Into June, and I gotta say, I need to make some concerted effort to get some books off my reading list. I realized yesterday via Goodreads that I’m currently circulating about ten books, which is two shy of my ABSOLUTE CUT-OFF of a dozen (at that rate, I’m just avoiding reading other books rather than simply swapping books based on mood). I should have more time–in theory–this month, because at the end of last month, Bug gave our beautiful, 1.5 year old 4K TV a mega-wallop and it’s gone to TV heaven where everything is available on streaming and the internet speeds are faster than light. Goodbye, sweet LG. We’ll miss you. *sobs quietly into sleeve*

The upside of this is that my evenings aren’t (as easily) filled by the temptation to watch hours of TV. Has it stopped us from TV binging? No, of course not. We just set up my laptop. But in theory, it should be easier to resist. Or, more realistically, I need to consider that by evening, most nights, I’m simply burned the hell out and don’t feel like thinking at all. That said, I do like reading rather than TV watching in the evenings; the real challenge is that 1) I’m tired, and 2) my husband’s tired-er, so if we sit down to share some reading time, in about 8 minutes, he’s asleep with his neuro textbook flopping onto the floor. I can sometimes read right before bed for an hour or so, if I get to bed earlier, so that’s another option. (Like, by 11pm latest.) That may be the ultimate solution.

On another side, however, I have been reading for about 30-45 minutes a night with Bug, who has just graduated to The Chronicles of Narnia (wee!) and other few-picture books, so we’ve been plowing through all my old childhood favorites, and I’m having a blast with that (and it’s keeping my reading numbers up, given I’ve always meant to go back to those and revisit them as an adult to see how they work their particular magic).

But the list still grows, and I need to start focusing in on the list to cull out some easy things to finish.

 

Notes:

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – Still dragging my heels on this one. Probably about a quarter to a third of the way through, and it’s fascinating, but it’s also so packed with information it’s a bit of a slow read, and it’s overwhelming after a while. Should make a few pages goal per day to make progress.

One Breath – Picked this one off my shelf of Thriftbook finds, and it sits squarely in the armchair-adventurer/biography kick I’ve been on this year. While some of the biographical details (chapters) about Nick Mevoli’s background drag a bit, the chunks about freediving itself are truly amazing and I’m learning a ton I didn’t know about the sport. This one I can probably finish this month, if I give it some time.

Worlds of Wonder – This is actually a very smooth read, and it’s giving me lots of thinks, so I really just need to have it on hand. But while there are a few things here and there that make me twitch a little (as any writing-advice book inevitably has), it’s got some great nuggets that have made me rethink the way I approach various forms of fiction. Can probably finish this one in June, too, if I–you know–give it the time.

Clockwork Angel – I actually made quite a bit of progress on this one in May from reading it right before bed. I’m still not in love with it–it’s okay–but I know it’ll be useful having read it in terms of the tropes I’m finding in dark fantasy YA with clockwork-elements involving the rescue of an older brother. It’s got that classic gothic vibe, but that kind of annoys me in the whole wide-eyed heroine thing. It’s fine. But I need to just press on and finish it. It’s well-written, I’m just feeling a little too aware of the puppet strings attached to the characters.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Just started this one with Bug for our bedtime reading, and are probably over half-way through. Should finish this one in no time and will probably pick up another Narnia book before the month’s out. Really enjoying going back through some of my favorite old classics, and cannot WAIT to get to back to Prydain sometime in the near future.

The Year’s Best DF&H 2014 – Haven’t really touched this one in a while. Will need to just make a concerted effort (maybe next month) to really double down on my short-fiction reading to get back into the headspace to write it.

Bored and Brilliant – This one’s a fine book, but I’m just not digging it right now. It should be easy enough to finish, but the truth is I feel like I’m already unconsciously engaging in a lot of the “spend less time on your phone” techniques, so it hasn’t offered any particularly new insights…yet. But I’m hoping it’ll pick up. Should try to finish this one this month just to get it off the list.

A Rage in Harlem – Plowing through this one–it was a tad bit slower to get started, but now it’s really cranking, and I’m loving it. Again, Himes is just a master of explosive emotion and his details–good grief! They’re brilliant! I mean, you can smell the river, even without his having described it at all, simply because of the few other details he picks to use, and they’re so clean, never overwrought, just–BAM. Instant head-image. Amazing.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – Had some success with that two-pages-a-day plan, so will go back to that this month. It’s such a thick, chewy book, I don’t intend to rush it. I love the thinks it gives me on a day-by-day basis, so I really just want to savor it in small bites. May take a while to finish, but I’m still really enjoying it and learning a TON about Greek mythology I never knew before. Fascinating.

