The Short Story Box: A Short Story A Day, Randomized

When I was in my early twenties, I read a lot of short stories, but then somewhere between then and now, I fell out of the habit.

Last year, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, and remembered how much pleasure a well-crafted short story can bring to me as a reader. I decided back then that I wanted to read more short stories (yes, it was about a year ago – I procrastinate quite well).

Fast forward to now. Since that time last year, I have, rather unconsciously, been collecting short story collections and anthologies. Last week, I took a look around at my bookshelves, both physical and digital, and realized I’d amassed quite the collection.

I also realized something else. I don’t reach for a book of short stories the way I reach for a novel.  With a novel, I get these squiggly bookish feelings of anticipation and when these come, I naturally reach for whichever novel it is, and start reading.

This doesn’t happen with short stories. Have you noticed how short story collections are often great big thick books? I find they make me feel a little wary.

But I still have this desire to start reading more short stories.

So I decided, if the idea of a big collection of short stories is off-putting, why not have some fun with things instead?

Fun, as in surprising myself with a different short story every day!

Here is my Short Story box:

short story box

I made up a list in my Bullet Journal, giving each short story collection or anthology a letter. Then I cut up a bunch of paper from the paper recycling box. I began going through each of the books, jotting down the title of the short story (and the page number, for print books) on a small slip of paper, which I then tossed into my Short Story box.

My plan is to pick a short story from the box every day. No more resistance to those thick short story anthologies. No more trying to decide what genre I want to read. It will always be a surprise!

If this works out, I’ll simply keep adding more books to my collection, and more short story titles to my Short Story box. If this doesn’t work out, well, I’ve been having a great time writing down titles, and marvelling at how imaginative some of them are are.

Here are the short story collections/anthologies I’ve gone through so far (I have many more, plus ones I’ve saved to Pocket from various places like the New Yorker magazine):

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)

he Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection

M is for Magic (Neil Gaiman)

Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries, vol. 9

The O’Henry Prize Stories, 2013

Best American Mystery Stories, 2011

Come Along with Me (Shirley Jackson)

Best Horror of the Year, vol 6

Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24

Others still to be added include short story collections from Flannery O’Connor and Ray Bradbury, as well as a lot more anthologies in the mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction and fantasy genres. I’m going for an eclectic mix, and will be keeping my eye out for new anthologies to add to my collection.

It feels like a lot of fun to me, and if I can stick with a short story a day, by this time next year I will have read 365 short stories! I like the sound of that.

Do you like to read short stories? If yes, do you have a collection/anthology that you would highly recommend? A favourite short story author?

Dreambook

I have a lot of dreams, which I usually remember for a little while after I wake up – and then they start fading away. Many mornings I wake up pulled from a really good dream, and then spend some time trying to fall back asleep so I can get back into my dream.

Not that this usually works. But it’s worth a try, and on the odd occasion I do manage to find my way back to the dream, it’s so good.

But one thing I’ve never really done consistently is write down my dreams. I’ve had dreams that were just so epic (and I really mean “epic”, not as in “awesome” but an actual epic) I absolutely had to write them down. But those have been far and few in between.

All this changed early last week, when The Art of Neil Gaiman inspired me to start a dreambook.

I’m nearing the end of this book, a biography of Neil by Hayley Campbell. It’s really good, because it’s based not only on interviews with Neil but also on the trunkloads of papers and notebooks he keeps up in the attic of his house. A real treasure trove for fans (although I must admit to finding his handwriting difficult to decipher!).

And in one section of the book, there is a spread from a few of his dream diaries:

neil gaiman dream diariesFrom The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell

A few pages later, Neil had this to say about his dream diaries:

When I was writing Sandman I would occasionally steal imagery from my dreams, almost never got plots, but occasionally images were incredibly useful. And to this day if there’s a dream that’s just sort of affecting emotionally, I’ll write it down. Which was something I learned to do while I was doing Sandman.

