Archive for January, 2022

WriYe and the New Year

Once again, we’re doing WriYe (short for Writing Year, formerly NaNoWriYe in the ancient past of the aughts). This is…*counts on fingers*…year four since I came back at the beginning of 2019. Every month there is a blog post prompt, and I tend to do them, because it allows me to not have to think too hard about a blog post every so often.

They’re doing a different format this year where, instead of a series of questions, there’s just a single prompt. So, for January, the prompt is:

Tell us about your plans for the year.

Not unexpected. It is that time of the year.

(Also, hey, did I tell you guys that I sold a short story last weekend? 2022 is already going better than either 2020 or 2021.)

I’ve talked about working on overcoming the procrastination habits I’ve fallen into over the last couple of years and my video gaming goals already, so I guess let’s talk about everything else I have planned for the year.

Let’s talk about reading first. Back in, oh, 2009 or something, I set a goal of reading 50 books a year, which I have managed every year since then (sometimes squeaking through, sometimes with easy sailing). That’s about a book a week, though I tend to read several books at a time. It’s inefficient, but whatever.

Occasionally I add modifiers to the challenge. 2020 I believe I had a requirement to read something lying about the house (which apparently cumulated in me reading a lot of things I’d bought at library book sales), and I think it was 2019 where I tried to read a book per book shelf. (Made it through four or five shelves before I got distracted.)

This year I’ve got two: 1) book per month that is lying around and 1) book per month off either my Goodreads Want to Read shelf or my library’s For Later shelf.

The thing I have to look out for is the same thing as 2020, where I focused on the library book sale books, i.e., books that I knew I would read and then get rid of. The spirit of the challenge should be to read books that I really want to read that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Something to think about.

Writing-wise, my main goal for the year is to do a final revision on Book 1 of my trilogy (as identified as my main writing goal in my life when I did my soul searching last fall) and create/revise submission materials for it.

(Also I’m going to finish the first draft of the Gothic horror novella I started during November. Almost done, only have about 8K left to go and have already written 10K on it for the month, so hopefully that’s done relatively quickly here.)

Now, submission is a horrible, confidence-draining process, and I will need to do something else once we reach the submission period. So here’s what I’m thinking, in some vague order:

-Revise my scifi horror novella (got lots of good beta feedback, and it sounds like the book is in pretty good shape in general)
-Create/revise submission material for that so I can be in double submission hell, I guess
-Revise the cozy mystery I wrote for Nano 2020 (some feedback, pretty good, though)
-Create/revise submission material for that? (Misery loves company, ha ha)
-Finish my serial (only Part 4 still needs to be done, and should be out March or April, I believe–I forget the schedule and will have to look)
-Release serial as an ebook

The cozy mystery, if it gets anywhere, will be under a penname. I have one picked out and everything.

I also have a goal of releasing two more SkillShare classes, but SkillShare is making some massive changes to the teaching side of the platform (changing how many minutes people have to watch before you get royalties, changing the platform they’re paying through, etc.) and I will need to look and see if I still want to stay there or try out a different platform.

Anyway, that’s the general plan for the year! I have to do the Book 1 stuff, but the rest of it is kind of fluid. Still, I predict a lot of revision, though what specifically I’m revising may change.

Any big plans yourself, squider?


Library Book Sale Finds: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball by S. P. O’Farrell

Man, how long has it been? I think since 2020 at least, since I was doing some sort of reading challenge that year that was getting me through my stash of library book sale books.

Back to it!

I picked up this book at a library book sale, where I paid a whooping $6 for it. (As I recall, we ended up only buying a few books because it was less “lots of books for cheap” and more “extremely expensive and not much of a selection.”)

I’m not sure what I was thinking. The genre was not at all what I was expecting, so either I bought the wrong book, or I’d completely forgotten everything about this book by the time I got around to reading it.

Title: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball
Author: S.P. O’Farrell
Genre: MG Mystery
Publication Year: 2019

Pros: Great villain, good possibility to see him again in later books (that do not currently exist)
Cons: Plot is predictable, main character is supposed to be very observant but misses things when plot appropriate

I found this book really hard to read. Like, I’d pick it up, read a few pages, and then put it down again and not want to touch it. I had to force myself to keep reading. I’m not sure why–it might be the voice (which is first person) or it might be because I could see the way the plot was going and it was making me anxious.

