Five Books Out, Three Books In

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I have over 300 unread books, between my bookshelves and my Kindle. All hail free ebooks and cheap secondhand sales!

But the mental weight of that is beginning to stagger me–I have enough books to keep me reading for about two years without getting any more. And how could I possibly go two years without buying more books, or borrowing from friends, family, or the library? I’ve got to get this under control.

Book-buying bans simply don’t work for me–if I see a book I want for pennies, well, I’m going to buy it, because what if I never get that chance again?

I can avoid temptation by not going to my local libraries and browsing their sales–and I have–and doing my best to stay off Amazon, perusing the most popular free ebooks. Which I also have.

It’s helping, but I know myself well enough to predict that I will cave at some point.

So I’m going to earn those new books.

I decided on the 40% TBR Reduction Rule: five books out, three books in.

I started counting just under a month ago, and I’m doing my physical and digital books separately, because the rule varies slightly between the two.

For digital books, which take up no real space, when I’ve read five of them, I have earned the ability to acquire up to three more. I don’t have to delete the books or even archive them, though at some point my Kindle will need a clean-out so I don’t run out of space.

For the physical books, though, it’s a much harder rule. I don’t merely get to read the five books, I have to actually get rid of five before I can earn three acquisitions. That means any books I keep don’t count–I have to give books away to friends or family, or re-donate them to the library (my usual choice) or a thrift/secondhand store.

Unsurprisingly, in the three weeks and few days since I’ve started tracking, I’ve only earned one new digital book. I have gotten rid of two physical books, but it might be a while before I get rid of any more, since I plan to read those unfinished series I bought soon, books I’m more likely to keep than give away.

If I can stick to this for the next few months, I might be able to justify hitting the huge $2/bag library sale in early December than I’ve gone to for the past two years, a large contributing factor in why I have so many books in the first place…

Letting Your Mind Wander

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I was lying in bed, still half-asleep, my brain jumbled with random images from the dream I’d had.

I remembered seeing a window decorated with paper snowflakes. I thought about how badly mine used to come out when I was a child, because the scissors were never sharp enough.

Okay, so use an X-acto knife.

I’ve done plenty of work with a blade like that before, but I remembered even with the sharpest blade, my hand would shake or slip, and the paper would tear.

(Here’s where it gets weird.)

How does a cutting edge actually work?

In the obvious physical sense, it’s a fine (ie, sharp) object that a force acts upon to insert itself between two parts of another object, separating them. Like putting my hand into water, but in a more permanent form–the blade pushes the two parts to either side of it, but unlike water, solid objects can’t rush back together like it never happened.

But even the finest knife edge still has thickness, so my brain spiraled down to thinking about it on the atomic level.

Atoms are mostly empty space. Matter is mostly empty space–we perceive it as solid because those mostly-empty spaces have rules and properties about how they arrange themselves, and our senses are orders of magnitude too dull to notice the atomic trickery going on.

So on the one hand, it makes perfect sense that a sharp blade could slice through something easily, pushing all those tiny parcels of empty to one side or the other.

Then I realized the blade is mostly empty space too.

That’s when I got out of bed and made myself a cup of tea, because visualizing an X-acto knife made of hardly anything at all was too taxing for my sleep-muddled brain.

As a writer, I believe it’s important to give your mind time to wander down these odd little paths. Is this pseudo-revelation I had about atoms immediately useful to a story I’m writing? No.

But could I use it to inform the personality of a future character? Absolutely. I can already picture one–a young man with perpetually disheveled hair and an air of constant distraction, because he’s busy thinking Deep Thoughts and when he comes up with one, he realizes someone’s already had it, someone’s already figured that out, and he needs to read more widely and study more things so he can finally have New Deep Thoughts.

And I could play it straight and let him be serious, or he could be the weird one everyone makes fun of. Depends on the story.

So make a habit of daydreaming. Let yourself travel along unknown ideas to their inevitable conclusions, be they weird or obvious or downright foolish. Write those ideas down, if they amuse you, like my atomic X-acto knife did.

Give yourself permission to be strange, sometimes. It’s fun.

October Reading and Writing Goals

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Meet my newest bookshelf.

Our TV died over the summer, and we replaced it with a larger one, which meant a new TV stand as well. The old stand was still perfectly serviceable, just too small, so of course I wasn’t going to get rid of it, and oh, look, that upper shelf is just the right size for mass market paperbacks…

So it’s my new TBR shelf. Or, most of it, the upper two shelves in the bedroom set are still TBR shelves as well.

