Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in May

Every month I post these I feel like I really should have a spreadsheet for my word count tally instead of adding up numbers from my calendar on my phone's calculator. Then I remember why I don't do spreadsheets for this. For me, there's just something about tactile planning. I am a techy person who has notebooks, but hardly ever writes in them. My iPad or laptop are constantly with me and I'm all over productivity apps, which totally is another post in the making. But I love planning on paper. I have a paper planner (did you KNOW they make coloring book planners?! I was SO excited to learn this, of course I had to buy one!) and keep myself accountable with a magnetic calendar and differently colored magnets above my desk. YMMV, but this is what works best for me. 2016-06-01 08.25.54

Anyway, so May! This month was pretty crazy. The school year was winding down, I was about to start my master's degree--and, yes, I finished writing a book! For a while, I thought it wasn't going to happen with all the teacher stress and general life stress compounding into a big ball of anxiety about life, the universe, and everything, but in the end I managed to make my deadline--a full eight days early! MENTAL NOTE is clocking in at just over 75,000 words, which is a bit on the lean side for me, but that's good because now I get to take it all apart, work out plotting kinks and actually turn it into something readable. Hopefully over the summer. But first I had to let it sit for a week and take a few days completely off writing. Well, not completely, given how I am pathologically incapable of taking a break from words, but as you can see on my calendar and my Goodreads profile, I got some reading in, I organized my bookshelves rainbow-style, and yes, I started that master's degree of mine which seemed hugely overwhelming at first, but thanks to obsessive, color-coded planning actually looks quite manageable (Remind me of this whenever I'm about to hit my stress ball wall again, okay?).

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Anyway, here are my numbers for May:

Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for May: FINISH THE DRAFT (~12,000 words and some change)
  • Total Words written: 12,699
  • Total writing days: 13
  • Average words/writing day: 977
  • Best writing day: May 23 (1,612 words)

One pattern I noticed is that I write more productively if I get a good start at the beginning of the month. Reaching at least my 500 words a day goal, let alone exceeding it, gives me a huge boost that helps me keep going. Another thing that has really helped me is getting the Productive app that reminds me if I haven't gotten my 30 minutes worth of writing in during a day. Though honestly as you keep going, much like running or exercise, daily writing becomes a habit and it felt weird to take a whole week off to just let things simmer. But now I can dive back into things and make it all shiny, so, it's worth it!

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in May: 12
  • Titles read:
    • Rachel Caine - INK AND BLOOD: So much love! Cannot wait until book two comes out in July. This is like Harry Potter meets The Book Thief with book smuggling, spies, and treason. I loved, loved, loved it!
    • Jim Butcher - CHANGES (The Dresden Files, Book 12): Making steady progress of my re-listen of the series and loved how well plotted this one was in particular. Holy cliffhanger ending. This one gets huge points for awesome plotting!
    • Barbara Ann Wright - PALADINS OF THE STORM LORD: Humans gain superpowers and become Gods waging epic battles in space!
    • Michael Darling - GOT LUCK: Loved the noir tone and Dresden Files-esque narrative here.
    • Meredith Russo - IF I WAS YOUR GIRL: I read this book in one sitting. Love this trans girl's story told from a trans woman's perspective. Russo gets it right. I'm adding this to my class library.
    • Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples - SAGA, Volume 6: No, it's not out yet, but I tend to binge-read my Comixology subscriptions because I can't just wait for a month to see what happens next. This is my favorite comic series ever.
    • Evangeline Denmark - CURIO: The world building in this book was so cool! Seriously, porcelain people. This is like dystopian steampunk mixed with evil alchemists.
    • Jacqueline Koyanagi - ASCENSION: I loved the cover and premise of this book and really wanted to love it. Alas, the slow, meandering plot left me kind of meh.
    • Renee Ahdieh - THE ROSE & THE DAGGER: I loved THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, but this sequel was even better. This doesn't happen very often, but I positively devoured it. The prose is gorgeous as is the entire book.
    • Alex London - GUARDIAN (Proxy, #2): I really, really liked the breakneck pace of PROXY and GUARDIAN follows through by keeping it up and introduces Liam as a compelling new character. Recommend.
    • Jim Butcher - GHOST STORY (The Dresden Files, Book 13): This could have been an awfully cliched book but it's so not. Well done, Butcher. *applauds*
    • Marie Rutkoski - THE WINNER'S CURSE: With book three just out, everyone was talking about this book and I quite liked it, especially the reversals within the story, but also wanted a little more.

