Freewrite Blank

Freedom From Distractions With Freewrite

My Freewrite arrived today along with the set of blank keycaps I had ordered. There was a question about whether the Freewrite would arrive today. The UPS shipping was originally going to deliver to the Post Office for them to deliver. I paid to upgrade the shipping because they said it would arrive a day earlier. But this morning the tracking still showed “In Transit” though it had a scheduled delivery date of today.

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Tommyknockers

Rereading Tommyknockers by Stephen King

I decided to reread Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers in December as an appetizer for the 2019 Hail to the King reading challenge. And what an appetizer it is! Fortunately, I got through it with all of my teeth intact. Yes, fair warning, if teeth falling out is a trigger for you, this might not be the book to read. Otherwise, read on. 

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Jane Austen

Happy Birthday Mr. Clarke and Ms. Austen

Today, December 16th, is the birthday of both Arthur C. Clarke and Jane Austen, two literary greats.

Clarke’s work had the greatest impact on my own. I discovered Clarke through his short stories and novels at an early age. Rendezvous With Rama, 2001, and his other works shaped my interests in science fiction. For the longest time 2001 and the sequels were the future. I remember how strange it was when I found myself living in 2001,then 2010, and it wasn’t—of course—the future that Clarke described. I was born near the end of the Apollo missions and was a child in the Mojave desert when the Space Shuttle started flying. Clarke’s work (and that of other science fiction writers) led me to believe we’d be back to the Moon and beyond. By 2010 that seemed much less likely but my enthusiasm around space exploration hasn’t dimmed. I was so excited when Huygen's Probe finally showed us the surface of Titan or New Horizons revealed Pluto and Charon—and soon Ultima Thule (in 15 days!)

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Hail to the King 2019

Hail to the King 2019 Stephen King Reading Challenge

The Hail to the King 2019 Challenge has ended.

Here's something just for fun: You're invited to join me in a chilling reading challenge for 2019—Hail to the King 2019.

The challenge itself is simple: Read a Stephen King book each month in 2019 and share your thoughts on the book. Whether that's on your blog, social media, Goodreads, or Amazon reviews—share your thoughts. I'll be posting my thoughts here on the blog and I hope you'll join me with comments and discussion on each post.

I've created a free PDF with the titles selected for each month. Pop your name into the box below to join my Reader's group, Readinary and download the PDF. You're welcome to unsubscribe at any time, but I hope you'll stick around.

Early Start Bonus—The Tommyknockers

I plan to kick off the challenge with an early bonus book for December—The Tommyknockers.

The challenge is a mix of titles I want to reread and titles I haven't read yet. It's also a mix of short story collections and novels. After I put together the list I realized there was one title that I hadn't included that I wanted to reread—The Tommyknockers. It has been a long time since I last read the book and I wanted to revisit it. So it gets to be an early release title for the challenge.

Questions

Why Stephen King?

Stephen King is a superb storyteller and one of my favorite writers. Reading King's stories inspires me and teaches me to be a better storyteller. Plus they're just so damn good.

Why a book each month? Why not try to read all of Stephen King's books in a year?

Tempting. If I did that, I wouldn't have time to read much else. It would take reading more than one book each week—I read just about two books per week, so it would take up most of my reading time. I figured that's probably true for other people too. A book a month seems a more reasonable challenge and also creates the possibility to do the challenge again each year with a new mix of titles.

Do we have to follow the calendar you created? What if I don't want to read a particular title?

I'll send Annie Wilkes to pay you a visit, you dirty bird!

No, read what you want. It's all just fun. No one is grading you.

Slayaway Camp

200+ Ways to Have Fun Slashing Your Day With Slayaway Camp

You ever have one of those days where something just delights you, unexpectedly transforming your whole day? It might be that the cute human you like flirted with you when you bought your favorite caffeinated beverage. Or it could be that you discovered a hilarious way to indulge your inner 80's slasher. No? That hasn't happened to you? Which one?Continue reading

Beholder's Eye

Favorite Author Reread: Beholder’s Eye by Julie E. Czerneda

I've started rereading Julie E. Czerneda'sWeb Shifters series beginning with the first book, Beholder's Eye. Czerneda is one of my favorite authors and I enjoy going back and experiencing her character's stories again. She writes my kind of science fiction—a universe filled with a variety of intelligent species doing their best to get by each day. It's space opera and tons of fun. Let me tell you why I think this book is worth your time.

