Goals Summary 2020 – Wk #12

Hi Bloggarts!

It’s a little weird jumping into the blog so late in the year, but late is better than never I suppose. By now you know that I’m not working (at least not in the same capacity) because of Covid-19 and this sudden addition of unstructured time has led me to re-examine my routines. Which reunited me with my trusty whiteboard…

Last Week

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus rough draft
  • Read Dragon Age: Tevinter NightsTEvinter Nights
  • Write 800+ words

How’d I do?

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus rough draft
    • Yep. I’m sort of struggling with this one because I like it so much. I know better than to submit a story that hasn’t been extensively revised, but I don’t know what else to do to it…
  • Read Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights
  • Write 800+ words
    • Yep. Pretty much right away. Some things clicked into place and my writing brain kicked into gear.

Weekly Word Count: 1,618

So. Yeah. First week “back” and I accomplished all my goals… That’s weird. But, not only did I accomplish all my goals, but I started a new YouTube series for my students. I’m screaming about it here on the blog so I’m sure you’ve seen it. I won’t blather on here about, but I do recommend you check it out.

Beyond video-making and goal-reaching there really isn’t much going on. State Parks closed today so I’m feeling pretty down about that. The nice weather finally gave out and we’re back to cold rain and grey skies.

I’m still playing Dragon Age, because y’know, I’m obsessed. I’m still writing fanfic and working on original projects. I’m here. Home and working and trying not to wonder too much about the future.

So, What’s Next?

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus
  • Finish listening to Tunnel of BonesTunnel of bones
  • Write 800+ words

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? Last week’s successes don’t need to be built upon just yet. I want to get into a rhythm and used to working again before I start getting ambitious. Besides, this week is officially Spring Break. There are no work expectations for me right now, but starting the 31st I’m expected to be available and may have work to do. I don’t want to plan goals based on my time constraints now only to have them change in a few days.

That’s about it, Bloggos. I’ve already made another video to share later this week. I’m still listening to Tunnel of Bones and reading Ashlords. I’m playing Dragon Age and pining for a hike, and seriously missing my bi-weekly karaoke sessions. Luckily our Dungeons and Dragons group has agreed to video conferencing our sessions so we don’t have to sacrifice that. A little normalcy will be nice.

I’ll be back later this week with another video! Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

New Year, Same Look

Hey Blogland.

It’s been a minute. As I mentioned last week, I faced some major burnout last fall and really the last half of the year was just me, derailed. Getting laid-off from a job you love sucks the big one. But, I’m feeling much more settled in the new job, and turns out, I super love it too. A nice lesson to learn, nothing is the end-all-be-all of your existence. We grow, adapt, change, and come to find fulfillment and success in a multitude of ways.

But, that lesson had a steep price, namely my discipline and work ethic when it came to my more creative endeavors. I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to attend to all my writing routines, so, in the interest of mental wellbeing, I didn’t attend to any of them. I allowed myself to take several steps back and only do what felt right or good. I think that helped me recover and get my head on straight once again.

So, three months late, let’s talk about 2019.

In 2019 I said I wanted to:

  • Finish the Tavi rough draft.
  • Finish Santa Sarita. 
  • Revise Cards.
  • Publish something!
  • Publish two blog posts a week.
  • Read 70 titles.

How’d I do?

  • Finish the Tavi rough draft.
    • YES! I finished the rough draft back in May and it was a huge, wonderful, exhausting accomplishment.
  • Finish Santa Sarita.
    • Nope. Not even a little bit. I don’t even think I wrote anything on this fic last year.
  • Revise Cards.
    • Nope. And, actually, I think I’ve finally accepted that this might be a trunk novel. Not that I think it’s bad, but it needs a lot of revision and basically an entire rewrite, and when I have time, energy and drive, I’ll come back to it. Until then, I’m taking it off the plate of possible projects.
  • Publish something!
    • Yes? I sold something, but it won’t be published until June 2020. It’s exciting and a big win for me, so I’m counting it as accomplished.
  • Publish two blog posts a week.
    • Nope. I published 90 posts, which honestly isn’t too shabby. It’s the second most I’ve ever posted on the blog since 2011, so I don’t feel as bad about this as I did earlier today.
  • Read 70 titles.
    • Nope. I reached 60 and pretty much ran out of gas. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t get anything to really grip me. I was in full on burnout mode by then and basically just gave up.