So, yes, May was an excellent month for reading and writing! And now it's summer and despite master's degree homework I plan to keep this up. So here are my goals for June:

  • Take apart MENTAL NOTE and re-plot; finish and polish a synopsis, possibly write a query and begin revising this draft. Ideally I would like to get 20-25k into this.
  • Keep reading all the things. Haha, I know that's vague, but I hope to read at least 10 books each month during summer, including some books on craft.
  • Get back into regular exercise. I'm pretty terrible at it, but I've missed my Zumba and Bolly X classes, but I'm committed to getting back into it, at least three times a week.
  • Write at least one blog post a week. Possibly two. I've been getting better about keeping this space updated, but there are lots of things I want to talk about on here, so I'm making some time to do so. I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Anyway, it's summer! It's June! It's Pride Month and my nails are sparkly rainbow! What are your summer plans and goals? Tell me all the things!

Happy Writing!

Alex

Sooo, what are you working on?

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Some friends of mine recently tagged me in the 7/7/7 challenge (you go to page 7 of your current manuscript, post 7 lines from it, and tag 7 friends to do the same) and it got me thinking about how important it is to share your work with others. This may be totally obvious, but I think sometimes we underestimating the power of sharing your work with others. Not only is it cool to have work that you are proud enough to share with others in the first place and feedback is a great bonus, but it also keeps up your excitement about what you are working on and makes you rethink what of your work you are sharing and how you are sharing it with others.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of sharing a ton of work with others other than my critique group who are great givers of feedback  and critique during all stages of the writing process, but sometimes it's nice to just share snippets of your current work in progress with a wider audience. After all, writing is something we all pour our heart and soul into and sometimes it's just fun to share a tiny piece of that, just to get the word out there, but also to show your work to those whose usual response to "I'm a writer!" would be a smile and a nod.

I think it was Lisa Mangum who mentioned at a local writing conference how she used to practice pitching her book to random people at Costco on a Saturday. In a way, this is just that. (Okay, maybe a little less up in the business of unsuspecting Costco-shoppers, but you get the idea.) In the end, the more you talk about your work, the easier it gets and the better you get at doing so until it becomes but second nature. And isn't that what we all are aiming for when we talk to industry professionals and try to act normal when in reality we're about to totally and positively implode with all the nerve jitters?

So, let's do that, okay? Tell me what you're working on! Post 7 lines from page 7 of your manuscript in the comments or link it from your blog if you feel so inclined. If not, talk about your work with a random stranger today. If nothing else, it's excellent pitch practice and makes talking to others about your book a little less scary.

Here are my seven lines from both my WIP and the MS I am currently querying:

MENTAL NOTE:

“Adam?” Ollie barely caught him as he fell backward, his body nearly slipping through scrambling fingers. She blinked. The fog cleared, but lingered in the corner of her eye. It smudged the edges of her sight, conjuring shadows where a second glance revealed nothing but empty stillness. Her partner’s blood was shockingly red against her hands, her gun a dead gleam in the dark. “Adam?” It was Ollie’s voice, not her hands that shook. “What happened?”

EMPIRE OF LIGHT:

“I’m fine,” he said again, lips curved in the beginning of a smile, but his eyes weren’t with it. At least they’d turned back to their usual bright cat-green. Definitely a step up from his creepy-ass Voyant eyes. “Liked my escape plan?” “Escape plan. That what you call this?” I waved at the giant hole in the wall along with the mess of jagged glass and bricks around us. Aris shrugged. “I guess it might need a little refining as far as accuracy is concerned.” “No shit.” “Well, it worked.”

