So it’s time for a mid-month check-in, reading-wise. While I *have* finished a couple things (Dawn Treader and Clockwork Angel (finally)), I haven’t been putting in the time I so desperately need to in order to get enough down the intellectual gullet. I’ve actually gotten my whole reading list down to six (WOW), but I’m planning on adding some fiction back in, shortly, as it’s been woefully underrepresented this year so far. I’m also going to be plowing through some research books for the upcoming drafting of FROSTHAVEN – Draft 2, starting hopefully in September.

(Ok, so I’m sitting here in my kitchen listening to the thunderstorms rolling by overhead, and I swear one just made the kind of alien-echo sound you hear in something like War of the Worlds, you know? That kind of fingernails-on-cosmic-chalkboard jitter? BUH. Creeeeeeps.)

Notes:

Damn Fine Story – Chipping away at this one. There’s a lot to think about here, though Wendig’s classic style does help alleviate some of what might otherwise be a teeny bit…dry? Not quite sure why it hasn’t totally captured me yet, but I am picking up useful things to consider as I work.

The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony – Need to get back into the 2-page-a-day plan, like I mentioned before. I keep meeeeeaning to, and I love it when I do that, it’s just a matter of discipline. Need to step it back up. It could also probably be a great before-bed read, actually.

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – Another “just need to commit” book. The stories really are fantastic, I just find that with its large size, it’s not the book I automatically pick up for a bit of casual reading throughout the day (it’s too big to cumbersome around with me, too). But a little concentrated effort would go a long way, and I really have enjoyed the stories I’ve read so far. I’ll have to think of some kind of plan to get more of this finished. Could also be a before-bed read, though with the horror stories…eeeeeh…I’ll have to think about it.

Making Your Own Days – Haven’t read much of this one recently, but I do want to pick it up again, because it’s just so damned interesting. Kind of a head-wringer like TMoC&H, which means I don’t want to rush it, but I do want to dig into it more.

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – Bah, I really need to get through this one. I probably need to make this my before-bed reading for a while, because, seriously, it shouldn’t take more than a week with a little concerted effort and it’s been on this list for ages.

Going Clear – This is one of the books I picked up from the ever-trusty Thriftbooks.com to give me some cult knowledge for moving forward with the book’s next reincarnation in Draft Two. And so far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s fascinating, and really has me thinking about the differences between a con-man and a cult leader (given that in the book, both are featured as antagonists to each other), and I’m starting to think that the main difference is that a con-man knows he’s a con-man and doesn’t overly buy into himself, whereas a cult leader seems perhaps at first to know, but later comes to truly believe what they’re selling… That could be wrong, but right now, that’s the only thing holding water. BUT, I’ve got another cult book coming in the mail (Seductive Poison about the Jamestown Heaven’s Gate cult), and I’ve got two other books (The Confidence Game and Catch Me If You Can) to inform more of the trickster/con-artist side, so one of those will probably always be on this list.

I’m also looking at a number of graphic novels I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but we’ll see if that happens. There are also a couple novels on my bookshelf that have survived several culls of books that I really, seriously need to read if I’m going to justify letting them take up space on my shelves… CHOICES, CHOICES, but at least my list is down a bit!

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Well. This was a better month for reading, if I do say so myself. I think the only change between June and previous months was that I started reading before bed again, and that has helped immensely in making progress on a few books I had stalled out on. At the end of the month, I’ve wrapped up five books, two of them children’s chapter books I was reading to Bug, and three that have been lounging on my “to-read” list for a while. (*As of this writing, I’ve still got the rest of the week in June, so I miiiiiiight be able to finish Bored & Brilliant, too, which just needs a bit more focus to be done and off the list.*)

Five books is right where I want to be month-to-month, so I’m thrilled. Now just to keep it going! I’ve got

Notes:

Making Your Own Days – I just started reading this one (I’ve literally finished the preface and first chapter) a couple days ago, but already I really like it. I have very little poetry training (at all, unless you count a little via osmosis while reading Dahlgren), and already it’s been a welcome glimpse into the world of poetics in an easily accessible, yet enchanting, way. This one was recommended to me by Peter M. Ball.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – My favorite of the Narnia chronicles, at least as I remember it, we started this one last night before bed. Bug is super into Narnia at the moment, so it’s been fun revisiting the series as an adult. I expect this one will be wrapped up by the end of the month (probably even half-way through, since we read about a chapter a night).

Damn Fine Story – I’ve been meaning to get back to this one, but Worlds of Wonder kind of took over my mental slot for “writing books.” Still, I am looking forward to digging into this one, and if it’s anything like Wendig’s other writing-related texts, it won’t be long until I’m absorbed and flying through it.

