Top Books of 2020: Number 3

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is the retelling of the goddess, character from the Odyssey, underrated daughter of Helios. I love the idea of myths, however, I’m not super well-versed in them. This book gave the feel of a myth, while not feeling unwieldy or hard to understand. The scale of it felt both epic and satisfying, and I’d love to read Miller’s other mythological themed book The Song of Achilles.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that Circe, while immortal and part god, still has a lot to learn, and she does throughout the course of the book. Circe has some really good character growth – while Circe doesn’t exactly start out unlikeable, she transforms from a naive girl whose punishment makes her easy to pity, into a clever force to be reckoned with.

While it’s probably a more engaging story if you’ve read the Odyssey, being familiar with it isn’t a requirement to enjoy this book. It’s quite fun on it’s own.

For having very memorable characters, and an epic story that spans continents and generations, Circe makes my top 10 at number 3.

Throwback Post: A Writer’s Confidence

I don’t remember when I wrote this, to be honest. I’m going to guess it was somewhere around 2014.

A lot of my sentiments are the same, though. I do still believe that if I put the work into it, I can get Roselyn’s Legacy (and other things I write) published. The things I was proud about learning then, I only know better now. While the scope of what Roselyn’s Legacy was has morphed drastically YET AGAIN, I believe that eventually, I’ll get to what the story should be.

I’m going to make a bold statement: I believe that if I put the work into revising Roselyn’s Legacy, I can get it published.

I’m not naive. I know how difficult the process is, and how dismal the odds are. I’m not even saying that it won’t take me years to accomplish. But I believe in this story that much, and I believe in myself that much as well.

I would consider the last few months a ‘cocooning’ for myself as a writer. It wasn’t intentional, while I set out to learn a few things, I didn’t anticipate that it would go so far in changing how I approach things.

Over the last couple of years, I have been trying to learn things, using that as my crutch. I thought that I would be able to call myself a competent writer when I had read all of the proper books and done tons of research. While arguably it would have been smarter just to write regularly, this information hasn’t gone to waste. I have methods for building worlds, plots, and characters that extends beyond (but does not exclude) notes in a haphazard notebook. Because I am not flying by the seat of my pants anymore, I can point others to my resources, which makes me feel credible. I can also look back on these resources when I get stuck.

I discovered, quite by accident, that I am not alone. When I close the file after working on my novel, I feel proud of myself. What I wrote belongs on the pantheon of the gods, or at the very least in a respectable book. But by the next morning, I am pretty sure when I open that file, I am going to find that all I really did the previous day was smack the keyboard with the tip of my nose for an hour. But if I swallow that fear and open the file again, I’ll find that what’s there really wasn’t as bad as I was dreading. But if I let that fear build, it’ll keep me from working on that novel indefinitely.

While I’m not sure if this happens to every writer, or even a majority of writers, I learned that I am not alone. That revelation was gold. You know what the cure is? To keep writing. It’s easier said than done – revising Roselyn’s Legacy, whenever I think about the next scene, I’m pretty sure that’s the point that everything turns to drivel. But then I find that it’s not so bad in reality, and I think of ways to make it better.

I also discovered that ideas beget ideas. Like plot gizka, or plot bunnies, or whatever your favorite multiplying creature may be. If I don’t touch a file for a long time, my brain isn’t working on it. Ideas will be few and far between. But if I work on something consistently, it’s always somewhere in my processing queue. Not only am I finding ideas for Roselyn’s Legacy, but I’m taking notes for a couple other projects as well. I don’t know how much writing I’ll get into with these ideas at present, but I’ll toss those irons into the fire as well and see what comes from it.

I’ve also been reading like a fiend. In addition to reading stuff from writers that I would like to be when I grow up, I’ve been expanding my palette. I’ve always been a pretty voracious reader, but only in the last few years have I stopped being such a snob and started to admit that there are perfectly good books written after 1865.

Lastly, I swallowed my fear and let other people see my creation. My writing isn’t perfect. No matter how many times one section gets passed around, there is always -something- that can be improved. But funny thing, with all this writing I’ve been doing in the past year, I’ve become a better writer. No one has dismissed my novel as drivel and told me to quit writing and go back to my day job. It’s terrifying, don’t get me wrong. Originally a short story called “Heart of Ice”, Roselyn’s Legacy has existed for me for ten years now. I wrote things before it, and I’ve worked on projects since, but I need to do this story justice.

In the end, it all comes down to my willingness to sit down and do the work. The art of discipline is one that I’m still learning, but I am no longer stalling because I don’t feel capable. For the first time, I believe that I can do it…and that’s a nice place to be.

Top 10 Books of 2020: Number 4

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

I suspect that this one of Scalzi’s lesser-known novels. He has a couple bigger series, and wrote Redshirts, which is a novel that parodies shows such as Star Trek. (Okay, it mostly parodies Star Trek. But it’s a brilliant book.)

Agent to the Stars is fairly self-explanatory. Tom is a Hollywood agent to a few c-list celebrities, when he’s offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to represent the first alien actor on Earth. But here’s the catch: the yherjk aren’t exactly easy to sell. They’re extremely foul-smelling blobs – friendly, sure, but not exactly America’s Next Top Alien.

One thing I appreciate about Scalzi’s writing is that for being a sci-fi writer, his books are extremely approachable. He doesn’t get caught in the weeds with high tech detail that average folks like me don’t understand. It’s sci-fi that is very readable, and I love him for it. He’s also cheeky, in a way that kind of reminds me of Terry Pratchett.

So it always disarms me when Scalzi pulls a hard turn and suddenly the story becomes poignant and thoughtful.

I listened to this novel via Audible, and let me say, it feels like a great choice. Wil Wheaton is a great narrator, and does Scalzi’s books justice.

Because it was a great, engrossing read (listen) and one of the most straight up fun reads for me this past year, Agent to the Stars makes my top 10 list at number 4.