Tag Archives: 2015 goals

{2015 Goals} Goals for the other parts of life

(Update: I changed the title of this post from “Goals for the rest of life” to “Goals for the other parts of life”. As Bryan pointed out, it “Goals for the rest of life” sounds like I’m goal planning for the rest of my life, which would be pretty awesome but so not me.  I’m definitely more of a “this year my goals are” type of person (and in previous years I wasn’t even this), and not a “in three, four, ten, twenty, fifty year I see myself …” type of person. I can barely remember what I have planned for next month as it is!)

Yes, I have more goals! These are the ones that don’t fit in the two major categories of my life, reading and writing. But since this is my year of change, I figure these other, rather practical, goals are important too.

1. Take a course or a workshop.

Online or offline, it doesn’t matter. But I feel like I need to start actively learning something again. I’ve been thinking about photography courses, art courses, writing courses, pottery courses – I’m sure there are a ton of things out there just waiting to be learned. I just have to figure out what I want to learn!

2. Make chores fun.

I’ve never been a very neat or tidy person, but I’ve been finding as I get older that I tend to notice messes more than I used to. I’m not sure why that is, I only know that’s what’s happened to me. So one of the things I’d like to do is find a way to make chores more fun. I have some ideas, like these chore stickers, or using HabitRPG (which I’m going to be using for basically all of my goals).

3. Go through my clothes and get rid of every single thing I haven’t worn in the past 12 months.

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages. This summer, for example, I didn’t wear any of the summer dresses I had hanging up in my closet. And now that the weather is colder, I’m finding I’m not wearing over half of my winter clothes. I open up my dresser drawers, look inside, and it’s like the clothes in there are invisible. They just don’t feel like me any more. Which is a good thing, anyway, because we’re short of space in the condo and I only get the one chest of drawers and one side of the very small walk-in closet.

4. Let people take more pictures of me … and eventually, take a selfie!

I HATE having my picture taken. But now that I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and rocking out to Eckhart Tolle’s fabulous stuff, I’m starting to get that my dislike of the camera when it’s pointed at me is all about ego, period. So I’ve told my husband he can take more pictures of me. But he has to tell me first. And I can say, no, not now. Because it will take me a while to get used to this new habit.

And one day this year, I’m going to take a selfie. I can’t tell you how much resistance I have to this idea. But I figure I’ll take a selfie with my son Dylan, and that should count, right? I imagine I’ll need an entire year to work myself up to this one, so it’s not likely to happen until December.

5. Keep my desk uncluttered.

I lived with a cluttered desk for the greater part of this year – until I just couldn’t stand it anymore and cleaned things up. I’ve managed to keep things fairly tidy ever since and I must admit – I like it! What I’ve been trying to do is a quick tidy-up right before I go to bed. Seems to be working so far. Plus it’s an easy way to get points for HabitRPG.

Desk before and after

I posted this before and after picture on the day I embarked on my 365 days of blogging. Getting decluttered really has made a huge difference in my life! I look at the “before” part of the picture and I can’t help but shudder. How on earth did I manage to get any work done with all that STUFF piled up beside me? (My laptop sits to the left of the desk.)

6. Develop consistent social media habits.

I know this is the opposite of what a lot of people have on their goals list, which is to spend time off social media. But this past year, because of everything that was going on, I did just that, and I missed having it in my life. I also have a tendency to go through periods where I’ll be really intensely on social media ALL THE TIME, and then you won’t hear a peep out of me for weeks and even months on end.

Now that I’ve come back to social media, it’s been really lovely. Since I’m self-employed, I don’t have an office watercooler to hang around (although I’m sure most of you who work probably don’t have an office watercooler at work either, but you know what I mean). With social media, I get to interact with people and it does liven up my day. Plus, if I build it into my routine, I also won’t let it take over my life either. Consistency + moderation – that’s the key!

7. Stay motivated and productive.

I think this last goal is the key to staying focused on all my goals this year. I’ve mentioned before that 2014 was one of my most unmotivated, unproductive years. Seriously, I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere (because I was). And when things happened, I just spent a great deal of time in total reaction mode, and then when I finally slipped out of that mode, I did absolutely nothing other than meeting work deadlines.

So I’ve loaded up my Feedly with all sorts of productivity and motivation blogs. And I have a long list of productivity and motivation books on my to-read list. I’m hoping to get many of these in audio, which should make going through them a breeze. What I’ve learned this year is that the best way to stay productive and stay motivated is to read about productivity and read about motivation. It’s like getting tiny refresher courses every time.

