Tag Archives: books

2016 In Review: Books

If I broke down the stuff I read in weeks, I would have met my goal of reading 1/2 a book a week, but the truth is, there were times I went weeks and even months without reading a single thing at all, so technically I failed. To further that failure, I read even less in 2016 than the shameful number of books I read in 2015.

 

I’m not sure that any amount of wanting and hoping I can read more in a year is enough to actually make it happen anymore. However, my husband has decided that truly smart people can read a book a week and that we are smart people so there’s no reason we can’t make it happen. I’m still unconvinced that’s all it takes, especially since I have far less free time than him and so I’m not putting the pressure of a book a week on my plate for 2017. I’m not even putting the pressure of 1/2 a book a week like I did in 2016. But what I will agree to, and what I hope helps get reading back into being a regular habit for me, is to read something everyday. Whether that be a few pages or a whole chapter, in 2017 I want to make an effort to finish everyday with reading. For a little while there in 2016, I’d gotten in the habit of working out, showering, and reading a chapter before bedtime. It was a really peaceful way to finish my day and a great way to feed my brain right before dream creativity kicks in.

 

Despite not technically meeting my reading resolution for 2016, I did read some really great books, like The Penderwicks – Book 1, The Isle of the Lost, Black Widow – Forever Red, and Paper Girls Vol. 1, just to name a few. I read some just okay books too, and finally finished a few books I’d been lingering on for too long. As usual, I wrote mini reviews for each on GoodReads (which you can check out HERE!)  or you can check out the spines of my 2016 reads below. There are a few missing, either because I lent them out or donated them, but they’ll be listed below!

 

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Not pictured: A Frozen Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick, Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith, The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High, Book 2) by Lisi Harrison, Where there’s a Wolf, There’s a Way (Monster High, Book 3) by Lisi Harrison, The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet, 2) by Kazu Kibuishi

 

-AND- Multiple, Single Comic Issues of Jem & the Holograms & New Archie

 

What was the best thing you read in 2016? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2017?

 

2016 Resolutions

You wouldn’t believe how long ago I started this post. What’s that thing they say, about starting things right away when they hit you instead of setting start dates in the near future? Yeah, well, I just knew I wouldn’t have time for some of these things, but I didn’t want to forget the desire either. And I figured if I wrote it down six months ago and it still felt like something I wanted to work toward by the New Year, it was meant to be on the list.

 

What am I hoping to achieve this year? More than last year, I’ll start with that. While I know 2015 wasn’t a total wash (I mean I did get married after all) productivity didn’t seem to be my strong suit last year. There were some legit reasons for that in 2015; death in the family, wedding planning, and an unexpected burst in the photography business, but I think another problem might be the looseness of the goals I set last year. I tend to do best with structure and detail and so by casually saying, “Oh, I’d like to write. Doesn’t matter how much,” I really just set myself up for failure because “writing” can mean a lot of things and while I did “write” things, like plenty more blogs than usual, none of them were the type of writing I really wanted to be doing, which was the storytelling kind. So, here are some specific things I’d like to achieve in 2016…

 
Study for and take CST1 & CST2 tests. In losing my old boss at the end of 2014 and gaining a new one ¼ of the way into 2015, I hit my 10 anniversary of working for the surveying world and finally found the strength to make sure my value (or lack thereof) was noted by the owners. While it saddened me to discover they were oblivious to all the hard work I’d been doing all this time, it made me realize I need to demand their acknowledgement more often if I ever expect to climb a latter of success and income in this business. Being a female surveyor in a world full of men is already against me, but apparently there are ways to make my intelligence and experience known other than by just performance and dedication alone in hopes that someone’s paying attention. My new boss (who’s not so new anymore) said there are several certifications he feels confident I would pass with ease because he sees the level of skill in me and knows that having those certifications only makes me a bigger asset to the company and my future in this field. I don’t think I could take them all in one year, especially since they cost $200 each, but I could probably manage the first two and I really want to make it happen. Not just for the job security it will help me have, or the bargaining tool I’ll have when it’s raise time again, but also just for the pride in an actual organization acknowledging what I already know about myself and my ability to survey.

 

(CST1 & 2=Certified Survey Technician, Level 1 and 2)

 
Read ½ a book a week. Maybe that sounds like a weird goal, but in years past I always said, read X amount of books and that’s become increasingly harder to achieve. And it doesn’t feel good. ½ a book a week should be doable. I should be able to find pockets of time throughout a week to squeeze in at least a half a book. And if I read more than that, great, but I need that half at least. I think part of the reason I struggled to write this year was because my creative well was bone dry. You need to read to write and I just didn’t read enough this year. If I only read ½ a book a week, my overall count of books read still won’t be that great at the end of the year, but the consistency of reading every week should help keep my creative well wet all year long.

