Weekly Recap (8)

 
On Fridays I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • Writing Wednesday: Character Names – Biweekly check-in on writing progress and process

Reading

Finished: 

  • Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
  • Death Masks (Dresden Files #5) by Jim Butcher
    • I liked the fae element in the fourth book, but the fifth wasn’t my favorite. I just didn’t connect with it as much. I’ve never really cared for Susan as much as Harry does.
  • Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins
    • I waited way too long to read this! It’s very cute so far. Boarding schools, FTW!
  • Kiss of Midnight (Midnight Breed #1) by Lara Adrian
    • It feels like a Black Dagger Brotherhood knock-off, but it’s still entertaining.

Watching

  • PBS on Sundays
    • The return of Downton Abbey and Sherlock have my Sunday nights pretty covered. I’m hoping they can help me cope with the loss of football again until August. Only one game left! *sob*

Exercising

  • Dancing machine!
    • I mentioned last week that I was going to go try and hear andhim play at Chicago house music staple Smart Bar on Friday night. And I did! Husband and I went out to dinner at the Rivers Casino buffet, then played some slots, and then I dropped him off at home before heading out to the bar around 11pm. The hubs cannot handle the sick techno beats, so I was on my own. I was pretty tired when I got there, so I perched at the bar and sucked down a couple of Red Bulls before making my way to the dance floor around 1am. I danced my fool head off until 3:30, and according to my FitBit, walked the equivalent of 8+ miles in the process. That’s a lot of calories burned! I had the time of my life, so I’m going to try and make this a weekly thing. So! Much! Fun!

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

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Weekly Recap (7)

 
On Fridays I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews
    • The first few books in this series were good, but these last two were phenomenal. It keeps getting better and better!
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    • To sum up my full Goodreads review: “The brilliance is in the way she builds up hope, only to dash it to pieces. Flynn manages to manipulate her readers just as the characters manipulate each other, and it’s through that process that we come to understand them.” 

Still working on:

  • Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher

Watching

  • Girls
    • I did not get into this HBO series when it first started, but on Sunday I got sucked into a marathon before the Season 3 premiere and got hooked. I still have a lot of issues with it, but as often as I want to strangle Hannah, I also find her somewhat endearing.

Listening

  • andhim – “The Wizard of Us”
    • I have always been a fan of electronic music, but recently I’ve decided to more actively try to discover new electronic artists. I used to rely on the BPM channel on Sirius/XM, but now that we’ve gotten rid of that service, I need to be more proactive. This duo is performing tonight in Chicago, and if I can keep my 30-something self awake that long, I plan to try and go catch them live. But honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I was out after 1am.

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (6) – Challenges for 2014

 
On Fridays I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • I started the process of integrating book information from old reviews into the Ultimate Book Blogger plugin, so that I can start using its awesome automated review index feature. 
  • Review: Immortal by Gillian Shields – A gothic YA from 2009 – 3 stars
  • Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Goals/Resolutions for 2014
  • Writing Wednesday – Biweekly goal check-in

Reading

Finished: 

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Fluke #1) by Joanne Fluke
    • This series includes cookie recipes between chapters. Of course I have to try them this weekend!
  • Immortal (Immortal #1) by Gillian Shields

Started:

  • Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews
  • Paris by Edward Rutherford
    • This was a beast I picked up from the library. I don’t know if I’ll have time to finish it, but I figure I’ll give it a try.

Challenging

Watching

  • Cougar Town
    • One of my favorite comedies returned for a new season on Tuesday. Let’s pound some grape!

Exercising

  • Swimming
    • I started a new swim class this week. The Park District was offering weekly technique classes and I couldn’t resist the cheap price for a chance to brush up on my swim stroke and maybe learn some new drills. 

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Writing Wednesday – Getting Back in the Groove

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m following up on an old post about motivation.

