My Life This August: In Which I Finish My Fellowship, Work, Edit, and Gear Up for School

Hello! I can’t believe it’s the last Saturday of August already. I’ve been blogging for six months! Where does the time go?

This month has been pretty routine. Halfway through, I finished up the research fellowship I started back in May. It’s hard to believe I’ve got a summer of full-time genetics research under my belt already, and I’m looking forward to going back to it in the fall to finish up my projects!

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been working my other job and trying to edit Windsong in between. I wanted to finish before the 29th (which is when school starts up for me), but at this point, that looks doubtful, due to lots of work and having to write a final report for my fellowship. So I guess I’ll continue to pick at it while I’m in school, if I can.

On that note, much of my time has been spent gearing up to start school again. For those who don’t know, I am going to be a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire this year. I live close enough that I can commute and not have to spend the extra money to live there.

Image result for university of new hampshire
A view of Thompson Hall at UNH. (Image not mine)

This upcoming semester, I am taking four classes: Introductory Physics I, Organic Chemistry I, Principles of Genetics, and Biotechnology and Society. To be honest, I’m probably most excited about Biotech and Society, with genetics a close second, since I am a genetics major and considering work in the agricultural biotech industry. Physics is required to graduate, so I’m getting it out of the way now. And organic chemistry . . . well, let’s just say that’s what people complain about if they’re going to complain about pre-med requirements. (I’m not pre-med, but I’ve met a lot of people who are, so.)

I’ve already bought three of my textbooks (for genetics and organic chem–its lab has a textbook all to itself), and received one, my genetics book. It’s a shiny new hardcover, which is really cool. 🙂 And I’ve already started reading it, and it promises to be quite interesting. I’ve also bought other school supplies, like my five-subject notebook for the semester and highlighters and stuff. (And my parking permit, because I commute.) I am all set to go back on Monday the 29th!

What about you? Are you going back to school soon? Are any of you out there fellow college students? Any STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students or prospective students? (Shout out to you all, especially if you’re also writers! It’s a weird life sometimes, but fun.) What did you do this month? Any writing or editing? Working? Tell me in the comments!

Advertisements

What I’m Reading: Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

Hello, all! It’s the third Saturday of the month, which means I am writing about what I’m reading. More properly, today, what I read a month and a half ago. I am an avid reader of K.M. Weiland’s blog Helping Writers Become Authors, which you should go check out for helpful writing advice as soon as you’ve finished this post, so I put her fantasy book Dreamlander on my reading list and got it for my birthday. I read it in less than a week and absolutely loved it. So since I already had last month’s review lined up, here is Dreamlander‘s review today!

 

 

The Story: Chris Redston, Chicago journalist, wakes up in another world after having strange dreams about a woman warning him not to come to her. He finds out that all humans actually live in two worlds: Earth and Lael. When they are asleep in one world, they are awake in the other, living another life, but believe they are dreaming.

Chris is the Gifted, one in a generation who crosses between the worlds, and can bring things with him. Before being properly instructed in this power, he brings across a warlike leader, Faolan Mactalde, who died in Lael years before, resurrecting him in Lael–and causing the worlds to start breaking apart. Now, Chris must do all he can to defeat Mactalde and restore the balance of the worlds.

I loved this story! The conception of the two worlds and the nature of dreams was so original. There was a lot of politics going on in Lael, as well, and I loved how Weiland wove happenings in the two worlds together. I would like to say more here, but it really falls into the next two sections, so just read on.

The Characters: Weiland really hits character arcs on the head. I loved watching Chris grow into a leader, and watching the Searcher, Allara Katadin, grow with him. Chris was my favorite character, since he was just so relatable and fun to watch and an all-around nice guy, but there were many other great characters: Orias Tarn, Captain Quinnon, Pitch and Raz (the Riever comic-relief duo), Allara, Mike, and even Mactalde. All were quite compelling; only Allara’s characterization might have felt a little forced.

The Writing: So . . . K.M. Weiland is an amazing writer. It was awesome to see all her wise advice about story structure and character arcs and common writing mistakes written into a novel. Dreamlander is one of the best-written books I have ever read. The pacing was superb, the prose excellent, and the plot intriguing and suspenseful.

The worldbuilding was also fantastic. I really loved the uniqueness of Lael. It was sort of a medieval fantasy world with a steampunk vibe. I mean, hydraulic pistols, skycars, swords, and castles? Yes, please. It gave the air of an evolving world, not one in unnecessary stasis, especially when Chris brings over an Earth pistol to fight with (one that gives him more than one shot at a time) and Quinnon mentions how he’ll have to start giving those to his men, or something to that effect. It was just fantastic to read.

Overall: I loved this book. Five stars!

Have you ever read Dreamlander? Do you think you’ll try it now? (Do, please, I highly recommend it.) Do you like fantasy worlds that are evolving, and not in stasis? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

Beautiful People August 2016

Hi, folks! It’s August already, which means it’s time for another Beautiful People post. What is Beautiful People, you ask? It’s a link-up put out by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. They make up ten questions once a month, and we writers answer them for our characters. The whole point is to get to know our characters better.

