The Year of Doing Better (The 2016 Edition)

Happy New Year, everyone!

This is my now-traditional post where I lay out my goals for the brand-new year. I have a lot planned for this year, partly because I like to set myself big and challenging goals, but it’s mostly because I had a pretty terrible 2015, where goals were concerned.

I now feel the need to make for that.

So here we go…

The Writing Goals

1. Publish Second Nature.

If you follow me on other social media sites, you may have already seen this picture:

20160101_152815 (Medium)
That is my manuscript—all 841 pages, and 325,000 words of it. I’m aiming to edit approximately 60 pages a day (Naturally, I’m already behind) with the hopes of getting it into the hands of the beta readers in February (Do you hear that, beta readers of mine? I’m coming for you…). After that I don’t know. There’s just darkness and some dragons (Name! That! Reference!) but should we get through the darkness and the dragons, we’ll working toward publication.

2. Complete first draft of Full Circle.

Full Circle is book three in my fantasy series. There’s currently no real plan for it because the events of Second Nature blew the original plan to smithereens. So this year will be about figuring out a new plan and getting the damn thing written. I honestly don’t have a lot of faith that I can accomplish this goal this year, given the other writing goal that’s in play, but I’m going to be working on it anyway, so why not make it a goal?

The Reading/Blogging Goals

1. Read 50 books this year.

I really dropped the ball on the reading goal last year. I had a goal of 60 books, and only managed about 32. My personal worst, by a long shot. This year. the number is set at 50 in order to accommodate that whole “publishing a book” goal I have. I will admit, though, it kind of makes me feel like a slacker.

2. Be better about reviewing the books I read.

I used to do this all the time, but for some reason I fell out of the habit of doing so. I need to correct that. There’s really nothing more to be said.

3. Be better about updating this blog.

My reading and reviewing were not the only things to be neglected last year. My Pet Blog was woefully ignored, so I’d like to get back to my old blogging schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, with Fridays being set aside for guest posts. So if you’re an author out there with a book or two or twelve that you’d like to promote, please let me know! Otherwise, I might have to talk about all the TV I watch.

The Fitness Goals

1. Walk, run, or bike at least 750 miles this year.

Another goal I neglected last year. Don’t want to do it again. I’m not off to a very good start, but I can totally catch up. Probably.

2. Eat healthier.

I add this goal to the list every damn year. I have yet to accomplish it. But perhaps 2016 will be my year. Probably won’t because I have zero willpower where cake is concerned, but it makes me feel better if I at least say I’m going to attempt it. But stranger things have happened, so who knows?

I do. I know.

And on that happy note, I’m going to sign off for the day. I still have a good 700 pages to read and edit. I wonder how many highlighters and red pens I’ll go through. Place your bets below!!

Come On, Get Happy

Some time toward the end of last month, I managed to do something that I quite honestly never thought I would do.

I finished writing Second Nature.

So, you may be wondering why, if such a momentous occasion occurred, you didn’t see a post filled with some choice Happy Dance gifs such as the following:

Moses Supposes His Toeses Are RosesLeslie Knope Happy DanceJimmy Fallon Dance
And maybe just one more (because I can never resist using this gif when it suits the situations…)

Drunk Ron Swanson
Doing posts filled with Happy Dance gifs has become my habit/tradition upon the completion of a draft. Well, maybe ‘habit/tradition’ is too strong a word/phrase. I mean, I did do it that one magical time that I actually managed to finish a draft, but I didn’t do that post this time. So maybe it’s not a habit or a tradition or anything else.

But whatever you call it, or don’t call it, I didn’t do it this time.

Because, here’s the thing: When it comes to the finishing of this monster novel of mine (and at 325,000 words, it really is a monster), I’m feeling more like this:

Stephen Colbert Unimpressed
Maybe I’m just tired. Or sad. Or both.

Or maybe I’m just not happy with how it turned out.

I mean, I know it’s the third one. Of course it’s the third one. The other two may be contributing factors, but the truth is that I am not happy with how it turned out. I just think I screwed it up.

Now, if I came on the blog and talked about how pleased I was with my work, you’d all be running for the hills trying to escape the invasion of the body snatchers, or whatever, because me being hyper critical of all I do or don’t so (*coughcough* exercise *coughcough*) is just what I do. Along with being sarcastic and worshiping at the altar of Joss Whedon.

But I did the Happy Dance post before, so even if I wasn’t particularly pleased with what I had written (and given that I’m still me, you know I wasn’t), I was pleased that I had done the writing. I was pleased to have written.

This time…not so much.

And it’s stupid, too, to feel this way, given that the manuscript in question is in its first draft. First drafts don’t have to be good. They just have to be written. They just have to be done, and I did that.

So why am I not happy about it?

Right now, it’s sitting in a drawer where it will remain until I decide to look at it again. It’ll be a month, at least. Probably two. Maybe three. Maybe I’ll never look at it again.

Probably not that last one.

