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Posts tagged ‘Reading’

What I Got From the Bookstore – Summer 2014

Since we all agree that my goal not to buy books was a silly, dumb goal, I decided to share a few of the books it picked up this summer. Wit the exception of Long Hidden, I bought all of these at second-hand stores. That is my favorite place to go to look for books. Sure it would be easier to just order from Amazon, but the hunt is part of the fun. Plus, most used stores price all of their books the same. So my Neil Gaiman was only $2.

And I didn’t have to pay for shipping.

First up is Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. I have never read this one, so this was a nice find.

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Next is an anthology, The Norton Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery. This anthology has a selection of short stories from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I feel like this is a textbook I would’ve gotten in a class (if I had a science fiction class). Still it’s a nice shelf book that I can dip into every now and then.

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The next book As She Climbed Across the Table is from one of my favorite writers — Jonathan Lethem. I remember a friend mentioning this story to me years ago, but I never got around to reading it. So glad I finally found a copy. I’ve read many of his short stories, but I haven’t gotten to his novels. Looking forward to reading this one.

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This next one, I can’t read right away. Why? Because it is Book 2 of a trilogy. Still, I wanted to get something by David Anthony Durham, since I collect minority scifi. I might have to hit up Amazon for the first one.

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And finally, this last one, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, I had to order from Amazon. It was published earlier this year and when it popped up on my Amazon recommended list, I jumped on it. I remembered the call for submissions, but I didn’t have anything available to submit. I hope there are more in the future.

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So far this fall is looking quiet. Margaret Atwood has a new book coming out in a week or so. I will be getting that (of course), but nothing else is grabbing me. However, I glanced at Locus magazines forthcoming list and let’s just say February 2015 is very exciting.

Short Story September is going well. Writing like crazy. Also stay tuned because I have some very exciting news coming down the pike.


New Goals for 2014

It’s the 15th of January, so technically it is still around the beginning of the year.  I wanted to write some of my goals for 2014 down.  I think that putting them out here publicly will be a good way to hold myself accountable.  Some of these will be easy, but others will take a lot of discipline.

Goal #1 — Finish 12 short stories a year and 1 longer piece.

This should translate into one short story a month.  In a year, I will be starting my thesis class.  I want a nice body of work ready to go before I set foot in the classroom.  Starting a year early should put me in a nice position for 2015.  By “longer piece” I mean something 10k words or more.

Goal #2 — Sell one short story.

This was my main goal for 2013.  I submitted a lot of work, but got a lot of rejections.  I’ve been trying off and on since 2004 to get published, but I stopped once I started grad school.  Last year I decided to resume my publishing quest.  Some rejections were very kind.  Some sucked.  I realize I just have to keep moving forward.  I’m never going to get published if I don’t keep writing and mailing my work out.

Goal #3 — Read at least 25 books this year.

This may seem like a small goal, but this past year I barely read 20 books.  Some books I started and just couldn’t finish.  Plus I tend to read a lot of short fiction on line.  Still, I need to read more.  So far this year I am off to a good start.  I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and am now reading Warbreaker.  Next up will be The Well of Ascension.

Goal #4 — Buy no new books, unless I get some gift cards.

During the holiday, I realized I had an insane amount of books waiting in my “to be read” pile.  I’m going on a year long hiatus of book buying to trim down the pile.  The only way I’m getting any more books is if someone gives me a gift card that I can’t spend anywhere else.

Goal #5 — Get my credit card bill down.

Grad school is expensive.  Root canals are expensive.  For the first time in two years I got a modest raise at my day job.  I need to start making a dent in my debt.

Those are the big ones.  There a few small ones like hang some pictures, exercise more, etc.  Honestly, I’m not too worried about those.  I’m in a regular routine for exercising and others are just chores I need to take care of.  These main goals are the big ones.  These are the ones I need to focus on.  I’ll return to these goals periodically over the year to record my progress.  For now, it feels good to have them out here in cyber space.  This gives me a real solid ideas to strive for.  Let’s see how 2014 goes.

The Bradbury Effect

In my last post, I wrote how much I wished I could be as productive as Ray Bradbury.  For some reason, I just didn’t think that I could work like that, churning out a story every week. This past May proved me wrong.

I decided I would try and so far I have finished a piece every week.  I start on Monday and by Sunday, I try and finish something, whether it is a short story, flash fiction, blog post, or the end of a longer piece.  The sense of accomplishment feels very good.  I feel productive.  It spurs me on to get to the next story.  I still have a ton to rewrite and a million other writing ideas to get down into cohesive stories, but for now I am happy to be stacking up the work.  After all, the more you write the better you get.  Not all of these stories are going to be good, but some of them have the potential to be good.  I’m a believer of this idea now.

