August, September, and October Wrap-up

August, September, and October Wrap-up
This image is derivative of “Red-blue sunset” By  Adam Ziaja  CC BY 3.0.

These past few months were eventful to say the least. So eventful that I am wrapping-up my reading experience for three months in one post. Seriously though, there is a lot to cover.

I read some books that disappointed, others I loved, went to two author events, and finished the first draft of a novel.

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Reading

I read eight books in August, September, and October.

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Title

Shadowcaster (Shattered Realms #2)

Short Synopsis

A princess proving her worth. A captain on a dangerous assignment. A boy with enchanting music.

Thoughts

I was hoping to enjoy this book as much as the books in the original series, but like the previous book, the characters didn’t seem as memorable, and the story didn’t seem as compelling as the Seven Realms series.

 

Rating

3 blue jays

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Title

Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis Trilogy #2)

Short Synopsis

Akin is the first human-alien composite male, but looks human. This makes Akin a subject of interest to the sterile human survivors of the apocalypse.

Akin must act human enough to avoid their wrath, while remembering his true nature.

Thoughts

I need to read more of Octavia E. Butler’s works. I’ve really enjoyed the two I’ve read so far and can’t wait for the others.

My main complaint is that this was too short, but that has more to do with the style of writing that was popular at the time it was written than the author. Still thought provoking even though it was published about 30 years ago.

Rating

4.5 blue jays

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Title

Amid Stars and Darkness

Short Synopsis

After being kidnapped by an alien, Delaney must impersonate an alien princess or else the entire human race will be enslaved.

Thoughts

I was waiting in a long line at the library and picked this up on impulse as I walked by. I’m not sure I would have read it otherwise.

It’s too romance heavy for my taste, and I prefer more science in my science fiction, but it was otherwise a light, fun read.

If you’re looking for a book you can’t put down, this might be for you.

Rating

3 blue jays

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Titles

The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time #4), The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time #12)

Short Synopsis

Books four and twelve of the Wheel of Time series.

Thoughts

Some of you are probably wondering if I indeed skipped from book four to book twelve in this series. The answer is that, yes, I did. At the risk of annoying some of the Wheel of Time fans, I must admit my motive for reading this series lies in the fact that Brandon Sanderson wrote the last few, and I want to read all his books.

I like the other Wheel of Time books, especially book four but not enough to read the eight 1,000 page long books in between books four and twelve.

Rating

4 blue jays
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Title

Darkness of Dragons (Wings of Fire #10)

Short Synopsis

The final book in the second arc of the Wings of Fire series.

Thoughts

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, it’s probably no secret that Wings of Fire was one of my favorite middle grade series. To some extent it still is. However, this book is probably one of my least favorite in the series, though my least favorite overall would have to be book nine.

It came across as a little anticlimactic to me, and I wasn’t a fan of the characters’ resolution of the conflict that’s been building in the last few books. Still, it was a fun read.

Rating

3 blue jays

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Title

Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1)

Short Synopsis

Sierra must uncover the mystery of her family’s magical heritage before anyone else dies for it.

Thoughts

I wanted to love this book so much. The atmosphere is great. Older seems to have captured an otherwise realistic portrayal of Brooklyn with some magic thrown in.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t capture my attention enough for me to give it a higher rating.

That said, if you’re looking for a detailed, diverse portrayal of Brooklyn this may be the book for you.

Rating

3 blue jays

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Title

The Silver Mask (Magisterium #4)

Short Synopsis

Fourth book in the Magisterium series.

Thoughts

Oh, look, the only book I read in October. *Hides in shame.* If this isn’t an indicator of how busy I’ve been I don’t know what is.

There is something about this series that makes me always come back to it even though there are some less than amazing elements to it. I think it’s the premise. I love “hero destined for evil” stories so much.

Rating

4 blue jays

 Author Events

In the past three months I went to events for Leigh Bardugo and R.L. Stine. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bardugo twice before, but I don’t see how I can go to too many signing events when one of my favorite authors is involved.

Even after attending her events in the past, I still learned something interesting about Bardugo’s writing style. She uses a modified version of the beat structure outlined for scripts in the book Save the Cat. She outlines most of the beats mentioned in the book, but skips a couple because she’s never sat down and read the book to find out what the others were.