… I would write them down partly because you’d never know what was going to be useful in retrospect, or what might be important in retrospect. Which isn’t to say that I ever went back and reread them, but it is to say some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate … it moves it from being written in melting snow, to being written onto paper. In terms of the boxes of your mind things are in, it’s changed. (emphasis added)

This really called out to me.  … some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate it. I’ve experienced that fading of a really good dream so many times, and I really liked the idea of moving my dreams out of that weird box in my head where stuff evaporates.

So the next morning, I woke up from a good dream, and thought to myself, no time like now to start, right? So I popped into my office and grabbed a blank notebook, then sat up in bed and jotted down all the bits of the dream I wanted to remember. I don’t have the book in front of me right now, and despite my writing it down, I couldn’t tell you at all what it was about. But it’s there now, on paper, and if I ever get a moment when I get curious about the first dream I wrote down in my dreambook, I’ll be able to go back and read it.

Not to say the whole writing-down-your-dreams-in-the-morning thing has been going smoothly since I started. For the three or four mornings after I jotted down that first dream, I had such mundane dreams. One of them was about going to a BBQ at my sister’s place (and coincidentally, I was going to a BBQ at my sister’s place later that day). I did jot down a dream in which I was merely an observer, although it wasn’t particularly exciting. It was basically an Anne of Green Gables scene, plotted from beginning to end, set in modern times with a totally different but still sufficiently Anne-ish girl.

And then I had a night when insomnia hit me, and there were no dreams the morning after that!

Still, this feels like a good habit to me, so I’ll keep on doing it for the fun of it.

How about you? Do you remember your dreams? Do you write them down in a dream journal or a notebook?

Listening: ‘Mr. Mercedes’ and ‘The Supernaturals’

I’ve got a couple of new-to-me audiobooks on the go right now (I say “new-to-me” because when I’m working, I like to listen to an audiobook but usually have to listen to something I’ve read before – like an Agatha Christie or a Nero Wolfe – because I do end up missing huge chunks of scenes if something takes over all of my focus).

mr mercedes by stephen king

I’m in the last half of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King right now. It’s an interesting read, and very character-driven. Unlike what you might expect, it’s not a horror story. It’s actually a thriller, with some police procedural aspects thrown in. Lots of humour in the dialogue, too. I’ve really been enjoying it.

the supernaturals david golemon

I also just started The Supernaturals: A Ghost Story, by David L. Golemon. This one is, as its title implies, a horror novel. I’m only at the beginning, but the tone has already been set. (Actually, it was set in the author’s foreword.) It’s been good so far, and I have high expectations of it. Based on the reviews at Audible, it’s quite the spooky tale.

What about you? What good audiobooks have you been listening to lately?

I’m Working On … (A Creative Blog Tour)

on my table rounded

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Adriane Giberson invited me to participate in a blog tour of creators (writers, artists and poets). I was a little hesitant at first. I’ve been busy with work and all the other must-do’s of life, and my creativity has really taken a backseat lately. But I’ve just finished a couple of big deadlines (like indexing an 1100 page AND a 1500 page book back to back – ouch!) and what better way to help myself dive back into more creative work than blogging about it, right?

What am I working on?

The big project on my desk right now is an urban fantasy with the working title “Sweetness and Dank” (the names of two of my main characters – very creative of me, I know). I’ve already written a chunk of this novel by hand in a Moleskine, and started transcribing it (and rewriting as I went) into Scrivener last week.

I’d started a writing challenge recently – 15 minutes of writing a day, which you’d think would be immensely do-able – so this seemed like the perfect thing for me to tackle. Unfortunately, the deadlines got to me, so my plan is to start anew on my writing challenge today. I have high hopes. We shall see.

I also want to start the edits on “Waverley”, which I’d completed for Nanowrimo a couple of years ago. There are massive changes that need to be made, because I kind of wrote two books in one, and need to separate out the story that I’m really trying to tell from the story that belongs in a book of its own. But look what I recently picked up from the library!

