Keeping An Eye Out

The husband and I just arrived back in town from our brief visit to Orlando and the Food and Wine Festival. If you’d like to see my Twitter thread of the foods we tasted and our time there, click here and you can scroll through.

I’m currently reading four books at once, which means I’m going to have a bunch of reviews all at once pretty soon, but also that I’m not moving through any one of them particularly quickly. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m reading and how far through I am, my profile on Goodreads will show you what I’m working on, and you can access my past reviews.

If you have a reading tracker that you use that you prefer over Goodreads, leave a comment with the program you use and I would love to check it out. Making my reviews more accessible to you on the platform you use would be a delight.

This week I’m gonna be on what I talked about last week, eating healthier meals and heading to the gym two days a week, writing in the evenings. I’ll be posting on Twitter to hold myself accountable, so follow me there if you’d like to hold me accountable too. I even have my spooky handle up: Angry Angel BOO!ks 🙂 LOL.

Have a great week. I’ll have those reviews up soon. Thanks for being a part of all of this. Thanks for being here.

Food and Wine Festival

Food and Wine

I love food. Food doesn’t always love me back, but eating good food is definitely a favorite pastime of mine. Once a year we try to go to the famous Bern’s Steakhouse for an excellent steak dinner with exceptional service. To have amazing food and a waiter that knows his shit makes you feel cared for and comfortable and I can’t recommend it enough.

The last time we went to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was back in 2013, and let me tell you something it is crazy bananas. If you’ve never been to Epcot before, it’s one of the four parks that make up Disney World in Orlando, and it’s set up in two sections: “Future World” and the “Around the World Showcase.”

(Click on the map to make it bigger.)

Epcot Map.jpg

That big ring around the lake on the map moves you from Canada to England to France and so on until you’ve visited several different countries. Each offers quick eats, sit down meals, or fancy sit down meals that you have to be sure to get reservations for. But during the food and wine festival these countries put out even quicker eats than their usual stands, and you walk up and get a gourmet offering.

The cornerstone countries aren’t even the only ones. Special booths and tents get set up all around the World Showcase to offer small food plates from other countries: Ireland, Australia, Belgium, among others. If you want to see all the special offerings, both drink and food, click here and scroll down. Click on the “read more” for each section to see any drinks and food they will have out for purchase.

Personally I am excited for Australia, the Belgian Waffles, the crispy pork belly that will be at the Brazil booth, and who could resist the bratwurst on a pretzel roll in Germany? My plan during my lunch tomorrow is to copy paste these lists into a single Word document and print it out so the husband and I can mark down what we want to taste most so we don’t forget anything. We have to make the most of our time, because we can’t be sure when we’ll be back.

We’re also taking advantage of a Florida resident special on tickets, otherwise we couldn’t go at all. I’ll be posting updates and pictures of the park and the food on Twitter, so if you haven’t followed me there yet, please do. You won’t want to miss out on the pictures.

I’ll have some more reviews up next week, a non-fiction memoir/cautionary tale as well as the finale to the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton, Hero at the Fall (#3). I’ll also have an update on my book with (possibly) a snippet! Until then I’ll be trying to recover from this late summer cold that tried to murder me in the face, eating delicious food, and sleeping whenever I get the chance. Have a great weekend, angels. Thanks for being here.

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)

The Beauty of Darkness

The Kiss of Deception (#1)
The Heart of Betrayal (#2)

I have terrible news.

This book is SEVEN. HUNDRED. PAGES. LONG.

But that’s not all. I put it down at page 369.

I cannot remember a trilogy I have attempted to read that has begun so intensely yet left me uncaring enough to leave it unfinished. I don’t even know what to say. I’m so disappointed.

Rafe and his band of merry men have helped Princess Arabella escape from Venda, but they have also escaped with the knowledge that the Komizar has an army 150,000 strong and is planning to march on the other kingdoms. Kaden and Griz catch up to them and are taken prisoner, only to be freed to help them fight off a band of Rahtan sent by the Komizar to kill them all. They escape and make it to a Dalbreck outpost, where Rafe discovers that both his parents have died in his absence, leaving him as the new King.

