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Annual Austen Poll!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

In 2014, I started a tradition of re-reading one of Jane Austen’s novels. Since then, I’ve re-read Persuasion (twice), Mansfield Park, and Sense & Sensibility. It’s now time for me to start thinking about which JA novel I’m going to re-read this year—and I thought I’d let you all help me decide!

Vote for the Austen novel you think I should read for this year’s Annual Austen—and maybe we can do a read-along!

If you’d like to make a case for the book of your choice—and/or if you’re interested in doing this as a scheduled read-along—please leave a comment below. 😀

2018 Writing & Professional Development Goals

Friday, January 5, 2018

Last year, I started the year by setting some very specific goals—complete with timelines and lots of stuff plugged into my calendar—for the writing I wanted to do in 2017. And then this happened:

This year, I’m revisiting most of those goals and will be recreating a plan to get them accomplished this year. These include goals for actual writing (word count, manuscript timeline, etc.), professional development (study, online courses/workshops, conference attendance), social media strategy, and writing space optimization/organization.

Writing Goals/Challenges
Even though I have several professional development goals mixed in the handwritten list, are the writing goals I’ve set for myself in 2018:

  • Plan, draft, and self-edit a complete novel/novella manuscript.
  • Timed 60 minutes “writing time” each day (writing and/or story-related tasks).
  • Schedule at least one time per month (Sunday afternoon?) to write away from home (e.g., coffee shop, library).
  • Review all old notebooks and computer files for story ideas.
  • Set timelines and a schedule for all writing goals!


Professional Development Goals/Challenges
As mentioned, several of my professional development goals are included in my handwritten Writing Challenge list. Here they all are together:

  • Get actively involved in RWA/Music City Romance Writers chapter.
  • Attend writing/reader-related events as often as possible (Southern Kentucky Bookfest, Southern Festival of Books, local bookstore events, etc.)
  • Read at least one craft-of-writing book per quarter.
  • Critically read at least one project-related novel/novella per quarter.
  • Reconsider/research/rebuild social media strategy.
  • Do something at least once a quarter face to face with other writers (group meetings, coffee meetups, workshops, etc.).
  • October 4–7: Moonlight & Magnolias writing conference in Atlanta.
  • Attend at least one online seminar/workshop/course (through RWA or SkillShare).

What are your goals for professional (or personal) development and/or writing this year?

2018 Reading Challenge and Goals

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It’s only January 4, but time to read is already slipping away!

So, while I’m only now posting my 2018 reading challenge and goals publicly, I’ve actually already completed one book and have two more going. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

2018 Challenge by the Numbers
In previous years, I’ve set the number goal for my challenge by adding one to the total of books read in the year before. However, because I need to set aside time for writing this year, I decided to cut back on the total number, yet still keep it challenging.

So I decided that averaging five books (books, novellas, short stories, long-form blog series, etc.) per month is challenging without being overwhelming.

2018 Challenge by the Letters
Because it pushed me out of my comfort zone without being too uncomfortable, I’m choosing to do the A to Z challenge, two authors for each letter, again in 2018.

Because it helped me so much last year to keep track of stuff in a spreadsheet, I’ve been working on that for this year, too—downloading my sounds interesting and to read and sequels to read lists from Goodreads as well as my wish lists from the two public library systems I have access to. It’s taking a while to reconcile the two lists with each other (I have some books in my Goodreads lists that I don’t have in my library wish lists, and vice versa), and I don’t know that I need to add all the library wish-list books to my lists in Goodreads. But it’s nice to have them all listed in one place, so I’ll be finishing the spreadsheet tonight.

2018 Challenge Extras
There are a couple of other goals I have set for myself—goals that tie in to my writing/professional development goals for 2018.

Craft books: I’m breaking my planning into quarters this year, so I’ve set the goal of reading/studying at least one craft book per quarter; meaning that of my sixty total books, at least four should be writing-craft books.

