September in Review

September did not exactly go as planned. This is the first time in a long time that’s happened. I’d created some fairly ambitious goals for September, and I accomplished ~3/5, barely.

You may not be able to tell from this blog, but I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard this year. It’s gone beyond “burning the candle at both ends.” Between work stuff, writing stuff, and personal stuff (swimming, reading, social, etc.), it feels like I’ve cut the candle into a bunch of smaller pieces so I could burn each of those at both ends. As a result, this month I may finally have snapped.

Mid-month, I decided to dial it way back and re-set my expectations about what I want to accomplish for the rest of this year. More on that (maybe) in a future blog post. This one is just meant to be a September wrap-up.

Let’s recap each of my goals (since I posted them for ya’ll to see…)…

1. SWIM at least 4 x 3300 yards per week

This would have resulted in ~52.8k yards swum in September. I actually ended up swimming 15 days for a total of 53k yards. So, I did okay on the yardage, but 15 days isn’t quite 4x per week. Still, I’m considering this one accomplished, but just barely.

2. READ at least 1 book per week on average

There were four weeks plus three days in September, and I read three novels, one short non-fiction book, one comic trade, and one “quarterly almanac” of short stories and book/movie reviews. So, I’m calling this one accomplished as well, but also just barely.

Here’s what I read this month (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

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  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Kindle, pre-order) — Supposedly this is VES in her “YA” mode. It’s the first of her “YA” books I’ve read. That said, it didn’t really feel much more “YA” than her Shades of Magic series. This may have something to do with the fact that it had that gritty almost-real-world feel to the world-building, plus the dark complexity around what makes someone a hero vs. a villian that Vicious did. So, yeah. I loved it and want more, please.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) — This book is like if you took the anthropological world building of an Ursula Le Guin book and crossed it with the TV show Firefly. I had a few small quibbles with parts of this book when I thought about it critically (see my Goodreads review for more on this, if you’re curious). But, overall, I loved it and I can’t wait to read more stories set in this world. Apparently, there is a new one coming out in October! Woo hoo!
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (Kindle, library) — Book two in the series, and it ends on a massive cliff-hanger. Most of this story takes place around VES’s equivalent of the “tri-wizard tournament” in Harry Potter. In the process, we get to know our main characters better, and we learn a little more about magic in this world. I’m looking forward to the final book in this series, and I’m bummed that I have to wait until next year for its release. NOTE: my Goodreads review contains spoilers. Don’t click on the link above if you don’t want to be spoiled.
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates (trade paper) — I know nothing about Black Panther except that he was in the latest Captain America movie. I do know that I really like Mr. Coates’s writing (I took note of his articles in The Atlantic and started following him long before Between the World and Me). This comic was really dense and satisfying because of that. There is definitely a much more complex story building here than I feel like you usually get in most Marvel comics. This feels more like volume one of Bitch Planet or The Wicked & The Divine than any of the recent X-Men volumes I’ve been consuming. This is a good thing. Our superhero stories could use more depth.
  • Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World by  Rian Van Der Merwe (Safari Books Online) — I’ve been thinking about my day-job a lot and realizing more and more that what I really want is to get closer to the engineering side of the world. I should have been a software engineer. I may still, someday, become a software engineer. But, in the meantime, I wanted to learn a little more about the difference between Program Managers and Product Managers. This book did a great job explaining what makes a great Product Manager and what great Product Managers do to ship great products. Highly recommend this one if you are considering becoming a Product Manager.
  • The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: June 2016 edited by The Book Smugglers (Kindle) — This collection had a “superhero” theme. It included some excellent reviews for some books I want to read and some superhero movies (one I saw and one I skipped). Plus, there were a few short stories and essays. All were very good, a few were fantastic. The only hang-up I had was the copy editing. For some reason there were a ton of copy edit errors in my Kindle version.

3. NaNoWriMo Prep

Well, I picked which project I’m going to work on. But I didn’t write a plot synopsis for any of the ideas I was considering. So, I should maybe just get partial credit for this goal. I’m pretty excited about this idea though… and I’m excited to dive into prep and research in October. It feels good to be back in “creation” mode again after months and months and months of editing.

I’ve also been working hard on getting my region ready for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been scheduling write-ins and the kick-off and TGIO parties. I’m working on prizes and prep sessions. I’ve already hit my first fundraising goal, and now I’m trying to see if I can raise a little more so I can bring a guest. I’m probably completely over-committing, but I’d rather start strong and see how it goes. I think I can make it work. It’s just a month. How bad could it be? (Famous last words…)

4. Re-read “Falling” and decide next steps

I didn’t even try to do this. I had too much else going on and decided that I didn’t want to try to push another project through before NaNoWriMo starts. I decided that I needed a break. So, all non-NaNoWriMo writing projects are officially on hold until January.

5. “Good clean living…” (no sweets, no alcohol except for one “cheat day” per week)

Yeah…. this did not happen. I bailed on this one pretty early. I don’t know what I was thinking. September is my husband’s birthday month, and if he was eating pie and drinking a beer, I certainly wasn’t going to just sit there and watch him! Plus, I had no real solid motivating factor here to keep me on the wagon. It’s not like I’m trying to lose weight or anything. This activity is best reserved for January as a post-holiday “cleanse” of sorts.

Oh, and this wasn’t exactly in my goals, but I totally bailed on that Instagram challenge (#IGAuthorLifeSept) that I said I was going to do in September.

