May 31, 2010

Ultimate Goal

The Ultimate Goal is this: I'm going to finish my rough draft by the end of June. Period.

I thought that May 31 would be a good day to announce this, because while I have been working on my WIP recently, it's been at a meandering pace. With the beginning of June comes the beginning of a new era. Turbo time! This is going to be kind of like NaNoWriMo... except I'll be alone on it. Daunting, but think of how accomplished I'll feel at the end!

There you have it, spread across the internet for all to see. Hold me accountable, people! Updates, hair pulling, and chocolate meltdowns to come.

May 29, 2010

To the chopping block

A week ago, I was following roughly 250 blogs and getting desperate. Why? Simply put, because they were eating my life away, biting off time, chewing it up and swallowing it like a pack of ravenous wolves. So I put my foot down and started culling. Ruthlessly.

At first it was pretty easy - I went through my Dashboard and noted all the blogs whose entries I just never got around to reading. Poof! Gone. Then it got harder. After a while I was close to tearing my hair out, but I learned a pretty valuable lesson in the process, which, without further ado, is this: what to do (and not do) to make your blog interesting.

My personal preferences certainly aren't everyone's, and, as a pretty small-time blogger myself, I can't claim to know all (or even most, or even some) of the answers, but in case you were wondering what makes your blog interesting, this is what I think. There are three major components I found myself considering when I was trying to make my decisions.

1. Subject Matter. This is completely subjective, and not indicative of the overall blog quality at all. Simply put, is your blog about something that interests me? While all the blogs I follow are book/writing/agenting/publishing blogs, some of them are less relevant to me than others - I ended up cutting a lot of blogs that simply didn't focus on books I was interested in.

2. Unique Content. People may have different opinions on this one. Personally, I am not so into the memes that circle the web three times over every week. Perhaps it's because I follow so many blogs, but when I see twenty blog posts in a row titled "It's Monday! What are you reading?" or "Waiting on Wednesday," etc. etc., I tend to stop reading. While these memes are totally fine in moderation (and I do read some of them), I always appreciate a blog that does more than just book reviews, and more than just memes. I'm always on the lookout for the blogs that show some personality and perspective.

3. Quality Control. This one's a little nit picky, but I'll be honest. Evidence of poor editorial skills (misspelled words, egregious grammatical errors) automatically put me off a blog. My blog is certainly not an example of utter grammatical perfection, but I like to think my writing is moderately readable. To me, confusion of it's vs. its is just sloppy. Also falling under the Quality Control section is the design of the blog itself. Blogs with too much going on visually, blogs that take forever to load, blogs with clashing color schemes so bad the content is difficult to read, blogs written in weird fonts... When it comes down to it, if I find it hard on the eyes to visit a blog, that's not a good sign. (I also can't stand blogs that play music when you open them. Having an option to play a song is fine, but forcing a song on someone just because they clicked on a blog? That will drive me away in seconds.)

So there you have it - my quickly typed thoughts on the process of blog elimination. In other news, I've been reading some really interesting books lately. Keep an eye out for a few reviews, and for the announcement of my Ultimate Goal.

May 28, 2010

Blog hop! (Round two)


Joining the hop! The Friday Blog Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books, and it's pretty much what it says it is. Every Friday, bloggers who blog primarily about books run around like headless chickens, visiting other bloggers who blog primarily about books.

It's Friday again! I'm thinking about making this a monthly thing - my last Blog Hop was the last Friday of April, so as of now I'm right on track. Welcome to all those who come through the Blog Hop! Feel free to leave a comment!

Here are a few blogs I found (and started loving) through the last Blog Hop:

1. She Is Too Fond Of Books. Why? Well, I think that should be obvious - anyone who quotes Louisa May Alcott and uses Elizabeth Bennet as an icon is awesome. Plus, Whitney (proprietor of said blog) just started this awesome feature that I love: Femme Fatale Fridays. Go check her out!

2. The Bodacious Pen. After a few name switcheroos, Tara has landed on The Bodacious Pen, and assures us this one is here to stay. It's hard to say what I like best about this one - could it be the unique header? The especially thoughtful reviews? The fact that she's pointed me in the direction of several books I'm sure I'll love (which only proves she's cool, as we have strikingly similar book tastes)? Well, anyway - she's pretty cool.

3. The Reading Ape. After so many book blogs, they all start to blur together before your eyes... But not the The Reading Ape. This blog is effortlessly different. If you're into posts of a more intellectual flavor, the Reading Ape, professor of literature and writing by day, has you covered.

May 25, 2010

In absentia

Well, even though I graduated (!?!?) a week and a half ago, I've still managed to make myself crazy with the busy. I've got a part time job (two of them, actually), and there has also been some MAJOR cleaning/organizing/tearing hair out. So, you may be wondering, what exactly have I been up to? Maybe I'll put this in list format.

