Thursday, October 25, 2018

Life Update #1 // November is Coming

How? How is it almost NaNoWriMo already? Of course, NaNoWriMo is awesome, and I can’t wait. But how so soon? TELL ME. I’m still having trouble realizing it’s only a few days away. I’m not prepared.

*takes deep breath* I am calm.

It occurs to me that I never updated you on my last NaNoWriMo and how it went. I mean that not in an “it just occurred to me” way, but more of a “this occurs to me on a regular basis and I have already drafted multiple posts as a result and then failed to publish them” way. Since work on my current main project is reaching a period of semi-burnout, which I would like to keep as brief as possible, I figure it’s time to take a break and tend to my sorely-neglected blog. There are so many posts and updates I want to finish and share with you. My Out of Coffee, Out of Mind drafts folder is starting to feel like a diary of sad dead ends.

Before we discuss this coming NaNoWriMo, let’s deal with the previous one, since that’s what’s been bugging me the most. Last I spoke with you on the subject, I had plans to write a ton of words, albeit not as many as I have in NaNoWriMos past. In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t succeed. Or rather, I hit 50,000 words, so in all respects, I did win NaNoWriMo. *throws confetti* I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. I am not trying to be down on myself for the number of words I wrote. There is nothing wrong with 50K, and those who write only 50K are still winners in every respect. But for me, it was a sad achievement because I have done better in the past. I was used to overachieving, I enjoyed it, and I had looked forward to doing it again.

Last November was hard. It was sandwiched between difficult months. On one end, I was struggling with the leftover brain fog from my last bout with an eating disorder, and on the other hand, I was fighting another relapse. Almost as soon as November began, I realized that I was too close to a complete mental burnout to try anything more than the minimum needed to win. In comparison with what I have done before, it felt like I barely participated. When I saw all my fellow overachievers from years past going pedal to the metal, I’ll admit, I did cry a little. I had been part of something that meant a great deal to me, and I had lost that, even if it was only temporary. There was this huge gap between what I wanted to create and what I was able to create. The muse just wasn’t there; my vocabulary felt stunted, my attention span limited. It was like a bruise that I didn’t want to poke. So that month, taking care of myself meant taking a step back and only writing what I needed to keep up my winner’s streak.

That’s not to say I didn’t love what I was writing. Over the course of the month, I fleshed out several ideas, drafted a bunch of blog posts, wrote some poetry, and ultimately, did whatever I could to get the creative juices flowing. I didn’t finish a novel, or even come close. That would have been asking too much of my brain, especially given the story ideas I had chosen. My biggest triumph that month, aside from choosing to take care of myself, was drafting the beginnings of a story that, while emotionally difficult to write, felt more rewarding and more promising than anything I had worked on in a while. Funny thing is, it came to me while I was watching a video on poisonous mushrooms, and it came all at once, in a deafening rush. Even though I have yet to tack down the nitty gritty details, I have all the bones of the thing—I found its skeleton, hidden in the back of my mind, complete and tangible. Actually writing it was surprisingly difficult, given the existing framework, like moving sand with tweezers, but it was difficult in a “I am trying to paint what I am seeing and I am trying to paint it well” way, and less of a “I don’t know what to paint” way. I picked it up yesterday, fleshed out more ideas, got excited and bought a writing journal for it. Every time I touch it, I get an electrical shock.

As for what I’ll be doing this November, I’m not sure. Naturally, I know that I’ll try for at least 50,000 words. Over the course of the last month or so, I have developed a routine where I try to read for an hour each day at a coffee shop. During November, and the days leading up to it, I plan to turn that reading time into additional writing time. Since I’m working forty hours a week now, I don’t know if I will have as much time to overachieve as I have had in the past, and I don’t know if it would be healthy for me to try just yet. This has been a hard year. So I don’t know if I’m going to attempt more than 100,000 words.

With regards to what I’m going to write, I don’t know. I have several options. I might cheat this NaNoWriMo and edit an existing project instead of drafting a new one—I have several novels I’m trying to polish, and I’m not excited about setting them aside completely for a whole month, although it might be good for me to take a vacation from them. I could also pull out my trunked novel and, for nostalgia’s sake, give it a complete revamp. Last November’s promising story is still begging to be finished, so that’s a possibility. There’s another novel I really want to work on as well, one that’s begging for a complete fresh start, beginning with a new rough draft. Those are my options, I think. I have so many balls in the air already, I don’t want to add any more just yet.

But I doubt I will know for sure until November first.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

THE CRYSTAL TREE by Imogen Elvis // Five Stars

Note: I was given a digital review copy of THE CRYSTAL TREE by the author.

First things first, I am so late in getting this review up. Even though I haven’t marked it on Goodreads yet (I am also way behind on updating my Goodreads), I finished reading THE CRYSTAL TREE, by Imogen Elvis, more than a month ago. I’ve been in the process of moving for the past several months, but now that I have the chance to sit and catch my breath, it’s time to take care of everything I’ve been neglecting.

Imogen Elvis is a great person. I feel like I can’t launch into a review of her book without first talking about her. Normally, I know, book reviews shouldn’t be personal. At least, that’s a rule I try to follow, but it’s more for when I’m writing a one star review, in order to keep myself from saying something mean. This is totally different. I like Imogen a whole lot. If you haven’t read her blog yet, you should do that. She is always sweet and kind, and though she hasn't posted in a while, all her old content is great. She’s one of the people who makes the blogging community feel less like a sterile nothingness, a place where you scream into the void, and more like a home, where people listen. So when I saw that she wanted reviewers for her novel, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

One of the first things I noticed about THE CRYSTAL TREE is that it has a similar feel to the Great Tree of Avalon books by T. A. Barron that I read growing up (I guess they’re now just known as the Merlin series). It made me nostalgic and cozy, like I was diving back into the safest parts of my childhood. Maybe I’m weird, but any book that makes me want to reread my favorite books is a good book.

I think one of the issues I have with knowing an author to any degree is that I see them as more immediately human, which means I expect them to be nicer to their characters. It’s kind of like, but I knew that serial killer, he was a great guy—how could he be a serial killer? Not going to lie, Imogen definitely surprised me here. She doesn’t pull her punches (not that I’m complaining, except WHY IMOGEN, WHY? You know what you did). So while Imogen is not a serial killer, I think maybe I should take her characters away from her and put them somewhere safe, at least for a while.

Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention of the magic system. Normally, I’m not a huge magic person, because most magic systems feel stale at this point, like people keep using and reusing the same concept. The magic in THE CRYSTAL TREE is refreshingly different, at least to what I’ve read. The idea of song as a means of working magic? The idea that we all have a life song that someone else can interact with and/or manipulate? Sign me up. It is vivid, beautiful and, at times, frightening. It fills the book with urgency and depth. The main character, Briar, can heal people with her song, which is super cool, but I especially loved her limitations and how they affect her.

And finally, at the risk of sounding spoilery, I like how sometimes the girl saves the guy. That one hundred percent earns you points in my mind.

If THE CRYSTAL TREE is any indication, Imogen has great potential as an author, and I am excited to see what she’ll do next. But I’ll stop talking now so you can go read her book.