Category Archives: Personal Life

In Defense of Small Word Counts

Let me let you in on a little secret. I don’t write a lot of words per day.

My daily word counts vary from 350 to 700 on a good day, but I almost never break 1,000 words unless I’m at the very end the book because the resolution is often easy for me to write since all the major strings have been tied.

On social media, it’s common for people to post their word counts after a writing sprint or just as a daily thing they do to hold themselves accountable. When I see people post that they wrote 4,000 words in a few hours, I feel sick. That’s more than I write in a week sometimes, most times. Seeing giant word counts is something that bothers me on and off. When my writing is flowing well, I don’t really care. When I’m struggling, all I see are other people’s numbers and I begin to feel inadequate.

When I’m writing consistently, it’s easy say to myself, “Why do you care? You’ve published 5 books. It isn’t like your words don’t add up to a full book.” And my books aren’t exactly tiny. Most are over 90,000 words. So what if it takes me 6-9 months to write it? I’d like to blame capitalism for that. Everything we do is measured in productivity and inevitably we tie our self-worth to the outcomes of our labor. How many words per day is merely a metric by which I measure my self-worth when things aren’t going well.

Someone might say, “Ditch the word count. Just write.” I tried that last year when my mental health was rather shitty, and it did the opposite of help because without something to push me, I wrote nothing for a few months. When writing is a form of self-care, you understand how this can cause a downward spiral. My small daily word count goal of 350 words is like saying I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes every day. It’s something I have to push myself to do because my brain, when it’s feeling low, resists doing it even though it’s good for me. A small, doable goal gives me the push I need to get it done.

Once I hit my 350, I can stop and go to bed. Most of the time I keep going. Days I don’t write because I just don’t have mental or physical spoons to do so, I make up for it the next day. I have a word count tracker that I use to chart my progress and hold myself accountable. Days I don’t write, I don’t put a zero in. Some may think it’s cheating, but zeroes made it harder to write when I was down. Now I just fill in 350 and make up for it the next day by writing 700 words or as I tell myself 2 350s.

We do what we must to trick ourselves into taking our medicine.

For years, I’ve dreaded things like NaNoWriMo where you write 50,000 words in a month or 1,667 words a day. Before I made friends with other writers, I thought you had to be a pro to accomplish such a massive daily word count or be on speed. It never seemed possible. Then I made friends with writers who seemed to do it without a lot of trouble and my confidence cracked. I couldn’t do it. I tried to do NaNo and gave up within the first week. Despite all the hype and support of other writers, I stared at that word count like it was Mt. Everest. Only the strongest and best could do it, and I couldn’t.

What I failed to notice is how many writers do NaNo and don’t publish or shop the book after. Plenty of books grow out of NaNo, but most don’t or they need to be heavily revised. That’s far from my usual process. Until last year, I had never had to totally rewrite a book. My books need editing, but most of it is fact-checking, copy edits, and cleaning up/beefing up descriptions. What I start, I finish, even if it takes the better part of a year.

I guess the point of all this is that you have to do what works for you. If writing a lot and then editing a lot is what comes naturally, then do it. If you write a little at a time, that’s fine too. There’s no one way to write even if there are plenty of books that try to teach you how to boost your productivity. At some point, you have to come to terms with what your process is and embrace it as best you can.

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2018 Reading Recap

It’s finally 2019, so I can officially say I read 105 works in 2018. I say works because a handful were short stories and some were graphic novels. If you know me, you know I have a thing for spreadsheets and tracking my reading. I have a to-be-read list in my planner and of course, my reading log on Excel. You can grab a copy of my 2019 blank reading log here if you want to track your reading too.

Anywho, so why do I do this? Well, partly to see how long it takes me to read a book, what genres I gravitate toward, and whether I’m reading more books by one group or in a certain form. You can see the entirety of my reading log below. The missing top bar (oops) should say: Title, Series Title, Series #, Author, Gender, Date Started, Date Finished, How Many Days, Page Count, Genre, Format, and Rating out of 5.

2018 reading log 12018 reading log 22018 reading log 32018 reading log 4

So let’s talk about what went down this year. I read a total of 105 books, and of those 105, I read 40 ebooks, 23 graphic novels, 17 hardcovers, 25 paperbacks (65 physical books). I was surprised by how close my physical and digital book numbers were. You still people acting as if ebooks and physical books are in some tug-o-war for readership, and I think that thought is absurd. Most people I know read both formats, and personally, I am more likely to buy a book from an author I don’t know well if it’s cheap or on sale. For the most part, ebooks are what go on sale more often, and then I read those books between classes or during gaps in my day on my phone. It’s a great way to read when you can’t lug around a hardcover or need to read on the sly. I also like that I can make my Kindle app white words on black paper which is easier on my eyes. This reading choice may also have to do with genre because many indie authors (often PoC or LGBT+) or romance authors publish as digital only because it keeps costs down.