Blueprint Your Bestseller

That’s right: Blueprint Your Bestseller, by Stuart Horwitz, which promises to help me “organize and revise any manuscript with the book architecture method”. I don’t know if it will help, but I do have a completed, in-need-of-revision children’s fantasy in “Waverley” and I’ve got really high hopes for this book architecture method, whatever it might turn out to be.

creative lettering

In the artsy department, after working this past year on several doodle quotes, I’ve been really wanting to practice my lettering. I recently had a look at Creative Lettering, by Jenny Doh, and was just so inspired! I’m not going for a calligraphic look – what I want is to develop a whimsical, slightly quirky, not-quite straight lettering style (I’ve already got the not-quite-straight angle covered, by the way) that will work well with my doodle quotes. The artists featured in Creative Lettering (who all, thankfully, seem to have blogs) are incredibly motivational. So motivational, I decided to pick up some unlined Moleskines the other day when I was at the book store getting a Father’s Day cookbook for my husband. My plan is to start practicing my lettering on a daily basis. Another one of those “we shall see” things.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough one to answer. For one thing, when it comes to writing, I tend to write what I like to read, and I’m an eclectic reader, so I’m kind of all over the map when it comes to my writing. But I find that magic does show up in a lot of my writing, even when I’m not writing fantasy. In the past, I’ve clamped down on that (there’s not much place for magic in a murder mystery, right?) but lately I’ve been thinking maybe I should just let the magic show up wherever it wants to.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Ah, an easy question! Because of the ideas I get! I’m not very disciplined about my writing (YET– I’m hoping to change that) but I get ideas all the time and most of them are the germs of stories. I like finding out where each one leads me, although I’m learning that it’s good to let the end point of each one come to me before I sit down to write. I seem to be very good at the whole “two stories in one” thing, and what I need to do is write down one story at a time – mainly, the story that wants to be told in that particular work.

As for the artsy stuff, I’m not very good at it, but it’s very good for my soul, and that’s a good enough reason for me.

How does your writing/creating process work?

I’m just starting to figure this out. Earlier this year, I tried to outline with index cards, and I did get an entire murder mystery down on the cards, but when I sat down to write, I was … bored! So for me, the best way to write is the way E.L. Doctorow described it:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Except that I need to know where I’m headed, as Neil Gaiman recently said:

“Mostly, the creative process is really, really fast. And when it happens, I have a pretty good idea of what something is. I am much more like somebody driving in the dark. My headlights will illuminate a little bit ahead of me, and I know where I’m going. I’m not just driving randomly. I know if I keep down this road, I will get to New York. But what happens on the way, I will find out.”

You see, when I don’t have a clear idea of how things end, I tend to write two or three stories in one. And then it’s a real mess to pull the real story out, and stash all the bits of the other stories away, for when it’s their turn to be told.

And now, please meet …

I’ve asked two fellow writers to play with me on this blog tour. They’ll both be posting their answers to these very same questions a week from today, on June 23:

Suey J of It’s All About Books. Most of you know Suey – she’s incredibly active in the book blogging community (she cohosts Bloggiesta). She’s also a writer, and the leader of a small, extremely motivating writing group that I’m very proud to be a member of. I’ve had the privilege of reading the YA novel she’s working on right now, and it is so good!

Janel Gradowski. Janel is a writer and an artist, and one of my best writer friends. Janel specializes in foodie fiction, and she’s motivated and inspired me over the past several years with her dedication and commitment to the writing craft, Next month sees the release of her culinary mystery, Pies & Peril.

My Reading Notes: London Falling, by Paul Cornell

I recently downloaded this very handy little iPhone app called Drafts, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much use I’m able to get out of it. The feature that appeals to me the most is the app’s ability to append text to plain text documents I’ve got uploaded on Dropbox.

I decided to give the app a try by using it to document all the thoughts running through my head as I’m reading a novel. It worked like a charm, and now I’ll be able to post these thoughts as “My Reading Notes”!