Good thing too, because I signed up for a summer session at JHU.  Spring classes ended around the first week of May and
now, four short weeks later, I am gearing up for another workshop class.  That means, more writing and critiquing
are in my future.  Last semester was a good group of writers.  I learned a lot about myself (my confusing pronoun usage, my tendency for groups of three, needing deeper character development, etc.).  I’m sure this next class will help me along too.

In other news, I got into a car accident last week.  The insult was that it happened five minutes from my house! Thank God no one was hurt.  The accident was very minor and the only thing damaged were the cars.  For the past few days, while my car is being repaired I’ve been driving a rental.  A 2013 Altima.  It has a push start, something I have never driven.  It’s not my style of car, but I’m marveling at all the bells and whistles.  There is even a feature on the dash that tells you what song you are listening to on the radio.  Modern technology!  I’m used to my older car where you have to work for everything. LOL!

I also came across another gem of a book.  A signed copy of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  The best part?  I bought it from the thrift store when they had a 50% Memorial Day sale.  I love the spring/summer season.  People give away the best stuff now.  Along with the Franzen book, I got a copy of If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace.  I’ll get to them soon, but right now I’m reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  Interesting so far.  It’s one of those Big books many people read, and since I never read it, I thought I should join the club.

And yes, I did get around to reading 50 Shades of Grey.

All I will say about that book, is that I didn’t like it, don’t understand the people who do, and will go back to reading Harold Robbins the next time I feel the urge to read something trashy.  Now that man could tell a story and write some great sex scenes!

I did like Karen Russell, though.  Her stories were inventive, sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking, original, and ambitious.  I have Swamplandia! on my “to be read shelf” too.

There are so many great stories to be read.  So many yet to be written (hopefully one or two by yours truly).  I haven’t forgotten my New Year’s resolution.  You know the one where I wanted to be published.  So along with writing, I’ve got to start submitting again.

I just have to start one story at a time.

April 19, 2013

It’s been a busy 6 weeks or so.  I’ve got to catch you up.

First, I don’t have a new fiction piece for this month.  Last month I started writing a new short story, which has now become a monster story.  It is bordering on novella length, something that completely surprised me, so all of my effort has been focused on writing and finishing this story.  The piece that I planned to post I presented to my grad class back in Feb.  I got wonderful feedback and now need to rewrite it before I post.  I only have a few more weeks left of the semester, so the rewrite will happen soon! First order of business is finish the novella (or novelette, not sure yet), then rewrite.

Then, I’ll start on the thousand other stories that are patiently waiting in my head.  Sometimes I wish I was more like Ray Bradbury.  The man wrote an new story almost every week…

I was once asked where I get my ideas.  Lot’s of people always think about writing, but when they go to sit down and write, their minds go blank.  My advice, if this happens to you, is to do one of three things:

1) Use a writing prompt.  If you Google this, you will get plenty of ideas for a story to write.  I heard a good one last week.  It read, “There once was a __________, who ___________.”  There, now you have your first line! Don’t worry about whether it is good or not.  That’s what rewriting is for!  Just get the story down.

2) Write a story like someone else’s story.  This is only an exercise.  If you like Lord of the Rings, try writing something like that.  Don’t try and publish it.  Technically, you are committing plagerism, but if you just keep it for yourself and don’t try and publish it, why not?  It will get your creative mind working.  Then you will be surprised how the ideas will flow.  Soon you will have your own unique story and you will dive right in.

and finally 3) Write somethig from your real life.  We all went to school (or maybe you were home schooled), have family (or not), or go to a day job.  You may think your life is dull, dull, dull.  So what are the strange funny moments that make your life unique.  Maybe you live somewhere odd.  Maybe you know someone interesting.  If nothing interesting is happening, write about that.  In college, I once wrote a page and a half about how I had nothing to say.  LOL!  I kid you not…

Open yourself up and don’t be afraid.  It’s just you and the page.  No one else is there.  If you really hate it, to the recycle bin it goes!  Then start on something new.  One great thing I have learned since being in grad school is to open yourself up to everything.  Read everything and try writing it.  That’s why I’m posting a lot of the books I read.  You can see I read a lot of different people.