Seriously, though, I don’t remember this being a MG mystery. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with MG mystery. I read it occasionally and it tends to normally be a quick, fun read (you don’t typically have anything too life-shattering going on in MG). I’m sure a lot of the predictability in the plot comes down to that.

Obviously I’m in the minority, too, as this book has only glowing reviews on Goodreads.

Simone LaFray is a precocious 12-year-old who is an operative for a French secret agency. By day she helps her father run his world-famous patisserie. Her mother also works for the agency, and her attention-seeking younger sister and their dog round out the family.

Simone is literally perfect, and none of the family has any real flaws, which is not unheard of for MG. The plot is a bit slow, but follows a known art thief arriving in town, ostensibly to finish a job that was interrupted the year before. The art thief was my favorite character. He has a cool nickname–the Red Fox–he eludes everyone the whole book, including Simone, and he has a flair for drama.

Would I recommend this? I don’t know. I didn’t enjoy it, but maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

Read anything good lately, squiders?

So Far, So Good

Howdy, squiders. I’ve had an interesting week–had a close contact test positive over the weekend (no worries, they’re doing fine) and so decided that it was best to get tested myself, just in case. (Just got my results back, and I don’t have it.) But, of course, you’re not supposed to interact with anyone while you’re waiting on results, so my week has mostly consisted of checking to see if I had results yet, and then wondering what to do with myself.

Couldn’t really plan, you know? I did the test Monday morning and called my boss mid-day-ish to double check policy and let him know that I probably wouldn’t be in on Tuesday, and I used Tuesday to get a fair amount of writing done.

But then I didn’t get my results Tuesday night, or early this morning. So I had to call my boss again and deal with the fact that I hadn’t known if I was going to go into work or not and so had not planned my day.

In retrospect, I should have planned both ways, and then I could have just executed whichever plan was necessary. Next time.

Anyway, I have my results now, and so we’re back to normal.

I realize we’re not even halfway into January yet, but I’m feeling really good. I’ve made decent progress on the draft of the school horror story I was working on for Nano. I’m up to the second plot point, so we’ve just got to go through the dark moment and the climax (which hopefully will be fun!) and then I’m done with that and can switch over to revising Book 1, which is my main goal for the year.

I’ve already read three books for the year (including one of my TBR) so that’s going pretty well too, and I’ve done some drawing and watched some videos on gouache, which is a new paint type that I got for Christmas and need to try out.

Fingers crossed that this momentum will last. I could really use a good year creatively.

How are things going for you guys? Making good progress?

Video Game Time

Hey, squiders! First week of the new year is down. How has it been for you so far?

I’ve done okay, though I’ve been focusing on the easy things first.

(Also, as I think I told you, I made a resolution to read a book off my TBR lists once a month. I’ve ended up with three books, however, because I kept looking them up at the library and they weren’t available. So I put a couple of holds on stuff and eventually found a book that was available.

And then, of course, the holds came in.)

You know what’s easy? Playing video games. In theory.

Here’s the deal with video games. I am a binge gamer with obsessive tendencies. It is really hard for me to play, oh, an hour, and then go do something else. I tend to play several hours in a go, have a hard time refocusing onto something else, and, if left to my own devices, I will do this for a week or so and then wander off and not touch that or another game for months.

This isn’t true of all games. Multiplayer games I can normally play for an hour or two and be good for the day, and I can do that several days in a row and on and off. I think it’s because my brain categorizes those games as socialization or spending time with friends or something, something that separates them from video games as a whole.

Like, when I and everyone else in the world was super into Among Us last year this time, I wasn’t playing five hours of AU in a day. I’d play an hour and a half on average and then I was done. When I play AU these days–admittedly a lot less than I was–that still seems to hold. It might also be because multiplayer games tend to be fairly repetitive so they don’t lend themselves to repetition aside from competing against other people.

The other exception is dancing games. I love dancing games. I am good at dancing games. I used to Dance Dance Revolution all the time back in the day, and these days I play Just Dance on the Switch (or the Wii) before it. I think if you played six hours of Just Dance in a go you’d probably die. I average about 45 minutes, maybe an hour.

But, anyway, I said to myself that I should get the video game goal going. I think, maybe, my thought was I’d start a game and then play it on and off through the month, apparently forgetting the last several decades of evidence about how I actually play games.