My Summer Reading List

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I'm not going to lie, I am totally counting down the days until the school year is over. Yes, I have a master's degree to start and a manuscript to finish and polish this summer, but I also have all the books to read. Compiling my list of books to read over the summer is one of my favorite things as I gear up to at least try and slow down a little over the summer months. I'm always on the lookout for diverse science fiction and fantasy, so that' sweat I've prioritized this year, too. Here's my summer reading list (so far):

  • Meredith Russo - IF I WAS YOUR GIRL: I've been waiting for this book for a while. YA about a trans girl that's actually written by a trans woman, yes, please. That and the premise sounds just awesome.
  • Renee Ahdieh - THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER: I've been waiting for this sequel ever since finishing THE WRATH AND THE DAWN.
  • Sarah Rees Brennan - TELL THE WIND AND FIRE: A Tale of Two Cities with dark magic and violence. Hell yes!
  • Rachel Caine - PAPER AND FIRE: I cannot wait for this book! Is it July already?!
  • Stacey Lee - UNDER A PAINTED SKY - This diverse YA Western has been on my list for a while. I'm looking forward to finally rectify this!
  • Carol Berg - DUST AND LIGHT and ASH AND SILVER: It's been far too long since I've read Carol Berg's books.
  • Aaron Michael Ritchey - DANDELION IRON: Female-powered SF--check!
  • Evangeline Denmark - CURIO: I picked this up at PPWC, because alchemists and magic!
  • Kevin J. Anderson - CLOCKWORK ANGELS: This had me at world-controlling watchmakers and the cool steampunk illustrations throughout the book.
  • Kristy Acevedo - CONSIDER: A girl with anxiety learns the world is about to end.
  • Ann Aguirre's SIRANTHA JAX series: I've started this series a while ago and want more, because female-driving space opera!
  • Jandy Nelson - I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN: Another one that's been on my TBR for too long. Let's do this.
  • C. Gockel - I BRING THE FIRE: Because Loki.
  • Michael Darling - GOT LUCK: This should help give my urban fantasy fix
  • C. R. Asay - HEART OF ANNIHILATION: Badass military SF FTW!
  • Tanya HUFF - CONFEDERATION series: Because this female staff sergeant is one of my favorite characters ever.

Okay, that's my list, at least for now, but I'm always looking for more. What are you reading this summer? Please leave me your recommendations in the comments.

Bonus points for diversity with explosions, as always.

Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in April

After March I had to seriously step up my game. Fortunately, things both started to wind down and speed up in April: with the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference, birthday parties, and lots of school stuff it's been a busy month, but it's also been an invigorating one. I got to spend some quality time with some of my favorite writing peeps and met new authors who inspired me, some of them telling me exactly what I needed to hear. I also decided to participate in CampNaNoWriMo with my local writing group, which might just have given me the additional push I needed to get some serious wordage in. I fell just a little short of my initial goal of 20,000 words, but I came pretty damn close.

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Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for February: 20,000
  • Total Words written: 18,488
  • Total writing days: 17
  • Average words/writing day: 1,088
  • Best writing day: April 24 (2,249 words)

The current draft of Mental Note, the working title of my Lesbian Agent Carter with monsters novel is at past 62k right now and I'm back on track to finish this by May 31, which is great, given that I am both wrapping up this school year and starting my master's degree at the end of this month. So, yes, I've got my work cut out for me, but outlining and occasional plot brainstorming sessions really help not only to keep me on track, but also excited about what comes next. This novel is a twisty one and I'm already looking forward to all the changes and polishes I can add once this draft is finished.

Reading:

So that's it for April. I've already finished reading my first book for May, but now I need to go get the words in. The end of this draft is in sight. Trying to keep it at around 80,000, so I have about 18,000 words to go this month.

And since shared goals make for higher accountability, what are your goals for this month? Share them with me in the comments and let's do this!

