Sims Writing Challenge

Writer’s block is tough to break through. Sometimes you just have to ride it out, especially if it’s from being burned out. Other times, you can find a way around it. When I’m stuck and also lucky, I manage to find a way to do something else that triggers an idea or a surge of energy to do something. Lately, I’ve been super burnt out, so I’ve been doodling and designing sticker sets on my laptop. Another thing I do is people watch. When I was using my school’s transportation, I would watch people out the window of the bus. Now, I go to my favorite café, grab a window seat, and it’s like lunch/dinner and a movie. I was able to find a way to fill the gap between one event and the climax of one book this way. Then it hit me.

What if I watched people, but through the Sims? Sims is one of my fallbacks for when I’m burnt out. I can easily lose hours just making the sim themselves, not to mention their house, family, and life. I have Sims 3 and 4, but I’ve been playing around with 4 since I’m still actively buying game packs and expansions for it. The autonomous function is always interesting to watch, or at least, look back to after a small break while letting it run. With my love of Sims and writing, I decided to make a writing challenge.

At the end of this blog post I will have the rules and potential lists to use for your own use. The point is to randomize everything as much as possible, and have very little control. One of my downloaded items glitched out so I had to randomize an actually usable sim to do so, but it’d be interesting if I had used that character. However, I worried if it would crash the game. I’d say getting a job is optional, but it can give you more of an idea of their personality and some flair for the character too.

peytoncronin

The first character I generated was a girl by the name of Peyton Cronin. She had long pink hair like some sort of anime character and had an interesting set of outfits. Her main set was a pink shirt (that miraculously didn’t clash), some jeans, and some tan boots. Her aspiration in life was to be a city native and have the best turf to own. She was a painter, which could explain the artsy choice of pink hair. Her traits consisted of being a goofball, hating children, and being erratic. The erratic trait used to be the “insane” trait, so likewise the sim will talk to themselves, change outfits randomly, and be unstable. She was a great first character and would be an interesting main character for a book maybe. Noted.

tiaramasters

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have a second character or not, but I added one and I fell in love with her design immediately. Her name was Tiara Masters, and she had short black cropped hair and matching black cat ears. Alright, anime town it was. Tiara’s outfits made more sense than Peyton’s for the most part. She aspired to be a mansion baron, which goes almost hand-in-hand with Peyton’s. Tiara’s traits were that she was jealous, ambitious, and a bookworm, generally normal traits. She wound up being a detective, which I wonder if she’d be able to hide her ears with the hat.

Randomizing relations, they became a married couple, and they wound up living in Brindleton Bay, a nice little town that was from the pet expansion. For the main event, however, they wound up going to Skye Fitness in San Myshuno, a city which is inspired by modern cities like New York, San Francisco, and even Tokyo. The gym itself is connected to a patch of land outside of it, which provided some more leeway for interactions, albeit not too many.

As an observer, the first idea I got was from Peyton and Tiara watching a female street performer for hours. They never tipped her or anything, they just stood and watched. They didn’t even talk. The performer eventually left. It was odd how they didn’t interact, even though they were doing the action together. The oddness could provide a way to try to explain such a thing via storytelling. It wasn’t my speed, so let’s move on.

The second idea was from Peyton and Tiara playing basketball together, alone on the rooftop. They were talking together privately until this male gym trainer came up. Tiara left, and perhaps because of her jealousy trait, but otherwise I could apply that as the reasoning and use her trait in that way for inspiration. Tiara went downstairs to go use an exercise machine that I believe is just a weight machine. In this case, Tiara would be the main character of that story.

The third idea was from Tiara and Peyton having a conversation. They’re sleepy and hungry but were otherwise doing okay. Peyton is feeling flirty, and Tiara leaves to take a shower. Peyton goes to use a weight machine and Don Lothario waltzes over, having a flirty conversation with Peyton that goes well. He did this another time before this specific instance. This could be dramatic; is Peyton cheating on Tiara? Or was Don a past fling? Or was she just being polite since this guy is clearly a musclehead bro who could probably bench press her.

