A Year Without Books

It’s been months again, but it hardly seems any time has passed since I last posted. The last few months have been hellacious, physically and emotionally. Suffice it to say, writing has been far from my mind because of it. I was in a huge downward spiral of depression and angst with no sign of letting up.

Then my doctor put me on a thyroid medication and it was spook how, in less than 24 hours, I turned 180 degrees and started putting one foot in front of the other again. I’ve known for a long time that I had thyroid problems, but the doctors insisted because my blood tests were “normal,” I couldn’t possibly have a thyroid issue. But the results of taking this new medication prove them all wrong.

Now I’m slowly getting back into a writerly groove and I’m thankful. I’ve missed it.

But I’ve also spent FAR too much money on books this year. People may say that’s impossible, but when I’m feel down or blue or anxious, buying books is my sanity. Especially spending an hour or two browsing through a huge bookstore. Very little is more calming to me than that.

However, I know I’ve spent far and away what I should have, and I need to get it under control.

So, beginning October 1st, I will be giving up buying books for a whole year.

How is this possible? Won’t I run out of new books to read. *scoff* Hardly. I have a couple thousand books for my shelves and haven’t read at least 1/3 to 1/2 of them. Not to mention all the books on my Kindle. And this will get me at least a tiny bit caught up on my TBR list. Not all the way, but at least making some headway.

But I’d like to get your advice: are there any books you know of that are coming out soon, will be forthcoming in the next year, or any favorites you recommend that I just won’t be able to live without for a year? 🙂 I have a wide range of tastes in reading, so I’m fairly open.

Shoot ’em at me before I go cold turkey in a few weeks.

Happy writing and reading!

 

“Sometimes, looking at the many books I have at home, I feel I shall die before I come to the end of them, yet I cannot resist the temptation of buying new books. Whenever I walk into a bookstore and find a book on one of my hobbies — for example, Old English or Old Norse poetry — I say to myself, “What a pity I can’t buy that book, for I already have a copy at home.”
Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse

“How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections

“To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.”
Carlos María Domínguez, The House of Paper

Writing Without Regrets

It has been brought home to me of late the fragility of life and how little time we actually have in this world.

A few weeks ago, my only remaining grandparent, my dad’s mom, passed away at the age of 81.

Last night, one of my best friend’s grandma’s was given less than 48 hours to live.

Working in the medical field, death is something I see almost every day. In the past six months, at least two dozen of the people I treated as a physical therapist in the hospital passed away, many of whom I’d gotten to know.

Dwelling on death can be crippling, but it’s also made me realize I shouldn’t have any regrets. Eighty-one seems young to me, since I see many people live far past that age. On the other hand, I’ve known too many people who’ve passed far short of that age.

I’ve decided to take on a new stance regarding my writing due to all this personal experience with death lately: I shall not regret a word I’ve written, good or bad, positive or negative. Every bit of my writing has shaped me into the creative artist I am today.

What about you? Do you regret anything you’ve written?

Happy writing, my friends.

 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Frozen Writer

So many times I’ve heard people talk about how some of the best writers struggled with depression, angst, anxiety, and a variety of other psychological disorders, and that their difficulties fueled their writing. This past 12 months have been hellish for me with various health scares and concerns and I’ve been struggling through the pits of depression and anxiety.

Apparently, I am NOT in the hallowed group of depressed performers. When I’m going through a rough patch emotionally or psychologically, I do not perform well.

In fact, what comes out of me is either nothing–from being frozen by my issues–or the worst junk ever to hit paper/screen.

Does anybody else agree with me on this? I think I’ve read a couple books on writing that agree with me, but history often says otherwise.

Without a doubt, my best writing comes when I am happy, upbeat, rested, relaxed, etc. Even the dark scenes come best when I’m mentally in a good place.

What about you? When do you do your best writing? Does emotional state affect your writing ability, or put you solidly in a freeze?

Happy writing, or, perhaps, any writing? 🙂

 

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King

“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
John Keats, Letters of John Keats

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Coffee Shop Kook

Home is my enemy right now.

Completely.

I’ve been more productive in my writing in an hour or two at a coffee shop in the middle of my workday than I am for hours at home on the weekends or after work.

Gah!!!

I’m sure it’s because I get distracted by all the things that need doing or that I would like to be doing besides writing. Although I adore writing, I’m in the middle of a massive rewrite and it’s a LOT of work, so I look for things that are easier.

I haven’t had any success at home, so I’m essentially living at three different coffee shops around town. Thankfully, everyone is nice is about it, although my patients do notice I smell like coffee quite a bit.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but the smell of the beans after they’ve been ground seeps into my clothes. I’m fine with it. Eau de Coffee ain’t so bad.

Where’s your most productive location? Not your favorite location, your most productive. Home? Office? Work? Coffee Shop? Frigid street corner?

 

Happy writing!