Happy Writing!

 

Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in March

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March has been one of those crazy, insanely stressful and anxiety-ridden months, so honestly not much got done. I'm feeling better right now, but there are better days and worse. Hoping for better in April, but here are my totals for March.

Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for March: 15,000
  • Total Words written: 5,080
  • Total writing days: 8
  • Average words/writing day: 635
  • Best writing day: March 29 (1,101 words)

Not too great, but I'm aiming for better in April.

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in March: 8

So, not all is lost. Going to start over this month. Hopefully depression and her friend anxiety stay at bay and I'll get more done.

Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in February

February is a rough month for me. It's cold and dreary, the air in SLC is basically poison, and it comes with ridiculous adulting tasks such as doing your taxes--blergh. In a way that could explain how I fell a little short of my goal in February, but that would be reductive. Yes, it's been a stressful month. No, I didn't get as much writing in as I had hoped, but I did maintain steady writing even when things got crazy at the dayjob and otherwise, so I'm still counting it as a win overall.

That said, here are my stats for February:

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Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for February: 20,000
  • Total Words written: 14,242
  • Total writing days: 18
  • Average words/writing day: 791
  • Best writing day: February 8 (1,273 words)

Again, many of these words will need heavy, heavy editing, but that's okay. My first drafts are allowed to be messy. The most important thing is to let that story out and at a draft of currently 39,441 words out of 80,000, I'm about to hit mid-point climax land, which is one of my favorites. This thing is getting more and more book-shaped and despite firmly being a plotter, I discover new things about Ollie and Jesse, and all of these other characters every day and that's what makes it fun.

Reading:

That's it for me for February. In March, I hope to at least hit 15,000 words, but ideally 20,000 and I hope to make more time to read again, because I definitely feel more balanced when I get at least an hour to read a day. I'm sure everyone around me would agree!

Anyway, what are your goals for March, the month of Spring is Coming? What are your highly anticipated reads? What are you currently working on? Share your goals and accomplishments with me in the comments!

As always, happy writing!

Alex

 

 

Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in January

So, going back to my goals for this year, I decided to do a quick monthly round-up of what I've written and read to keep myself accountable and share any squee-worthy moments. Also, yes, this does involve insane color-coding and overall keeping track of all the things. It's how I roll. File_000

My Stats for January: 

Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for January: 10,000
  • Total Words written: 16,928
  • Total writing days: 18
  • Average words/writing day: 940
  • Best writing day: January 30 (3,044 words)

I know that writing almost 17k in a month may not be a ton for a working author (It would definitely mean I'd fail at NaNoWriMo), but for me, this is huge, especially after months and months (well, let's face it, years, really) of jacking fucking shit. So yeah, I'm pretty stoked about this.

What really helped me get there were two three things:

  1. Keeping track of my wordage. You probably saw me Tweet about how much I was writing and how long it took me to write that much on Twitter. Write or Die has been invaluable in this. As have clear and more importantly manageable time limits. Most of these words were written in 30 to 45-minute increments, because sitting down for hours at a time would have been really daunting. 30 minutes? Totally doable.
  2. Knowing what I was writing. I'm about 50/50 in my plotting vs. pantsing ratio right now, but having a solid, finished outline, knowing how my book was going to end and having that quick little note card in Scrivener telling me where my WIP was headed in that particular chapter? Priceless.
  3. Finally, and probably most importantly, shutting up my Inner Impostor Syndrome. It's been an on-going battle, but this month I consciously focused on keeping a positive mindset in regards to writing. I didn't let the negativity get to me and whenever I did feel like freaking the fuck out, I walked away, often literally going for a run or a workout (see those orange dots on my calendar?) and got my brain off it for a little while. Once I was done running in mental circles, I could come back to it and get those words out.

My goal for next month is to top that. Right now my WIP Mental Note clocks in at 25,017 words. By the end of February, I want to add 20,000 words to that. Which means about 5k a week. That's doable.

