Tag Archives: readalongs

Snapshot: June 16, 2015

Time: 6:26 pm

Feeling: Ready for a nap. Mainly because I’ve been up since 6:30 am—although sadly I didn’t end up gong for a walk because (a) it was raining, (b) I decided to get some social media work done first and (c) by the time I finished up the rain had stopped and things were looking too hot outside for a walk.

Eating: We’ve been eating out too much. Or so says the latest credit card bill. Sigh. I want to spend some time looking for crunchy summery salads with a dash of protein. Maybe I’ll have a cool new recipe to link to in next week’s Snapshot …

Drinking: I’ve started making kefir smoothies! I add spinach and whatever fruit I have on hand and feel rather nutritionally virtuous as a result. On the days when I remember to make them, that is.

Reading: The reading’s taken a bit of back seat because I just haven’t had much time for it lately. *sob*

BUT I’m really excited about this:

Armada.jpg

Ernest Cline’s Armada is being released on July 15 and what’s even more exciting? Wil Wheaton is narrating the audio version! I already have an Audible credit earmarked for it.

I’m also eyeing the Atlas Shrugged (#AtlasRAL) Readalong that Ti’s hosting over July and August. I’ve not been doing so well with my readalongs, though. I didn’t finish a single readalong book from last month, and this month I’m definitely behind with the #MiseryRAL readalong.

Listening:

burningman.jpg

I’m having much better luck with my audiobooks. I’m listening to Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May—The Burning Man right now. It’s always nice to slip back into the world of Bryant and May (I want to say they’re octogenarian detectives, but I’m actually not sure exactly how old they are. But May is four years younger than Bryant. I think.)

Writing: The deadline for submitting my dark fantasy for the workshop class I’m taking from Kelley Armstrong next month is June 29, so I still have some time left to make my revisions. Whew.

Working: I finished up an index on Sunday night, and this week I have five articles to write. Work on the book marketing for Booktrope is going well.

I also got started with my big readers’ site project—well, sort of. I’m still developing the site, but I finally got the Twitter account up and running: @bookstormcafe! While of course it would be lovely if you’d give it a follow, I should warn you that it is simply chockful of tweets about book news, book giveaways, new book releases, book reviews and author interviews. I’m not kidding—the tweet stream is loaded. It’s been fun diving into all this bookish stuff on the one hand, but on the other hand, let me just say there’s an awful lot of book news, book giveaways and new books out there!

Playing:

creeperandlordoftherings.jpg

We’ve had the Lord of the Rings board game for a while, and finally opened it up last night. It was a lot of fun (once we figured out the rules) but there was a certain cat who kept wanting to join us.

Looking forward to: The weekend! For once I’m actually getting out and about. We have tickets to see Titanic the Musical this Friday night, and then on Saturday a friend of mine is holding a girls-only birthday bash, which should be fun.

What about you? How has your week been so far? And what are your plans for the rest of the week?

Snapshot: May 12, 2015

Time: 10:42 p.m.

Feeling: Tired. And you know, it occurs to me I’ve been saying this in every one of my Snapshot posts lately. Really need to do something about that!

Eating: I’ve decided that this month of small healthy changes should include eating more veggies. Starting today. For lunch I had zucchini and mushroom soup and for dinner I had celery, green pepper and mushrooms (with a chicken burger, no bun). So I think I can say I did pretty well today.

Drinking: A glass of malbec.

Reading: I finished The Fifth Gospel and now Ward is reading it (I’m no longer calling him the book-reading demon because after that first month of being a super reader, he’s not been anywhere near as diligent and in fact can be found most nights watching something on his laptop rather than curled up with a good book. Ah well, it was good while it lasted).

The Fifth Gospel was really good, so now I’m looking for a good novel to follow in its footsteps.

And I am woefully behind on each of the three readalongs I was doing. So far behind, my reading of each of the books has been virtually non-existent.

Listening: I just finished listening to Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, which was a very fun audiobook. As with most celebrity memoirs in audio where the celebrity is also the narrator, I’m very glad I did this one in audio format.

And today I started listening to this:

jurassic park

A couple of months ago I was looking around for an audio version of Jurassic Park, both on my library’s digital reads site and also at Audible. And it turned out it wasn’t available as an audiobook (other than as a CD set). Then I noticed Audible had a pre-order notice on it—and today I received an email saying it was now available. Of course I just had to get it, since it’s been on my mind for a few months now.

I’m not too thrilled with the narrator, who reads in a manner that’s a little too dramatic for my taste. But the story itself is pulling me in; it’s been a long time since I read this book, so I’m really looking forward to this reread.

