Boozy Books June ’18: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy

Hello readers! It is I, A, queen of falling into time warps only to discover that weeks have gone by and I’m behind on my writing. Tbh, I’m also behind on my reading, which is a big part of why June’s Boozy Book selection is so late.

BUT. I have finished a book! Better yet, it was one I actually liked. See, the original plan was to pair A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, but I would be hard pressed to recommend that overwritten turd to anyone.

SO. Instead, I’ll be pairing The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: a Novel in Clues by Nova Jacobs.

Now, it’s not a masterpiece. It’s not something I’ll be reading on a yearly basis. Hell, I may never pick it up again, but it was clever and held my attention. In many ways, it reminded me of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, so if you enjoyed that one as a kid, you’ll probably get your money’s worth from this one.

It’s kind of funny that I picked this one up, because I famously hate math. So a title about equations and a plot the revolves around the death of a mathematician don’t exactly inspire confidence for right brained readers like myself. Luckily, Hazel, the main character shares these traits with me, so my confusion is her confusion and vice versa.

Each chapter (some told from viewpoints other than Hazel’s) reveals a little tiny bit more about the mysterious death of Isaac Severy, but the story flows really nicely. By the time the clues start to fall into place, you’re invested in the characters and story, so it never feels like you’re being forced to follow or solve a mystery.

Hazel’s bumbling and eventual growth, her brother’s strange stakeouts, her suddenly present cousin, and her uncle’s run-ins with a P. Booth Lyons (phone booth?) all add up to a charming novel that’s perfect for lazy afternoons and pre-bedtime reading.

Now for the pairing! This one reads well with a strong hot toddy (extra lemon!). If you have any on hand, be sure to stir with a stick of cinnamon.

Happy reading!

A

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The Muse: My Lungs Are Trying to Kill Me

So, it’s C. You might have noticed I’m posting not in my week. This is because last week was spent trying to keep my lungs inside my chest and also trying to figure out what was causing me to cough so much (I did not have a cold, so of course my brain decided I obviously had terrible lung cancer and am doing to die next week). I think I might have damaged my throat screaming obscenities about Donald Trump and that, combined with my increasing sensitivity to dust, caused the cough. And now that I’ve figured it out, I plan to spend the week… basically not talking.

Anyway. Hi! Today, I want to talk to you about literally anything but politics. Problem is, I literally can’t get my brain out of the spiral place it’s in, so finding something to write about has been difficult. That’s probably another reason why I skipped writing last week; I just couldn’t muster the energy to write anything that wouldn’t sound like a depressive liturgy of human suffering. So… this week, I am going to be studiously positive and tell you about things.

There are times that writing is a huge struggle for me. I very much dislike the act of drafting, sitting alone in a room (even if there are other people, you always draft alone) typing out letters that become words that become phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, novels… Thousands of words. Tens of thousands. In my world, SFF, often hundreds of thousands of words. And while I love putting together a good phrase or interacting with my characters, drafting is often a struggle. I have a hard time coming up with the words I want, so I end up having to put down the words that come to mind, which if you know anything about me, you know… is not a good thing. I have an obsessive mind, so not finding the word I want is a very difficult thing for me to ignore. When I force myself to do it for the aforementioned hundreds of thousands of words, it becomes an extremely intrusive compulsion to go back and fix a novel that has completely gone off the rails. A compulsion that gets worse the more I force myself to ignore it and move on (and is only occasionally mollified with a quick re-read of an earlier chapter to remind myself that I’m pretty decent at what I do).

So, for what might be obvious reasons, I go through a lot of periods where I just cannot write. I joke that, for every good week (where I work on all three of my active WIPs), I spend three recovering. It’s a difficult cycle to break because I often do need to forget what I wrote in order to move on. Or, at least, let the “I’ve written this all wrong” feelings die down. But I’ve always looked at it in a positive way. When I do manage to write, all those words are really special to me. And I write a lot (for me) during that week: about 4000 words split between my three WIPs. It does mean my projects move slowly, but eventually, they get to where I want them to be.

And–finally–Liar is just about done. I have reached the final battle, the climactic showdown between Lucky and Odin and its inevitable aftermath. I am no more than 15k words away, and that’s probably an overestimation. And feeling like I’m almost to the point of writing I actually like–editing–has helped me write more quickly. I can’t ignore the feeling that I’ve ruined everything, but at least I know all the threads are coming together and, as soon as I’m done, I can go back to fix everything. Do the thing I’ve wanted to do since halfway through chapter seven.

It’s a great feeling. And I’m holding on to it because, frankly, I am in desperate need of positive feelings.

C

The Muse: Why Was It Published?

Hi friends! Welcome to the latest Muse. Today’s topic: books. More specifically: shitty books.

