January 2020 Bullet Journal Set-Up

And now a break from the reading summaries, stats, and updates to share my bullet journal spreads for 2020. Unlike most, I don’t bother starting a new notebook at the start of a new year. If I still have pages left in my current notebook, I just keep going.

Before diving into my 2020 spreads, I used almost ten pages planning my 2020 writing schedule and goals which I’m not showing here. In general, I laid out a future log for the entire year, four months to a page, divided horizontally so I had space for mini calendars on the left and notes on the right in each box. Then I used pencil (not normal for me) to start putting in rough plans for what writing project(s) I wanted to be working on each month.

In addition to that, I came up with two major writing goals for the year. One is a revenue goal and the other is to “build my backlist.” After that, I made sure my Q1 goals and projects tied to my 2020, and that’s it. All that’s left is to set up some sort of Kanban board to track my tasks associated with those project and make sure it all gets done. With that more or less set up, I moved on to my reading goals for 2020.

I’m keeping it pretty simple with this two page spread. On the left side, I can keep track of new books that I want to put on hold at the library (or add to my wishlist). There’s an 8×8 box for each month, and I’m writing the release date and title in each box for the books I’m excited about. On the right side, I’ve listed my reading goals for the year (which I’m going to talk about more in a separate post). Then I’m using the bottom half of the page as a tracker for the books I’ve purchased to make sure I’m buying and reading books rather than buying and hoarding them.

Next up is my month at a glance. I like the traditional line-a-day view for this. I’m putting my regular life events on the left side and my writing business stuff on the right side. I also have a little habit tracker on the left side for the four habits I’m tracking in January (vitamin, meditation, cardio, and stretching).

The right hand side also has a mini habit tracker because I have a goal of writing 1000 words every day in January. They can be in any of the three Modern Fae projects I’m currently working on, but blog posts and outlining and brainstorming don’t count. It has to be part of a story scene, even if I eventually end up cutting it from the finished product. Ultimately, I want to see if I can keep this up all year, but I’m going to take it one month at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by my ambition.

On the next page, I have a big blank page for capturing what I read that month and any favorites from my “culture consumed” (like podcasts, music, movies, tv shows, etc.). I’m not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but I’m intending to try to make it a bit of a collage. I’m thinking of printing out mini book covers to paste in, or maybe doodling the covers of the books I’ve read. I’ll probably add ticket stubs from movies, if I go to any. I’m leaving plenty of space to be creative and have a bit of fun.

I’m also trying something new this month. I’ve never done a mood tracker before. I thought it might be helpful to be able to visually compare my mood to my movement, so I came up with the idea for this chart.

The days of the month are across the bottom. Number of steps are on the vertical axis alongside a very basic mood scale from “no good very bad day” to “everything is awesome” with “meh” in the middle. I’m using some symbols to track what kind of movement I’m doing for my daily cardio (for me this means at least 30 minutes of continuous movement). I’m really curious to see how this turns out.

One of the reasons I wanted to try a mood tracker this month is because I’m not great at being mindful about how I’m feeling. I’m hoping this will force me to stop and think about it at least once a day. I suspect I’ll feel better on days I move more, but who knows. Maybe I won’t. It will be interesting to find out.

The final new thing I’m trying this month is this reference page just before I start my daily pages where I can do some meal planning and write down admin tasks that need to get done but that I don’t want to add to my daily log for whatever reason.

I have these little post it flags that happen to be almost exactly 3×10 squares. So, I made a week and then started writing some of our regular meals on the flags. This way I can move them around and re-use them throughout the month. The lime colored ones will be crockpot recipes and the blue ones will be for everything else. That way if I know I need a crockpot recipe on a certain day (because I won’t be home until late, for example), I can see at a glance that I’ve got myself covered. I’m hoping this will also help me stay on top of groceries for the week.

And that’s it. That’s my set up for January. I don’t like using weekly spreads. I keep trying them and then hating them for a variety of reasons. I like the flexibility and the focus of daily logs. So, that’s what I’m sticking with for January. I definitely lean more towards the traditional bullet journal method rather than the “instagram friendly” bullet journaling that gets featured a lot on YouTube and elsewhere. But, if you like this sort of thing, let me know in the comments, and maybe I’ll do more posts like this.

What’s on my July TBR

I started to create a second half of 2019 TBR, but as I worked on the post, I realized that it is insane and way too ambitious. So, I’m throwing out that plan, and I’m going to take it month by month instead.