Time away between drafts is a good thing, I think. It allows one to look at a story with fresh eyes, which makes needed edits much more obvious and clear. It is my hope that time away will not only give me those vital fresh eyes but will also get me to that Happy Dance place (I don’t know why I keep capitalizing Happy Dance. It just happens.).

I want this story to be good. Better than good, even. Or, as good as I am capable of making it, I suppose. This story contains my absolute favorite character, and I want to make sure I can do her story justice.

So I’m waiting. Patiently, as only I can.

Sam Winchester Waiting

The Good, The Bad, The Funny

A recap of my week:

The Good


I am somehow cruising through Camp NaNoWriMo. After two weeks of barely keeping pace, I am now days ahead. Days. As in more than one. Four days, to be exact. Now, of course, that I’ve announced it to the world I’ve completely jinxed myself and will spend the next 15 days without a single story-related thought in my head.

But they’re there at the moment, and I hope they stick around for the rest of the month. Seriously, I have no idea how this is happening. I have no idea where my 30,000+ words thus far have gone in this manuscript. I’m also starting to suspect that 50,000 words will not be enough to finish this story, but that’s a different post for a different day. Let me say this, though:  Second Nature is now over 730 pages long (11 pt font, 1.5 spacing, or roughly 282,000 words, if you were curious).

I never thought I’d look at Effigy and think ‘short.’ Never. Not once.

Speaking of Effigy, it’s been almost a year since that novel was released into the wild. Its official book birthday is next week (Monday or Wednesday, to be as exact as I can in this case.). I’ll be putting the e-book edition on sale then, provided I don’t forget and I can figure out how. I’m also contemplating doing some Effigy-themed posts during this time. So, if there’s an Effigy-themed topic in which you may be interested in reading, please feel free to mention it in the comments.

The Bad


I still live in Florida. I’m still unemployed. I keep checking the want ads every day, but still, no one is hiring a sarcasm specialist. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…before the college kids go back to school and some store is desperate enough to take on both me and my attitude. Fingers crossed!

The Funny

These videos:

(Please note, the second video contains a not-insignificant amount of profanity. That’s probably obvious, as it’s right in the name. Anyway, it’s NSFW. Or suitable for people who don’t find profanity as amusing as I do. (Yes, I am incredibly mature like that.))

That’s going to do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a great weekend!

Music of the Night

A while back, I had an idea that in an upcoming scene I wanted to write that a character of mine would be singing a song. Or, maybe not a song exactly. Originally, whatever this brilliant composition would end up being was supposed to be something like a childhood rhyme that girls might recite on the playground while jumping rope, or something that would be accompanied by an intricate hand jive. “Miss Mary Mack”- esque,  if you will, but darker and potentially creepier. You know, something that would fit in the world of my novels.

So I spent some time following that decision brainstorming lyric ideas, but nothing really took. I had an opening line that I was fond of, but nothing to follow it. Then last week (Last Wednesday, to be exact), Camp NaNoWriMo helped me get to the point where I kind of had to start writing that scene in which the song/rhyme was needed. I couldn’t put it off any longer.
If you follow my author page on Facebook, or my Twitter feed, you may already be aware that I had spent the majority of Wednesday afternoon working on this song—just the lyrics, mind you—because by then, the concept had fully become a song. If you were curious, me working on a song looks an awful lot like me wandering around the house (and possibly Large Mart and the Dinn Wixie (just try to crack that clever code—go on! I dare you!)) trying to think of words that rhyme. Fortunately, none of those words were ‘orange.’
Eventually (thankfully) it clicked, and I successfully wrote the lyrics to a (very short) song.
When I sat down to write those lyrics into my manuscript that night, I started to sing those lyrics to various melodies because that’s just how my brain works. Then I broke out the iPad piano (I miss having a proper piano. That is all.). Then I decided that I just had to write down the music to accompany my lyrics.
Back in high school and early on in my college career, I wrote a lot of music. A lot. But I hadn’t done it a good long while. So long that I had no idea where any of my blank staff paper might have been. (Some day, I will finish unpacking all of my boxes…but it is not this day.)
So, like a crazy person, I made my own:
A sample draft. I need a better eraser.
It was such a productive way to spend a night.
Especially because after I finished the first song, I went right on ahead and wrote a second song. (Who needs to write words anyway?) The second song is about the loss of innocence and demons and dying. So naturally, it ended up as a jaunty-sh jig-like thing.
Because that’s how my brain works.
Anyway, I spend the entire night and most of the next day singing my two brand new songs (That one dog is really glad he’s deaf.) because they were stuck in my head and I was kind of excited about them. In endlessly doing so, I slowly realized that my songs bore a striking slight resemblance to songs I had heard before. Only I couldn’t figure out which ones.
It took me a while to work it out, but Sunday morning in the shower, it finally came to me:
and
So…..It’s possible I won’t be winning a Grammy any time ever. The next drafts will be better. Or maybe they’ll sound like Bon Jovi. Time will tell.
But the whole song-writing experience left me feeling surprisingly good about my WIP. I’m keeping pace with Camp NaNoWriMo, and while there’s definitely some heavy revising in my not-so-distant future, I’m not hating the story as much as I was last month. This is not to suggest that I won’t be in the opposite state of mind next week, or even later on today, but at the moment, I’m happy with how things are going.
How unusual.
That’s going to do it for me today. I’ll try to do better the next time. Until then, all.

