A Little Over Halfway

Life has been very, VERY, VERY busy lately. This year’s Summer Reading program at the library has absolutely exploded! I feel very blessed to serve such a wonderful community with so many thoughtful and appreciative patrons.

And the signs of a happy Summer Reading program have been scattered throughout the last month–a bottle rocket graveyard on the library roof; hands stained with paint after a successful craft; a cluttered office after Library Comic Con; and many, many smiling faces.

So it is little wonder I haven’t had much time for my blog. But today has been a nice quiet respite, and I thought it might be fun to do a post.

We’re about halfway through the year, and even though life has been busy, I’ve still found time to read. So, I thought… why not post a list of my top 10 favorite books of the year so far?

Best Books of the Year (So Far)

10. Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 4 by James Tynion IV

9.  Teen Titans, Year One by Amy Wolfram

8. Daredevil: Back in Black, Vol 3: Dark Art by Charles Soule

7. Spider-Man: City at War by Dennis Hopeless

6. Library Wars 15 by Kiiro Yumi

5. Sentient by Jeff Lemire

4. Spy Family 7 by Tatsuya Endo

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

2. How to Take Over the World by Ryan North

1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

What have been your favorite books this year? Has anyone else read any of these on my list? What did you think of them?

Picture: Spider-Man perler bead craft from one of our library activities.

Updates, updates, updates!

First update: Yes, I am still here. I haven’t been abducted by aliens, or swallowed by giant sandworms, or blinked into an alternate dimension. It’s been a while since I’ve posted mostly because I wanted to make sure I had enough to say, and now… I finally do.

I don’t want to build these updates up too much, of course. It’s not like I’ve landed an agent (wouldn’t that be nice), but I do have more to say than: My brother is still beta-reading for me; I’ll do edits once he’s done.

So here’s the second update: I need to make some MAJOR REVISIONS. My brother, whose help is indispensable, called me up last week and was like, “You definitely want me to be honest, right?”

That’s a “yikes” moment–but one that I would much rather have coming from him rather than in countless rejection letters.

The long and short of it is that I’ve made my characters so unlikable that he didn’t want to finish reading the story. He had to force himself to finish Part One. Ouch, right? Well, yes, but also not surprising. I started planning this story in 2019 and then dove into the biggest part of writing it during COVID. And, like a lot of people, my faith in the human race was at an all-time low during the pandemic.

And it shows. At the time, writing that way was cathartic. But the end result was just way more nihilistic than I really intended for it to be.

And that’s not what I want to put into the world. I’m all for holding up a mirror to society and showing both the good and the bad of what makes us human–but in the midst of COVID-19, I seem to have forgotten the “good” parts.

Now, however, I’m approaching the book a little bit differently. (Because who wants to read a story that’s nothing but complaining about the worst of humanity?) Instead, I’m going to focus this story more on being a love letter to all that I love. When writing, I think it’s important to hold that aforementioned mirror up to society, yes, but I also want the story to be about some of the other things that make me happy. If I work all of those various ideas into the book, I should end up with more relatable characters who will have the reader eagerly turning the pages because they care about what happens to them.

That’s the goal at least. It’s a big edit, but, as the old adage goes: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

Other updates: My brother pointed out some other inconsistencies and areas that need improvement. One involved doing some research on blood. (You should have seen the look on my fellow librarians’ faces when all of these blood-related books started coming in for me. I think they’re all convinced I’m a vampire.)

Summer Reading is also coming up, which is a busy time at the library, but I’m hoping with enough planning ahead and to-do lists, those programs won’t take away too much of my time and energy. With luck, I’ll have a second draft of Part One done by August.

Key phrase: “With luck.”

So there we go: A goal, a plan, and a whole lot of hopeful thinking. Onward and upward, my friends.

Review: The Final Girls Support Group

From Goodreads.com

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not my usual style of book, but I enjoyed it. While this was a horror book, it wasn’t exactly a nail-biter. Instead, I’d call this more of an intriguing read with a solid concept and a healthy handful of creepy moments. (I mean… there was one moment that was legitimately unsettling to the highest degree, but I don’t want to spoil it.) This book had some shock value, but overall was more about dealing with trauma. There was also some interesting commentary on struggles that women face, especially in terms of being victims. And even a worthwhile dive into the psychology of horror movies, examining not only the psyches within the movies themselves, but also the mindsets of audiences who enjoy them, and what those movies mean to society at large. Like I said, this book was more intriguing than anything else. It took a while to get into, but once I did, it was a pretty quick read. I was chatting with a fellow librarian who also read it, and she and I pretty much agreed: It’s not a book that we’d recommend in a “you-have-to-read-this” way, but if we saw someone picking it up, we’d say it was a good book and we’d be curious what they think of it.

