What I’m Reading: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

GrishaVerse is one of those series that you can’t stop hearing about. I was able to borrow the original GrishaVerse trilogy from a friend a while back. The books are told by the perspective of Alina Starkov, a teen-aged orphan who, surprise, turns out to have magical powers. While this series starts like many a fantasy novel before it, Leigh Bardugo manages to create a fairly fresh fantasy landscape with strong, believable characters.

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The first novel of the trilogy sets up the world of the Grisha, the magic wielders  in this universe. Borrowing on Russian history, culture, and mythology, Shadow and Bone has a fresh appeal for those used to reading more ‘European’ type fantasy. What I liked best about Shadow and Bone, however, was the play between Alina and the Darkling. This book had twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting, and Bardugo did a good job of keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think?

4.5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Wicked King by Holly Black

You know, I’m pretty sure that in all my life I will never be able to say enough about Holly Black and her fantastic writing. I grew up loving the idea of Fairies (the big, human-ish ones that we now call the Fae, in order distinguish them from the tiny little ones with wings (which I also love, but that’s a tale for another day)). And Holly Black really brings them to life for me.

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The second book of the Folk of the Air trilogy is perhaps better than the first one, The Cruel Prince, which I reviewed last year, and if I have to give a reason for this it is because in The Wicked King we get to see the underwater fae, and if you’ve read my books, you know that I love underwater kingdoms—they are just so exotic! (also, Hello! Aquaman!) Jude continues to be a strong kick-a** hero, who isn’t afraid of a good fight. What could be better? I can’t wait for the next book.

5/5 Stars

JEH

Upcoming Young Adult Fantasy Workshop in Regina!

Live in or near Regina? If you do and you’re interested in writing young adult fantasy (or know someone who is), it’s your lucky day. I’ll be hosting a three hour workshop about writing young adult fantasy on April 14th, 2019. We’ll be working on maps, plots, characters and all around magical adventure, and discussing some of my favorite YA Fantasy titles. There are only 16 spots, so if you want one, follow the link to sign up!

https://www.reginalibrary.ca/attend/programs/1392420

Workshop

How to Be a Writer With a Day Job Part 1: Making Time

At the beginning of January I announced that I would be doing a series this year on being a Writer with a Day job. I planned my first post for January 2019, but here it is, February 1, blizzardy and cold, and I’m just getting round to it now. Ah, the realities of being a writer with a day job.

Last year, I had the amazing privileged of being awarded a literary grant, which gave me a full four months to work as a writer with no other distractions. Then, when July came, I returned to my demanding day job and this gave me an entirely new perspective on what it is be creative and to work at a regular 9-5 where you have a boss, and assignments, and things to do that must get done, none of which have anything to do with crafting fantastical universes. When I returned to my job, I was struck with one particular wallowing grief: how will I make time for my art now???

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If you’re like me, wanting to create day after day, wanting to figure out how you will ever find time to finish your novel, your short story, your poems—or heck, even start those projects in the first place—then I’m glad you’re here. Because today that’s what I’m going to talk about, albeit rather briefly, because I have a day job to return to (Ssssh, don’t tell my boss).

#1 Search

The first thing you need to do, if you are a writer or artist working a day job, is take a long-distance look at the time you have every day for everything: regular work, home life, friends, television, the gym, sulking. Lay it all out and then move in really close and find those places you can block off just for writing. It might be that every Saturday morning you nothing for the first three hours. Why not book off one or three for writing. What about your lunch breaks? Are you really using them productively? Maybe instead of using the time to browse Facebook posts that you’ve likely already seen five times before, use ten minutes to squeeze out one hundred word on your work in progress. Take a look at your time and figure out where writing can naturally fit in. It might not be a lot of time, but a little bit adds up over a year or two.

#2 Cut

The next thing you can do is cut. Cut ruthlessly. Cut out mind-trash, and instead create a little of mind-building. In other words, stop watching so much television. Stop binging on NETFLIX. Stop watching stuff you aren’t paying attention to anyway because the characters are all immature and whiny and terrible. When people ask me how I fit in time for writing, my first answer is “I don’t watch television anymore”. You know what everyone tells me, “Oh, neither do I. Except for Black Mirror, Riverdale, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Grey’s Anatomy. I mean, I down to like only six or seven shows.” That’s six or seven hours a week you could be writing! In fact, if you even just picked your two favorite shows, that four hours a week you could be writing. Four hours that you could be working on the world you really want to be in instead of numbing your mind with someone else’s creation. Honestly, I maybe watch half and hour to two hours in a regular week. And yes, I do binge on occasion, or watch a new release movie I’m really interested in, but I’m ruthless with my time, I want it all for my writing. All of it. But I know I should find balance, too.

