What I’m Reading: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Last year I reviewed Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse Trilogy, which I really enjoyed. I borrowed Six of Crows from a friend, and finished reading it at the tail end of last year (it has taken me forever to post this review but that’s another story of a busy writer’s life). I have to say that I was hesitant to read another book in Grishverse, but in the end I preferred Six of Crows over the initial Grishaverse Trilogy, mainly because Six of Crows was more adult than Shadow and Bone.

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I’ve written before about my preference for mature young adult fiction, books along the lines of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Raven Boys trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater, and anything written by Holly Black. These authors don’t treat their characters like sheltered teens with perfect, non-dangerous lives. Their characters are constantly being forced to make tough choices, and they do. Life is about tough choices, and I love seeing this in young adult novels.

Six of Crows is about a rag-tag team of thieves brought together for a singular purpose, but everyone has their own agenda (of course!). It is a fast-paced heist novel, set in the Grisha world, which is a near steampunk, somewhat Gothic, almost Victorian but kind of Russian fantasy world. It is so unique and fun that Six of Crows was hard to put down.

I guess I’ll have to read Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows, because I know it will be just as fun.

JEH

 

A Writer’s Plans in 2020

So far the start of the year has been incredibly busy! That’s a good thing, since I’m gearing up for a big year in 2020. The blog has been pretty quiet lately, and it will likely continue to be so until summer. Why? Because for the first half of 2020 I will continue to be a writer with a day job. This means that like 2019, I won’t get as much done as I dream of, but I still have plans. And what happens in the second half of 2020? Well, my savings goal will have been reached and I will once again be transitioning to full-time writing. I am so excited for this that the impatience is quickly growing.

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On the docket for 2020 are a number of things, first and foremost to continue working on my current work in progress, By Sapphire Light. This is a young adult steampunk fantasy that I just love working on! I finished the first draft in December, and have recently begun the first rewrite, which is moving along nicely! In early January, I also worked on a few other small projects that I plan to continue with for the rest of 2020.

My main goal this year is to get the entire trilogy for By Sapphire Light drafted. This means two more books to draft, and the first one to finalize. I would love to have this done by July 1st, before I transition to full-time writing, since I have many other projects that will be vying for my attention at that time.

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The good thing is I have a writing retreat booked in late February, which will carve out sometime in the first half of the year for writing. I’m continuing with my Wednesday writing night, and have been pretty good at chipping away on my project on evenings and weekends. I’m hopefully that I can get one more mini-retreat in before June as well.

When I did my writing goal planning for 2020, I actually only planned for the first six months, since I’m not exactly sure how things are going to line-up for July. I’m trying to let things flow, and see what comes more naturally now while I’m balancing work life-home life-and writing life. Here’s to a great year in 2020 for everyone!

JEH

How to Be a Writer with a Day Job: A year’s roundup.

At the start of the year I was planning to write a post a month about how to be a writer with a day job, in other words, how to find time for writing when you’re working 40 (or more!) hours a week! I managed to get out two posts! Which may tell you a lot about where my priorities lay when I’m a writer with a day job.

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It was much easier to fit in blogging when I was a full-time writer. But being a full-time writer isn’t always the most economical decision (though it is the most heart-lightening one). I switched my day job in June of 2019, and that day job currently takes up a lot more of my time than my old job did, but all for a greater purpose. I changed jobs (well aware that I would lose writing time) to make more money, to save more, to then get back to being a full-time writer sooner (once my cushion is adequately plumped).