So those are my non-bookish, non-writing goals. What about you? Did you set goals in the more practical areas of your life too?

{2015 Goals} Writing and creativity goals

It’s shaping up to be a very goal-oriented year for me. I’m pretty sure I’m trying to make up for how unmotivated and unproductive I felt during 2014! The one thing that’s saving me from feeling overwhelmed by all these things I want to accomplish this year is remembering that most of my goals are things I find fun. Not all of them (exercise comes to mind), but most of them. And that really makes a difference!

Articulating my goals has been helpful, too, especially in terms of keeping me accountable. Yesterday was the first day of the new year, and I did everything I said I’d do! (This is huge for me, by the way – discipline and I are not usually the best of friends, except when it comes to work deadlines.)

I’ve already discussed my bookish/reading goals for 2015. Here are my writing and creativity goals for the new year:

1. Write 1,500 words every day.

Since I’m using SMART goals this year (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), I decided on a specific number of words, instead of just saying “I’m going to write every day”. At first I picked 2,000 words, but today, as I was sitting down to Scrivener and writing, I thought to myself, “I’m not going to make 2,000 words today” so I went to the word count spreadsheet I’m using and changed my daily goal to 1,500.

Mind you, after all that, I ended up writing 2,220 words today. But still, I want this goal to be doable but not stressful, right? Anyway, even at 1,500 words a day, I’d still end up with 547,500 words at the end of the year, which would be nice.

2. Be #CreativeEveryDay

I’ve signed up for the Creative Every Day challenge in previous years – and failed spectacularly (meaning, I’d sign up and then promptly and conveniently “forget” I’d signed up). This year, though, I’m prepared.  I’ve got a stack of books to go to if I need an idea plus a number of inspirational artsy sites bookmarked. And for additional motivation I’m in a Facebook group with a few other book bloggers who are interested in art journaling.

I’ve also set up a Tumblr blog to which I’ll upload a daily photo (I’ll do the same with Instagram, but I’ll be a day behind on there, I think). The Tumblr blog is pretty sparse right now – I haven’t even selected a template! But I figured it was more important to be accountable than it was to have a pretty looking Tumblr, especially since I know myself well enough to know if I made a “pretty little Tumblr” my priority, I wouldn’t have things ready until mid-way through the year!

3. My 365 Day Project

I’ll post more about my 365 day project in a few days, but I’ve decided to do a writing prompt a day. This is my first 365 day project, so I’m a little nervous. But the challenge I’ve set up for myself is small and fun, so hopefully I’ll have some success with it.

4. Daily Brainstorming in My Book of Lists

I haven’t started this yet, but I’ll be adding it to my daily routine once I have everything else on track. The plan is to begin a “Book of Lists” as an idea resource. I decided I wanted to give this a try back in the fall after talking with Suey about the Laini Taylor presentation and writing workshop she attended. Suey got me all excited about starting a book of lists to generate ideas, and then I googled around and found a post Laini Taylor wrote on her Not for Robots site about ideas and brainstorming and got even more excited (she also has a great post on writing a novel here). And I’ve wanted to do this ever since. Just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

One of my plans is to use my brainstorming time to “fill the well” in my Book of Lists. I have stacks and stacks of nonfiction books about all sorts of strange and interesting things, very few of which I’ve actually read. Despite this, I keep accumulating them (but usually when they’re at a discount, thank goodness).

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So now’s my chance to put them to good use. I’m going to start collecting tidbits of interesting information from these books in my Book of Lists.

Another plan is to do “100s lists”, where you just sit down and brainstorm a hundred things. I’m thinking it might work well when plotting a story or developing a character, and also for worldbuilding. I’m not much of an outliner, so any way I can get more information down before I start writing will probably be helpful.

5. A Personal Photo a Day

I’d also like to begin documenting my life in photos, mainly because I have this tendency to live a hermit’s life and having to take an interesting photo every day should help me change that. I have a lovely DSLR camera that I still need to learn to use, but for now I’m quite content to use my iPhone. I’ve never been very good about taking daily photos, but that will, hopefully, change this year. Instagram is definitely a good motivator!

So these are my writing and creativity goals for the new year. What about you? Did you set any creative nonbookish goals for 2015?

{2015 Goals} Bookish goals for the new year

I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks now. In the past, I’ve always said things like, “I want to read more”, but this year, I’m heading into the new year with SMART reading goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

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So here are my bookish/reading goals for 2015, in no particular order:

1. Read these five and these five books from my TBR stash.

I’ll only be reducing my stash by ten books, but I wanted to make this a goal I’d have a chance of meeting (especially since I didn’t even touch my TBR stash in 2014), so I chose books I really really really want to read. Setting myself up for success is a good thing!