Here are my first set of reading notes, on London Falling by Paul Cornell. This is the first in a series featuring four London police officers who develop “the Sight” after touching a supernatural artifact. I admit, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because I wanted to be familiar with the characters so I could read the second book in the series, The Severed Streets, in which the team tackles a killer who appears to be imitating Jack the Ripper.

london falling by paul cornell

My initial thoughts, on beginning the book:

The beginning is a bit of a challenge for me, but knowing all the supernatural stuff that’s to come is getting me through it. I’m on page 12 now and things are starting to settle with me as I get to know the characters better.

And then things started clicking:

On pg 38: Interview with Toshack. Wow. Okay, now we ‘re rolling.

But I’m still a little confused:

On pg 51: There’s still a lot of things referred to in the text that I don’t understand …

Despite the confusion …

On pg 65: This is getting good!

On pg 98: I love this. No denial crap going on for pages. Thank goodness! I’m hooked now.

On pg 106: I’m starting to see now, a good urban fantasy has a strong element of horror to it. At least, this one does.

Still confusing sometimes as to who’s speaking. Some great lines. Pg 133 “He never told jokes; it had just slipped out and made a change in the world.”

On pg 196: So inventive! Enjoying this thoroughly.

On pg 251: Love the technology they use. Hurray for Google Street View!

On pg 272: Waiting for significance of five over four. Wonder who it will be?

Then, WHOA!

On pg 304: !!! As in, OMG

A good quote:

On pg 327: “It is time that defines whether something is real or not. Time is what makes what people experience a tragedy or a love story or a triumph. Hell is where time has stopped, where there’s no more innovation. No horizon. No change.”

And finally, on finishing the book:

Final thoughts: so much imagination here. Amazing how many different aspects of how the Sight shows you he’s come up with. Think it could have used some tighter editing in parts but overall it was all so inventive and I really enjoyed it. Stayed up till 2:30 am to finish it, which says a lot.

So there you have it. My thoughts on London Falling, in real time, so to speak. I am really looking forward to reading The Severed Streets now!

Book Cravings: Salem’s Lot

Have you ever had a book craving? Where you find yourself really wanting to reread a book, usually one you haven’t read for quite a while?

I have book cravings occasionally, and the past couple of weeks, another one crept up on me.

salems lot

It’s been quite a while since I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I’m pretty sure I was still in my teens, during a period when I was reading a lot of horror novels. I’d been reading King’s Danse Macabre recently, and that might explain the craving.

So it’s loaded up on my iPod now. I’m on Chapter 5, and yes, it’s really as creepy as I remember it to be.

“…old horrors colliding with modern technology and investigative techniques.”

- Stephen King on Dracula in the Introduction to Salem’s Lot

Do you ever have book cravings? What was the latest reread you absolutely craved?

Armchair BEA: Exploring Middle-Grade Novels

ArmchairBEAI’ve never stopped loving children’s books, and have reread my childhood favourites many many times despite having become an adult many many years ago (lots of many’s there!).

Whenever I’m in the library, I always like to include the children’s section in my meanderings through the shelves, and always find at least a handful of middle-grade books to take home with me.

This Armchair BEA topic got me thinking about some of my recent favourites, the middle-grade novels I didn’t grow up with, the ones I discovered when I was already all grown up. And I also realize I’d like to explore the middle-grade range more than I have been – not just being content with whatever I might stumble upon when I have a chance to browse at the library (although that makes me quite contented!) but also searching out the latest middle-grade books, following more middle-grade book bloggers and reading more than just the most recent award winners.

I’ve only just embarked on this new exploration, and expect many delightful finds to come as a result, so my choices below aren’t particularly recent books, although none of them go as far back as my own childhood.

Mysteries

I love a good mystery, and as an adult reading middle-grade novels, it’s not that easy to find a really good middle-grade mystery. Unlike adult mysteries, middle-grade mysteries don’t tackle murder that often. As you expand out into the young adult book world, this changes, but generally speaking the middle-grade mysteries I’ve read have been mostly about robberies, burglaries, and bad guys up to no-good schemes involving burglary and robbery.