In the post, I reviewed the book Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Fight Writer’s Resistance, by Roseanne Bane. It describes three habits we should be cultivating each week: Process, Self-Care, and Product Time. It gave a lot of helpful pointers on how to push through self-defeating behaviors and keep writing.  

I wish I could say that I have done a better job keeping up with my writing-related habits. Unfortunately, when I lost my blogging mojo, I also lost my mojo for a number of other things, which included writing. I found myself skipping a lot of my turns in my critique group, and not really feeling the motivation to write. 

In November, Roseanne Bane actually stopped by my blog and emailed me, offering feedback and support. It was such a thoughtful gesture and demonstrated just how much Roseanne loves to work with writers to help them achieve their goals. It was also a nice nudge to get me going again with goal- and habit-setting. 

As I noted in yesterday’s post on my resolutions for 2014, one major commitment I want to honor is finishing my manuscript. I know I can only do that with focus and discipline. So back to regular check-ins!

I don’t want to bore myself (or you) with weekly posts, so I’m going to try the biweekly thing again. Every other Wednesday here on the blog will be Writing Wednesday, focused on goal-setting and checking in on progress. The other Wednesdays will be discussion posts.

Here are my goals for the next two weeks:

Process:

  • Word searches, journaling, or listening to music
    • 10 minutes per day, 5 days per week

Self-care:

  • Exercise
    • 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week

Product Time:

  • Writing or researching
    • 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week
    • Target tasks
      • Belle Epoque research
      • Update names
      • Get to end of Act I

For any of my fellow writers out there, feel free to join me! Post your own goals below or on your blog, and check back in two weeks. I hope to cultivate this as a place of support and encouragement no matter what kind of writing you’re doing. Good luck!

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (5) – Lots of News

 
On Fridays I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • I updated my theme to make the colors a little more cohesive with my header. Do you like the new look? Any weird color clashes I didn’t catch?
  • Out With the Old… – A fresh start to blogging
  • …and In With the New – My 2013 challenge wrap-up

Reading

Started: 

  • Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
    • I am trying to work my way through this entire series by the end of the year. These books are funny, gut-wrenching, and totally entertaining. I love Harry Dresden!
  • Immortal (Immortal #1) by Gillian Shields
    • I tried to squeeze this one in last year for my Gothic book in the Literary Exploration challenge, but didn’t quite make it before the end of 2013. I’m a sucker for boarding schools and creepy moors, so I’m loving it so far.

Watching

  • Football!
    • I came in second in my fantasy football league this year, and I still can’t shake the football viewing addiction. My favorite college team (Nebraska) won their bowl game, and the NFL playoffs start on Saturday. I’m a happy camper.

Exercising

  • Ironman 70.3 Racine
    • This is perhaps the biggest news I’ve had in a long time. In September my husband and I took the plunge and registered for our first Half Ironman triathlon. I’ve been trying to shake a very persistent case of plantar fasciitis, so I’m not in the shape I had hoped I’d be in at the start of the year. Our training program starts in March, so I have 3 months to get my butt in gear! The holidays are over, so no more excuses.

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (4)

Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin #1) by Jennifer Estep
    • I was really enjoying this one until the ending dragged on forever. Plus the writing got irritatingly repetitive. Still a great read, though, and I’ll be continuing with the series. 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • I’m working myself into a fever pitch over the upcoming movie, y’all. I forgot how great this book is.

Acquiring

Borrowed:

  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2) by Ally Carter
    • Fun and fluffy. Can’t wait to start.

Watching

  • 42 (The Jackie Robinson Story)
    • This was an incredible story to see on the big screen. I just wish the screenplay had been better.

Listening

  • The video of the National Anthem sung at the Boston Bruins game on Wednesday night gave me chills.