Lia still needs to press on to Morrighan. She sees it as her duty to save her parents and to uncover the snakes in her father’s cabinet and in the Royal Scholar’s employ. Rafe insists that she not go, to the point that he has her under guard everywhere they go at the outpost. This eats at their relationship until Rafe decides he has no choice but to let her go. So she and Kaden and another person that isn’t important right now end up getting into Civica (the city outside the castle) after a brief stop in Terravin, the city she ran away to in the first book.

We see Rafe fighting battles to maintain his control over Dalbreck and Lia trying to stay alive long enough to uncover the traitors in Morrighan and Kaden continues to pine for her to no avail and…well…I just realized that I don’t care how this ends.

Lia’s character arc ended at the end of the second book. If anything, in this third book she goes past the strong, independent female lead into the bitchy, drunk with her own independence, jerk character. I mean, she’s really shitty to everybody through almost page 400 and part of why I stopped is that I discovered I wasn’t rooting for her anymore. I didn’t care if she lived or died. All the tension surrounding her success was completely gone for me.

I loved Rafe as a character. He had the same misgivings Lia did about their marriage but, under the cover of a false identity, he came to love her for who she was and I wanted to see that love story continue and work through their differences. But I’m not gonna read about them whining at each other for 300 pages and wait another 200 more before they even see each other again. That’s not fair to set up that kind of love story and then just kill it in the third book.

Oh and this gift she has – oh boy do I not care even a little about it. It’s like it’s just her gut talking to her about what she should beware of, a little warning system that’s like an overactive conscience. I was nosey and looked at how the book ends and BARF. No thank you. To give me this turd of a third book and then Deus Ex Machina the battle scene with her up-until-this-point pointless gift? Nah.

Also, for a girl who escaped to find her own destiny, she sure lets holy texts determine her every move, breath, and thought. I did not expect that this would be an independent woman turned religious fanatic trilogy but I am not the one for that nonsense.

I mean, I’m glad I read the first book because it was such a ride, but this would have worked just as well as a duology: make the second book a little longer and detail their escape and return to Dalbreck. They make sure his throne is secure and then move as a united front to defend Morrighan. There’s a kind of Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies moment where kind of enemies come together to fight the larger evil, and then all is well in the end. I don’t know, I don’t usually say how a book should have been written but this third book was just about as unnecessary as that fourth Hobbit movie.

Back to the library it goes. If you’re a completionist then please finish this third book and let me know what you think, but for me it’s a no go. I have other things waiting to be read.

Story Genius

Story Genius

In the process of writing my book I have been working my way through several craft books a.k.a. How-To books meant to help you outline, structure, and write your characters, plot, and overall novel. Stephen King’s On Writing was the first one I read, and it spurred me on to begin what is now 61,000 words strong. The next book I opened was Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, and while very different from King’s how-to, it has been just as useful in helping me craft my story.

Cron focuses on what she calls a third rail – the central idea of the book which is the main character’s big problem or misunderstanding of life. This is the why behind all of his or her actions, and should spark all decisions leading up to the major aha! moment, which is when he or she sees past her misbelief and sees clearly for the first time. Every scene included in the book, Cron writes, should touch this misbelief/resolution in some way to make sure the reader has a clear connection to why everything is happening.

A common complaint I have with the books that I ultimately set aside is that I stopped caring about the outcome. You’ll read a review later this week of a book that I set aside not because I was bored, but because I just didn’t care how it ended. Cron explains that a book should not just be a run down of what’s happening, it should also always be evident why those events are important, from something as simple as going to the grocery store to something as complex as a huge multi-army battle. This really spoke to me so I ate up all her advice about making sure I constantly ask why something is happening.

In partnership with the why is the how you communicate the why to the reader. It seems really simple, but something should happen, which causes the character to act, and that action causes something else to happen, which sparks yet another action. Everything should be connected, and if everything is connected then everything will speak back to the why behind the main character’s story. Just because something is well-written doesn’t mean it should be in the book. The reader isn’t reading for beautiful writing, they are reading for a good story that helps their mind escape.