#3 Marathons

A few years back I found this amazing writing group. It’s amazing because it’s a writing productivity group. We get together regularly on Wednesday and writing straight for three hours (it’s come and go so you can really just be there for as long as you choose). We don’t talk much. We just write. I get a lot of creative work done on Wednesday nights. But another thing we do a few times a year is marathons. We find a Saturday or Sunday and book off a day, a whole day, for sitting together in silence and writing. It may sound strange, but there is something about being surrounded by other writer’s writing that keeps you honest. You can’t slack off and watch Netflix, you can’t start cleaning your house, you can’t lie on the floor and wallow in writer’s block. People are watching (well, not really, but they are noticing), so you have to work. You have to spend the whole day working. And it’s amazing where one long day dedicated to a single project can get you.

JEH

 

 

 

2019 Blogging Plans: What’s Upcoming on This Site

I think it was sometime before Christmas that I mentioned I was going to spend a little bit of time thinking about what I want to share in 2019. I love blogging, I love this blog, but I don’t love how little time I have for it. Between blogging and writing books or stories, I’m always going to choose the later, so this year I’m going to cut back a bit more but at the same time try to be more regular with my posts.

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In 2019, I’m going to do a series, one post a month, about How to Be a Writer with a Day Job. Last year, I was lucky enough to be a full-time writer for four months, thanks to a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, but this year I need to keep my cash flow high, so it’s full time at the day job for me. Each month, I’ll do one feature post that focuses on one aspect of being a writer while also working a day job, full-time or part-time, that may or may not have anything to do with writing. The first one will be in two weeks.

Other than these feature posts, 2019 will focus on the same kind of things I’ve been doing for a while know, updates on what I’ve been reading and writing, writing prompts for the inspiring writer in you, and any other special posts I just happen to love and find the time to do.

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Another thing I’ve just recently implemented this year is a 600 words per day writing goal, which for me is pretty easy to maintain. This means that by the end of the year I will have written over 200,000 words, or two full novels plus some side projects at a minimum. I’m excited about this. This is much less than my goal a couple years ago of writing 1,000 words per day, or 365,000 words in a year (closer to 4 novels), but one thing I realized when completing that 1,000 words per day goal was that it left me little time to fit in rewriting. And this year I have a lot of rewriting scheduled, to the point where I hope to release 4 full-length novels (more on these in another post).

Yesterday, I had a mini-celebration because the night before I finished a draft on a project I’d been stalling on for some time (The Chain). This is the last book in the Artifacts of Avalum series, and that may be why I slowed down. Also, I was distracted by another shiny project. So far, the year is off to a good start, and I hope to keep this trend going in 2019.

All the best to you this year!

JEH

A Reader’s 2019 Goals

On the way into my day job this morning, I was listening to the radio. One of the DJ’s was talking about some research that said we shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but make a reverse bucket list, in other words, we should write down all the things we’ve already done that we’re most proud of, and this will help us see where our interests lie, and maybe also give us confidence to tackle new, or future, bucket list items (at least that is what I think the point was anyway). I usually set my new goals in September, since this feels more natural after twenty some years of school. But one goal I do set in January is my reading goal (thanks to GoodReads and their fabulous tracking app).

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First Book to Read in 2019, will be followed by 59 more!

When I wrote my reverse bucket list, I was surprised to feel disappointment that I couldn’t add any big reads to my list. In 2018 I started Don Quixote with the goal of finishing it, but I didn’t get it done. I also, year ago, started War and Peace and read half of it before falling off the train. I really do want to read these books (and finish them!), and writing my reverse bucket list helped me find what was missing. So, in 2019, my goal is to finish Don Quixote as part of my reading goal.

In 2018, I managed to finish 62 books, so I set my 2019 goal at 60. In 2018, my goal was only 50 books because I wanted to get more writing done, but I couldn’t stop reading, so this year I increased my goal back up to 60 books. As I’m over half done Don Quixote, I don’t think having such a large book on my list will slow me down much, and a lot of the other books I want to read this year are rather slender.

So, here’s to another happy year of reading. Did you set a goal? How many books do you want to read in 2019?

JEH