Tag Archives: gottakeepreading

My TBR pile – Winter 2018

to be read pile winter 2018My To-Be-Read pile is slightly ridiculous. (Again.) And I’m on holiday this week, so I’ve got some time to read! So what’s on the heap?

Takes a deep breath…

(Ok, some of these aren’t entirely fair; I’ve read War of the Worlds, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Magicians, but they were part of my BristolCon haul. I’ve also had some of these on my TBR for a year…whoops. And that’s in spite of the amount I have managed to read!)

So! If Cats Disappeared from the World, Your Favourite Band Cannot Save You, Autodrome, The Affinity Bridge, Strange of Tempest, Dreamwalker, Truthwitch, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (in progress), Vanished Kingdoms, Prince Thief, The Man In The High Castle, This Savage Song, The Corpse-Rat King (in progress), The Adamantine Palace, The Bone Season, The Court of Broken Knives and Moon’s Artifice.

And on ebook…

The Wizard’s Daughter (in progress), Love&Bubbles, Starborn, The Ninth Rain, Dangerous To Know, Everless, The Written, Sanyare, Valley of Embers, Where The Waters Turn Black, Touch of Iron, Spectris, Shattermoon, The Tethered Mage (in progress), The Secret of Ji, Broad Knowledge & Choose Wisely.

That’s not including the books that are on my “ooh, that’d be good” – this is literally my “I own this and need to actually read the damn thing” list/pile.

And that’s not including a novel about magical teenagers that I’m halfway through, one about a love & gods & epic struggles that I need to do a third read on, two submissions from friends that I’ve put into my work inbox just so I’ll get them done, a short story and some sneaky erotica from a friend that’s on the top of my list because they’re an amazing writer, and whatever new fiction is on Wattpad. Plus, looking through my pile, there’s a bunch of authors that I need to go see if they’ve published anything more…

Despite the towering heap that I suspect some day will fall over, I’m always happy to take recommendations! But if you need me this week – I’ll be reading.

Ps. Someone at work asked me – “So, how many books do you read a year? Is it, like…as many as 50?”

“Oh, yes. Probably a lot more…”

I did then explain that it’s also my job, but still! 😀

Review: The Haunting of Tyler May

The Haunting of Tyler May by BJ Mears

As Tyler May empties her classmate’s bag she discovers a secret that turns her life upside down and challenges her perception of the known world. She begins a journey that takes her from the hunted to the hunter; from a disbeliever to the keeper of the truth. Will she and her friends have the courage to stand together and face the sinister forces that threaten humanity? As each day passes, Tyler must decide how far she is willing to go. After all, she is just one teenage (girl.

This is the first in a series of a YA, horror-mixed-with-adventure type thing…and I liked it! I’m not entirely sure I’m the right audience, and the second book is on my TBR (but not at the top), but – it was a fun read!

The basic plot is that Tyler accidentally gets her classmate’s bag, finds a mysterious book and a bunch of notes, finds an odd gadget…and finds a world of trouble! Tyler’s a fun heroine; she manages to get herself into trouble without entirely meaning to but still definitely knowing she’s heading in that direction, and the mix of frustration, stubbornness and morality makes her a fun protagonist to follow. I liked the hints of Tyler’s frustrations mixed into her adventures; she needs to make lists, needs to be ordered – and still wants to go hunt the bad guys!

I admit to not being entirely sure about her enemies…I tend to get cynical about Nazis as baddies, but I was fairly happy to mentally give it a pass. It’s meant to be a fun adventure romp, and I think baddies get a pass to be Bad in that scenario. Certainly they make effective – and fun – adversaries, and the helpers (and hinderers) that Tyler meets along the way add to the cast.

On which note, I love the gadget that Tyler uses – there’s a whole bunch of different functions, a rabble of ghosts, and I love the inventiveness of Tyler’s use of it! The Tower was definitely my favourite.

So; a fun, horror-tinged story that features a stubborn, strong-willed and adventurous heroine, a plot-full of baddies, and some great characters. Worth a read if you’re a teenager, or it sounds like fun – and there’s the rest of the series if you like it!

6 Months as an Editor: Thoughts

I’ve now been a Junior Editor (well, at least it’s not a minion!) with Rebellion for six months…and it’s still going great! A friend was asking me some questions, and I thought – actually, the answers are kinda interesting. Going from a writer and editor for friends to a professional editor and formatter… what have I found in the last six months as someone who’s just stepped into a pretty new world?