That's another thing: keeping expectations manageable. I'm ambitious and I've let those ambitions get me way too stressed out in the past, so instead of saying I'll totally add 25 or even 30k to this draft, I'll say let's up the wordage, but also take things like long, long teaching days, parent-teacher-conferences, my wife's birthday and the fact that February is a short month into account, so 20,000 it is.

Right now I'm on track to finish this book by the end of May, but I'm hoping to top that deadline, too.

Reading: 

That's it for me for January. It's been a long month in many ways, but one hell of a productive one. Let's see if February can top that. I'm up to keep the trend going.

Let me know if you have any tips on how to keep the momentum going or any new books to check out. Right now C. S. Pacat's Captive Prince series is on my radar.

Cheers and happy writing (and reading)!

 

 

 

2016 Goals

Okay, I'm generally not much of a New Year's Resolutions person, but research (meaning mainly my own neurotic anal-retentiveness) shows that you're more likely to stick to goals when you write them down--and in my case share them with others. So here are my goals for 2016:

Reading and Writing:

  • Read 100 books. Follow my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge here. I'm also attempting the Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge, because it looks awesome and I always want to push myself to read more.

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  • Finish and edit Mental Note. I'm in a place where I need to prioritize writing more and I'm hoping to at least finish this new project in 2016.

Health and Fitness:

  • Maintain my workout schedule of at least three Bolly X/Zumba classes per week. This is really working for me and I've found that it really helps me deal with stress better along with other obvious health benefits, not to mention that it's fun, so I'm planning to keep it up.

Happiness and Self-Care:

  • Love my body. This one is a hard one and definitely an on-going challenge. Yes, I want to loose 15-20 lbs, but I also realize that it's really my relationship to my body that is causing all kinds of issues and insecurities for me personally, so my goal is to work on that and become a more body positive person who is happy with how I look like and overall more confident.
  • Stress less. Kick that pesky Impostor Syndrome to the curb. Talk about on-going battles, but I think what's in my control here is to make sure that I have at least an hour every day where I can focus on whatever I need to do for myself. Write without fear. Read hard, that kind of thing. I'll try to be more conscious of my stress level and of whenever I might be self-sabotaging.
  • Learn to say no. This is one that I have to remind myself often. For every two times I say "yes," the third needs to be a firm "no." And more importantly, I need to stop feeling bad about it when I do say no. I can do this. People won't hate me. Probably. Please.

Finances and General Adulting:

  • Pay off my credit cards. This has been an on-going challenge, but my goal is to have this done by March. I want to get into the habit of only using credit cards to build credit (meaning, use them and pay them off immediately.)
  • Actually save up money. You know, now that we're being adults, owning a house and whatnot, savings would be nice for things like appliances, repairs, and other gloriously scary adulting.
  • Figure out Masters Degree Scholarships/Financial Aid. My goals is to take out as few student loans for my Masters as possible, so hopefully I can drudge up some essay grants/scholarships, etc.
  • Start that Master's Degree. Oh, yeah, summer, you are daunting me. But my goal is to balance this with everything else and still have time to write and read veraciously.

Life, the Universe, and Everything:

  • Live authentically, to the best and fullest of my abilities. Because that's always a good goal and sometimes I very much need to live in the moment a little more and dare to be myself in all aspects of my life. Life tends to be so much better that way and in the end it makes me a better wife, friend, and person.

Okay, that's quite a list, covering quite a few aspects of my life, but that's how it goes. Here's to working on each of them a little bit every day.

Also, I'm continuing my tradition of the Awesome Jar (some call this a Joy Jar) in which I write down any happy thing that happens in 2016 on a sticky note and drop it into the jar throughout the year (my goal for 2016 is to write a note per day, even, or especially, about the little happies in life). Then, on NYE, we open the jar and go over all the happy memories. It's pretty cool to watch the jar fill up and review all the happy memories, big and little, at the end of the year.

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Anyway, that's it for me. What are your goals for this year? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers!