2019 Total Word Count: 122,187

Honorable Mentions

Even though there were several months in the summer and early fall where it just felt like I couldn’t get any writing done, I actually wrote a fair amount last year. Two flash pieces (under 500 words) and two longer short stories (both over 4k words), the last half of Tavi, and a ton of fanfic in November and December. In the moment it felt like nothing, but there was a lot of work happening in between all that nothing.

I went to a write-in thing hosted by Willamette Writers… I think it was in May. Anyway, that was fun and cool and I hope to go to more writerly events, once all this Covid stuff gets sorted.

I hiked a bunch last year which is always a good thing, and really found my *thing* outside of reading and writing books.

I read 15,104 pages across 60 books!Img bookstack 72

 

I’m trying not to feel so down about missing my reading goal last year. It’s the first year since 2015 that I haven’t reached my goal. Which felt like a big fat failure on my part. And yet… 60 titles is nothing to sneeze at. That number amazes a lot of people, even if it feels a little short to me. But, I read a lot last year and I shouldn’t feel bad just because it wasn’t as much as I’d hoped. I’m working on it.

Um… I think that’s it. You know, aside from that whole, got a new crazy job that absorbed my whole soul for awhile but turns out I super-duper love. So that’s cool too, I guess.

2019’s word was INTENT. I wanted to be purposeful in my actions and choices when it came to writing and reading. I don’t know how well it worked, but I do recall thinking of it a lot and letting it be the word that grounded me in moments of indecision. So, better than not having a word I suppose. Choosing a word for 2020 was one of the only New Year’s routines I didn’t ignore/avoid. The word for this year is…

REPLENISH.

Makes sense when you consider that I was recovering from the world’s worst case of burnout around the New Year. So, how will “Replenish” guide me in 2020? Well, I’ve decided to only do things that feel right, restorative in some way. For instance, my reading goal this year started at just 1 book. Once I read a few over that, I bumped it to 10. Now that I’m at ten, I bumped it to 20. I’m letting the year dictate the goals and learning to let go a little bit.

What does that mean for my writing? I’m not entirely sure. I think the idea is to stop feeling guilty for any perceived lack of progress. Letting my interests and energy take me where I need to go. Basically, relinquishing some of that all-important control. So far, I think it’s working.

So, if I’m not setting active, ambitious goals, what the heck will I do in 2020?

  • Revise Tavi
    • I think this is one that I absolutely have to do. I can’t let this novel sit for much longer, and honestly I don’t want to. I want to get back in this world I made and really make it shine.
  • Read!
    • That’s it. I just want to read whatever sounds interesting. I have a fat stack of fat books I’d been lusting over, but avoiding because of how long they would take me to read. This is the year I finally get to them.
  • Submit Two New Short Stories
    • I already have one that’s just about ready to go out. Maybe a few more rounds of editing to perfect it, and then it’s good. I’m working on a new short story now, but it feels pretty far from submission level. Good thing it’s only March!
  • Write Book Reviews
    • This is one thing that bummed me out about last year. I read a lot of good books at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, but I didn’t write reviews for them. And now it’s been too long for me to do them justice. I don’t want to do that anymore, so I’ll be trying to write reviews again!

I’ll be honest. I expect Tavi revisions to take up the majority of my year. All of my writing time will be on short stories or fanfic while I edit my novel. I want to get this right, because I really believe in this story and the world I’ve built. I want to get the first book right so I can jump into the second book for NaNoWriMo this year. So I need to get to work.

So, yeah. A different approach to 2020. A less regimented approach. I don’t know what the blog will look like this year. I might stick to my weekly format, I might not. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll do whatever feels good and useful without stressing me out. That’s the plan.

Talk at you soon, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #47

The end of the year is creeping up. Does anyone else feel like they’re running out of time?

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read Gideon the Ninthgideon the ninth
  • Write 5000 words

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read Gideon the Ninth
    • No. But, I read two graphic novels and finished an audiobook, so I’m not sad about it.
  • Write 5000 words
    • Hahahaha… No.

Weekly Word Count: 649

I hit a major inspiration block in writing this week. I don’t know if I’m just burned out, if work is too stressful, or if this just isn’t the right project for Nanowrimo, but I’m not being very productive this month. I keep bouncing between the novella and fanfic, and then bouncing between fanfic projects. Then, when I feel totally uninspired, I play video games instead.