In regards to genre, I read an eclectic mix (as always):

20 fantasy, 17 paranormal fantasy, 16 historical-fantasy, 12 historical romance, 5 paranormal romance, 5 urban fantasy, 4 magical realism, 4 nonfiction- history, 3 nonfiction- science, 3 contemporary romance, 2 anthologies (1 LGBT+ romance and 1 LGBT+ YA), 1 horror, 1 space opera, 1 political fiction, 1 Gothic fiction, 1 contemporary sports, 1 afrofuturism, 1 romantic mystery, and 1 autobiography.

When I tell my students I’ll read anything, I mean it. I lean heavily toward the fantastical because, really, who wants to read about real life? Of those works, a good chunk were written by LGBT+ and non-white authors. I’ve been making an effort to read less cis hetero white male writers, and my naturally inclination is to read works by AFAB and female authors. Why? No idea, but that is my preference.  Of the 105 books, 74 were written by female authors, 12 were male, 8 were mixed genders (2 or more authors), 2 were unknown, and 9 were nonbinary. As a point of reference, if an author is transgender, I list them as the gender that aligns with their pronouns (he= male, they/xe/ze, etc.= nonbinary, she= female unless otherwise specified).

One thing I have done recently is to make a conscious effort to read more marginalized authors, especially non-white authors. The reason being is that these authors are less likely to be published by traditional publishers, so if we support them and read their work, publishers are more likely to publish more PoC authors since previous authors have a good track record. As far as I can tell, 41 of 105 were by PoC authors. In 2019, I’m hoping to read even more, especially authors who are PoC and LGBT+.

I’ll be writing up a post on my overall goals for 2019 soon, but my reading goals are: read 100 books and read more works from marginalized authors.

What are your reading goals for 2019?

 

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Good Riddance to 2018

To be blunt, 2018 was an exhausting train wreck that I am glad to see the back of.

More than anything, I try to be a positive person for my own sanity and those around me, but this year has tested my resolve. It wasn’t like I had any deaths in my family or any grave illness or anything that was an obvious issue. Bad things don’t always have to be grandiose. They can be quiet and subtle, like a voice whispering to you that you are worthless, your work is worthless, and you will get nowhere.

2018 was the year of crippling doubt and disappointment.

As you might have noticed, I haven’t finished The Wolf Witch despite starting it in 2017. I dove into writing that book before I was ready because I felt I needed to produce something even though I was creatively exhausted. That was a massive mistake that led to a mental spiral that probably could have been prevented had I waited a few months to work on it. Instead I drove myself further into the ground, wrote 50,000 words that needed to be totally rewritten, and wrecked my self-esteem and mental health. I felt horrible about myself. I couldn’t write and my draft was garbage (it truly was; it’s not just me being hard on myself). This led to cycle of not writing, then feeling bad about myself, then not writing even more. Since writing is one of my coping mechanisms, you can see how this went downhill quickly.

Apart from being a writer, I’m also an adjunct English professor, which means that I don’t have predictable work (my semesters can range from 1-4 classes) and I’m constantly applying for jobs that might give me some semblance of stability because I’m living below the poverty line and it sucks. I’ve applied for at least twenty teaching jobs and as many writing/copywriting jobs. Toward the beginning of the fall semester, I heard back from a job I really wanted because it was a way to combine my science and writing background while at the same time providing the financial stability I’ve been craving. After an interview and positive feedback, they decided they didn’t need to hire anyone. To say I was crushed is an understatement.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself this year. I lost sight of who I am and what I want and what I do. On top of that, Anthony Bourdain’s suicide shook me. I looked up to him as someone I aspired to be like. Much like my other inspirations, Julia Child and Tim Gunn, Bourdain was passionate and well-versed on his subject while still injecting it with humor and an openness that I think is necessary for exploration and innovation. When he killed himself, I was in a low point in terms of how I saw myself, and it freaked me out. If someone as together and passionate and awesome as Anthony Bourdain could lose hope and kill himself, how did others in more precarious situations manage to stay sane? Obviously, I don’t know what demons he was fighting, but my situation felt bleak in my mind and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

But what made that easier was my students. My classes this semester were filled with bright, lovely students who made me look forward to work and reinforced that I’m in the right place doing the right thing. Their drive and kindness took the sting out of rejection and hopelessness. I had two really personable College Writing classes that took as much of an interest in me as I did in them, and those sorts of relationships where you know your students care about you and look forward to your class makes it easier to keep going even when things are difficult outside the classroom. So, thank you, guys. They know who they are and some of them stalk my social media, so I hope they see this and know the impact they made in my life.

Do I wish I received the copywriter job? Hell, yes. But do I feel as awful as I did a few weeks ago? No. My hope is still that I will be able to get a job as a creative writing professor soon and that I will continue to write and publish books as I set out to do. Going forward, I’m going to try to stay focused on my goal of publishing two books in 2019, but if I go off course, I will try to roll with the punches and do my best.

It’s all I can really expect of myself. And in the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve come out of the fog I’ve been fighting all year. I’m hoping I can maintain and progress on my book before the semester starts. All I can do is keep moving forward and doing what I can to make a better life for myself.