The fourth, and last idea was when Peyton was having an erratic moment and was arguing with herself in the corner while three other people in the area were exercising. Initially, I didn’t think much of this until I was reviewing my game footage. How weird would it be if someone was just having a dramatic conversation with only themselves in the middle of this rich area’s gym? That’d be wild! Two people were on the treadmill, and one guy was boxing right next to her.

Overall, the last two ideas intrigued me, but I’m almost leaning towards the fourth more. Now the hard part is writing it, or rather, finding time to focus and write it. It definitely helped me generate ideas, which was the ultimate goal of this challenge, besides producing something. I plan on writing one of the ideas, however, I’m not going to upload it because if it turns out well enough, I might try to shop it around the short story ring of submittable.

Let me know if this challenge helped you generate any ideas of your own! I’d love to hear how it turned out.

Rules

-Must Randomize at least one sim.
-Sims must be autonomous.
-Completely random choices, use https://www.random.org/lists/ and
 https://www.random.org/integers/ with the lists to determine details.
-If it comes down to a 1 or 2 option, or yes or no answer, 1 is yes, 2 is no. Modify the integer list as accordingly.
-Randomize relationships in this fashion, also depends on how many characters you’re using.
-You can choose where they live within a randomized town, but try to restrict yourself to their amount of money if you want to add anything to the house. (I say try because TV’s and computers are expensive, and realistically they would be in a house. Sims could wind up in the house as well and watching tv is a normal action, which is why I mention this.)
-EXTRA CHALLENGE: Number your ideas. Randomize which one you go with.

Here are the base lists I made below, and I added +’s to everything I had as an expansion pack or game pack.

Aspirations

Athletic
Creativity
Deviance
Family
Food
Fortune
Knowledge
Love
Nature
Popularity
+Animal
+Location

Traits

Active
Cheerful
Creative
Genius
Gloomy
Goofball
Hot-headed
Romantic
Self-assured
Unflirty
Art Lover
Bookworm
Foodie
Geek
Music Lover
Perfectionist
Ambitious
Childish
Clumsy
Erratic
Glutton
Kleptomaniac
Lazy
Loves Outdoors
Materialistic
Neat
Slob
Snob
Vegetarian
Bro
Evil
Family-Oriented
Good
Hates Children
Jealous
Loner
Mean
Noncommittal
Outgoing
+Cat Lover
+Dog Lover

Locations

1. Sim’s Home
Oasis Springs
2. Burners & Builders (Gym)
3. Desert Bloom (Park)
4. The Futures Past (Museum)
5. Rattlesnake Juice (Bar)
6. The Solar Flare (Lounge)
Willow Creek
7. The Blue Velvet (Nightclub)
8. Magnolia Blossom (Park)
9. Movers & Shakers (Gym)
10. Municipal Muses (Museum)
11. Willow Creek Archives (Library)
+San Myshuno
12. Mysuno Meadows (Park)
13. Waterside Warble (Karaoke Bar)
14. Casbah Gallery (Arts Center)
15. Planet Honey Pop! (Karaoke Bar)
16. Stargazer Lounge (Lounge)
17. Skye Fitness (Gym)
+Brindleton Bay
18. Brindleton Pawspital (Vet Clinic)
19. Club Calico (Lounge)
20. Deadgrass Discoveries (Museum)
21. Pupperstone Park (Park)
22. Salty Paws Saloon (Bar)
+Magnolia Promenade
23. Paddywhack’s Emporium
24. JF&S Clothiers
25. The Roadstead

Career

+Detective
+Doctor
+Scientist
Astronaut
Athlete
Business
Criminal
Critic
Culinary
Entertainer
Painter
Politician
Secret Agent
Social Media
Tech Guru

Failing Camp NaNoWriMo and Book of the Month

If you’re someone who follows my blog, by now you may have noticed my blog posting schedule has been off kilter. Reflectively, this past month has been one of my most difficult in a while, even compared to both semesters I had 4 classes (20 credit hours) at once. My classes have been almost entirely group projects, which anyone who’s had to participate in them knows the hell that is working with several people at once, especially creative ones who often lack strength in areas besides creativity.