This is what I’m planning to read in July:

This month, most of what I plan to read are Hugo finalist novels and novellas.

I still have four of the novellas to read. Two of them (The Tea Master and the Detective and Artificial Condition) were already on my TBR. The other two (The Black God’s Drums and Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach) also sound great, and I’m excited to read them as well. Novellas are fun and usually fast reads. So I think I can get through these pretty quickly. Then, it’s on to the novels…

All three of the remaining finalists for best adult novel (Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and Spinning Silver) were already on my TBR. The only reason I hadn’t read them yet was because I was waiting for library holds (or the Hugo packet, whichever arrived first). Of course, I also need to read book two in the Machineries of Empire series (Raven Stratagem) before I can read Revenant Gun. But, now I have my holds and my Hugo packet, and I own both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun in paperback. So, I have no more excuses. Time to get reading. ­čÖé

Besides all this Hugo reading, I’m still trying to stay on track with the 2019 Read Harder Challenge this month. Luckily, there’s some overlap between my Hugo reading and a few of the challenge tasks. Both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun will satisfy Task #6 (Read a book by an author of color set in or about space) and/or Task #18 (Read a novel by a trans or nonbinary author). Plus, Dread Nation, which is a finalist for best young adult novel, will satisfy Task #2 (Read an alternate history novel). So, I may get to check off three tasks this month.

Finally, if I have time, I’d like to read book one in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice). I was planning to read this with my friend and her son this month, but I think he’s already way ahead of us. I also moved book one in Alyssa Cole’s near-future dystopian romance series (Radio Silence) up in the “to-read” stack. Plus, the cover of You’d Be Mine is calling to me. I think it might make for a fun book to read while enjoying the sunshine this month.

This is still a very ambitious TBR for July. We’ll see how I do, and how much rolls over into August. Did I mention that I’m also working on writing the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series this month, too? Yikes.

What’s on your TBR for July? Are you planning on reading any of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Book Birthday to Dawn of the Fae!

Book two in my Modern Fae series is out today!

Check it out over on my website where you can read the first chapter, add it to Goodreads, and buy an ebook or paperback copy if you are so inclined.

Also, if you’re interested in watching me talk about this book, my writing process, my Camp NaNoWriMo adventures, and other writing vlog-able dispatches, I’m starting an “AuthorTube” channel over on YouTube.

If watching YouTube videos isn’t your thing, you can also sign up for my Newsletter or follow me on BookBub and/or Amazon to get book release updates.

If you’re only interested in my reading updates, stay tuned to this channel. I’ll have my June recap post up early next week. Brace yourself for some surprise new favorites.

TBRs and reading lists for the first half of 2019

I’ve been doing a LOT of reading and not a lot of blogging this month. I just opened Goodreads and my Google Sheets spreadsheet to log the seventh book I’ve finished this month, and I realized that I haven’t done a post on my 2019 TBRs. So, I thought I’d take a minute and write a post about my reading plans for the first half of 2019.

You may remember that one of my top five reading goals for 2019 is to put a dent in my backlog of purchased Kindle books. I don’t want to spoil my end of the month wrap up, but I will hint that I may be starting the year in the red on that goal…More on that after the month is over. For now, I’ll say that I decided that in order to get serious about this goal, I needed to pick six books and make a TBR for books I plan to read in the first half of this year. So I did. The lucky winners are the following books:

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, these covers probably look pretty familiar. When I scrolled through the 124 books on my Kindle backlog list, these were the ones that jumped out at me as ones I wanted to read first.

All but one of these are new releases that I purchased and then didn’t read right away (Vengeful, The Belles, Thick as Thieves, Brightly Burning, and Our Dark Duet). The last book on the list (The Queen of Blood) is book one in a now complete fantasy series. I’ve been meaning to read this book for at least two years, but keep putting it off. One benefit of waiting is that if I get into it I can binge the rest of the series. I already own book two.

The only problem with this list is that, in order to get to Thick As Thieves, I’m going to have to complete my re-read of the first four books in The Queen’s Thief series. I just finished my re-read the first one. Now I’m waiting for my reading buddies to be ready to get started on book two (and maybe do a brief chat about book one, first). But, that means I’ve essentially just added another four books to my first half of 2019 TBR.

Total TBR count so far for those keeping score: 10 books.