Here’s to a less shitty year and the people who make it infinitely better.

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Mindful Book Consumption

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I am continually fascinating by the way ancient or no longer spoken languages affect modern English. If you follow me on social media, you know how much I love to pick apart Chaucer’s Middle English for words we no longer use, like grutch (which really needs to come back because I, for one, grutch on a regular basis) or talk about how there was no word for the color orange, so Chaucer used yellow-red to describe foxes.

Today, we will be going further back than Chaucer to Old English. I can already hear my students gasp and say, “You mean Chaucer isn’t Old English.” No! It gets even harder to read. Think Beowulf or runes and you’re close to where I want you to be. In Old English, the word for library is “bochard” or literally “book hoard.” It conjures up images of monasteries with books chained to the shelves because they are so valuable or a dragon sitting atop a pile of books.

If you’re an avid reader, you may feel a little twinge of shame or guilt. Are there piles of books stacked in your room? Do you have a to-be-read list that will take you several decades to get through? Do you take out stacks of books from the library that require a hand-cart to move? Do you buy books faster than you read them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a book hoarder.

Book hoarders often go hand-in-hand with my previous post about mindless book consumption. In this case, that consumption is usually based around acquiring books, especially more than you can read in a given time frame. If you’re a book hoarder and trying to slow down your buying or at least pair it down to more meaningful purchases, this post will talk about what I did to break the cycle of excessive book buying.

Book buying was a major problem I had during grad school. At the time, I was reading and writing a lot for class and not doing much outside of my schoolwork. I was also stressed out fro my course load and other duties. This led to me buying A LOT of books in a 2.5 year period. Books are fairly inexpensive, especially if you’re willing to buy used books or look for sales, and I was willing to do what I could to score a deal for a book I wanted. Less money spent = less guilt = more books. You can see how this became a problem. When I entered my last semester of grad school, I only had three classes, one of which I completed the work for by the middle of the semester, and I finally had time to read for myself. I looked around my room and panicked. When the hell had I bought so many books?!

To read them all felt like a monumental task, but last year, I decided to start tackling my to-be-read pile in earnest. By the end of 2017, I had read 120 works (including novels, graphic novels, and a few short stories), and I attribute my success in knocking a hunk out of my to-be-read pile to a habit I got into in 2016: using a bullet journal. A bullet journal is basically a DIY planner where you can keep track of your to-do lists and whatever other charts you need. Staring at my massive to-be-read pile, I decided something had to be done, so I created a to-be-read spread in my bullet journal to help keep track of what I had along with what I read and when. You can see my 2018 to-be-read spread below.

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This spread encompasses several pages (5 to be exact with a blank page that isn’t pictured just in case I need more room). What I did was break my book pile into several groups. The first page consists of graphic novel series I’m reading, nonfiction works, and standalones. The last two tend to be smaller categories for me, so it made sense to put them together. The other three pages are series and authors with more than one book that I’m hoping to get to read. I group series together as much as possible. You may have noticed some blank spaces. Those are for books that I’m aware are coming out from an author I like but don’t have a title yet. Not every book in my massive list is actually available or in my collection. Many are coming out next year or are on pre-order, so I include them as a place holder for next year’s journal. Next to certain books, you’ll notice color blocks. Those indicate what month the book was read. Yellow is January, pink if February, and green is March. I fill them in after I finish reading them.

This system helps me stay focused on knocking out what I already have. I like ticking off boxes on my to-do list, and my to-be-read list is like a massive, year-long to-do list. If you’re the kind of person who feels at least some fulfillment from crossing things off a list, then this may work for you. It also acts as an inventory of my library, so I can keep track of what series are on-going versus done and what books I didn’t love and might want to donate later.

As I get new books, I add them to my list to keep it current, but this system alone probably won’t stop you from acquiring new books. I certainly haven’t stopped, but seeing how many I have has helped me to step back and ask some important questions. Do I need it now? Can I wait to buy it? Why do I want it? When will I get to it?

What I’ve also implemented is a self-imposed rule that I can only buy half as many books as I read the previous month. Last year, I told myself as many as I read, which was a mistake because I read twelve in January and there was no way I was giving myself license to buy twelve books. I consider it to be a rolling total of how many books I can buy. This doesn’t include freebies I find online or books borrowed from others.

I know I will never stop buying books, but it’s clear that I had to be more aware of how many of those books I was actually reading. To recap, here are some ways to tackle your to-be-read pile:

  1. Inventory your library to determine what books you have yet to read.
  2. Donate unwanted books or books you didn’t really like (especially ones you know you’ll never go back to) to keep them from piling up.
  3. Make a list of books you have to read and make a point to read from that list rather than just buying new books.
  4. Before you buy a book, ask yourself why you’re buying it. If it’s an impulse buy, you may want to put it back for now (I use the Goodreads phone app to catalog books I might buy in the future or you can just take a picture of it).

I hope these tips help you wrangle your to-be-read pile into shape!

Let me know what you think below or how you keep your to-be-read pile in check.