 

Write 500 words a week. I missing writing like you can’t imagine. It’s been so long since new words poured from my fingers that I’m not even sure I remember how to write. There were a few moments last year when I felt compelled to write, inspired by music or books I did have time for, but for the most part my creative brain has been a desolate place, completely abandoned by all of my characters. I want to encourage them to come back, to be so loud I can’t possibly ignore them anymore. I want to still believe being a published author one day is an attainable dream I should still be having. 500 words a week sounds like so little. Heck, there used to be a time when I could put out a few thousand in a day. But it’s a starting place to get myself back into the habit of writing and it’s a small enough number that I should be able to find at least a handful of minutes a week to make it happen. Maybe I could try to get back into writing short stories first and then dive back into my novels. I don’t know, I just know I need to make it a priority again, even when photography threatens to steal all my free time.

 

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Learn Photoshop & Other Photography Related Goals. That sounds laughable, right? Even photoshop pros are always learning something new, considering the massive capabilities of Photoshop. What I mean is, learn to use it enough to ditch PaintshopPro and do at least the editing techniques I know how to do there in Photoshop instead. PaintshopPro has been good to me, it really is a decent program for the price, but as my photography wings continue to spread, I know that the edits I could make in Photoshop will be far superior to PaintshopPro and more in line with the level of quality in the pictures I’m already producing. It’s time to make the shift. To help me, I got a giant bible of a book on using Photoshop for photography and even though its size is intimidating, I’m hopeful it will guide me in the right direction so I’m not wasting too much time trying to figure out how to do relatively simple edits while I make the switch in programs.

 

In addition to learning Photoshop, I want to do a few other things this year where photography is concerned. For instance, take advantage of a magazine subscription for Popular Photography I’ve been getting for a year now, but have never read. There might not be actual education in them all the time, but it would serve me well to read about how other photographers do what they do, just so I’m exposed to other techniques I might not have discovered on my own. So, as a goal, I’d like to actually read this magazine every month.

 

I’d also like to test out other lenses and apparently you can rent them from places online to do just that. Last year I took a chance on a portrait lens for 100 bucks and I swear, it changed the way I shot and to this day is probably the best 100 bucks I’ve put into my business. It is easily my go-to lens now, but I know there must be others out there that will wow me; they’re just all too expensive to take the same chance on. I’m glad there’s an option like renting them for this reason and maybe by the end of the year I’ll have discovered a new “go-to” lens that is actually worth a real investment.

 

And lastly, I want to actually make this business more official, with standard rates and logo watermarking. Last year I was often under paid for the effort because I was too afraid to ask for what the work is actually worth and/or people were very quick to take advantage of my unprofessional or amateur outlook on the whole thing, like if I just call this a hobby, then why should they have to pay me for something I enjoy doing? Well, because it meant basically working 2 full time jobs for me and that can break a person. If I’m going to be exhausting every minute of my free time for this, it should at least pay the bills. And while I don’t really want to watermark my pictures, I think it’s a must after I found a few of my photos being used online without any link back or credit to the photographer. Perhaps people would stop looking at them as just pictures and more for the art they are if they’re stamped professionally. Plus, hello easy advertising. I’m still hesitant to do all of this because I’m not sure I can handle a workload much bigger than the one I had last year, but I do think it’s time I take this a little more seriously if I want to keep taking on the work.

 

Master T25 & Other Health Related Matters. To date, there are 3 series of T25 workouts: Alpha, Beta, and Omega, each of which lasts for 5 weeks. I currently have the first two in my possession and while I think it will take at least 2-5 week rounds of each to actually “nail it” I want to get through those first two series and have to buy the third one because my body will be demanding a new challenge by then. I’ve already said how empowering T25 was for me the first time I gave it a shot and I’m positive that will remain true with the other series as they’re designed to be increasingly more challenging and overcoming them will feel like such a huge success. I’m excited to see what kind of weight and inches I can keep losing with this regimen and how it impacts my sleep schedule and overall mental stability. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’ve successfully made it through all 3 series, but I hope by then to be in such a conditioned state that working out is just a part of my every day routine. Now that I’m married, and we’re hoping to be buying a house, making babies is something I have to get real serious about ASAP (since my age will start mattering whether or not having a baby is even possible soon). I want to be one of those women that already works out enough to keep working out throughout the pregnancy. Being older makes everything harder, especially losing weight. I don’t want to work so hard to get to a happy place only to put it all back on with a baby and then struggle to lose it again. If I just stay fit and active, the repercussions of being pregnant shouldn’t be as bad.