 

“Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”
― Douglas R. Hofstadter

“To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.”
― Corita Kent

Top Books of 2015

This insanely busy, exciting, dramatic year has finally drawn to a close.

It brought with it a new job where I can travel the country to my heart’s content.

New book ideas that have filled my hard drive with endless stories and dialogue.

Amazing new friends I’ve met online and in person.

My first year participating in NaNo.

And a whole slew of new authors I read because of different posts and tweets and comments from all my online buddies.

Here are some of my top picks of the books I’ve read this year. I’m including new reads only, since we all know I’m a huge advocate of re-reading.

These are in no particular order.

  1. The Lunar Chronicles – A Cinderella cyborg surrounded by her equally enchanting and bedeviled fairy tale partners? Umm… yes, please! The first book, Cinder, is actually my least favorite of the four, and I’m currently reading Winter, the last book. But these books are amazing. Once I got into the 2nd book, I devoured the rest of them. So good!
  2. The Throne of Glass series – I adore this series. Partly for the plot, which is insanely in-depth with twists and turns at every corner, but probably more because of her writing style. Sarah J. Maas is brilliant with words. And I mean an absolutely insane master of language. I sometimes have to stop after a sentence or paragraph and say – “Man, that’s good.”
  3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – This one I snagged from a little free library when I was in Washington state and was totally enamored of this book. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it opened me up into the world of mixed media books. Which I bravely ventured into more after reading Hugo. A great read.
  4. The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo’s first book in this series was utter perfection. And I truly mean that. I read it I think in one day. Or possibly two, because I was on a train trip. But I was hooked from chapter one and couldn’t put it down. It’s dark, fantastical, edgy, and she, also, is a master of words.
  5. Jackaby – The tagline, Sherlock Holmes meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is spot-on. This first book in the series combines two things I adore: Sherlock Holmes, and fantasy.
  6. The Penderwicks – While my first love is YA and MG fantasy, The Penderwicks was a refreshing read about four sisters and their adventures on summer vacation with a young boy they meet. Also a read-in-one-sitting book. Highly recommended.
  7. Demon’s Heart – Of the more than 200 books I read this year, this book deserves more than other to be on my favorite’s list. Emily H. Bates is one of my writing buddies, and her blog is one of my favorites. I’m privileged to be a critique partner with her and am obsessed with pretty much everything she writes. Demon’s Heart is the first in a fantasy series and I adore it. You can ask her. I finished her second book in four hours. Four. Hours.

 

So there it is! My list of my favorite books this past year. I lost sleep on each and every one of them. Literally.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for new authors and opportunities to write and read.

What books were your favorites this year?

Happy New Year!!

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
― Brad Paisley

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
― Ellen Goodman

You’d Never Know I Was A Writer…

By the way I talk.

Seriously, I think I have some sort of disorder. Most of you have never met me in person and have only this blog for reference.

I suppose that’s a good thing because then you hopefully think I’m a lot smarter and more eloquent than I actually am.

Thank God I’m a writer and not a TV personality. I trip over my words all the time and stick my foot in mouth so much, it’s amazing I don’t produce cotton out of my throat.

Does anyone else have this problem?

As long as I have a medium to write, I’ll sound much better.

Happy writing!

 

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
― Lemony SnicketHorseradish

“I’m not good at talking. Can’t I just nod my way through a conversation? It’s better than nodding off.”
― Jarod KintzAt even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you’d still waste time by reading it.

Goodreads Goal

Although I joined Goodreads almost two years ago, I didn’t actually begin using it much until May of this year.

I decided I needed a goal to shoot for with reading since I never used to keep track of how many books I read.

I’ve always known it was over a hundred, easily. And the nice thing about Goodreads is that you can’t count a re-read book on your goal for the year.

As many of you know, I’m a huge advocate of re-reading, but the last few years, I rarely stepped out of my comfortable books and was re-reading almost exclusively. Though my bookcase is massive and even re-reading, I still wouldn’t re-read all the books I’ve read in a year.

So, a few weeks back, I hit my goal of 100 non-re-read books this year.

I still re-read a bit, though, so the total number of books I’ve read is almost 200.

I’ll do another goal next year, and I still have three weeks to read as many books as I can this year.

It’s been refreshing, as the new books have recharged my creative juices and I’m so much better at analyzing and critiquing authors’ books. I’ve definitely learned a lot and am excited to continue my learning streak.

Anybody else use Goodreads’ book challenge? Has it helped? Not made a difference?

Happy writing! (And reading!)

 

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
― Madeleine L’EngleWalking on Water

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.”
― Helen KellerThe Story of My Life

#PitMad Novice

Yesterday I participated in my first #PitMad, which is basically a pitch party on Twitter for your book. You pitch it in the 140 characters or less with that hashtag and pray that some agent trolling the feed will favorite your pitch or contact you about submitting a query letter and sample pages.

I was not one of those few yesterday. But it was a great learning experience.

