A 2016 Reading List

People tell me all the time that my English degree is useless, but I don’t know, guys. Look at the following texts of which I have extensive knowledge. Judging from recent and still unfolding events, I believe they will be a guide to life in the following few years. (Presented in no particular order):

  • “1984” – George Orwell.
  • “Les Miserables” – Victor Hugo.
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood.
  • “Fahrenheit 451” – Ray Bradbury.
  • “A Tale of Two Cities” – Charles Dickens.
  • The entire “Harry Potter” series – J.K. Rowling.
  • “Station Eleven” – Emily St. John Mandel.
  • “The Hunger Games” – Suzanne Collins.
  • “It Can’t Happen Here” – Sinclair Lewis.
  • “The Girl with All the Gifts” – M.R. Carey.
  • “Animal Farm” – George Orwell again.
  • “That Hideous Strength” – C.S. Lewis.
  • “The Arcana Chronicles” – Kresley Cole.
  • “Brave New World” – Aldous Huxley.
  • “The Giver” – Lois Lowry.
  • “The Road” – Cormac McCarthy.
  • and of course, “The Bible” – God et al.

Anything I ought to add?

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What a world we live in, eh?

But stronger people than me have already written plenty of political posts, so I shall refrain. And pray hard. And keep teaching my students to be critical thinkers, able to call out logical fallacies, to fight for truth and justice, and to understand each other, even when they feel they cannot love each other.

I realize I haven’t updated in a while. That’s for two reasons: we’ll start with the negative.

– Work is insane. Please never think that teachers do what they do solely for a paycheck (it’s lousy) or for vacations (they don’t balance out the hours lost during grading, at least for English). It requires so much to truly and holistically help each student, and since I volunteer with clubs on top of that, I am getting physically and mentally drained. My students are so worth it, but… I may have to cut back soon. Because…

+ I’m pregnant! I’m turning food into a people! hahaha. My app says that today, 25 weeks, “baby is as big as a rutabaga and uterus is the size of a soccer ball.” Whoaaaaaa life-making is a weird game. :) My son is kicking me as we speak (that’s not true, because we aren’t speaking and I can’t predict when you’ll read this, so… “as I type”) and is due late February but will probably hang out until early March, since that’s when my parents are planning to go on vacation. He’s been a stinker so far so why wouldn’t he continue the pattern with his actual birth? P.S. birthing classes are pretty terrifying. Birth is terrifying. Humans ought to lay eggs. My mom had better not be on vacation when I need her in the hospital!

+ I’ve finally been writing again. I suck at revisions, and I haven’t been able to make myself sit down and do them when so many other work- and life-demands abound. But, I had an inspiration for a new novel–your only hint is that it hit me while I was watching the new “The Jungle Book” adaptation–so I’m chasing it. My favorite writing program, Scrivener, made an iOS app, so I can keep everything organized even when I’m away from my computer. I’ve continued the project into NaNoWriMo, which I didn’t think I would dare to do this year… but writing in “sprints” of 10 minutes when I can squeeze them in, and using my evening time better (a.k.a. not scrolling through social media) has proven effective in keeping my word count strong.

So… that’s my world right now. I’m also in the midst of reading a novel from an author I like, Jane Lindskold. I was wandering through the bookstore and was struck by inspiration to see what she’s written lately, since I sort of forgot about her after the series I loved (the wolf/Firekeeper one) ended. The only novel B&N had in stock from her was “Artemis Awakening,” whose description sounded a bit like Westworld but not quite so dark. It’s creative and even though I still have a few chapters to go, I recommend it. Next up will be Marissa Meyer’s new (and first post-Lunar-Chronicles) novel, “Heartless.” I’m excited for it! (Even if the protagonist will eventually become an antagonist and she shares my name and I don’t like villains taking my name…)

Oh ALSO P.S. I was Rey for Halloween and made my baby bump into BB-8. I want to wear my Rey outfit every day because 2016 is stupid so why not cosplay as a strong female Jedi warrior 24/7?!? I won’t, I won’t. I’m not that weird. But know that I THINK ABOUT IT.

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Summertime Writing Mode

Another school year survived: it should have been the easiest, since I was only teaching (without piling on MA.Ed homework or BTSA nonsense in addition), but “only” teaching 3 different grades, while undergoing formal observations from my new boss, and trying to make sure every lesson was purposeful, interesting, enough for a 54-minute period, etc…

So once again, I did not get a lot of writing done during the school year.

Summer kicked in as of 3:00 pm last Wednesday, and I spent the next few days down in San Diego with Jeff, since his work sent him to a conference (and I got to tag along). Now it’s Monday, and I’m home, and I’ve already ran with Benny, cleared out the dishwasher from last night, and finished two loads of laundry. My (iced) coffee is in hand.