Critical reading: With all the reading I’ve done in the past several years, I haven’t made the time or effort to read critically. As another piece of my professional development is to critically read at least one novel/novella that will help with my writing per quarter. Again, meaning, that of my sixty total books, at least four should be for critical reading.

What’s your reading challenge(s) for 2018?

Books Read in 2018: ‘Caroline: Little House Revisited’ (2 stars)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
by Sarah Miller
Audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Marvel
Genre: Historical Fiction
My rating: 2 stars

Book Summary:
In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

My GR Status Update(s):
12/30. . .Started Reading
01/02. . .Finished Reading

My Review:
2 stars

At about a quarter of the way through, I posted this update:
While interesting, for the most part, the prose is weighed down with overwrought metaphorical language, and the author seems more focused on tedious minutiae like chamber pails and who has to go to the bathroom when rather than what should be the driving force of this book, which is retelling the events of Little House from Ma’s viewpoint.

I understand from reading others’ reviews that they found the writing style “poetic”; I found it distracting. Every time this overworked language was used, it pulled me out of (what little story was in) the book as I did the mental gymnastics to parse the unusual imagery/metaphors out into something more natural and simple, as would befit a retelling of something in the Little House series. With as long as this book was (almost 14 hours in the audio format), I thought it would cover several, if not all, of the books in Wilder’s original series. No. It covers only the events of the second volume, Little House on the Prairie, when the family move from the Big Woods of Minnesota to Indian Territory in Kansas.

There were a few scenes that raised a little bit of tension (e.g., crossing the lake and the rain storm in the first 25% of the book)—until they went on far too long. And that was the biggest problem with this book. Scenes dragged on and on and on (again, focused on minutiae unimportant to the forward progression of the story) and a good 80 to 85% of the narrative took place inside Caroline’s head.

Then, there were the attempts at bringing adult-level sensuality into the story in the relationship between Caroline and Charles. The flashback to their wedding night was completely unnecessary (and icky) as were most of the scenes between them that were supposed to be romantic. (It’s a lot like thinking about your parents or grandparents being intimate—you just don’t want to think about it.

I’m really happy I chose to borrow this from the library before I decided to purchase it to add to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection, because it’s not worthy of being included on the shelf of honor.

_______
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Books Read in 2017: A Recap of My Reading Challenge

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Yesterday, I posted the visual report from Goodreads of what I read in 2017. Here’s how the results match up with my goals.

By the Numbers

As I’d done for the past several years, I set last year’s goal by simply adding one to the previous year’s total. That put me at a goal of 65 titles to be read in 2017 (an average of 5.4 titles per month). How did I do?

Up through the beginning of December, I was barely on track to meet the goal of 65 . . . until I realized how many letters (see next section) I still needed to complete for the second part of my goal. So I dug in and spent a lot more time reading in December to meet both parts of the challenge.

You can see the full list of everything I read in 2017 in my Goodreads list.

By the Letter(s)
In addition to a total number of books, I took my 2015 goal of reading one author for each letter of the alphabet (with X being optional) and expanded it to two authors for each letter of the alphabet (X being optional again). Here’s how I did alphabetically:

A

    1. Ackroyd, Peter; 2. Alcott, Louisa May; 3. Atwood, Margaret; 4. Austen, Jane; 5. Ashley, Jennifer; 6. Aslan, Reza

B

    1. Balogh, Mary; 2. Burrowes, Grace; 3. Butler-Bowdon, Tom (Ed.); 4. Beau, Elle

C

    1. Cates, Kimberly; 2. Crystal, David; 3. Cahill, Thomas

D

    1. Doescher, Ian; 2. Dare, Tessa

E

    1. Ellison, J. T.; 2. Erickson, Carolly

F

    1. Featherstone, Charlotte; 2. Fisher, Carrie; 3. Freed, Alexander; 4. Forsyth, Mark

G

    1. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins; 2. Gaskell, Elizabeth; 3. Grecian, Alex

H

    1. Harper, Julia (Elizabeth Hoyt); 2. Hampton, Richard

I

    1. Isaac, Kara; 2. Irving, Washington

J

    1. James, Henry; 2. Jones, Darynda

K

    1. Knightley, Erin; 2. Kelly, Carla

L

    1. Lenhardt, Melissa; 2. Lin, Amber; 3. Lincoln, Abraham and Stephen Douglas; 4. Lee, Georgie

M

    1. Marlowe, Mia; 2. Massie, Robert K.; 3. McCullough, David; 4. Meyer, G. J.; 5. Milan, Courtney; 6. Milan, Courtney; 7. Miller, John Jackson; 8. Moulton, Gary E.

