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So, I read a lot. Usually at least one or two books a week, unless I’m particularly busy at work, or stressed out with life.
Given that, there are a number of things that bother me when I try to start a new book. I’m going to spread these things out over multiple posts. So today, here’s my first thing: the line at which an author goes “to hell with the details of my world.”
To rewind a bit, I chiefly read science fiction and fantasy novels. Mostly fantasy, these days, unless I know the SF author well. In fantasy novels, I particularly enjoy an author who does really, really, really good world-building.
It seems as if there is currently a trend towards laziness in world-building, though. I picked up one book a night or two ago and read about five pages. I’m usually impressed with this author’s world-building. This time, I was impressed with the attention to detail, until we got to the religion.
The religion was Christianity with the names just barely changed. I was into the flow of the novel, the rhythm of the world — and then I was jolted straight out of it.
I immediately put the book aside and found a different one to read.
Not because I have a problem with religion, or Christianity (far from it, actually), but because this book is a fantasy novel, a Not Of This World story. I had suspended my beliefs to submit myself to the belief structure of the author’s world. The author had not led me to believe this was a post-apocalyptic fantasy (i.e. our Earth several thousand years in the future).
There are always little things that pester at me when I read a book. Spelling or grammar issues. Word choices that I don’t agree with. These are disturbances that I can usually ignore, if they aren’t too many or great, and generally follow the flow of the story. But something like this breaks the flow for me because so much attention and detail has gone into the rest of the world that it doesn’t make sense for the religion to be a semi-skewed photocopy of a real-world religion. Why not spend the time and create a brand new religion to go with the brand new world?
This has been happening more and more often, in my experience as a reader, and it’s a curious trend. I’d understand it if it were science fiction, as SF is a projection of what our world will become.
I’d also understand it if the story were cast as alternate history fantasy or such. Maybe this is a trend I’m missing?
In any case, that’s today’s thought from me to you on the things I read.
Have you heard the proverb “blood is thicker than water”? It’s usually used to indicate that your family is, and should always be, more important than any other person or thing in your life.
Is that true for you? Why or why not?
I’ve always been bad at managing the things I need to do. I’m a procrastinator; always was in school and still am, to a lesser degree (getting married and having kids have made me grow out of it a little). One of the things I find, though, is that being depressed and going through counseling for all my childhood traumas is enhancing the procrastinator in me. I find it difficult to keep track of things; I have memory issues (sometimes severe ones) and I get blocked easily if I’m having a bad day.
This post isn’t to talk about all of that, though.
I’m trying a new technique.
I’ve tried all of the to-do apps on the market. They all have some great features, some bad. And that’s the issue that I have with them all: they are feature-rich. For me, I don’t need a feature-rich app. I just want something simple that I can write things down, sync it between my devices, and check things off as I get them done.
For me, I’m trying this: I’m using Apple’s Reminders app (it’s simple and it syncs) and a standard 8″ x 11″ yellow legal pad. The Reminders app contains the headlines of what I need to do. The yellow pad contains the broken down lists of each step that needs to be completed per headline.
The other things I’m trying is to pick three, and only three, things that I absolutely must accomplish for a day. On my legal pad, I write down today’s date (and tomorrow’s, and the next day’s, if I have enough stuff to plan those days), then I put down the three things that I want to get done. That doesn’t mean I can’t do other things; just that those three things are what I want to get done to call my day a success.
I’ll see how it goes. Definitely a low-tech, less-features way of doing it.
But sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.
I’ve been on the fence about writing for awhile now. Lots of backstory (read: I have issues, some of the same as any writer (Dad says writing “isn’t a career” and was generally unsupportive), some that go a bit deeper into the psyche).
In any case, I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection and work with a therapist over the last several years. Finally, I’m at a point where I can handle all the voices in my head well enough to tell them to take a hike.
I’m lining up some writing projects for myself:
- A couple of articles for WordPress developers (likely applicable to generalists too). One on project management, one on an undecided topic.
- A couple of book reviews (one on the first two books of Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series, another on an ARC of Jon Sprunk’s new book).
- A short story that’s been burbling in my head off and on for four years. Writing and sending it as my application to Viable Paradise.
- General writing goal of doing some writing every day.
The popular thing to do at this time of year is New Year’s Resolution lists. I’ve done them before and never really found them effective. However, 2014 is a little different for me.
Twenty years ago, I lost my mother to cancer. I was eleven years old.
I’ve always told myself that I don’t remember much about her. That I’d forgotten.
Well, that isn’t quite true. I blocked a lot of my childhood away for a lot of different reasons.
So, on to resolutions and my one and only this year:
I’m making a resolution to write more about my mom, here on my blog, and share the memories I have of her. My one and only goal is to help more memories surface in my brain and to create a record that my daughters may some day read.
The magazine I volunteer for, Strange Horizons, is running an annual fund drive right now. Details:
This year’s fund drive is underway! We’re aiming to raise $11,000 to fund the next year of Strange Horizons. You can read more and donate here, see the list of donor prizes here and read bonus content as it is published here. We just published Maureen Kincaid Speller’s review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho. Help us get to $3,000 to read our next piece of bonus content: “Teffeu: From a Library at Taarona”, a new story by Rose Lemberg, with podcast reading by Anaea Lay!
Please, go donate now and spread the word! You can see our progress below, or on the Strange Horizons site.