Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2016

Well, I didn’t get selected for PitchWars this year (more on that in my August wrap-up post). But I’m not bummed. I’m actually pretty excited because this frees me up to spend the next two months diving into some serious NaNoWriMo prep. I haven’t written anything new since last year’s NaNoWriMo, and I seriously can’t wait to get started on a new novel! I have so many ideas. I just know I’m going to have trouble picking one to focus on.

In addition to being excited about writing the “new thing,” I’m also excited because I’m going to be a Municipal Liaison again this year for my region! I’m looking forward to planning some really fun write-in events. But before I get to that, I’m going to spend some time brainstorming, world-building, plotting, and outlining. I think this may be my favorite part of drafting a new novel…

This year, I’ve joined the YA Buccaneers fall writing bootcamp which is focused on NaNoWriMo prep. You can join too. Here’s a link to more info. The thing I’m most excited about accomplishing during bootcamp is creating my novel beat sheet. This is the tool that will guide my plot and character arcs and keep me on track during the drafting process.

As part of my NaNo Prep, I’m considering doing some blog posts and/or YouTube videos about my tools and process. This would include some writing books I find helpful, tools I use (like the beat sheet I mentioned above), and what I like to have done before I start writing. So, stay tuned if that sounds interesting to you.

I also took some time today to set up my donation page for this year’s Night of Writing Dangerously. I had so much fun at last year’s Night of Writing Dangerously (thank you, donors!), that I’d like to attend again.

Between now and November, I’m hoping you might consider donating $5 or $10 to the non-profit that runs NaNoWriMo, The Office of Letters and Light. Your donations help run their writing programs (like NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo), but donations also help bring creative writing programs to children, and provide resources for teachers. For a full run down of where your money goes when you donate, check out this page. And, when you’re ready to donate, please contribute through my donation page, here. (Right now the video is from last year. Stay tuned, I’m planning on posting a new one soon.)

If I can get 30 people to donate $10 each, I’ll have met my fundraising goal. So, please consider a donation, even a small one. Your contribution is much appreciated!

July in Review

So, my “make July awesome” plan worked. Partly, this was due to a last minute change of travel plans. To quote Ferris Bueller’s famous words of wisdom: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.” These words of wisdom took on even more meaning due to a death in my extended family. Nothing like a little mortality in your face to remind you to get out there and live.

But, enough deep thoughts from me. What you really want to know is what I read in July, right? (links take you to my reviews on Goodreads)

July2016

  • Storm Vol. 2: Bring the Thunder by by Greg Pak and Victor Ibañez (trade paper) — Enjoyable second volume. Storm is pretty freaking awesome. I kinda wish there were more in this series.
  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (Kindle, library) — Took me forever to get around to reading this second book in the series, but once I started I couldn’t put it down. And, of course there is a cliff-hanger ending. So, now I need to go get the next one off my digital holds at the library.
  • Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba (Kindle) — Not my usual read, but it came highly recommended and it sounded like it contained some useful advice. It definitely delivered on the promise of the subtitle, and had the added bonus of reading like a pep talk from a (much more stylish) girlfriend.
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Kindle) — I really liked this little novella. I loved the concept (boarding school for children who’ve returned from magical worlds and wish they could return). I love the way they’ve created a sort of “map” of the various magical worlds these children disappeared to (logical vs. nonsensical, good vs. evil, etc.). And I really enjoyed the mystery that drove the plot.
  • Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn (Kindle) — I pre-ordered this one based off an early sneak-peek (maybe this one?). As expected, I definitely enjoyed it. It’s a really fun and really cute book. The romance was well done and the characters were all fully fleshed out and engaging. I felt like the mystery that drove the plot wasn’t executed as well as I’d like, but it worked, even if the double-ending ending was a little less than satisfying.
  • The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston (Kindle) — If I had to sum this one up in three words, I’d say: Vikings, sisterhood, and rescue-mutts. So, if you like those things (plus romance), you’ll probably like this book. The characters, world-building, and romance are all very well done. I really enjoyed the first ~75%, but I had some issues with the plot development of the final ~25%. I still really enjoyed it. I was just a little annoyed by some distracting sub-plots that didn’t really add anything to the main plot and would have preferred more focus on the main mystery, or at least to have the sub-plots tie in to the main plot better.

My current plan for August is that it will be more of a reading month than a writing month. But, I’m resisting the urge to adding a ton of books to my August TBR right now. Instead, I plan to leave things open and read exactly whatever I feel like reading.