Organizing a film and getting it done is crazy, and for people who work in that industry I cannot begin to understand the patience they have, and that I have none of. Due to all of these school shenanigans and mental health episodes triggered by them, I was unable to finish both main goals I had for the month.

Camp NaNoWriMo, as always, started off great. I was ahead of the minimum for a while, until I decided to change the midpoint. Why did I change the midpoint right when I was getting to the midpoint? I honestly don’t know why it took me that long to realize it didn’t work, but if I hadn’t changed it, I probably would’ve been able to continue at the rate I was going at. I wound up stopping at page 45. I need to finish it, but I think I’ll wait for a little while before I do. I still need to reconstruct the outline.

For July’s Book of the Month, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, I am also about halfway through it, at 164 pages of 369 pages. This is the first time where I haven’t been able to finish a book in the month yet still want to read it. So for that, I plan on binge reading as much as I can in the next couple of days to get it done and perhaps make a delayed post about that. It’s a different type of book than I usually read, but I’m enjoying it. That factor just makes it a little slower of a read, but still an enjoyable one.

I can’t speak for August’s Book of the Month yet, but it’s going to be a shorter one. Is that cheating? I wouldn’t say so. I still get to read a book in a month, at least. I’m thinking of one of my new Stephen King books.

Graduate School Epiphanies

While I’m currently earning a degree in Dramatic Writing, it’s not what I want to do as a job. (I switched from Animation to Dramatic Writing about a year ago, because transferring would’ve put me in more debt as I’d have to almost restart my education. I’m still learning story techniques, and it’s been a great deal more beneficial.) I would love to write books for a living, but until I can get to that point (or if I ever), I want to be an editor. Thus, I decided a while back that I wanted to look at graduate schools. There are certain stipulations I have in mind when looking at schools, and are as follows:

  1. Located in the Northeast
  2. Full scholarship potential
  3. Writing/Publishing electives

 

A funny thing happened while I was going over the schools I was thinking about for this blog post. I realized three of the five schools weren’t for me. Yikes. I won’t say which ones I took off, but the two that were left were Emerson and Baltimore University. I really want to have a combination of writing and publishing in my degree, and I realized the majority of the schools (that I took off my list) didn’t even have publishing electives. Considering I want to focus on both the craft of writing novels and also learn about the publishing world while focusing on editing, those schools just weren’t going to work out.

For my undergrad degree, I never had to try that hard to get into my current college. While that sounds a bit pretentious, my SAT scores were higher than the average accepted students for the school, I had about a 3.8 GPA, and this school didn’t require a portfolio. (The latter should’ve alerted me to the money grabbing nature of the school as a business first and foremost.) So I didn’t have to worry about getting in or not; my advisor essentially told me I was guaranteed to get in, and I got in. I had visited the school beforehand, and in that trip, I found the Savannah at its friendliest. I have never seen it that friendly since.

I don’t want to fall into the hole and make the same mistake just because I think a city would be interesting to live in, especially if I haven’t seen it. In another case, I didn’t want to go just on rank alone. While my current school is ranked highly for my prior Animation major, the department itself was understaffed and hiring unqualified people to teach to try to accommodate the overflowing amount of students that were automatically accepted. I didn’t want a place like that for my graduate degree.

While I was having a mini life crisis, I did some more digging and found another college that had previously gone off my radar. Why? Because it wasn’t on the typical ranks for the “best” college programs for Writing and Publishing, and originally I had been searching the lists for guaranteed full funding or a potential for a fully funded scholarship.