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Mindless Book Consumption

There is a trend on Goodreads and other sites for book lovers that I’ve noticed lately and bothers me as a reader, an author, and an English professor: mindless book consumption.

What the hell are you talking about? you might ask. To me, mindless book consumption is reading hundreds of books a year (or a month– yeah, I saw someone supposedly read 120 books in February), but the books you’re reading a) aren’t given time to be digested or be enjoyed b) chosen for the most part just because they’re easily accessible c) many of those books are not actually finished but are considered “read” and rated on sites like Goodreads.

I have LOTS of problems with this gluttonous treatment of reading material. First off, let me say that I am all for reading tons of books. Last year, I read 120 books, and I totally get how people can read 300 books in year. I wish I could read that fast, but I know, I’m a comparatively slow reader. If you’re a voracious reader who likes romances, I can understand how someone could consume that many books in a year. Many romances are short and fairly straightforward, so if you enjoy them, it’s easy to burn through book after book in a genre you like.

On the other hand, what I’ve witnessed on Goodreads is very different. Goodreads attracts a lot of reviewers or those who are famous on Booktube or Bookstagram, and often that fame is tied to how many books they read in a year. If you’re a reviewer, the more books you read, the more posts you have, the more people read your posts, and the more followers you have. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint, but what has happened on this site is the idolization of gluttonous readers, especially those who pan books. I would like to challenge this ideal because what I’ve seen has been nothing more than binging books with little regard for enjoyment or synthesis of the products consumed.

My concern is the mentality of quantity over quality in the book community. What is the point of reading 300 books if you can’t discern one book from another or you DNF (did not finish) more books than you finished? DNF-ing in and of itself is problematic in the context of the mindless consumption mentality because many readers count them as “read” on Goodreads and rate them despite not reading the entirety of the work. From an author’s standpoint, I wouldn’t want someone to read half of my book and pass judgment without receiving the complete picture, especially if a perceived flaw in the narrative turns out to later play a part in the plot. As a reader, there are plenty of books I didn’t love at page thirty that I adored by the end. Perhaps my stick-to-it-ness comes from being an English major and being forced early on to read outside my comfort zone. By being made to read books I didn’t think I’d like, I ended up branching out to new genres, and I know that if I had given up on Jane Eyre or The Canterbury Tales early on, I would have missed out on stories I now love.

Besides missing out on some great books by DNF-ing, there is the matter of ethics. Is it ethical to mark a book you didn’t read in its entirety as “read”? Even worse in my mind, is it ethical to rate a book you didn’t finish?

The former issue is at the heart of the problem. It’s very easy to inflate the amount of books you’ve read if you didn’t actually read the entirety of the book. Of course, people stopping by your profile on Goodreads wouldn’t know that unless they looked more closely at your reviews and reading history. Others see the inflated number, they feel the need to compete with it, and they might attempt to fudge their numbers and perpetuate the cycle.

The greater problem is how society seems to adore cynical, jaded reviewers. This is a centuries old issue that spans every artistic medium imaginable, but with the internet and social media, you no longer have to be a reviewer for the New York Times to disseminate your views to a large audience. Unfortunately, good reviews garner little attention. Bad reviews, especially those of popular media, stick out. It’s one thing to genuinely not enjoy a work, but in a time where social media users regularly try to gain likes and followers, I have to wonder if some people are more likely to read in order to find fault with a book rather than read to enjoy it. If you combine the fact that people feel special when they go against the grain with the need to meet a very high reading quota, you end up with reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon who specialize in panning and DNF-ing books, which of course they stopped reading because they didn’t enjoy them and then rate them poorly.

The question is, how do we combat this and should we combat it? Of course it is within your right to not finish any book you start and then rate them, but you don’t have to read those reviews or follow accounts that exhibit suspect behavior. Much like avoiding brands that have questionable policies or practices, we can abstain from giving those bloggers attention whether it’s liking their posts, following their accounts, or leaving disparaging comments.

Conversely, if you’re a reader, perhaps seeing this behavior will make you more mindful of how you consume books. Being mindful has become a buzzword lately, but when it comes to consumption, I think it’s necessary to reflect on why you do what you do. If you’re reading to fill a vacuum or to meet a numerical goal, it may be worth wondering why you feel the need to do so. Are you reading because you want to be entertained or learn something or is it because you are in competition with someone or to live up to a perceived standard?


Stay tuned for another post about mindfulness and reading soon.

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5 Favorite Series of 2017

After posting my massive reading spreadsheet, I thought I would pick a few highlights that I thought deserved more attention. Some of the series mentioned were not published this year but were read by me this year. This is my top 5 favorite series that I read in 2017 in no particular order.

Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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Books in the series: A Darker Shade of Magic (#1), A Gathering of Shadows (#2), and A Conjuring of Light (#3)

What it’s about: There are 4 Londons: black, white, grey, and red. While red is rich in magic and luxury, grey falls into anarchy and ruin, white remains blissfully magic free, and black… no one has set foot in black London for centuries. Kell is one of the only ones who can traverse these worlds to keep diplomatic peace and do a little trading of magical good on the side. These worlds remain in a delicate harmony until Kell accidentally unleashes black magic.