Alex

2015 in Reading

I've fallen a little short of my usual 100 books read in 2015, but I've still made it to 95 books total or 31,160 pages read, according to Goodreads, including quite a few audio books, which I completely rediscovered for myself this year. Book Nook QuiltIt's been a good reading year at that, even more so since I've been able to create my perfect spot for reading and writing when we bought our house. It's been a big year of adulting, but my book nook has certainly been a good enabler to remember to stress less and read more.

Here are some of my favorite books I read in 2015:

Favorite book: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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My favorite part about this book was how much the description and world building drew me in. It was just the right amount of epic paired with just the right amount of the familiar. And it's beautifully written to boot. Seldom has a book drawn me in like this one, but Victoria Schwab managed it!

It's got the titular dark magic, cross-dressing lady pirates, scheming royals and ruthless magicians. I can't wait for the second book to drag me deeper into the worlds between Red, Grey, and White London.

Favorite science fiction: Valor's Choice by Tanya Huff

772606I never thought myself much of a fan of military SF, but this book might just have changed that. Torin Kerr is awesomely badass. I loved that she was very much the Officer in Charge while pretending she wasn't so those (male) officers above her didn't feel threatened in their position. In the end it was Torin who called the shots and she who took care of her platoon, in an equivalent of a military soccer mom, which added hugely to the appeal of this book, because she wasn't the officer with something to prove, which was a refreshing take along with the huge diversity of characters and the world this is set in. More, please.

Favorite urban fantasy: Liesmith by Alis Franklin

516dxodAV9L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_This book was very much about imperfect characters and that might have been my favorite part, other then the idea behind the "What if Loki was the head of a huge corporation and got his gender-fluid love on with a guy who would very much be stigmatized as a loser in modern society?" The concept behind this was awesome and it explored a lot of lesser known bits about Norse mythology and Loki in general. Add in lots of nerdiness and issues both of gayness and genderfluidity and you've got me hooked.

Favorite YA book: Shadowshaper by D.J. Older

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Shadowshaper made tons of Best Of lists. What I liked most about this was that it explored some completely new (to me) mythologies and had a super high diversity factor, which is always a huge draw for me.

Also, have you seen this cover? I just love how gorgeous it is. Winner of favorite cover of the year for sure.

Not only is it beautifully written and Sierra is a kickass female lead, but the elements of street art and the supporting cast made this book a must read in 2015!

Favorite book featuring LGBT characters: Proxy by Alex London

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This came highly recommended from my dear friend David R. Slayton and as usual he's never wrong in his recommendations. Trust the David, I do.

I loved Sidney as an MC with Knox as his slowly redeeming counterpart, but my favorite thing about this book was how it didn't pull any punches. The social criticism is strong with this one as it's the driving force behind this book. LGBT issues are present, but explored in a way that's different, where coming out isn't the main conflict, not when there's so much more at stake. I definitely need to pick up the sequel as soon as possible, because Alex London not only writes complex and relatable characters, he also follows my favorite rule of writing: always make it worse--and it works!

 

Favorite comic: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

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I rediscovered comics in 2014, but my favorite series of 2015 is definitely, hands down the new Ms. Marvel reboot. In fact, Kamala just might be my favorite new female superheroine overall (she and Jessica Jones). I love with Wilson has done with this storyline, giving it a diverse YA spin and making Kamala a superhero who is still testing out her powers and while coming into them often pairs up with other heroes from the Marvel universe, from Wolverine, to Loki, to Captain Marvel, to Spiderman. I'm getting this series as soon as each trade volume comes out. Can't wait for the next!

Favorite series: October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

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Yes, it took me way, way too long to get into this series, given how much I love, love, love Seanan's alter ego Mira Grant's work, but when I finally dove into this series, especially once I got to book 3, I was hooked and basically spent the last days of my vacation in Germany and about two weeks afterward positively devouring the series. Toby is a great lead, but what really made this series for me was the colorful supporting cast that keeps growing and changing and developing during each book. This is one of those series that grows well, where consecutive books are about more than just defeating a bigger bad. Yes, the stakes grow, but they also change, as do the characters within these books. I'm already super excited for the next installment and the English teacher in me can't help but love all the Shakespeare references!

