not the one the author intended).

But apart from the introduction, I found his explanation of Filipino martial-arts system incredibly detailed and helpful. I don’t think it would substitute the knowledge you gain by actually signing up for classes (which I’m hoping I get to do soon), but there is enough, I believe, to get a writer on a pretty good path to describing how FMA works in fighting scenes. There are also dozens of helpful images and diagrams as well.

33230889The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

So, so, so. I was working on finishing off my 3rd draft this month, but I found myself lacking the creativity to keep up the tension in my scenes. So I decided I should probably read some thrillers or mysteries to figure out how to keep good tension.

The Good Daughter is the first mystery/thriller book I’ve ever read, and it really gives you what you’re looking for. As soon as I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in a day. I even stayed up until 2 in the morning reading it (that hasn’t happened since I was reading Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom).

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The Tricky Thing About “Show, Don’t Tell”

“Show, Don’t Tell” is one of those really popular writing advice that I keep struggling with. Maybe I just haven’t read enough guides on how to do it well, but it’s probably safe to say that at this point, I’m not a fan of this advice. My biggest issue with it is that people who give this advice rarely illustrate how much to show.

Take these examples:

Level 1: Jane Doe was agoraphobic.

Level 2: Jane Doe was afraid of stepping out of her door. Ever since she and her mother were attacked under gunpoint and their wallets stolen five years ago, Jane had found the outside world unbearable.

Level 3: Jane’s sister told her that today there would be a solar eclipse. Jane didn’t even need to go very far to see it. Her sister had given her a pair of glasses to peer through, and all she had to do was step out on her balcony. And yet, even though that sounded so simple, Jane could not bring herself to do it. Just seeing the sidewalk, even if it was different from the one she and her mother had taken that awful night, made her heart hammer in her chest and her hand clammy with sweat. No, she much preferred the view and the atmosphere inside. She was not going out.

Okay, so clearly Level 1 is telling. We’re just dumping the information straight out. Level 3 is clearly showing. We’re describing a situation and Jane’s responses to it as it is happening.

But what about Level 2?

This is the part I find so tricky. Level 2 is “telling” when compared to Level 3, but it can be considered “showing” when compared to Level 1. So if I write something that is similar to Level 2, is that actually showing or telling? And perhaps showing and telling isn’t really determined by the writer, but by the reader, you know? If I’m reading and I expect Jane’s agoraphobia to be “shown” like Level 3, then Level 2 will feel a little disappointing. On the other hand, if I’m impatient and I don’t find Jane’s agoraphobia all that important, Level 3 might seem excessive, when there’s Level 2 that will perfectly do.

I don’t have a good way of ending this post. I’m just saying… I find “Show, Don’t Tell” a rather stiff advice. Not to mention, sometimes you don’t want to “show,” right? Sometimes all you want to say is “roughly squared wooden beams, wooden carriages, and cannon,” instead of describing the actual wooden grains of the cannon.

 

I’m Still In One Piece

So, so, so. This is totally unrelated to writing or reading or any of the things I usually post.

I’ve been driving to work for about a week now. I’m still very much a beginner — I only received my G2 license at the end of May, after all, and I did pretty limited driving since then. At the beginning of this month, I was able to secure a parking space at a train station on a line that has a stop 5 minutes away from work. Very convenient. The drive from my home to this station is about 30-40 minutes, but it’s in one straight line.

You know, I’ve always been one of those pedestrians who shake their head at drivers who do stupid things, and I also live in an area with an inflated insurance rate because people here are supposedly “bad drivers,” so I’ve always sworn I was going to be a Good Driver!

Well, easier said than done, especially when you’re a beginner, apparently. Since I started driving last week, I’ve had about… erm, three reckless driving experience so far, and honestly, I come home with my knees shaking, just being thankful I’m alive. It’s strange how all these instances happen on my way back home. My drive to work has thankfully been pretty uneventful (and believe me, I’d rather keep it that way). I don’t know what it is about the afternoon rush hour — is it that people are just more impatient to go home than get to work? Or is it that my northbound route just a little more disorganized?

Just to give some examples…

My northbound route is a little different than the southbound, because on the street that I would usually take, there’s a section under construction that squeezes the northbound cars into one lane. The traffic there during rush hour is pretty bad, so I take a parallel road home. Last week when I first decided to do this, I had to make a left. I didn’t realize that the left lane had its own set of lights, and I was already in the middle of the road. Once the north-south lights turned red, I knew the east-west lights would turn green before the left-turning cars would be given a go, so in the split-second in between, I zoomed out of the intersection. Yup, I can already imagine the heads shaking.

