18 December 2017

My 2018 Reading Challenge

Man, I've been really bad at this whole blogging thing lately. I've been doing just one or two posts per month for a while now. Something I'd like to work on in the new year (also something I say every year), among other things. But something I'm really, really bad at doing is keeping up with my reading goals.

Every year I make it a goal to read 100 books. Every year I fail miserably. I know I should set my goal lower, but I would just like to actually be able to do it once, and then I could be more realistic in the future. So! I came up with an idea to help motivate me to read more.

For 2018, each month of the year will have a different theme for the books I plan on reading. There have been some books I've been wanting to read, and others I've wanted to reread for a while. So I decided to devote each month to either a certain series or a theme, which will make a whole lot more sense once I list them.

My plan for reading in 2018:

January: Clear the bookshelf!

To start off the year, I'm going to read as many books as I can that have been sitting on my bookshelf for months or even years.

February: Romance

Perfect month for it, right? I actually have no idea what books I'll read yet, but I've got a good amount of time to figure it out. Suggestions are welcome.

March: Books made into movies

The rule for this is that it has to be a movie I've already seen, but a book I haven't read.

April: Poetry

National Poetry Month! I have 6 unread poetry books already to read and will possibly buy more to bring my goal up.

May: Books made into TV shows

Pretty much the same as movie month, but with TV shows, obviously.

June: LGBT books

Pride Month! See, I thought these things out. And I've already made a deal with myself that it cannot just be the G. Stop being so predictable, self.

July: Harry Potter (reread)

I've been watching the movies way too much whenever they're on TV lately and I realized it's been quite a while since I've read the books. Been wanting to give them another read for a while now.

August: Blogger buddies' books!

Because Friendship Day is on the first Sunday of August, I'll be reading all of the books that I've bought/won from all my blogger buddies. I really have a lot of them. Some of them are really short, too. I should be able to bust out a lot this month. Yay!

September: Banned books

Banned Books Week is in September, so I thought I'd devote the whole month to banned books! Only books I haven't read before.

October & November: The Vampire Chronicles (reread)

Ok, this one needed two months because I am just not a very fast reader. I got Prince Lestat as a Christmas present I think three years ago and never read it because it had been so long since I had read the other books in the series. Since then, another book (Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis) has also been released. It's 12 books altogether, and they're not short, so I'll be taking two months to tackle this goal. I was super into Anne Rice as a teenager so it should be fun to revisit her work.

December: Classics

I actually have a bunch of classic novels I've never read! But I'll probably wait to decide on all of them because I have plenty of time.

So there you have it! For most months, my goal is at least 8 books. I think August will be a lot higher to help make up for the rest of the numbers. Hopefully I can stick with it and make it to 100 books!

But first, I have some monstrous wrap up goals for December. Including:

- Finishing the books I'm already reading. THIS includes:

 - The behemoth that is Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I'm on page 310 of 818. (Everyone wish me their best King George "Good luck!")
- Another behemoth because I'm a lunatic, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I was about 50% through this 760 page book when my Kindle decided to have a stroke and die, and I'm still waiting for my new one to arrive.
- The collected poems of Dylan Thomas. I'm about 3/4 through this and this is probably the only book I'll actually finish.

- I would also really like to reread Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman because I will hopefully be seeing the movie this upcoming weekend (the first showing around here is this Thursday and it sold out before I could buy tickets. I didn't cry or anything). I adore this book and it'll be my fourth read, but I can definitely bust it out in a day or two. Plus it'll probably get me writing again (bonus!).

- I would also like to peruse (probably not finish) this book I have on sexuality in Ancient Greece to help me with some symbolism in my novel. For one scene. That's commitment, people. I think.

I swear I'm done now.

What are your reading goals for 2018? Do you think I can finish all my December books? Any book suggestions for my different thems? What are your favorites?

06 December 2017

The Year of Not a Whole Lot

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

I almost forgot to write this post! That's what I get for procrastinating. Luckily the IWSG provides an optional monthly question we can answer, which is always great when I'm in a rush and can't think of an idea. This month's question is:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

Speaking of procrastination...