Hey, when it comes to writing, the right way to write is the way that works.

R.L. Stine was a first for me. My biggest takeaways from his event were that sometimes life takes us in unexpected directions, that one of the best ways to succeed is to be open to these directions, and that ideas come from unexpected places.

If you would like to see a full post about these events, leave a comment to let me know.

Writing

Total Words Written in August
The words I wrote in August. Graph generated with NaNoWriMo goal tracker.

My months have been so distinct from one another in terms of writing progress that it almost seems wrong to sum it all up in one post like this.

August was a great writing month. During the first half of the month, I averaged around 5,000 words per day. My first draft ended up being 70,000 words. This makes it the longest first draft I’ve ever written, though still shorter than the longest thing I’ve written (90,000 words).

I took a break after finishing my first draft midway through the month, intending to get back to my writing in September.

I started some short stories in September, but the progress I made was interrupted due the disruption Hurricane Irma made to my schedule. I’ve put those short stories on hold for now.

Little writing progress was made in October until the end of the month when I began reading through the draft I finished in August.

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Have you read any of these books? If you could meet any author who would you choose? How do you go about revising your first drafts? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Beautiful People August 2017

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Beautiful People is a monthly writing meme hosted by Cait @Paper Fury and Sky @Further up and Further in in which writers answer a series of questions about one of their characters.

This month I’m talking about Lyle, the protagonist of my science fiction work in progress. I’m currently over 60,000 words into my first draft of this project and am loving it.

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What are they addicted to/can’t live without?

Lyle is addicted to watching documentaries for hours on end. He could, however, live without them, and does so for much of my manuscript. I suppose the one thing Lyle can’t live without are his values and perhaps his family.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

positive: caring, determined, devoted

negative: opinionated, stubborn, inexperienced

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

Yes, towards the middle of my manuscript Lyle is holding on to longing for a life he can no longer lead.

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

Lyle’s an eight. He is organized when he can be, but there are times throughout the story where organization is physically impossible.

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

Inequality and injustice, Lyle hates it.

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

That depends on the formality of the occasion. Lyle likes formality, but has limited clothing options.

As for a night in, Lyle’s fine motor skills are terrible. He’d want something without buttons and as few zippers as possible. Needing to ask for help from others not only embarrasses him, but would take a lot of other people’s time.

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?

Not many. Probably only one or two pairs. The kind that can be slipped into without laces because Lyle wouldn’t be able to tie them.

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?

Yes, but I can’t say much because these “pets” are a huge part of the plot.

The answer to the second question also revolves around a major plot point, so I’m going to be as vague as possible and say Lyle wants pet pigs.

Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?

Yes, Lyle resents his parents and a pair of farmers. This is a major plot point, so I can’t say.

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?

Lyle is a minor and doesn’t have much control over the household food choices. That said, Lyle’s mother seems like the sort who would keep a bunch of diet foods around.

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Are you working on any writing projects? How’s it going? Would you want to be friends with Lyle? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

June and July Wrap-up

Monthly Wrap-up

June and July were productive months. I read eight books and wrote over 40,000 words.

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Reading

One of the books I read were middle grade, three were young adult, and four were adult.

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Title

The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians #4)

Short Synopsis

Alcatraz must stop librarian cults from conquering the world.

Thoughts

I liked book four better than book three. I thought the conflict was more interesting, the jokes funnier, and I’m excited to continue the next book.

It’s important to note that there are a lot of people who would find this series more annoying than funny. I’m just not one of them. I think it’s hilarious.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2)

Short Synopsis

Aliens try to conquer Earth. Humans learn about our place in the universe.

Thoughts

I liked this book better than its predecessor. The plot was more cohesive, and a little faster paced, though still slow. This is hard sci-fi at heart. One of the things I love best about this series is the way it’s made me think.

That said, I’m happy with how this book left the story and am not sure I’ll continue.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2)

Short Synopsis

Two young shadowhunters must protect the world and loved ones from supernatural forces while sorting out their forbidden romantic feelings.

Thoughts

This book was fun, but I’m tiring of reading books set in this universe. I’ll probably read the series final when it comes out in a couple years, but think I’m done with the future spin-offs.

Of course, if nostalgia strikes, I might change my mind.

