March 11, 2023

Why ChatGPT won't be writing my books

ChatGPT is all the rage these days. In a nutshell, it is an AI chatbot that has been trained and can be trained on any library of existing text. As a result, it learns how humans write and can imitate that writing. Since its introduction, we've seen a growing number of books written by ChatGPT or through the aid of ChatGPT. In some cases, the situation has gotten so out of hand that magazines such as Clarkesworld have stopped accepting new submissions due to the deluge of ChatGPT-written stories.

I won't dive into the moral and ethical ramifications of books written by AI. Instead, I want to let my readers know that none of my books will be written by ChatGPT. The reason for me is simple, and it's based on why I write in the first place. I don't write to make a lot of money (although I certainly won't complain if that ever comes to pass), nor do I write to see my name on book retailer shelves. I started writing and continue to write because I have stories I want to tell. They are my stories, and I want to tell them. That is what brings joy to my writing. If ChatGPT wrote a story for me, the story would be its story, not mine. I also won't get to derive the joy from writing it, which defeats the purpose of writing in the first place.

One day, writing may stop being fun for me, or I'll run out of stories I want to tell. If that should happen, I'd most likely stop completely rather than turn to an AI to write on my behalf. In the meantime, I'll continue to write my own stories because that's what brings me joy.

February 18, 2023

When you won't read a book because the cover is too scary

When I published the first two books in the After Z-Day series, one of my considerations was how the book covers should look. I wanted to convey the genre of the series (zombie apocalypse) in an immediate and obvious way, but I also didn't want covers that were too scary for someone who isn't a fan of zombies to be afraid to pick them up. 

The reason why that's important to me is that there are books I won't read because I'm too scared of the cover. For example, one of upcoming books that I'm seeing a lot of hype for is She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran. Something about the flowers coming out of the woman's mouth creeps me out, and I can't imagine wanting to hold that book or see the cover lying around the house. Other books that I won't read because of scary faces on the cover include Horrid by Katrina Leno and What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo. It's a shame because, based on the descriptions of these books, I might like them.

Even worse for me than creepy faces are insects and spiders. I have an irrational fear of them in real life, so I won't touch a book with them on the cover. This is unfortunate because John Dies at the End by David Wong is a book I really liked, but the second book in the series is called This Book is Full of Spiders with spiders on the cover. There are now four books published in the series, and while I can skip the second book, it's more likely that I won't read beyond book 1.

There are cases when I can tolerate an insect on the cover. For example, the cover of The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid was fine with me. Maybe because I find butterflies to be less scary unless I look too closely at them, or maybe it's because it's not a lifelike picture of a butterfly.

Which brings me back to my first point. I hope my covers for the After Z-Day series aren't too scary for readers. Moreover, the covers of the remaining books in the series will look similar. Hopefully, I manage to convey the genre effectively without scaring off potential readers.


January 28, 2023

2023 reading challenge - books to read before I die


I read a lot of great books in 2021 and 2022 as part of my Goodreads Choice Awards reading challenge, and I plan to continue reading finalists from last year's Goodreads Choice Awards. However, for 2023, I'm going to change the formal reading challenge that I track. 

As I get older, I'm thinking more and more about bucket lists. When it comes to reading, there are lots of lists of books to read before you die, and 2023 seems like as good a year as any to start plowing through the classics. The question is: which of the many lists to choose from?

I started with Peter Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. This appears to be the most referenced source when I searched for bucket list books. Not all books on the list are novels, and there are quite a few I've already read. That said, it still leaves a lot of books. 

Then I found this handy list, which categorizes the 1,001 books by time period. It helped me organize the reading challenge because what I've decided to do is to read one book a month from the list, using the following criteria:

  • 1 book from the 2000s
  • 5 books from the 1900s
  • 4 books from the 1800s
  • 1 book from the 1700s
  • 1 book from pre-1700s

Next, I looked through some other lists of books to read before you die, namely this, this, this, and this. My plan is to cross-reference Peter Boxall's list with other lists and select ones that appear multiple times. I already know that I'll read these three books because they appear on all of the lists:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

(That's right, I haven't read any of these books. Please don't judge.)

Given the number of books on the list, and that I'm only reading twelve of them in 2023, this sounds like a reading challenge I'll continue for many years to come, even if I don't formally track and report my progress.


