Steelheart

So, I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, the first book in his young adult The Reckoners trilogy (spoilers). I’ll admit, I was a bit leery about this series. Last year I read his Mistborn trilogy, and while I enjoyed it, there were a few aspects that I really didn’t like. He begins that series by plunging into a fictional world without telling the reader what any of the rules are. It was difficult to follow. Once I finally understood, I had a blast reading it. Then it ended with theistic elements that I wasn’t comfortable with, which left kind of a bad taste in my mouth for the whole experience.

Hence, my hesitation in this new series. There are some major differences this time around, though. First off, it’s set in a world that I can understand. It takes place in a futuristic Chicago, and what happened to the city is explained quickly and succinctly. The protagonist explains what happened when Calamity came, and the superhumans called Epics that decided to take over the world. It’s a good introduction, and allows the reader to accept and understand the details that follow.

One thing Brandon Sanderson does well is create his own lingo, especially for curses and epithets. These are simply thrown in, and it’s up to the reader to guess at the interpretation. In my own writing I struggle to come up with unique names and phrases, and I’m impressed and a little jealous that he does it so well.

I did struggle to connect with his protagonist, however. David is a young man consumed by the death of his father and driven to seek revenge against the Epic that killed him. He spends a whole decade on his research and planning, with no thought to other interests or his future or even girls. That’s something I simply can’t identify with.

I was intrigued by the character of Megan, though. She’s introduced as the tough-as-nails love interest that comes sweeping into David’s life, and it would be easy to box her into that corner. But she’s written with intense complexity and lot of mystery, and I have a feeling that she’ll have a major role to play in book 2: Firefight.

Keep tuning in.

The Dresden Files

This post is coming in a little late, since I’ve been reading The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher for a little while now.  This past weekend I finished up Proven Guilty, White Night, and Small Favor (spoiler alert).

In case you haven’t heard of this series, here’s an overview: The protagonist is a professional wizard named Harry Dresden. He lives in Chicago, and works as a private investigator. In the first couple of books this is where the main conflict comes from. A client will come in with a problem, which will somehow involve the use of black magic, and Harry will be drawn into a long and dangerous battle to resolve it.

One thing I can guarantee about this series is that it is non-stop action almost from page one. The conflict usually begins in chapter one, and the entire book is set over only a couple of days. Each story is a race-against-the-clock, beat-the-bad-guy-before-he-kills-everyone-and/or-destroys-the-world. They’re difficult for me to put down because I have to know what happens next, and it isn’t unusual for me to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to finish a book.

Harry is an excellent example of a conflicted protagonist. It takes a while for his backstory to be fully revealed, and we learn that there is black magic in his past. It’s difficult for him to keep some of those impulses in check, and he’s not always successful.  Even though his troubles are far outside the scope of what we can experience, his internal struggles are ones we can all relate to, and the fact that he isn’t always strong makes him very human.

Jim Butcher is amazing at weaving his storylines and tying his books together in more than just a sequential sense. For example, Queen Mab of the Winter Fae first appears in book four: Summer Knight. Harry agrees to grant her three favors, the first of which takes place in this book. The next favor doesn’t appear until book ten: Small Favor. There’s still one favor left, and I’m anxious to see what happens the next time Queen Mab appears. For me it creates a sense that the whole series is just one giant story, and I’m only reading chapters at a time, rather than individual books.

One character I love seeing is Thomas, the White Court vampire that turns out to be Harry’s half-brother. He’s prominent for a couple of books as he and Harry figure out their relationship, then he’s somewhat phased out a bit. He’s insightful, and funny, and is a good balance to Harry’s stubbornness and impulsiveness.

It’s difficult to summarize an entire series in a simple post without giving away all of the details prematurely, especially since this post comes in the middle and not at the beginning. Please don’t let my simple words keep you from checking out this series, because it’s definitely worth it.

Keep an eye out for what I’m reading next!

 

Letting Go

It may be a bad idea to start off a new blog with a sad post, but this story is really the foundation of why I decided to write this blog, so I think that it’s important to tell it.