Rating

3.5 blue jays

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Title

Defy the Stars (Constellation #1)

Short Synopsis

A teenager fighting for a rebellion teams up with an android to free her planet from Earth’s influence.

Thoughts

Really enjoyed this one. See my full review for more information.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)

Short Synopsis

August and Kate must protect the people of their city from the monsters that seek to tear it apart while they battle their own inner daemons. For my full thoughts see my duology review.

Thoughts

I liked this book, but at the same time felt something was missing that I couldn’t place.

Rating

3.5 blue jays

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Title

The Handmaid’s Tale

Short Synopsis

A handmaid shares the story of her life as a member of the first generation to live under a sexist dystopian regime.

Thoughts

Based on what everyone said, I expected to be left emotionally drained by this book. I think that these expectations and the fact that I don’t have children are the only reasons I wasn’t affected more. It is, however, still a creepy book.

That said, while I can’t say I liked what took place in this book, it was very well written, thought provoking, and made me want to keep reading. For these reason, it gets a high rating.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Titles

The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time #1 and 2)

Short Synopsis

When a village is attacked, three farm boys must flee to a legendary city to protect themselves and their families.

Thoughts

I liked the second book a lot more than the first. Given the nature of most first books in epic fantasy setting up the rest of the series this isn’t too surprising.

Rating

3/5 for book one and 4.5/5 for book two averaging to a 4/5.

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Writing

Camp NaNo July 2017 Progress bar

I started writing a first draft in June and continued writing it throughout July. This was accomplished through Camp NaNoWriMo. I had a goal of 30,000 words for July but exceeded it and wrote 40,000 words.

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What have you been reading? Anyone read any of these books? Anyone participate in Camp NaNoWriMo? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Camp NaNoWriMo: How to find an active cabin

Camp NaNoWriMo.png

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual writing event. You can learn more about on their website here. Camp NaNoWriMo is an twice annual offshoot event featuring virtual “cabins” with up to 20 participants. Learn more here.

I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo seven times now. In the past, I’ve had both cabins that were active and others that were inactive. I’ve found cabin activity critical to staying motivated.

The NaNoWriMo forms have some good tips for finding cabin mates, but today I’m sharing some things I personally have found result in an active cabin.

Disclaimer: This is only what has worked for me, and most of this post is speaking in general terms. No doubt there are exceptions, and your results may vary.

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Private cabins are more active.

The camp NaNoWriMo website allows users to choose to not get put in a cabin, get sorted with other campers based on private criteria, or create/be invited to a private cabin.

Many people who plan to participate in Camp NaNo won’t write a single word. It’s like new years resolutions. Many people don’t complete their goals. Therefore, the best bet for an active cabin is to meet other enthusiastic people on the NaNoWriMo Finding cabin mates forum.

The earlier you join a cabin the better.

Some people will join camp late. However, in general, more active people will be excited to find a cabin as soon as possible. This leads to a greater chance of more active members if you start looking early in the month.

Barriers to entry lead to more active members.

This mostly applies to those who are starting their own cabin by looking for people in the forums. The forums allow people to specify criteria for the participants they’re looking for.

By barriers to entry I mean specify certain criteria. This can be anything from an age range to a specific genre or time zone.

Specifying you’re looking for people who have done something  that requires them to have taken action at one point, like winning NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo in a previous year, can be even more effective because it requires people to have a track record of active participation.

Just make sure these barriers to entry are not so high as to be unattainable by the majority of people because that could lead to a lack of interest.

Overestimate the number of people you want.

20 people seems like a lot, but it’s likely some people will disappear throughout the month. Yes, even following these tips. So, add more people than you think you’ll want to your cabin. This will allow you to have enough people left to stay motivated at the end of the month.

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Have you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo? Are you participating in July? Do you have any tips?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

April 2016 Wrap-up and Announcement

Monthly Wrap-Up (1)April was an insanely busy month for me. While I did not accomplish much in the way of blogging I did manage to read six books and two novellas.

Before I begin I’d like to mention the two books I forgot to put in my March wrap-up, but have since edited that post to include. Not because I didn’t like these books, but because I forgot to mark them as read on goodreads until more recently.

Honorable mentions from March

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Short Synopsis: The queen of an alien civilization and a half human, half alien boy must team up to save themselves and humanity.