This college also turned out to be around the area I grew up in and would allow me to do a dual MFA for Creative Writing and MA for Publishing. Rosemont College made it quickly onto my radar, and I delved deep into researching the program, classes, teachers, and area around the college to the point I was up for three hours lost in trying to find out all I could. I’ve already spent the time on the other programs I was looking into, so I needed to catch up. Because I have a Pennsylvania address where I primarily reside when I’m not in school, it would be in-state tuition, something that good old Uncle Sam would just have to give me more help on instead of cutting it for the distance. 60 credit hours sounds like a lot, but from the perspective of my current degree being 180 credit hours for four years, to me, it doesn’t seem like too much to handle. The classes are relevant to what I want to learn, and I really like how some of the publishing classes include business classes. While I can’t tell if it’s possible to get full funding, I totally plan on applying.

One of the other schools I’ve been planning to apply to is Emerson. I visited the school last year and really enjoyed the experience. A grad student (although for nonfiction, which was weird since I’d be for fiction) gave my Mom and I a tour. I’m stuck between two different degrees, the Creative Writing – Fiction MFA, and the Publishing and Writing MA. Emerson has some great classes in publishing that also include a few design elements. While I don’t see myself becoming a book designer, as an elective, it’d be interesting to learn more about considering I can draw as well and illustrate. Both degrees allow room for departmental electives, which would mean I could use some of the classes from the other degree. There’s potential for a full, partial, or different types of scholarships that are important to me. The only real downside is that Boston itself is an expensive city to live in and around, but I’ve been scouting and planning ways to make it work. I also really like the idea of working on campus and maybe even teaching a class or helping out with one.

The other school I’ve been planning to apply to is Baltimore University with their MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts. I did a pre-college program in the summer of 2014 at MICA, so I have a solid sampling of what it’s like to live in Baltimore and get around. I really like the idea of potentially taking book design classes along with the departmental elective choices between design, publishing, and literature. They offer different work-study programs and TA positions, along with the ability to teach a class or two, so the opportunities to fund me besides their scholarships are great. However, I’m not too excited about a foundations class. At my current college, we had several we had to take, and while some of them helped, I still feel as though if we are accepted into the program, we should probably have the foundations understood already. It’s only one class though, so I don’t mind. It looks fun, anyways.

Overall, I feel confident in going forward with my choices of schools to apply to. I send my thanks to a blog post from AWP’s free membership weekend for reminding me of the mistakes not to make for the second time around. I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to recognize that three of the schools I was applying to weren’t good fits, but I’m glad I recognized that now instead of when I’m applying, or after I’ve already written my statement of purpose letters. Those are next on my task list, now that I’m certain of the schools.

The Ignition of My Passion for Storytelling

I can pluck it from one event in my life. Certain memories of mine stand solidly in my mind while in other cases, I can’t remember much from a span of years. In one of those gaps, third grade, one of the hardest years of my academic and personal life, my grades slipped. Not drastically, I still had A’s and B’s, but for one solid year I got consistent, heavy C’s in English.

I can’t remember if English was my favorite subject or not at that point, it was probably art, but I do remember one specific project. We were tasked with recounting a time in our life and retelling it as a short story. We used odd yellow paper that was larger than the usual size and had an uncomfortable texture to it without being flat. The lead hardly showed up on it unless the tip was ready to carve through the page.

I wrote about the most recent Thanksgiving and considering it was the first after my parents divorced, it was just my mom and me. She was making the turkey and getting the table ready when our dogs, allured by the scent of savory meat, were crowding her feet. I can’t remember if our one dog, Buddy, an old Yorkshire Terrier, had passed away at the time, as I remember he passed away in third grade as well. Either way, she fed the dogs as I likely stood uselessly waiting for food. Maybe I was good and set the table, something that was a simple task for me to do just for two.

After dinner when she was cleaning up, she happened to come across a miscellaneous dripping of sauce on the counter. She wiped it up with her finger and popped it in her mouth. What she thought had been turkey juice or gravy was actually juice from the dog food. Her face twisted in bitter disgust and I remember us both laughing at the grievous error. Check that off the “never have I ever” list.

The moment, although brief and enough to gain a small laugh and carry on, meant everything to me in a time where it was hard to smile. Besides the divorce, my best friend had moved away that year as well, and I my little world had shaken so hard it knocked me down for a bit. Although most people at first glance likely wouldn’t suspect that sort of depth from a third grader who still can’t use proper grammar and spell common words correctly. (I still suck with grammar; I wish I could remember the years we actively studied it.)