 

I also want to focus extra hard on my diet this year, for bigger reasons than just losing weight. About 6 months ago I started to make the transition to a gluten free lifestyle after coming to the realization that gluten had an obvious connection to my IBS and other gastrointestinal issues. During this transition I’ve noticed a huge improvement and comfort level with my stomach problems and just as a whole for my body too. But in cutting it out of my diet so much, it literally feels like I’m under attack if/when I ever give gluten a shot again, say in the form of bread and pasta. My stomach will literally swell to a pregnant looking state and the hours of discomfort that follow are not worth the taste of those once go-to foods. While GF foods are becoming more readily available, they’re not all suitable replacements for things I used to love and some of those things I love just don’t exist at all in the GF world. Those will be the hardest parts of completely cutting gluten out of my diet, but I want to work toward it. The more I read about gluten and our bodies, the more I know it’s just not for me. Outside of it being such a problem for my stomach, it also has a huge impact on people with thyroid conditions, which I also have. I hope by the end of 2016 I’ve successfully made the switch and I’m no longer missing the food of my old life, when I was slowly torturing my body without even realizing it.

 

Go Out & Live Life. I took some pretty significant hiatus’s from the internet this year, some by choice and others because of lack of time, but I learned something in those “vacations” from the internet and it’s that I miss out on a lot of life by devoting so much time to the internet. I spend more time admiring the way other people live their lives than I do living my own and there’s something very wrong with that. In 2015 Heath and I starting bowling once a month, which forced us out of the house and ended with eating out and toy hunting in the wild after. We actually went on vacation with my family to the beach for the first time, despite being offered the trip several times in the past decade. We finally took a bus trip to New York for the day, which is something I’ve wanted to do at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. And the best trip of the whole year was going to Disney World for our honeymoon (which I hope to finally write about soon). As someone who hasn’t traveled much simply because they were afraid to fly, I sure am happy I got over myself finally because traveling anywhere I want seems like a real possibility now. And in doing all these things, in getting out and living life, Heath and I seem closer now than we did even the year before, despite having been together for 11 years now. Clearly date night is an actual beneficial thing and I want to practice it more in 2016. I don’t know that we’ll have the kind of money to take vacations on the scale of Disney again anytime soon, what with trying to buy a house and all, but I want to make it a habit to get out at least once a month to do something with each other outside of our office. And I want to get away on occasion, even if it’s just over a long weekend, so we can escape the pull those computers in our office have on us. I encourage you all to do the same. :)

 
I feel like I’m forgetting a resolution, but this thing is super long as it is and working on these 6 specific things should keep me plenty busy this year so I should probably wrap this up. What are you hoping to achieve in 2016?

 

 

2015 In Review: Books

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I didn’t read nearly enough in 2015; there just wasn’t enough time. Lots of people think I sound crazy when I say that because they’re happy if they’ve read 1 book a year, but for me, reading is a necessary fuel for writing and there wasn’t enough of it to spawn even a single new word. Of the things I did find time to read, I actually read more comics/mangas/graphic novels than anything. My appreciation for the art and their ability to get a story across in less pages than books really grew for me in 2015. I suspect that will continue to be true in 2016 and I’m excited about it. Below is a list of the things I read, in the order I read them. The books are all clickable and will take you to my GoodReads reviews on them if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

 

 

Books Read in 2015…

 

 

 

 

Comics/Mangas/Graphic Novels Read in 2015…. 

 

  • Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 – 5 by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou
  • Eerie Cuties: The Comic Strip Collection by Gisele Lagace & David Lumsdon
  • Eerie Cuties, Vol. 1-3 by Gisele Lagace, David Lumsdon, & Maria Victoria Robado
  • Garbage Pail Kids: Puketacular, #1
  • Garbage Pail Kids: Love Stinks, #2
  • Ms. Marvel – No Normal, Vol. 1 by Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
  • Ms. Marvel – Generation Why, Vol. 2 by Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
  • Ms. Marvel – Crush, Vol. 3 by WillowWilson
  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
  • Super Tales of Emotion #1: Swamp of Sadness by J. Salvador
  • Jem and the Holograms, #1-9 by Kelly Thompson
  • Jem and the Holograms, Holiday Special by Kelly Thompson
  • Jem and the Holograms, Outrageous Annual Kelly Thompson
  • Morning Glories, Vol. 1-5 by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
  • The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi
  • New Archie, #1 by Mark Waid & Fiona Staples

 

 

While I plan to try my hardest to buy very little books in 2016 and actually work on all the books in my already existing TBR pile, I’m always open to suggestions for things I should be reading — especially in the comics department since that’s primarily new to me and there’s SO many to chose from. Feel free to leave some recs in the comments below! :)

 

 

Works-In-Progress (or maybe: Projects I *should* be working on)

It’s been a long time since I really talked about writing. I mean, sure, I’ve moaned about my lack of time for it and how creatively dead my brain has been, but when is the last time I really talked about the books themselves? I think it’s been ages, to be honest. Like, possibly years even. Perhaps you don’t even really know anything at all about my completed novel Dreamsters, except that it’s in the horror/thriller category. And so, with the help of some awesome art I commissioned artist and friend, Heather R. Holden, to do, I’m going to talk about my writing – what it’s about, what I’ve got, what I need, and where I’m going with it – and maybe it will not only intrigue you, but help me get back into, you know, actually working on them again. :)

 

 *Click the images to see them larger!*

 

Dreamsters (not an actual title – that is still undecided)

 

About: This story is about a creepy old lady, a girl with a nightmare curse, and a foolishly kind boy who feels compelled to get involved with them both. I consider this story a nod to one of my favorite horror films A Nightmare on Elm Street, though more thriller than horror, maybe. 😉

 

What I’ve Got: A completed manuscript at around 70K words.