I need to find my writing groove again.

I am a little torn because I think I want to keep working on Copper, the manuscript that haunts me. It’s changed so much since it’s conception; it’s already been rejected in a previous format; I feel so attached to it that maybe it affects my ability to tear it apart like it needs to be; now that I’ve read all of Leigh Bardugo’s stuff, I worry that it’s too close to her creations (and hers are done way better). But I also want to work on something BRAND NEW so I don’t end up feeling like I’ve wasted away the summer working on Copper… again.

GAH. Decisions, decisions.

In good news though, I figured out that I can annotate PDFs, so I’m currently re-reading the last draft of Copper (just in case) and figuring out what to fix and where to pick up on the revisions. So… that’s fun? I used to have to waste a lot of black ink in this process, but now I’ll do it on my computer! Where I am easily distracted by the internet and writing new blog posts like this one.

Oops. Bye!

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2016, really?

Well, 2016 has not been the happiest. I suppose stating “bring it on!” was an inappropriate challenge. Let’s recap the year so far, shall we?

  • We lost the great David Bowie (I’ve been listening to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” on repeat quite often);
  • We lost the great Alan Rickman (Jeff and I re-watched a few of his great movies in his honor, like “Galaxy Quest” and “Die Hard,” and I ran a memorial 5K as well);
  • I had an early miscarriage of a very wanted little baby;
  • I have been too stressed and exhausted with life and work (teaching) to accomplish any writing, even though I figured out a creative way to fix the ending of my Copper manuscript.

So I’ve been a little bit depressed, but luckily, have had a lot of time for reading. I’ve read:

  • Kiera Cass’ “The Siren,” her first book, which was cute but pretty dragging plot-wise (a.k.a. not much happened).
  • I tore through four different Liane Moriarty books–“Big Little Lies,” “What Alice Forgot,” “The Last Anniversary,” and “The Husband’s Secret”–and loved them all. She’s great at creating unique, believable characters and intertwining their story lines in fascinating ways.
  • Marissa Meyer released an extra short story collection “Stars Above” to wrap up her Lunar Chronicles series, and it was wonderful. I heard she’s also writing a graphic novel series that will fit in to the world, as well, which I’m excited for. I am curious about graphic novels because I think my Phoebe & Fred story would fit that format a lot better than the novel format that I’ve currently been trying to shove it in.
  • “Zeroes” by Chuck Wendig was very creative, though a little nerve-wracking since it deals with hacking, haha. I’m still convinced that hackers are going to ruin everyone.
  • and I’m pretty sure I’m missing some, but those are all the books coming to mind right now. I’m currently reading “These Vicious Masks,” which was pitched as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” which is a marvelous combo.

So there. Lots going on, and yet also nothing. I hope the year looks up soon.

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Bring on 2016

I guess I forgot to update how NaNoWriMo 2015 went! I worked on a mixture of revising old words from the Copper manuscript and writing new scenes (from other characters’ perspectives as well as hers), so it wasn’t all 100% original writing, but I managed to get 60,000+ words this time–a personal record. I have a lot of work left to do on it… but once December 1st hit, I had to pay some attention to the stack of essays and other grading that I had been ignoring. :( Darn work.

2015 has been a good year as far as goals go. I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, because I vaguely think about it every year, and then summer hits and I’ve done nothing about it and get totally discouraged. So this time, I used MyFitnessPal regularly to log my calories, let myself splurge once in a while, walked the dog 5 days a week, and worked up to running with the dog… I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to huff and puff in January, I now run 5K mileage almost every Saturday without feeling like death at all! My total weight loss for the year is about 33 pounds, putting me well within a normal BMI range (I know there are a lot of issues with BMI charts, but being here in the “normal” makes me feel much better, as I was in the “overweight” category for my height last January 1st. Blech.)

As much as I love Christmas, I don’t love the holiday weight gain that comes with my difficulty in turning down delicious Christmas cookies. However, my sister and I got severe food poisoning on the 22nd, so I was too weak to enjoy any holiday food and therefore avoided all the potential weight gain! Way to find a silver lining in a horrible vomit-filled experience, right?

As far as writing goals go, well, I still don’t have any of my novel rough drafts fully revised… so that will have to be a focus for 2016. I don’t like to write strict resolutions because then I focus on how far I am from the goal line, rather than how much progress I’ve made toward the goal line, but I think forcing myself to fully revise Copper is a fair goal to publicize.

With life goals, I want to improve my 5K time (I’m a slow runner–but at least I’m running!) and… excuse my language… learn to stop giving a fuck about things that don’t fit into my fuck budget.