My teacher didn’t find the story entertaining either, and wrote something to the effect of “this isn’t funny” or “this isn’t interesting.” To her defense, it was likely neither to an adult, especially a teacher reading about thirty of those papers. However, as a child, I took great offense. I believed it to be funny, and if she couldn’t see that— well, I’d just have to write more and get better to prove I could write a good story.

In third grade, I was still playing pretend at recess with the friends I had left, and when that friend group disintegrated around fifth grade, I started writing my ideas of worlds and villains instead of acting them out. Although I moved them onto a backup drive to save space, I wrote a little more than a hundred stories. I hardly finished any of them, but I had so many ideas I wanted to write I just had to get them down somewhere. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I finally wrote a “book” (about 30 pages in size 18 font) that had a narrative arc to it. The rewritten version of this book was the first I ever finished at about 260 pages. I planned four books for the series but only ever had three of the books on a “first draft” basis (all less than 30 pages, if I’m honest).

I’ll never forget what it felt like to finish writing that book. I realized that I actually could. The first hurdle I needed to jump through to become a writer I had vaulted over: I could complete a manuscript. Of course, it took years and shows the clear progression of improvement as it goes on and thus needs many more drafts, but I had done it.

I still have that paper. The decaying pages from almost a decade ago. It sits in a bin at my mom’s house, I think inside of a plastic bag for some form of preservation. (When I return to my Mom’s house I’ll take a picture of it and attach it to this post.) It taught me how to take feedback. While I wasn’t pleased with it, I took it into consideration, and I went to work. It was one of the hardest lessons to learn, but an absolutely necessary one, and I’m glad I learned it early on. I am forever thankful to this teacher in particular, among many others that I couldn’t have grown without the aide of. She was the one that ignited the flame to my passion that’s glowing brighter with time.

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018

In hindsight, I recall in my prior 2018 NaNoWriMo post for April how I was confused about it being so early. I still don’t know why there are two, but the more, the merrier! The only things that have changed since April’s camp NaNoWriMo are that instead of being in four classes, I’m now in three for this summer semester, and additionally, I won’t be working on the novel that I have been for the past two NaNoWriMo’s.

To get into my Senior Development class for the winter quarter, we have to submit a portfolio of at least two works during midterms of fall quarter. Fall quarter is when I’m set up for the first half of writing a feature film, and most other people in my graduation year have already taken this awhile ago. So, I have to make up for lost time and write a feature film over the summer, so I have something to graduate with.

Therefore, my July 2018 Camp NaNoWriMo goal is to write 110 pages of a feature script for this action-packed suspense/thriller I’m writing, Double Bind. One assassination goes wrong when the targets have fled the country and have instead placed their estranged daughter in their home. To make matters worse, a different assassin is hired to kill them both. They have to work together to survive this ordeal and find out who’s behind all of this.

I’m already at a full 17 pages in three days, so things are going pretty well. I worry about how I’ll do during the second act, but I’m sure I’ll be able to fix any issues that arise. And in regards to my previous NaNoWriMo novel, I wasn’t able to finish it last month, and I’m not entirely sure when I will, but I’ve got some time in the next few months that I’m sure I can hunker down for the last few chapters. If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, I hope your progress is going smoothly, and if it isn’t, it’s only day four, so don’t lose hope on catching up!

June Book of the Month

June’s book of the month was Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Blake has become a substantial author in young adult fiction, especially with her current series Three Dark Crowns. I was surprised to see the range of genres from horror to fantasy, and also comforted by the fact authors can reign free and not necessarily get locked into one, and still be successful. Anna Dressed in Blood was her debut novel, and it was encouraging to see that ghost stories are still popular, and popular enough to get picked up as someone’s debut. I love ghosts, probably a little too much, but at least not as much as Cas. I gave this book a full five out of five stars.