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And taking that job has also taught me a lot more about being a writer with a day job. Here are some tips I picked up over the past six months:

  1. Make social media your last priority. Yes, that’s right. If you want to get writing done, or even worse, the dreaded rewriting, don’t go on social media. This may result in your on-line presence lagging, but hey, I didn’t get into writing fiction so I could write for social media 24/7. That said, I’m still trying to make time for some blogging, but I do this by trying time to pre-post once a week—or month! But even that doesn’t always happen.
  2. Keep your goals tight. When you have a day job, you don’t have as much time, which means you can’t pursue as many projects. While I love to have multiple things on the go: short stories, novels, novellas, fantasy, general fiction, I can’t work on them all when I’m already spending 40 hours a week at my day job desk. So pick one and work on it until it’s finished. Then pick something else.
  3. Find a community. I still get the majority of my writing done at my Wednesday night meet-ups. My like-minded community of writers knows we have to set aside time to get work done, so that’s what we do. But beyond writing together, we also have regular goals meetings to hold each other accountable to the goals we set at the beginning of the year.
  4. When you burn out, take a break. Having a day job might mean that you burn out sooner, more often, and harder. Make sure to give yourself a break, a night off, a night out, a morning to sleep in. You can always pick up the pen tomorrow. Just make sure you do.
  5. Drink a lot of coffee. I’m pretty sure that one explains itself.

Hopefully at least one of those tips resonates with you. It’s been a long haul this year being a writer with a day job, but I made it, and next year is going to be even better yet!

JEH

My Top 5 Reads of 2020

It’s that time of year! Taking a look back over all I’ve read in 2019, a few books jump out at me. I’ll get to the list in a minute, but first I want to congratulate myself on reading all I did. While I didn’t meet my GoodReads goal—set at 60 books this year—I did finish 48 books! Plus, I read my own books a bunch of times while writing and editing them, so all in all, I did a great job with reading (can I add the books I wrote to my favourites???).

No matter how much I read, I always want to read more! While I want to set my reading target high for 2020, in the hope that I will find time to read more books, I’m going to set it reasonable, since I know 2020 will be busy.

But now, out of those 48 books, what were my top five?

  1. Legendary by Stephanie Garber (yes I liked book 2 better than book 3)
  2. Finale by Stephanie Garber (but book 3 was still fantastic)
  3. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (a great stand alone epic)
  4. The Wicked King by Holly Black (I always love Holly Black, can’t wait to get to Queen of Nothing!)
  5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (I know it isn’t YA, but I was super into non-fiction in 2019, so one of those books was bound to make the list!)

Of course, there were plenty of books released in 2019 that I just haven’t got around to reading yet (not to mention in 2018), so there might be some books that should be on this list but I just haven’t got to reading yet. My TBR pile is out of control, so as per usual, my new years goal is to not buy any more books and focus on reading more of the books I already have (this resolution tends to never last long—hopefully this year it will stick as I’m getting back into using my library).

What were your favourite reads of 2019?

JEH

How I Won NaNoWriMo, and How I’m Winning My Writing Year

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo again! And this was probably the easiest year for me because I love my current Work in Progress so much! I’m very happy that I managed to push through NaNo this year, especially given that I’m in the middle of a major house renovation (Hello New Office! —More on that later).

First I want to talk a bit about how I managed to win NaNo when I’m so busy, when I have an incredibly busy day job, a busy personal life, and a major renovation going on right now.

I did it by making time. Every night I did some writing. If I didn’t make the full 1676 words per day one day, I tried to make sure I could catch up the next. I booked time for myself on the weekends to get extra words done, I made it to my weekly writing productivity meet-ups, and we had one Saturday marathon where I wrote a whopping 11,000 words to pass the 50,000 word mark. (I may have bought myself a box of chocolates to cheer myself on… They may also now be all gone…). You can see my daily wordcount summarized below, along with my wordcount since July 1, 2019, when I decided I would write 500 words a day for an entire year!

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So, I won NaNo, and I did it by making time, but also by focusing on my task. When I sat down to write, I wrote. I didn’t daydream or browse the internet or get lost in research like I often do, I just got to it because I knew that my time was limited. This is why I love NaNo, because it gives me a deadline, and deadlines can be the best motivation of all.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? What gave you motivation to work?

JEH