2. Read 96 books.

I’ve never set a quantifiable “number of books I’m going to read” goal before. I thought about making it 52 books – one per week – but I wanted to challenge myself a bit more. Especially since, if I get on a reading streak, I have no problems reading a book every day or two. It’s just that I don’t give myself the time for reading streaks all that often.

So I decided on 96. My first pick was 80, but 12 doesn’t divide evenly into that, and I wanted a monthly target. So then I thought, okay, 84. That would require seven books a month. But I’d like to challenge myself a little more. So I decided in the end on eight books a month, or 96 books in total.

3. Visit at least four of Toronto’s second hand bookstores.

I’m going to work off BlogTO’s list here. Ideally I’d love to visit all twenty stores on the list, but that’s not realistic. I decided on four, one per season, but I may end up visiting more. I’m not sure which ones I’ll visit, other than The Monkey’s Paw, because I really want to try out the Biblio-Mat book vending machine there. Plus they stock mostly odd, obscure and forgotten titles – which sounds absolutely delightful to me!

4. Listen to at least three audiobooks each month, or 36 audiobooks in total.

I’d like to get in the habit of listening to an audiobook every night before bed, both to give my eyes a rest and also because I’ve noticed my mind’s tendency to wander unless the book is absolutely riveting, and one of my other goals is to practice the no-thought of stillness so I figure listening intently to an audiobook would be a good way to at least practice keeping distracting thoughts at bay.

I go through periods where I listen to more audiobooks than I read in ebook or print format, but I’m not at all consistent. Overall, I think I’m probably already listening to one or two audiobooks a month, so I figure three will be a challenge that’s neither too easy nor too hard.

5. Read two nonfiction titles each month.

This goal is linked with the audiobook goal, as I intend to listen to at least one non-fiction title per month, and maybe more. I love fiction, but I also like the learning that happens when I read a good nonfiction book. Also, I intend to keep myself motivated this year by reading productivity and creativity books, so I might as well make it into a goal, right?

6. Learn to read, understand (and hopefully love) poetry.

This is a skill (or taste?) I never really acquired in school, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve come across poems that I love, but on the whole, I certainly don’t go out of my way to read poetry. And I’ve never studied the mechanics of either understanding or writing poetry. I’d like to change that in the new year. Last year I bought Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook so I’ll start my “studies” with this book. Other books which I’ll probably turn to are Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry and Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters.

7. Read more books from the library.

I can’t really quantify this particular goal, since I’m never too sure what holds I’ll receive from the library each week. And it’s not that I don’t borrow a lot of library books, because I do. My problem is that most of the time I return too many of them unread. I’d like to change that in the new year, which means that library books will automatically move to the top of the to-read list when I pick them up.

8. Read a short story a day.

I can’t believe I forgot to include this in the first draft of my post! Hope it won’t jinx my intention to read a short story a day.

And not really a goal, but just for fun: 52 Bookish Things to Do in 2015

I’m not signing on for any reading challenges in 2015, but Popsugar has come out with this Ultimate Reading Challenge and I’m going to use it as my list of 52 bookish things to do in the new year. I’m printing out this PDF and using it to check-off books as I read them. I’m also not going to try to read books that match the items on the list. Instead, I’m going to check the list after I finish a book, to see if I can check anything off. I think it will be fun to see how many items I have checked off by the end of 2015!

popsugar reading challenge

 

So these are my bookish/reading challenges for 2015. What are your bookish/reading challenges for the new year?

{2015 Goals} Complete a 365-Day Project

I’d really like to complete a 365-day project in the new year and so, as usual, I’ve been diving into Google and searching a little obsessively for 365-day project ideas.

I actually scrolled through all the blog posts at the Make Something 365 & Unstuck blog looking for ideas. Noah Scalin is the author of 365: A Daily Creativity Journal, which contains prompts for doing a 365-day project. I don’t have this book, but I do have his other book, Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio (which I haven’t read yet, but it looks good).

365 Creativity Journal

 

The project ideas he features are interesting, but almost all of them are art or photography-related, and I’d like my 365-day project to be writing-related. I’ll probably be signing up for the 2015 Creative Every Day challenge, which is art-related, but my main focus for the year will be on my 365 day project.

I also read through most of the posts at Year of Creative Habits, where artist Crystal Moody posted daily drawings she made during her year of creative habits.

