2018 Goals – Year-End Update

It’s been a strange year for goals–so maybe it’s fitting I’m running a day or two late from normal on this report!  I mixed together life goals and reading challenges this year, so the updates have been a little varied from usual.  And the timing has been a little strange all through.

Getting married was my biggest goal this year, accomplished on May 12th.  I put a lot of focus on the Newbery Medal reading challenge, and completed that at the end of August, so I already reported on that in my last update.

My second reading challenge was (for the third year in a row) to try to read more books with minority hero(ines).  Well, I’m still getting used to reading while married (totally different daily routine!) and I frankly didn’t think about this goal in the last three months.  So, not surprisingly, I’m sneaking in one fantasy re-read but otherwise, no progress here.  With the usual rather sad observation that it’s not easy to stumble accidentally into minority-led books–which says rather a lot.

  1. North of Happy by Adi Alsaid (Mexican)
  2. Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (African-American)
  3. Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Indian)
  4. Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Spanish)
  5. Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Navajo)
  6. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (Japanese and Filipino)
  7. Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Incan)
  8. Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (vaguely Arab, in a fantasy world)

On writing goals, I wanted to write three short stories, which I finished by September.  On my last update I was still working on the first book of my Phantom trilogy.  I’m very happy to report that’s completed–at least barring any tweaks required based on revising the later books.  But that should be minor at most!

I also intended to get the second installment of the trilogy to beta-readers by the end of the year.  Well, it’s January 2nd and I’m still working on it.  But the end is actually in sight, and I’m hoping to get it off by mid-January, so only about two weeks behind the original goal.  And honestly, that’s better than I expected most of the time, so we’ll call that good!

So, not quite a perfect score on reaching all my goals–but I had more ambitious, more complicated goals than usual, and 2018 was one of the most life-altering years I’ve ever had–so I’m going to feel good about how it all turned out.

Did you have reading or other goals for the year?  How did they turn out for you?

Friday Face-Off Freebie: The Blue Castle

Today is a free day on the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is “choose your own favorite” so I’ve selected one of my favorite books, my favorite L. M. Montgomery novel, The Blue Castle.

      

These two are much the same, both capturing the pastoral setting and suggesting the romance by putting a couple on the cover…though they don’t evoke the title at all, and there’s some questionable clothing choices going on in that right-hand cover! Continue reading “Friday Face-Off Freebie: The Blue Castle”

Friday Face-Off: A Christmas Carol

Today I’m doing a Christmas-themed post with the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

So I really only have two favorite Christmas books: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig.  The latter only has one major cover design, and the former has…hundreds.  So I decided to look at A Christmas Carol, but in moderation.  Here’s a couple particularly bad ones, and a couple particularly good ones!

So I’m pretty sure “A” is not actually the most important word on this cover… 😉

Bobble-head Scrooge will definitely not nod for you…but he will be happy to terrify you instead!

By contrast, I like how this one shows dour, angry Scrooge cut off from the light and cheer of the crowd, as he clutches his bank book.  The contrast sets up the eventual message about what is really of value, without giving the whole story away by showing a joyful Scrooge carrying Tiny Tim (that image is amazingly popular on covers!)  I wish this was a full-cover image instead of the inset, but I do like the border also, and the understated Christmassy-ness of the bits of holly.

I like that this one gets at the ghost aspect without being TOO spooky.  Scrooge looks unpleasant but not ghoulish, and I like that the viewer can see Marley hovering behind him before Scrooge sees the ghost himself.  That’s a fun interplay.

What do you think of the covers?  And do you have a favorite holiday book I should read, since my selection seems to be small?

Happy holidays!

Writing Wednesday: Historical Verification

I had a very satisfying moment at my writing group some while back.  I brought in a scene from my Phantom trilogy that mentioned the electric lights on the Avenue de l’Opera, and someone at the table asked if they would have had electric lights so early.

And I was ready for that–because my novel is set in 1881, and my research had told me that electric lights were put onto the Avenue de l’Opera in 1878.  So I felt quite good about having that answer!

But then the question kept coming up.  Multiple early readers for the first book asked the same question.  And I thought–well, I knew I had it right, but that was only so much use if readers weren’t going to know it.  So I made a little edit to the excerpt below, for the readers who ask the question when I’m not there to answer it!

***************

Photo I had to take of the lights on the Avenue de l’Opera when I visited Paris.

We watched together as the sun dipped below the horizon and the shadows deepened.  For a little while, the city was bathed in a soft twilight.  Then the electric lights down the length of the Avenue de l’Opera flared into bright, vivid life, a line of light unrolling at our feet, stretching out towards the Seine.  Electric lights had been shining on the Avenue for three years now, since the Paris Exposition in 1878, but they still seemed magical.

