books & reading

Fall Into Reading 2008: The End

The calendar tells us that fall is over (looking out the window at snow falling onto an already ridiculously deep bed of snow, with no plans of stopping soon – that also tells me fall is over, but you know, details shmetails). That means that the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Kat @ Callapidder Days is also over. How’d you do with your reading lists? I’d say I did not bad – I didn’t finish all of the books on my list, but I did read OTHER books that weren’t on my list (which is silly, because I could have edited the list to include them, but I didn’t because I like to be overly difficult to myself). Anyway, here’s the list I wrote up in September:

So I read three of the books, attempted but didn’t finish two and haven’t gotten to three others yet. But like I said earlier, I did read other books during the fall – here are the non-challenege books that I read when I could have been reading challenge books:

  • The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce – Finished October 30, 2008 – SO good. Clearly, since I again devoured this book. I’m really looking forward to reading the last in this quartet and considering reading a LOT of her other works now. But you know, get in line.
  • Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – Finished November 26, 2008 – This book was an incredible experience – Picoult is such a gifted writer, I couldn’t help but be in awe of her and loved the intricacies of this story – each piece woven into the next. Brilliant.
  • Death: A Life by George Pendle – Finished December 4, 2008 – While I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it – it was funny and well written and gave a very interesting perspective of life and death and all that other stuff in between.
  • Boomtown by Nowen N. Particular – Finished December 13, 2008 – This story had the potential to be amazing – so many genius anecdotes and tales – but it fell flat and made it very hard to want to continue reading.

And right now I’m reading The Mysterious Benedict Society – which I might have finished had I given into my urge to stay up late last night reading until I passed out – unfortunately I’m pregnant and sleep was inevitable and probably necessary. So that’s an extra four, almost five books on top of the three that I finished for the challenge – so that’s not terrible, right?

Of the books that I read for the challenge, I think Rumors by Anna Godberson was probably my favorite – I loved the first book and the second was possibly even better, although the ending seemed horribly unfair and I kind of wanted to kick things, still I’m looking forward to the next book, Envy, which is due to come out in January I believe. My least favorite was a Jane Eyre, obviously as I didn’t finish it – I know some people love this book, I’m still not sure why. I thought it was awful and depressing and ridiculous to boot.

I think it’s interesting that I read more non-challenge books than the challenge ones – I think my brain doesn’t like reading lists – like it almost feels like homework, because these were books I CHOSE and I still seemed to abandon them in favor of spontaneous reading. I’m not sure what this says – I still like the idea of keeping a running tab of books to read, I have several methods of doing that already, especially with, but I guess for me, this was one step too far in the planning route?

I am still thinking of joining the Spring Reading Challenge, if only to see if lightning strikes twice, you know? I’ll certainly still be reading – that’s for sure! Perhaps if the goal were simply to read x number of books I’d have done better – I did read 7 books this fall which is fairly impressive, don’t you think?

So that’s all folks – hello Winter, good bye Fall Into Reading 2008.

dieting & exercise

Fine by ’09: Seven Weeks To Go!

So how many weeks now have I been recording, “Yup gained back the pound I lost last week,” and then vowed to do better. I think the reason I’ve been failing so miserably is because I refuse to accept a few certainties in my life. The main thing being I suck at consistency and I don’t do diets. And sedentary is a permanent state of being in my life. I need to get organized.

Jen @ Daily Mish Mash is giving away medals for working out this week and you know I sooooo want one of these beauties:

So in addition to working my tail off to get one of these medals, what are my plans in general?

  • Work Out as often as possible, maybe not the 20 minutes per workout that Jen is asking for but something!!! Today I did 10 minutes of Dance Off The Inches @ Netflix’s Instant Watch website. It was corny as all get up and I made lots of snarky comments to myself but considering I had to stop at 10 minutes for fear of dying, it was obviously a workout. If only I were coordinated… Last night I took a little walk with the dh which to be honest I much prefer – maybe I should make that a nightly thing again?
  • I’m going to start logging the foods I eat here – this is the cornerstone of my husband’s diet which, unlike mine, is working. While he gets to tighten the notch on his belt, I shove food into my gaping maw without taking the time to ask “Hmmm what am I doing wrong?” I tease him about his diet but he tells me, “I’m not on a diet, Jen, I can eat anything I want – as long as I stick to my daily calorie intake.” Or whatever. Damn him and his sensibilities. I created a new account (yeah I showed him the damned website a year or two ago and then abandoned it and couldn’t remember my user name or anything) and so far today I’ve had 930 calories and the things I’ve had so far might as well be called “the regulars” so now I know that between lunch and bedtime I have about 800 calories to play with – 500 of which will at least be eaten at dinner. That leaves me 300 calories of wiggle room – I wonder how much my daily hot chocolate, potato chips, soda, cookies & then my indulgences add up? I’m guessing it’s more than 300. So I’m not going to do anything for a day or two except log the calories and submit myself to the awful slap in the face of, “Jen you’re a glutton,” and then I’ll start making the sacrifices where I need to. ::grumble grumble::
  • Stick with the water – when I remember, this is the area I excel in. I need to remember to log it more, which I’m hoping the calorie count website will help with. I’ll be there anyway, you know?

