Reading Goals This Year and Next

girl[1]Back in August, I blogged about my favorite reads so far this year. I had read 27 books at that point, but still had 23 to go to reach my reading goal of 50 books in 2018. By the time November rolled around, I was seriously behind in achieving that goal.

One book a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but with day jobs, family responsibilities, and daunting writing goals, it became more difficult as the year progressed.

Since I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, I’ve had more reading time. I also chose fiction that wasn’t 500 pages or more. Some of the nonfiction I read this year was pretty intense, and took a while to get through. So it’s not surprise that my favorite reads these past four months are all fiction:

. Force of Nature by Jane Harper

. Miami Requiem by J.B. Turner

. Judgment Road by Christine Feehan

. Trickster Draft by Eden Robinson

. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J. Archer

. Land of Hidden Fires by Kirk Kjeldsen

. The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett

. Bound by Kirsten Weiss

Goodreads tells me that I’ve reached 98% of my reading goal, and as I’m just finishing another book, I’ll make my target, then jump right into my first nonfiction of the year, which is Judi Dench’s biography, And Furthermore.

It’s going to another great year of fiction and nonfiction reading, and the goal will be the same. I’ll be back at the day job in a month, and more challenges will be coming this year. Still, I can’t wait to discover new authors and different worlds.

A Happy New Year of reading to everyone!

 

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Switching This World With That One

thinking-writing[1]Many writers who celebrate Christmas probably find December the busiest, most stressful time of the year. I know I do. It’s not that I don’t love Christmas and spending time with friends and family. It’s all the work that leads up to it while trying to balance the day job, and family responsibilities with writing time.

It’s especially challenging for writers with younger kids and/or aging parents, who depend on us to do their Christmas shopping and wrapping, and for those of us who also step up bookselling opportunities.

This year, I find myself preparing for Christmas while editing my first fantasy novel. The novel focuses on Wicca, witches and the proverbial battle between good and evil. Divided into five sections, the one I’m working on takes place in York, England in 1953, a drastic contrast to my real life.

Having written nine mysteries set here in Vancouver and in current time, I’m used to editing in familiar surroundings that deal with real-life types of crime. So it’s a little strange to switch from craft fair bookselling, tree decorating and other chores to writing about spellcasting and run-a-muck serpents. It’s also rather fun.

Although I’m living in two different worlds these days, I usually manage to find myself fully engaged in both. With a lot of practice and not a lot of writing time, I’ve learned to switch gears fast. Within sixty seconds of sitting down and propping my fingertips over the keyboard, real-life tasks fall away and my fictional world takes over.

To be honest, I don’t want to live in a fictional world full time, especially one that deals with the death and destruction that comes from my imagination. From 2010 to 2013, I did write full time, and I’m grateful for those days because the extra time helped me finish projects. I have to admit, though, that I only wrote a couple more hours per day than I had while doing a day job. After writing full time for a year, I missed daily interaction with the real world, not to mention the steady income, and the challenge of writing efficiently while getting everything else done.

For me, it’s not about having more time to write, it’s about making the best use of the time I do have. It’s about quick switches and ensuring that one world doesn’t overwhelm the other, and somehow it works for me.

#amblogging Editing in Bits and Pieces. Yikes!

self-publishing[1]As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, I like to work on more than one writing project at a time. It keeps my goal-oriented life focused and on track…mostly. One goal I completed last year was to finish the first draft of my first urban fantasy novel. It was a satisfying moment because I’d been thinking about the book off and on for about eight years.

During that time, I’d been writing and publishing mysteries which is my comfort area and something I know well. An urban fantasy that is centered around Wicca and witches required more research than I thought, and a wild stretch of imagination. As it turns out, it’s also stretching my editing skills.

Unlike my 70,000 word mysteries, this 100,000+ word book has five sections and over 70 chapters so far. Some of the sections take place in different periods of time. The book is written in present tense, which works for the sections set in current time, but I wondered about the sections set in the past, since they basically provide backstory.

After reading Manuscript Makeover and mulling it over, I decided to go back and write the sections those backstory sections in third person. By this point, though, I was already 250 pages into the second draft.

So, I’m back to section two (set in 1953) and am starting again. It’s slow-going as I’m not only changing the tense but adding new aspects and depth to the plot and characters. At the same time, I’m bringing earlier pages of that section to my writers’ group and making notes on section One that I’d thought was in pretty good shape, only it isn’t after all. I’m also waiting to jump ahead to pick up where I left off in section four (p. 250) before reworking the tense changes. All this going back and forth is leaving me dizzy, and I’m not sure that it’s working as smoothly as it could. That I only have a small amount of time each day to devote to it doesn’t help.

I remember listening to Diana Gabaldon speak at several Surrey International Writers Conferences (she even presented me with an award once), talking about how she writes a novel in pieces and at different places, then eventually knits them altogether. To this day, I don’t know how she does it. Having experienced a taste of editing in bits and pieces at different points in my manuscript, I’m beginning to think that the straight, chronological approach works better for me. I’ll know more once the second draft is finally finished. At this rate, however, I have no idea when that will be.

#amblogging: Wicca: Where Everything Old Is New Again

I don’t have a strong religious background. My Sunday school education ended at age twelve. Neither my parents nor any of my grandparents went to church. Lately, though, I’ve become interested in reading about all types of religious beliefs.

In particular, I’ve been reading about Wicca, primarily because it’s at the core of an urban fantasy I’m writing. I also took an introductory course on the topic last year. That six-evening session was so interesting that it inspired further reading. Our instructor recommended books by Scott Cunningham, so I picked up a couple. Here’s a snippet of notes I made from his work:

. Wicca is a loosely organized pagan religion centering toward reverence for the creative forces of nature, usually symbolized by a Goddess and a God.

. Wiccan’s spiritual roots accepts magic. Wicca doesn’t solicit members because it doesn’t claim to be the one try way to deity. (I like that part.)

. Wicca is a joyous religion that stems from a kinship with nature. It is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence. It is a personal, positive celebration of life.

. Wicca arose from shamanic beginnings, which the author says was the first, original religion. (I know plenty of Christians who would disagree, but there you go, diversity of opinion, right?)

. The Wiccan rule of morality: do what you want, as long as you harm none. Also, do nothing that will harm yourself. Concern and love for the planet is at the heart of Wicca.

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Wicca has gained a lot of popularity over the last twenty years. You could say that it’s been making a slow but steady comeback. As hard as some people tried in earlier centuries, this earth-based religion never really died. If practitioners are true Wiccans, they use magic solely to make the world a better place, to heal and to help.

As with most fantasy novels, authors who write about witches are actually writing about Wiccans gone wrong. It’s where a writer’s imagination takes off, and why I love this genre as a reader and a writer.