Writing–Reading Goals 2014 Achieved

booksIf you’ll recall, my goal was to read 24 books this year at an even pace of 2 books a month and only four could be re-reads. I’m happy to say that I hit the end goal of 24 books, but that reading at least two books a month…that wasn’t always so smooth. I got behind a couple of times so that I was really cramming at the end of the month to make sure I got two books read. I also totally failed at it entirely two months. September and November I only read one book. Not exactly happy with that part of my goal-accomplishing.

(I thought I was going to have to read three books this month to make sure I had my total, but then I checked my list and realized that I didn’t. I did have a period earlier in the year when I read like 2 1/2 books a couple of months so I think that little edge saved me. It also made me realize that while I can do algebra, apparently counting is out of my league.)

So here is the last 12 books I read in 2014. The list of the first 12 books can be found here.

13. From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes by Robert Clary

14. Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

15. The Game from Where I Stand by Doug Glanville

16. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

17. On Writing by Stephen King (re-read)

18. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (re-read)

19. The Thirst Within by Johi Jenkins

20. Coroner’s Journal: Forensics and the Art of Stalking Death by Louis Cataldie MD

21. Christine by Stephen King

22. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

23. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

24. Coffee at Midnight by Brandon Ford

Looking back on the whole list, content-wise, I have to say I’m pretty proud of the fact that I read some “classics”. I never thought I’d ever even consider reading one after Honors English. Good job, self.

Good reading year, too.

Writing–Reading Goals Update

booksSince we’ve accomplished half of a year already, I figure it’s time to check in to see how I’m accomplishing my reading goals.

As you may or probably don’t remember, this year I laid down the gauntlet of reading 24 books in total, 2 books a month, only 4 could be re-reads. The object of these goals was to get me into the habit of reading steadily. I also hoped that I would continue reading widely, which was what my reading goals emphasized last year, even though I put no restrictions on what I could read.

So, according to this, six months should equal 12 books. Let’s check the math. Here are the books I’ve read so far:

1. The Badge by Jack Webb

2. The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotations edited by Alex Ayres

3. Jaws by Peter Benchley (re-read)

4. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore

5. Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra

6. Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way by Marcia Wallace

7. Ron Santo: A Perfect Ten by Pat Hughes and Rich Wolfe

8. Horns by Joe Hill

9. Just Farr Fun by Jamie Farr

10. The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

11. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

12. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Looks like I’m right on target. Decent mix of fiction and non-fiction. Even got some chick-lit and a classic in there. It hasn’t always been easy getting in my reading time every day and I admit to being lazy about it sometimes, but I’m meeting the challenge pretty well. Reading two books at once helps.

The best part about this is that I have a pile of books waiting to be read. I won’t need to be scrambling for something to read any time soon.

Writing–2013 Reading Goals Update…Again

Fiction Stacks

With a little less than three months to go, here’s where I’m at.

Of my goal of 24 books, I’ve read 20. Yay!

Since July, I’ve read one more non-fiction book which brings my total to five.

Since July, I’ve read five more fiction books which brings my total to twelve.

The non-fiction book wasn’t a re-read (yay!)

Of the five fiction books, I’d count four of them as being outside of my usual genre.

So, if you add this all up, carry the one, subtract the one non-fiction re-read…then I need to read six more non-fiction books and two more fiction books. And since I’ve been so good at reading outside my genre, the last two books can be horror if I want them to be, which is good because I just got Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep.

I’ve made up quite a bit of ground after my first six months of fail, but I’m still really lacking in my non-fiction reads. This is kind of frustrating considering how much non-fiction I used to read. You’d think it be easy for me to find a few books on various subjects to read about and yet…no. I’m really struggling in this department for some reason. It’s become an effort to get over it

So I need to read a total of eight books before the end of the year and most of them need to be non-fiction.

I’m sure I can do that.

Maybe.

Ugh. When did reading get so hard for me?

Writing–Reading Goals Update

Fiction Stacks

When we last left our heroine, she was embarking on a trek to read twenty-four books, ten of them being non-fiction, one of those being a memoir, no more than eight of them being from the horror genre, and only two of them total being re-reads.

Well, here’s where our heroine is now…

She’s not being much of a heroine.

I’ve read eleven books so far. Not even half-way done. Of those eleven I’ve read, four have been non-fiction and seven have been fiction. Of the non-fiction, two have been re-reads (oops) and two have been memoirs (good job!). Of the fiction, three have been horror, three have been outside my comfort genres, none have been re-reads (yet), and two have been by folks like myself (good job!).

I fully admit to struggling with my reading this year. I don’t feel like it. Nothing sounds good. Nothing is what I want to read at the time. I’ve just been a real pain in the ass about it. And because I’ve been such a pain in the ass about it and I’ve been struggling with it, I haven’t been posting reviews of everything I’ve read. I’m thinking that I’ll just do a few more as I feel the need, and then just give a final list at the end of the year in case folks are looking for new titles. It’s not like my reviews are worth a whole lot to begin with. They were mostly just proof that I’d actually read what I said I’d read. This year you’re going to have to take my word for it.

I’ve got plenty of time to make up for what I haven’t been doing and make my goals. If I break it down, I’ve got seven more non-fiction to read (can’t count one of the re-reads), and seven more fiction (one of which can be a re-read).

It doesn’t look quite as overwhelming when I put it that way.

Except that it does.

Stupid math.

Writing–Rereading the Written

English: Page of a manuscript written by Penns...

I’ve got several manuscripts that I’ve written that have been hanging out, waiting for me to get back to them. Some of them are just first drafts; others have had one or two rounds of heavy-lifting revision done to them. All of them were put to the side so I could focus on something else.

Since I didn’t have much going this month, I decided to read them all to see what I had and get reacquainted with them.