I like the idea of writing, I feel that familiar mental swirl of a story taking form, but I lack the motivation to actually put ass to chair and make it happen. I’d rather read, play video games, or watch Disney+. It doesn’t help that my family will be here in a week and there’s still a lot of chorin’ to be done.

Let’s just blame it on stress and move on.

I finished playing Uncharted 4 and Beyond: Two Souls. I liked them both, a lot, and am glad to have played them. They were both right up my alley and long overdue.

I decided to withdraw Lifelike from a market that had it for over six months. The website hadn’t been updated since April and the email for the editor was no longer valid. I think it’s safe to say that wasn’t going to get picked up. Exodus: Descent was rejected today, but it was a personal rejection, which is always nice. Both stories will be submitted somewhere else by the end of the week.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Gideon the Ninth
  • Write 3000 words

Keeping it pretty straightforward again. I have no idea what writing project I’ll work on, and honestly, I don’t much care. I just want to write before the holiday sneaks up and steals all my time. We’ll see if anything demands my attention.

I’m just over halfway through with Gideon the Ninth now. I expect to have it done in the next couple of days. I finished listening to City of Ghosts and will have the book review up before the end of the work week. I want to start listening to the sequel, Tunnel of Bones sometime this week too.

So, yeah. Lots of reading, writing, cleaning, and working. We’ll see where that takes us before the holiday season swallows me whole.

Talk at you soon, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – April 2019

What a busy reading month! Now that I’m back to just the one job, my productivity in all areas has greatly improved. At this rate, I might finally catch up with my 2019 reading goal!

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)a darker shade of magic audio cover
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Uh… I freaking loved it. Like, a lot. You should probably just do us all a favor and read my review so I don’t lapse into obsessive squealing right here and now.
Recommend: Hell yeah! I’m basically screaming about it to anyone who will listen to me. And to some who don’t. I’m just screaming, all right?

Title: The City in the Middle of the Nightcity in the middle of the night
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts: Anders is a very good writer. This book has received a lot of great press and did several things very successfully. That said, I did not like it for some very key reasons. Extremely flawed (unlikeable) characters and a meandering plot were a couple of them. For more details, both good and not so much, check out my review.
Recommend: Meh? It seems like mileage varies with this one. Some folks loved it, others really didn’t. Maybe read some reviews first?

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)a gathering of shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this one almost as much as the first one. This one had less of a sense of wonder, but there was so much more time with the characters and so much tension building up over the course of the book that I kept yelling at the audiobook when things happened. Lots and lots of squealing could be heard in my house. For more details, be sure to check out my full review.
Recommend: Oh my goodness yes!

Title: Trail of Lightning (Sixth World #1)trail of lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: An incredible first book in a new series. I love Urban Fantasy and this one did an awesome job of fitting in the genre while carving out a healthy circle of all new ideas and and style. I loved the breakneck quality of the plot and the dialogue was really natural; I could hear everyone. I can’t wait for the sequel! Don’t forget to read my review for full details.
Recommend: Absolutely! If you like Urban Fantasy at all, I’d mark it as required reading.

Title: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)a-conjuring-of-light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: So many. So many thoughts. So many feelings. I loved every moment of this book, even as it tore my heart out and stomped it into the dirt. Kell really comes into his own in this book. Hell, so does everybody. Rhy, Alucard, Lila, even Holland. Everyone has to sacrifice something, and they come out stronger for it. This book was both a sprint and a marathon. Every chapter felt dashing, rushed, I read so quickly I’d have to reread it because I’d missed something. But the book kept going, relentless and tearing me to pieces even as it made me laugh. Get all the details in my review.
Recommend: Yes. A thousand times yes.

Title: The Light Brigadethe light brigade
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book is a trip. It hits hard, doesn’t pull any punches, and keeps coming at you. Aggressive is a good descriptor. I personally thought the themes could have been a little more subtle, but I think the frankness and in your face quality of the book more than make up for it. The plot is very compelling. I couldn’t put the book down. I had to keep reading because I HAD to know how everything came together. I don’t often find that Time Travel is well handled in fiction. I struggle with it in television and movies often, but this book blew me away with the unpredictability of any given moment. Read my review for more details.
Recommend: Totally. It’s a standalone, whirlwind ride that makes you think and doesn’t give you all the answers. What’s not to love?