This month’s Beautiful People is the appearance edition. My most distinctive character in Windsong (which you can read more about here if you want) is the protagonist, Crow. I already did Beautiful People for him once, but he’s my favorite, so he was bound to come up again anyway. I have also found a new photo for him (see below).

Crow:
Being a medieval fantasy character, he is not this modern-looking. There is also a major feature missing here, which I’ll get to in a minute.

 

1. Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

(See above photo and read on!) Crow has black hair, dark gray eyes, and tanned skin from several years outside. He also has a number of scars from his traumatic past as a slave. The most prominent is a reddish one that extends from his right temple down his cheek, neck, and the right side of his chest, a permanent reminder of the wound that nearly killed him.

2. Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

“What happened here?” she [Krina] whispered.

“I don’t know.”

She looked up. A young man stepped out of the river. His black hair was slicked to his forehead, and his soaked clothes stuck to his wiry body. He carried a sword; its point dragged on the ground behind him. He lifted it and held it in front of him, staring at her with dark gray eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked.

(Sorry about the font difference; it doesn’t seem to have merged when I copied it from Scrivener.)

3. What is the first thing people might notice about them?

The scar. Also the perpetual intense look in his eyes.

4. What are their unique features? (Ex.: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

Well, in addition to the scar mentioned quite a lot above, he, er . . . has other scars. There are scars all down his back, arms, and shoulders from where he’s been whipped. Basically, I’ve tortured him a lot.

5. How tall are they? What is their build? (Ex.: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

He’s about 5’6″ at the start of the book, at age sixteen. Apparently above, I described him as wiry, but that’s really not right. Crow is more of a stocky, muscular type.

6. What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

I’ve never really thought about this, but I’ve always pictured him standing up straight. He likes to look down at as many people as he can.

7. Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Well, he looks rumpled, because he’s sleeping or just woke up from sleeping (usual routine is hunting in the forest by himself), but he’s wearing the same thing as ever: dirty, worn-out shirt and pants, things he’s snuck in and taken from the nearby seacoast village.

8. Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Not really. During the story, he picks up a sword, and he also carries a small knife and a bow.

9. Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

Not so much because of his looks, but the slavedrivers certainly bullied him anyway, and younger slaves were sometimes a little nervous around him because of his scar.

10. Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

He’s not particularly happy about being scarred (once he starts thinking about it, he decides it makes him ugly), but he feels it’s a part of him. (Of course, though, he would love to go back and never be a slave in the first place, and change his looks that way.)

That’s it for today! Come back next month for another Beautiful People post!

Did you do Beautiful People this month? (Post your link in the comments if you have!) If you haven’t done it before, do you think you’ll try it now? Tell me in the comments!

Are Allergies Genetic? (Said the Science Nerd)

Yes, yes, on second Saturdays of the month, everything I say is from science-nerd mode, isn’t it? Specifically biology-nerd mode. I suppose that’s what happens when one is a genetics student.

Really, though, a couple of things influenced me to ask myself this question. Number one, I am a genetics student; therefore, I am curious about genetics. Number two, I have allergies, as does everyone else in my family. We’ve been sneezing off the hook for about three months now. I am mostly allergic to pollen (a real letdown for a plant lover), but people in my family are allergic to all sorts of things: horses, corn, sheep, hazelnuts, cats, you name it. So I wondered: are allergies genetic?

I asked Google that question, and it was kind enough to direct me to this interesting article, which not only answered my original question, but added more to the answer. It turns out that allergies are genetic, passed from parent to child. They are also sex-related; for example, girls are more predisposed to have allergies if their mothers also have allergies, and vice versa for boys.

Another article points out that there are different kinds of “allergic diseases,” including eczema and asthma as well as hay fever (pollen allergy). And, like anything else, allergies are influenced by environmental factors, including air pollution, chemicals, and types of animals and plants in the area, as well as by genetics. (See this abstract for more.)

Well, this turned out to be a short post. There are some quick facts about allergy genetics for you!

What do you think? Do you have allergies or something similar, like asthma? If so, do your family members have it, too, and have you ever wondered whether it was genetic? Tell me in the comments!

Book Quote 6: Dreamlander

 

“You find Lael a disgruntled country, and sometimes disgruntled people believe whoever shouts the loudest.”

Hello! I read Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland last month after receiving it for my birthday, and this was one of the quotes that really stuck out at me. As usual for the first Saturday of the month, let’s analyze it!

1. It’s memorable. As soon as I read this, I thought, “Wow, what a great quote.” It’s short, but still packs a punch. Sometimes, what sticks with a reader is not long, flowing passages of prose, but short quotes that are, well, quotable. This quote comes early on in the book to describe one of the political factions that winds up playing a major role later on, so its memorability only aids in foreshadowing.

2. It’s relevant. The other thing I thought as soon as I read this was, “So true.” I won’t give names, but America’s political scene today shows us the very truth of this quote. It’s always interesting when books speak to current events, even accidentally (Dreamlander was published four years ago). It’s good to express your opinion as the author without being too overt.

I really enjoyed this book. Come back in a couple weeks for my full review!

What do you think? Have you read Dreamlander? Do you like this quote? What do you think of political opinions in fiction? Tell me in the comments!