Another incident, a less stupid one, but still quite dangerous: again on another intersection. I was trying to make a right, but a car from the lane that had the right of way approached really quickly, honked obnoxiously at me, and zoomed right past. Okay, I know this was my fault (I mean, all of these silly mistakes are my fault for being not aware), but I was *this* close to hitting him. I had to slam on my brakes and my bags fell off the seat. Couldn’t he have slowed down and given me the space? I was already on the lane anyway. Again, I admit it was my fault, but I feel like sometimes people care less about actually driving safely than exerting their right to be on that spot when they want.

Not that I can brag about safe driving… so today, let me tell you about this side street I usually turn right into to get home. It has four lanes, two for the cars going right, and two for the cars going left. For the past week, the two lanes for the eastbound were blocked by some construction, so they turned one of the westbound lanes into the eastbound lane. That meant I had to go further than usual to make my turn. Today, they moved the construction, so it was the 2 middle lanes that were closed off! I did NOT notice until I was about to turn into the usual lane and found that it was closed. I couldn’t go back since there was a car behind me, so I used the westbound lane to go east. Ughh! Fortunatley there weren’t any cars in it, but as I was driving down, some cars started to appear. I must have confused the crap out of them, and I could practically feel the shame oozing from me in spades. I just accelerated so that I could move back to the correct lane past the construction, and I wouldn’t block them. But man, I must have appeared exactly like the kind of reckless driver I shake my head at.

Well, I came home, absolutely astounded that after a week of driving, my car and I are still in one piece.

 

July 2018 Books

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson

The Secrets of Solace is the 2nd book in the World of Solace Series. I read the first, Mark of the Dragonfly several years ago and I remember liking it very much. This book is a standalone like the first, dealing with an entirely different cast set in a different part of the world. In this book, we follow Lina, a young archivist, who finds a mysterious airship stuck in the tunnels of her home. She befriends a boy named Ozben who happens to be on the run from assassins.

I thought that this book had the same imaginative story and characters that the first book did, but it didn’t have the same sense of adventure. Perhaps because Lina and Ozben spend most of their time in the strongholds of the mountain where the archivists live. The plot enfolds only in that place until the climax. What I really liked about this book though is how Lina and Ozben’s character arcs intertwined.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

I feel like you would enjoy this book more if you’re prepared for what it really is. The summary provided tells of Isobel, a talented painter, who gets whisked away by the Autumn Fae Prince, Rook, after she accidentally paints sorrow in his eyes. He loses face at court and intends to have her punished to bring him back to his people’s good graces.

I read Goodreads reviews of this book before diving into it, so I know that it’s not in fact a book about court intrigue, but a book spent on travelling together through the woods. And that was what it really was. It’s just a pretty straightforward story of two people who journey through the forest rife with danger and end up falling in love (though they fall in love pretty quickly, and the 2nd half is all about how they survive the dangers). I think people who like simple, journey-based stories like this would enjoy this book. I personally enjoyed the self-indulgent feel it had. Sometimes you just need a book about two people in the woods falling in love, you know what I mean?

My only frustration really was that the inciting event of Isobel painting sorrow in Rook’s eyes and the consequence of that was never really explored. It just felt like the inciting event was not integrated into the actual story, except to get the hero and heroine to travel together.

PSF11 Launch, 07/18 Camp NaNoWriMo Overview and Other Updates

This post is a month overdue, but I was too busy crunching in my word counts for Camp NaNoWriMo to write this.

Without further ado, Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 11 is out now!

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It’s been a long time coming. This volume has been in the works for almost 2 years, and I am so, so honoured that the piece I submitted was accepted. My short story is called The Goddess of Debt and it’s about a young woman who is unexpectedly chosen to be a human sacrifice. Yikes, I know that sounds a little morbid, but the story isn’t really about the sacrifice, as it is about the Goddess who offers her a way out, and about whether she will take it or not.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the PSF series, it is an annual anthology that celebrates speculative fiction written by Filipinos about Filipinos for anyone at all who is interested in the genre. It’s one of the few avenues out there that brings Filipino stories out to the world. The good news for you is that all the stories in the anthologies are written in English. So please support it if you can! It would mean a lot to me, whose piece is the first original fiction I’ve written that has ever been published, and to the producers of the anthology who work tirelessly year after year to serve an underserved area of fiction.