Why you should read it: 4 Londons with mad King George III in the background, a pirate-aspiring woman thief, a foppish yet strong prince, magic galore, and so much more. What really drew me in was the dynamic between the four worlds and the characters in them. You root for everyone, even the villains/antiheroes, and at times, you aren’t sure who is a hero and who is a villain. It has a ton of action, but that never comes at the expense of world-building or character. The amount of texture in this book immediately made it a highlight for me.

The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

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Books in the series: The Bear and the Nightingale (#1), The Girl in the Tower (#2), The Winter of the Witch (#3 – forthcoming 2018)

What it’s about: Vasilia lives in the Russian wilderness with her family, honoring the old ways and gods of the hearth and home and of course, the winter king. That is, until a new priest comes to the village. Full of fire and fervor, he threatens to tip the balance of nature and all the creatures that stand behind it. Only Vasilia, who can see the spirits of the old world, can save Russia from destruction, but first, the big-eyed witch must save herself.

Why you should read it: Russian folklore, a young girl pretending to be a boy, a demon fighting his humanity, a talking horse, and lush atmosphere. I loved the first book so much that I screeched when I was approved to get an ARC of book two. The world is realistic and rich, combining fantasy with history seamlessly without sanitizing the past. There were times I held my breath from the tension.

Hexworld by Jordan L. Hawk

Books in the series: “The 13th Hex” (#0), Hexbreaker (#1), Hexmaker (#2), Hexslayer (#3), “Wild Wild Hex” (#3.5)

What it’s about: A magical version of Edwardian NYC where there are humans, witches, and familiars. Familiars can transform into animals but are treated as second class citizens and often abused by witches who can bond with them and use their power to create hexes. A police force in NYC seeks to stop magical crimes and protect familiars and humans alike.

Why you should read it: Foxy thieves, sassy crows, Irish cops who take no shit, Teddy Roosevelt (who I really wish had a bull moose familiar), an intriguing magical system, PoC representation, and a great use of NYC landmarks. The romances are so damn sweet. Not in a corny, saccharine way, but in a way that you absolutely love the characters and want them to do well and become better people. Each story focuses on a new couple, so you get a wide range of stories and personalities while still seeing your favorites in the background.

Sins of the Cities by K. J. Charles

Books in the series: An Unseen Attraction (#1), An Unnatural Vice (#2), and An Unsuitable Heir (#3)

What it’s about: A murdered drunken clergy men sets of a chain reaction of death, blackmail, and family secrets that threatens to destroy the Talleyfer family and those in their orbit.

Why you should read it: A very well done mystery that runs through all three books, diverse representation that includes characters of color, varying sexualities, a character with autism (also well done), a character struggling with gender identity, and differently abled characters. I want to gush over the first book especially because Clem and Rowley are just so sweet, and a well-written character with autism is hard to find. K. J. Charles pays wonderful attention to detail in terms of not only the setting and time period but the characters different issues.

The Captive Prince Trilogy by C. S. Pacat

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Books in the series: Captive Prince (#1), Prince’s Gambit (#2), Kings Rising (#3) and several short stories that aren’t necessary but are worth reading if you like the series

What it’s about: Damen is the heir to Akielos, but when his father dies, his half-brother kidnaps him and sends him to their rival power, Vere, as a bed slave. Stripped of his identity in enemy territory, Damen must navigate the complex world of Vere’s royal court and its equally complex heir Laurent. Laurent is more than his cold exterior, he’s calculating, strong and at the mercy of his uncle, the Regent. Together Damen and Laurent must find a way to win back their kingdoms.

Why you should read it: court intrigue, a slow burn romance, an incredibly interesting story structure (so many parallels you don’t notice until later), complex characters, an intricately woven plot, and an interesting world. There are some trigger warnings for this story, mostly involving bed slaves, but this is set in an Ancient Greek style world, so I felt it should be expected when reading it. The story is so much more than sex or sensuality. Court intrigue and war sit at the heart of it, which isn’t my usual style of story, but Damen and Laurent balance the story so well. Ruthless ambition meets bravery while both exhibit and incredibly amount of heart and humanity.


Well, I hope this post introduced you to a few new series you might check out. In my next post, I’ll highlight a few of the books I loved in 2017.

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2017 Reading Recap

I’m back! Sorry for going AWOL after the panic attack post, but life has been crazy and I have been detoxing from life by reading a shit-ton of books and playing a wonderful farming computer game called Stardew Valley. If you’re curious, a shit-ton comes to approximately 120 works read in a year.

You heard me (saw me, whatever). I read 120 works this year, which is up from 53 works in 2016. You may have noticed I used “works” instead of books. The reason being is that this list includes mostly books in the traditional sense but also a handful of short stories and quite a few graphic novels. I can already picture someone tutting my love of graphic novels and manga and subtracting them from my year-end total.

They have a narrative embedded in a static medium, so they count.