I did not get a lot done this year. Definitely not as much as I'd hoped. I really wanted to finish the third draft of Uneven Lines, actually much earlier in the year. But it looks like it's not going to happen again. There's just still so much work to do and not enough time to do it. 

I made some good progress in the beginning of the year. Not fantastic, but at least I had a steady pace going. I haven't had a good momentum since the end of July. I've only finished two chapter edits since then. There's just always something getting in the way - work, vacations, errands, a sick cat. And usually after all that I'm too tired to do much writing. 

I also just tend to avoid editing if I know it's going to be hard. I put it off. I know I just need to tackle it but it's hard to motivate myself. 

On the other hand, this novel has always been a bit of a slow process, but with some good results. It's extremely complicated and I've needed the time to figure things out. I also don't think I'd have the same story if I had gotten it done years ago when I first thought of it. I do think all the changes will make it a better story.

But still, I just want the damn thing done! I feel depressed sometimes that I'm not working on it, but then it's hard to work on it because I'm depressed and...it's a vicious cycle. 

I think if I can finish the current chapter I'm on I can bust through at least 3 or 4 more before getting to some really difficult editing. But usually even when I think a chapter will be easy, it turns out to need more work than I imagined. 

I think for next year I'd just like to do more. I'd like to spend less time doing nothing. If I can say I worked on writing every day, even if it's just for a few minutes, I'd take that as an accomplishment.

13 November 2017

Remakes Blogfest

Today is the Remakes Blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner!

Remakes – most of them suck. Now and then, one comes along that is as good as, if not better, than the original. And after all of the bad ones we’ve endured, we want to know about some good ones.

On November 13, 2017, blog about your favorite remake: movie (or television show into movie and vice versa), song, or book – or all three! Post a YouTube video and links where we can find these treasures. Tell us why THIS remake doesn’t suck!

This was a tricky one! Because originals are *usually* better. But then I remembered a certain movie series that I've always enjoyed that are based on books...but when I tried to read said books, I was, well...disappointed...is one way of putting it...mortified is another...

JAMES BOND! Or Casino Royale, to be specific, because it's the only book I read. I will never try to read another. 

I've seen ALL the movies. My husband and I really enjoy them. We don't actually go out to the movies all that much but we always make sure to catch the new Bond films in IMAX. So, since I've always liked the movies, I thought I'd give the books a shot. 


I'm sorry, but the book Casino Royale was probably the worst piece of sexist drivel I've ever laid my eyes upon. I know it was first published in 1953, but still....no, just no. Obviously, in the movies Bond is a womanizer, but in the book, he just seems like a sexist a-hole. He just wasn't likable at all, all of the charisma you usually see on screen replaced with bitter inner monologues and incredibly degrading views of women ("bitch" comes up a lot, and that's not even the worst of it). The story itself wasn't all that great, either. I really didn't expect it to be so boring. 

I think I'll stick to the movies. More action, less blatant sexism. 

Do you like the James Bond films? Ever tried reading the books? 

01 November 2017

Why Didn't I Realize This Sooner?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

I'm somehow equally secure and insecure about the same thing lately. Well, I figured something out, which is great. Fantastic. Wonderful. It's just...it's something I could have, should have realized a long time ago. So while I'm glad I'm starting to figure things out about my book, I'm still left shaking my first and screaming "WHY DIDN'T I REALIZE THIS SOONER???"

Ahem. So last week I (vaguely) talked about having a bit of an epiphany about the last third of my book, which I've been trying forever to figure out and rewrite. Basically I realized Jordan (the MC of my WIP for those of you who are new here) wasn't acting like himself and that it was making the story weaker. If he stayed truer to his character, it would make more sense going forward and I could eventually bring the book to its conclusion without losing tension (I hope).

Well, I'm still figuring out more things that I should have already figured out. I've talked before about a "twist" that happens at the end of Chapter 17. Well, it'll probably be Chapter 18 now because my editing has added a chapter, but that's not the point. I've always been a bit psychotic about how much I love this twist. I wouldn't say it's a complete plot twist, it's more that one character does something you wouldn't expect, the other character is basically smacked in the face by it, and things get all messed up for a chapter or two before getting resolved.