And on to Camp NaNoWriMo…

For those of you who have followed my blog for at least a year now, you probably noticed that I try to participate in as many as NaNoWriMos as I can. It’s because it really motivates me to just write down my story. Another reason why I join is because I get an excuse to write about my writing! Writing is such a solitary process, but when you’re part of a program that you know hundreds of thousands of other people are also doing, it makes the experience a little more social.

This month, as I tried to churn out those 50K words while real life was trying its hardest to prevent me from doing so (I swear, it really seemed like it was), I’ve come to realize how much I appreciated the messages written by the camp counsellors. These are real writers who take the time out of their lives to give us newbies (or seasoned — depending on where you are in your career during NaNo) some tips and tricks, as well as kind words to keep us going. Sometimes, I would come home and feel like I don’t even want to open up my word document, or I’d start to lose heart in my story (again), but I would see one of these messages in my inbox, and I’d have the strength to just put down maybe a few hundred words.

So I would like to share with you some of the messages that really helped me this month.

From author Claire Kann:

One of the hardest parts of drafting is getting to The End! While drafting do you prefer to revise as you go, rereading and polishing your previous day’s work before moving on? Or do you prefer to write out of order as the scenes come to you and connect the dots later? Personally, I am a zero drafter. I word-vomit the entire story in chronological order, not stopping to fix anything. There are multiple ways to draft, and no one way is going to work for everyone. It’s important to find a method that works best for you.

And what do you know, I’m a “word-vomiter” too!

From author Kristin Chen:

Just as important as writing every day (or as close to it as you can manage) is reading every day. I read as much as I can, and broadly, too, not just research for my work-in-progress. In my experience, it’s often the books that resemble yours the least that end up unlocking something in your writing. And when this happens, it’s a wonderful reminder of how mysterious and magical this whole process is—and how lucky we are to be writers.

I don’t read every day, nor do I write every day when it’s not NaNoWriMo. (Can you imagine? I have a full-time programming job, and my hobbies include reading, writing and drawing. Practitioners of all 4 of these get told to do these things everyday! I’d be dead if I were to try that!) But I do appreciate Kristin Chen’s advice that we shouldn’t avoid reading when we’re writing, because it’s food for your creativity!

Here’s a bit from Gloria Chao:

Everyone’s process is different so listen to your gut: if you’re not feeling it today, it’s okay if you don’t hit your word count. Take a break, read, relax, and come back when you’re refreshed. You can make up for these days later when you’re more on a roll. And remember: it’s not about the number but the work you’ve put in, which sometimes can’t be easily quantified.

I always have an equivalent metric for the word count, like number of chapters or the part of the story that I should reach by a certain date. It helps me contextualize that this isn’t about the word count, but about helping you reach the milestones in your story.

And finally, from Jessica Strawser:

I once had the privilege of interviewing Patricia Cornwell—who was adamant that insecurity can be good for a writer. “I’ll be honest,” she said. “When somebody has written their first novel and they tell me how fantastic it is, I know it’s probably not very good. It’s usually the person who says, ‘I’m not sure what I think…’ and then you look at the thing and go, ‘Now that is really special.’ So it’s not bad to be a little insecure. It makes you work harder and pay attention.” When I’m pushing through a draft and that hopeless feeling creeps in, I remember this. Feeling uncertain could be a sign of real magic! You’ll never know if you don’t see it through.

You guys know me. Y’all have seen all my Writing Woes posts. I have major angst about my novel. Knowing that it’s okay to feel uncertain about your story makes me more hopeful that it’s probably not as bad as it might seem.


So where does this get me?

This camp helped me get to the midpoint of my 3rd draft. I really want to finished the 3rd draft before fall, so I will take a few days break, write the outline for the rest of the story, and use August to finish it off. I am hoping that after a little bit of tidying up and editing, I can start letting other people read my story to get some feedback.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on my online presence. I usually drop off the face of the earth when I’m doing NaNoWriMo, but I know I need to improve my reach if I want to get some feedback for my story. I’ll be reworking my website, probably spend a bit more time blogging, and of course, there’s always my Schoolism assignments to help me generate original artwork to post.

Here’s a question for you guys. What are you more interested in seeing? Do you want to see more posts about my story? About the writing process? What I’m reading? The research? How about posts that are more collaborative, you know, something that doesn’t scream ‘Me, Me, Me’ like all my posts do? Lol. Let me know, because I have a hard time gauging the interests of people. If it were left up to me, I’d just talk about my story. But I know that there are people who don’t like that, because the story should speak for itself, and once the story is out there, nothing the author says about it that isn’t written as canon ever really matters.

So, yup, let me know!