1. BOOKS! READING! I was starved for them, absolutely famished, and I had 30 (yes, you read that right - 30!) books out from the library. So far I've read over ten and returned them, but then borrowed some more, putting my total right around 23. Net loss though, so that's good, right? I also took the time today to sort through all the other miscellaneous books I've got and put some aside for giving away. (For those interested, I joined PaperBackSwap today - will let you know how that goes. I've already received requests for six of my eleven listed books!)

2. Clearing my head. Otherwise known as, creating time in the day. My first step: culling the blog roll. In the morning, I'm accustomed to waking up, checking e-mail, and reading blogs. (Maybe that's a habit that should change, come to think of it... Hmmm...) But it got to the point where I was doing this for one or two hours every morning! Why? Because I was following 250 blogs! Yes, too much. So I made a resolution to cut down to 100. It was difficult, but I was ruthless. I haven't quite hit 100 (I did make it to 140), but already it's changed so much! I've quartered the time I spend on the internet each morning! Lovely! I'll talk later about what I learned about my tastes while culling...

3. Preparing! What for, you may ask. And the answer is... the Denver Publishing Institute. You can learn all about it on their website, but the basic gist is to teach the Eager Learners (me) about the ins and outs of the book publishing business, and to prepare them for taking some sort of entry-level assistant-type job in publishing after they get out. It's this July and August, and the more I think about it the more excited I am! Publishing! I'm going to learn about publishing! I've already learned so much just by hanging around the internet and following authors, agents, editors, etc., and I can't wait to add to that store of casually-attained knowledge. They are sending me a box of advance assignments! Not just advance assignments, but a BOX! And then of course I'm supposed to attain some job in publishing... But honestly, right now I'm just excited to learn about the field. I will most likely make this into a series.

4. Cleaning! Yes, cleaning. Doing dishes and such. Today I went through all my books (see above) which had been scattered around my desk, and came away with neat(ish) piles and categories and reading plans of action. And a more organized desk. Next up: my bedroom. The kitchen could stand some sorting through as well...

What else... You may notice I didn't say I was writing. Yes, that's correct. Too busy, too many changes, too much planning to do! But that's going to change. When? Right now! I will soon share the Ultimate Goal with you, and you will laugh in the face of my extreme naivete and stupidity. But that's for another day.

May 17, 2010

To buy or not to buy

While going through my books (both here at the apartment and those I left at home), I've been pondering my book buying habits. I was going to say (when I was originally conceiving this post) that I didn't even remember the last time I bought books. And then I went and bought four in the last week.

To be perfectly honest, there were extenuating factors. My college has a debit card system where you load money onto your ID card and then use it for stuff. When I lived in the dorms, I used it most for laundry. But for the past year, $20 has just been sitting on there. Since graduation (and presumably the loss of this money, since there's no way to take it off the card) was coming up, I went to the campus bookstore and wandered around. Eventually I bought a lovely journal and a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Why a journal? I have no good reason, since I have far too many already, except to say it seduced me. (Whenever you say you like to write, everyone who doesn't know you that well will invariably get you a pretty journal for every semi-special occasion always. Invariably.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame was because I just needed to read it. I may not have mentioned it, but Les Miserables is officially my favorite book always, and the fact that I haven't read Hunchback is simply appalling.

The other three (The Onion Girl, The Left Hand of Darkness, and a gorgeous 19th century style edition of Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass) were from my library book sale, and they went for $2.50 total. Seriously. For $2.50, that purchase was necessary.

But those are not normal circumstances. Normally, considering I was a poor college student and am now an unemployed ex-college student, I do not buy books. The library is my savior. I quash the voice that shouts at me to purchase books by Neil Gaiman or Jim Butcher the second they come out, and I end up checking books out of the library three, four, five times.

So I'm culling my books ruthlessly, separating the essential from the ephemeral, and coming up with a philosophy on book buying. I'm actually planning on giving away every book I don't think I'll read again. And this philosophy turns increasingly barbaric regarding new purchases: I'm not buying books (with a few extreme exceptions) unless I have read said books multiple times, and plan on reading them again. (Again, multiple times.)

Maybe this is extreme. But for my current lifestyle (affected by lack of money and lack of space), it works. What about you?

May 16, 2010

The book swap

So here I go... And like many projects, this book one requires input from knowledgeable people - like you!

I have limited time - I also have limited space. So I don't have enough room to hang on to every book I've ever purchased or received. My equation for many years has not been exactly quantified, but can be said to go something like this: If I've read the book more than twice, and plan on reading it again, it deserves to stay. Otherwise, it's time to go.

Because of my role as book reviewer, because of some well-intentioned gifts, because of a tantalizing library book sale, I've received a few books that do not pass this test. So I have a number of books that need to go. The question is: how?

In the past I've donated to the library, or traded in at a used book store. Right now, I'm interested in looking into book swapping. Does anyone have an opinion on the book swap websites out there, or even just the concept of book swapping? All input appreciated.

May 15, 2010

To the future!

This is not the aforementioned meandering, contemplative post-graduation speech. I'm still working on that one. In the meantime, I'm talking about resolutions.