N

    1. Norton, K. C.; 2. Noble, Kate

O

    1. O’Keefe, Megan E.; 2. O’Neal, Eilis

P

    1. Paine, Thomas; 2. Pool, Daniel; 3. Putney, Mary Jo; 4. Prose, Francine

Q

    1. Quick, Amanda; 2. Quick, Kathryn

R

    1. Ridley, Erica; 2. Raybourn, Deanna

S

    1. Shea, Ammon; 2. St. James, Simone

T

    1. Thomas, Sherry; 2. Thoreau, Henry David

U

    1. Unsworth, Tania; 2. Ursu, Anne

V

    1. Van Dyken, Rachel; 2. Verge, Lisa Ann

W

    1. Wendig, Chuck; 2. Wilson, A. N.

Y

    1. Young, Felicity; 2. Yansky, Brian

Z

    1. Zahn, Timothy; 2. Zahler, Diane

The Genres
Back in 2014, I did a reading challenge that included a bunch of genres that I don’t usually read—fantasy (non-romance), historical fiction (non-romance), science fiction, mystery, nonfiction, horror/paranormal, etc. I did this to try to break myself out of my reading comfort zone and expand my reading (and writing) horizons. But just like when I was in school with assigned reading lists, I had a hard time wanting to force myself to read those genres I’m not familiar/comfortable with.

The A to Z challenge, however, has taken me on a journey into genres that I might not have picked up before—mainly because it’s kind of hard to find historical romance novels written by people with last names fitting every letter of the alphabet! Here are the genres I read in 2017:

  1. Annual Austen
  2. Classic American Literature
  3. Classic British Literature
  4. Contemporary Romance
  5. Contemporary Romance – Inspirational
  6. Contemporary Romance – Paranormal
  7. Contemporary Romantic Suspense
  8. Fantasy–Horror–Suspense/Thriller
  9. Historical Fiction – 16th–17th Century
  10. Historical Fiction – American 19th Century
  11. Historical Mystery – Victorian
  12. Historical Romance – 18th Century
  13. Historical Romance – Regency
  14. Historical Romance – Regency/Paranormal
  15. Historical Romance – Victorian
  16. Mystery/Suspense-Thriller
  17. Nonfiction–Biography
  18. Nonfiction–British History (10th–15th Centuries)
  19. Nonfiction–British History (16th–17th Centuries)
  20. Nonfiction–American History (19th Century)
  21. Nonfiction–Literary Criticism
  22. Nonfiction–Memoir
  23. Nonfiction–Political Science
  24. Nonfiction–Religion
  25. Nonfiction–Sociology/Psychology
  26. Nonfiction–Story Research
  27. Nonfiction–Writing Craft
  28. Novella–Contemporary Romance
  29. Novella–Historical Romance (Regency)
  30. Novella–Historical Romance (Victorian)
  31. Short Story–Contemporary Romance
  32. Short Story–Sci-Fi
  33. Short Story–Fantasy
  34. Star Wars
  35. Young Adult – Fantasy
  36. Young Adult/Middle Grade – Fantasy

How was your reading by the numbers in 2017?

I Completed My 2017 Reading Challenge!

Monday, January 1, 2018

I completed my 2017 reading challenge. Did you?

It’s a (Tentatively Motivated) Timer Tuesday!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

If you’re curious, it’s from Story Idea #1 on the Story Ideas in Progress page.