I love, love, love this moment when it happens. It's intense. It's kind of heartbreaking. But what I did afterward always worried me. I kind of smoothed things over really quickly. In the next chapter, actually. Basically the character who did the bad thing explains why he did it and my characters more or less make up and everything's back to normal. I've always worried that I kind of made that awesome twist irrelevant by sweeping it under the rug.


Well, this is what I'm realizing. In relation to my last post, this is basically the moment in the story where Jordan realizes he's letting his emotions get the better of him. He basically makes a big emotion-based decision, tries to act on it, and gets blindsided by the results. I wouldn't say he gets heartbroken, but close. SO. This is the point where he decides he's never going to let his emotions dictate his actions again, because the one time he does it backfires on him.

So this thought process will continue throughout the rest of the book! So while he does make up with the other character and things seemingly go back to normal, underneath, he has completely changed because of the twist moment.

You're probably thinking, that's great, Sarah, why would you be insecure when you're finally figuring the end of your book out? Because I could have figured it out sooner! All the puzzle pieces were there, staring me in the face, and I just couldn't put them together. Oh well. What can you do? Just keep writing, I suppose.

Have you ever realized something about a WIP that you should have realized sooner? 

23 October 2017

My MC is Terrible (or, My Book Epiphany)

So, I had a bit of a book epiphany. And it wasn't that my MC (you know who) is a terrible character. It's that he's a terrible person! Well, sort of. Bear with me.

It's always felt like there was something I was missing from the end of the book, something I couldn't figure out. It always seemed weaker, almost flimsy when compared to the beginning of the book. I couldn't figure out how to get my book to the same conclusion but to keep it strong along the way. It seemed the path it wanted to take just made it less interesting.

Well, I was kind of smacked in the head with an idea. At work, of all places. Now, I can usually zone out and think about these things without stopping what I'm doing, but this idea seemed so intense that I actually paused and stared off into space while I considered it (hopefully no one saw me, I'm pretty sure my mouth fell open a few times). I know when an idea is this strong, then it's probably the right way to go.

So, the thing about my characters' relationship in the book is that it's all about structure. Every moment is planned, calculated. Actually, pretty much everything my MC does is calculated -- except when he's driven by emotion. As teenagers are apt to be. So as more emotions get involved over the course of the novel, the structure kind of falls apart. But I realized, why does this particular character lose the structure? It's not really like him at all. Sure, he can slip for a moment or two, show some emotion, even if it's just for the reader. But he should be able to come back to his senses and always see everything from a few steps ahead.

I realized this was my problem. He stopped calculating things, figuring them out, being manipulative--things that have been central to his character from the beginning. Why? It seems that the end of the book came because of a buildup of emotion and not an intense thought process. He really should see it coming, actually, he should see every moment of the book coming. If he doesn't know when things will happen, he should at least be aware that they will happen. The end of the book always seemed to come out of nowhere, but I think there needs to be a more obvious build to it. When emotions come into play, he should be more analyzing of his own, to see how he reacts in certain situations and how that fuels what he wants to do next. He can't just be a slave to his emotions because he never has been before. He needs to stay true to his character.

I think the tricky part now is that I need my MC to keep some things from the reader. I kinda want him to have a bit of a reveal at the end that he saw everything coming, that everything was planned out and not as spontaneous as it seemed. Hopefully this will make the ending more devastating for the reader *insert evil laugh*. So while maybe he wasn't 100% heartless throughout the book, the end will kind of smack everybody in the face (characters and readers included). I think I just have to find a good balance between what he's willing to share with the reader and how he's able to hide the rest.

Ok, I know that was super vague and did not make much sense. But the important thing is that I THINK I FINALLY FIGURED MY DAMN BOOK OUT. Hopefully once I write it out it will all make sense.

Ever been smacked by a book epiphany? Have you ever realized your character wasn't acting like him/herself and that was dragging the book down?