For a while, everything I wanted to do piled up in my head as: "post-graduation". Yeah, I have three or four boxes of books I haven't read - they're for post-graduation! Yeah, I haven't really exercised (read: run) for months and months - I'm saving that for post-graduation! Yeah, I'm still not totally unpacked in the apartment I moved into a year ago - I can do that post-graduation! It's a good mantra...until post-graduation actually comes.

Contrary to popular belief, the post-graduation person I am does not have unlimited time. I have a job lined up (good for my bank account, bad for my free time) which I will be talking in more depth about in a few days. But suddenly it's clearly post-graduation, and despite my lack of free time, it's definitely time to get to those post-graduation tasks.

With that in mind, I sat down yesterday and wrote down a To Do List. I don't know about you guys, but I actually really enjoy to-do lists, making them, crossing things off of them, etc. etc. Well, this was a monster to-do list, covering two pages in a combination of quick notes ("pay the rent") and categories complete with outlines and subheadings below ("books --> read unread --> clear shelves --> donate --> etc."). Basically, I have what looks like an infinite amount of stuff to do.

It's way too much stuff to do at once, but I'll get there. My plan is to pick one category and break it down, and do a couple of the easy things in tandem. First up: books. I'll be reading them, sorting them, and making all sorts of tough decisions. Wish me luck!

May 14, 2010

Life update and contest driveby

Well, well, well... So I'm done. Took my last college final yesterday morning, went to bed and slept for close to twelve hours. I've been thinking for the past day about what I wanted to say here, about writing something brilliant about the future, etc. etc., but kept bumping into this problem: I don't know how I feel about having graduated! Possibly because it's still too soon - I need time to get used to the idea!

Anyway, this is just to say I'm back, or will soon be. In the meantime, here's a list of a bunch of contests going around right now. Some most all of them are pretty cool.

Urban Fantasy Book Giveaway at SFF Chat: win a book by Anne Aguirre, C.E. Murphy, Laurell K. Hamilton, or Maria Lima - ends May 31.

Wind Warrior Giveaway at Ex Libris: win a copy of Wind Warrior, by Cynthia Roberts - ends May 23.

Massive Birthday Extravaganza at I Should Be Writing: win excellent YA books OR a writer's support pack - ends June 10.

Lord of the Changing Winds Giveaway at My World...in Words and Pages: win a book with griffins - ends May 31.

It's Raining Cupcakes Giveaway at The Eager Readers: win a book with cupcakes! - ends May 31.

May 7, 2010

Guest post

I'm currently in the midst of studying for finals, etc. etc., so I may be only briefly present in the upcoming weeks.

However, if you just can't get enough of me, check out my guest post at The Secret Archives of the Alliterati.

See you on the other side!

May 4, 2010

Story A Day: Update #1

Well, one day down. (For those who haven't read the post about Story A Day, they may do so here.) The main gist is to write a story every day in May. I elected to take weekends off, which means I wrote my first story yesterday.

All in all, I'd say it was a success. This can be measured in a few ways. The first is that I actually wrote something, which is definitely one of the necessary components. The second is that yesterday's story actually accomplished its objective, which, as I said in my previous Story A Day post, was to help me out with the world building for my current WIP.

So what did I write about? Yesterday, I wrote about the kingdom in which the hero lives, and discovered a couple magical things specific to that kingdom. I also discovered a weird "other" culture in the north of their world, which I think will be the focus of my story today... So - success? Success! This world is getting built, one story at a time!

May 2, 2010

500 follower contest!

This is a public service announcement.

Shannon at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe is having a great giveaway in celebration of reaching 500 followers on her blog. My favorite part of the giveaway? That there are multiple prize packs, and that these prize packs are themed! I am a sucker for themed packs, plus the books in these packs are pretty awesome. Go here to check it out.

May 1, 2010

Twenty!

Twenty is a special number. Why? No particular reason. It's nice. Divisible by five and four. A number that we, being base ten-raised people, appreciate. Also, I'm twenty years old. But twenty is special for a reason other than that. Twenty is special because I recently hit twenty followers.

(Okay, so I'm currently at 20+. But when I wrote this post I was at 20, and by Jove, I'm sticking with it! Plus, 20+ is not necessarily divisible by both four and five. Continuing now...)

While I am a starving college student (a starving unemployed bum with a diploma in less than two weeks) and therefore unable to afford big things for a twenty-follower-celebration, I would like to take a moment to say that I appreciate all of you who are hanging out in the wings, whether you're commenting or just reading. And to show part of my appreciation, I'm going to take a page from someone else's book and give out book recommendations.

If you are a follower (or just someone passing through), feel free to comment with the last five books you read and enjoyed, and I'll hunt down a good book for you to try out. While it may seem like I am perpetually inundated in YA sci-fi/fantasy, I am marginally more widely read than that and am pretty good at these sorts of things. (Considering I was raised in a library, it's only natural.)

Also, if you are a follower and want a chance to win something real, send followers my way! I promise to have something tangible to give out once I hit fifty.