 

What it Needs: A completed 2nd draft. I’d started on this a couple months after I finished the 1st draft last year, but there are still major portions of the book, particularly at the end, that need heavy rewriting to finalize a 2nd draft.

 

Where it’s Going: Publication? I hope. It was my intention to have this 2nd draft sharp enough to start looking for an agent this year, but so far this unfortunately hasn’t been the case.

 

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Picture background: This comes from the end of Chapter 2. Milo’s stayed up late to get ahead on some homework and just before going to bed, glances out his window at Mrs. Womack’s house across the street. This is the scene he sees and the lines from the book look like this:

 

Illuminated by the street lamp is a girl in a red plaid, pleated skirt, with black tights and clunky boots, and a black leather jacket being destroyed by the rain. And a boy significantly shorter than her, holding her hand, in a hoodie and cargo pants that look too big for his small frame. Each of them carry just one bag, hardly large enough to hold any decent amount of personal possessions, and they stare at Mrs. Womack’s front door from her gate.

 

I don’t need to see their faces to know who they are.

 

 

Crack the Sky

 

About: I’ll let the main character tell you what Crack the Sky is about. 😉

 

My name is Tilian King and I found a girl in the woods one night. I sound like a fool for saying it, but I swear the lightning led the way.  She was covered in blood; I’m *practically* a saint for saving her. 

 

She claims she’s my guardian angel and that demons took her wings so she can’t protect me. From what, she won’t say.

 

She also claims my girlfriend and father are demons and that my dead mother is an angel like her. I asked her what that makes me, but again, she won’t say.

 

I think she’s f@$%ing insane. Escaped from the looney bin or some shit. It’s somehow both annoying and hilarious to me.

 

Still, and I’d never admit it out loud, it is sort of nice having someone to share the lonely mansion I call home with now, since my dad’s never around. Plus, who doesn’t love poking fun at naiveté? Leilani’s chock-full of it and I’m as rotten as they come.

 

If you’d like to see a few examples of scenes from Crack the Sky, I’d actually posted some when I started this book in 2011 for NanoWrimo. Click HERE! (Note: these scenes were roughly written and have since been polished so they aren’t the final product by any means.)

 

What I’ve Got: About 18K words, or just shy of 1/3 of the story.

 

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What it Needs: The rest? About 50K more words? No, in all seriousness, it needs the meat of the story. Crack the Sky is an intense sort of story, with a great deal of tough decisions and bloodshed. This first 18K has been the introductory phase, the buildup of backstory, and the planted seeds of character growth. Next, things get crazy. 😉

 

Where it’s Going: Oops, I think I sort of answered that above? I guess I could add that it’s not going to have a happy ending. Okay, so it won’t be super awful, but not the happily ever after type of ending that’s all too common these days because life doesn’t always work that way so why should make believe? 😉

 

Picture background: I’d told Heather that if this picture were titled I’d call it, “Torn,” because that’s the feeling I wanted to come across for Tilian. So that it’s not too spoilery, I won’t tell you much about what’s going on in it outside of TORN, but I will tell you who you’re looking at! (L) Mackenzie, Tilian’s Girlfriend (M) Tilian King, POV of the book (R) Leilani, Tilian’s Guardian Angel.

 

 

So, those are my current, big works-in-progress. I have another novel idea that springs up every summer, but never produces much words and another that I hope to eventually return to one day, as it was the first story I ever wanted to make into a novel, but both require a lot of world building and I’m just not sure I’m a good enough writer for that just yet.

 

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If you’ve enjoyed the art accompanying these descriptions and think you’d like some of your own, head on over to Heather’s site for commission guidelines and prices! Or if you’re just a fan of the art and don’t need any for yourself, give her web comic Echo Effect a shot. She’s an excellent storyteller, too!

 

2014 In Review: Books

Like everything else that suffered as a result of too much work in 2014, reading took the biggest back seat. For a moment there, I went months without reading a book. MONTHS. That was unheard of in years past for me, and in truth, it made me feel a bit crazy this year. I need the escape reading gives me! While I succeeded in really restricting myself from buying anything outside of my pre-orders this year, I failed at coming even close to my usual reading count of 50-60 books.

 

The list below are the 24 books I read in 2014 in the order I read them, with clickable links to my reviews on GoodReads. Fingers crossed I can tackle far more of my TBR pile in 2015.

