Mrs. Harlow’s Quarantine Reads! Ep. 4

One of these days I’ll write an actual book review again. Until then, I hope you’re enjoying these videos!

 

Stay safe and healthy, Bloggarts. I’ll be back before you know it to talk about goals.

 

BZ

Mrs. Harlow’s Quarantine Reads!

Hello Blogland!

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a Library Media Assistant at a nearby high school here in Oregon. If you’re paying attention to all this Covid-19 madness, you may have noticed that Oregon schools have been ordered to close from March 16th until at least April 28th. That’s a long time to be away from my library and my students. So, I came up with a crazy idea to keep in touch with them and keep the library a relevant space in this time of Social Distancing.

Let me know what you think!

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# 48

Bloggos! Happy Thanksgiving! I know I’m a day early but I’m excited about it and this is my blog so I’m going to scream about the holiday. I have family in town from AZ, our house is super-duper clean, and I’m off work until Monday. So, you see, lots of reasons to be obnoxiously upbeat about the season.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Gideon the Ninthgideon the ninth
  • Write 3000 words

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Gideon the Ninth
    • Yes! That book was difficult to put down, I tell ya what.
  • Write 3000 words
    • YES! I finally just went where my interest was and wrote some Solavellan fanfic. Dragon 4ge day is December 4th (my birthday!) and there was a list of prompts for fanworks. I’ve been writing to a few of those prompts, with plans to share the oneshots throughout the day on Wednesday.

Weekly Word Count: 3,199

This week went by SO fast. I spent the majority of my time cleaning and mentally preparing for having visitors over. Plus a bit of writing and reading. So, a good week. I went to a party hosted by the Editor of The Audient Void which was specifically for creatives. I got to listen to some amazing poetry, see a woman play her custom harp (which was probably one of the most beautiful, bewitching things I have ever seen in my life), and even read my short story, The Cost of Rain. It was a fun night full of support and good vibes. Hopefully they’ll do it again sometime.

There was a Friendsgiving over the weekend, which was a blast as usual. So basically, lots of housework, reading, writing, and social activities.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Read 2 titles
  • Write 3,000 words

Keeping things simple this week. It’s the holiday, we’re hosting, and we have family from out of town. This is not the week to set lofty goals. I do plan to post the book review for Gideon the Ninth over the weekend, and I just finished reading a graphic novel last night. The big question mark for the week is the writing. I won’t have much time, just late friday and all day Saturday. But, I’ll be recovering from the holidays, so who knows what that time will actually look like.

So yeah, easy peasy lemon squeezy. Hopefully. I’ll be back later this week to talk about Gideon the Ninth.

Until then, 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

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #46

Ah geez, here we are again, late on a Tuesday. But, we’re here and we’re ready to talk about the week.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish reading Circecirce book cover
  • Write 5000 words

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep. Reading Round Up is out now!
  • Finish reading Circe
    • Not technically. But I did just finish it before writing this so… hurray?
  • Write 5000 words
    • Hahaha no. Writing ground to a halt over the long weekend. Whoops.

Weekly Word Count: 3,414

That’s not a bad word count. At least if it wasn’t non-Nano season.  But it is Nano season so, uh, that’s not so great. I needed at least 5k to stay on track, but I’m feeling really unmotivated with this story. I don’t know if it’s all the distracting video games right now (Uncharted 4, Beyond Two Souls, Jedi: Fallen Order) or if I’m really just not ready to tell this story.

There’s also the fact that my weekends are pretty full this month. November is always a struggle for me, creatively, because it’s the holiday season and there are birthdays to boot. My social life doesn’t mellow out until the late winter and that’s when I can really start pumping out words. Which means I really have to hunker down and focus if I want to hit 25k this month.

In personal news, I’ve started a new medication to potentially help prevent my migraines. I’m skeptical, mainly because I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’ll know in the next couple of weeks if it helps or not. Fingers crossed.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read Gideon the Ninth
  • Write 5000 words

Well, here we are. Reading. Writing. Lather, rinse, repeat. The two blog posts will be a cinch this week because I’ll have the book review for Circe. If Gideon the Ninth is as gripping as it sounds, I might even have that review to write too. And I’ve only got two hours left in the City of Ghosts audiobook. Reviews could abound.