The Year’s Best DF & Horror 2014 – Just need to make some time for this one. I’m actively writing more short fiction now, and I need (NEEEEEEED) to digest more of it on a regular basis. May make this my before bed reading, though eeeeeeee, horror before bed is not always a good combination for me…

Bored and Brilliant – This one may actually be done in a couple days, because I’ve got less than half left, and I’ve been focusing on it a lot lately, so give me a few days…

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – Haven’t made aaaaaaany progress on this one, even though it’s so short. I just need to make it a focus book, because it does have a lot of interesting thoughts in it.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – Just cruising along on this one. Got out of the habit of my two-page-a-day goal, which was encouraging progress without losing that dreamy contemplativeness it stirs up, which I so enjoy. Need to get back to the 2/day, and this one will move along nicely.

Clockwork Angel – This one’s really just a matter of a before-bed read. I made some great progress on it in June, but then got sidetracked by other reading. It’s time to get back to it. Maybe I’m just too old or cynical or something, but this one hasn’t quite done it for me. It’s fine, writing-wise, but really it comes down to feeling the author’s puppet-strings a liiiiiittle too obviously. And the “wide-eyed heroine in the throws of will-he/won’t-he?!” thing is getting a bit annoying, but that’s probably just me. I imagine as a teenager I would have really loved this book…maybe…

I need to read more fiction this month, though. And I’ve been thirsting for a classic, since it’s been a while. So something of that nature may pop up on my reading list next month. That, and more graphic novels, which I find so interesting…

Keeping it brief today, but wanted to get a check in up!

What am I working on this week?
This week, I really need to finish the rewrite on a short story and get it submitted by Friday. I decided a few weeks ago when I re-engaged the “writing 500 words a day” goal that another goal I want to shoot for is submitting one new story a month. With the amount of writing I’ve gotten done in the past two weeks, that honestly should be quite do-able, even while working on a few longer-form novel projects in various stages.

What’s inspiring me this week?
Just finished One Breath which ended on a strong note (which is the best, most satisfying feeling). The physiology of pushing the human body to the max of its abilities is something I find completely enthralling (from the safety and comfort of my armchair, thank you).

Also, on a less exciting–well, thrilling, but in a bad way–note, I’ve finally gotten a backup hard drive (we’ve had one, but it’s formatted wrong for my mac, which is why I keep *thinking* I have one, but don’t…) because my computer was acting a bit funky today in a freaky weird, why the hell is it doing that, kind of way. I’ve been meaning to go through all our pictures and videos at some point and make some photobooks via Shutterfly so we’ll actually *look* at the pictures, but I keep putting it off as more urgent things come up. But the fluttering weirdness has made me realize that while I’ve got a somewhat cobbled-together backup system for writing (including some cloud backup), I haven’t made much progress on backing up the photos and videos. So *that’s* kind of my focus this week: get the photos backed up and saved, and off my computer. Next month, I’m hoping I’ll have time to compile a three-years-length photo book with all our desperately “we cannot lose these” photos in it, and from there on, I want to create a system for uploading, cataloging, and deleting unwanted photos on a monthly basis to keep it from getting out of hand. Data hoarding! BAH!

What action do I need to take?
I’ve done great on reading and writing these past two weeks, but what I reeeeally need to do is sit my tail down and write an account of our 10th anniversary trip to Montreal (which we took *last* weekend). It was our first trip to Canada, and we had a blast, even just for a single night (we live only about five hours away, yet had never gone–sheesh, how lame is that?), and I don’t want it to fade into the background and be totally forgotten. It’s already bad enough that it’s a week late, but I still remember things pretty clearly, and don’t want to let it get any further out!

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You know what’s super productive? Reading blog posts other writers (far more successful than I) wrote about productive work habits. And cleaning pee off the kitchen floor. To be fair, I have not hit my “golden time” yet, which appears to be right before I read in bed, which is right before sleeping. There are always moments throughout the day when there’s this little lull in the crazy, and I think, “Ah! Maybe I could write, now!” Bug’s in the bath, or he’s quietly reading himself books in the front room, or he’s actually finished eating something and is happily playing with trucks while I finally sit down to eat my own food. I think, “Ah, it’s a quiet moment. Bug’s happily occupied. Now is precisely when I can start upping that word count for the day!”