Am I a better editor? Well, yes. It still scares the hell out of me that I’m the one making judgement calls on others people’s writing, and to the level that I can input on if they get published or not…but at the same time, I’m mostly passing the buck (hi, commissioning editors!) and at the level I’m now working at, it’s not so much a question of if the stories are good – because they overwhelmingly are! – but whether we want to publish a story of that type. The one thing I have got better at is adding in a personal opinion to whether a story is any good; whereas before I’d just comment on the writing, I can now weigh in with my personal opinion – which is, I think, as valid a part of reading as the actual writing skill is! If a book is beautifully written but does nothing for me, then maybe it’s not for us; if it’s something that I want to absolutely rave about, then maybe it is! Being able to convince my boss to publish something – and, therefore, being able to wave my hands and squeak excitedly about how awesome it is – is as much a part of publishing as “the writing’s very pretty”.

Do my editing level-ups have any input on making my writing better? Well…no, not really :-/ if anything, I’ve learned that I’m even more right to know I can’t edit my own work! I’ve got more awareness of tropes and how other people do things, and more awareness of the fantasy and fiction world in general – but my ideas are still mine, and the way I write is still mine. I can’t see the flaws in my stories any better for having edited other people’s than I could before I started. The thing that has helped, though, which is advice given to every writer – READ MORE.

Am I reading more? Well, yes, but unfortunately it’s not reading that I can talk about yet – and I still need to keep current with fiction, too! The thing about the endless slush pile are true, though – I have to make sure I block out time to read! And also, to writers: you have to make a good first impression. I don’t tend to read the agent’s blurb more than to get a flavour (but then the ones I currently read have gone through the agents & my commissioning editor before I read it) but if you haven’t hooked me in the first three chapters, I’ll start skimming (and others might put it down). That’s not to say I can’t cope with slow starts – it’s the writing and the characters that get me in, but something does have to be happening. You need to be driving towards a story at least.

I am definitely seeing the benefit of agents! Yes, it’s frustrating to have another layer to go through; but they negotiate the contracts (and while a lot of the contracts stuff is important, it’s also dense – it’s definitely worth having someone on your side to tell you what the benefits of various options are, even though I’m arguing over a percentage point at times…) and also – a huge plus on my side – have already vetted the books I see. A minus in that they’ve already done one layer of skimming, but a plus in that I don’t have to try to fit reading that much into my schedule! Agents also learn what the editors like, so will send things based on our criteria. There seems to be a lot of hate for the agent gateway/chokehold etc, but I can definitely see the benefit.

Commercial considerations are frustratingly big. We have to make money – that’s the baseline. It costs time and space for editors, even if one of us does all the jobs of formatting/reading/covers etc… and for every book we take on as a “I really love this and I want it to be out there!” we have to take on a “people will buy this”. Also, sequels: I entirely get the frustration of not wanting to start a series without knowing the end, but we can’t risk paying for six books when we don’t know if they’ll sell (or, we’d pay such a low price that it’s not fair to the author.) We’d buy one with an option on the next, sometimes two, maybe (riskily!) three – but you need to be buying the first ones.

Short stories are definitely useful. Having your name in the industry and proving that people will buy your work is useful; any kind of track record is good just to show me that you are out there and can do this writing thing! Also knowing industry people, or being known; panels at conventions, interviews, or even just presence at conventions are all good. If you’ve pitched us with writing before, then we’ll also likely remember you – although this is for good or for ill!

Also, pitch. To all writers: keep pitching. Keep writing. There is so much truth in the “I love this book but it’s not quite right for me now” – the It’s Not You, It’s Me of the writing world! Sometimes the last fantasy Western didn’t do too well, and I can’t spin this one past my boss. Sometimes I don’t think the world needs another grimdark. Sometimes we have to choose between a (very good!) epic fantasy and something a bit weirder, and one has to win. There is so much timing and personality and market forces and…urgh. Seriously, just keep trying. If you get rejected, then you can always shelve the novel and come back to it later.

Be easy to work with. I know, there’s all sorts of personalities in the world, and most of the time people manage pretty good working relationships. But I was reminded of how useful it is to be able to work well with people by an author I gave some (fairly harsh!) feedback to recently – and they were very sweet and grateful, when I was expecting a tantrum. It means they’ve got up several points in my estimation and actually, even though I don’t want the book in its current state, I’m more willing to take a look at it again!