In Which I Review Books

Once upon a time, once a month, I would review all the books I had read the previous month. Nothing super long or in depth—well, usually nothing long or in depth (unless a novel really, really irritated me, that is…), but reviews nonetheless.

Then I fell out of the habit. I’m not sure why. Time constraints maybe? Laziness? Who knows. Anyway, my last book review post was back in March 2014.

But whatever the reason I stopped, I thought I might try bringing it back. Since it’s been so long since I’ve done one of these, I will not be reviewing every book I’ve read since March 2014. Instead, I’ll give you the highlights (and maybe a low light or two) from my 2015 reading collection (January through June).

Generally, I’d post any reviews at the beginning of the month, but Camp NaNoWriMo has me all flustered and turned around (proud to report that I am currently on pace to finish my novel…in August.) so I forgot to do this post earlier. I’ll do better next month.

Probably.

Anyway, here we go…

Heir of FireSarah J. Maas—The third book in her Throne of Glass series. I’ve really enjoyed this series overall, and I really do adore the MC. My biggest criticism of this particular novel was that it took me longer than usual to finish it. It’s a big novel, and there were parts that dragged. But again, I adore the MC, and I can’t wait for the next installment. I want to know what will happen next.

Mr. Kiss and Tell—Rob Thomas—This is the second book in the Veronica Mars novels, which take place after the events of the movie. The books are all right, this one included, but as grateful as I am to know anything about the Veronica Mars universe, I think something is lost in book form. Or maybe I just really want more movies. Again, I will read the next one because I’m a fan of the character. And Logan. I admit it.

One Good CatchHeather M. Gardner—The second book in her Maguire’s Corner series. I enjoy these books. Gardner (you occasionally read this blog, Heather, so if it’s weird for me to be using your last name like this, I’m sorry.) does not waste time getting to the action, and the story’s entertaining. The end surprised me as well. The story didn’t go how I thought it would. I mean, there’s a happy ending, which I expected, but it didn’t play out how I thought it would. It’s always nice to be surprised. Anyway, it’s really a fantastic summer beach read (I should know…I read it on the beach.) and I’m looking forward to the next installment. Also…I desperately want to go to this town for the pancakes, because they sound amazing.

Robert B, Parker’s KickbackAce Atkins—This is the 43rd Spenser novel, and the third or fourth (fourth, I think) written by Atkins. I have pleasantly surprised by the quality of these novels. It’s hard, I think, to take over a series loved by so many, and be able to emulate the style set forth in the previous 39 novels. He had big shoes to fill, and I think he’s nailed it. My one criticism (you knew there had to be one, right?) is that I occasionally feel as though Atkins is working too hard to cram in as many characters from the Spenser-verse into each novel. Robert B. Parker did have recurring characters, and I do love that about the books, but I think Atkins is using too many at once.

The Darkest Minds—Alexandra Bracken—The first in her The Darkest Minds series. I came across this book while hunting for novels in which mind control is possible. True story. Anyway, the reviews seemed good, so I went into this series feeling excited. That faded. The concept is intriguing, the execution I think fell flat. There were parts I liked, and characters who made me laugh out loud, which is always good. I wasn’t a fan of just how often Watership Down was referenced and/or quoted. We get it; stop hitting us over the head with it. So while I wasn’t a diehard insta-fan or whatever, I still went out and read the other two books in the series because I wanted to know how it would end.

Never Fade—Alexandra Bracken—(You guessed it…the second in The Darkest Minds series. There was an interaction between two characters that really intrigued the hell out of me. I don’t want to be all spoiler-y, but (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the first book, a character with the ability to manipulate memory (Ruby) uses her abilities to tamper with the mind of the boy with whom she fell in love in the the first book (Liam). She has to make him forget that he knows her. But it’s true love, or whatnot, so naturally they’re going to encounter one another in the second book. That meeting and what follows it is intriguing. While Ruby could erase the memory of her in Liam’s life, the feelings Liam had/have for her are still there, but he doesn’t understand why he has them. It was an interesting concept.

In The Afterlight—Alexandra Bracken—The third and final book in the series. This is the book where the limitations of the first person POV are most evident. With the first person POV, the reader is limited to what the narrator sees/knows, and that limitation hurt this book, in my opinion. Major events would happen, but as Ruby wasn’t there to witness them, both she and the reader find out about it secondhand. I don’t know—it made the story a little duller, I guess. I also felt like the story relied entirely too much on coincidence, and that the ending was rushed. Given the world built up in the first two novels, it was a little dues ex machina-esque for my personal taste.

All right—that’s going to do it for me today. I’m headed off to Camp to see if I just can’t get caught up on my word count. What have you been reading? Tell me in the comments…