I’m not too optimistic about the writing, but I won’t give up. I can come back to it and keep going out of sheer force of will. That’s my usual m.o. anyways.

I don’t have much by way of plans this weekend, other than cleaning and prepping for holiday visitors. Writing and reading should definitely happen.

I’ll be back soon Bloggarts with the Circe book review!

‘Til then,

 

BZ

 

The Reading Round Up – October 2019

October was a wonderful return of my reading habits. You can tell a lot about my mental state by the number of books I read, and October was a breath of fresh air, like opening the front door and stepping outside for the first time in months. I loved it, even if I didn’t love everything I read.

Title: Vicious (Villains #1)Vicious
Author(s): V.E. Schwab
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I could go on forever about Schwab and how much I love her and this book. In fact, I sort of did in my review. You should check it out!
Recommend: Yes! This is the first book in a short series and a fantastic introduction to Schwab’s writing. You should absolutely give it a shot!

Title: The First Wife’s Secretfirst wife
Author(s): Addison Moore
Format: Kindle ebook
Goodreads Rating: 1/5 Stars
Thoughts: Hm. I have a lot of thoughts about this book and none of them are good. I purposely chose not to write a book review for this title because I didn’t want to be hurtful to the author. That’s how much I disliked this book. I’ll just leave my Goodreads Review here for you:

So. One star. I don’t want to sound cruel because I know writing is incredibly hard work that comes from a personal place, always. That being said… The plot was tangled in so many subplots, the characters were inconsistent and jumped to so many conclusions. If the main characters had just TALKED to one another they could have figured it out in half the time (like I did). The writing was repetitive and featured a lot of jarring and sometimes misused vocabulary. Ultimately not worth the time. Wah, wah.

Recommend: Absolutely not.

Title: The Last Tsar’s Dragonslast tsars dragons
Author(s): Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: This novella was confusing. I liked it, because I liked the interpretation of Rasputin. But I didn’t find any of the other characters likable or compelling. Also, the dragons hardly featured in the book at all and were a bit of a macguffin. Which, given the title and the awesome artwork, was pretty disappointing.
Recommend: Meh.

Title: Dragon Age: Knight Errantknight errant
Author(s): Nunzio De Filippis and Christina Weir, with Fernando Heinz Furukawa and Michael Atiyeh
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I was always going to love this. It’s a Dragon Age comic and Varric is in it. Yes. I love it. BUT, I thought this one was pretty especially well done. I liked the character dynamics and how things keep leading us to Tevinter. We’re getting closer to the next game and I CANNOT WAIT.
Recommend: Sure. If you’re a fan of the series you definitely should. If you’re not familiar with the Dragon Age franchise, it’s probably not the best place to start.

Title: March: Book One (March #1)march book one
Author(s): John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, with Nathan Powell
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: It took me a while to get into this book. The artwork is amazing and I love the choice to do the entire thing in black and white. The narration really did feel like being told someone’s life story, which was great but also made me want to take breaks. I needed to absorb what I’d been told from time to time. Not a binge-able book for me.
Recommend: Oh, for sure. I think now more than ever, this Graphic Novel series is so important.

Title: “Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light”kameron hurley
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Meet Me in the Future: Stories
Editor(s): N/A
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story is very untraditional, which I appreciate. Not much actually happens, but there’s power in the lines nonetheless. I liked it and could probably use to read it again to let it steep in my brain.
Recommend: Yes. I love Hurley’s writing and she’s fast becoming one of my new favorite authors.

Title: “The Improbable War”kameron hurley 2
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Meet Me in the Future: Stories
Editor(s): N/A
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story was so so short. It hit hard and fast and honestly I’d need to read it again to even begin to tell you what I thought of it.
Recommend: Yarp. See above.

Title: “The Women of Our Occupation”meet me in the future
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Meet Me in the Future: Stories
Editor(s): N/A
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I’ll be honest, I read these stories in quick succession, and while I know I enjoyed them all, this was the only one that really struck me. It was the longest of the three, which probably had something to do with it. This wasn’t a story that I necessarily liked, it didn’t leave me with any strong feelings one way or another, but it left me thinking. I always like that.
Recommend: Yarp.