Here’s what I’ve got on my August TBR:

August2016TBR

Most of these are carry-overs from last month’s TBR or books that I’m currently reading but haven’t finished yet… I decided to leave my hardcovers and paperbacks at home when I traveled. So, I never got to finish Homegoing, and never started School for Good and Evil. Instead, I started The Iron King while I was traveling, but I didn’t get the chance to finish it.

I’ve been really looking forward to diving into This Savage Song, but I decided to save for after I submit my novel to PitchWars this week. And Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is back on the list because I saw a review on Booktube that reminded me how much I want to read this book.

I think Artemis Fowl is the only new addition to this list. I bought this when we stopped at Literatti in Michigan because I couldn’t go in without buying a book, and I had to limit myself to just one so that it would fit in my luggage on the way home. The booksellers recommended this to me when I told them I was looking for a gift for a middle-grade reader. But, it seems to get mixed reviews on Goodreads. So, I think I might read it first, just to make sure.

If you’ve read any of these and have thoughts, or want to share what you’re reading this month, leave a comment. Happy reading!

June in Review

Half the year is over. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I’d be a lot happier about it being the 1st of July if I were leaving for vacation today. But, I’m not. So, I guess that kind of puts me in a crummy mood.

However, I have a plan to fix that and it involves books. Reading them and writing them. Also swimming. I’m determined to make lemonade from these lemons, even if I’m not going to be drinking it sitting on a dock staring out at a lake with my friends… :/

I didn’t get much reading done in June — only four books. Well, technically, it was one novel and one audiobook plus a novella and a comics trade. So, maybe that only counts as three books?

Anyway, here’s what I ended up reading in June (links take you to my reviews on Goodreads).

June2016

Part of my “make July awesome” plan includes doing a lot of reading — just as soon as I finish edits on Godda’s War. I’m not going to let a little thing like ruined vacation plans put a dent in my summer reading. To cheer myself up, I’ve gone a bit crazy with my TBR and basically thrown out what was left of previous lists and started over with a (mostly) new one. Here’s my new and highly eclectic July TBR:

July2016TBR

  • Storm vol. 2: Bring the Thunder (comics trade) — I’m planning on reading this tomorrow after swimming while I’m enjoying my tea because that’s what I did last weekend with vol. 1 and it turned out to be an excellent idea. Saturday morning cartoons, but in print. Genius!
  • Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba (Kindle) — I saw a review from someone whose opinion I trust that said this was a really good book. I was intrigued by the title, so I decided to get it and give it a try.
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Kindle) — I can’t remember how I found this book but, once I read the premise, I was hooked. It’s about all these kids who, at one time, stumbled into a fantasy world and then returned to the “real world” and how they can’t really let go and are trying to get back. I have high hopes for this one…
  • George by Alex Gino (Kindle) — I didn’t get a chance to read this last month, as planned. But I will definitely be reading it this month.
  • To Ride Pegasus by Anne McCaffrey (Kindle) — This one is a re-read that I started re-reading a while ago and then put down to read something else. I’m not really sure that I’ll actually read it this month, but I want to read it for research, so we’ll see what happens…
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Hardcover, signed) — I’ve already started this one and it’s so good. I’m hoping I’ll have time to finish it this weekend.
  • Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Hardcover, signed) — I’m determined to read through my growing stack of Indiespensible books, and this one looked especially cool. So, I’m thinking I might try to read this sometime this month.
  • Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry (paperback) — This was a Christmas present from our best friends’ son. It comes highly recommended, and I can’t resist a Peter Pan re-telling.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Kindle) — I can’t watch the movie until I read the book…
  • This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab (Kindle, pre-order) — This book is all set to deliver to my Kindle on release day (Tuesday, 7/5). After reading only one of her books (Vicious), Schwab instantly became an auto-buy author for me. I am looking forward to dropping everything on Tuesday to start this book immediately.
  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (Kindle, library) — Okay, okay. How many times has this been left un-read on my TBR? Yeah, I know. But I’m actually reading it right now (I started it yesterday), and I’m completely sucked in. So, I predict this will finally be read by the end of this weekend (if for no other reason than my library loan is expired, and I can’t turn my Kindle off airplane mode until I finish this or this book will disappear, and I need to turn off airplane mode to get This Savage Song… #readerProblems)
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (paperback) — Our best friends’ son is letting me borrow this one. He says it’s really good, but what he didn’t know was that I’d had my eye on this one before he recommended it to me. I mean, magic boarding school for fairy-tale heroes and villians? Yes, please!