The part of the book that I read quickly through but plan to come back to later were the last 3-4 chapters covering her organizational method for outlining, planning, and keeping track of the internal workings of individual scenes and the novel as a whole. Folders and scene cards and character cards – if I had read this book before I started writing I probably would have gotten caught up in the organization of it all and written very little. I probably would have gotten very frustrated with myself and maybe not have written anything at all, convinced that I’m not smart enough or whatever.

Once this first draft is done, though, this system will be very helpful in revising and rewriting. I can fill these scene cards and character info pages and world rules lists as I reread through my manuscript, and then I can rearrange those details as I need to. I am glad I wrote from my mind first and will organize second. This book will be right next to me once I’m ready (hopefully Halloween, fingers crossed!).

For someone who is just starting out and excited, I’m not sure if I would recommend this book as one of the first ones to read. It’s pretty full of “you musts” and “if you want to write a good story you have tos” and I found that a little…I don’t know, aggressive and discouraging? I mean, if a person hasn’t done a lot of writing in other areas I might, just to make sure they understand how to structure a novel. But if you read a lot and write a lot, you’re probably okay getting started and coming back to this book when you need some motivation or guidance when you get stuck.

It’s got a lot of great advice though, and so as long as you listen to all of it and take what you need, it’s a great book to have on your shelf if you’re plugging away at your own book! Go get you some.

Storm Surge

This was one of the most difficult weeks I’ve gone through this year. It felt a million years long, had several not-so-great events, and toward the end I began to develop a whopper of a head cold (which I am dealing with today and hoping to have shaken off by Monday). I’m exhausted, I’m sick, and I’m still behind in my work despite having requested (and received!) a planning day this past Monday to attempt to catch up.

It’s just not enough. I’m doing 2-4 times as much work as teachers who teach only one or two “preps” (subjects, e.g. Algebra 1 and Geometry) but I have the same amount of time to plan. I’m doing my best, but this planning on top of the difficulty level of the topics I teach and the grading that results is really weighing me down. It was a worry I had when deciding whether I would accept this position, and it turns out my fears were well founded.

Unfortunately this has led me to break a personal rule that I have set for myself since day one of teaching – I am going to have to start planning for a small segment of time on the weekend days. If I don’t, I’m going to go crazy from stress and being overworked. I’m going to get sick more often. And right now I’m not writing anything on my book or going to the gym, two things that were contributing to my physical and mental health over the summer and are sorely needed now.

So I’m going to plan for the upcoming week on the weekend: two preps on Saturday and two of them on Sunday. This means I can leave my planning periods and after-school contract time for grading only, something I have been consistently falling behind in favor of planning my instruction.

Mondays and Wednesdays I don’t have meetings, so I’m planning to leave around 2:30 to get to the gym before 3:15 so I can spend about an hour there doing cardio and strength training. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have meetings so I’ll grade at the meetings and leave at 3:00pm to come straight home. Eventually, if this routine works, these will become gym days too. Fridays will probably also become gym days but I want to give this routine a chance first and I don’t want to tucker myself out going from nothing to EVERY DAY.

I figured out that to hit 100,000 words I have to write 850 words every day between now and Halloween. Tbh, once I get going I usually write more than that, but the trick here is to make sure I have the time and the energy to actually open up the document and add stuff. So every week day I’m going to shut myself in my office at 5pm and write for no more than one hour. Usually the husband gets home around 5:30/6 from his trip to the gym, so I’ll have the solitude for writing. On the weekends I’m going to go in around 10am with a cup of coffee to get the job done. This first draft is SO CLOSE to being done and I know what I want to happen so LET’S DO THIS.

On top of the exercising and writing, I have been trying to eat better so I also want to get back to tracking my intake on MyFitnessPal. My sodium and sugar intakes are things I keep an eye on because I am sensitive to those, but overall I use the site to be sure I’m balancing my diet well.

I am hoping that by spreading my work into the weekend it will make living my normal life during the week more enjoyable. Next year won’t be like this. I’ll have my plans organized to be reused and I’ll only need to worry about keeping up with grading. But for this year, and this year only, I have to invest extra time or I’m going to lose it. I’m gonna get sick and depressed and fatter and more uncomfortable just to stick to these resolutions that are justifiable, but not tenable in my current situation.