Writing: Need I say it? Nothing. But I’m hoping my new mechanical keyboard will make a difference over the coming days.

Working: I’ve got an index due tomorrow, and I’ve finally stepped fully into my new book marketing position—I’ll post more about it later this week. So right now I’m knee deep in developing marketing and social media plans, and it’s so much fun coming up with ideas.

Creating: Nothing, but I’m hoping that will change. When I get a bit more time.

And about that zombie apocalypse: So on our way home from his hip hop classes, I had the following conversation with Dylan:

Dylan: I’ve been learning how to eat slowly.

Me: Oh, that’s good. Why?

Dylan: In case there might potentially be a zombie apocalypse.

Me: Why would you need to eat slowly if there’s a zombie apocalypse?

Dylan: Because there won’t be any stores or anything. So if you get an apple or something, you can’t eat it all at once. You have to make it last.

Me: Ah. I see.

So that’s been my day/week. How has yours been?

Walking Around While Reading

During the Readathon, someone tweeted about doing some reading while walking around, to gain some energy and beat back sleepiness (I’m not sure who it was—I tweeted so much during the Readathon there are too many tweets to check!).

Since I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting into healthier habits, I found this idea of walking around when you’re reading sticking with me. It makes a lot of sense, because I’m the kind of person who likes to walk around the place when I’m talking on the phone.

Of course it’s not something you can really do all that well when you’re outside, but inside is a whole different story, right?

So tonight I put the idea to the test—and it works! The first Dune readalong Twitter chat is happening tonight and I wanted to get a few more pages read so I can hopefully participate (but I’m not sure if I’ve read enough yet).

Dune_Herbert

I was able to read about twenty pages while walking back and forth from my office through the ilving room to the kitchen (this is an open concept place, which made it even easier).

The best thing? Before I gave it a try, I was sitting on the sofa reading, and feeling quite tired. But now? I actually feel refreshed!

I should probably get a Fitbit and track how much time I spend walking around while reading …

Do you walk or do other exercise when you’re reading a book? Have any tips for me?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Readalongs

I’m SO glad I’ve discovered how much fun it is to read a book in the company of others. Fun because reading is still a very solitary thing (which I also love) but when you’re doing a readalong, it’s like being able to take a trip down the hall to the office water cooler (aka Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) for a quick chat, but with an added bonus: you certainly won’t be discussing the weather!

I’m joining in on three readalongs this month and next, with a fourth one coming in June. (One of the readalongs, alas, I’m already behind on (as in, just got the book haven’t read a thing yet, and it’s been a go for twelve days already now), so maybe I shouldn’t actually say I’m joining in on that one …)

So, first up:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Readalong

windmeup

I’m really really excited about this one—you can read all about it on Jill’s blog. Murakami is top on my list of “authors I want to read but oh my God they’re a bit on the intimidating side aren’t they?” and I’m going to need all the hand-holding I can get. (Strange Library doesn’t really count, because it’s more of a novella, plus it has lots of illustrations so it felt a little like reading a graphic novel or maybe a picture book for grown-ups. Although length probably doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Murakami, now that I think about it, because I’ve also read two Murakami short stories and let me just say, one of them flew right over my head. As in whoosh. I fared a little bit better with the other one.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also made it to the Guardian’s list of “most disturbing novels” and after reading why it made it to the list I know there will definitely be some scenes I’ll be reading with eyes half-closed while quickly turning the pages. Because I’m squirmish like that. (My spell check is telling me that’s not a word and I should be using squeamish but squirmish feels right to me.) I have a feeling Jill is the perfect person to be reading a squirmish novel with …

So do come join us if you’re in the mood for tackling Murakami! It’s an informal readalong that runs from April 15 to May 31, so there’s lots and lots of time to read the book. The hashtag for this one is #windmeup.

And then some science fiction:

The Dune Readalong

Starting April 19, Suey, Jenni and Kami are holding a Dune readalong. I have had Dune, by Frank Herbert, on my to-read list for a very long time now. I can remember when I was a kid seeing my mom read it.

We used to have these weekly reading sessions where my sisters and I would all pile onto her bed with her, each of us with our own book, happily reading together. My mom doesn’t read fiction any more now, but when I was growing up she was a huge mystery, thrillers and SF reader. I grew up with Agatha Christie, John Le Carré, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov scattered all over the house. So I do come by my genre leanings honestly (maybe it’s even hereditary!).

And I had to smile because this cover that Suey posted with the sign-up post:

Dune_Herbert

is the very same cover of the copy of Dune that I remember my mom reading! I love that she picked this cover instead of the one that graces the more modern edition.