Here’s what I have read since my last post:

1)Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
2)A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3)Cover Her Face by PD James
4)”Hell is the Absence of God” by Ted Chaing (short story)
5)”Smooth Operator” by Darnell Cansilla (short story)
6)”Bright Morning” by Jeffrey Ford (short story)
7)”Lull” by Kelly Link (short story)
8)”You Have Never Been Here” by M. Rickert (short story)
9)”Answering the Call” by Brian Freedman (short story)

Some of the short stories were out of this anthology.  I read it a few years ago, when it first came out.  The stories are so good, I find myself revisiting them every now and then.

Currently I am reading Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.  A friend lent it to me, before I decided to buy her other collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove.  After that, I will start on 50 Shades of Grey.  Yes, you read that right.  I want to know what all the fuss is about!

Happy writing, and I will post again soon after the semester ends.

P.S. — I got my book mojo back.  I found Harry Potter #2, first printing, first edition on the shelf at the thrift store last week!

New Fiction for March 2013

So I made my deadline.  Yay!

If you look over to the right side of the screen there is a category called “Fiction”.  There is now a new short story up.  I hope that you enjoy it.  I did plan on posting another story, but I decided to workshop it for class and I haven’t finished the rewrite yet.  Once that is finished, I will put that one up next.  It probably won’t be until April.

Still no fun stuff found while book collecting.  Oh well.

I finished Parable of the Sower.  It was a great read.  The plot is about a young girl named Lauren, who lives in the near future.  The infrastructure of the US is crumbling and Lauren lives in one of the last safe havens just outside Los Angeles.  One night, her home is destroyed and her family wiped out.  She decides to set off into the world and to start over.

It is a gripping story.  Recently there are a lot of near future, everything bad is going to happen, books, but this one is different because it suggests a new religion (No it is not preachy. It  just doesn’t ignore religion.).  If you have ever read any Octavia Butler before, she tends to write very diverse futures where people are neither all good, nor all bad.  I have the next one in the series Parable of the Talents, but I am waiting to read it.

Right now I’m reading Jonathan Lethem’s Wall of the Sky, Wall of the Eye.  It’s a short story collection.  I’ve read one of them before (Light and the Sufferer).  So far I like most of them.  I have both the British and American versions (which are a bit different).

Once again I hope you enjoy my story!  Thanks for reading.

Writing and Reading — February 2013

Even snow days look pretty at my new place!

Snow Day!

Snow Day!

It has been a little over a month since I moved in to my new place. I still need a few more bookshelves, a chest of drawers, and some nightstands, but all in all, I am moved in. The biggest change has been how much more productive I have been. It may not seem like it, but I have actually done a lot more writing.

Which is good, because my class this semester is a fiction workshop class. Over the course of the class, I have to turn in three pieces. All of them cannot be things I have used in workshop previously. So I went through my stuff and found one finished piece that I haven’t looked at in a few years. I have one that is about 1/3 finished. Finally, I have a new piece that I just started, but is so interesting, I’ll be done writing it in a week or so. I’ll save that one for the end of the semester.

Almost as exciting is the news that I have been steadily working on my novel. After years of believing I had no more novels in me, last year I found myself wanting to start a new one. I tried the NANOMO. But we all know how that ended… Still I’ve been plugging away and now have a few thousand words.

It’s amazing what a little piece and quiet will do for your writing soul.

I do have one more work that I am almost finished, but I don’t want to talk about that too much. It is not for class. It was just something fun I decided to do, with a very personal motive. Once it is done, I’ll make an announcement.

I didn’t talk about this last year, but I did have a reading list. After sorting through all my books, I realized that there were a few I never got around to reading. Kate Vaiden was one of them, but there were quite a few more that I read and crossed off the list. Let me give you a rundown of those I can remember:


  • The Windup Girl – by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman
  • Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
  • Origin Stories – Kelly Link


And of course there were the five I read for class:

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
  • Charming Billy – Alice McDermott
  • Isaac’s Storm – Erik Larson
  • Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
  • Kate Vaiden – Reynolds Price

Of those, my favorite was Flowers for Algernon. I thought that was a wonderful, unique story. For those who don’t know, it is the story of a man with a very low IQ, who volunteers for an experimental surgery to make himself smarter. The story is told through his diary entries and charts both his joy and sorrow in his new life. It was a great read and I recommend it.

Infinite Jest is still sitting in the to be read pile. I packed it early and just didn’t pick it up over the break. Now? I just started reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. She is one of my favorite writers, but I never got around to reading this series. I’m only thirty pages it, but I’m having a hard time putting it down.

But I must. I have writing to do.

Anyone else found a new favorite book last year? Let me know!