04 October 2017

Showing off the Insecurity

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

It's a busy day so I'll spare you all my personal nonsense (mainly that my poor Gizmo is sick AGAIN and I really can't afford to go to the vet right now...wait, this isn't sparing you, is it?) and dive right in...

First up, this month's optional question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

Kinda sorta. I think I sometimes create characters who are versions of myself, or who share some personality traits. Jordan's best friend, Eric, is a lot like me. He's shy and awkward, and what ends up happening to him in the book kind of reflects some things that I went through with friends in high school. But it's very, very different, too, so it's not too obvious. 

I did, however, recently come to realize something about a major character that I also recently discovered about myself (what that is may be a little TMI for this post...perhaps another day!). It kind of makes a complicated character even more complicated, but I think it actually makes sense for the way I've written him. It kind of explains any unanswered questions. But I just kinda like how it was something I discovered about myself and the character! Like I had created this trait in him that I didn't even know was in me. 

And now for something completely different...

Today is also the day for the Show Us Your Writer Insecurity contest! Don't ask me why I decided to take part, I'm the least photogenic person on the planet (why does my forehead always look 10 times bigger than it does in real life???), but here goes nothin'...

Here's what you need to know about this photo:

1. I'm rockin' the IWSG swag with my sweet new notebook and mug (I love mugs!)
2. I'm also rockin' my math leggings (aka editing pants)
3. The red binder holds the third draft of Uneven Lines (so far...still only up to Chapter 12)
4. Yup, that pen on the binder is the OG FFP (I'm not lame, I swear...)
5. Coffee is life (especially when trying to edit) 

Ok, I'm done. Big shout out to my hubby for taking this photo (and the dozens of shots taken before this one that I didn't like).

25 September 2017

Routine? What's That?

Yikes! I haven't blogged regularly in quite some time! So it's definitely time for me to get out of vacation mode and back into the swing of things. Whatever that means. I've always been really terrible at making a routine for myself and sticking to it. I procrastinate on things that have to get done, so you can imagine what happens to the things that don't have to immediately be done (*cough* writing *cough*). Sometimes I just feel like there's not enough time in the day to do everything I need and want to do.

There's work, obviously. I really like my hours compared to my old job (they're the same every day and I get every other weekend off). I'm home every day at 2:30 so you'd think that would leave lots of time for other stuff? Well..........not as much as you'd think. Probably because my job is physically demanding. I'm just always tired. The first thing I have to do when I get home is give my cat treats (you do not want to mess with the cat's routine...). Then I usually need something to eat myself and I'll catch up on a TV show. Then maybe if I feel like getting up I'll do some dishes or some other chore. My husband gets home at 4:30 and gets us iced coffees and then we pretty much just watch TV, have dinner, then go to bed around 9 or 10.

Ok, I know the glaring thing in that routine is that I watch way too much TV. I know. Guilty. I like TV, ok? Plus, with the whole being tired thing, my brain isn't always at full capacity. I'm not sure anything I would try writing at that time would be any good. But I don't actually try, so how would I know?

There's just so much I want to get done and never have the time or energy. I want to go to the gym at least 5 days a week, but there goes at least an hour and it will leave me even more tired. I want to read more. My 100 book goal this year is DEFINITELY not happening (I'm only at 11). And obviously, there's writing. I haven't worked on UL's third draft in almost two months (did I just admit that?). And I haven't been blogging that much either. Even when I write a post, I don't get around to visiting as many other blogs as I'd like.

I really want to switch things up but I don't know where to start. I'm way behind in my writing goals for this year, too. I thought I'd be done with the third draft months ago. I really wanted to write the second book in the series for NaNoWriMo, but I just don't think I'll be ready yet for it. I thought about doing Shiny New Story instead, but I don't think that idea's developed enough, either. I still have over a month to figure it out, but if I don't make a lot of progress on UL, I probably won't want to take myself away from it, either. I've just never fully committed to NaNo and I really wanted to do it this year.

So yeah. I don't do well with routines. I can't even make myself wash my face every night, for crying out loud. But I still keep trying. Maybe I can make a routine that works.