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Review: Quince

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From Goodreads.com

Quince by Sebastian Kadlecik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really cute and sweet and heartfelt. I loved the theme that being a superhero doesn’t mean that you need superpowers–sometimes, you just need to be there for someone. My favorite superhero is Superman for that very reason: At the core of those comics, he’s just a guy trying to help in the ways that he can. (The ways that he can just happen to be catching meteors and such, lol.) But sometimes the “ways that you can” mean volunteering, or being a friend, or just spreading a bit of happiness rather than hate. This book ends with the idea that sometimes the “cheesy” things can also be true–and I love this comic for saying that! Thank you for reminding us that our favorite characters are superHEROES. So yes, sometimes the cheesy things are true: That we can all put a little positive into the world. (Flying and bulletproof skin not necessary.)

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Review: Thornhill

From goodreads.com

Thornhill by Pam Smy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A expected this to be a spooky story… but it was, in actuality, a very tragic one. The art-half the diary-half complemented each other perfectly. The end result meant that, while there was some creepy imagery, the story itself was a sad one about what happens when people are cruel to each other. I’d definitely recommend it; it’s a fast read, but it it packs a powerful punch.

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A Day Late…

But not without good news!

I know my plan was to post on every Sunday, but yesterday, I got a little bit distracted.

I played my first ever videogame all the way through! (It was only four hours long and my brother was helping me with the puzzles, but still… it was kind of a nerd-complishment for me.)

In case anyone is wondering, the game was called To the Moon, and it was actually more of a visual novel. I loved every second of it. The game told a really compelling story in way that only a videogame can. The added element of interaction really brought what was a sweet, but also heart-wrenching story, to new levels.

But, on to the point of this blog: Writing progress.

Last week, I… WROTE THREE CHAPTERS! That’s huge for me! So often, I don’t have time to write, or I just feel creatively drained. But that was not true last week. Three chapters, done. And I’m actually excited to write more. It doesn’t feel like something to check off my to-do list; it feels like something I WANT to do.

It’s been a long while since I’ve felt that way about writing. As much as I adore it, more often than not, the last several years, it’s felt like something that just needed to get done. It was such a relief to really have fun with it again.

And, not going to lie, I felt a little maniacal at one point. You know all those memes about authors putting their characters through ridiculous trials…. Mwahahaha… that was me.

Authors be like Favorite character? You mean next victim. - Evil Plotting  Raccoon | Make a Meme
I was only slightly less maniacal than this raccoon.

So yes, this past week was a good one: I tried a new hobby and made progress (and rekindled some love) in an old one.

Lots of love, all!

Best Books of 2021!

I did this on my personal Facebook page, and… well, I thought it would be fun here, too! But there will be one change: When I did this at the end of last year (you know, two weeks ago), I just listed the books, no order. This time, I’m totally going to rank them!

I love lists, and I love books, and if you’re on my blog, I’m guessing you do, too!

These are my top 20 books of last year. Did you read any of these? If so, what did you think? What were your favorite books of last year! I’d love to hear!

20. 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

19. The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink

18. Green Arrow (Rebirth) graphic novel series by Percy Benjamin, Julie Benson

17. The Flash by Mark Waid: Book Six

16. Green Lantern Corps (New 52) graphic novel series by Peter J. Tomasi

15. Library Wars: Love & War manga series by Kiiro Yumi

14. Blue Beetle (New 52) graphic novel series by Tony Bedard

13. Green Arrow/Black Canary: ‘Til Death Do They Part by Judd Winick

12. Fantastic Four graphic novel series by Dan Slott

11. Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest by Brad Meltzer

10. The Flash: United They Fall by Gail Simone

9. Spy Family manga series by Tatsuya Endo

8. Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park by Andy Mulvihill, Jake Rossen

7.  Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Vol. 1: Hero of Metropolis by Robert Venditti

6. Resident Alien graphic novel series by Peter Hogan

5. Batman: The Dark Prince Charming by Enrico Marini

4. Lore Olympus, Vol. 1 by Rachel Smythe

3. Common Grounds by Troy Hickman

2. The Woods graphic novel series by James Tynion IV

1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Loooooong Time, No See

Happy 2022, everyone! Like the title says… looong time, no see. It’s been… about a month? Give or take?

I’ve missed connecting with everyone here on the blog, but I needed to take some time for myself and my family around the holidays. (And then some time after the holidays to put myself back on a regular schedule.)

The beginning of the year has meant re-instating my exercise and healthy eating routine. (Which is surprisingly difficult after a month of Christmas goodies. No matter how hard I try, broccoli just doesn’t taste as delicious as fudge….) Any fellow librarians out there also know that January is a busy time. We need to wrap up all the boring, statistical stuff from last year, and start planning ahead for this year’s programming.

Basically, the past couple of weeks have involved a lot of to-do lists and not a lot of creativity.

But life is starting to stabilizing. My to-do’s are starting to be manageable at work, and my exercise routine is… well, a routine again. (And yes… I’ve even replaced the fudge with broccoli.)

I should be able to focus more on writing from now on, but I do also want to be 100-percent honest: I may not have as much time to blog. Before my hiatus, I wrote about how there is only so much time (and also only a certain amount of creative juice) in me each day. So, going forward, I probably won’t post as many stories or poems. (Unless I have a burst of inspiration that just MUST GET OUT.)