I finished my first book. Yay! I actually finished the first draft 2 years ago, but after spending 2-3 years writing it between working a full-time job and family obligations, I couldn’t find it in me to begin the editing process. I could barely even stand to read it anymore, let alone make changes. So, I put it away, and let it live in a file on my USB drive.

Earlier this spring I began to think about it. I realized that the animosity I held toward it was gone, and I decided the time was right to see what it could really become. So, I got it out again. I did my first round of editing. I sent it out to beta readers for feedback. I cried reading their suggestions. Then I rewrote the parts that needed the most help, as pointed out by those beta readers. Finally, I deemed it ready. I did my research, wrote my query letters, and sent them out to 20 different literary agents.

My first rejection came swiftly. The time stamp on the email showed that he rejected me only an hour after receiving my query. My heart broke. There’s no other word to describe it.  More rejections came over the next several days. I sunk into a bit of depression and felt like all of my hard work was pointless.

I thought I was prepared. After all, I’d done my research. I knew that only a small percentage of writers land agents, especially on their first try, and that rejections were almost guaranteed. But I was woefully unprepared for how much it was going to hurt. I cried a lot. I dreaded checking my email.

My confidence was completely shaken. In my ignorance, I had planned to self-publish if my story didn’t generate any interest. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Maybe it was simply drivel, and I was a terrible writer, and my dreams would never amount to anything. Compounded to that, I was completely overwhelmed. I had spent so much time editing and re-writing, I couldn’t imagine beginning that process over again.

Then I had an epiphany.  I didn’t have to do anything at all. The only one pressuring me to publish that story was me. So I let it go. I resumed work on another project, one I’m still excited about. I decided to start this blog.

My goal in writing that story was to prove to myself that I could write a novel. It was a milestone goal on a larger path to success. One that I accomplished, and I’m proud of myself for it. It’ll always be there, should I choose to revisit it and try again. Maybe it will live forever on my USB drive and never see the pages of a book. That’s okay too. It did what I needed it to. For now, I’m letting it go and moving forward.

In coming posts I’ll spend more time on the different pieces of this story, like my desperate search for the right agent or my relationship with my beta readers. I hope you’ll stick around.

About Me

Hi!

Thank you for visiting my blog. My name is Jessica, and this is my first time writing a blog, so please bear with me as I’m sure there’s a learning curve.

Bio

I grew up in a mapdot town in central Indiana. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana State University that I haven’t used since 2012. I’m currently living in New Mexico, where my husband is stationed at an Air Force base. Reading and writing have always been my favorite hobbies, but I never believed that I could make a career out of them. Now, I’m trying to rectify that. It is my goal to become a successful, published author.

Why WordSalad?

Word Salad is defined by Merriam-Webster as “unintelligible, extremely disorganized speech or writing manifested as a symptom of a mental disorder”. It’s an accurate description of what I hope to achieve with this blog. It will be disorganized and possibly unintelligible. Everything related to my love/hate relationship with words will find its way here: my journey as an aspiring author, projects I’m working on, things I’m learning, writing samples, the books I’m reading.

What’s In It For You?

There are lot of websites clamoring for your attention. So why should you read mine? It’s my hope that in sharing my experiences, you will be inspired to begin your own journey, encouraged to fight alongside me, or maybe just be entertained for a few brief moments.

Cool Things About Me (’cause I like to brag a little)

  • I went skydiving with my dad for my 18th birthday
  • I’ve traveled to Canada and Italy, in addition to many parts of the U.S.
  • I was chosen by James Patterson as a semi-finalist in his 2017 co-author competition
  • I shoot a compound bow (not well, I don’t practice enough)
  • I have a chocolate lab named Barrett and a yellow tiger cat named Timmer

My Favorite Books

I don’t have a favorite book, or even a favorite author. How could I? But these are some of my favorites, and if you haven’t read them yet, you should:

  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
  • Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  • Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
  • Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
  • Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Now you know everything about me that you need to enjoy this blog moving forward. I hope that you’ll join me and learn along with me as I fight to make my dreams a reality.