Favorite nonfiction book: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

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This book was a really cool look at comics and how they are a medium that accomplishes much more and is more complex than first meets the eyes. I often feel that comics sort of embody the Renaissance concept of sprezzatura, meaning making something hard look easy and effortless. Comics are a genre that often gets written off by a lot of readers, and sadly even more teachers and I've been working on changing that, both in my own life and in the classroom. This book has been a huge help with that as it gives a deep look inside everything that goes into creating comics.

Favorite audio book: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

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My Big Discovery that changed my reading life this year has been audiobooks. Since I've become more of a pedestrian, I have come to hugely enjoy audiobooks as a means to relax and stay entertained during walks to and from school, etc. Aftermath was one of the first audiobooks that I listened to that really drew me in. Part of this is due to it being a full audio production, including spaceship and lightsaber sound effects, part of it was due to the new diverse cast of characters this book introduces and the new and old conflicts they engage in. I'm not going to argue what should or shouldn't be considered canon, because I honestly don't have much to contribute to this discussion, but what I can say was that The Force Awakens clearly proves that it was high time to introduce more diversity to the Star Wars universe and I love how this book takes a great stab at just that.

Favorite book that I should have read much earlier: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready-Player-One-Paperback-CoverQuite a few books on my 2015 reading list didn't actually come out in 2015, but this one really made me shake my head about myself and question how I hadn't read this book much sooner. It's basically everything my nerdy self is looking for in a book, chock-full of nerdy retro video game and 80s references, which just made my nerdy heart happy. It's very much a portrait of what ifs regarding the Internet, but the virtual reality portrayed here just sounded like so much fun. This was definitely the book I had the most fun reading this year!

That's it for 2015 in reading, my plans for 2016 include keeping on the lookout for lots of diversity in my reading. I really like Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder Challenge and might this a go, because I'm always up for a new challenge. My plan is to make it to 100 books in 2016, even though I'm looking down the huge commitment of starting my Masters degree.

In the interest of Good Reading and Reading Harder, what are some of your favorite books from 2015? Please leave me some recommendations for 2016!

Cheers and happy reading!

...and then you make it even WORSE!

You know what I really love about a good book? What makes me turn page after page after page and has me stay up until the ungodly hour of, let's say 10am? (I'm on an overnight schedule, so 10am is ungodly for me. Really, stop laughing ;)) - It's that moment when an author manages to utterly fuck with your reader expectation and you literally go: What the FUCK?! On NO, you did NOT! That moment that will have me and my friends go all kinds of WTF?!? NOOOO!!! all over twitter or facebook or startled cats wondering if their bipeds finally lost the last of their marbles.

That, to me personally, is what makes a book unputdownable, what makes your readers going and what to me is the one thing I probably strive the hardest for in my own writing.

And the way to get there? Three questions, really:

1.) What is the worst thing that can possibly happen to your protagonist?
2.) How can you make this even worse?
3.) How can you make this even WORSE?

For those of you who were with me at this year's Backspace Writer's Conference or have been in one of his classes, you probably caught that I'm borrowing this from Donald Maass' fabulous writing workshop, but personally I find that there's a lot of truth to these questions and that questions like this is probably would we should be asking ourselves (and our protagonists) all the time as we plot and outline and write to utterly and undeniably fuck with our characters and our readers' expectations. Because, come on, admit it, it's a whole lot of fun to mess with people's expectations, isn't it?

Also, the book that kept me up like this just this morning was Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON'S SURRENDER, third book and brilliant conclusion to her amazing The Demon's Lexicon trilogy. If you're looking for a YA series that ties in great characters with stunning plot twists in an absolutely unique way that will keep you up 'till the ungodly hours of morning, because you can't put down the book - oh and for plenty of mind-blowing WTF! NO!-moments, check out her books. Check them out now.