Yup, they’re out there, sitting in your local Barnes & Noble next to great works of literature and bearing cool sleeve designs to entice hapless young readers into the world of poorly conceived prose. Shelves of drivel, half-assed attempts at wit, “purple” writing, endless adjective laundry lists… Need I go on?

There are a staggering number of unreadable books that have somehow been published. That being said, if like to ask a few questions…

Why? How? Really!?!

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, ‘A, literature is subjective. Everyone has different tastes.’

I mean, yes, but editors and agents (who work with books and language for a living!!) should know better than to sign off on shoddy work. They should know!!!

Regardless of what “the market” dictates, agents and editors are tasked with finding good material and, more and more frequently, the books I pick up are sorely lacking in quality, depth, and style.

It makes me sad.

What’s worse, it makes me feel that I’m somehow wrong in my own pursuit of writing. I’m made to feel that I’ll never get published if I don’t adopt an 8th grade vocabulary so as not to intimidate my readers.

Horse hockey!

So, here’s what this whole rant boils down to: I’m a writer. I have written a book (with C, obviously), and I know that our book contains significantly better writing (not to mention plot and character development) than the stinker I just picked up and put back down. Now. Would someone please put me in touch with these easy-to-please agents???

Much thanks.

Love,

A

The Muse: Realizations

Hey, guys! Welcome to this week’s Muse! In case you’d forgotten, or didn’t read the first time I announced this, the Muse is still once a week, but it’s been divorced from Monday. Now it’ll happen whenever we darn well feel like writing one.

So, you know how we’ve been shopping Killing Mercutio around? That novel we wrote that’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet to get rid of that silly ‘romance’ and keep Mercutio, aka the cool one, alive? Yes, that one. I’m fond of it. I mean, I should be… I wrote half of it, so it would be weird if I didn’t.

Anyway, there’s a character who dies. Well, there’s several. But there’s one in particular I’m talking about.

SPOILERS.

 

 

So. I had to, as in the play, kill Tybalt. He doesn’t die the same way that he does in the play, but he dies. And writing that chapter actually caused me to go on a spiral for about a week. It’s one of the first and only times writing something has had that kind of effect on me, because I’m really good at compartmentalizing and keeping it at bay. And because that happened, I did something I have never done before.

I wrote fan-fiction for my own novel. And, in this story, I brought Tybalt back to life. He still died in Killing Mercutio, making the story a sequel. In order to do that, of course, I had to find a way to make it make sense because what the fuck is the point of writing something if it doesn’t make sense within the context of the world?! (*cough*) So, in order to bring him back, I got the Faery Courts involved. Oberon decided he wanted Tybalt to join his court and dispatched Puck to rouse him using one of those flowers Shakespeare’s always banging on about. The original story (there are a couple now, which I may very well post one day) is about Tybalt seeking out a rival to get his revenge on the person who killed him. But later stories are about his partnership with Puck and all the stuff they do for Oberon (having Walter Raleigh executed/assassinated for insulting the Sea King, rescuing Ariel so Oberon has one on Titania, etc).

OK, C, you might be saying. This is all interesting, and I definitely want to read those some day (aww, thanks), but what does this have to do about realizations? Ah, don’t worry. I’m getting there.

See, the thing is that Tybalt and Puck have a very specific relationship. Puck is a trickster and Tybalt is forced to learn to control his temper and clean up Puck’s messes, making him the straight man. Tybalt is a really, really good man, an honorable man, and really lovable (HE IS), but his tendency to think with his sword is what got him killed, so he has to learn to, well, temper his temper. And, really, this is the way I’ve been thinking of this partnership the entire time: Puck may be a trickster, but he isn’t a fool. A lot of their early relationship is Puck helping Tybalt to grow, so some of his behavior is intentional, even if ridiculous. But once all that settles, they’re the long-suffering straight man stuck dealing with the fallout of the ridiculous partner who is nonetheless his best friend.

In other words, I took Lucky and Rig… and put them in Shakespeare. Rig has way more patience and has more of a sense of humor than Tybalt, but Puck and Lucky are both tricksters, though Lucky was just reborn as a human so, in that respect, Tybalt and Lucky share a similar dynamic. But, anyway… it’s interesting to me that that dynamic has followed me through multiple stories (Benvolio and Romeo have some of it, too). It’s definitely a thing that’s part of my writing style.

So… that’s a thing. It’s just an interesting observation. In fact, Earth Rising is one of the only stories I have without much of a Lucky/Rig dynamic. The main pair in that, Mia and Laras, are both serious and capable and not ridiculous at all. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which one came first… I think the dynamic of each pair grew at about the same time. I was developing Liar at the same time I was writing these short stories.

I choose to believe Lucky and Rig are just that strong.

C