I smiled, clasping my hands around my knees.  “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“If you like that sort of thing.”  Erik’s voice wasn’t irritated exactly, but it was cold.  I snuck a glance at him, couldn’t read anything from his face in the shadows.  He must have seen the query in my glance though, because he shrugged and said, “I like candles.  Gas lamps are all right too.  Electric lights are so…harsh.  An attack on the darkness.”

Mini-Monday: Tamora Pierce Revisited

I’ve been doing a lot of audiobooks recently, and I decided to revisit a few Tamora Pierce books–although rather than listening to favorites, I ended up revisiting a few I was on the edge about, to see how they’d feel on another read.  The results were mixed!

Street Magic

Tamora Pierce has two big, long-ranging magical series with subsets within them, Tortall and the Circle of Magic books.  While everything is good, I give a definite edge to the Tortall series.  However–Street Magic is my favorite of the Magic Circle books, and I was happy to see it held up well on a reread.

The Magic Circle books center around four young mages, Briar, Sandry, Daja and Tris.  The first four books develop their foster sibling relationship and the discovery of their respective magical gifts.  The next set of four books sends each of them on separate adventures.  Street Magic follows Briar, gifted with plant magic, as he takes on his first student, street kid Evvy, and tangles with the gangs interested in Evvy’s stone magic. Continue reading “Mini-Monday: Tamora Pierce Revisited”

Friday Face-Off: Metaphorical Crowns

Today I’m returning to the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

I thought I’d do something a little bit different, because the first book that came to mind was a metaphorical crown: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett, last book in the Discworld series.  Unlike last week, all the covers for this one are pretty good–and no one’s made the mistake of showing an actual crown!

I like the simplicity of this one, and the way they evoked a crown without actually depicting one.  It has an appropriate natural and homey feel with the bees and the sand dollar.

This one is more communicative, and I like how the images glow against the dark backdrop.  The Nac Mac Feegle on her hat brim is a nice touch, and I can’t decide if I like that her expression isn’t sweet, or if it’s just a touch too irritable.  But it kinda fits!

I love the energy of this one, the action promised in her cloak and those massive boots, and I like the swarm of Nac Mac Feegles all around her.  And Tiffany’s expression here feels perfect.  This is also the only cover that makes it look like a comedy!

In some ways less striking than the previous cover, this one is still my favorite, because I think it’s the cover I needed on this, Pratchett’s posthumously-published last book.  We still have the witch’s hat, the swarm of Nac Mac Feegles and the mountain landscape, but I love the way Tiffany is clearly leading them here.  This cover captures an element the others don’t, that this book is about Tiffany accepting the (metaphorical) crown as a new leader in her world.  Tiffany actually looks like a (metaphorical) shepherd here, and there’s something very satisfying in that.

Have you read this one?  Which cover do you like best?

Writing Wednesday: Police Plots

I wrote recently about my research into the Paris police of the 1880s.  I’m working on that strand of my novel right now, building up the role of Commissaire Mifroid.  He’s actually one of my point of view characters, in a way.  There are times when I want the reader to know something that Meg and the Phantom do not, so I included excerpts from Mifroid’s notebook.

Despite having that in place, I still didn’t have him prominent enough throughout the second book in earlier drafts, and didn’t have enough detail on his investigation.  So today’s excerpt is an excerpt 😉 from Mifroid’s notebook–the first one that appears in the novel, in fact, which I have greatly expanded since previous versions.

Excerpt from the Private Notebook of Jean Mifroid, Commissaire of Police
10 Mar 1881

Continuing investigation into disappearance of Philippe de Chagny, Raoul de Chagny, Christine Daaé.  Second interview of de Chagny housekeeper on 9 Mar, confessed to seeing RdC and CD on morning of 2 Mar.  Last known sighting of RdC and CD.  Expressed plans to leave country, consistent with letter received by M. Giry.  Still tracing leads re: travel, current whereabouts.

Housekeeper provided no further info re: PdC.  No additional sightings after evening of 1 Mar, at Opera Garnier.  If abducted, no ransom.  Murder?

Suspects:

RdC – Motive: inheritance?  Interference with proposed marriage to CD?  Opportunity: Last seen by myself seeking PdC at Opera, emotional state extreme at time.  Capability: Possible, with weapon.

CD – Motive: Same as RdC.  Opportunity: Also at Opera at time of PdC disappearance.  Capability: Slight physical strength, unknown ability with weapons.

Cloaked man seen with PdC on stage – so-called Opera Ghost? – Motive: Unknown.  Opportunity: Likely.  Capability: Unknown.

Also continuing investigation into fallen chandelier.  Evidence points to sabotage.  Connection between sabotage and disappearance of PdC?  Connection to long-standing legend of Opera Ghost?