There will also be three Twitter chats, which sound like they’ll be fun. The Twitter hashtag for this one is #DuneRAL. If Dune‘s been on your to-read list, too, I hope you’ll join in!

The one I missed (but maybe not):

Cloud Atlas Readalong

This is the one I’ve kind of dropped the ball on—it started back on April 1—but I’m still hoping to start Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this month, and maybe even join in some of the discussion posts. Cloud Atlas is another one of those “I’m kind of intimated by this” books, although unlike Haruki Murakami, it’s not the author himself I find intimidating, just the book. I know this because I also want to read The Bone Clocks and I’m not intimidated by the idea of reading that one at all.

(Can you all tell, by the way, this is my year for reading outside my comfort zone?)

Hosted by Katie and April, the sign-up post is here, and the Twitter hashtag is #CloudAtlasAlong.

And coming in June …

The Misery readalong, hosted by Care! This is definitely going to be my year for reading Stephen King. I love the guy but I’ve really only read his earlier novels, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t read Misery yet so this will be a first-time read for me. Haven’t seen the movie, either, although I always picture Kathy Bates when I think of the movie. It promises to be a fun, informal readalong. The hashtag for this one is #MiseryRAL. And you really need to pop over to Care’s post to see the really scary looking Stephen King picture she’s posted.

Pet Sematary Readalong Completed!

I finished Pet Sematary a few days ago which means Yay! I’ve completed the readalong! This was my first large-scale readalong, with hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and everything, and it was a whole lot of fun.

But probably the best part of the readalong was this little guy, a little cat-duck sent to me by Jill to be dressed in whatever gangster cat gear I wanted:

Gangstercat poses

Dylan and I had so much fun dressing this little guy up today! Dylan made the gun and the suit, while I made the hat and the tie. We used Crayola Model Magic, which worked quite well. We even googled 1940s gangster suits, hats and guns so we’d have a good idea what we were aiming for!

And now this little guy will sit in a place of honour on my desk, reminding me of the fun of joining in on the #gangstercats readalong.

gangstercat at home

And as for Pet Sematary itself? Definitely not my favourite King book. I enjoyed the first part—King writes those family with kids scenes so well, brings such life to them. And what happens to the Creed family is just gut-wrenching. But once we get to the part where we know what Louis is going to do, and we also know it’s not going to turn out well (not to mention, we’re screaming at him, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”), it started to feel (to me) more a matter of turning the pages in order to get to the end than anything else.

Compared to It, which I read back in February, Pet Sematary lacked that tightly wound tension that makes you hold your breath in anticipation … of what, you have no clue, but you know for sure it’s going to be good, whatever it is.

The ending was a nice touch, though. I liked the question it left in my mind: was Louis right? Was that really the reason why things went so terribly wrong? Was it in his power to right this one last particular wrong?

Despite the book not being my favourite King book, it was still a good read. And #gangstercats more than made up for the lack of oomph as the book neared its end.

Have you read Pet Sematary? Or seen the movie?

The War of Art: Combating Resistance, Turning Pro

This week on the War of Art readalong at Joy’s Book Blog we’re reading Book Two: Combating Resistance, Turning Pro.  The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield, is subtitled “Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” and it’s filled with short pieces on the artist and resistance.

It’s interesting, but I didn’t find Book Two as compelling as I did the first part of the book, on recognizing resistance. It may be that I’m in a different space this week – tired, on the edge of burnout, a little frustrated – but the different pieces in Book Two aren’t sinking in the way the words in Part One did.

The piece I enjoyed the most was “We’re all pros already”, where Pressfield points out we’re all pros at one thing already, our jobs. He then goes on to identify the qualities that define us as professionals in our work life and how, when we “turn pro”, we can apply these same principles to our artistic lives.

These principles make sense me to me; they are the principles I’m already applying to my work life. Things like showing up to do the job, no matter what, staying on the job the entire day, commitment to our jobs, the high stakes of our work, the fact of remuneration, not over-identifying with our jobs, these are definitely principles I can apply to my writing – well, other than the fact of remuneration. I’d love to apply that particular principle to my fiction writing, but I’m definitely not there yet.

And perhaps that’s the crux of it for me, right now. With all the paying work deadlines I have on the table, I’m just not in the right space for this part of the book. Keeping true to my commitment to my writing has been challenging the past week or so, and even though I’ve been doing it, I’m too tired to feel the success of staying committed.

One other piece really resonated with me:

No Mystery

There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.

Reading these words made me remember it’s all a choice. And that maybe I should just trust in the remuneration part coming, and learn to say “no” more often when it comes to my work life. Simply choose to stay committed to this writing thing that has always been what I’ve wanted to do, all my life.