How are you’re diets going? Any of you actually kicking it into high gear yet? Losing weight? Come brag and tell me I’m fat so I’ll stick to mine. I am really hoping that the logging of the calories will help, especially since dh is doing it, too. That’s f*ing teamwork, right?

books & reading

Novel Update & Words Of Encouragement From The Professionals

My word count right now is 10,021 and I’m feeling a mixture between proud, because I’m not sure I’ve ever done this well with a NaNoWriMo as far as consistency, and concern that my novel is complete utter crud. I mean I like bits and pieces, but as a whole, it’s probably terrible. But I guess that’s in some ways the thing with NaNoWriMo – the goal is to simply get yourself writing and edit later. Which, as a former newspaper editor, is kind of painful for me. But I’m jumping around and letting loose a bit and it’s starting to get fun. I’m anxious to see where this story takes me.

Like most of you, I’m sure, I’m getting these emails from famous authors from the NaNoWriMo peeps chock full of information and quotes. The first two have been from Jonathan Stroud and Phillip Pullman, both authors that I think are pretty awesome. I read the entire His Dark Materials trilogy and consider Pullman a sort of literary god. I started reading Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy a year back and never finished but not for lack of quality so much as time and a huge pile of reading I had to do at the time for other things. Somehow I never found my way back, but I know I will be eventually because it was good stuff. Anyway, that’s hardly the point. I really just wanted to post some quotes from those two emails for anyone looking for a bit of inspiration and for myself for posterity’s sake, unless I’m using the phrase wrong. And then it’s for something else entirely. So yeah…

Quotes from Philip Pullman on NaNoWriMo:

…[T]he first thing you need to remember is that a long journey can’t be treated like a sprint. Take your time…

…One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a sh ip when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track … all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you’d just kept going! …

…The question authors get asked more than any other is “Where do you get your ideas from?” And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn’t arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.” That’s just another way of emphasising the importance of regular work…

…When I hit page 70 with my very first novel, I thought: I’m never going to finish this. I’ll never make it. But then stubbornness set in, and I thought: well, if I reach page 100, that’ll be something. If I get there, I reckon I can make it to the end, wherever that is. And 100 is only 30 pages away, and if I write 3 pages every day, I can get there in ten days … why don’t I just try to do that? So I did. It was a terrible novel, but I finished it…

…Every novelist I know—every novelist I’ve ever heard of—is, or was, a passionate reader. I don’t doubt that someone with determination and energy, but who didn’t read for pleasure, who only read for information, could actually write a whole novel if they set their mind to it and followed a few rules and guidelines; but would it be worth reading?…

…On the other hand, if you do love reading, if you cannot imagine going on a journey without a book in your pocket or your bag, if you fret and fidget and become uncomfortable if you’re kept away from your reading for too long, if your worst nightmare is to be marooned on a desert island without a book—then take heart: there are plenty of us like you. And if you tell a story that really engages you, we are all potential readers…

Quotes from Jonathan Stroud on NaNoWriMo:

You could write a novel about the act of writing a novel. It’s a heroic act. (Or so I tell myself as I sit here in my garret study, chewing my nails, scratching my nose and staring blankly at my screen. That’s what this is, I say grimly: a heroic act.) Why is it so heroic? Because it fits the mythic pattern of all great legendary heroes’ lives. It’s the story of a mighty quest accepted, of a long journey undertaken, of insuperable obstacles overcome and finally—in your case after 30 painful days—of lasting triumph won…

…At the beginning there’s a kind of honeymoon period, where I’m pretty excited by the idea in my head, and the possibilities it evokes. Sure there are a zillion details to be worked out later, and plenty of things that don’t yet mesh, but that’s ok—we’ve lots of time. I write the odd fragment and chuckle over the occasional piquant joke. I do a bit of research, visit museums wearing black roll-neck sweaters, scribble ideas down on napkins in coffee houses. It’s a pleasant calm before the storm…

…Then things darken a little. Time is pressing. I want to get to grips with the novel, but I haven’t a clue how. This is the ‘phony war’ period. I now apply myself seriously to work, but the trouble is that it doesn’t hold together. Scenes start promisingly but peter into nothing. Main characters turn out to have all the zest of a cardboard box abandoned in the rain. Dialogue is lousy. Description descends into wall-to-wall cliché. No fragment lasts more than two or three pages before being printed off and tossed aside. And still the real writing hasn’t begun….

…The heroic quest deteriorates into a dog chasing its tail…

…That’s why a deadline—like the one you’re working to—is such a good idea…

…I did exactly the same thing you’re doing this November, and set myself a strict schedule of pages per week to get the first draft done. In my case this worked out at about 100 pages per month for 3-4 months. Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages….

…This is just a first draft, after all. It doesn’t have to be a perfect thing. I once met an author who claimed only to write when actively inspired. She was a fine and venerated writer, so I didn’t let my jaw loll open too widely in her presence, but I didn’t really buy her claim, and I still don’t buy it now. If ‘inspiration’ is when the words just flow out, each one falling correctly on the page, I’ve been inspired precisely once in ten years. All the rest of the time, as I’ve been piecing together my seven novels, it’s been a more or less painful effort. You write, you complete a draft in the time you’ve got, you take a rest. Then—later, when you’ve recovered a little—you reread and revise. And so it goes. And little by little the thing that started off as a heap of fragments, a twist of ideas trapped inside your head, begins to take on its own shape and identity, and becomes a living entity, separate from yourself….

…So what does my advice boil down to? Sweat blood, churn out the pages, ignore the doldrums, savour the moments when the words catch fire. Good luck with your novels. Those old legendary heroes may not have sat around like us drinking cold coffee and tapping steadily at their keypads, but for them—and for us—it’s the journey that’s the thing. That’s where the fun is.

How are your novels coming, fello NaNoWriMo-ers?