A good middle-grade author can, however, take these themes and make them as exciting as the latest Harry Hole mystery by Jo Nesbo. Yes, without any serial killers or deranged murderers. My favourites include the Herculeah Jones mysteries by Betsy Byars and Blue Balliett’s art-themed mysteries (I rave about Balliett’s The Calder Game here.)

Dead Letter

Calder Game

Fantasies

When it comes to fantasies, the middle-grade range continues to offer a fabulous selection. This was true when I was growing up, and the whole fantasy area has exploded since then, with many thanks to JK Rowling and Harry Potter. Two recent favourites of mine are Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Jinx by Sage Blackwood (I reviewed Jinx here). Book 2 of the Jinx series, Jinx’s Magic came out earlier this year, and it’s definitely on my to-read list.

Graveyard Book

Jinx Sage Blackwood

These are my two favourite genres in general, so it’s no surprise I tend to be drawn to middle-grade novels in these genres as well. I am, however, currently reading Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, a contemporary middle-grade, and I’m enjoying it (it’s on my son’s upcoming Battle of the Books list, and we’re reading it together. It’s not really the type of book I should be reading with my eleven-year-old son, but we’re having fun with it.)

What about you? Do you read a lot of middle-grade novels? Have any must-read titles to recommend to me? I’m looking to add to my middle-grade to-read list, so any help would be appreciated!

More Than Just Words: Audiobook Love!

ArmchairBEAToday’s topic at Armchair BEA is “More Than Just Words”:

There are so many mediums that feature more than just words and enhance a story in a multitude of ways. Examples may include graphic novels and comics, audiobooks, or even multimedia novels. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just the words and use other ways to experience a story. Which books stand out to you in these different formats?

I’d like to talk about audiobooks, because they’re something I “discovered” for myself shortly after I began MsBookish.

For years I’d told myself audiobooks just weren’t my kind of thing. I’m a really fast reader – I confess to skimming through boring sections in books, and even when I’m reading every single word, I do so very quickly. There was no way an audiobook could replicate that for me, and when I looked at the duration of various audiobooks – 6 hours, 13 hours, some even 19 hours (yikes!) – I just couldn’t see how an audiobook could fit into my life.

And then one day I discovered several Agatha Christie novels put out as BBC Radio Crime Full Cast Dramas. Only a couple of hours long, this series adapted my favourite Christie novels into plays. I listened to one, and I was hooked.

It’s kind of like how I came to eat sushi. When I was younger, the texture of the raw fish really put me off. But then one day I had smoked salmon, found I liked it, and in the process, I got used to the raw fish texture. Suddenly, there I was, eating all kinds of sushi, not just the smoked salmon sushi.

It was the same with audiobooks. I got used to listening to these BBC radio adaptations, and when I got through all the ones I could find, I decided to give the full-length Agatha Christie novels a try. I fell in love with Hugh Fraser’s narration of the Hercule Poirot mysteries, and from there, things just took off.

I now listen to at least one audiobook a week. The strange thing is that I find if I just sit down to do nothing but listen, I have a hard time. Unless the book is very exciting (and there are some that are), my mind wanders. All over the place. And with an audiobook, a few seconds spent pondering whether you really should do another load of laundry can mean missing something vital, especially if you’re listening to a mystery.

But if I’m doing something on the mindless side – cleaning, chopping up food, folding laundry or my favourite thing to pair with an audiobook, an iPhone or iPad game – I get a beautiful audiobook listening experience! So for me, an audiobook is a great way to multitask and get all those boring chores done without feeling like you’ve done anything at all.

What about you? Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks? Are you on the fence, worried that you won’t be able to last through the hours of narration? If you like audiobooks, what are some of your favourite listens? Please let me know in the comments below, because I’m always on the lookout for a great book in audio!

Armchair BEA Intro!

ArmchairBEAI’m participating in Armchair BEA for the first time this year, and really looking forward to it. I’m so glad that this year the conference falls during a week where I’m not very busy – yay!

So here we go with the Intro questions. I’ve only picked three four because I have a tendency to be long-winded (plus, I’m a little late getting to this post  …).