(I did mention I’ve been a little obsessive about this, right?)

I’m almost sure what my project will be – I just need to do the prep work to make sure I’m properly prepared for the long haul and don’t do a major fail (or at least, not immediately, like around January 15 or something!).

I don’t know exactly why I want to do a 365-day project, other than the whole commitment and intention thing I wrote about the other day. And I do like the idea of ending up with a body of work I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I guess, like my 365 days of blogging, I’m kind of testing myself, and my ability to be disciplined and stay committed.

But most of all, I’ve been thinking how much fun it will be!

Have you done a 365-day project in previous years? Are you planning on doing one this year?

A new year: commitment, intention and a little bit of preparation

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As we head into the new year, I’ve been finding myself approaching things very differently than I did in previous years. A lot of it has to do with my resolve to institute real change in my life. 2014 has been an interesting year for me. I lost myself several times during the year – especially over the summer months – and the process of having to find myself, over and over, as I recovered from a default mechanism of always reacting to things, was really exhausting.

Back in November, I came to the conclusion that things really had to change. And the only way things could change would be through me. I simply cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

As a result, I decided to commit myself to 365 days of blogging back on December 1. It was a little like putting my big toe in the water, testing the temperature – only in this case, I was testing myself. Making that commitment, setting that intention, was huge for me. I’ve never been disciplined about things. Commitment to intentions requires discipline. It requires courage. It requires faith. While 2014 came with a lot of stuff I would rather not have gone through, somehow the end result has been this: I’ve found the discipline within me, I’ve found the courage, and yes, I’ve found the faith.

I’ve also come to the realization that a little bit of preparation goes a long way in terms of supporting commitment and intention. My decision to blog daily was a monumental one, given my previous blogging habits. But I really prepared, and while I haven’t yet reached the one month marker, I can say that daily blogging has been easy, not hard, not the challenge I’d anticipated. And I owe a lot of that to the preparation I did before hand.

I started posting my 2015 goals a few weeks ago, and I have several more to post. For much of my time off over the holidays, I’ve been thinking about these goals, about what I want the new year to bring. I have been having fun preparing myself to stay committed to my intentions, to be disciplined, to be courageous, to have the faith.

This coming year, I am choosing change. I will be doing things differently and yes, I expect different results. My dreams have been calling to me for years, and it’s time I started paying attention to them.

What about you? Are you finding yourself thinking about goals, about intentions, as the new year draws closer?

{2015 Goals} Exercise

There’s going to be a lot of feasting going on over the next week or so. I’m looking forward to it, but I already know there’s another habit I’ll really need to get back into when the new year rolls around.

The last half of this year hasn’t been good for me in terms of exercise. I exercise sporadically enough as it is, with the bulk of my “workouts” being walks. For most of this year, I walked a LOT. Toronto is a very walkable city, and I found myself walking at least half an hour every day.

The library? Twenty minute walk there, twenty minutes back.

I was just about to invest in a Fitbit when I pinched a nerve in my lower back early in September. It took about two weeks to heal, but during those two weeks, my body decided to learn some bad habits. Beyond the six week mark, I continued to have lower back pain – not overly severe, just enough to make me give a second thought whenever I wanted to walk anywhere farther than a block.

Apparently, that’s a long time for a back ache to linger. It’s enough of a concern, there’s a special government program that deals specifically with back pain that lasts longer than six weeks. My doctor referred me to the program, which set me up with a physiotherapist. It was free, so I didn’t complain. I was given a series of exercises to build back the muscles that were no longer working the way they should. There were, apparently, a number of them that’d decided to stop doing the things they did best. The physiotherapist had me lie on my side and lift one leg, and she showed me the hip muscle that should have moved but didn’t – my calf muscle was doing all the work, and that was a big no no. And my butt muscles? Apparently they’d decided to hibernate.

Anyway, walking was out, other than any necessary short distances. I had to reteach my muscles to do what they do best.  So for the past few months, I’ve been using a Metropass, which lets me ride public transit anywhere I need to go. And doing the prescribed exercises somewhat sporadically. But the good news is, that muscle that didn’t move when it should have? It’s moving! Not a whole lot, but it’s getting there.

I’m determined not to have this happen again. So in 2015, I’m going to start exercising again. Not just walking, but really exercising. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll be doing, but I’m hoping to make it an every day thing.