 

 

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings, Book 4) by Jackson Pearce
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs
The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1) by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2) by C.S. Lewis
 Hollow City (Miss Peregrine, Book 2) by Ransom Riggs
The Unbound (Archived, Book 2) by Victoria Schwab
Fracture Me (Shatter Me, Book 2.5) by Tahereh Mafi
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, Book 3) by Tahereh Mafi
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Illusion (Chronicles of Nick, Book 5) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Sinner (Wolves at MercyFalls, Book 3.5) by Maggie Stiefvater
What I Though Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Drowned by Nichola Reily
Crash (Crash, Book 1) by Nicole Williams
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, Book 1) by Kendare Blake
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Misc. Other (aka: Comics)

Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 3 & 4

The Walking Dead, Vol. 132 (LootCrate Exclusive)

Batman, Vol. 36 (LootCrate Exclusive)

On Moxie & Meeting Maggie

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I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between my teen years and adult years I lost the ability to be social. When it comes to interacting with anyone (but strangers are even worse), I am basically crippled. It’s an especially frustrating thing because it’s not like I want to be this way. In fact, it’s the opposite. I want to do all sorts of things I never end up doing out of fear and then I’m left with regret.

 

This year, you may remember, I made a resolution to have a little more moxie. Because my life is slipping away from me fast and I can’t accept being old with even more regret for all the things I’d wished I’d done. So I told myself that if events came up this year around me (concerts, book signings, etc…) I would make myself go, no matter how afraid I was. This promise I made to myself was finally put to the test today and I’m happy to report I passed. But it wasn’t easy.

 

The event I’m referring to is Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner Tour. For those that don’t know, Maggie is like my writing hero. I’ve never really aspired to be like anyone, ever, but if I could be even a percentage of the writer Maggie is, I’d be happy with life. Her writing ability, dedication to her craft, and overall brave attitude about life is admirable and it encourages me. It seemed fitting that the first author I’d meet be one so important to me.

 

In the weeks leading up to this event, I asked as many people as I could to go with me, thinking it’d be less horrifying if I wasn’t alone. Because it wasn’t just being at this event that was scary, it was actually getting myself there since it was located in the city – the city in which I never wander and certainly not alone, but no one was up for the trip and I couldn’t be mad about that. For a minute there I almost talked myself out of going, but I held onto that promise I made myself. This morning, in preparation for this event, I mapped my drive there on Google Earth, put a bunch of music on a CD for Maggie, and got myself so worked up over going that I almost made myself sick, but I refused to back out. For one, I’d told her on FB that I’d be there and she even replied and two, I’d promised a friend something from the event. I’m not good at breaking promises, especially promises to other people.

 

The drive there was less terrifying than I pictured it. Either that, or I’d gotten myself so worked up before even leaving that I’d exhausted all my nervous resources before it was really time to be nervous. I got there a half hour early and was the 14th person in line inside a bookstore smaller than my entire apartment. It already felt packed with just the 14 of us and then about 100 more people showed up. At least. To make the closeness of so many strangers a more uncomfortable thing for a person like me, the A/C was ancient and nearly useless and it was 90 degrees outside. At one point I was so hot I started to feel faint, like I might pass out of throw up. Thankfully neither happened. I met two lovely ladies (Ashley and Shana, both book reviewers you should check out!)  in the line who nudged my social anxiety aside and helped the heat seem more tolerable. And after some parking space drama, Maggie finally arrived.

 

She parked her Camaro, Loki, right outside the bookstore and a couple of the younger girls squealed which was cheesy and adorable at the same time. Maggie strolled in wearing her signature outfit: a black tank top and boots, removing her sunglasses with one hand and carting a skateboard in the other. She had this air of coolness that made her seem even more famous than she actually is. I was shocked by how much it intimidated me for a minute. She talked for a while before signing, telling stories of her youth and why she wrote Sinner, and then took reader questions and immediately revealed just how regular she actually is. Awkward even, in that perfectly good way. She’s animated and excitable and I watched her in a bit of awe because I can’t even imagine ever having that much confidence speaking to a crowd if/when I ever do get published. I wonder if she was always that personable or if it’s something she’s developed throughout her career. 

 

The wait in the heat once she started signing was rough, but thankfully I was number 14 in line. Actually meeting her went by too fast. I’d only taken my Shiver series, thinking it’d be selfish to take all my books and waste so much of her time, but I wish I’d just brought them all now. She was really friendly, the kind of person you instantly feel comfortable around like you’ve known them forever, and totally understanding of my awkward anti-social self. I told her I was the one that had predicted WhitePantsNovel was actually about Cole on Tumblr so many moons ago and she did that whole, “That was you!?” surprised reaction. Felt pretty cool to come out of my anonymous status finally.