January 1, 2023

Favorite reads of 2022

Happy 2023, everyone! Before 2022 recedes too far in the rearview mirror, I want to share my favorite reads from last year. Without further ado, here are my top ten:

1. Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson 
My Brandon Sanderson journey continues into 2022, and it shouldn't come as a big surprise that one of his books--albeit an older one--landed at the top of my list of favorite reads. (By the way, this is the second year in a row where my favorite read was by Brandon Sanderson.) Not only does Warbreaker contain fantastic world-building and magic systems that are a trademark of his books, but it has possibly my favorite Brandon Sanderson character of all time in Lightsong. As an added bonus, Warbreaker is a standalone novel (so far), so anyone who wants to be exposed to Sanderson's awesomeness can read it without committing to a series.

2. One Step Too Far - Lisa Gardner 
I've mentioned before that Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors, and her latest novel is further proof of her writing greatness. I admit that I wasn't too thrilled when I found out that her new release was a continuation of the Frankie Elkin series instead of returning to D.D. Warren (nothing against Frankie Elkin, but I miss D.D.), so I was pleasantly surprised when One Step Too Far invoked many of the joyous feelings from reading her best D.D. Warren books. There wasn't a dull moment in the novel, and while most of the story took place in the wilderness, she nailed the suspense associated with the remote location. I recommend this and several of her other books to any reader, whether or not you're a fan of thrillers.

3. The Inheritance Games - Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
This first book in the Inheritance Games series was fast-moving and fun to read. The best part of the book for me was following Avery as she tried to piece together the clues left behind by Tobias Hawthorne. I enjoyed the mystery, and I didn't figure it out until the book revealed the answer at the end. The Hawthorne boys were a bit too much like caricatures, but I liked Avery's character and rooted for her throughout.

4. The Hawthorne Legacy - Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
It was hard to choose whether to rank The Inheritance Games or The Hawthorne Legacy higher, so let's call it 3a and 3b. The second book in the Inheritance Games series, and also a nominee for the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards for Young Adult Fiction, was just as good as the first. Once again, I was drawn in by the mystery, most of which I didn't figure out until they were revealed. I can't wait to read the third book in this series.

5. Arcanum Unbounded - Brandon Sanderson 
Arcanum Unbounded was a gem that I didn't know existed until I came across the book in the library. This is a collection of shorter works by Brandon Sanderson that take place across the Cosmere. My favorite was "Mistborn: Secret History", which tells the story of the Mistborn series after Kelsier's death from a different point of view. It made me want to re-read the series to see how it all fits together. I recommend Arcanum Unbounded to any Brandon Sanderson fan.

6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Reid 
Despite the accolades, I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did because I'm not the type of person who enjoys reading about celebrities or memoirs. But Taylor Jenkins Reid wove such an intriguing story about the life of Evelyn Hugo that I was completely absorbed by everything that happened to her. The book took me on an emotional roller coaster, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of fiction, not the biography of a real person. 

7. My Imaginary Mary - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows 
One series that has yet to let me down are the YA novels by the Lady Janies, and My Imaginary Mary carries on the tradition of awesomeness.  With Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace as the protagonists, this book actually featured historical characters I knew something about, but as with all Lady Janies books, actual events are changed, leading to hilarious and happier results as compared to real life. Like the previous books, there were also many subtle, funny references in this one, and I wonder how many more I missed. I highly recommend My Imaginary Mary and all of the Lady Janies books.

8. The Kaiju Preservation Society - John Scalzi 
This was such a fun book to read that I breezed through it in a weekend. An action-packed Godzilla-meets-Jurassic-Park story, The Kaiju Preservation Society resonated with the boy inside me who watched too many Godzilla and Gamera movies as a kid. There was also a good amount of humor and deeper questions to ponder, so you don't have to be a kaiju fan to enjoy it.

9. The Rose Code - Kate Quinn 
This Goodreads Choice Award finalist for Historical Fiction was a great blend of intriguing plotlines and interesting characters within a setting that I've wanted to learn more about (thanks to "The Imitation Game"). The author did a great job creating distinct but well-developed protagonists, all of whom I could relate to and root for. I also appreciated learning more about the events that occurred during World War II that don't appear in textbooks, and it was interesting to read about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip before Elizabeth became the queen. I'd never thought of her that way!

10. Come With Me - Ronald Malfi 
A finalist in the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Horror category, Come With Me is a murder mystery and even a love story as much as it is horror. While the hunt for a serial killer was enough to keep me enthralled, the injection of elements of horror as well as the ways in which the protagonist reflects on his life with his wife put this book at the top of the list among the 2021 Horror category finalists I read.