Exercising

  • Back full-force into the running. After almost 5 months off, this is not pretty. I also had a Groupon expiring at the Bikram studio, so I had to squeeze in a couple of classes.
    • Saturday – 2 miles
    • Sunday – 60 minutes on the helliptical
    • Monday – Bikram yoga
    • Tuesday – 4 miles
    • Wednesday – Bikram yoga
    • Thursday – 3 miles

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Writing Wednesday – Motivation Check-In

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m following up on my last post about motivation.

In the book Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Fight Writer’s Resistance, Roseanne Bane describes three habits we should be cultivating each week: Process, Self-Care, and Product Time. I gave myself goals for these habits, and promised to check back and post my progress.

I was derailed from the start with another nasty cold (my second of the spring), but this past week has been much more productive. 

I went on a writing date at a pub with one of my friends (See?! Photo evidence!!), and I managed to get my beat sheet/outline done. That’s my handwritten outline and my project open in Scrivener, where I managed to jam out 500+ words even after a Bloody Mary! 

The one part that has been difficult for me is the Process time. I haven’t really devoted any time to this creative energy, so that’s something I need to focus on for next time.

For any of my fellow writers out there, how has your process been going? Are you struggling to make time for your writing or other hobbies?

Process:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
    • Goal met? No. I didn’t do any process work.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 10 minutes per day, 3 days per week

Self-care:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
    • Goal met? Not quite. I did get 4 days this week, 3 of which were well over 30 minutes.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 60 minutes per day, 5 days per week

Product Time:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
    • Target tasks
      • Outline Hannah plot/beat sheet
      • Explore Sexy New Idea
      • Write Hannah catalyst scene
    • Goal met? Almost. 2 out of 3.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Target tasks
    • Set Hannah on quest

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (3)

 
Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • FAIL. No posts this week. Feel free to shame me in the comments, but my excuse was another bout of illness. This spring is kicking my ass!

Reading

Finished: 

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
    • Loved it. I learned a lot about the rise of Hitler that I hadn’t known, and the Dodd family was a fascinating bunch of characters.
  • Clockwork Angel (Clockwork Angel #1) by Cassandra Clare
    • I got so thoroughly sucked into this series. I had to start book 2 immediately.

Started: 

  • Clockwork Prince (Clockwork Angel #2) by Cassandra Clare
    • See above.
  • Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
    • I flew through the early years, but now that I’ve hit the mediocre ’80s I’m getting bored. This may be a DNF.
  • Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin #1) by Jennifer Estep
    • I have a weakness for assassin tales, and after 40 pages I’m already in love with this one.

Acquiring

Borrowed:

  • Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

Watching

  • The Following
    • We’re playing catch up on DVR’ed episodes. This show is so creepy and tense and scary in all the best ways. If you’re not watching it, you really should be.
  • Jurassic Park 3D IMAX
    • We paid the ridiculous $25 parking fee at Navy Pier to see this beloved favorite on the best IMAX screen in town. It’s astounding how well those dinosaurs stand the test of time, and I am so very glad I got to see it in the theater again!

Listening

  • Olly Murs, “Troublemaker”
    • My friend and I heard this on the radio and couldn’t decide whether it was Maroon 5 or not. Luckily it popped up again in the car and thanks to Sirius XM displays, we found out the real artist!

Exercising

  • I got in one measly run this week thanks to being sick again. I used the time off to plan out my racing season, though. Here are the races I’m aiming for this year:
    • 05/25/13 – Soldier Field 10 Mile (registered)
    • 06/23/13 – Bigfoot Triathlon, Olympic distance
    • 06/30/13 – Twin Lakes Triathlon, Sprint distance (registered)
    • 08/10/13 – Zooma Half Marathon
    • 08/25/13 – Chicago Triathlon, Sprint distance (registered)
    • 09/15/13 – TriRock Lake Geneva Triathlon, Olympic distance
    • 10/12/13 – Prairie State Half Marathon
    • 11/03/13 – Hot Chocolate 15K

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (2)

 
Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Darkfever (Darkfever #1) by Karen Marie Moning
    • This was an interesting world and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, but I need to read something else first.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    • My pick for book club this month. I can’t wait to discuss!

