Book Review! “A Brother’s Price”

I thought it’d be fun to do some reviews of books that have inspired me. One of my absolute favorite stand-alone novels is A Brother’s Price, by Wen Spencer. It really helped keep me going on my current manuscript, even though Somnolence is very different in style and setting. I think what really did it was just the fact that this book gleefully disregards all of the rigid norms that govern gender roles and relationships in western society, and I dig that. I love that this author just went for it, and made a really sweet and engaging story at the same time.

A Brother’s Price is set in a world where men are vastly outnumbered by women. It’s kind of a steampunk wild west type setting, and all the cowboys are badass women. Because the men are so few, they’re incredibly valuable and vulnerable to being snatched, so they have to be protected. This means a complete reversal of conventional gender roles. Our main character, Jerin, is a young man who has reached the age at which men generally marry. The title comes in because the husband price is a huge aspect of marriage in this world, and because the man’s sisters generally decide who he marries and make the arrangements.

Jerin’s huge family of sisters is pretty cute, and he’s a sweetie. I love reading about a man who is not just allowed, but encouraged, to be pretty and gentle and nurturing. Adventures ensue when he falls for a dashing lady, and she for him, but of course, it’s never that easy.

It is also one of the few good polyamorous love stories I’ve ever read. Men in Spencer’s world generally have a bunch of wives, but not at all in the way that polygamy usually entails. If you’re into, or at least tolerant of, loving more than one person at a time, you may really love this book.

Content warnings: rape, emotional abuse, mentions of incest, much fighting and some gory violence. Think wild west, but without the really offensive native american tropes. I don’t remember much explicit racial diversity, unfortunately. Everybody is pretty white.

Another New Year

I spent New Year’s Eve celebrating with my family in California, although the traditional cucumber and salmon sandwiches were a bit beyond my reach. I’m the screen in the middle.

I’m going to do my damnedest to get Somnolence published this year.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. A growing number of people who are smarter than I have argued that they’re not the best way to change habits or set goals. Sharing a resolution can actually make people less likely to accomplish it, because it gives a false sense of progress or completion. Just talking about it tricks the brain into thinking the work is already being done. If you’re interested, here’s a link to a short Ted Talk on the subject.

That said, it’s not always that simple. In this case, posting and talking about my work is an actual required step towards the completion of my goal. I’m just going to have to keep the phenomenon in mind, because I tend to procrastinate till the last minute on projects, and a novel just isn’t something you can hammer out the night before it’s due.

I suspect, just from what I HAVE seen so far of the process, that I am taking on something much bigger than I know. I’m going to hit snags, and things will always take longer than I expect because I’m a really unrealistic optimist. I finished my (very) rough draft last New Year’s Eve. Yeah, I actually did the last chunk of work the night before it was due. In my defense, it did get done.

Over the past year, I spent a lot of time editing, but in a rather haphazard fashion. This year, I’m going to have to be a lot more disciplined to get where I want to be.

Word Count Again, Because I Got a Little Lost.

It’s up to about 64,000 words, now. I’ve stopped trying to rearrange in little chunks and have just started rewriting the whole thing from top to bottom, filling in description and background as I go. I’ve read that this has to be done a number of times before a manuscript develops any kind of polish, so I’m plowing through. It’s surprisingly meditative and peaceful. Scrivener makes it nice and easy to place two documents next to each other and just go, which means I’m mostly copying, except in places where major tweaks are needed.

I’m also enjoying one of those brief shining moments where I don’t think my work completely sucks, as I’m reading through it. It won’t last, but those are always pleasant.

Word Count

Even though it isn’t super practical to measure progress by word count, it’s still pretty satisfying to check it occasionally. Last I checked, at the beginning of December, it was at about 57,000.

I’m definitely an underwriter. I tend to skimp on setting and background in my early drafts, unlike a lot of writers who get absolutely lost in the world building aspect of the process. I’m a bit jealous of these people, but it means that my editing process involves adding a lot of new content rather than mostly deleting the dead-weight, although there’s a lot of that as well. It’s all new to me, still, so I’m learning a lot about the process as I go.

The Pomodoro Technique

I’ve been trying out the Pomodoro Technique for productivity. It’s interesting, although I’m finding that the 25 minute working periods are a bit too short for me. I tend to work through my short breaks because they seem too small to bother with, and I’m usually engrossed in whatever’s in front of me by the time I’ve spent 25 minutes on it. It is handy, though. It makes big tasks seem less intimidating to tackle, since I know that if I need it, I can take a break in a short while. Setting a timer works well as a way to dive in and get past that initial resistance.

I’ve also been doing some interesting research about European feudal societies. It’s… Very dirty. So much dirt. It seriously brings to mind that Monty Python bit about the peasants farming muck. More on that, later.