Photo 2014-12-22, 5 47 12 PMJust a sample of the exercise DVDs I’m not using right now

I have a ton of exercise DVDs which I never seem to put to much use. And my friend Janel has, in the past, offered me the link to her playlist of YouTube exercise  videos. My daughter swears by someone (can’t remember her name offhand) who does ten minute exercises on YouTube that are really tough. So many choices! Surely out of all this exercise bounty I’ll be able to get back into shape.

What are your exercise plans for the new year? Do you have any favourite exercise DVDs or YouTube videos?

{2015 Goals} Reducing the TBR Stash – The Last Five Books

A couple of days ago I shared the first five books I’m going to try and tackle from Mount TBR in 2015. Here are the final five.

 

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6. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

Not that anyone really needs the blurb to this one …

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

I started the series in audio, but then I realized from reading other people’s thoughts there would be a lot of bloody, gory deaths. Much better in print for me, then. I actually bought a boxed set of the first four books, so I have the other three to read as well.

7. The Man on the Balcony, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

The chilling third novel in the Martin Beck mystery series by the internationally renowned crime writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, finds Martin Beck investigating a string of child murders.In the once peaceful parks of Stockholm, a killer is stalking young girls and disposing their bodies. The city is on edge, and an undercurrent of fear has gripped its residents. Martin Beck, now a superintendent, has two possible witnesses: a silent, stone-cold mugger and a mute three year old boy. With the likelihood of another murder growing as each day passes, the police force work night and day. But their efforts have offered little insight into the methodology of the killer. Then a distant memory resurfaces in Beck’s mind, and he may just have the break he needs.

I’ve been meaning to read the Martin Beck series for a while. This isn’t the first book in the series, but it’s the one book in the series that I do have.

8. Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Ned Marriner is spending springtime with his father in Provence, where the celebrated photographer is shooting images for a glossy coffee table book.

While his father photographs the cathedral of Aix-en-Provence, Ned explores the shadowy interior with Kate Wenger, an American exchange student who has a deep knowledge of the area’s history. They surprise an intruder in a place where he should not be: “I think you ought to go now,” he tells them, drawing a knife. “You have blundered into a corner of a very old story.”

In this sublime and ancient part of the world, where borders between the living and the long-dead are most vulnerable, Ned and those close to him are about to be drawn into a haunted tale, as mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, changing and claiming lives.

I have had Ysabel and Tigana in my TBR stash for a few years now. The only reason Ysabel is in this list and not Tigana is because I couldn’t find Tigana in any of the TBR piles. It’s there somewhere, though, I know!

9. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Another one that doesn’t really need the blurb, but to be consistent, here it is:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

I haven’t read this one because I don’t really like dystopian novels. And then last year I read Divergent and realized I was, of course, wrong to use such a blanket assumption (as is usually the case with assumptions). I’m pretty sure I’ll like The Hunger Games, once I start reading it.

10. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep—about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting . . . and a lot more dangerous.

Another Neil Gaiman book in my list. Stardust is the other Gaiman novel I have yet to read (not counting his two recent fairy tale retellings, Hansel and Gretel and The Sleeper and the Spindle), but I don’t have a physical copy of Stardust, so it’s not on this list. But it would be, if it was actually in my TBR stash.

So these five plus these previous five are the ones I intend to read in 2015. It’s only ten books from my TBR, but it’s ten more than I read this year! I thought about doing twelve books, one per month, but when I went through TBR piles, only ten books called to me. Which might lead you to think, maybe I should get rid of the rest of the TBR books, right? But I just couldn’t. I already weeded it out three years ago when we moved. I don’t think I can bear to weed out any more books from it …

{2015 Goals} Reducing the TBR Stash – The First Five

Even though I haven’t bought that many new books since we moved from our house into the condo three years ago (I have indulged in the occasional book-buying binge – I admit it – but not many) my physical TBR stash hasn’t reduced in size. My TBR books are double and triple stacked on whatever surfaces I can afford to give over to them (which means closets and the tops of bookshelves).

So I thought I’d motivate myself and see if I can’t do something about the state of the TBR in 2015. As I mentioned in my previous post (A Short Story a Day), I just don’t do well with reading challenges – although I really get tempted. I know there are quite a few reading challenges aimed at helping us bookish types reduce our TBR piles, but knowing me, the moment I sign up for one of them, I’m doomed never to even look at my TBR stacks in the new year, much less take books off of them and – gasp – read them.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little quiet, informal self-challenge. I went through my TBR stash and picked ten books that I really really want to read. Why these books were still hidden away in my TBR stash beats me – it’s not like I was saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t remember buying this!”. Every book I pulled from my stash, I knew full well was there. Because, as I mentioned, these are books I really really want to read.