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Belle Wong, and I’ve been blogging for quite a long while now – several years on other blogs before starting MsBookish. I just checked, and my first post here was a review of The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver, which I posted on November 2, 2008!

I decided to start blogging about books here at MsBookish because of something Stephen King wrote in On Writing:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

At the time, I was neither reading a lot nor writing a lot – my life was always crazy with deadlines, my two older kids were in their early teens, with all the angst and turmoil that can bring, and my youngest was preschool (and homeschooled). I decided I needed motivation and accountability when it came to my reading, and it seemed a blog would be the best way to get that motivation and accountability.

(My life has changed just a little since then. I’m still usually crazy with deadlines, but the two teens are now both in university, and the youngest is now 11 (and still homeschooled)).

And I’m blogging from Toronto, Ontario. I used to live in the suburbs, so this blog has seen me through “the big move” from suburbia to city life.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online. 

Okay, I don’t think I can describe my blog in just one sentence! I’ve broadened the topics I blog about to “everything and anything in which I’m interested” and my tag line is: “Everything I know, I’ve learned from a book. Well, maybe not everything …”

You can find me on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and Instagram. (I’m also on Goodreads, but the friend requests are just crazy there, so basically I ignore them but when someone I’m following on Twitter signs up to Goodreads, I’m pretty certain Goodreads automatically adds them to my friends list on Goodreads.)

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

I’m very much a genre reader, and at the top of my list are urban fantasies and mysteries/thrillers. But I also like traditional fantasy and SF as well. And middle-grade books in these genres too.

Why do I love to read? It’s the excitement of the story, and the way a good book can take me deep into another world. I’m always so thrilled when I’ve discovered “yet another good book”s, and ever since I started blogging about books, I’ve found many “another good book” as a result of book blogger recommendations.

Share your favorite book or reading related quote.

My favourite reading-related quote is another one by Stephen King (please excuse the lettering – that’s something I’ve been working on in my doodle quotes!).

Stephen King quote

“Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Armchair BEA and especially meeting more book bloggers and readers!

Using Byword

I’ve been trying to get back on-track in terms of being more productive, especially right now when my work deadlines are lighter than they will be come winter. One of the things I’ve been exploring is using my iPhone to do some of the things I’d normally do with my laptop, because I’ve noticed, when I’m not working, I’m on my iPhone a lot. (I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.).

I’m developing a kind of “system” using a number of iPhone apps, and I’m finding I’m using plain text files a lot, and syncing them to Dropbox, so I can have easy access to whatever I’m working on, on a number of different devices. Because of this, I also wanted to be able to use Markdown for formatting.

Byword

After looking around on Google, I decided on Byword, a Markdown text editor for IOS that has an impressive set of features. These features include:

  • easy Markdown editing
  • Markdown preview
  • syncs with Dropbox or iCloud
  • highlighted Markdown syntax
  • several exporting options
  • premium upgrade for publishing

Premium upgrade

A premium upgrade from within the app gives you the ability to publish to Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger and Scriptogram blogs, as well as saving formatted notes to Evernote. The upgrade makes it much quicker to publish your posts,, but if you have the app for your specific blogging platform already on your device, you can just copy the HTML and paste it into the app.

What’s nice about publishing directly from the app, at least when it comes to WordPress, is that you can set your tags and categories, and also set your post status to draft if you prefer. (I’m just going by what I’ve been reading in reviews online, since I haven’t yet purchased the premium upgrade. For this post, I’m just copying the HTML and pasting it into my WordPress app.)

Images

The one thing Byword doesn’t do is upload images, which would be quite a nice feature if you’ve also purchased the premium upgrade. You can, however, use Markdown to link to an image URL. If you’re using WordPress, one workaround is to upload the image you want to use via the WordPress app and then use the image link to embed it on Byword.

Like this (I took this picture on my walk yesterday morning):

Flowers I Saw During this Mornings Walk

This is a test post

Basically, this is a test post, to see how Byword works for me when it comes to blogging. I’m really hoping it will make me more productive, both with my writing and with my blogging.