The first thing I tried is called Spellcaster University. I got it for free through Amazon Gaming, which I didn’t realize was a thing (apparently it comes free with your Prime membership). It’s your fairly standard build and maintain sort of tycoon, in this case a magic school that gets destroyed every ten years when the dark lord rises up. I played, oh, four years of the first school on the first, then played some more yesterday, where I spent like six hours finishing off that first school and then two more (and had just started the fourth when I stopped for the day). Depending on the students’ training they can get different jobs when they graduate, and I think those bonuses must stack in between schools, because I feel like I got way more powerful a lot faster this last school, to the point was I was starting to be able to fight against the dark lord to some extent.

There’s the binge gaming kicking in again.

Over Wednesday and Thursday this week I also played a choose your own adventure visual novel based off of Hamlet called To Be or Not to Be. It was pretty fun–I especially enjoyed some of the Ophelia paths–but the base game got boring pretty quickly. I found a guide that told me how to unlock all the achievements and did that, then found one that explained how to unlock the artwork (my favorite piece being the ghost of Hamlet’s dad making friends with the sea creatures), but then I realized there were 100 art pieces and that my time would be better spent making magic schools, so I called that game done and moved it into my Completed section on Steam.

So I count the goal done for the month. I started two new games and beat one of them, and I’ve definitely played five hours.

Probably should work on figuring out how NOT to binge game. I had honestly forgotten that was a thing I did, since most of what I’ve played in the last year and a half is either Among Us or Just Dance. I did play a great horror adventure game over the summer called Oxenfree, and I didn’t binge that either. Wonder why not?

Maybe it’s just tycoons and MMORPGs I binge, and if I can stay away from those, I’ll be fine.

Things to ponder.

Thoughts, squiders? About games (and how to stop playing them at appropriate times)? Or resolutions?

Year-end Book Round-up 2021

Happy 2022, squiders! As always, to start the year off, we look at what I read last year. (Been tracking since 2009 or 2010, something, yadda yadda, etc.)

(Also I should be back to my twice a week schedule now. We’ll see.)

(Also also I did finally get my outlining workshop SkillShare class all fixed. It’s here.)

Anyway, on to the stats!

Books Read in 2021: 50
Change from 2020: -9

I did a lot of reading in 2020, mostly because I couldn’t focus on anything else. I’d say we were more at normal reading levels in 2021.

Of those*:
9 were Mystery
7 were Fantasy
7 were Nonfiction
5 were short story collections
4 were Dystopian
4 were General Literature
4 were Romance
3 were Science Fiction
2 were Memoir
1 was Alternative History
1 was a Fairy Tale retelling
1 was Historical fiction
1 was a story sampler
1 was a tie-in

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

No audiobooks this year. Though we did listen to one–I apparently just didn’t write it down.

New genre(s)**: alt history, fairy tale retelling, dystopian, historical fiction, memoir, short story collection, story sampler, tie-in
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: children’s, adventure, Gothic horror, horror, a play, science fiction noir, spy novel
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: general literature
Genres that went down: mystery, fantasy, nonfiction, romance, science fiction

I think I read a broader swath of genres this past year. Plus a bunch of short story collections.

14 were my books
36 were library books

Oof. I must stop getting out so many books from the library and read my own books instead.

53 were physical books
11 were ebooks

Of note, almost every book of my own that I read was an ebook. Only the Uglies trilogy wasn’t. Also a problem.

Average rating: 3.59/5

Top rated:
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstein (fantasy – 4.5)
Totto-chan (memoir – 4.4)
Unfettered (SFF short story anthology – 4)
Solutions and Other Problems (memoir – 4)
Take a Look at the Five and Ten (general literature – 4)
The House in the Cerulean Sea (fantasy – 4)

More in my normal categories this year, though the memoirs are a surprise.

Honorable mentions of 3.9: Twas the Knife Before Christmas (mystery), Operation Moonglow (nonfiction)

Most recent publication year: 2021
Oldest publication year: 1896
Average publication year: 2013
Books older than 1900: 1
Books newer than (and including) 2016: 36

In theory reading newer books helps you see which way the markets are trending.

The first book I read this year was The Best American Mystery Stories 2020, edited by C.J. Box (mystery short story collection) and the last was Deck the Donuts by Ginger Bolton (mystery).

Read anything great last year, squiders? I’ve already read something good this year–This is How You Lose the Time War. Definitely recommend.