But the great thing about this one is, it’s deep, so I can double-stack:

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At least until I weed some of these out of the collection. I’ve done a brisk trade at the library, buying bags of books from the sale room, then re-donating the ones I didn’t like.

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So here’s my October TBR. Not that I’ll get through all 18 books–that’s ambitious, even for me. But I updated my TBR jar, there on the left; the white stars are the remaining unread books I got in 2015, and the blue and green stars are some of my 2016 acquisitions. I pulled a bunch and built my near-future TBR from them. Plus five of these books are on loan from my mother, a.k.a. the family branch of the library system. (Love you, Mom, and I haven’t forgotten there’s half a dozen more I want to read, too. I’ll get these back to you first.)

That covers the reading goals. As for writing, I might be whoppingly overambitious, but ideally I’d like to have the rewrite draft I’m working on completed in October, so that I can dive into the new project burning a hole in my daydreams for NaNoWriMo next month. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but it would be an awfully tight squeeze. I’ll try my hardest.

Anybody got big plans like mine for October? Or are you doing NaNo too, and want to be writing buddies?

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: August 2016!

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This month, I read twelve books–these seven, plus one that had to go back to the library before I got this photo, two ebooks, and Stranger in a Strange Land, which I didn’t include because I wasn’t sure I’d have it done by today!

I’m closing in on finishing all three reading challenges, with one book left for BookRiot, three left for PopSugar, and three left for ReadsTheBooks plus five non-reading tasks I have yet to tackle. Minus the one where I have to make a video (not a skill I already have, it’ll take some doing) my goal is to finish everything else in September.

I have no clue what my word count is, because I have dabbled a bit on side projects, but the bulk of this month was devoted to proofreading, formatting, and prepublishing work on What We Need to Decide, which releases in mid-September!

My upcoming writing goal is to get back to rewriting What We Need to Rebuild, hopefully squeezing in a new draft before NaNo starts and I get to dive into a different project for a month.

I hope all of you had as productive an August as I did, and if not, maybe the cooler September temperatures will help–I’m done with this humid summer, I want to wear my jeans and sweaters and scarves already!

Progress Report: I Did a Thing

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Guys, I missed a post last week, and I almost missed another today, because I’m too busy working (and also making dinner, but a girl’s gotta eat.)

What am I working on? Formatting What We Need to Decide. The ebook layout is done, and in another day or two (Elena taps her knuckles on her desk) the print layout will be done as well, then it’s cover time! This is happening, people! Book two!

I’ll do my best to put a real post up Wednesday, and of course I’d never miss reviews on Friday.

Another Writer Q&A

This one comes from Tumblr, where I was tagged for it. It had a lot of interesting questions, so I figured it should get posted here as well!

As for tagging anyone else, if you want to, go for it. I’m not naming names today.

What is your new book about?
What We Need to Decide is another romance, the continuation of Paul and Nina’s story begun in What We Need to Survive, so it’s about love. But deeper than that, it’s about learning self-acceptance, learning what lines shouldn’t be crossed, and how far a person will go to preserve the things meaningful to them.

It’s also about the future, children, and sometimes, dogs, too. That last part surprised me.

What or who inspired it?
The What We Need series comes from a single this-almost-could-have-been-a-love-story moment in the Telltale video game The Walking Dead (season 1, if you played you know exactly what I mean.) It made me realize that in basically all the post-apocalypse media I’ve ever seen, romance is rushed, trivialized, or neglected–it’s much more common that sexual relationships spring up from fear or need or loneliness, and that’s reasonable. But I wanted to see if a real romance had a shot, too.

Apparently it did, because I’ve still got two books’ worth of story to tell.

What was the biggest challenge, writing it?
In a romance, it’s easy to come up with internal emotional struggles, roadblocks to intimacy and happiness. In a post-apocalyptic setting, it’s easy to come up with external challenges to life and limb. What’s been hardest for me is to meld the two disparate genres, making my internal and external conflicts echo each other enough to fit in the same story.

What do you want to achieve with this book?
I always want to grow as a writer, putting out a better book than the one before it. (I only have one book to my name so far, so this will get harder in time.)

What do you hope for your book?
That people will read it, enjoy it, be inspired by it. Romance as a genre often gets dismissed as fluffy, but mine’s pretty damn serious, and I hope readers can look at my work and see that romance doesn’t automatically equal an easy summer beach read.

Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?
Writers draw on themselves for details all the time, and little things about me have snuck into both books. Paul ended up with some of my strengths, Nina a few of my flaws, and the whole thing is informed by my deep and abiding love of music. (There’s a few song titles hidden in the narration, because I’m a nerd like that.)

Do you have a favorite character or one you really enjoyed writing?
I don’t know if I can chose a favorite between my main two squeezes, because they’re both a joy to write, and I’ve put a lot of effort into making sure they play well off each other. But Nina’s the serious one, so whenever I get the chance to write her with her guard down, and she busts out her snarky sense of humor–that’s a blast.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?
Love, survival, personal growth, and hope for the future.

What made you set it in__________?
Post-apocalypse Midwestern USA? I’ve lived all over the Midwest, and I’m familiar with a lot of the places I’m writing about, how the people sound, the countryside, what the weather’s like. Research fills in the gaps (bless you, Google Street View,) but I wasn’t about to set this story somewhere I’d never been.

Did the title come instantly, or did you labour over it?
What We Need to Survive went through five titles before I settled on that one, though I knew the very first was only a placeholder while I typed up the initial scene I had tormenting my brain. Once I’d settled on that, and the name of the series (What We Need) the other two book titles came easily–What We Need to Decide (#2) and What We Need to Rebuild (#3.)

To whom have you dedicated the book and why?
WWNTS is dedicated to my husband, because I’ve been writing for fun my whole life, but he was really the first to help me see I could do more than that, and he’s been supportive throughout the entire process. I could not have done this without him.

WWNTD doesn’t have a dedication yet, I’m still pondering.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?
I’ve gotten positive feedback from romance fans, from PA fans who don’t usually read romance, and from a small handful of people who don’t usually read either genre, but read it because they know me. I won’t say there’s been no criticism, because there has been, but what I’ve heard so far makes me think the only people who won’t enjoy it, for sure, are people completely uninterested in love stories of any genre. (Which is totally fine, I’ll evangelize for romance acceptance, but I’m not here to shove my book down anyone’s throat.)

Do you have a special spot for writing at home?
Nothing special, just a desk with my computer, a Groot bobblehead, and space for a candle or two if I’m feeling fancy.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?
Rain sounds! They help me shut out distractions, while not actively distracting me like music can, especially if it has lyrics. I will occasionally indulge in classical or other instrumental music if the rain’s getting stale.

When did you start writing?
I literally cannot remember a time I did not write. My first “published” book was a second grade class project, where everyone had to write and illustrate a story on pieces of construction paper that got bound with the school’s shiny-new spiral binding machine. I wrote a story about different snack foods coming to life in my kitchen and becoming friends before they got eaten. And I know I was writing before that, making up things in my diary where I inserted myself into my favorite books and TV shows.

Did you always want to become an author?
Somewhere in the back of my mind, yes. I just never thought I would, because I was only ever encouraged to be creative as a hobby–arts and crafts were wonderful things to do, but you can’t make a living from them. Music is great, yes, learn to sing! But don’t think you’ll ever make any money from it. Creative writing? Fantastic! But do you know how hard it is to actually get published?

So I didn’t try, even if I had never actually stopped writing. Then I buckled down and tried, and I did it.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?
Elena the storyteller began life as a compulsive liar, an unreliable narrator of remarkable daring. I wanted to be the center of attention, the best at everything, so I made up stories where I was, and I told my friends, thinking they understood I was only telling stories.

They didn’t. They told their parents, and their parents told mine, and I got lectured about how wrong it was to tell Stacey I was a professional ballerina dancing in Swan Lake at age 5.

I stopped telling the stories, and started writing them down instead, because then people would understand they weren’t real, and that made them okay.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?
Libraries, greenhouses, tutoring, and a whole slew of service-industry jobs, which have taught me two very important lessons: 1) The customer is not always right, and 2) You’re getting paid to smile at them anyway, so smile.

If that sounds cynical, well, it is–you’d be amazed at the number of people who think service = servant, or worse, idiot. I’m still a person deserving of basic respect, thank you.

Describe yourself in three words.
Determined, caring, and imaginative.

What Sign are you and are you typical of it?
I am a Gemini, and while I don’t put any stock in astrological symbolism, what little I do know seems to fit me–Geminis are often sharp of wit and mercurial, apparently.

What three things do you dislike?
Excessive humidity, cantaloupes, and hypocrisy.

What three things do you like?
Cool breezes, watermelon, and good listeners.