 

I left in the middle of a thunderstorm, never happier to drive in the cool rain. I still feel a little high over the whole experience. Partly because I met someone so significant in my writing dreams and partly because I told myself I’d do something terrifying and I didn’t back down. As lame as it might seem to some, I’m proud of myself and meeting Maggie was the reward for overcoming my fear. All-in-all, an awesome day.

 

Note: You can click through the pictures below. Sorry for the poor photo quality. Unfortunately, my camera wasn’t performing at it’s best. :/

 

 

Weekend Full of Awesome

Lately, I can’t always count on my weekends to be fun or productive or much more than just zoning out and regaining my sanity after an insane work week. Because it’s the only time I get to unwind and do more than just work, it depresses me when it’s over without anything worth noting.

 

The past few weekends have been like these uneventful, over-too-soon breaks in my work life. But not this weekend. No, this weekend was made of awesome.

 

It started Friday, by having off for Good Friday, which by itself felt like a much needed gift. I got nine hours of sleep for the first time in months, caught up on the internet a bit, and dove into a book for the first time since January. A book that totally rejuvenated my creative mind.

 

Saturday it took me a little while to get started and I worried I’d lost my prime morning productivity time, but I sat down with my nightmare novel Dreamsters just before noon, determined to finally reach it’s end and just over 2K later, I did! I FINISHED MY FIRST NOVEL! It’s probably not as exciting to most as it is to me, but I’ve been working on the same 4 novels for the last 5 years. For a while there I was starting to think I’d never reach the end. I’d never reached any of the ends of my scripts as a teen/young adult and while I have finished a handful of short stories, I was really worried I just didn’t have what it took to actually write a full novel. It feels incredible to have proved myself wrong. It’s was hours before I could get my heart to settle down over it so I set out to bake an Apple-Berry pie for Easter. I took photos of the process this time and posted the recipe in case you’d like to try it out.

 

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Click HERE for the recipe!

 

Today I had to be up early to help Mom at church all day for Easter breakfast/brunch. In the years past this has completely wiped me out and it definitely did this year, too, but it was somehow more fulfilling than in years past. More than 400 people showed up for service and there was a lot of great fellowship. I had intended on crashing when I got home, but I stopped by my Maw Maw’s and looked through old family photos (some of which I stole to scan for Throwback Thursday) and then headed home to do a little cleaning in the living room because I finally got a new bookcase! It’s not new as in freshly built from the store, but new to me. It still doesn’t house all of my books, but a heck of a a lot of them, freeing up the previously improper places for any new additions. The living room feels a little crowded now, but overall I’m happier with a proper home for my biggest collection.

 

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(New Bookcase all the way to the right!)

I’m yawning as a I write this and I’m not really ready to go back to work tomorrow, but for once I’m feeling really good about how I spent my weekend. And even though I know I’ll be sleepy tomorrow morning, I’ll be mentally sound and that’s worth a lot in my world.

 

How was your Easter weekend?

 

Where do books go when they die?

I’ve gotten in the habit of donating some of the books I doubt I’ll read again to the library every year. This means I part ways with at least 20 books every year and it helps keep my home library more manageable. (Ha! No it doesn’t. I seriously have no more room for books, but believe me this won’t stop me from acquiring more.) When I first got into this form of giving, I’d done it with the hope that my immaculately kept books would make it on the shelf so someone else could love them – so they library wouldn’t have to shell out money to put them on their shelves, but when I handed them over to the librarian that first time, they told me they’d be sold in the book sale because the library has no other way to make money. I didn’t love this, but I understand they need money to keep their doors open and I’m all for libraries sticking around.

 

Yesterday I was dropping off some books for donation and happened to notice one of their book sales actually going on so I checked it out. I walked into a room with rows and rows of books and my heart sank. Paperbacks went for $.25, hardbacks for $.50. And that’s just for the first few days. On the last day, you can bring a bag in and whatever you can fit inside will cost you $5. How can the library consider this making money when they’re practically giving the books away?

 

But this revelation wasn’t actually the thing that hurt my heart the most. No, it was the fact that most of the books were library bound (not donated), pulled straight off the shelves for sale. And these weren’t old, outdated, battered books. Theses were books released within the last year. Books by some of my favorite authors. Books on the NYT Bestsellers list. Books with Printz awards. Just HOW? Who made the decision to pull these titles from the racks? How could any of them qualify as books to practically be given away?

 

I found myself so torn as I scanned the shelves, finding books from my own Amazon wishlist sitting there in nearly immaculate condition, that could be mine for just $.50, and I couldn’t buy them. I just couldn’t accept that as their worth. And at the same time, beside me a young girl picked up a book I’ve read and loved and begged her mom for $.50 so she could buy it and I suddenly wanted to give her the $.50 myself because what if this girl couldn’t afford the full price of the book  and it would never be hers were it not for this sale?

 

I was feeling some kind of way and I couldn’t exactly pin down what it was, but it wasn’t good.