I also remembered that I signed up to judge the Romance Writers of America RITA awards this year. That means I have a panel of books assigned to me that I need to read and score by the 7th of March. Seven books in seven weeks. Unfortunately for you, this list is top secret. I’m not even going to add them to Goodreads. But I still have to read them, and that’s going to take some time.

Updated TBR count, including RITA submissions: 17 books.

I’ve also decided to attempt to complete the 2019 Read Harder Challenge. To stay on track, I’ll need to read twelve books in the first six months of this year. I’ve already finished three, and I have the rest picked out from books that I already own (or have out from the library) that meet one of the challenge tasks. Here’s a sneak peek at that TBR…

The tasks covered by these books are:

Total TBR count after all that: 29 books.

But that’s not all… As if that wasn’t enough “required reading” for the first half of the year, I’m going to a writing workshop in April, taught by a bunch of authors, agents, and editors who I admire. Unfortunately, I haven’t read books by some of the authors, and I want to make sure I do before the workshop. So, I’ve added the following books to my TBR:

I’ll probably shoot for reading one book by each author (Dan Wells, Ted Chiang, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Fran Wilde). So, four of the six pictured here. Which ones I read will likely depend on what’s available first at the library. And, there may be more I need to add depending on who else is announced as participating.

That puts the total TBR count for the first half of 2019 at 33 books. Or almost six books per month, on average. It will probably be almost exactly six books per month once you take into account the rule I’m putting in place about reading books I buy this year (more on that in my January wrap-up).

< cue nervous laughter >

Ambitious much? Yeah. This is maybe a bit crazy. But… Is it weird that I’m actually really excited to read all of them? And I don’t even mind that I’ve completely booked (so to speak) all my available reading time for the first half of this year. Right now, I’m pretty excited about this TBR. I guess we’ll see how I feel in a few months.

Now I should probably go make a tracker in my “BuJo” to keep track of all this reading…

September Reading Recap and NaNoWriMo Prep

September flew by. I read some books. I wrote a lot of words. I got the first book in my “Modern Fae” series ready to publish. I also finished the first draft of a prequel novella in that series. Oh, and it was my husband’s birthday. Phew.

Here’s what I read in September:

I started off the month with a re-read of The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs. This book was one of my favorites as a kid. However, on my re-read, I’m not entirely sure why I liked it so much. The mystery is pretty weak, and there’s a lot of name calling. Plus I didn’t really like the main character. I know I read a LOT of books by John Bellairs as a kid. This is likely the first one I read, but maybe it wasn’t my favorite? Unless my tastes have changed enormously in the past thirty years (maybe, but I don’t think so), I honestly can’t figure out why I remember liking this book. Oh well. I’m still interested in seeing what they do with the movie.

After that disappointment — seriously, I hate it when a childhood favorite doesn’t live up to the memory — I read From Twinkle, With Love. This was another really cute book by the author of When Dimple Met Rishi. This author does adorable heart-warming teen romance between smart, passionate girls and sweet cinnamon roll boys better than any other YA author I’ve read. This is one of those books you read with a dopey grin on your face. I liked her first book a little better than this one, but only because I think the heroine’s character arc gets a bit muddled at points in this book. But this is still a really fun read, and I recommend it if you liked Dimple and Rishi.

While I was waiting for my library hold on Two Dark Reigns┬áby Kendare Blake, I read the second novella in this series,┬áThe Oracle Queen. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this novella, but it happened to come off hold, so I thought I’d give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This is a really good novella, especially if you’re already into this series. I didn’t know why I should care about the Oracle Queens after the first two books. You’re always hearing that there aren’t any more because this one when crazy. Then, in this novella, you read what really happened, and you’re like, woah. I won’t spoil it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays into future books. But…if this doesn’t change the game in some way, I’m going to be very disappointed.

After that, I dove into The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. This new contemporary romance has been getting all the hype. After reading it, I think that hype is justified. The book features a heroine with high-functioning autism who hires an escort to teach her how to be in a relationship. (Note: this is also written by a woman with high-functioning autism, and I’m all about #OwnVoices.) It’s kind of a reverse Pretty Woman, but only at a very basic level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a heroine like this before in any book, and I have to say, it’s refreshing. I really liked Stella. At times I also got really annoyed with Stella. I plowed through this book up until it got to “the black moment” with the obligatory break-up scene near the end of the book. When it got to that part, I closed my Kindle. It took a few days to get back to it because I was so frustrated and disappointed with how that scene was handled. Everything else about this book felt fresh and awesome, but that last bit, from the dark moment to the end, wasn’t as satisfying for me. I still highly, highly recommend this book. I still gave it five stars. I just thought things got a little out of character at the end there.