So, that’s an ambitious list of books for this month, huh? What in the world am I thinking? Aside from the obvious (books make everything better), I’m realizing that my creative well needs some re-filling and it needs re-filling outside my usual genres. So, in addition to my usual stuff, I’ve added a lot of literary fiction and middle grade on this list. Plus, I’ve made sure there is a healthy dose of diversity (because diversity is life). What may be less obvious is that I’m gearing up for some serious writing and I need fuel to support me on my journey. Bring on the books!

New York Times by the Book Tag (borrowed from BookTube)

What book is on your nightstand now?

The book I’m reading right now also happens to be literally sitting on my nightstand at the moment: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

What was the last truly great book that you read?

Great is *so* subjective… There are so many reasons why I might love a book and think it’s “great.” Maybe it’s because the writing is amazing, maybe I loved the world-building and/or the characters, maybe the romance was just perfect, maybe it was just so unique that it stood out from all the others, or maybe it just contained something I really needed to hear/read at that point in my life. That said, I think if forced to choose, I’d have to say that the last “truly great book” I’ve read would have to be Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book has received so many awards, was on so many end-of-year best-of lists, and has so much positive buzz that you hardly need me to tell you how truly great it is. This book wasn’t written for me, but it did one of those things that truly great books do, it provided a window into a world and a perspective that isn’t mine. It gave me a chance to put myself in someone else’s shoes — someone completely unlike me — and practice empathy. This is one of the many reasons why reading is so powerful and why I love books so much.

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

I think, if I could meet any writer, I’d pick Victoria Schwab because I’d love to have the chance to try to convince her that she wanted to be my writing buddy and mentor. Every time I hear her talk about her writing process, or read her tweets when she’s working on a book, I feel this intense kinship. I’d love to have her as a mentor. That would be a dream come true. There’s nothing in particular I’d like for her to tell me. She just the most visible writer I know who embodies the type of work ethic and writing style that I aspire to. (Maggie Stiefvater would be a close second.)

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I have this one book on etiquette that was particularly important to me in my formative teenage years. I think it’s out of print at this point, but here’s a link to some used copies on Amazon. It’s completely old-school and probably not something you’d expect to see on my bookshelf, but I love it and it maintains a place of honor on my “favorites” shelf. Plus, I think my copy was signed by the author.

How do you organize your personal library?

For the most part, my books and my husband’s books are all mixed together. Our bookshelves used to be totally organized, but they’ve become a bit chaotic since we sold our house near Portland and moved into this apartment near San Francisco. In general, our books are grouped the same way you might find them in a bookstore. There is a shelf for cookbooks, one for travel books, several shelves of non-fiction and of fiction. But, I did reserved a few shelves on one bookcase for my favorite books. That shelf has all my special edition Harry Potter books and basically all the books I’d try to save if there was a fire or an earthquake.

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

There are a ton of classics that I haven’t read and always meant to, but I’m more embarrassed about the sci-fi and fantasy books that I haven’t read yet. Three books in particular, all by Neal Stephenson, come to mind: Reamde, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. I’ve had all three of these on Kindle for such a long time, and I keep meaning to read them and then never get around to it. Since so many of my friends (and my husband) love these books, I feel really embarrassed any time I have to admit that I *still* haven’t read them yet.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

One book that I’m always embarrassed to admit that I didn’t love is An Ember in the Ashes. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I did. It’s just that everyone I know LOVES this book and for me it just didn’t live up to the hype. I just didn’t care much for either of the two main characters, and I really didn’t like the “love-square” relationship drama. I’ll still read the sequel, and who knows, maybe I’ll like it more. But yeah, I just don’t have all the feels for that one.

As for last book I put down without finishing… last year, for the Read Harder challenge, I tried to read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’ll probably try again at some point.

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

In general, I’m drawn to most sci-fi and fantasy stories, but I’m especially drawn to military space operas, alien first contact, magical boarding schools, and anything where there isn’t a clear “good” and “evil” side.

I usually steer clear of anything that involves abuse and anything with messed-up marriages. I don’t have a lot of interest in spending time in those worlds. So, if I get the sense that a popular book includes this type of thing, I usually just skip it. For this reason, I still haven’t read (and don’t really plan to read) Gone Girl, A Little Life, or pretty much anything by Jonathan Franzan.