More than anything, I wish I could gather all the physical books I read this year and take a picture of them stacked into the great wall of literature, but I can’t bring myself to make that kind of mess or see their number and feel like the book hoarder I know I am. Instead, I’m going to post a picture of my spreadsheet. Yup, I have a spreadsheet of what I read called my Reading Log.

I’m the kind of person who likes to keep track of everything I do, so this list not only appears in Excel but also on Goodreads and in my bullet journal (also color-coded). Here it is:

2017 book log 12017 book log 22017 book log 32017 book log 42017 book log 5

So what do I plan to do with this large spreadsheet? Extract data.

I love data. Don’t let the author and English teacher thing fool you. Being an English major means going deep into analysis and picking apart my spreadsheet is just another way to do that.

In 2017, I read 120 works, 27,282 pages, and their average x/5 rating was a 4.16. Honestly, I’m a fairly easy grader when it comes to books. 5 means it hit the spot and was fantastic. 4 means I enjoyed it. 3, meh but it wasn’t awful. 2 means there was some huffing, eye-rolling, or issues that annoyed me. 1 means that the editing was so terrible that I was mentally editing as I read it OR it was highly offensive and I feel the need to eviscerate it. Most things I read are a 4 because I read for enjoyment.

Before I talk about the sex of the authors, I want to make a few points. I read a lot of series, so many of these authors are the same person counted several times. If an author is trans, I consider them to be the gender they prefer, so you won’t see transgender as a listing. 28 works were by authors were male (Lemony Snicket accounts for 10 of these male authors, so take that into consideration), 89 were by females (Jordan L. Hawk makes up 16 and K. J. Charles 15), 3 were by an unknown (all the same person), 1 was written by a nonbinary person. Someone out there (who I have given Dudley Dusley’s voice) has yelled out “But that’s 121, not 120!” I know. One book (Saga) has two authors, one male and one female. Of those 28 male authors, there were 8 unique authors, and there were 29 unique female authors of the 89.

What I find interesting is that many studies have found that people in general tend to read a lot more male authors than female authors. I have never found that to be the case with my reading. I don’t do it purposely; I just find that I’m drawn more to female authors and enjoy their work more. A lot of it is the more sympathetic or emotional quality of female writing versus male writing. It’s hard to explain but there’s a different quality to it in general. This also probably happens because the genres I really like tend to be female-dominated (historical and paranormal fantasy).

In terms of format, I’ve read 38 ebooks, 33 graphic novels, 22 hardcovers, and 27 paperbacks, or to say it differently, I read 33 graphic novels and 80 traditional books (I’ll explain why it isn’t 87 below). I count graphic novel as its own format because it’s different than a traditional paperback. Plus, just staring at the titles, it’s hard to tell what’s a graphic novel versus a novel. A few years ago, I was one of those book snobs. “Oh, I only read physical books.” Like that means anything. Then, I received a Kindle for Christmas and found an author I loved who only published in ebook form (the whim of a publisher, not her own), so I caved and I’ve loved my ereader ever since. Books tend to be cheaper, I can read in the car or before class or on the sly at my office job on my phone. What surprised me is how many hardcovers I read. I’m not a fan of lugging around heavy hardcovers in my bag, but since I’ve been buying more recent releases, it’s my only other option besides ebook.

I also read 7 short stories, which are included in the 120 and brings “traditional books” to 87. These are, for the most part, stories connected to larger works or series. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where a short story becomes a novella. For the purposes of this post, I decided that anything under 50 pages is a short story and anything over it is a novella/novel.

This next section scares me a little bit because it’s a lot and it looks unruly in my notes. I’ve separated what I read by genre, but I want to be clear that these are what I have decided to call them, not necessarily what their publishers would call them. There was no hard and fast criteria for the genre categories.

32 paranormal fantasy
18 fantasy
16 mystery
11 contemporary
9 historical fantasy
8 historical fiction
5 on writing (nonfiction)
4 urban fantasy
3 science fiction
2 afrofuturism
2 history (nonfiction)
2 YA romance
2 historical mystery
2 nonfiction
1 contemporary fantasy
1 steampunk
1 medieval poetry
1 historical romance

As you can see, I really enjoy paranormal fantasy and fantasy in general along with historical fiction (in various forms). A lot of these categories overlap with each other, and certain categories, like fantasy, became a catch-all for books that I couldn’t pinpoint but often tread the line between real cultures and fantastical new histories.

46 of those stories had LGBT characters as the leads. That means, over a third of the works I read this year had non-straight main characters. I think that is kind of amazing considering how certain groups would like to downplay the role of LGBT people in the world. I refer to myself as queer, so I probably gravitate toward stories and characters I can relate to. Within the list, there are also quite a few books with LGBT characters, but they aren’t the main character(s) and weren’t counted. It’s nice to see that the role of LGBT characters is growing past their past token or comedic or tragic status.