Started: 

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
    • I love the way Larson writes non-fiction. His use of foreshadowing may not be for everyone, but I like knowing where the story is headed.
  • Clockwork Angel (Clockwork Angel #1) by Cassandra Clare
    • This is much darker than I thought it would be, and I really like it so far. Why did I wait so long to read these?

Acquiring

Bought:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
    • I can’t even explain how excited I am for the Baz Luhrmann movie next month. 

Watching

  • Downton Abbey, Seasons 2 and 3
    • It’s official. We’re addicted. We blasted through season 2 in two sessions, and are working our way through season 3 this week.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 3
    • Still the best show on television.

Listening

  • Bad Religion at Congress Theater
    • As advance repayment for making him go with me to the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z concert this summer, my husband is taking me to a Bad Religion concert tonight.

Exercising

  • Registered for 2nd quarter of Masters Swim Team at my gym, and am trying out a new Pilates-inspired class called BOSU-Core Synergy.
  • Running is on hold since I got a nasty chest cold this week. Blerg.

 

 

 

Writing Wednesday – Gold Star Motivation

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m talking about motivation.

I recently read a terrific book on this very subject, called Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Fight Writer’s Resistance by Roseanne Bane. In it, she explains why our brains get in our own way, how we can recognize our individual forms of resistance, and offers three simple habits to allow us to push through our blocks and get creative. The book was incredibly fascinating and I highly recommend it.

One of the strategies she mentions in the book is developing a reward system, and she describes how a client of hers used dollar store gold star stickers to give herself an immediate visual reward when she crossed off a bit of writing from her to-do list. Brilliant! As someone who benefits from accountability, but struggles to find ways to actually implement it, I really took to this idea. I picked up a few packs of sparkly stickers and drew a chart in my paper calendar where I could stick them.

But as Ruby recently pointed out, our best laid plans when it comes to organization don’t always come with the requisite follow through. Originally, I wanted to get a piece of poster board where I could hang this chart in my hallway and publicly shame myself into putting up the stickers (or not). I couldn’t find what I wanted at Office Depot, and settled for the calendar/planner method.

Which I used exactly once.

I’m not giving up on the gold star method of motivation. I just need a better way to showcase it so that I actually use it. And then it dawned on me – what better place than a public blog?

In the book, Roseanne Bane describes three habits we should be cultivating each week: Process, Self-Care, and Product Time. For each of these items, every week, we need to set aside and commit to time spent on each activity, and then track our results. She provides a number of handy charts to use, and encourages writers to check in with each other, either through existing critique groups or forming groups with others who use her method. 

When I put together my new weekly recap post, I considered adding these elements to it for my weekly check-in. Then I thought maybe I should use Writing Wednesday for those check-ins, but I had envisioned this feature being every other week. I’d like to start tracking the number of words I’m writing, as well as the time I’m spending on my writing, in order to better gauge my progress over time and to help me figure out the amount of time each week that I need in order to move my project(s) forward. Whether this needs to happen weekly or biweekly on the blog is up in the air.

For now, I’ll start conservatively, and leave my check-ins on Writing Wednesday every two weeks. I’ll discuss my progress, map out what I’d like to accomplish in the next two weeks, and record my numbers. If any other writers want to join me, feel free to post your own progress/numbers in the comments or on your own blogs.

Here’s my plan for the next two weeks. I’ll be back on the 17th to let you know how I did!

Process:

  • Commitment
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Choices
    • Morning pages/journaling
    • Coloring books
    • Sketching/drawing

Self-care:

  • Commitment
    • 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
  • Choices
    • Masters swim
    • Running
    • Bikram yoga

Product Time:

  • Commitment
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Target tasks
    • Outline Hannah plot/beat sheet
    • Explore Sexy New Idea
    • Write Hannah catalyst scene