Thoughts: This book was a light and fun read. The writing was a little hard to follow at times. I sometimes wondered how the characters had gotten from one scene to another, and wasn’t too keen on the romance, but all in all it was a nice debut.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

 

13638125Short Synopsis: Two college students uncover the key to getting superpowers which subsequently ruins their lives.

Thoughts: Very different from the other V.E. Schwab books I’ve read in the A Darker Shade of Magic series. I really enjoyed the way the novels’ two timelines interwove, and how  this book toyed with the traditional concept of good verses evil.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

April Reads

223236592360443525711360Short Synopsis: The second story arc of the Wings of Fire series following a new group of young dragons as they attempt to prevent a prophecy unrelated to the one in the first half of the series.

Thoughts: I like the direction the author has chosen to go with these new characters, but think these books should probably have been considered a spin-off as opposed to a continuation of the original series.

These books are highly addictive, and I look forward to the next installment.

Rating: 4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: A novel about a girl trying to win a motor cycle race in order to kill Hitler, and its prequel novella centering around the events in the same race the year before.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed these. I’ve written a full review of Wolf by Wolf which can be found here.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

 

28698036Short Synopsis: There is always another secret.

Thoughts: This novella is definitely not for everyone. Seriously, those who haven’t at least read the original Mistborn trilogy should stay far, far away from this novella. Those who haven’t read at least the first six books in the Mistborn series, and even some other Cosmere novels not part of Mistborn series may want to avoid this as well.

Beyond that this novella has an unusual structure without a typical beginning, middle, end feel. This is all I can say about the novella itself without spoiling it.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: First book in the Spin-off series to The Seven Realms.

Thoughts: I have a lot of conflicted emotions with regards to this book. The character death at the beginning felt a lot like a plot device, and knowing what I did about this individual from the previous series I found their death a little out of character.

I like our new cast, and am glad it looks like we’ll be seeing more of this world than we did in the previous series. I’d recommend reading the original series before this one if only because I enjoyed it more, but that could change as this series progresses.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

Writing

Camp NaNo Graph April 2016Last month I participated in the April 2016 session of Camp NaNoWriMo. My original goal was  to write 20,000 words, but I lowered that to 15,000 words halfway through the month.

As the chart on the left shows, I ended up writing a significant amount on the last day of the event to meet my original goal. My total word count for the event was 20,084 words.

 

Announcement

Next week I’ll be attending Bookexpo America in Chicago. I’m very excited for the chance to interact with people who enjoy books as much as I do, get lots of books, see Chicago, and experience this thing people living in temperate climates refer to as “spring.” (I live in the sub-tropics. This is technically in the temperate zone, but it’s just not the same.)

Camp NaNoWriMo Day 10: On First Drafts and Imperfection

Camp Nano Graph Day 10I mentioned in my April wrap-up that I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. If you don’t know what Camp NaNoWriMo is, but would like to find out I suggest you either read my post about the event, or visit the event’s website. The event is almost exactly a third of the way through so I thought it would be the perfect time to update blog readers on my writing process.

My current word count is 16,685 words which, as shown in my progress graph, is far ahead of my 30K word goal. I’ve thought of raising my word count goal, but decided not to. I’m keeping my original goal because my main project for this session is a rewrite that I expect to be complete at around 70,000 words, but when I started the session 35,000 of those words had already been written.

As my main goal for the month is not to write a certain number of words but to finish this draft, I want to keep my word count goal low enough that I won’t have words remaining towards my goal when the draft is finished. There is also the fact that this is the longest I’ve ever seen the whole cabin meet its overall goal and I enjoy helping to keep it that way.

It seems odd to write a post about first drafts when my focus for the event is a rewrite, but I have much more experience with my own first drafts than I do edited drafts. Like most other aspects of writing there is no wrong way to write a first draft. There are simply ways that work and ways that don’t. Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this is that some ways that work for others do not work for you. I have, however, noticed trends.

This session my Camp “cabin” is made up of twelve participants of which four including myself have finished a novel length first draft before. What I’ve noticed fairly consistently in this session, past events, and in talking with fellow writers is that those who finish something tend to be the ones who come to terms with the fact that their first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. This is not the only factor, of course, other factors include how much enthusiasm someone has for their idea and where writing fits into their priorities, but these aspects are much harder to measure than a persons tendency to go back and rewrite the first chapter fifty times before chapter two is finished.

