Monthly Archives: December 2015

Books I Liked – The Ark

Welcome to Books I Liked, a series of blog posts in which I talk about the best of what I’ve been reading.

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do. That’s certainly why I picked up The Ark by new author Patrick S. Tomlinson. You see, I was browsing the new paperbacks in the Science Fiction section of the bookstore (because it’s good to read the new releases in your genre, but damn hardcovers are expensive and I have student loans to pay) when I saw what looked like a misplaced romance novel.

The Ark Cover

Okay, so you’re probably looking at the tag line on the cover and saying, “Sarah, that’s not a romance novel,” but I was only looking at the guy looming over the title. And come on, he has that standard romance novel cover model look, square jaw, brooding face, neck muscles, I mean everything.

A quick glance at the back of the book revealed that it was, in fact, correctly shelved, and that it looked pretty damn interesting. It also revealed that the price was well within my book budget for the month, so I impulse bought it. Turns out it was well worth the roughly $9 with tax I paid.

The Ark is a thriller set in a giant spaceship that is home to what remains of humanity after a black hole destroyed Earth 250 years ago, which is about 50,000 people.  With so few people around, it’s a big deal when someone goes missing, and so police chief and former sports star Bryan Benson is asked to investigate. Remember, this is a thriller, not a mystery, and so naturally there’s something huge going on, with the fate of everyone on the Ark at stake. Couple that with the fact that the ship is about to land on mankind’s new home and you have tension turned up to 10.

I think what I like best about this book is the setting.  The Ark feels like a real place, complete with high and low society, political problems, and even a unique sport.  The details felt logical and cohesive.  Good worldbuilding here.

This was a fun read and a damn solid first book. I found myself looking forward to reading a chapter or two every lunch. The pacing is on point and there’s always another twist to pull you on to the next chapter. The biggest surprise for me came after I’d finished and saw an ad for the sequel in the back. Sure, the book leaves plenty of room for one (we’re about to settle a new planet for crying out loud), but everything felt wrapped up to me. You’ll probably want to put the sequel on your to-read list when it comes out, but if you’re not a series reader this book provides a complete story all by itself.

Find out more about The Ark here.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Retrospective

I did it, I won NaNoWriMo this year! I believe reflection is a part of good practice, so here it is, a look back on NaNoWriMo 2015.

First, let’s look at the numbers. I started writing on November 1st, and met my 50,000 word goal on the 28th. I continued to log my word count after that, but I’m just going to focus on the 28 days leading up to victory.

Par for a day in NaNoWriMo is 1667 words. Based on that, I made or exceeded par 22/28 days, or 79% of the time. I wrote 2000 words or more on 12 days, and one day I wrote more than double the par for that day. This was the last day, and I was pushing hard for the finish.

Most importantly, I had only 1 zero word day in those 28 days. That’s phenomenal. That means I was writing at least something 96% of the time. I had 3 days in which I wrote less than 1000 words, one of which was the zero word day. This leads me to believe that a 1000 word/day goal in general is reasonable for me.

Outside of the numbers, how did I feel? If you look, I had a solid wall of 2000+ word days in the beginning, which was very stressful but ultimately worth it. I really feel that I had to start out strong in order to get the momentum that carried me through the dreaded middle. The stress was worse at the beginning. Once I broke 25k everything got a lot easier. I don’t know if I just felt that it was an achievable goal once I was halfway there or if my body had gotten used to the stress, but after 25k everything clicked.

Interestingly enough, coming off NaNoWriMo, I set a goal of 1000 words a day for December to finish my first draft, and I had a hard time stopping at 1000. Even if I’d met my goal and was at a good stopping point, I felt a nagging feeling at the back of my head, like I had left important work undone. After a few days, I’ve settled into a comfortable 1000-1200 words per day, and I think that’s a good pace, especially around the holidays.

Overall, this was a success, and a process I think I’m going to emulate going forward. I’m just not the kind of person that can write a little here and a little there when it comes to a longer work. I need that short, sustained momentum to get the words on paper. To generate the clay I’m going to make my sculpture with. Plus, two months to a first draft is too tempting to pass up.

So, what’s next? I’m at 62,000 on the current draft, and based on where I am in the story, I think it’s going to come in at 70k. Then it’s going to need serious rewrites – I improv wrote this on a whim and major changes need to be made. Once I’m done adding material, I think we’ll be around 80-90k, a respectable length for a low-magic fantasy story. (I want to call this dark fantasy, or romance, or borderline horror, but I’m just not sure where it falls genre-wise yet).

And when it’s ready? I start sending it out. I’d like to sell this to trad publishers before I self publish (I have an urban fantasy series in my to-write queue that I think will make a nice self-publishing venture), but if I can’t in the traditional way, I may very well go the Kindle route.

In general, I don’t know what happened in the last two years, but something just clicked, and now I’m confident that I can write and publish a novel. 2016 is going to be a pretty bad-ass year, so stay tuned!