Title: Elevationelevation
Author: Stephen King
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Stephen King
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I liked the concept, a man loses weight without manifesting any physical signs that he’s doing so, but the execution was… strange. It was oddly political, with an us vs. them theme of Liberals versus the rest of the conservative town. It hinged on a married couple, both women, who were shunned and reviled by the town, but whom the main character strove befriend. It felt very forced and not actually all that compelling. After Elevation there is a short story called “Laurie”, about a recently widowed retiree and the puppy his sister gave him, against his wishes. That was much better and I loved it.
Recommend: Not on audio. King’s narration isn’t very good (imo), and sadly “Laurie” isn’t included in the physical copy. Not sure I’d suggest this unless you’re an unwavering King fan.

Title: The Luminous Deadthe luminous dead
Author: Caitlin Starling
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Holy shit. This book scared me. I haven’t been scared by a book since I was in Junior High. Not since I read The Library Policeman by Stephen King when I was 14. Are you afraid of heights? Drowning? The Dark? Monsters? Ghosts? Losing your mind? Tight spaces? Because this book has all of those things. And the tension just ratchets up over and over and over, until you’re left as drained and exhausted as the characters. This book gave me nightmares of being hunted and seeing faces in the dark. That’s how GOOD it is. Get all the details in my full review!
Recommend: If you want to be creeped the hell out, hell yeah. It’s terrifyingly good.

Title: “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”N.K. Jemisin.jpg
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Collection: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?
Editor(s): N/A
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Robin Ray Eller
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I listened to this driving to work with a migraine, so I didn’t absorb it as much as I’d like. It’s an interesting story, told in a first person, direct monologue, where the narrator is speaking or writing to a “Friend”. She tells of an alternate version of our world where a utopia actually exists and describes it in great detail. The narration actually reminded me a lot of a character from Anthem, Sentinel Brin. Their speech patterns were very similar. I should have expected the unconventional narrative choice, since Jemisin’s use of second person point of view in The Fifth Season is why I chose to read that book in the first place.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a pretty story that I’m sure hits heavier when you’re not barely conscious. It is a lot different than other things I’ve read of Jemisin, but not unpleasantly so.

Title: “What Maya Found There”Daniel Jose Older.jpeg
Author: Daniel José Older
Collection: A People’s Future of the United States
Editor(s): Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: A look at weaponized science in an age when science is vilified. I liked a lot about this story, particularly the character driven lens. There’s enough tech sprinkled in, enough implied body horror to keep me interested, but ultimately I didn’t find it as resonant as some of the other stories I’ve read from this collection.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a perfectly good story, and you might get more out of it than I did.

Title: “The Petals Abide”benjanun.jpeg
Author: Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Interesting. Blends SF elements with a Fantasy tone, about an AI(?) who sculpts organic people into other beings. There’s romance and longing, and really I can’t boil it down into anything more than feelings, than a sense of what was happening. Everything felt shrouded, like I never really saw it, but that was okay.
Recommend: Yes. It’s a very beautifully written story with an intriguing concept.

Title: “Kenneth: A User’s Manual”sam j. miller
Author: Sam J. Miller
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Strange Horizons, December 2014
Format: Live Reading
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: The story is exactly what it sounds like: A User’s Manual for a sculpted, gorgeous, ripped dancing machine. Kenneth is made for fun, but he’ll make you beg for it. The format is strange, intriguing in its lack of conventional plot, but no less effective for it. I like the story because it reminds me that stories can be told in all sorts of ways.
Recommend: Yes. At just over 1000 words, this story takes only a few minute to read and should get at least a few chuckles out of you. Cheeky is a good word to describe it.

Title: “Harvest”roanhorse
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Editor(s): Nisi Shawl
Format: Live Reading, Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Never fall in love with a deer woman. This story tells of the dangerous affair of one man(?) and the legendary Deer Woman who seeks vengeance for all the deaths of her family. The way this story balances the sensual and grotesque is really powerful and riveting. I wanted to hear more, even when I was blushing. I had to finish reading it once we got back home.
Recommend: Yes! This story really displays Roanhorse’s range. You get a strong sense of her prowess in this one.

Title: “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™”roanhorse 2.jpg
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Apex Magazine, August 2017
Format: Live Reading, Digital Publication
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story shows a different set of Roanhorse’s strengths. She uses humor to tell an important story of identity that resonates no matter your particular circumstances. Set in Sedona, with plenty of regional nods that made me laugh out loud, I couldn’t get enough of this story. But by the end things get serious, and suddenly there’s a twist and damn if Rebecca Roanhorse isn’t a genius!
Recommend: Yes! This story was nominated for and won several awards for a reason. You have to give it a try!