I think it’s about time I read them, don’t you think? I’ve picked ten books. Here are the first five:

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1. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completelyaccurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

What more can I say? It’s about time I read this, that’s for sure. I expect a lot of laugh out loud moments when I do.

2. Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil.

I decided I wanted to read Odd Thomas after I read In Odd We Trust, the Odd Thomas graphic novel. The link is to the review I wrote of it – back in 2009. Uh, yeah, I may not have mentioned this, but I apparently have books that have been in my TBR stash for quite a while now. Quite a while.  

3. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family’s past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe – in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

Another one I’ve been wanting to read for a long while. The blurb absolutely captivates me.

4. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in Mastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the “brain attic”—Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, Mastermind explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers. For Holmes aficionados and casual readers alike, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as an unparalleled guide to upgrading the mind.

I first saw this on Brain Pickings (2013, so aha! This one hasn’t been in the TBR stash that long!). It’s the only non-fiction book in this list – I think it’s because it was with some of my other fiction TBRs. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of non-fiction books I want to get to, too …

5. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

I LOVED The Passage  – as you can see from my review, I couldn’t stop raving about it. I was so excited about the sequel. So much so I even bought it in hardcover (I hardly ever do that). And then – I never got around to reading it! Partly it’s because I kept thinking I really should reread The Passage first, to reaquaint myself with the world. And when I start thinking like that, well, you know how it is. Now I have to find the time to read two big books. Big obstacle right there.

But I’m not sabotaging myself this time around. I’ll just plunge into The Twelve, trust that Justin Cronin will bring me up to speed relatively quickly and put me right back into the story.

So these are the first five books from my TBR that I plan on reading in 2015. Next five will show up tomorrow (because, you know, I’m blogging every day now …)

What’s the state of your TBR? Do you have any strategies for reducing your TBR piles in the new year?

{2015 Goals} A Short Story a Day

I am terrible at reading challenges. The few years I succumbed to the temptation and signed up for a few (well, okay, several), I totally failed. As in, big time. In fact, out of the several reading challenges I signed on for in those years, I only ever completed one, because it was an easy one. I did a reread of all the Harry Potter books in audio (and if I’d signed on again for something similar this year, I would have completed it!).

It almost seems to me, if I sign on for a reading challenge, it means I’ve increased my chances of not completing a single book associated with that challenge for that year. I’m serious. That’s how bad I am at them.

At this time of the year, I always find myself so tempted as I see everyone announcing the great reading challenges they’re joining in 2015. I want to join in, but I just don’t trust myself.

When it comes to reading challenges, I’m like the little kid who sits when she’s told to stand, and stands when told to sit.

But I did set myself a kind of mini reading challenge earlier this year, of reading a short story a day. And I did do it for a while – and best of all, it was a lot of fun while I was doing it. And if this 365 days of blogging is any indication so far (well, okay, it’s only been seventeen days, but they’ve been seventeen days of easy, effortless blogging, which rather amazes me), I might have more success with self-challenges.

So in 2015, I’m going to do a short-story a day reading challenge. I have short stories from several more anthologies to add to my short story box, and I’ll continue to use the randomized method of selecting a short story to read, since this random method worked so well for me earlier this year.

Photo 2014-12-17, 4 10 31 PMThe Short Story Box, for Totally Randomized Reading Fun

There are a few reasons why I want to read short stories more regularly:

  1. As a reader, I have a lot of short story anthologies, but for some reason, when I’m wanting something to read, I never reach for any one of them. Even though I know I’ll enjoy them (I mean, good grief, I have a few short story collections by Neil Gaiman that I haven’t read yet!). So I have stacks and stacks of short story collections just sitting around gathering both physical and digital dust..
  2. As a writer, during the period earlier this year when I was reading a short story a day, I just buzzed with both ideas and writing energy. It was really quite an incredible creativity booster, and yes, I’d like more of that in 2015, please.

If you’re interested in joining me, just let me know in the comments.  I’m not going to do anything formal about this challenge. I’ll tweet about it occasionally, maybe using a hashtag like #shortstoryaday (it’s probably being used for another, similar challenge, but I’m sure it will be fine).  I’ll probably also post once a month with a list of the five or ten best short stories I read that month, in order to keep myself accountable (since it is a challenge, after all!).

It’s very likely there’s already a formal short story reading challenge out there (or two or three …). I don’t dare look, because I’d be so tempted to sign up, and that would just jinx my plan to read more short stories in 2015!