Damn Fine Story – I kinda forgot I’d started this one, but really, once I get started on it, I expect it to blaze through pretty quickly. Will probably finish Worlds of Wonder first, and then pick this one up as my “writing-related” book.

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Just a quick cross-post from Peter M. Ball’s website from earlier. I’ve been super bad at keeping up with these check-ins lately, and could come up with a million excuses, but the primary one is that I simply forget to do it and realize on Wednesday I’ve missed it again. So I’m going to try to keep up on it a bit more.

What am I working on this week?
The last few weeks have been totally unpredictable, with unannounced houseguests, Bug’s b-day party prep, and–oh yes–Bug busting our TV (literally hit it with a small (surprisingly padded, but still hard) hockey stick), so my usual hour of writing in the AM has gone by the wayside for the next few weeks (after that, he’ll be allowed to stream on my phone for that period, but we felt for obvious reasons that a month away from his beloved cartoons was probably appropriate to start learning that “causes-effects” thing about life). So writing time has been a bit undependable lately. That said, I’m still trying to get a little something done at least sporadically as I re-assess what time is available to commandeer. So this week, I’m going to review the beginning of Chapter 2 of a new book rough draft, and maybe add a bit to it, and then start ramping up the energy needed to tackle Chapter 1 of the novel rewrite for last year’s rough draft. Don’t know if I’ll actually get to putting down words on it, but starting to think about a day I could set aside in the evening or on a weekend to write for a big chunk of time.

What’s inspiring me this week?
It’s been all robot and toddler-entertainment round these parts, but we built a fantastic cardboard box maze that took up one whole room and part of another (which Bug lived in for a few days) and all sorts of felt-works (small robots for the kids to take home, and robot costumes with interchangeable buttons–may do a post on this in a week or so once I’ve decompressed!).

I’m also reading One Breath about free-diving records and am learning a ton I did not know about the sport. (For example, the current depth record for free diving (without tanks, single breath-hold) is 702ft (214m)! Most recreational scuba diving doesn’t tend to go deeper than 130ft (One guy did get to 1000 feet with scuba, but decompression going back up took 15 hours, apparently).) It’s fascinating to look at the extremes of human endurance (and insanity, in some cases).

What action do I need to take?
I need, need, NEED to motivate myself to read more. I’ve been reading to Bug at night (we’ve gotten through The Magician’s Nephew, 21 Balloons, and we’re almost done with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and he seems to really be enjoying it, but I need to get back into reading my own current-reading list, too, because I haven’t finished anything in a while. Without the TV, it should be easier, but somehow it’s not, so I need to make a bit more effort, or find other times than late evening to get some pages in.

Hahahaha, how is it already MAY?! Oh man, I’m so behind, or I feel so behind, or I just feel like time started accelerating at a hundred miles an hour this past month, and I’m holding on for dear life, trying to figure out why all my plans keep flying off behind me.

One of the things that I’ve struggled with this year is reading time. I need to make more of an effort. I know I’ve devolved back into just watching TV in the evenings rather than reading. I could blame a thousand things, but really, in the evenings, I’ve just been tired. I have started reading right before bed, which is a good place to start, so I’m hoping to hold onto that, at least, moving forward. I’ve read some amazing books this year, so I may just be a bit tapped out, or book-hangover-ing, or just being lazy. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

But that hasn’t stopped me from having a ridiculous number of books I’m simultaneously reading, because…well, that’s what I do. And the more books I have on my list, the more likely it is that I’m just not super into most of them at the moment. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, they’re just not scratching that itch I’m apparently looking for (yet, may have no idea what it is…)

Notes:

Clockwork Angel – I’m just being super lazy about reading this book. I picked it up initially as a pseudo-research book regarding clockwork, fantasy, and steampunk sensibilities and how it differed or was similar to my own work in progress. It’s a fine book, but at times it feels a bit overwrought, and I’m getting a little sick of the wide-eyed “but what’s happening?!” of the main character, and the helpful inserts of explanation by other characters who should probably already know most of what they’re telling each other. It’s okay.

Bored and Brilliant – Still need to pick this one up again. It’s fine, but I just haven’t been as interested in the core idea it postulates lately, and I probably need to revisit it, now that I’ve had some time away from it.