There are plenty of successful novelists who edit while writing a first draft, and they are not wrong to do so. Most of these writers have managed to find a balance between making their writing the best it can be the first time around and getting words on paper. To finish a first draft finding finding this balance between quality and quantity is a must.

How a Book is Made Tag

Book Tag ImageSince I’ll be participating in July’s Camp Nanowrimo session I thought it would be appropriate to do a writing tag. (Camp NaNoWriMo is an internet based event where participants try to write a set amount of words in a month.) This tag was created by WritingMime over on YouTube. I don’t know if this tag has ever been adapted from video form into blog form before, but it’s just what I was looking for so I’m doing it.

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

It’s not entirely necessary, but even if you don’t win it’s a great motivation and way to meet people online with similar interests. So I would say yes overall.
2. Self-publishing or tradition publishing?

I am going to try to traditionally publish once I feel that my writing has gotten to a publishable point. In fact, one of my current projects is in its third draft at the moment and I’m hoping to be done with major edits by the end of the summer with the intention of querying sometime next year. At the same time I am not opposed to self-publishing. I think its a great option to have. I just don’t really have the money to do it properly like I would want to at the moment.
3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

I tend to focus on one idea though I have tried multiple ideas and I usually end up just focused on one despite my efforts.
4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I don’t read a lot of contemporary, so that is definitely the most difficult for me. The easiest harder to determine, but it’s probably YA sci-fi especially if it’s set on Earth in a modern setting.
5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

I have to sit at my desk in my room. I try to make it so that my desk is only for writing and homework so that it’s all I work on when I sit there and don’t get so distracted.
6. Where do you find your inspiration?

Multiple places. I’ve written stories based off of everything from dreams to real world events to aspects of other novels I felt were not explored to their full potential.
7. What age do you start writing?

I’ve always been making up outlandish stories, but I didn’t start writing them down until I was in middle school, and with a few exceptions most of what I wrote in middle school was just a few chapters before I decided to just imagine how the rest of the story would go in my mind and just leave it at that. It wasn’t until high school that I started feeling the need to write them out in their entirety.
8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Short stories are easiest, but I don’t really enjoy writing them or write them often. I spend most of my time on stand-alones with series potential as I find those the most rewarding.
9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can write first drafts quickly if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, but I take a long time to edit and often rewrite.
10. How fast can you type?

I have no idea. Not extraordinarily quickly, but faster than most teenagers.
11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Some of both. My best writing often comes in the early morning or late at night, but I can write throughout the day too and sometimes leave the lights on or off.
12. Hand-written or typed?

Typed, I like how I can back it up and don’t need to rewrite it solely for the purpose of putting it on a screen later.
13. Alone or with someone else?

When I’m actually writing I prefer to be alone for the most part, but sometimes word sprints can be great motivation and I enjoy talking to fellow writers. I can write in public so long as I’m fairly certain no one is reading the words as I type them.
14. Any typing hacks?

No.
15. Are you already published?

No, but I hope to be someday.
16. When did you first consider being an author? HOW? WHY? WHO?

Not 100 percent sure I understand this question, but I probably decided I wanted to publish something when I was well into the first draft of something novel length I’d actually finished in my freshmen year of high school. As to whether I consider myself an author I do not, I consider myself a writer, but not an author because I haven’t written anything beyond short stories I feel is entirely finished in terms of revision.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four at the moment. Three are completed first drafts and one is a half completed third draft I’ve been putting a lot of time into lately.
18. Do you outline or no?

Yes, my first completed novel length draft was not outlined, but since then I have started outlining and they get more detailed with each work I finish.
19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

Using Scrivener or Microsoft Word to type my notes into.
20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

Two of my completed drafts were young adult, one was middle grade, and the latest could have been either adult or young adult depending on how it develops in later drafts. I’ve written one high fantasy, one urban fantasy, one science fiction novel set in space, and one science fiction novel set on Earth in modern times that borders on contemporary fiction so I’d say I’m okay with writing in different genres.

If anyone has more writing related questions for me, want to talk about NaNoWriMo, or have a suggestion for a future writing related post I would love to hear about it in the comments below.