June Book Report

June I did A TON of reading, but not a lot to add to this list.

Why? Because last month I edited a gigantic novel for a new writer. I read it through twice (took me 2 weeks). I imagine the final version will be changed from the version I read, too.

Turns out I LOVE editing fiction. I can do it from my hammock. I love to read. And I love to think through and solve problems. I’ve got a few more editing clients coming up in the next few months, but if you’re looking for an editor definitely hit me up.

So, other than unpublished novels … My favorite reads from June:

Anne of Green Gables seriesMy annual re-read. I still love this character so much. This year, Anne actually inspired a whole new book series idea for me (that Andrew says is my best idea yet). I will never get enough of the Anne series.

Brush with Darkness by Jamie Maltman: This is book 1 of a projected series, and I edited book 2 for the author (so we agreed I should probably read book 1 to get caught up). To be honest, I did not expect to like it as much as I did. Pseudo-historical fiction (Rome/Greece/Mediterranean) + fantasy. Not really the kind of thing I would seek out. The story was really good, though. I love being sucked into a story. He did something interesting with art being the source of the magic/power in the world. Still some amateurish bits in the writing, but I imagine that will improve with later books in the series. Here’s another review with more details re: the story.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: Really liked it. Appreciate that it was not for children. It’s kind of compressed Harry Potter + Narnia for 20-year-olds. The main character was only sometimes sympathetic, but it went with the story, really, that you want to smack him several times throughout the book. I actually really like this review even though it is 1 star, particularly point#4.

I plan on getting the sequels (The Magician King and The Magician’s Land). Any other magic-as-a-hidden-part-of-real-life books I should read? Other than Harry Potter, obviously. And Jonathan Strange (a favorite). I don’t love made up worlds (like Middle Earth, Narnia, etc), but magical rules in ‘real life’ are fun. Ideas?

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis: I love Michael Lewis. I plan on reading all his books. This was his first and has been on my to-read list for a long time. I’m kind of glad I kept putting it off, though. I really think I enjoyed it more because I have listened to the first 6 months of Planet Money (and so understand the economics of the mortgage bond industry slightly) and seen The Wolf of Wall Street (so have a visual for the chaos). Liar’s Poker is a memoir of wall street from about the same time as the DiCaprio movie. (P.S. counting this for U.S. History (but I won’t be posting my review there until I get to that rough time period)).

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown: Yea, I know. Garbage in, garbage out. But all of his books must have been best-sellers for a reason, and I’m trying to figure that out. I have in mind an idea for a mystery/thriller series and I am finding Dan Brown’s style interesting (not ‘good’). Knowing exactly where to stop a chapter so the reader really wants to turn the page is a skill.

Interestingly, while still not a great book, Angels and Demons is far better than books 3 and 4 in the Langdon series. This one was published first. Then Brown had his insane success with book 2 The DaVinci Code. So I’m imagining his editor working hard on book 1 (Angels and Demons ) and then throwing up his hands and saying ‘screw it, who cares,’ and putting out far worse books 3 and 4.

The Dream Engine by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant: This book will be published *very* soon, but as it was the book they wrote ‘live’ as the Fiction Unboxed project, I’ve been reading a little bit every day through the month of June. It’s about a 15 year old girl who learns that she is special and is plucked by a secret organization to save the world. You know. Most YA books. I like it, but don’t love it but can’t put my finger on why. I think just the simple fact that there is a heavy focus on world-building, and I don’t feel like I know the characters terribly well.

(and others… )

Read anything good lately?

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1 year quit-iversary: An ode to support from a spouse

I quitRather quietly last week I celebrated the 1 year anniversary of quitting my day job. My last day in a cubicle was Friday, June 21, 2013.

There are a lot of things I could say in this post, like how to quit your day job yourself, or 3 things I wish someone had told me, or plans for my future non-cubicleness. …

But really, I just want to tell you how grateful I am to my husband because I 100% could not have done this without his support.

I suppose as a proper blogger, I should be focusing on a good takeaway for you the reader. I should be able to distill this into a couple good lessons or tips for you do use in your own journey. I shouldn’t make this all about me.

But I can’t do that. Because I could not have quit my day job at this point in my life without Andrew’s whole-hearted commitment to make me happy.

You see….  When I quit last year, I was *barely* making enough money through L&R, #30Lists and working for Maggie to cover what Andrew’s salary did not.