Beholder's Eye

Beholder's Eye is the story of Esen-Alit-Quar “Es”, a member of a long-lived species of shape-shifters. The youngest of the Web, Es undertakes an assignment to learn about the people of Kraos. Her first assignment. That's the purpose that drives her kind—to learn of and preserve the accomplishments of intelligent species. Only it goes wrong when Es discovers a plot to murder the members of a human first-contact team and intervenes.

Not only that, but Death stalks the Fringe, leaving empty colonies and ships in its wake. Es and her human friend Paul embark on adventures that lead Es to break all of the rules of her kind.

Reinventing Shape-shifters: The First Rule of the Web? You Don't Talk About the Web

Shape-shifters inhabit the stories told in most cultures at one time or another. From skinwalkers, spirits, and Tengu to current day tales such as the shape-shifting changelings on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or The Thing. Unlike Star Trek's Odo, Es can't take the shape of inanimate objects. She can become intelligent species, becoming indistinguishable from the actual species. Kurt Russell isn't going to uncover a web-being by sticking a hot needle in a blood sample! Also unlike The Thing, the web-beings don't imitate individuals. They are individuals.

If a web-being like Es became a dog — that is the dog they would be every time they became a dog. Don't like being a pug? Tough, that's who you are. Learn to accept it. What happens to a web-being's form persists. Going with the dog example — if someone docked your tail it would still be gone the next time you shifted into that form. Injuries to a form have to heal in that form. You don't get to shift and shift back to magically heal your wounds. The memory of the damage persists.

Even though this isn't hard science fiction, Czerneda plays by her rules, particularly when it comes to a shape-shifter's mass. If a web-being was running around as a 50 lb. dog suddenly wanted to shift into a domestic tabby cat, they would have to shed energy (mass) to shift into the smaller size. Uncontrolled shifting to their natural web form can have explosive results. Likewise, to shift into a larger form, a web-being needs to assimilate organic matter, converting it into new web mass.

I really love Czerneda's inventiveness in her science fiction. It's terrific.

The Fantastic Characters of Beholder's Eye

Esen is one of my favorite characters in science fiction. The youngest of her Web, she is curious and compassionate. She's immediately likable. I particularly like how Esen's perspectives change in different forms. Her thought processes and behaviors reflect the species that she becomes. At the same time, Esen retains that core element that is Esen. This is sort of like watching Tatiana Maslany play multiple characters on Orphan Black.

The human contact specialist Paul provides an interesting Watson to Esen's Holmes. Skilled in languages, curious, and determined not to give up on Esen, Paul is another great character. The story stays in Esen's point of view, so we don't get inside Paul's head but we do get to see his actions and the consequences.

Ersh, the eldest of Esen's kind, ancient and intimidating, provides a nice counter to Esen. The same is true with the other members of Ersh's Web, but it is Ersh herself that is most often in Esen's thoughts as she breaks the rules established by Ersh. They have a complex relationship, and through Ersh we have a chance to see what Esen might become someday.

Death and Acting Captain Kearn are the main antagonists in Beholder's Eye. Death stalks the colonies and ships before discovering the existence of Ersh's Web and more enticing prey. Acting Captain Kearn, convinced that Esen and Death are one in the same, becomes focused on tracking down Esen in order to stop the killings and prove himself.

There are many other wonderful characters and fascinating aliens in this novel (and series).

Final Thoughts

Julie E. Czerneda is a fantastic science fiction and fantasy author. This series remains one of my favorites and I enjoyed it as much (or more) this time through. With the release of the first book in the new series, I'm going back through from the beginning to reread the earlier books. There's nothing like dropping back into a beloved story. I hope you'll check out the entire series!

number 42

42 Answers to the Question, “Why Blog?”

The Number 42

Few writers have made as much of an impression as Douglas Adams on my imagination. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remains one of my favorite books.

“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

The number 42 has entered the popular imagination since the release of Douglas Adams' book. I don't know the ultimate question. I have asked myself on many occasion, “Why blog?” Most recently, while taking the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course from Problogger. One of the first assignments is writing a post answering that question. It probably isn't the ultimate question, but I decided to use the number 42 to answer it anyway. Here are 42 answers I came up with to the question, in no particular order, as far as I know.