 

As I made my way back through the doors, I glanced back at the still full room, knowing the sale ended today, and wondered where all the books that weren’t good enough for the shelves and hadn’t been bought at their ridiculously low price go when the book sale ends. Where do unwanted books go? I can only pray they keep them for the next book sale. That they hold onto hope that someone else might come through and realize the gem that was overlooked the last time.

 

So much about this feels wrong to me and I want further understanding. Are there any librarians out there who are familiar with this procedure? Do you know where books go when they die?

 

EDIT/UPDATE 2/23/14

 

I cross-posted this blog on my tumblr last night and received several well-informed explanations to my unease about libraries book sales and donations. For anyone who may have only seen this post here and was equally as curious as me, below are some of the more detailed replies from wise tumblr folk.

 

From Le Ciel tumultueux:

 

Just a few different things to consider:

 

1. Some libraries buy multiple copies of bestsellers so patrons don’t sit on a wait list for months to read that new James Patterson. Eventually, the list dies down and that shelf space could go to new materials. This means the books have to be pulled!

 

2. Some libraries sell their discarded books at sales. This is great for community members, as well as organizations that need resources at a low price. Some teachers just don’t have the funds to collect books for their classrooms and they can get a bunch for a low price at these sales.

 

3. Some libraries throw out their discards. This might seem scary, but there are policies being followed. Books that are moldy need to go in the dumpster! They can spread to other books and ruin them. Other books might look brand new, like travel guides, but no one is going to benefit from a 2006 travel guide to Cancun. Most of the information will be inaccurate. Other books might look brand new because no one has ever checked them out! Librarians check stats to see how often the book has gone out. A book that has circulated only once in 10 years could be hogging valuable shelf space for a better used book, or space that might go to an extra computer for community members to use!

 

4. Some libraries send their books to organizations like Better World Books, where they can resell decent quality books and use some of the profits to donate books to literacy programs. However, sending books out-of-house to companies or charities requires extra staff time and sometimes money.

 

The bottom line is it varies from library to library, and the librarians are following a plan. I PROMISE. Even if you see books in a dumpster, lots of thought has gone into that decision. They’re doing this to benefit the people who use the library. I’m sure your library would be happy to explain their weeding policy to you!

 

 

From The [G]normadic Librarian:

 

This is an excellent explanation. Also, some libraries will donate books to shelters and daycare centers that can’t necessarily afford to buy books for their clients.

 

But I also want to address your concern about not being able to accept $.50 as the book’s worth. It isn’t, and that’s not what libraries are proposing. Books are expensive, and libraries pay a hefty amount in book costs every year. The author and their publishers and whoever else is in that line of pay get their fair share (arguably).

 

The point of these booksales isn’t to necessarily sell the books for what they’re worth. It is to 1. Get the extra books off the shelf to make space for new, free-to-the-public books, 2. Rake in a few extra donations for the library, and 3. To allow people to buy books and take them home permanently, that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to buy. And to me, these points are far more important than the books supposed “worth.” This allows them to have a worth that exceeds monetary value. Like you mentioned, that child you saw wanting that book that you so loved, may not have been able to afford it from Barnes and Noble, and would have missed out on experiencing it like you did. This is what defines the book’s worth, the experiences and love that it can provide, not the $20 price sticker plastered on the front cover. It is arguably more important to simply read the book than to prove that you paid full price for it.

 

Like Neil Gaiman said, “Don’t ever apologize to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that’s what they’re there for. Use your library). Don’t apologize to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing, or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books, and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read…”

 

2013 In Review: Everything Else

At the start of 2013, I made this list of resolutions. Eight things I wanted to accomplish this year. And so let’s check them off….

 

1/2. See – 2013 In Review: Writing

 

3. See – 2013 In Review: Books

 

4. Photography – I’ve touched lightly on this already with that post about the Christmas Card Shoots I did this year, but I can expand on it by saying, I did in fact become more comfortable behind the camera in 2013. I still don’t have the confidence I should necessarily, or all the skills I could have where editing photos is concerned, but I have gotten braver and I have tried harder this year than I ever have before. In 2013 I did eleven scheduled photoshoots – shoots in which I got paid, even though I didn’t ask (and tried to refuse) compensation for. I also shot birthday parties and family gatherings and anytime someone asked me to capture a family moment. I shot a lot food, too (ha!). In 2014, I’d like to continue on this path of learning and finding the courage to continue to step outside of my comfort zone and spread my wings as a photographer.