If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

From what I’ve seen, the President reads a lot of really smart books, both literature and non-fiction. So, I think I’d recommend he read something just totally fun. I also think it would have to be a romance because I get the sense that President Obama loves love, but he probably hasn’t read a romance. I’d love to see him read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell because it’s not just a romance — it’s a m/m romance, a sort-of spoof on Harry Potter (and all the other “chosen one” books), and it has some pretty unique magic. Then, after he read it, I’d like to see him sit down and talk about it with the author on YouTube. That would be AWESOME. Someone please make this happen.

What do you plan to read next?

I really, really need to read the second book in the Neapolitan Novels next, The Story of a New Name. My mom just finished the fourth (last) book in the series, and I need to catch up!

Who do you tag?

I tag anyone who thinks this looks like a fun book tag and wants to give it a try. If you do this (or already did it) on your blog or your BookTube channel, post a link in the comments so I can check it out!

May in Review

May was a bit crazy this year. It didn’t feel much like a birthday month, and I didn’t get much writing or swimming accomplished due to a massive road-trip vacation that took up most of the second half of the month. But, I did read a lot and think a lot. So, even if I feel like I’ve fallen behind on everything, I feel rested and a little more grounded going into the second half of this year.

Below are the books I read this month (links take you to my reviews on Goodreads).

May2016

  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Kindle, pre-order) — I was worried that I would be disappointed by this book because I had some issues with the first book in this series. But, I loved it! Feyre is only annoying through the first third of this book. Then she really comes into her own with a little help from her new friends and her swoon-worthy soul mate. I’m so much happier with the romance plot in this book compared to the first.
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Kindle, library) — I’m a sucker for Jane Austen retellings, and I also like this author. So when I saw this book announced, I knew I had to read it immediately. Luckily, I got a digital copy from the library within weeks of the release, and it turned out to be everything I’d hoped it would be. I had some issues with the ending, but other than that, highly recommend for Austen fans looking for a modern spin on a classic.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Kindle) — This one did not live up to the hype for me, unfortunately. I couldn’t get past what felt like a character inconsistency that contributed to a weakness in the plot and the romance aspect of the story.
  • Lady Susan by Jane Austen (Kindle) — I couldn’t fit this into the photo above, but I also read this short, unfinished Austen story in preparation for seeing Love & Friendship at some point (hopefully soon).
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (Kindle) — It took me forever to finally get around to reading this book, but it definitely lived up to the hype. I only wish the ending wasn’t such a massive cliff-hanger.
  • Serpentine by Cindy Pon (Kindle) — I’ve had this book on my TBR forever and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. It’s a short, fast read with unique world-building and an excellent female friendship at the core of the plot.
  • Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein (audiobook, library) — I’m probably not the right audience for this book, because I’m not really a fan of Sleater Kinney or Portlandia. It’s not that I don’t like her band or her show, it’s just not my thing. I think I just missed the Riot Grrl craze (a little too young), and I never heard of Sleater Kinney until I moved to the PNW. I’ve watched a few episodes of Portlandia. It’s really funny, but it didn’t hook me enough to keep watching. So, I’m not even sure why I picked up this book except that I’d heard on several blogs that it was really good. I enjoyed it because I love learning more about the punk movement and reading about the creative process. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of punk and/or Sleater Kinney, or if you’re a music geek. If you’re thinking of picking it up because of her role in Portlandia, you’ll be disappointed because there’s almost nothing of that in here.

I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done in June, but these are the books I’d really like to read if I can find some time:

June2016TBR

A couple roll-over titles from previous TBRs (Lagoon, Slow Bullets), and a few new titles to shake things up a bit. I’ve been craving a novel with a solid mystery / thriller element, so I decided to add The Swimmer and Three Parts Dead to my TBR. I’ve also been neglecting my comics, so I added Vol 1 of Storm, which will (hopefully) compliment the new X-Men movie I’m looking forward to seeing this weekend. I added George because I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, and I thought June, since it’s Pride month, might be a good time to do that.

Now that I’m back from vacation and refreshed, I’m looking forward to diving back into my writing (and into the pool). I’m hoping to finish edits on “Godda’s War” (which really needs a new title) and then get to work on finishing a draft of my 2014 NaNoWrMo story (“Augmented“). I had some pretty decent ideas for both of these over vacation and I’m eager to start making progress again.

It may be a bit quiet around here in June, but I have a few blog post ideas planned. So, stay tuned! Oh, and if you’re disappointed that I stopped posting my “MayIGAuthor” photos here, you can check them out on Instagram. It was easier to just post them there while I was on vacation (vs. posting to both locations).