Since then, a year later, I have not really increased my income at all. We still have very little money. And what is Andrew’s response to that? “Read in the hammock. Watch a movie. Do whatever makes you happy.”

Yes, I have read a lot in the last year. 50+ books since the beginning of 2014. But I have done more than read in a hammock too. I’ve painted the garage and done more yardwork than I ever wanted to. I launched a minisite and a book club just for fun. I’ve written 2 novel rough drafts, and edited 2 more. I’ve completed my big ecourse and grown that community. I’ve shot a few weddings and shuttered that business. I spent a whole week taking care of my grandmother in Phoenix. I’ve dropped everything to drive to Andrew’s work for an impromptu date. I’ve thought and dreamed and planned and worked (and planned some more).

I may not be making any more money than I was a year ago, but I am approximately 17,000x happier than I was in the cubicle.

All because my husband supports me, supports my goals, and (most of all) believes that me being happy with zero expendable income is a much better way to spend life than me being miserable and having a bit more money to spend.

I’m super excited for my next year of cubicle-less-ness.

Feel free to go tell Andrew how awesome he is on his Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It will embarrass the heck out of him.

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still taking BRAVE steps

Even though my “Year of BRAVE” is technically over, I still want to consciously make BRAVE steps. All the time.

Ali has talked about this with her own One Little Words – words from previous years stick with her. I am 100% finding that to be true. It’s hard to shake a whole year of developing a new habit and mindset. Especially when it has all worked out so brilliantly!

Making the brave choice is ALWAYS in the forefront of my mind. Always. Is it braver to say yes to an opportunity to expand my reach or to say no because of opportunity cost? Is it braver to attend a social function (because I’m an introvert) or to stay home and work on my novel (where I want to move my career)? These are the kind of questions I (repeatedly) filter through my BRAVE One Little Word AND now my NURTURE One Little Word.

For example … In the last couple months I:

  • filed the paperwork necessary to dissolved my photography business
  • filed the paperwork necessary to create my small online media business that will serve as the umbrella for several smaller sites.
  • spent money to join a group of writers (more on this later this month)
  • committed to writing a short story for an anthology (even though I haven’t written a short story since about… 2004).
  • registered a new URL for an author site (more on this and the above as I have news)
  • asked people to unsubscribe from an email list
  • braved Lowe’s by myself, looking like an idiot, trying to explain what I needed for a plumbing project even though I didn’t really know

…. and probably more little things here and there that I am not remembering because being BRAVE is so much more part of my life than it was a year ago.

Last year I spent a lot of time thinking and weighing options and really trying to figure out what works best for me. This year the decision-making is getting easier, but still scary as hell. I’m coming up on a year of being 95% self-employed and I still love it. Even though we have *far* less money than before. Even though I *still* only see Andrew an hour or 2 every other day.

Are you trying to take a BRAVE step? Trick your brain. Tell yourself it’s only temporary and you can always change things back.

Some of these ALSO fall under my NURTURE One Little Word. I’ll write about that soon!

What BRAVE steps have you taken lately?

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May Book Report

You may notice something about this month’s book report: I actually read less this last month. I tried to, you know, get other stuff done. Imagine that. And we had new friends staying with us.

Plus, I was a guest on That’s What She Read podcast. And, of course, got some good recommendations for books from those ladies too. I’m excited to get started on my summer reading list!

I abandoned a history book that I could not get past page 30. I very very rarely abandon books but A) Garbage In, Garbage Out and B ) I feel like I read enough that I can justify it? Right? I’m not missing anything by not finishing that particular book.

Most of my reads from May:

Under the Dome by Stephen King: Andrew and I decided we want to read all of Stephen King’s work. Little by little. Of course, this book is 1100 pages – not exactly “little”. I think I have an advantage that I haven’t read any of King’s earlier work. Just The Shining. So I don’t have to compare his new books to his glory days. That said, Under the Dome was … bloated. He needs an editor to restrain him a bit. However, I still liked it a lot. There was even one part I read that I felt my heart racing! I’d say that’s a sign of a good storyteller. I don’t know if I care enough to watch the TV show, though.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: Another good one to read right after Steal Like an Artist. In this one, Kleon expands on the idea of being an artist and sharing your work. While you are working, after you’re working, as well as how to deal with it (like dealing with critics). I keep trying to give Andrew ideas for how to show his work to market his recording services. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely reread it.