This month, I just scored a bunch more new releases from my library (Seafire┬á! Two Dark Reigns┬á! Yay!). This has been a big digital library loan year for me, and that’s throwing off my reading plans a bit. But it reminds me…if your library let’s you recommend books to buy, would you mind requesting that they add my book (Eve of the Fae by E. Menozzi)? It should be available on Overdrive, and I would love it if people could borrow my book from the library, because libraries are awesome and not everyone has budget to buy books.

Now that the book launch is over, I was planning on spending some quality time reading my pre-order of┬áVengeful by V. E. Schwab. I think I’m still going to, but first I need to catch up on my NaNoWriMo prep. Plus I’m┬átrying to finish up two short writing projects that I want to get done before November. My new plan is to carve out a chunk of “do not disturb” time in the next few weeks, because I have been waiting for that book for a long time, and I want to savor it.

Speaking of savoring…I hope you are all enjoying the fall! (Or spring, if you’re in the northern hemisphere.) For me, fall means “back to school,” which as an adult, translates into reading and writing. In case you can’t tell, I’m already getting excited for NaNoWriMo next month. If you’re also planning on joining this fun writing challenge in November, I’ve posted a link to a bunch of resources I like over on this page. I’ll probably also do a post on my bullet journal writing tracker once I’ve got that set up.

Until then, happy October and happy reading, everyone!

Book announcement, cover reveal, and release date!

And now we will interrupt my usual reading-related posts for an important writing announcement…

Eeek! My book has a cover and a launch date! Check it out!

The cover was designed by Elizabeth Mackey. I think she did a fantastic job, and I hope you love it as much as I do. Definitely check out her other work on her website. She’s designed a lot of excellent covers.

I’m almost done making all my final changes to the manuscript. Which means…I have scheduled a launch date!

Mark your calendars. The release date for Eve of the Fae will be the 2nd of October! Pre-orders should be live on Amazon very soon. I’ll update this post with a link and post an announcement on social media once everything is live. (UPDATE: Pre-order here.)

So, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and/or Instagram and watch for that post. Plus, if you want access to be the first to know about book news, plus get exclusive giveaways, you should definitely sign up for my newsletter.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably wondering why you’d want to subscribe to my newsletter. First thing you should know is, the newsletter is not the same content as the blog. This blog is primarily for talking about what I’m reading, random posts about my adventures in bullet journaling, and general life updates. Newsletter subscribers get exclusive updates on my writing projects, plus book recommendations, behind-the-scenes book info, and other content that I don’t share on the blog or on social media. Similar to the blog, I send emails once a month. I promise not to spam you with promo junk.

If newsletters aren’t your jam, I’ll also be posting book news on my Facebook Page. Please like and follow that page for announcements and other fun stuff.

And, since launches deserve celebration, I’m planning a virtual launch event! It will probably be via YouTube so you don’t have to be on social media to participate. I’ll probably do a Q&A and maybe even a reading. I’ll post details closer to the launch.

Now we will return to our reading-related posts…Stay tuned for my August reading update. ­čÖé

November reading summary and December TBR

Well, I did it!

November was a very busy month with a TON of travel and very little stability (we’re moving, location TBD after the holidays). But, I still managed to push through and write 50k words in 30 days. Phew. I have to say, as cool as it is to have “won” NaNoWriMo again — this is my 6th win — the thing I’m most proud of this month is that I wrote every day. Regardless of how crazy life got, no matter what got in the way, I put my butt in the chair and typed. Even if it was just 79 words (my worst day: the day after Thanksgiving). Even if it meant that I had 6 days where I wrote at least double the daily “par” word count of 1667 words in order to catch up.

So, what do I have to show for it? I have just over 50k words of something that is starting to become novel-shaped. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a (very weak) plot. It has one or two scenes that I’m particularly proud of and a TON of holes that need to be filled in. Gaping holes. Now, I just need to actually *finish* this first draft. But before I do that, I need to tinker with last year’s NaNoWriMo project so that I can send it out for a developmental edit.