#MayIGAuthors Day 3: #WhereIWrite

image

Technically, I have a desk, but this has been where I’ve been doing most of my writing and editing recently. It’s comfy, but not too comfy. It’s close to my hubby’s work space (for company) and to the kitchen (for tea refills and snacks). I have my awesome headphones for music, or just to muffle noises so I can focus. And, these days at least, I have a printed copy of the edit letter for the novel I’m working on. Besides my trusty laptop, that’s basically all I need.

April in Review

April was supposed to be a huge month for swimming. In fact, right now I was supposed to be racing in North Carolina at US Masters Nationals. Instead, I threw all my competition plans out the window so I could focus on my writing. I’m a little sad that I’m missing all the racing fun, but I’m also really happy with the edits I made to The Lost Empire this month.

My April writing calendar doesn’t look super impressive, but those silver dots are hiding a TON of work.

Writing-April2016

Each dot means that I edited at least one chapter that day. Sometimes “editing” included writing new scenes and/or heavily overhauling old ones. By the time I was done, I think I added about 8k *new* words to The Lost Empire. That long break between 4/18 and 4/27 was my well-deserved, post Pitch to Publication contest, break. Now, on to the next manuscript…

Even though I spent nearly every spare minute in April working on edits, I did manage to read some books.

Reading-April2016

One sci-fi novella (Binti), one non-fiction audiobook (Pirate Hunters), one paperback ARC from one of my Indiespensible shipments (Fever at Dawn), and a contemporary new adult romance by one of my favorite romance authors (Trade Me). I might have given everything except the ARC five stars (but the ARC was outside my wheelhouse from the start, so it shouldn’t count). Either I was feeling generous (writing and editing a book is HARD, people), or they were amazing and hit me at just the right time to leave a mark. Highly recommend. Links above take you to my Goodreads reviews.

So, that was April, now let’s talk about May. I can’t believe it’s May already! In case you didn’t know, May is my favorite month, and not just because it’s my birthday month. I have a lot of cool stuff to look forward to this month, but I also have a lot of hard work in front of me, as well. As a reward for hard work and my birthday, I’ve gone a little crazy with the pre-orders…

So far, I’ve ordered these four beauties:

2016 Pre-Orders

A Court of Mist and Fury comes out on Tuesday. I had mixed feelings about the first book in this series, but the world-building was just amazing. SJM gets all the gold stars for building rich magical worlds that make you want to keep coming back for more. This is why I also have book five in the Throne of Glass series on pre-order (Empire of Storms <– what a great title!). I’ve had some issues with the romanic sub-plots in both of these series from time to time. But, book four in the Throne of Glass series made it all worth it for me and gave me hope that book two in the Court of Thorns and Roses series would be better (please let it be better…).

As much as I love SJM’s world-building and swoon-worthy heros, nothing beats Victoria Schwab for examining complicated aspects of human nature. Vicious was one of my favorite books I read last year, and I haven’t even started her most popular series (first book: A Darker Shade of Magic). Her latest, This Savage Song, comes out in July and I can not wait to read this book.

The blurb for Laini Taylor’s new book, Strange the Dreamer, sounds heartbreakingly beautiful. If her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is any indication, I will love this one, too. Laini Taylor is another writer who is top notch at world-building and romantic sub-plots that add just the right amount of heat to an already edge-of-your-seat adventure.

You know it’s a good year for reading (and a bad year for your book budget) when three of your most favorite YA authors are all releasing new books!

Since only one of those comes out in May, here’s what I put on my May TBR:

May2016TBR

You may notice a few repeat offenders on this list… oh, who am I kidding? This is basically the same list as last month. I did add Lagoon to the list after finishing Binti this month. I’ve had Lagoon on my Kindle since October, and I’ve had my eye on it since around this time last summer. So, it’s about time I read it.

But first, I have to do some edits on Godda’s War (which may also need a new title…), and I really want to start working on the outline for a new book that’s been bouncing around in my head for far too long. Maybe I can add some stars to May’s writing calendar in addition to the silver dots…

Since this post is now epic-length, I should get back to work. Happy May, everybody!

Random writing thoughts

I saw this post on Twitter last week and LOVED it because it felt like exactly what I’ve been thinking for the past month while I’ve been working on the Pitch to Publication edits for The Lost Empire.

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I think that sometimes the longer I spend looking at anything I’ve written, the more I become convinced that it’s terrible and I have no idea what I’m doing.

Then I stumbled on this YouTube video and realized this is totally normal…

I’ve watched several of her videos and am not convinced that she’s a freaking genius.