If I could, I would love to see what authors I read the most this year or analyze how long it took me to read a book on average based on genre or length, but I can at least tell you that on average I finished a book every 3.041 days. That’s crazy. It still blows my mind that I’ve read that much. Resisting is stressful, the news stresses me out, and my outlet this year has been reading.

Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about some highlights from 2017’s reading along with my bullet journal for 2018 and the goals I’m hoping to accomplish in the coming year, especially regarding reading and writing.

Happy New Year everyone! What did you read and enjoy in 2017?

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An 8.5

Today, I had an awesome day. Today, I worked at the Career Carnival at one of the universities I teach at, representing the creative writing side of our English program and as an author. I loved every minute of talking to students about something we both love. What surprised me were how many non-English majors came to me and said that they love to write and are interested in taking a creative writing class. Writing helps them decompress, especially since most of the majors were STEM related. I completely understood, coming from a biology background initially.

Today, I had an anxiety attack that had nothing to do with my old fear of public speaking and crowds. The Career Carnival went great and I even got to chat with one of my favorite professors afterwards, but everything went to hell at home over something really stupid.

My dog had loose poop.

Yup, that’s it. That’s the thing that sent me careening over the edge into a 8.5 out of 10 panic attack.

From the moment I realized I would have to hose him down and that his could happen again, my body has been on high alert. My heartbeat is so obvious that I’m trying hard not to fixate on it which only causes more palpitations and more panic because it feels like it could stop at any moment. I’ve been still the whole evening, but no one seems to notice. I have my laptop open next to me with Scrivener open to the story I’m working on and Facebook, but I can’t bear to put it in my lap.

What if he has to go outside and in the time it takes to set it aside, he has an accident?

So I sit there playing on my phone when I could be reading The House of Many Ways, which I want to finish by tomorrow night. I text my boyfriend about my anxiety level. Somehow seeing it in numbers and words makes it easier to set aside for a moment.

8.5

An hour and a half later, it’s a 7.5. At least it’s an improvement.

It’s finally settling in at a solid 6 where it now sits like a lump in my throat. Even as I write, I can feel it ebbing and flowing like breath, a heavy helter skelter shroud engulfing me until I fear I will suffocate. As I sit staring at my phone, I picture myself hiccup sobbing. That’s where I’d be if it hit a 10/10, and I’m scared of sliding past the point of reason.

Mostly, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that dog shit is what has sent me over the edge after a really good day. I’m frustrated that I will be on the edge of sleep all night for fear that he will need to go out. I’m frustrated that people in my house tell me not to obsess or fixate as if I can shut it off or that I voluntarily surrender myself to sudden panic.

More than anything, I want to feel like this evening wasn’t a total waste, so I’m writing this post in hopes that someone might read it and understand that all-consuming visceral panic. Or maybe someone who has been in the grips of it will feel a little less alone.

Writing about panic and anxiety can be cathartic in my fiction, but not today, not in this. Today it just feels like I’m trying to swim to the surface on a dwindling breath.

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Author Q&A about Dead Magic

So I was tagged on Tumblr by fellow author, Caitlin E. Jones, to do an author Q&A. I liked it so much that I decided to post it here as well.

What is your new book about?

My current WIP is called Dead Magic, which is the fourth book in my historical-fantasy series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Dead Magic is about Emmeline and Immanuel’s lives six months after escaping Lord Rose’s clutches. Both are struggling to find where they belong and establish a new life. Soon, their lives are complicated by magic books, a device that can track souls called a vivalabe, and corpses coming back to life. If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.

What or who inspired it?

The Victorian era was a huge inspiration behind Dead Magic. It’s a very weird time due to the combination of superstition, science, and pseudoscience. At the time, Spiritualism (a Christianity-based religion that involved talking to the dead) grew in popularity during the Victorian era, and it inspired Emmeline’s character. She’s a Spiritualist medium who works at the Spiritualist Society but is often overlooked in favor of the theatrical frauds. Immanuel is the opposite side of society. He’s an evolutionist with a specialty in animal anatomy. Together they form a duality between life and death.

What was the biggest challenge while writing it?

Keeping track of the story lines and balancing where to switch between Immanuel and Emmeline. They are equally important characters, so I don’t want either of them to have more screen time than the other. The book also has several plot lines going at once, which can be hard to keep track of off the top of my head. I made a doc to keep as an outline of what I’ve written, but I tend to forget to update it. My procrastination regarding doing things that help me are a pretty big challenge by itself.

What do you want to achieve with this book?

That I’ll create a book that I’m proud of and that I would enjoy to read. All of my books were created because I wanted to read something that didn’t exist. If I enjoy it, hopefully others will too.

What do you hope for this book?

That someone besides me will enjoy it. I’m also hoping that through Immanuel’s struggles, people with PTSD and depression will see themselves. Mostly, I hope that it helps build my audience and bring new people into the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe.

Are there any parts that have special personal significance to you?

There’s a scene where Immanuel has an emotional breakdown following an attempt on his life. That scene was taken from real life and my experiences watching the ones I love suffer with depression. It’s a scene where I play Adam, Immanuel’s lover, watching his companion spiral into a breakdown while he can do nothing to stop it. It’s the most helpless position to be in–wanting so badly to help but knowing you can do nothing but support them until it passes for a time.