I have a wide variety of poems, observations, stories, etc., posted here that, hopefully, prospective agents could peruse after I send off queries. (I don’t even know if that’s something they would do, but I’d like to think of this blog as an extended resume/portfolio.)

In the meantime, I really think the point of this blog is more about my publishing journey. I’ve shared my writings, and if you’ve been with me for a while (THANK YOU!!!), you’ve gotten an idea of my writing style and my publishing goals.

So now, let’s get down to business. (I dare you not to sing that a’la-Mulan.)

Each Sunday, I will post an update on my publishing journey. In between, I may post some reviews (because, as focused as I am on writing, I’m definitely not going to stop reading.) (It’s almost like I’m a librarian or something…..) I may also post some fun lists, because… yeah, I just really enjoy making lists.

But if I’m going to get serious, I need to streamline my focus. I need it to be laser-accurate. As much as I’ve loved sharing my stories, poems, photos, and thoughts on this blog… I need to take a hard look at myself, my schedule, and my priorities.

In my personal life, my priorities can’t change: I want to be healthy and keep aiming for the weight that will help me be that. I want to be there, in the moment, with friends and family. I want to read the books that I love.

In my professional life: I want to keep being the best librarian possible. I want to do everything I can to make my library a community center for all ages.

So in my writing life? What is it I really want to do? I want to be published. What does that mean? (1) Finish the book I started with NaNoWriMo. (2) Edit the YA book I’ve been working on for several years. (3) As much as I hate it, I think I need to rewrite another manuscript I finished ages ago. I think it’ll be “punchier” if I have a different starting point and if I switch perspectives between the male lead (who is the only narrator currently) and the female lead. (4) The most difficult goal… query letters.

And I need to actually do this. How? Cut away what doesn’t need to happen. I’ve shared many finished works. Now it’s time focus on finishing more. And I need to keep myself motivated. Weekly updates on this blog will certainly help with that.

Wow… this was a very long, and also very late, beginning-of-the-year post. Thank you, everyone, who has stayed with my since I started in 2020. It’s been two years, and I really hope that 2022 will be when I write an update that says: “I’ve gotten a reply to a query! And they want more! So excited for this next step in my journey!”

I hope I can share that with all of you. Wish me luck. Happy new year–and lots of love!

NaNoWriMo, Day 1

My family and I have a tradition of wishing each other a happy first of the month. I’m not entirely sure when or why it started, but I’ve always liked the sentiment of it: Happy First. We made it through one month. We have a brand new start ahead of us.

So, in that spirit: Happy Nov. 1, everyone!

What that also means for writers: Day one of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you’re not familiar with it, NaNo is when writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in one month (about the length of a short novel).

It’s definitely quite a feat, and not something I’ve ever technically accomplished. (Several years ago, I did manage to finish a novel, but it was short the 50k mark. What can I say…. The story was just finished.)

This year, though, I’m doing something a little bit different. The novel I started for NaNo last year is still unfinished. I’ve worked on it throughout the year, made some decent headway, hit a roadblock—lather, rinse, repeat.

So my goal for NaNo is not to hit that 50k. It’s just to finish this particular manuscript.

I’m hoping NaNo will give me a kick-in-the-pants and that blogging about my progress each day will keep me motivated and honest.

Because lately, I haven’t had much time to write. I’ve been focusing on other goals…. Namely, losing weight.

I feel like I kind of need to explain why this blog about writing has had fewer updates about me… you know… writing. All year, I’ve been exercising and adjusting my eating habits. And for the most part, I could still squeeze in time to write. But I kind of hit a point where I needed to kick my routine into high gear if I still wanted to see the scale decreasing.

So that has been priority one. I’m hoping with NaNo, though, I’ll be able to re-find that balance and make progress with both of my main goals: Writing and being healthy.

And, in case anyone is curious, I started the year at 162 pounds. (Not great for someone who isn’t even 5-foot.) My most recent lowest weight was 136.6. (Though trick-or-treat kinda got in the way…. Darn you, delicious Halloween candy!!!)

To sum up: NaNo = Finish last year’s project. Blog = Hold me accountable. Weight = Keep going down!

Wish me luck. With all those goals and only so many hours in a day (and a full-time job), I kind of feel like I’m going to need it.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6: Review

From Goodreads.com

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6 by Kiiro Yumi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweet and fun with lots of moments that make you smile. Plus, it’s a manga about why books shouldn’t be censored–which was particularly interesting in this installment since the story’s library actually decided to not include a magazine in their collection (one that specifically broke the law by printing the name of a minor serial killer). Yeah… talk about shades of gray and some interesting fodder for a debate/discussion. In short, this is a book that makes you think while also being a nice, sweet little rom-com. Not an easy balance to achieve, but it somehow manages it perfectly–which is saying something coming from someone who does not typically enjoy rom-coms.

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