What I’m trying to say here is that this writing stuff is HARD, people.

March in Review

March was mostly a writing month. I didn’t get much reading done. In fact, I didn’t touch my Kindle for the entire month. Instead, I read one comic and one audio book.

Books:

March2016

I never got to read the one book I wanted to read in March (The Story of a New Name), and I had to return it to the library. 😦 I’m now going to have to go back to the bottom of the hold list at the library. But it’s okay. I don’t have time to read it now anyway.

My TBR for April is basically the same as my TBR for March. I’ve filled it with a bunch of short books that I think will be fast reads. I’m hoping I can use them as distractions from my writing projects when I need a break.

April2016TBR

TV and movies:

I haven’t had a ton of time to watch TV and movies this month. But I did manage to get caught up on The 100 and Super Girl. I’m not as worked up about The 100 and I LOVED the Super Girl / Flash cross-over episode. I don’t watch The Flash, but those two were so cute together I feel like this should be a regular thing. I’m still watching The Magicians, and I still think it’s better than the book (at least the first book in the series, which is all I’ve read so far). I need to get caught up on the rest of the season, and I need to catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., if for no other reason then to finally decide that I no longer need to watch that show.

Swimming:

Something had to give this month. For the first time since I started swimming competitively again, it ended up being swimming. I’ve bailed on all the in-season swim meets this year (except for two ill-advised races at Rinconada). I’m still training hard, but I’ve cut it back to about 4x per week, and I decided that giving up my weekends for all-weekend swim meets is not the best use of my time right now. This means no more races for me until July or August. It’s not a huge sacrifice, considering that I plan to keep racing for as long as I’m alive. I’m planning on being one fast 90+ age-group breaststroker. But right now, I need that time for writing.

Writing:

Something unexpected (and really good) happened that has kept me VERY busy with writing this month. I entered The Lost Empire (my YA epic fantasy novel) into a contest, and I was selected to work with an editor (we’re name twins) in preparation for an “agent round” in April! I still can’t believe it.

I also started using a new way of tracking (and rewarding) my writing. I’m dabbling with the “calendar method” (borrowed from V. E. Schwab) where you give yourself a sticker on the calendar to represent writing days. Each sticker is supposed to stand for a certain number of words written. This is what March looked like:

Writing-March2016

I decided to give myself a foil star for any days with over 500 words written. I gave myself a foil circle for days I edited at least one chapter. I may be more generous next month and make each star worth 500 words and each circle worth one chapter of edits. Then I’d give myself more than two stars if I wrote 1000 words, or two circles if I edited two chapters, etc. But that just seems like overkill at this point.

As you can see from the calendar, I got some writing done in the first half of the month, and I spent the second half working on edits for TLE. I like the changes I’m making and I think the novel is getting better. But I probably won’t be done with edits until mid-April.

If I have time for writing in April, I’ll probably be working on a short story for Camp NaNoWriMo. But I also plan on trying to post more short blog posts in April. So stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying your spring!

Inspired by Music

I don’t talk much about writing on my blog, but writing has been pretty much all I can think about for the past month or more. Today I was reflecting on how there’s usually one song that I heard at some point while writing each of my stories that, when I hear it, reminds me of that novel and puts me right back into the feel of that story.

Curious what songs inspire my writing?

Well, I’d been writing bits and pieces of The Lost Empire for a while when, one day, on a KEXP Music That Matters podcast, I heard Home by Villagers and something just clicked.

Oh, man. The feels in that song. Dang. There are a couple of lines that definitely get right at what I wanted to write in this novel. I listen to it whenever I want to remember that.

Before I finished TLE, I started another crazy novel that has a bananas narrative structure that somehow fits with the world. It was based on a writing exercise I did for one of my UC Berkeley Extension writing classes. When I heard Witchcraft by Pendulum, one of the scenes just popped into my head.

I didn’t know where that scene went in the story, but I could vividly see it in my imagination. I nicknamed that novel “Falling” and wrote nearly the whole thing during NaNoWriMo 2013. It still needs work, and every time I hear that song, I want to dive back into that world.

This past NaNoWriMo, it happened again. I was working on what I eventually named Godda’s War, and I heard Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood and something just clicked.

There is so much about this song that reminds me of Drew (one of the two POV characters). I just want to curl this song around me and play it over and over again when I work on this novel.

If you’re curious, you can read blurbs about these stories by clicking on my “Writing” page. None of these are currently published, so you can’t buy them anywhere, yet. I’m working on that. 🙂