I know it seems a little late in the year to be “starting” something, even if it’s something that I’ve done regularly on the blog in the past. But it’s never too late to get remotivated—especially since my main goal for 2017 was to regain the desire to write and to relearn how to have fun when writing. That single page is all I wrote yesterday, but I felt good while doing it. So I think I need to get back to some 1k1hr timed writing sprints to see if I can keep this motivation going. For now, I’m going to write longhand with a goal of at least one full notebook page—which is only a couple hundred words. But it’s more important that I get back into telling a story instead of worrying about all of the other stuff that goes with “writing,” which seems to be worse when I’m looking at it coming out on the computer screen.

If you’d like to participate in Timer Tuesday, you can set your own time that works best for you. I’ll most likely do mine around 7 PM US Central time this evening.

During this hour, you can work on a word-count goal, as is the original intent of the 1k1hr sprint, if you so desire. For those of us who are now looking at a goal of spending more time writing, the focus of that scheduled, uninterrupted hour isn’t trying to hit a word-count but just making sure we’re completely focused on something fiction-writing related for the entire hour with no distractions. Same goes for editing and revision, as well.


IT’S TIMER TUESDAY!

What time will you be doing your 1k1hr today? Or if you absolutely cannot do one full hour, how will you make sure you get at least one hour of writing-related work done today?

Remember, the more support (and accountability) there is, the more successful we’ll all be!

1k1h Tips for Success

  1. Prevent Interruptions.
    Let anyone within your household know that you need one uninterrupted hour to try to head off at the pass any interruptions.
  2. Set a Timer.
    This is most important. Don’t do this by just watching the clock. You’ll find yourself only watching the clock and not getting anything accomplished. Setting a timer allows you to forget about the time and concentrate fully on your project.
  3. Prepare Ahead of Time.
    Schedule your 1k1hr time far enough in advance (allow yourself at least an hour if not more) in order to start thinking about what you’re going to work on. Even if you’re doing something else until just about time to work, you can still use part of your brain to be thinking ahead as to what scene you’re going to write or what story idea you’re going to work on. Be sure to allow a few minutes before your work time starts in order to truly prepare, though.

    –For Sprint Writing: Re-read the last few pages you wrote (without editing/revising!) to get your head back into the story and figure out where you need to pick up. Review your outline and/or character pages in your Story Bible. If you’re going to be sprint writing, put all of that away so you don’t use those to procrastinate during the hour.

    –For Project Time: If you’re focused on building time rather than word-count, surround yourself with all of these things in order to keep from having to stop to find stuff as you work. The more things you have that will spark your creativity and present new ideas to you, the better.

  4. Music:
    –For Sprint Writing: If you listen to music while writing (I recommend instrumental so that you don’t get distracted by the lyrics), have it set up and playing before starting your timer. Use earphones, even if you’re working at home, to block out any sounds that might pull you out of your story.

    –For Project Time: Have you considered setting up a “playlist” for your story/idea? Do you have a theme song for each of your main characters? How does/could music play into your story idea/character development. (See this post for an example.)

  5. Wear Earphones.
    If you can’t listen to music while writing/working, I recommend wearing the earphones anyway. People are less likely to interrupt you (at home or working somewhere like a coffee shop) if you have them in/on—and they help block out other distracting sounds.
  6. Prepare Your Work Space.
    Make sure your work space (both physical and mental) is set up and ready to go before you start your timer, whether your sprint writing or working on a writing-related project for the hour. In other words, make sure that about five to ten minutes before you start the 1k1h time begins, you’re in the process of getting ready to work.
  7. Eliminate all distractions!
    Silence or turn off your cell phone (unless you’re using it as your timer—then don’t turn it off, just put your phone in Airplane Mode; or if there are people who may absolutely need to get in touch with you—spouse, kids, etc.—set up your Do Not Disturb with exceptions for those few people.). Close your Internet browser. Close Facebook and Twitter. Close your email program if you use something like Outlook that isn’t web-based.

Can’t figure out how to get started sprint writing? Check out one of the previous Timer Tuesday posts for ideas.

Don’t forget to check in with your progress and how you do with your own 1k1hr writing/project time today!

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