December 30, 2022

What I read in 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, it's time to revisit the books I read this year. Once again, I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year to read 100 books. I managed to hit that goal, with 102 books read this year.

The average rating for the books I read was 4.04 stars, a hair higher than the 4.03 average from 2021's books read. The breakdown by star rating was:

  • 5 stars - 33 books
  • 4 stars - 40 books
  • 3 stars - 29 books

The numbers are uncannily similar to 2021's, the difference being that I read one fewer 3-star book in 2022.

As I mentioned in the last post, the books I read as part of the Goodreads Choice Awards reading challenge did not make as great an impact to the yearly average as it did in 2021, but it did skew the distribution. The percentage of 4-star books would have been even greater if not for the reading challenge since there were more Goodreads Choice Awards books that I gave 5-star or 3-star ratings to than 4 stars.

I'll list my top ten reads of 2022 in my next post. Stay tuned! 


December 23, 2022

2022 Goodreads Choice Awards reading challenge recap

After reading all the great books from last year's Goodreads Choice Awards reading challenge, I decided to do it again. My goal was to read at least two books a month from the list of 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards finalists, for a total of 24. I ended up reading 28.

The books I read were (in alphabetical order by title):

  • The Anthropocene Reviewed - John Green
  • Apples Never Fall - Liane Moriarty
  • Appleseed - Matt Bell
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You - Sally Rooney
  • Bewilderment - Richard Powers
  • The Book of Accidents - Chuck Wendig
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land - Anthony Doerr
  • Come With Me - Ronald Malfi
  • The Cousins - Karen McManus
  • Crying in H Mart - Michelle Zauner 
  • The Final Girl Support Group - Grady Hendrix 
  • Golden Girl - Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Good Sister - Sally Hepworth
  • The Hawthorne Legacy - Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Iron Widow - Xiran Jay Zhao 
  • The Last House on Needless Street - Catriona Ward
  • The Last Thing He Told Me - Laura Dave
  • Local Woman Missing - Mary Kubica 
  • The Lost Apothecary - Sarah Penner  
  • Malibu Rising - Taylor Jenkins Reid 
  • My Heart is a Chainsaw - Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Night She Disappeared - Lisa Jewell
  • The Push - Ashley Audrain
  • Rock Paper Scissors - Alice Feeney
  • The Rose Code - Kate Quinn 
  • The Sentence - Louise Erdrich
  • A Slow Fire Burning - Paula Hawkins 
  • Under the Whispering Door - T.J. Klune

Of the 28 books, I rated 11 as 5 stars, 8 as four stars, and 9 as three stars. The average rating came out to be 4.07, which is higher than my overall average of about 4.0 stars for the books I read outside the challenge. However, it wasn't as high as the 4.11 average from last year's Goodreads Choice Awards finalists. Still, this was a great way to read books that I wound up liking.

I made two observations from last year that held true again this year. The category winners didn't perform as well as the other finalists, and there were more 5-star and 3-star ratings than 4-star ratings. This seems to just be how the list of finalists work for me. 

A new observation this year is the shift in genres I read. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've found that I read more thrillers in 2022. This was reflected in the reading challenge since eight of the 28 books were part of the Mystery & Thriller category.

November 30, 2022

NaNoWriMo 2022 recap

We've reached the end of November, which means the end of another NaNoWriMo. In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to write more than 20,000 words this month because I'm behind in the first draft of my WIP. Well, it didn't happen. :-( I only managed a little over 15,000 words. Between an extremely busy day job schedule and a very welcomed vacation over Thanksgiving week, I had less time to write this November compared to previous Novembers.

While my word count wasn't what I hoped it'd be, NaNoWriMo did help my story along. In addition to the words added to the manuscript, I had several new ideas that made the story better IMHO. The most significant one led me to change the ending. I didn't throw away my original ending completely. Instead, most of what I had planned for the ending will now take place earlier in the story to make room for what I believe will be an even better ending. I hope my readers will agree when they read the book.

I still have faint hopes of completing the first draft by the end of the year. It means that I will have to conduct a personal NaNoWriMo writing challenge during the month of December. I don't have a word count goal because I don't know how many words it will take to finish the novel. Let's see if I can write "The End" by the last day of 2022.