If you are interested in hearing more about how teachers are overworked AND underpaid, check out this week’s TIME magazine cover series on teachers in America.

Rock You Like A Hurricane 2018

A year ago today I was in the process of surviving Hurricane Irma.

Rock You Like A Hurricane

Hurricane Irma: The Aftermath

Angry Angel Anxiety – Hurricane Update

This year another catastrophic hurricane barrels toward the US East Coast, this time to devastate the Carolinas, and I find myself thinking about what I would do differently this year if I was facing another disaster.

Google “Hurricane Kit” and you’ll find the typical suggestions – batteries, gas, canned food, water – but there are some things that you only find out once you’ve been through the wind, rain, and terror. Let’s go over some of the things I learned last year that I wish I had known beforehand.

Air Conditioning. Oh god if you want to torture state secrets out of me keep me in a balls hot house for a week and deprive me of sleep because I can’t sleep because it’s too hot. We did buy small, battery powered fans ahead of time but they were just a small drop in the ocean of heat and suffering, and toward the end of the week the grocery store had ice in stock again so we tried to sleep huddled around a bag of ice in a tupperware. I swore last year that I was going to buy a generator before the next hurricane season, and I did, and we’re also going to get a small AC unit at the next paycheck so we won’t have to worry about that again.

Wifi: THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT – Without wifi we were using the data plan on our cell phone plan. Luckily Verizon Wireless forgave all overage fees for anyone in the affected areas. We would have paid over $100 in overage fees for that week alone if they hadn’t put that policy into place. Make sure you check with your cell phone provider to make sure they would enact similar policies. If not, make plans for entertainment that do not involve cell phone service because it adds up really fast.

I cannot tell you why but we did not have a battery powered radio. Last year for Christmas I asked for this emergency radio that runs on solar, crank, and battery power, and last spring I bought this CD Player. My suggestion is to find things that run on C batteries because hardly anything does and the AAs and the D batteries go first in a panic. So this year if we face another hurricane, we’ll be able to listen to broadcasts on a radio running on batteries instead of on a radio app on a phone that might be needed in an emergency. Also we have tons of CDs and comedy albums that we could play to keep us occupied. It gets REALLY quiet when there’s nothing on.

FOOD: All the lists tell you to get canned food but be smart about what canned food you get. Some suggestions I would make in addition to canned soups or chilis or tuna or what have you are crackers, peanut butter, bread, that weird Goober pb/jelly combo that doesn’t require refrigeration, dry milk (you can combine it with water and use it with cereal), and fresh fruit. If you have a generator you can run a LOOOOONG extenstion cord inside to run things like a coffeemaker or a low wattage microwave or even a hotplate so having a few of those cheap things you used to hide in your dorm room in college wouldn’t hurt either. Also if you have a grill have the tools you would need to use it to cook with, and also consider getting camping cookware so you don’t damage your kitchen cookware using it on the grill. YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT HOT FOOD ANYWAY so stock up on things that are good cold or room temperature.

Something you might have to do is hide in a closet or a hallway or a bathroom to escape any damage winds might cause or possible tornadoes. A few suggestions here: Have a couple of twin air mattresses in your linen cabinet so you don’t have to sit on the hard ground. Also, in addition to your flashlights, have smaller book lights that clip onto things to free up your hands, and you can also get little clicking lights to help light the way down hallways, up stairs, or in dark rooms. These clicking lights run on AAA batteries and have long lives, so you could leave them on for longer than a flashlight.

Returning to the idea that it might be too hot to sleep I highly recommend ZzzQuil, from the makers of NyQuil. It helps me fall asleep and it probably would have come in handy last year to get me to sleep despite the heat. Whatever sleep aid you prefer is fine too, but you’ll want to be stocked up on that in case you have to go a while without air.

The luckiest part about last year was that we had tap water. If you run on well water, or your county/city water gets messed up god help you. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t take a shower, albeit a freezing cold one since the water heater wasn’t on, or drink from the tap. We had bottled water ready to go, but it was such a weight off our backs to not have to worry about that part of the entire experience. HOWEVER I STRONGLY suggest buying water enhancer drops or flavor powder for your bottled water to give it a little flavor and kick when cold sodas and other flavored beverages are out of commission.