Book Review – The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Holy Schnikes, Blogland, this book was intense. If you follow me on twitter you might have seen a tweet where I thanked the author for scaring the shit out of me. I can’t remember the last time a book scared me so good. Well, I can, it was just fifteen years ago when I read Stephen King’s The Library Policeman my freshman year of high school. That story still gives me the heebies, and I suspect The Luminous Dead will keep me spooked well into middle age.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

the luminous dead

Gyre Price lied on her resume. She lied in her interview. She oversold her caving experience because she really needed the money from this job, plus, she knows she’s good enough to do it right. But as she climbs deeper and deeper into the cave, her lies become the least of her worries. Because Em, her handler, has told more than her fair share of lies, and the cave has secrets to divulge to them both. If Gyre manages to survive the trip.

What I loved:

  • The narration. It’s an extremely close third person narrative, so much so that, in my memory I often think it’s first person. That’s impressive. That’s how close I felt to Gyre as I read. I also think the narrow third person allowed the tension and horror elements to really shine. When I read a first person point of view I often wonder, “is this narrator reliable?” I rarely wonder that in a third person point of view. So, when things start to get spooky in this book, I didn’t doubt their reality. Not until Gyre started to doubt herself.
  • The tension! This book is tense from page one and it impossibly ratchets up with every single page. Any sense of calm is always thoroughly shattered, and the book makes you question EVERYTHING. Multiple times while I was reading I said, “WTF is going on?” Not because of any weakness or lack of clarity in the writing, but because the events were so frequently mind-blowing. And terrifying. Did I mention terrifying?
  • The horror. Here’s the thing. As an editor of a Weird Fiction mag, I read a lot of horror stories. The best ones scare you, not with a monster, but with the possibility of a monster. They terrify you with the unseen, or the partially seen. The shadow at the edges of your vision that you just know is some evil force about to jump out and kill you. But when you look, nothing’s there. The best horror (in my opinion) is played out in the mind, not in the scene. This book is a freaking masterclass in psychological horror. Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 11.05.31 AM
  • But, that doesn’t mean the monsters aren’t real! There’s a creature called a tunneler, which reminds me of a Thresher Maw from Mass Effect, but that lives and eats through cave systems. Basically, a giant worm of mass destruction. There are also ghosts, and whether they’re real or not I’ll leave up to you to decide.
  • Basically, if you’re afraid of something, it’s in this book. Body Horror? Yep. Tight spaces? Check. Monsters? Ghosts? The dark? Drowning? Yep, yep yep yep. I was literally sweating and my heart pounded during some scenes. There were moments when I had to take a break, put the book down and drink some water before I could pick it back up.
  • There’s also a solid Science Fiction element, with the characters living on a different planet than Earth, and Gyre’s fancy biosuit/mech thing made by Em. The science makes sense without bogging down the story, which is always a plus.

What I didn’t love:

  • ******SPOILER************SPOILER*********SPOILER************SPOILER*****There’s a romance? Kind of? I don’t dislike it for existing and I think it is actually handled well, acknowledging the work that will have to be done to establish trust, but I wasn’t sold that it was really necessary. And it felt sort of inevitable, as if it was the natural outcome of the events of the book and I’m not sure I agreed. It did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all, however.
    ******END SPOILER************END SPOILER************END SPOILER******
  • The characters were difficult for me to like. It took a long time for me to get attached to either of them, with the story pulling me along much more than the characters for probably the first half of the book. This is probably intentional, since both leads are lying liars who lied, and it does make their development that much more satisfying over the course of the book. But, it slowed me down initially.
  • Having nightmares after staying up past midnight to finish this book. Okay, that’s a lie. I LOVED that this book scared me enough to literally give me nightmares, even if the dreams themselves were unwanted.

caitlin starlingBasically, I found a new author to eagerly await books from, and I even got the chance to meet her at the SFWA event the other week! She’s awesome and local, and this is her first book so you should absolutely buy it if you want to be kept awake at night and have nightmares.

I look forward to her future horror stories, future nightmares, and hopefully future readings!

I’ll be back later this week to finally share my April Reading Recap. Expect silence after that while I scramble to finish my manuscript over the weekend. I’m so close, Bloggos. So, so close. Send me your best wishes and snacks. I’m gonna need ALL the snacks.

Until then,

 

BZ