And along with finishing my reread of The War of Art for this readalong, I’m also looking forward to reading the rest of Pressfield’s books for writers: see what arrived in the mail for me yesterday from Joy!

Stephen Pressfield books

The publisher had heard about our readalong and sent along a whole set of the Stephen Pressfield books for both readalong participants and also as giveaways. Joy has already held one giveaway already – I just checked and see that my writer friend Janel Gradowski won that one! – and it looks like Joy will be holding another giveaway of a set of Pressfield’s books tomorrow, so do make sure to hop over to Joy’s Book Blog tomorrow and enter if you’d like a chance at winning a set of these books!

{TSS} Bookish Bliss: The War of Art

The War of Art quote

Back in December I made a commitment to myself: in the new year, I would sit down every day and write. And when January 1 rolled around, I started doing just that.

I initially set a daily goal of 2,000 words, but within a few days realized that wasn’t reasonable. Some days it was very doable, other days it wasn’t. So I reduced my goal to 1,500 words.

And rolled along merrily … until yesterday. It was kind of a lost day. I took my youngest to dance classes, which ate up the entire afternoon. I’d brought my iPad and keyboard but I found needed the comfort of my regular keyboard and laptop to write. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired – and I had a bunch of blog posts to write for one of my writing clients.

I sat down and I was only able to write about 600 words on my novel.

One of the word tracking spreadsheets I’m using makes the day’s word count light up only if I meet my daily goal. Yesterday’s word count definitely wasn’t even close to getting lit up.

But I still felt good, typing in those three digits into my spreadsheet. Why?

Because despite everything, I had sat down at the keyboard and I had done the work.

When Joy Weese Moll announced The War of Art readalong I knew it was a book I needed to reread. And it was a book I needed to reread now, in January, right when I’m determined to set up new habits and implement the systems I need to make real changes to my life.

For years now, I’ve done a lot of talking about how I want things to change. This is the year I’m committing to actually doing the things necessary for the changes I want to happen. It’s no secret: I spent too many years not doing much writing. I had my rationalizations: I had to work, make enough money to get us through day by day, month by month, year by year. I had kids. I had no time. My God, I didn’t even have time to read, much less time to write. And so on.

Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor. It’s Resistance’s way of hiding the Big Stick behind its back. Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.

What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. …

What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.

– Steven Pressfield

Reading through Book One of The War of Art, which is all about Resistance: Defining the Enemy, I was a little startled to see how well I know so many of the characteristics of Resistance. I know this is a reread for me, but I can’t remember, for example, nodding my head quite so vehemently when I first read the passages on “Resistance and Trouble” and “Resistance and Self-Dramatization”.

Because the way Resistance shows up in my life has always been two-fold. First is that initial Resistance to sitting down and starting. As Pressfield says:

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Over and over, I’ve been able to defeat this first part of Resistance, even if it’s only for a short while. I’ve done it several times for NaNoWriMo, but I’ve also done it for months at a time outside of November. It’s  never lasted (this year, that will change …) and one of the main reasons it’s never lasted has been because of those two other characteristics of Resistance: Trouble and Self-Dramatization

Last year, for example, right after I finished writing a novella in July, I came face to face with some personal issues. And then after that cleared up, I came down with chronic back pain and unexplained nausea. Once that cleared up (the nausea turned out to be a magnesium deficiency, of all things) I was neck deep in work deadlines as my busy season began.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for three weeks but the work pressure was too much for the final week. And for most of last year both my blog and my reading landscape were like deserted wastelands.

And now that I’m writing daily and am really committed to staying on course all this year? That chronic back pain has cropped back up. I haven’t been feeling well. I’m starting to think about some of those personal issues again. My sister just emailed to tell me she thinks my mom needs someone to help her with her apartment and she can’t do it because she’s too busy with work. Meanwhile, January is looking to be even heavier with deadlines than last November was.

In other words, Resistance is back at work, brewing up more Trouble and Self-Dramatization.

It’s good to see this so clearly. I plan to stay on track, and “knowing your enemy” makes this much easier.

By the way, if you’re interested in The War of Art and Steven Pressfield’s other books, make sure to pop over to Joy’s The War of Art #Giveaway. It’s a wonderful giveaway opportunity, as the winner will receive not just The War of Art, but also his other two books on defeating creative blocks, Do the Work and Turning Pro as well as The Authentic Swing, the story behind his writing of his first big novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Have you read The War of Art? Is there an endeavour or activity in your life, creative or otherwise, that’s been calling to you and to which you’ve been feeling Resistance?