That’s most of the stuff I wish I had known last year, and any other suggestions will be on your run-of-the-mill hurricane kit list. The downside of this is that all these supplies cost money and none of this takes into account what you should have if you are ordered to evacuate. We have four pets and I can’t even imagine what that would be like. We have family across the state so at least we would have somewhere to go that wasn’t a crowded shelter or a hotel. I had to save up for a generator, and the radios and other things came slowly in the off season. We get a pack of batteries of some flavor every third grocery trip or so. A good hurricane kit is impossible to make all at once in the moment of an emergency – supplies will be scarce, and even if they aren’t it’s cost prohibitive to create some of the more important pieces of the kit. Last year getting things for that hurricane ruined us financially for MONTHS. I don’t think we were fully whole again until like February, and even then it was a balancing act.

If you are a reader of AAB and you are in the path of this hurricane please stay safe. Follow evacuation orders. Keep all human and fur babies safe and make sure you have food and water and prescriptions for everyone. Make sure you have everyone’s important documents in one place, and bring a book or two to read. Then, if you have to, get the fuck out of there. This is going to be a catastrophe.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Stay safe.

 

Vicious (Villains #1)

Vicious

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)

V.E. Schwab is an absolute delight on Twitter. Following her brings me publishing info, random trivia, and delightful animal pictures and travel anecdotes. I read the first book in one of her other trilogies a while ago and my experience there echoed my experience of Vicious, the first in her Villains series.

Schwab’s style is very much like a cartoon bomb with a very long fuse that is lit from a far distance and the only thing we get to see is the slow progression of the lit end as it eats away at the fuse, moving towards the large explosion at the end. We’re not allowed to see where the explosion will happen or how big it might be. She expects us to be interested in the little things and to follow along, trusting that something huge will come at the end.

I see why steady fans are absolutely rabid for her. She respects the patience and intelligence of her readers and writes for the story and not necessarily for flashy chapters. I found myself having to ration my patience, motivate myself to read just one more chapter, because previous experience has shown me that Schwab doesn’t disappoint, she just makes you wait for it.

This style of writing and my understanding of it kept me reading this book, but it also kept me away from the sequels to A Darker Shade of Magic. When I have more time, maybe over the summer or someday when I can take time away from teaching, I can give more of my patience to smart, slow, fireworks finale books like this. Unfortunately I need a little more than what these books have to give to keep me reading and consistently enjoying what I read. I almost put this book away three times (I bought it on a $2.99 Kindle deal) but I had to continually remind myself to keep going because my time would pay off.

The story centers around Eli and Victor. They are students who decide to study EOs (ExtraOrdinary people) for their scientific theses. In the process of researching how EOs are created, Eli posits that near death episodes (NDEs) create a situation where the person comes back, but with powers that mirror their final thoughts or desires just before “death.” They decide to try to make each other an EO by overseeing conditions that cause one and then the other to die and then be brought back to life. Their experiments are successful, and the consequences for themselves and the people they love end up being more than they bargained for.

The book leads us through their present day movements and flash backs to their past relationship to illustrate how Eli and Victor become enemies, and their slow progression to a face off fueled by revenge and self-righteousness. Each man has gathered other EOs to their side and are using their abilities to achieve their respective goals, which are to eliminate each other. The clock ticks the hours, then the minutes by leading up to their confrontation. (The grammar of this paragraph is horrid, I know. Just know it’s a race to see who kills who first.)

The follow up to this book, Vengeful, is coming out on September 25th, so you have time to read through Vicious before its release to get caught up. My only suggestion is that you start now because you’ll want to read Vicious in bites – read too long and you will feel bored and want to set it aside – so you make it through the entire thing and get to enjoy the ending. I myself won’t be moving on to Vengeful. I’ve had my fill of these books and don’t want to have to “homework assignment” myself through another one. But they are smart and have great endings, so if you like those kinds of books, definitely go get you some. I think I’ve learned that they just aren’t for me.