The Inferno by Dan Brown: I fully realize that this book might go against my whole garbage in, garbage out mentality, but as I am *trying* to write a novel and I KNOW it is slow and boring, I approached this book as a writer. What is it about Brown’s books that make people devour them in a day? This one wasn’t *quite* as compelling as The Lost Symbol (for me) but I did notice it had more than 100 very short chapters. I assume that is part of the machinations of a “thriller”? Getting the other 2 Dan Brown books soon for a similar look.

Plus I read a few U.S. History books

You might notice this is far fewer books than usual ….

Also this month I read a few Vanity Fair magazines (I like to save them up and then binge-read them) as well as my friend’s first novel (twice). I was one of her beta reader! It was really (really) fun to be one of the only people in the world that has read this particular story as well as do what I could to make it better. Luckily for me, it was a well-written novel with a good story. If my friend had told me it was going to be published as-is I would have believed her. That said, I still got to exercise my grad-school-critical-reading skills and point out a couple holes and suggest ideas.

SO fun. As of right now I am sure I am a better editor than writer.

Read anything good lately?

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June is for …

  • Fiction Unboxed. Post to come.
  • Father’s Day and my mother-in-law’s birthday
  • 1 year anniversary of being cubicle-free!
  • Write another 20,000 words or so of my third novel
  • Annual re-read of Anne of Green Gables series
  • Trying to get an oilstain out of our driveway
  • Trying to keep my garden alive
  • Photographing a wedding with Maggie

What do you have planned?

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Summer reading list!

I plan on reading a lot this summer. Because, obviously, that’s what I do. That’s what backyard hammocks are for. I have been collecting to-read books for awhile. I’m quite excited to finally read a lot of these that have been on my list for months!

summer reading 2014Most of these I will be getting from the library, but they’re all linked here to Amazon (affiliate) for your shopping pleasure.

Fiction

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: I really don’t know anything about this novel except that it is supposed to be fantastic. That’s really enough for me. I am trying to read widely. It’s categorized as sci-fi/fantasy so that alone will be out of my norm, but it is also originally in Japanese. I’m excited to branch out with this one.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Again, supposed to be fantastic. I’ve been on the library waiting list for weeks. Theo Decker tells the story of his life so far, beginning with the incident that killed his mother when he was 13. I love a good coming-of-age story (I recommend The Buddha of Suburbia), and this one ties in the art world. I’m intrigued.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: High school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes magic isn’t real until he is admitted to an exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. Another coming-of-age book that also looks at power and good v evil. I also just read a recommendation for the sequel, The Magician King.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: Oscar de Leon, a Dominican-American nerd in New Jersey, dreams of becoming the next JRR Tolkien. The dominant theme of the story is the “fuku” (curse) Oscar’s family lives under. The book is also supposed to be full of Dominican history (fun!). This one was recommended by Serena in the recent episode of the That’s What She Read podcast I was on.

Non-fiction

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones: Published last fall, as far as I know this is the only proper Jim Henson biography written. AND it was written with cooperation from the Henson family. I could not be more excited. I just love him. This will go really well with my other Henson-creative-process and Muppet books. And eventually U.S. History.

Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time by Robert V. Remini: Well, this and a few other history books. Webster was one of the most influential senators during the contentious time of the early 19th century when the United States was *barely* hanging together. These are the kind of history books (the non-president biographies) that really give a fuller look at the country’s history.

Liar’s Poker: Rising through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis: I love Michael Lewis. I always recommend him to people who don’t think they like nonfiction and I plan to read all of his books. This is is first narrative non-fiction and is semi-autobiographical about his time working on Wall Street in the 1980s. I think it’s a must read for anyone interested in U.S. economic history.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell: I have been meaning to read this book since … 2004 or so. College. Originally published in 1949, this book looks at mythology and the archetypal hero’s journey (see: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and others). I actually love the idea of story as an accessible formula (see: Wired for Story) and am excited to finally get into this.

(and probably lots and lots more)

What are you reading this summer?