Anna Dressed in Blood is about Cas Lowood, a fresh, young ghost hunter who picked up his father’s ghost-killing athame after his father was killed by a vicious spirit. He moves from town to town with his Mom to get rid of local haunts. He moves to Thunder Bay to hunt down a notorious ghost, who has gained the title “Anna Dressed In Blood.” In his pursuits of hunting her, he befriends a local mind-reading witch Thomas, along with the most popular kids in school: Carmel, the queen bee who is actually a decent person, Mike, her dumb jock ex-boyfriend, and Will, the jock’s sidekick who’s got just as much intelligence as he has kick in him.

The characters were easily my favorite part of the book. Each one seemed like someone I would’ve met in high school, and even though Cas stereotyped them in the beginning, they each became more than just a character type. Even Anna, dead and from another time, showed significant wit and character beyond just being a dead girl. At certain points different characters went against their own personalities, usually for superficial reasons, but at no point did any of it feel fake. Kendare Blake knows her audience well, and has a strong grip on the voice of teenagers. I found myself laughing out loud from Cas’ remarks throughout the book, like his constant insistence that he’s not one of the Ghostbusters and rejecting the idea of teaming up to become a ghost fighting group. Even the adults were entertaining and well fleshed out despite their limited appearances.

The plot of the story was tightly woven, and where there were some gaps of knowledge, I’m certain they’ll be answered in the second book. How do I know that? Passing details that didn’t seem significant wound up being monstrously important throughout the ending, and everything that Cas set out to do was solved but left with different cliffhangers. Naturally, he can’t accomplish everything the way he had planned, but even the cliffhangers were tight and gave a solid idea of where the series would head afterward. Every piece of information given was used and transformed as the story went on. Even the hitchhiker from chapter one is referred to later.

Overall, this is one of my favorite books. I’m glad I accidentally bought the sequel first; if I had it with me for the start of July, I’d easily make Girl of Nightmares my July book of the month. Unfortunately, I could only haul so many books with me when moving, so it’ll be on its way when my mom comes to visit about halfway through the month. So in the meantime, the sequel will have to wait another month before I can get to it. Instead, July’s book of the month will be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I haven’t read a historical fiction book yet, and I’m interested to see how I enjoy it.

Beta Reader Announcement

I’ve done it; I’ve completed my next draft of my work in progress novel, and I’m ready for beta readers! I’ve done everything I can on my own end, and now I’m looking for some kind book lovers to help me out. What Darkness Does is a young adult horror novel sitting at about 80,000 words. It’s like Twin Peaks meets It.

img_1003

This isn’t a cover or anything, just something to give the vibe. Picture from pexel.com.

To make this easier for everyone, I made Google forms for each chapter to clarify my concerns and show what kind of feedback I’m looking for. Most forms have between 7-10 questions, some being yes or no with areas to expand if necessary. I’ve got a page of links to each so you can go at your own pace, although keep in mind that I plan on editing the next draft in September, so I hope by the end of August to have gathered the responses.

So here is the theoretical book blurb as it stands:

Imo thought moving to the Poconos would bring a relaxing summer filled with air conditioning and the occasional mosquito bite.

That thought was destroyed when her dad almost flattens a protected albino deer with their moving truck. After celebrating the fourth of July with her new neighbors, Jack and Trey, along with their friend Chrissy, Imogen encounters something in the middle of the night looming outside her window. In her daze of sleep, she can’t decide if what she saw was the albino deer—or something sinister.

Imo must balance trying to make genuine friends while not pushing them too hard to open up about the creature they’re reluctant to speak about. The balance is thrown when one of them goes missing, along with one of their family’s shotguns. The creature consumes the rest of Imo’s summer, along with anything that tries to stand in its way.

If you’re interested in helping out, fill out this form so I can learn more about you and see if you’re a good fit, which is just about anyone who likes horror and YA as a bare minimum.

May Book of the Month

May’s book of the month was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I like to switch between books made more recently and books made long before I was born, so this month’s book falls into the latter category. This is one of those books that high school teachers like to assign for reading. However, I was never in any of the classes that got to read this. Maybe it’s due to no somber recollection to being forced to read pages for homework, but I really enjoyed this book. I’d give it a four out of five stars.