In case that sounds confusing, yesterday I sat down with my journal and a copy of Sarah Knight’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and figured out exactly what things bring me joy–things I want to devote my time, energy, and money to–and what things bring on the annoy–things I need to quit wasting my time, energy, and money on. What I appreciated most about her book is that she understands how much of a burden guilt is–how much we don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who (probably unconsciously) are draining our time, energy, or money. So she recommends a lot of word play, which my writer self can appreciate, to help mitigate potential sore feelings. The book is also split into sections to help you ramp up into the places it’s hardest to fight back against, moving from “things” to “work” to “friends/acquaintances” to “family.”

I highly recommend this book. I struggle so much to say “no!”, but after reading and completing the worksheets in her book, I feel much better equipped to face things that stress me out and make them stop. I hope to be much less overwhelmed (I often feel, like Bilbo, “butter over too much bread”) and therefore more pleasant in the upcoming months. The Pantone color of the year for 2016, by the way, is “serenity” (blue)… I’m thinking a “serenity” year is in my future! [Color and Seinfeld references welcome. No Firefly ones though. I like my Firefly completely free of the atrocious Serenity connection.] Maybe I will even look into the original book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Haha, who am I kidding? I’m messy! Let’s not overload the goals! ;)

So yeah! 2015 treated me well. I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring, as I become a better writer, faster runner, and more mentally healthy woman. I hope my readers conquer some goals in 2016 too.

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Remember, remember, to write in November

NaNoWriMo is going strong, even though it means, most nights, staying up far later than I ought to. Why did they pick November, the time of all the major papers’ due dates?? I’m going to be grading forever. AND Marissa Meyer is releasing her final Lunar Chronicles book next Tuesday, which means I will have to find time to read, too. How am I going to do it all???

I really don’t know. But for any of you out there working on your own NaNoWriMo texts, remember that writing 500 words a day is better than 0… and then if you can push it to 1,000, that’s MUCH better than 0… and if you make it to 1,500, you’re practically at your daily word count anyway.

One more word than you thought you could… followed by one more sentence than you thought you could… and then suddenly there are paragraphs on the page that didn’t exist before.

Eventually, they might even be a real book.

And for those of you feeling stuck in your scene, consider doing what I just did:

ADD IN A MASSIVE ANGRY DRAGON AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS

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whoa oh, here we NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words around/around/around the world

^I don’t even know what song I’m changing the words to, because my husband listens to weird things on the radio. Renegade, maybe? I rarely catch the artist/titles.

Anyway…. November 1st has arrived. I think most of my readers have figured out what that means.

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

Here is what I’ve accomplished today:

  • hiked 3.5 miles with Benny Dog
    • and we saw this egret! I think his name is Ichabod Crane, haha.
    • IMG_2572
  • cleaned the upstairs bathroom
  • took a shower
  • made coffee
  • did 3 loads of laundry
  • graded 15 essays
  • roasted broccoli & bacon for lunch
  • WROTE 1800 WORDS
  • vacuumed upstairs, the stairs, and most of downstairs
  • did the dishes
  • went to my nephew’s first birthday dinner
    • isn't he cute?!

      isn’t he cute?!

  • went grocery shopping
  • cleaned the kitchen
  • cleaned the fish tank
  • sat down to write this blog

What do you notice about this day? That I like everything in multiples of 3! Just kidding (though not really…). That I was super productive with my extra hour? (Thanks, Daylight Savings! The one day a year that you’re helpful to me!) No no. In all seriousness, I AM prepared for November. The house is clean, my mind is set, and I’m launching NaNoWriMo once again. My daily word count has already been met! Just 29 more daily word counts to go!

I’m doing it differently this year, though. I’m at a point where writing a new draft of something is “easy,” where hitting 50,000 words is not that daunting. What is daunting is tackling a revision and letting other people see my stories. So this year, I’m using November to complete a revision, to polish up that darn Copper manuscript once and for all, and get it out there. No more fuzzy awkward middle section. No more love triangle (those things are so damn overdone and unrelatable). No more long introduction. No more weird twists (though there’s still a twist… maybe. We’ll see). Will this work? I don’t know. But I’m not as confident going into it as I have been the past few NaNos, and I kind of think that’s a good thing. Just like people don’t run 5Ks forever without starting to think about 10Ks and marathons, I can’t treat NaNoWriMo as an easy first step and never take the next one. I wouldn’t let a character get away with that, so I’m not letting myself get away with that.

Of course, I still have to teach 3 different English classes and grade all their papers and keep my house semi-clean (but at least it’s starting strong, so all the neglect to come won’t be the end of the world)… AND pay attention to my husband and dog and various other relationships, but November is mine. One month of putting myself and my goals first is allowed, I think.

So here we go! Keep me accountable!

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