Worlds of Wonder – I forget what it was that turned me onto this particular book, but it’s been very interesting and informative so far on approaching fantasy/SF writing.

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – I haven’t made any progress on this one in a while. And I really just need to make an effort to read a little bit every week. If I did that, I could make pretty good progress through this thing. Really, though, I think I need to commit a month or something to STRICTLY short fiction reading to re-familiarize myself with the length and form.

A Rage in Harlem –  I should really be able to finish this book this month. It’s super short, it’s action-packed, it’s a fast read, and it’s Chester Himes, so it’s amazingly emotive. Not quite as much of a rollercoaster as If He Hollers, Let Him Go, but still a fantastic read. I could learn so much from him in terms of brevity with depth. You get this rich world with very quick sketches.

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – I need to make an effort on this one again, too. It’s been very interesting so far, and I think there are a lot of tools included that would be perfect for working with an independent, oft-defiant almost-four-year-old to minimize frustrating clashes and make life smoother and simpler for all of us.

Damn Fine Story – I *am* going to read this one sooner or later. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve encountered of it so far, and I just need to spend some time with it.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony –  With this one, I think I need to set a page requirement per day. It’s a wonderful read, it’s so fascinating and makes me think so much, that I really need to get back to it. It’s just so chewy, it’s challenging to mainline it without risking losing hold of a lot of the thinks it makes me feel. Two pages a day would be perfect, actually. Will try this, and see if we can make some decided progress.

I haven’t been listening to anything lately, which may impact my overall reading progress, too, though I haven’t been doing much in the evenings at all. Maybe I should get back into doing kitchen chores after Bug goes down, and I can force myself to listen to words, at least, which is better than nothing…

I feel as though I’ve been terribly remiss in posting new thoughts of late. But it’s been a strange-to-document kind of year. Last year about this time, I was flying through the rough draft of The Mistress of Frosthaven, half-blind, half-mad, and rounding up on the finale by the end of June. It was exhilarating and exhausting, but it was done. I wrote and submitted a new short story in August, but it’s a very specific story, and I’m not yet sure whether it’s got a home out there in the wilds, or if it’s destined to live in a drawer for a while. I came back to the rough draft of tMoF in October/November, and started messing around with a summary draft of what the edited/second draft should look like. After a few false starts, I got the framework in place, and set it aside to let it cool while I edited and rewrote two older short fiction pieces I’d been meaning to get out. I’ve managed to keep those two in orbit out in the wilds, which has helped get me back into the swing of things, but the edit is dragging. I shouldn’t be surprised: this is my first attempt at a serious edit of a novel, and honestly, I have no. idea. what. I’m. doing. There’s the inclination to cut and burn EVERYTHING and start over from scratch. There’s the instinct to gently coddle it and change as little as possible for fear of losing “that spark.” I think I’ve finally gotten to a middle-ground, focusing less on changing the major bones (save a few that need excising and/or shin-lengthening á la Gattaca) and more on building out what I’ve already got down.

There’s still a lot of work to do. I’m still not 100% sure when I’ll actually be confident enough to start the second draft (or at least, confident that I’m not diving in head-first as clueless as I did on Draft 1–I ought to know a little more about the world/characters/plots/etc. by now). I’m hoping I can get all the essential holes thought through by the end of May enough that I can wheel into Draft Two – The Prose Edition in June.

But like with all longer projects, it seems, I’m hitting that productivity panic point. I like writing new words. Not producing new fiction is making me a little eye-twitchy, like I’m just sitting on my hands, even though I’m thinking a ton about the book. March and April were crapshoot months. My daily schedule fell apart (first due to seemingly perpetual illness, in myself, or Bug, which means nobody’s getting any sleep; the second due to having gotten out of the habit and procrastinating with a dozen other urgent needs-attention things that popped up unexpectedly, like away-from-home dog-sitting, planning a surprise b-day party on short notice, and getting sick. Again.), and this is the first week where I’ve started trying to get back on the horse. It’s not that I’m starting off where I left off in February, I’ve actually done lots of thinking since then, and ideas have simplified and strengthened, but thinking is such an ephemeral part of writing. You can’t clock it all that well. It’s hard to gauge whether you’re “on schedule” (whatever that means). There’s no easy metric to measure (“Well, I popped and ate six thought-bubbles today, so all in all, a good day’s work!”), it’s tough to spend so much time chasing dead-ends, and so much of it feels like wasting time, even though I know–so much, particularly after that first draft–how important the thinking is. I need to spend time thinking. I just wish there were some easy way to show myself that I’m not just putzing around, using “thinking” as an excuse not to get words down.