  • I get asked how I manage a full-time career as a librarian, and still find time to write.
  • I talk to writers and to readers who want to know more about publishing options today.
  • I enjoy blogging enough to keep doing it for many years, and to relaunch my blog this year.
  • rocket I like to talk to people about productivity, sharing techniques I use, and hearing what works for other people.
  • rocket I find discussing habits and process interesting.
  • rocket Asking questions, seeking answers, and sharing my thoughts helps me learn at the same time I help others.
  • rocket As a librarian, I get to help people, and I want to do that with my writing too.
  • rocket I learn so much from blogs that I follow, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, The Creative Penn, and others.
  • rocket  I enjoy learning new tools, such as ThriveThemes, to use in my blogging.
  • rocket A blog provides an opportunity for conversation with readers and other writers.
  • rocket The blog is like a time capsule that captures my thinking on different topics.
  • rocket It's easy to share blog posts.
  • rocket Blogging gives me a platform to share the amazing things that other people are doing.
  • rocket I get to learn cool things like SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
  • rocket Blogging pushes my librarian buttons.
  • rocket I enjoy writing non-fiction content as well as fiction, and the blog provides one outlet for that interest.
  • rocket I get to share my various interests, including coding and data visualizations.
  • rocket I'm using my blog to create an encyclopedia of my universes, Bibliogalactica (I'll share when I flesh out more content).
  • rocket I've created a store for my work on the blog, gaining more freedom, control, and ability to offer unique deals.
  • rocket I can help people get started writing.
  • rocket The blog provides a hub for sharing my work, including my email group Readinary
  • rocket I get to share how to get started with Amazon Ads.
  • rocket I can create a series of posts, e.g. creating a word count tracking spreadsheet in Excel.
  • rocket It provides a chance to share my current thinking on topics like selling direct to readers.
  • rocket A blog provides opportunities to earn income through affiliate links for products I use like RescueTime.
  • rocket I can create fun writing challenges, like how to write, finish, and submit a short story in a single day.
  • rocket It gives me a place to share methods I use for practice.
  • rocket Blogging about the challenges I face (such as depression) may help other people.
  • rocket I can create exercises, quizzes, and other material to help and entertain people.
  • rocket It gives me a place to share writing prompts.
  • rocket I don't have enough to do already (not true).
  • rocket I can promote other writers' work through my blog.
  • rocket Blogging is one of the cornerstones of my entrepreneurial plan.
  • rocket Content created on the blog can be used in other products, such as books, articles, or courses.
  • rocket It's easy to get started, and can keep me challenged for years to come.
  • rocket I enjoy sharing my work, despite being an introvert, and the blog gives me a way to do that.
  • rocket I've tried podcasting, and prefer blogging.
  • rocket It gives me a channel to talk about the importance of libraries.
  • rocket The blog is the best way for readers to connect with me.
  • rocket I don't think I could host my own TV show.
  • rocket My brain never shuts up.
  • rocket I hope that my blog will help my son understand me.

Go Beyond the Number 42

This is only the start. Go beyond the number 42 by subscribing to Readinary. Get my latest posts, techniques, thoughts, and offers. Grab a towel. “Don't panic.” – Douglas Adams.

Unplanned Time Off

Unplanned Time Off

I took some unplanned time off from working on my blog over the past few weeks. It stemmed in large part from a life roll—the loss of our two dogs. Poppy passed at the end of April, age-related reasons, at 18 years old. Worf, only 7 years old, was diagnosed with cancer and had stopped eating despite all that we tried. It became clear he wasn't improving and we made the difficult choice to have him euthanized. It's been hard for me and my family. As I get my creative life back on track, I thought I'd share some tactics I've used that you might find helpful. 

Accept Unplanned Time Off

Whatever the cause, the first thing to do is accept the need to take unplanned time off. In my case, as a working full-time librarian and writer, I needed to recognize that it was healthier for me to take the time off and grieve. It doesn't have to be grief. It could be any life roll that makes it more difficult to pursue your creative practice. Maybe you've got a move, a new job, a new relationship, a loss, an injury, or an illness. Family issues may also tip the scale. Allow yourself the space to address whatever the cause of your unplanned time off. 