Because of all this writing (and life) craziness, I didn’t read much in November. I finished one book. It was a really good book —┬áThe Sisters of Alameda Street by┬áLorena Hughes. It’s a family drama with some romantic sub-plots and an underlying mystery driving the story, and it takes place in Ecuador — a country I lived in for about two months back in 2008. I’d recommend it for anyone who liked My Brilliant Friend.

On my way to Thanksgiving, I bought myself an autographed copy of Kirstin Cashore’s new novel, Jane, Unlimited. I started it, but I didn’t have much time to read over Thanksgiving. I’m almost to the end of the first branch of the story. If you aren’t familiar with this book, it has a kind of “choose your own adventure” or Sliding Doors (though I haven’t seen that movie) premise to it. There’s a base story that sets things up and introduces the characters. Then there are five (I think) possible branches for what happens directly after that base story. Apparently, each of those branches is a different genre of story. It sounds really creative, and I loved her Graceling series, and the story has a lot of elements that I love (huge, creepy house on a private island, odd rich people behaving badly, lots of references to ocean creatures). I’m planning on spending the better part of my weekend curled up with this book.

I’m not sure what else I plan to read in December. I have a “kinda sorta” TBR list, but it’s basically just a list of the books I was going to read for the remaining Read Harder Challenge tasks. I have eight left to read. They’re mostly all books that I really want to read. Some of the ones I picked are really short. So, we’ll see how it goes.

More than anything, I have a lot of reading-related thoughts floating around in my head that I’m going to work on organizing into blog-posts for December. I have a lot of thoughts, folks. Especially about book buying and Goodreads and TBRs and life. So, stay tuned for more on that.

And, I know I don’t talk about writing a lot on my blog (on purpose). But, if you want to hear more about what’s going on with my writing, I’m starting a newsletter. You can sign up for it here. It will contain content that I don’t offer anywhere else on the internet (or at least newsletter subscribers will get that content months before everyone else). I’m shooting for a monthly schedule to be sent each month on or around the 15th, starting in December. This month’s newsletter may just be a giant photo of me watching The Last Jedi with my friends. Plus a few other writing-related tidbits. We’ll see…

Happy holidays, everyone!

Rosemary Contest Winner for Petals and Runes!

I just got back from the 2017 RWA contest. It was AWESOME! I got to meet so many people I only know from the internet. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I learned SO much. The RITA awards and Golden Heart awards were so inspiring. The post-RITA dance party was a blast. And…possibly the best part: I’m coming home a winner in the speculative category for the YA RWA Rosemary Contest for my YA fantasy novel “Petals and Runes!”

All that awesome had to be counterbalanced with some less than awesome stuff… for example, I killed my phone. It died via the dreaded infinite boot loop on Thursday morning, leaving me with no social media or ability to text/call anyone for the remaining three days of the conference. Then, my flight was delayed by six hours coming home last night. But, even those inconveniences couldn’t put a dent in how much fun I had at the conference.

10/10 I would totally do this again. Already looking forward to next year!

#NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously

Yes, I am completely aware that it’s mid-July, and there are four more months until NaNoWriMo and The NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. That doesn’t dampen my excitement one bit.

I’ve already set up my donation page to attend this year’s event. If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most fun writing events I’ve attended, and I look forward to it every year.

Even if you’re not a writer or not able to attend this year, I’m hoping that you might consider a donation to support the NaNoWriMo organization (and my fundraising campaign).

If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU! Your name has been added to my “reward” list. I haven’t figured out what the reward is going to be yet, but stay tuned. I’ll make sure it’s awesome.

I know there are countless worthy causes out there hoping to get their hands on your charitable donation budget. Here’s why I encourage you to make (even a very small) donation to NaNoWriMo:

  • NaNoWriMo does inspiration like nobody else. It’s so inspiring that it’s been the catalyst to me writing 4 novels during past Novembers. With the magic and inspiration of NaNoWriMo 2017, I plan to do it again.
  • The money from donations is used to provide children and adults the encouragement, structure, and inspiration they need to achieve their creative potential.
  • Proceeds from the event will fund National Novel Writing Month’s free creative writing programs in hundreds of schools and communities around the world. For an example of what that looks like in action, watch this video:

So please, if you like my blog and want to support my writing while also supporting an excellent organization, click through to my donation page and consider a $5 or $10 donation. Anything helps. My goal is to reach $275 raised by the end of July. So, help me out? Pretty please?