I can see the roots of more current dystopian books well within this one. Hunger Games, Divergent, even bits of the Maze Runner and The Giver. (We had to read The Giver in my seventh-grade class. I feel like I would’ve liked it more if I read it in my free time.) Even though most of the protagonists are young adults or children in these more modern books, Montag still shares some of the themes that these children do. His life goes through some drastic change where he’s forced to question existence, meets an idealistic young friend who opens his eyes to something new, and simultaneously is punished for his new thoughts brought on by the external influence. He is then by an older figure —Faber in this case— on how to try to make the world change.

Montag doesn’t change the world, and I think that’s why I enjoyed the book so much. It doesn’t give the false sense of security in completely redefining a world for it to wind up better. Many of the young adult dystopian wind up with some bittersweet end where some bad does come, but there is still something gained by their journey. Montag’s journey winds up only saving himself and none of the people he cares about. It might be the bits of nihilism in me, but it’s refreshing to know there are books with some neutral, not necessarily even moralistically bad endings.

The rag-tag team of prior teachers and scholars were the most interesting paid-off twist that Montag encountered. If the novel were written in the current times, it would’ve produced a series of at least two or three more books afterward, but it ends poignantly, with a small glimmer of hope. I encountered now one of my favorite quotes from this book, spoken by Granger, one of the scholars and living books:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It’s interesting to read the introduction, which in my edition is Neil Gaiman from 2013, to find how startlingly applicable the themes from the book are today. If only 2013 Neil Gaiman or 1953 Ray Bradbury knew what was to become the future.

Speaking of the future, June’s book of the month will be Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I’ve meant to read this book since I graduated high school, so I might as well finish it before it comes times to graduate college!

April Book of the Month

April’s book of the month was Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve been following Joey’s YouTube channel since around 2014, so I was more than excited to add his first foray into the world of fiction to my read list. I’ve been sitting on this book for quite some time now, and I decided enough was enough: time to pick up another dystopian novel. Because I’ve been following Joey for so long, I was able to pick up on aspects of the story that I wish I hadn’t. As much as I enjoy Joey’s content on YouTube, I have to say that I was partially let down by his novel. I’d give it 3/5 stars.

Children of Eden follows Rowan, a secret second-child who grew up hiding away in her home in a society with a one-child policy. The society is fairly advanced with eye scanning technology that can verify the identity of the person based upon the surgical lenses that are implanted in the official citizens. Rowan’s well-off family tries to get her an illegal pair of lenses that function well enough to give her another identity, but things go wrong, and she’s launched into a life or death scramble to find safety in a world where second children are sought to be eliminated. She tries to find safety between other second children and her brother’s friend, Lark.

The first thing I noticed reading this was Joey’s writing style. There were moments of beautiful description, but I found the majority of his style uninviting. There are adverbs everywhere. If I had a dollar for every adverb, I’d be able to pay rent for the next two months at the least. To be fair, the reason I’m noting it with distaste is due to Stephen King’s writing advice in On Writing, which I agree with for the most part. An adverb here or there isn’t too distracting, but they’re everywhere and take away from the power of proper word choice. Another thing Joey does is tell repeatedly instead of showing what’s happening. There are only two times I can remember this choice making sense within the story, and the majority of the other ones (I lost count) can be solved by just having Rowan say whatever Joey’s telling us she said. Also knowing Joey’s past of having not getting into a college writing program, I recognize that he likely wouldn’t have known this almost universal lesson. It still detracts from the quality of the novel, however.

The other part of Joey’s style that irks me is how clear his agenda is behind writing the novel. He criticizes the human race’s destroying of the land and its resources —which to some extent is good, we are destroying the planet— but it’s so blatantly pointed in the way he pins it to Rowan it doesn’t make sense. A girl who has never escaped her house and has only read about the past have such a strong opinion of a world she isn’t connected to doesn’t make sense. At points, she becomes a mouthpiece for his views, like one moment when she criticizes humans having previously eaten animals. (Again, why would she care? She’s never seen an animal. Maybe it’s for that reason; since they’ve been wiped out and she can’t see any? Weak motivation, but that’s as far as I’ll buy into it.) If you don’t know much about Joey, he’s a passionate vegan, and in a more recent video, he told (his boyfriend) Daniel’s nephew that meat was bad. Sigh.