Still, for a month where nothing seemed to be going as planned, I got the important stuff done. And, I definitely learned my lesson. Sometimes you just need a month to relax and re-group. I’m making a note of this and mentally scheduling December as my next “relax and re-group” month. After NaNoWriMo, I have a feeling I’ll need it!

September 2016 TBR (#IGAuthorLifeSept)

I’m splitting my TBR in two this month.

First are the books I’d like to read for research that will help me achieve my Fall Bootcamp goals.

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  • Under the Black Flag — I think I mentioned this one on here before. It’s been on my TBR stack for a while now. I bought it with the intention of reading it for research on the book idea that includes space pirates.
  • Physics of the Impossible — I just got this one. It’s a popular science book that I’ve heard is really helpful for understanding some sciencey bits that I need for world building.
  • The Seven Basic Plots — I checked this one out of the library years ago and read some of it, then skimmed through the rest before I had to return it. I decided to splurge and order myself a copy so I can use it for research and refer to it at my leisure.
  • Outlining Your Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel workbooks — I’ve heard these are good. I’ve read the Outlining Your Novel book and thought it was really helpful. So, I decided to try the workbook. I don’t really want to mark up the pages though… I may just use these as writing prompts and scribble in a notebook instead.

My second TBR are the books I want to read for fun this month. What’s appealing to me right now is fantasy and sci-fi aimed at “older” readers. That’s why my TBR for September looks like this:

September2016TBR

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Kindle, pre-order) — Book 5 in the Throne of Glass series will be magically delivered to my Kindle on Tuesday and I’m so excited about it that I can hardly wait! I may have too call in “reading” to work on Tuesday… 😉
  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Kindle) — I’ve had this for over a month now and it’s killing me that I haven’t had time to read it. I started it last weekend and I think I may try to finish it this weekend. We’ll see how much reading time I get…
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) — still kicking myself for not having read this book yet. Argh. So many good books and such a brutal trade off for me between reading and writing.
  • The Just City by Jo Walton (Kindle) — this was the Tor book club book last month and it looks fascinating. It also looks like it would be exactly the sort of novel my husband (a philosophy major) might enjoy.
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman (Kindle, library) — I have this one on hold at the library because I’d really like to read it before they start season two of the TV show. I feel like season one may have already spoiled me for some of this story, but I’d still like to see how it plays out on the page.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (signed hardcover) — I convinced my work bookclub to read this book this month. Since I have a nice hardcover edition, I haven’t been taking it with me on my commute. I desperately need some at-home reading time so I can dive back into this story.

I definitely will not have time to read all these books this month. But, I’m hoping I’ll find time to at least finish a few of these. A book a week is my goal. I’m already behind schedule this week, but hoping to catch up over the long weekend.

Hope everyone has a relaxing and fun long weekend! Happy reading!

September goals (#IGAuthorLifeSept)

I posted this photo of my goals for the month for today’s #IGAuthorLifeSept post.

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To expand on item #3 in the photo, also hinted at by the piece of paper underneath my planner in the photo… I’m participating in the YA Buccaneers NaNoWriMo prep fall bootcamp. I’ve decided my goals for this bootcamp (September through November) are as follows:

FallBootcamp2016Goals

I have a bunch of ideas that have been tumbling about in my brain for the past year or so while I’ve been working on getting my two finished novels query-ready. They are:

  1. A private school, mother/daughter, all-girl super-hero gang ensemble story… I kind of want it to feel like the Taylor Swift “Bad Blood” video…
  2. A space opera romance that I’ve been meaning to write for almost ten… this one has space pirates, adventure, and female “coming of age” MC, pining after an unrequited love (that ultimately ends “happily ever after”)…
  3. A sequel to “Eve of the Fae” that will dig more into why the demons teamed up with Lord Edric against the Fae… Ari will be the star of this story and there will be a “stuck in the snow,” forced-proximity romance…
  4. The sequel story for “Lost Empire” that will flip between the drama at home (as Zane, Kilm, Katz, and Jace try to keep the tribes united) and the drama abroad (as Mia, Vlad, and Isla face the Koto on their turf).

I’m planning on nailing down the basics for each of these (protagonist, antagonist, goal, conflict, stakes, other key characters, some basic plot points, etc.). Then I want to pick one to write in November. If you feel strongly about any of these ideas, definitely let me know. If there is a lot of interest in one of these ideas over the others, I could be swayed in that direction. Otherwise, I’ll probably go with one of the first two because I really don’t want to write a sequel for a book that doesn’t even have a home yet.

Goal #4 in the photo above is a bit of a “stretch goal.” I’d like to re-read and figure out what to do with one of my old WIP novels (code name: “Falling”). More on that next week because I’m planning on using this for one of my Instagram photo challenge posts…

Oh yeah! One goal I didn’t list in my planner is the #IGAuthorLifeSept Instagram challenge! I’m attempting another Instagram photo challenge in September. I did one back in May and another one back in December. This time I don’t think I’m going to cross post the photos to this blog unless the topic seems blog worthy (like today’s and tomorrow’s prompts). So, if you want to follow along, go check out my Instagram feed.

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I think that’s probably enough to keep me busy this month… What do you think?

Don’t forget… Leave me a comment and tell me if you have strong feelings about any of my NaNoWriMo ideas.

If you donate to my fundraiser, I will reward you by sending you a link to read some of my post-NaNoWriMo draft chapters via a secret link for donors…

Or, if you’re not into that, you can sign up to be a beta reader… I’m always on the lookout for awesome beta readers!