Our self-imposed deadlines can encourage us to create new work and to be more productive and creative. If it becomes a source of stress then it is important to find ways to adjust and be kind to ourselves. I find meditation and exercise helps me cultivate a calmer mind and develop awareness and acceptance.

Getting Back to Creating

How do you get back to creating after your routines have been disrupted? I ran into this big time after finishing my latest degree. Between 2015-2017, my attention outside of work was on the degree. I wrote very little during that time. When 2018 came around, I tried to jump right back into creating as if nothing had happened. That hasn't worked. It wasn't realistic to expect that I'd immediately fall back into old routines. Whether the disruption that led to taking unplanned time off (or planned time) is short-term or long-term, you may find that you can't simply pick up those routines.

Or maybe you can? In my experience, that hasn't been the case, but you may have a different experience. 

I realized that I'm in a process of rediscovery or reinvention of my creative process. 

Discovering Your Creative Process

The other day, as I walked along the lovely trail near my house, I listened to Joanna Penn's podcast interview with Jeff Haden

The discussion around process resonated with me in that interview. It's at the heart of what I've struggled with, both in finishing my degree and with the recent loss of our dogs. In both cases, I've failed to pay attention to process.

For me, process is how you win, process is how you succeed because it weeds out all of the other stuff like talent or education or connections – Jeff Haden

Process, Not Deadlines

Deadlines may serve a purpose. This came up in Darren Rowse's recent podcast on deadlines for bloggers. This week the podcasts have hit right at the heart of my current struggle.

I relaunched my blog with a regular schedule of posts. I tweaked and adjusted it a bit, but pretty much stuck to the blog schedule. Only, it wasn't based on anything concrete in terms of my available time.

Deadlines can help or hinder. They can be incredibly motivating for some bloggers, who do their best work under pressure. But for others, schedules and deadlines are crippling. – Darren Rowse, Problogger

Internal vs. External Deadlines

Darren discusses the conflict with deadlines and makes the point that a deadline can be an internal deadline. I think this is an important point. I put deadlines on my books that I'm reprinting, deadlines on my writing new books, and deadlines on my blog production. 

There were two big problems with my deadlines. First, my deadlines didn't have a concrete basis. I'd talked myself into a writing deadline for novels that was based more on what I thought I should be able to write. Not what I'm getting done right now. Not a deadline that takes into account time spent writing for the blog, publishing tasks, marketing, or any other business tasks. Second, the deadlines increased my stress even though I hadn't explicitly stated my deadlines in public.

Darren's suggestion to have an internal goal makes a lot of sense because you don't want to have production slack off to nothing. 

Dark MattersDark MattersDark MattersDark Matters

Focus on Process

I realized through all of this that the key for me right now is to focus on process. I need to let go of deadlines. With a full-time career, a family, and a reading habit, I'm not going to spend every moment producing new content. I'll watch TV sometimes, or a movie. Play games. Run errands. Work on the yard.

I don't know how long its going to take me to write my current novel. I don't know if it'll take more time or less time to reprint the book I'm working on than the last one. When it comes down to it, should doesn't matter. I need to focus on my process. I can follow a process. I can improve a process. 

With enough time and work on my new process I might eventually have a better estimate on how long projects will take. My ability to estimate it right now is limited. I can plan to work on my process.

For example: I need to spend time editing the next book I'm publishing. To overcome resistance, I dropped a shortcut to the document into the startup folder on my computer. My habit is to sit down at the computer with a bowl of granola and almond milk in the morning. Instead of reading posts on Facebook or news, now I'm going over edits on the book. It may turn out to be the only time I have to work on edits all day. That's fine. The process moves the project a bit closer to completion. 

Process is Key

So right now I'm focusing on processes. Each process that I follow whether writing new novels or stories, blogging, improving as a digital painter, publishing, marketing—whatever it is that I'm trying to accomplish. I have internal goals, but I've shifted my attention to the process. If I follow the process, I'll get to the desired outcome. I'll finish writing the book. I'll publish a book. I'll launch my new newsletter. Whatever it is, I'll get there by focusing on process rather than deadlines.

Process is also how I'm dealing with my recent unplanned time off. It gives me something concrete to focus on. One step at a time in the process, and I'll make progress.

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