But I’ve also learned, in the past couple of years, that while I can bounce between projects that are separated by chunks of time (a month focusing on X, the next month on Y, etc.), I can’t mix them up together during a week. It’s too much to keep in my head at this point, even though I’m finally getting to that parenting phase where thinking about fiction is something I can do again even during the day. I’m less exhausted now, but that’s partly because I realize how much I have to compartmentalize each project. There are so many things I want to do and work on, and getting mired in the thick, tough, uncertain bog of thinking about this book is making me slightly mad, all the more because I know I have to do it. I must do it. I literally cannot skip this step.

But today, for the first time, I started to feel the engines revving again. Up until now, despite mapping out a ton of backstory and character traits and shifting some major characters around, it’s felt like shoveling snow, in the Dance, Dance, Dance kind of way: you move some over there, it snows more, you need to move more, continue until dead. But after this morning’s bit of work (I get about an hour a day, at the moment), I finally started feeling the zeal again. Just a bit. Not enough to plunge into prose over, but enough to feel like maybe, maybe the basic thinking is coming to an end and the story will be ready to go again. Round two. It’s not ready yet, but it’s giving me hints that it’s getting closer. Maybe, maybe, chipping away at it this month will get me where I need to be to climb into the story, shut the door, rev the engine, and floor it in June.

Forgot to get the Sunday Circle check-in up last weekend, so wanted to make sure I got to it this week.

What am I working on this week? Still chugging away on all the brain-work Draft 2 will require to get off the ground and into the air. At times it feels like I’m just treading water, but important (and previously ignored) details of character and plot are being worked out at long last, so it is moving forward. Just slowly. By the end of the week, I’d like to be summary drafting the new scenes that need to be inserted into the big overview draft (and adding their cards into the stack of plot cards).

What’s inspiring me this week? Just finished reading Blind Descent by James M. Tabor, which was one of my favorite reads so far this year. Just…epic. Loved it. And started plowing into Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline, which has made me want to get back into sewing my own clothes. Also just watched the first episode of World War II in Color on Netflix, and it seems like a fantastic way to fill in all those info-gaps I feel like I have when it comes to all the intricacies of that period of conflict. Really interesting, and somehow, more horrifying for being in color–it just makes it that much more…present.

What action do I need to take this week? I need to get back into reading regularly during weeknights–Jessica Jones, and a few other shows had subtly slipped into our nightly reading sessions and overrun them–so I really need to make reading a priority again and probably take a look at what I’m reading right now, and what I think I can finish by the end of the month.

You know that feeling: the thrill of a beautiful photo of food on Pinterest, the flutter of optimistic certainty (I could make this!), the diligent determination when hunting for the required ingredients (all of which, even if you’ve never liked them in the past, suddenly take on a new, dew-dripping freshness that makes you hold that rutabaga or celery root and think, Where have you been all my life?). You roll up your sleeves and set to work, grinding and chopping and peeling and boiling and mashing, and as you work, you think, This is going to be a-MAZ-ing.

And then you hit reality square in the face?

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Nailed it!

Ugh. There is also nothing worse than that awful, awful feeling of having slaved away on something for over an hour or two, and realizing with slowly settling dread that somehow, SOMEHOW the recipe writer must have skipped a step, or used some kind of magical stove that actually *works*, or–you wonder maliciously–maybe they just store-bought something completely unrelated and labeled it “magical vegetable food your kids will love!”

I’ve never quite gotten the hang of breadcrumb crusts. I’ll admit that. I’m a pretty darn good cook most of the time, and pride myself on delicious meals, but every so often, there’s a recipe that I just. cannot. get. right. Potstickers? Sure. Enchiladas? Definitely. Fancy roasted veggies with some delicious, unusual sauce? Tempura? Fried tofu buffalo bites? You betcha. PAN-FRIED BREADCRUMBED ANYTHING?

Yeah, no. Apparently not.

I must have made a mistake somewhere, though at every step, things seemed to be coming together just as expected. Ah well. It happens. And now I know what recipes not to bother with. But let me just say, if you struggle with beautifully crispy browned bread-crummed things…don’t bother with veggie nuggets. No matter how lovely they look on Pinterest.