 

5. Music – I didn’t go to even one concert this year and I regret it immensely. Some of my favorite bands came through Baltimore this year, prime opportunities for me to see them live, and I was too afraid to attend a show alone. I’ve really got to work on this because I can’t be afraid of going places alone forever. I can’t sacrifice something I love so dearly just because I’m afraid of enjoying it alone. I definitely need to work on this harder in 2014. (Also see – 2013 In Review: Music)

 

6. Weight Loss – Surprise, surprise, I didn’t lose 60+ lbs. in 2103. I think total I only lost 20 and who knows if that number still stands after consuming nothing but sugar since Christmas. But, I did generally stick to the “clean eating” lifestyle I set out to. And I did work out with more dedication than I ever have before, 4-5 times a week. I even participated in a 5K this year, the first of many more I hope. After working so hard for a few months and making no progress, I sought out medical advice and found that my thyroid was significantly underactive and have since tried a series of medications to get that where it should be (it’s finally in a good place) and that I was severely deficient in vitamin D (I’m working on getting that where it should be now). Both of these things could and did play a factor in my weight loss efforts and almost immediately after changing up the medication routine, I started to finally see results. I’m hoping that having this sorted out and keeping up with the lifestyle changes I made in 2013, I’ll finally have more success where my weight loss goals are concerned in 2014.

 

7. Baking – Boy did I ever! No, seriously, one month I tracked just how much “creating” in the kitchen I did and in the end it was a whole 7 days worth. That doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to a 30 day month, but when you think I lost an entire week to just baking – that many hours spent solely in the kitchen – it actually is quite significant. I baked pies and cookies galore, with a few other interesting desserts on the side. I even tried my hand at a few dinners, which is completely out of my realm since I’m not much of a cook, but found myself successful with those dishes as well. Overall, I think I nailed this. My cookies this year were a HUGE hit and my pies were so loved by others that someone actually paid me to make them pies for their holiday celebration. It blew my mind.

 

8. Productivity – I’d say that I definitely made better use of my time in 2013, but it came at a cost, for sure. While I was able to squeeze in a workout regimen with my work schedule (a work schedule that involved more overtime than I’ve ever worked before) and be a writer, reader, baker, photographer, and you know, still spend time with the people I love, IT. WAS. HARD. Not just hard mentally, but physically. I feel like I was more tired this year than ever before (and partly that could have been the medical issues weighing me down, too). I found myself really regretting using the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because what good was I to anyone and myself if I felt dead already anyway? None at all. So while I definitely did make the best of my time, I think this year I’ve gotta find a better balance of that use of time and remember that it’s perfectly okay (and necessary) to take a day off for nothing sometimes. I saw Sevenly post the quote, “If you’re too busy to smile, you’re too busy” at the peak of my busiest moments and it hit me hard. I was miserable because I had too much going on, like ready to break down and cry. I don’t want to reach that place again in 2014.

 

I’d say as far as resolutions go, I’m pretty pleased with my achievements in 2013. Sure, they could have been better, but they were already worlds better than anything I achieved in 2012 and I’m proud of myself for mostly sticking to my goals. I know resolutions aren’t for everyone, but they are a good way to guide me and so I’m sticking with them!

 

Now… what exactly do I hope to accomplish in 2014? 😉

 

 

2013 In Review: Books

Last year I set a resolution to read 60 books. I’m not exactly sure why I decided that was a doable number, or why I thought reaching that number would make me feel more accomplished, so I’ve decided to not even try to set a goal this year outside of just reading and putting a dent in my TBR pile. As it turns out, I did not reach my strange goal last year, though I did come close. Overall, I read 56 books in 2013 and they are listed below mostly in the order I read them. If you’re interested in which books I considered my favorite, all of the titles are clickable to my GoodReads where I’ve rated and reviewed each.

 

Touched by Cyn Balog

The White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter

(Alice in Zombieland & Through the Zombie Glass)

Red Run: A Short Story by Kami Garcia

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Easy by Tammara Webber

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Carrie by Stephen King

Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

(Shatter Me, Destroy Me, & Unravel Me)

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

(The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, & The Last Olympian)

Reasons I Fell For the Funny Fat Friend by Becca Ann

Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, Book 1) by Jeff Lindsay

Dead River by Cyn Balog

Inferno (Chronicles of Nick, Book 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Breathless: A Firelight Novella by Sophie Jordan

The Walking Dead, Book 4 by Robert Kirkman

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

The Dead & the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

From Baghdad, With Love by Jay Kopelman

Ascendant (Killer Unicorns, Book 2) by Diana Peterfreund

Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

(Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, & Definitely Dead)

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater

(The Raven Boys & The Dream Thieves)

Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1) by Jenna Black

Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, Book 3) by Jackson Pearce

Styxx (Dark-Hunter, Book 23) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Boys that Bite (Blood Coven, Book 1) by Mari Mancusi

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, Book 1) by Lish McBride

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Educational

Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it by Scott Kelby

The New Language of Toys (3rd Edition) by Sue Schwartz

Comics/Graphic Novels

Jinx by J. Torres

The Dark-Hunters: Infinity Vol. 1 & 2 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Afterlife with Archie No. 1 & 2 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

 

What did you read in 2013? Anything I should know about?