But I stop myself. Because I’ve learned over the last number of years that those moments are insanely fleeting, or at least, they’re fleeting once I open a word processor of any kind. It’s like the same reflex that occurs at night when the instant I shut off my lamp in my bedroom (with doors closed between, mind), Bug wakes up. I don’t know how he does it, but it must be some sleep-cycle thing–anyway. The instant I open a word processor, it becomes “work” time. I get into the flow. I figure out what I’m doing, where the story’s going, and I’m ready to plunge head-first into it, when it abruptly ends (usually in a frustrated scream or someone wanting “belly” which means sticking his thumb into my bellybutton, or just the usual “what are you doing if you’re not playing with trucks” commentary–which if you have a wee one, you know they will literally never get an answer they consider the end of the conversation.) This is life at home with kids. It’s fantastic in many, many ways, and I wouldn’t trade it (most days), but there are few feelings more frustrating, more castrating, than feeling that energized creativity seeping into you, lighting your mind from within, only to have that moment cut off without warning. For me, at least, it gets very frustrating. So I don’t usually let myself get sucked into that daydream of daytime productivity, to avoid the feelings of–

Well, that. The loss of the brain train. I’m already incredibly distractible, and perpetual questions inevitably derail me when they’ve been repeated and answered several times already. I find it frustrating even when I’m not doing creative work, so now I simply mark that as an invisible line not to cross. Same goes for any kind of drawing or painting, too, for the time being.

(And though I’ve considered the idea of getting up before Bug gets up (an oft suggested solution to writer-parents), but there are two conflicts with this: the first being that I hate mornings, and it takes me forever to wake up and be civil, let alone productive. Unless staring at the wall like a zombie is productive, in which case, MAN, I’d be crazy productive then; the second is that the only reason I’m not already up at 5:30/6am is because Bug crawls in with me, and sleeps lightly enough for an hour or (when I’m lucky) two that I cannot get up without waking him (thus, I’d have to get up around 5 or earlier to scrape out an hour’s worth of grumpy, wall-stare-y work, and it wouldn’t be precisely quiet work because that’s about when the hubby gets up for work anyway tromping back and forth, and then I’d get to deal with cranky Bug at 5:30/6 every morning, which would make us both miserable, and that would inevitably ruin the evening time I might otherwise have, because to get up at or before 5, I’d need to go to bed crazy early, and honestly, I’d rather just stay up late.<–night owl logic, though this article on sleep habits and work productivity I came across a few months ago does have some interesting routine thoughts. If I had to guess, I’m a cross between a wolf and a bear.)

But! Our probation month of “no TV at all” (due to semi-accidental TV smashings a month ago) is about to end, which means at least I’ll be able to get back to letting him stream a show or two in the AMs or PMs while I get a little work done. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the night times for now and wait to absorb the school hours when the fall comes. The trick becomes setting goals that keep me pushing forward and excited, despite odd and unpredictable hours, rather than just throwing my hands up in the air and not working at all. That’s still a balancing act I’m trying to master.

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So, it’s obviously not Sunday, but I need to take a few minutes to check in and make sure I’m actually thinking about what I’m doing this week otherwise it’ll be another week gone in a blur.

Last week, I did pretty well. I did review that one chapter bit and even did some thinking about the next steps that story will take. I *also* (more importantly) re-implimented the age-old plan of writing 500 words a day, no matter what, no matter weekends/weekdays. So far, I’ve stuck to it since last Thursday, so if I can keep it up, I’ll be rocketing towards the rough draft of a new short story by mid/end-of the week, which would be fantastic. But I do need to think about when I’m going to make the time to start (the dreaded) Draft 2, and what that’s going to entail. I know I won’t be writing anything at all this coming weekend due to a short travel stint, but next week may lend itself to some good opportunities.

What am I working on this week?
This week, I’m going to try to finish the started short story draft. If I can get it wrapped up by Wednesday or thereabouts, I’m hoping I’ll have time to start a bit of an edit on it–or at least get it off to my beta readers for a quick review prior to next week.

And if I can come up with a date to sit down and punch out Chapter 1 of Draft 2, that would be stellar, too.

What’s inspiring me this week?
I started listening to Writing Excuses again recently, and somehow through the magic rabbit holes of the internet, found these seriously cool sounding free MOOC (massive online open courses) classes available from University of Iowa’s Writing Program. They’ve got a bunch on fiction and on poetry, and since I know so very little about poetry (much less than I’d like anyway), I started listening through a class yesterday, and am pretty fascinated. I’m not sure how long or how regularly I’ll be able to work through them, but they seem like a cool place to self-educate for the time being.

Also, that article on saturation diving is A.MAZ.ING. (It’s here: The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver). Thank you so much for recommending it, @writing, writing, words words words! It’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for!

I’m also getting sucked into Riverdale again, because it hits that drama button so well, and because the soundtrack is aPOPcolyptic, and I love it. Kind of rings with EmpathyTest or “Acid Rain,” by Lorn or even some of lowcityrain‘s stuff, which my husband introduced me to, and is totally unnervingly fitting to these times.

What action do I need to take?
I did better about reading this past week, so I’m hoping to continue the trend. The key so far seems to be getting to bed early enough to read before sleeping, and even a half-hour can be incredibly fruitful in moving forward on various reading objectives.