Do you have a favorite character or one you really enjoyed writing?

Immanuel is probably my favorite character out of all of my children (don’t tell the others). He’s very close to me in terms of my personality, and it’s his quiet intensity that I love. He feels so deeply compared to other characters, and it allows me to explore trauma, injustice, and love in ways that I couldn’t with anyone else.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

Do binaries exist in good and evil or life and death?, different kinds of love, facing darkness, recovery.

What made you set it in__________?

I chose the 1890s because what I wanted to include in my first book fit within that decade. A lot of the anachronistic steampunk elements didn’t exist yet, but it was the closet time period for what I wanted. The perks of the 1890s is the freedom. It was the Naughty Nineties and things could have changed for the better. It’s a diversion point I want to explore. What if Oscar Wilde hadn’t been sent to jail? What if England’s colonies gained steam technology and electricity early?

Did the title come instantly, or did you labour over it?

I hate making titles. It’s one of my least favorite parts of writing, but for Dead Magic, the title came while I was writing chapter one. I had hoped for an early title because I was so tired of calling it IMD #4. How boring. Dead Magic was short, to the point, and a bit mysterious, so it’s stuck.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?

My ideal readers are people who like period dramas but also enjoy Doctor Who. You have to love history and fantasy to enjoy my work because the two intermingle in most stories. Also, if you’re into Penny Dreadful or would like it if there was with less sex and violence, then my books are probably your thing. Dark Victorian fantasies is my flavor of choice.

Do you have a special spot for writing at home?

Usually I just sit on the couch and write. I like to sit folded up like a pretzel, so a desk doesn’t work too well unless I’m forcing myself to write something.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?

Neither. I like background noise, but usually I have on rain sounds or the tv on something I won’t find too interesting. I need noise, but music sometimes distracts me to the point that I find myself singing instead of writing.

When did you start writing?

I can remember pecking sentences on my nanny’s electric typewriter about puppies and kittens going on adventures. I started trying to write actual stories when I was nine or ten and never stopped.

Did you always want to become an author?

Oh, boy. I’ve had a lot of career dreams over the years. My more serious ambitions have been science teacher, doctor, and English professor. The latter allows me to be an author while still having a stable, or at least decent, income. I absolutely loved medicine, and while I was working on my BA in biology, I loved my classes but felt my mind constantly being drawn back to literature. The more lucrative but soul-draining career in medicine went out the window and was replaced with literature and writing in my junior year of college.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?

I was the oldest of my cousins and was an only child, so I came out as a miniature adult. My childhood was mostly spent hanging out with my grandma, my dogs, reading books before bed with my mom, and watching a lot of Disney movies. Strangely, I had fascinations with dinosaurs, mummies, and Abbott and Costello. As I grew up, I started getting into Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, which led to my love of the Victorian era.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?

The farthest thing I’ve done from writing is working as a customer service temp, which I’ve done on and off for about seven years now. I’ve also worked as a writing tutor at two different universities and a graduate assistant while I was getting my MFA. In the fall, I’ll be teaching college freshman writing.

Describe yourself in three words.

Academic, quiet, dog-person.

What Sign are you and are you typical of it?

Cancer, and not really. They always seem to be portrayed as emotional. I much prefer my MTBI, which is an INTJ. It’s much closer to my personality.

What three things do you dislike?

Prejudice, ignorance, and sauerkraut.

What three things do you like?

Books with great stories and characters, dogs, and anything related to stationary. I pretty much hoard books and stationary. I’d have even more dogs, but good dog food is hella expensive.

Do you have a family and partner, or are you single?

My boyfriend and I have been together for eleven years (as of next week). He’s my best friend and an artist as well. I don’t have any kids and don’t plan to have any in the future. That’s just not my thing.

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Graduation

As of last Wednesday, I have officially graduated from graduate school with my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing.

It seems strange to say that I’m done with school since I’ve been in it one way or another for nearly 20 years. I still may go back for a MA in literature, but for now, I’m done.

It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel like in the fall I should be ordering texts for class and preparing my backpack with supplies.

I guess I’ll be doing much of the same thing because in the fall I’ll be an adjunct professor at two universities, teaching freshman writing. An adjunct professor is basically a part-time professor who teaches the underclassmen. An entry level professor. It’s the bottom of ladder, but at least I’m on a rung. I’ll be one step closer to becoming a full-time English professor. It may take years to get there, but I’m willing to stick it out.

For most of my life, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I went from wanting to be an archaeologist to a doctor to an English professor. What I really want to be is a writer, but I think I can balance that with working as a professor. I’ll be teaching students about writing and literature while actively engaging in that community. I’ve seen the publishing industry change over the last five years, and I’ve been self-publishing for the last two. I’m someone who loves reading and writing, and I hope I can impart that to my future students. My life was changed drastically by the influence of a few key professors, and maybe one day, I’ll be that professor for someone.

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