P.S. Two years ago’s summer reading list

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My currently story

studio

date: May 25, 2014

eating: I have been eating a lot of egg drop soup for breakfast this week. I think I have finally perfected my chicken broth recipe, so I can just heat up a serving, add a bit of salt, ginger and sesame oil, and then once it is about to boil drop in 1 raw scrambled egg while stirring. Then I’ve been pouring it over some chopped green onion. I love that it’s light and warm and a great source of protein. New favorite.

drinking: Water. Almost exclusively water and coffee. I have a 32oz water bottle and can drink almost 2 full each day.

reading: I’m currently reading a history book about William Henry Harrison that I am not in love with. I WANT to read it for my U.S. History class (so I’m going to power through) but it is slow going for sure. Mostly, I’m just looking forward to being done with this book specifically and the historical period 1840 – 1859 in general.

enjoying: having guests in the house this weekend. Brews Willis flew out from Toronto to make a record with my (amazing) husband and they’re actually staying with us! We have the space and it saves them several hundred dollars to not get a hotel and it’s kind of fun. Fang is loving it.

listening: Obsessed with podcasts. Obsessed. I like to binge listen to 1 podcast until I knock out all the archives and then switch and binge listen to another. Currently in the middle of The Moth.

trying: to keep my garden alive. The banana pepper and strawberry plants haven’t had any new blooms in a week or so (but they’re still alive, at least). My lettuce though is only barely hanging on. I moved them to the front yard where there is less direct sun and I *think* they’re doing better there but it’s hard to tell.

thinking: about story. I’ve been learning a lot about story telling and book writing recently, and that combined with my Moth listening has got me thinking about the stories in my life that I can adapt and retell. I also got The Hero with A Thousand Faces recently and I want to spend some quality time in that book. I first heard about in my senior year of college from the GREAT professor and have wanted to read it ever since.

writing: I am just over halfway done with my first draft of my current novel (original working title was George Washington: Serial Killer). I had originally pegged May 31 as the finish date, but then life happened and then I committed to a project in June (next paragraph) so I’m giving myself some space and moving the self-imposed due date. But even though it is fewer words every day, I love writing every day. Highly recommended.

feeling: Excited about Fiction Unboxed starting Sunday. Andrew and I talked it over and I decided to jump in at the participation level so I will be helping shape the story these guys are writing in 30 days. Plus they’re opening up the world to other writers so I’ll be brainstorming my own story to write and work on. It’s going to make my month BUSY, but kind of awesome.

loving: That I make my own schedule and so was able to go to the studio with Andrew on Friday. The photo above is from the tracking room on the 2nd day of working on the new Brews Willis record. A year ago there is NO way I would have been able to take off work the Friday before a holiday. This year I answer emails in the morning, just let Maggie know that I won’t have internet in the afternoon and I’m good to go.

This list (borrowed and adapted from Danielle of Sometimes Sweet) is much more detailed and in depth than rukristin papercraft’s Currently List cards. Necessarily so, since those cards are only 3×4. But either way, recording my everyday story is SUCH a priority for me. Especially since we don’t have any vacations or milestones or otherwise bigger stories to tell.

I have been *loving* having these cards to jumpstart my memory keeping so far in 2014. I’ve been filling them out every other Friday, and they are *literally* all the memory keeping I have done so far this year. So far. They are currently acting as placeholders in my (otherwise empty) Project Life album.

The Currently List is just a great, simple exercise you can use to take 5 minutes and refocus.

Here are the last few of mine:

currently

I have original black, special L&R green, January’s Rocket Gray and February’s fuschia. There’s also this month’s Dandelion Yellow (but I haven’t printed any out yet) Can’t wait for new colors the rest of the year!

I plan on doing these every other Friday, and you can follow me on Instagram or join the Facebook group to see any new ones.

How to get started:

What’s new with you currently?

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What am I excited to read soon?

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetJust a super quick post to let you know I was invited to chat with the ladies of That’s What She Read podcast!

We all had a TON to say and the podcast went well over an hour. But, let’s be honest. I will talk books with any one at any time.

The podcast episode went up this morning. You can find it here on Podbean or here on iTunes. Episode 18 with me and Megan Anderson of The Nerd Nest!

I’d love to hear what you’ve read recently, are currently reading, or are looking forward to reading soon!

P.S. This is now my 2nd podcast interview in 2 months! Want to have me on your show or blog? Just send me an email :)

P.P.S. If you are visiting L&R for the first time after hearing the podcast, check out L&R Book Club info here or my recent book reports here.

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Nurture: One Little Word update

2014 is my year to NURTURE. I need to slow down, cut back, get to know my new life without a cubicle job and so much more.