This immaturity of Joey’s transfers to Rowan, who acts younger than her age at some points. She’ll lash out at random times and remain calm when it would make more sense to lash out. Rowan’s character isn’t focused, and I never knew what to expect from her. I wound up finding the characters surrounding her —Lark, Lachlan, and even Rook— more interesting and developed. The side characters seem to have more clear motivations and defining for the majority of the book until Rowan has to step up and take some kind of control of her destiny. It was a little late in the book, but when she does start to step up, I found the story a lot easier to read.

At this point, it sounds like I have more bad things to say than good, but I did wind up liking the story in the end. I never found myself wanting to shelf it, but it was a bit forced in the beginning. I couldn’t figure out what was the inciting moment or reason why it was that point in Rowan’s life that things would change besides some details after she explores the world outside her home. The world kept me involved as more pieces started coming together about their form of government is shady and the different groups that are joining together that disagree with it. Even the way fashion works to identify where different people are from in the rings and even what schools the children go to.

Something else that Joey did that I found to be pleasant surprises was the little details to the characters that I don’t find in many other places. I haven’t read any other books where a character in the main cast, Lark, has seizures. Additionally, Rowan’s brother Ash has asthma, which even plays into the desperation of one scene later on in the book. I wouldn’t be the judge on how accurately he depicted these conditions or not, but it’s nice to see some attempt at diversity from the usual straight, able-bodied main characters that riddle most popular fiction. Rowan is also depicted as bi/pansexual with interests in both Lark and Lachlan, using the trope of the love triangle but twisting it. Initially, I was annoyed by this addition, until I recognized that Rowan has only grown up with her family, where she likely would associate a kiss as a form of appreciation or affection. Maybe that’s me reading into the situation too much, but I believe it validates the inclusion of the love triangle. Lark and Lachlan seem to be more confused by the act than Rowan is.

I already own the sequel, Elites of Eden, which I would’ve pursued getting even if I hadn’t had it already. My main interest in the book is in its world and what would become of it if the (spoiler-revealing) plans went through, along with the twist ending. I didn’t expect to be left on such a cliffhanger that gave me a pleasant surprise, but I look forward to reading the second book. As much as I found the book a pleasant read, it’s still clear to me that it was likely published due to Joey’s millions of fans willing to buy it. There’s a couple of editing errors as well throughout that stood out, but only one made me struggle to understand what was happening. For now, I’m going to let Children of Eden sit aside so I can focus on a book that has a more substance to it. For May’s book of the month, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Results

When I posted my last blog, I was a little over a thousand words behind my planned pace. It was also midterms for me. For the next few days I wrote about a thousand words a day and pulled ahead of schedule to complete my goal on the 29th! (Which you could’ve seen ahead of time if you follow me on twitter. 😉)

Camp-2018-Winner-Certificate

In April, I wrote 21,403 words towards my work in progress novel Obscura. I tried to finish it for NaNoWriMo back in November, but that crashed and burned about halfway through. This time, I was able to come back from the mini-crash halfway. It helped to have a smaller goal where I had to write about 666 words a day instead of 1,666 words per day. I found I was most successful when I made it a part of my routine to write an hour or so before going to bed.

camonanowrimo_2018

As happy as I am about meeting my goal, I still have a couple of scenes left to get done. I estimate I’ll have about 10,000 more words before I finish the book. It would set the book at about 60,000 words. While I usually aim for 70-75 thousand words, I already have an idea what I’ll have to edit and also rewrite certain sections. Of course, I’m currently editing my novel What Darkness Does, so I’ll save Obscura for after that.

I hope everyone did well on their goals; even if you didn’t finish, you still have more than you started with!