I learned that crafting decent pitches it stinkin’ hard! Maybe even harder than query letters!

I had the amazing advice of one of my writing buddies, who is always so helpful, but I still felt like the pitches lacked punch.

Something that gave me hope, however, is an agent who said that not all books are pitchable in under 140 characters.

Emily, my writing buddy, would have to vouch for this, but I think that my book/series is one such case. It’s a massive undertaking with the basic good vs. evil type deal, but so complex in its intricacies and history that it was hard to narrow down what was really important.

I’ll keep trying to pitch in the future, but I think querying might be the way to go for me. Though I ABHOR querying, I’m able to spend about two paragraphs pitching my book instead of two sentences.

Anyone else tried pitching on Twitter? What was your experience?

Happy writing!

 

“As a book author, it’s your responsibility to cast a vision for your book about the length and appearance before you pitch the idea to a publisher.”
― W. Terry WhalinBook Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success

 

“Publishing is a business and writing is an art. The two have to be crammed together despite the clearly different motivations behind them.”
― Michelle M. Pillow

NaNo Convert

There is a very solid reason for my absence over the last few weeks/month.

I was entrenched in the yearly event of National Novel Writing Month.

Now, up until I actually participated in it this year, I was firmly anti-NaNo. I thought, what the heck do people need this for? Don’t they have enough motivation to write every other month? What’s the big deal?

Welp, here’s my story.

Usually the fall is the most productive writing time for me, but I hit a block. Not writer’s block. I knew exactly what I wanted and needed to write. But I was in the middle of my second book in the MG fantasy series I’m writing and the immensity and scope of it was getting to me. Plus the fact that my hopeless perfectionism kept slapping me in the head. I have a hard time with writing anything less than amazing.

Which is ridiculous.

Which explains my block.

So, at the very last minute possible (the afternoon of October 31), I signed up for NaNo. And decided to completely chuck my second book to the side for the time being.

Instead, I focused on a dream I’d had a week or two previous. I’d written down a lot about it, because I knew it’d be a good story, and thought it would help if I got a lot more down while it was still semi-fresh in my head.

And you know what? It worked!

Ignoring my problem child helped me channel my writing into a cohesive draft. While it isn’t completed, my NaNo book is coming along swimmingly. And is some of the darkest stuff I have ever, or maybe will ever write. I mean, seriously, where did all this stuff come from?

And thanks to the website, I could see where all my friends were in their progress. I have a SLIGHT competitive streak, and seeing their little bars go higher and higher made me push myself to write more than them.

Shameless, probably, but whatever.

Now, I know some people are still very much anti-NaNo, but I’ve been converted. People think it’s the wimpy way out. That we should be motivated and strong enough on our own.

But I’m okay with being thought of as wimpy and weak. Honestly. It got me writing again. Against many barriers.

I finished five days early. And during November I moved back to Michigan from Washington state, started a new job, got sick, began a new exercise regime, lived in a hotel for three weeks, moved to a new apartment, furnished said apartment, prepped for Thanksgiving, and visited many of the people I hadn’t seen in months.

So I don’t believe NaNo ran my life at all. If I can do it with all that crap going on, I know I can do it any other time. And even better? While I was NaNoing, the creative juices began to churn again for my second book I’d set aside, and I even got some writing done there! Yay!

Is my NaNo book perfect? Far from it. Will it ever get published? Who knows? Do I care? Only a little bit. My goal was to just write, even if it sucked, to get over my perfectionist tendencies.

I don’t think I’m cured yet, but well on my way.

How did everybody else’s November go?

Happy Writing!

 

“There’s an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention.”
― Chris Baty

“Don’t be offended if you encounter some good-natured ribbing; the idea of
writing a novel in a month deserves to be laughed at.”
― Chris BatyNo Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

 

A Little Robert Burns

Last night I started reading a book of collected poems by Robert Burns.

I’d read a few snippets of his poetry before, and know a few of the more popular poems, such as Auld Lang Syne; A Red, Red Rose; and Address to a Haggis.

But I hadn’t delved too deeply into the rest of his work. All I can say is… I love it! Even though poetry isn’t my go-to choice for reading, everything else has seemed too involved to read right now.

And because I read and adore Scottish accents, I don’t find it difficult in the least to decipher all the words we in America may find confusing. In fact, it amazed me how humorous many of his poems are! I found myself literally laughing out loud at a few of his bits, thoroughly enjoying his word choice and meter and style. Plus, he’s the national poet of Scotland. How cool!

What about you? Who is a poet you love? A favorite poet?

My favorite poet is Rudyard Kipling, but I think Burns is quickly going to climb the ladder and vie for the top spot or two.

Happy writing! And reading!
“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley.
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

(To A Mouse)
― Robert BurnsCollected Poems of Robert Burns

“There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”
― Robert BurnsCollected Poems of Robert Burns

“Some books are lies frae end to end,
And some great lies were never penn’d…”
― Robert Burns