It’s been lovely and relaxing. And (no surprise) makes me feel lazy. After years of working a full-time+ job AND running L&R AND launching new products on a regular basis, pulling WAY back like this has provided me so much more free time reading time than ever before.

This is my vision board for the year – although, can you really call it a vision board when it’s really just 8.5×11″? I wanted it to fit into my One Little Word binder AND I don’t have a ton of magazines that are cut-up-able so I went with the smaller size:

nurture

I think all of these images are from Sunset Magazine (I love that mag). You can see lots of images of green and the outdoors. I have been so excited about starting my garden this year! And getting out with Kam and plans to do some fun outdoorsy trips with Andrew later. It has been great making that a priority.

You can also see a lovely luxurious bed – unapologetic about naps this year. Also, an art museum and a reading bench. Because lord knows I want to just learn and absorb everything I can.

I have genuinely loved giving myself a break for the last 4.5 months, not feeling guilty about spending the afternoon reading or not setting aggressive deadlines.

This is totally the word I needed this year.

How is your 2014 One Little Word going?

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April Book Report

At the moment, I’ve read about 10 books a month during 2014. Maybe I should slow down and get something else done? We’ll see. No promises.

Some of my reads from April:

I read LOTS of History. Like 1105 pages worth. Plus ….

A few books that tie into writing and “researching” my current novel

  • The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: This was the first Dan Brown book I read and I totally get the appeal now. I plan on reading all his books. That said, there is no reason he had to include EVERY piece of research he came across. That’s one of the reasons I think the Harry Potter books are so well done – it’s so obvious to a well-read person that Rowling incorporated a ton of research about classical texts/myths without having to be lectured about it. BUT I did get a fun idea to include in the novel I’m writing, which was the whole point of reading this particular book.
  • 250 Things You Should Know about Writing by Chuck Wendig: Super short, easy kindle book. But I really love to read what other writers have to say about writing, so I read this little by little over the last couple weeks. Especially as I think more and more about self-publishing, getting these thoughts from a hybrid self-published+traditional-published author were so interesting.
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: This was a re-read of one of my favorite authors. It’s not *really* connected to the book that I’m reading, except that I just wanted to remind myself what it is I love about novels. I love the subtlety first and foremost (Wharton is fantastic), and the theme of House of Mirth ties in a bit with my story (both protagonists make a series of bad decisions in trying to achieve their ambition), and I got an idea or 2 of other details I want to include in my book. Really, I just wanted to re-read a novel I knew that I loved. It’s free on Kindle, by the way.
  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: I already wrote about this here, but this book was the perfect, short, 100% actionable book on creativity for me to read this month. I loved it. It is absolutely the kind of book (like Steven Pressfield’s books on creative work) that I will re-read and re-read again.
  • Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady: Counted in the history page count above, but obviously associated with my novel. It’s interesting writing fiction about real people. Especially real people that no one knows a lot about. How much can I fudge? How much does it really matter? Not only did I learn a bunch of details of everyday life in Virginia in the 18th century I can use, but I mined the bibliography for other research sources. But, in general as a biography, most of the info you can glean from any good biography of George Washington.

AND…

  • Fat Vampire by Johnny B Truant: Fine. Not terrible considering he went from idea to published in 29 days. But made me realize that I much prefer the proper novel length story. This novella was simply not complex enough to hold my interest over a full series. The kindle version of this first book is free, if you’re interested in checking it out for yourself. Note: I read this before I committed to my garbage in – garbage out rule.
  • Horizon by Jenn Reese: The third book in this middle grade sci-fi trilogy. I would never *choose* to read middle grade sci-fi, but they were written by my former co-worker’s girlfriend. I bought the first one to be supportive and liked it enough to buy the rest. Really good series for a 4th or 5th grader. Strong female lead, solving problems with the help of her best friend and others they meet along the way, trying to save her people from the bad guys. Read the full synopses of the books here.
  • Amanda by Candice F. Ransom: I don’t know how to describe this. It’s like a Young Adult, Historical Coming-of- Age Romance. As much as a YA book can be a Romance. I don’t know why I love it as much as I do, but I read it first in 6th grade or so and it has stuck with me. There’s something about it that leads me to re-read every few years. In 1848, 16-year-old Amanda has to leave Boston in the middle of the night due to her father’s gambling debts and matures into a strong woman on the Oregon Trail. Plus, you know. There’s a cute boy, obviously.

(and others…)

Read anything good lately?

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