It was interesting to see where I was as a writer a few years ago. I can pretty much tell what was going on in my life just by reading the manuscript. It’s fascinating. Nobody else would be able to pick anything up, but I guess because I wrote it and lived it, I know exactly where I was.

Looking at the pieces in a more professional, critical light, I’m happy to say that all of them are workable to an extent. I could make them all into something that you wouldn’t gouge your eyes out while reading. Which is reassuring in a sense. There will always be work waiting for me because I’ve got four manuscripts in various states just waiting to be finished.

And it won’t be a waste to work on them since there’s something worth working on there.

I admit to liking some more than others. Spirited in Spite and A Tale of Two Lady Killers have gone through a couple of heavy-lifting revisions and their stories are pretty good. Fun, quick little things that won’t require too much more lifting to finish.

The untitled Ivy novel should probably be revised down to a novella because I padded that thing pretty hard. The other POVs can go (though I might save Leo’s and rewrite it as a short story). Sticking to solely Ivy and shortening it up will do the story wonders. I might also end up changing the location. We’ll see.

American Vampires, I don’t care for. It’s only a first draft, a NaNoWriMo draft at that, so it needs A LOT of work. And I know what I was trying to do with the original attempt at a story, but I missed the mark. Of all the pieces, I like this one least and it will take the most work. Somehow, though, I think it might be worth the effort. Eventually. I’m in no rush to get back to it.

When I’m done with The World (Saving) Series, it looks like I’m all set for the next revision project. I’ve got plenty to choose from.

Writing–The Reading Malaise

Books

I’m not a steady reader. I read in bursts. One month I might read four, five, six books. The next month the only thing I’ll read are online articles and my writing magazines. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just the way I roll.

I’m in one of those reading funks right now.

I have books. In fact, I just got a bunch from my mother because she’s cleaning out her bookcases (Mom does not reread anything, so after a while, she starts giving books away to make room for new ones). But nothing sounds good. It’s like going to the refrigerator and repeatedly opening the door and looking inside. You’re hungry, you know you’re hungry, but you don’t know what you want.

That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now, but with books.

Last night I had some extra time and I thought I should read something. I started looking around. I looked at the books I brought home from Mom’s. I looked through Papa’s books on my Kindle. I started rereading a book just for the sake of reading, but I wasn’t into it.

I want to read, but I don’t know what I want to read.

It’s frustrating. Reading isn’t only part of my job, but I also read because I enjoy it. And when I feel like this my enjoyment is kicked right in the sensitive parts. It’s not fair.

But like that nagging hunger feeling, I’ll eventually placate myself by reading something. It might not necessarily be what I’m craving, but since I don’t KNOW what I’m craving, it’ll be good enough.

At the very least it will help ease this malaise and give my brain a bit of a shake. By the time I’m done, there’s a good chance I’ll have an idea of what I want to read next.

Then I’ll be cured.

Until the next time.

Writing Wednesday–Writing Magazines

I subscribe to two writing magazines: Writer’s Digest and The Writer. I love them both. Even when I was broke as a joke, I still found the money to renew my subscriptions.

I like reading them because they put me in a writing frame of mind. I don’t know why, but reading the articles gets my juices flowing. They make me want to write. More than once I’ve busted a slump by spending a day reading (or re-reading) issues.

It’s uncanny how at least one article in each issue pertains to something I’m dealing with in my writing world at that moment. If I’m thinking about writing about personal essays, the next issue might have an article about them. It’s like they know, man.

I’m terribly behind on my reading. I’ve got a stack of them on my dresser that I wasn’t able to get to while I was working my former day job. Slowly but surely, I’m catching up.

And as I catch up, I can feel the juices start to flow once again. It’s like rain after a drought. I’m feeling good.

Let’s hope some good stuff starts to grow.

Writing–The Reading Requirement

Stephen King says that to be a good writer you must read a lot and write a lot.

I believe that.  His book On Writing is like a bible for me. I respect the man. I enjoy his work and his advice (and his sense of humor; I have endured many a dirty look from a cat startled awake by my cackling). Uncle Stevie has yet to steer me wrong. He’s an influence on me as a writer.

Which is why it pains me to say that I’m letting him down.

I will be the first person to admit that I have terrible reading habits. I like to read. I do. I enjoy it. My parents started me young. I learned to read at three and trips to the library were the highlight of the week during the summer (we read in the winter, too, but we got to walk to the library in the summer, therefore bigger deal). But no matter how much I read, I never got a good rhythm established.

I read in bursts. I can read two, three, four books a month for three months and then read nothing by writing magazines for three months. Then I might spend two months reading a book that would normally take me a week. Then I’ll got a month without reading anything deeper than baseball news.

It’s terrible.

I’m horrible with time management and even worse about setting aside time to read.  It’s far too low on my priority list. Growing up, reading was a downtime thing. You did it when you got everything else done. You did it to relax. It’s a mindset I can’t get out of now.

Reading is part of my job as a writer, but I have trouble getting that through my thick skull. I can’t rationalize reading when I have this, that, and the other to get done. So, I put off and the reading gets done in inefficient fashion.

It’s long past time to establish a better habit and to move reading up on the priority list. I’ll do it like I do most things, gradually so I make sure it sticks. The thinking behind this is by doing it slowly and giving myself time to adjust, it also gives myself time to change the way I think about reading.

That’s the key.

Transforming reading from a pastime to a job requirement.

Stories By The Number

Submitted: 2 (“Such a Pretty Face” and “Another Deadly Weapon”)
Ready: 4 (“Husband and Wife”, “Elevator”, “Bigger Than a Squirrel”, and “Erin Go Bragh”)
Accepted: 1! You can now read “Summer Rot” on Suburban Fool!