Think of it as a business and you’ll get further. As as an author, you are allowed to push back. It is your book and your writing: if you’ve got a contract and publication deal then it’s a bit of a different power dynamic, but there’s usually space for negotiation on editing tweaks. If you’re going to push back (and you may have to!) then do it gently but firmly; work out where your line is and why. There are clauses in the contracts for disputes, and if I think a book I want to take will need major changes then I’ll usually say in the negotiations – but for anything minor, you should be able to come to an agreement. (Of course, sometimes it’s a flat no from your editor, and that’s why you need to work out your boundaries.)

And, one for me:

I am allowed to be enthusiastic. I love the books and authors I get to work with. I love my job, even when it frustrates me and I have deadlines piling up. I love the work, even though I’m still learning – and I hope I’ll always be learning!

I’m allowed to get things wrong. That’s how I learn. I have to make mistakes: I just shouldn’t make the same one twice.

I’m allowed to grow. I’m a professional. I’m someone who now has larger shoes and a larger outline to fill – and damnit, I’m allowed to fill it.

So – I’m happy. I’m learning. I’m growing. And I’m loving my job! I get to read amazing books for a living – what more could I want?!

Review: Shorts and Snippets

 

Aether by PandaFried

Aether coverOn a dull little planet called Earth, seventeen Winston Privet dreams of another life of magic and adventure, in comparison to which his own mundane existence feels pointless, wrong and incomplete. That reality, though, is about to change.

First, an in-progress one, so it fits with ‘snippets’ – a mix of a fairy story and Harry Potter with some added bite! I’m really enjoying this one and looking forward to seeing where it goes…

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Prime Meridian coverAmelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life.

It awaits her.

This is a mix of a personal story and snippets of film description; it mixes Amelia’s day-to-day life with the heroine’s exploits. But Amelia’s day-to-day life seems trapped in an endless cycle – where once she wanted to go to Mars as a colonist, she had to give up her studies to care for her mother, and now floats from cafe to cafe earning tiny amounts as a befriender or blood donor. Even an ex coming back into her life isn’t much of a release – but I loved how all the threads came together.

It’s a simple story, a gentle story, but it’s got teeth underneath: it’s a story about hopelessness and the endless cycle of frustration, but there’s some lovely moments of hope – and the film wound through gives it a silver-screen glow.

Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

Spirits abroad cover

“If you live near the jungle, you will realize that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

This is a mix of 15 shorts, ranging across fantasy to horror. My absolute favourite was The House Of Aunts, a romance about a teenager meeting their crush while also being a vampire and dealing with an entire houseful of aunties! I also adored Liyana;  it’s a sweet and gentle story with a bucketful of tears underneath. The characters were complex and brilliant in The Mystery of the Suet Swain, and Prudence & the Dragon is also great fun and definitely about the two figures at the centre of the story – even if it doesn’t exactly turn out how one of them had planned!

Throughout the collection, I loved the extra winding details, the way the author tells the stories; One-Day TravelCard to Fairyland is a good example, and Lion Bows is also very atmospheric; I loved the characters and the concept of a lion eating ghosts – until they find one that maybe they don’t want to eat! Balik Kampung is also a heart-tugging and gentle story about a shade returning to the world for the Festival and trying to get back to her husband, but remembering what happened to her along the way.

While all of the stories are easy to read and interesting, some needed extra details – but then that’s part of the joy of coming from a Western background to a different tradition – as the author notes, everyone knows the story of Hang Tuah and Chang E! It’s a nicely varied collection, too; every story has a heart-tug, but every one handles it in a different way.

Overall, a lovely collection; varied and interesting and haunting.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Lady Astronaut coverThirty years ago, Elma York led the expedition that paved the way to life on Mars. For years she’s been longing to go back up there, to once more explore the stars. But there are few opportunities for an aging astronaut, even the famous Lady Astronaut of Mars. When her chance finally comes, it may be too late. Elma must decide whether to stay with her sickening husband in what will surely be the final years of his life, or to have her final adventure and plunge deeper into the well of space.

A short novelette based after the end of The Calculating Stars – sweet, sad, and hopeful! You don’t need to have read The Calculating Stars (I’ll do a review soon!), but it’s definitely more poignant if you have. Worth a read.

Book Cover Challenge: #7

I was challenged by a friend over on Facebook with something that’s been going round: publish seven covers of books that I love; no explanation or reviews, just a picture of the cover – and I’m bringing it onto here!

I’m meant to challenge someone else each day, so – you’re reading this. I’m challenging YOU. (You can do book covers or film posters, whichever works for you.)

Day #7: There’s Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson