2017 Reading Challenge

I enjoy reading challenges.  I collect all of the ones I can and do my best to at least take inspiration from them when choosing my reading material throughout the year.  There are even themed challenges, pushing readers to expand their horizons in certain genres or by reading from diverse authors, or perhaps by making themselves read something written that challenges political or social ideals and norms.

What is reading for, after all, than expanding our horizons?

With that in mind, I made my own reading challenge this year.  I haven’t picked a number I want to read, but I’m hoping to improve on 2016 (21 published novels and a load of editing work and fanfiction).  If you’d like to follow along, I’ll be posting reviews as I go and I have made a list with some recommendations.

A book chosen just for the cover.  Stop by your local bookstore and just browse the shelves.  Which covers catch your eye because they’re colorful or unique?  Without reading the blurbs or reviews, take it home.  If you don’t have a local bookstore, I recommend these great reads with bright, fun covers:



A book longer than 500 pages.  Now, length doesn’t necessarily mean quality, of course, but challenge yourself to stick with a story you can’t finish in a typical weekend.  I recommend Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life or, if you’re up for a real challenge, Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (I reviewed it a while ago — the mass market paperback clocks in at over 1,000 pages).

A collection of short stories.  In contrast, find some bite-size stories perfect for a lunch break or morning commute (if you take public transportation, of course).  Some of my favorite short story authors are Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, and Flannery O’Connor, but I’ll also be browsing the anthologies at my local library to find some new material.

A collection of poetry.  Not everyone feels a kinship with poetry.  It can be a bit of an acquired taste…but if you want to dip your toes in, try Tupac Shakur’s The Rose That Grew From Concrete.

A classic everyone loves.  Hey, they’re classics for a reason, right?  I recommend anything by Jane Austen (I’m looking at you, men), The Lord of the Rings, Elie Wiesel’s Night, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

A comic book or graphic novel.  Good stories are good stories, even if they include pictures.  A fantastic introduction to this genre is Batman’s The Killing Joke, a classic that gives us great action, incredible graphics, and a peek into the backstory of the franchise’s most well-known and popular villain.  For new stuff, I’m going to be reading Watchmen and probably The Long Halloween.

A self-published novel.  Indie authors need love, too.  I recommend R.R. Virdi’s The Grave Report Series, but you can find tons of reviews for self-published and small house books at A Drop of Ink Reviews.  Don’t forget to write your own review and share it on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or your own blog or other social media.  Word of mouth is still the best way to find new readers and new books.

A book that challenges your political or religious/spiritual beliefs.  Now, the point of this is not necessarily to change your beliefs, but to understand the other half.  If your views change, then hey, whatever.  If you stick to your guns, then you at least can be a little bit more informed the next time you get into a Facebook argument with a stranger 😉  If you are agnostic or atheist and looking for something Christian to try out, I highly recommend Ken Ham’s New Answers series for a rundown on science and creationism.  I haven’t decided what I’ll be reading for this part of my challenge, but I welcome recommendations on your favorites.

A memoir or autobiography.  If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your librarian or research “creative nonfiction”.  David Sedaris has written some wonderfully hilarious and enlightening essay collections (one of my personal favorites is “You Can’t Kill The Rooster”).  If you’re into film/cinema, have ever seen the hilariously awful B-movie The Room, or just need a good laugh, read Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.  I currently have a copy of Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace waiting for me on my bookshelf to fulfill this challenge.

A book published more than 100 years ago.  Learn a little bit about history from the people who lived it!  Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, published in 1899, is an eye-opening portrait of the Victorian woman and the birth of what historians call the New Woman movement, a precursor to later feminist/suffragist movements.  It’s also just a really well-written story with great characters and lots of interesting detail.

A book published more than 200 years ago.  Keep on going back!  While the novel didn’t come much into vogue until the early to mid-1800s, the Age of Reason still produced a plethora of great essays and poems.  Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” are two of my long-standing favorites from the 1700s.  Shakespeare is always a great choice, too 😉

A historical novel set in a time period or place you don’t know much about.  Naturally, there are certain historical events and time periods most people are pretty familiar with — World War II, the French Revolution, the European medieval period, etc, etc.  But what about those lesser-known people, places, and events?  Browse the historical fiction lists on Goodreads for some great suggestions.

A book from a genre you rarely peruse.  Broaden your literary horizons!  While there’s nothing wrong with having a favorite type of book, branching out can lead to some great discoveries.  I’m going to try reading more horror and science fiction for this challenge.

A nonfiction book about a subject you aren’t familiar with.  One of the best direct benefits from reading is learning.  While you don’t need nonfiction to learn, that unexplored aisle at your library or local bookstore probably has some real gems.  You might even discover a new hobby or want to read more about the person/place/event from your perusal of the historical fiction shelf.


12 for 2012: A Year of Writing

First, my apologies for the unexpected delay.  I rang in the New Year with a pulled muscle and a stomach bug, but I’m back and ready to hit the ground running!

My last post was about making your New Year’s resolutions.  I agreed to make 12 Writing Goals for 2012, and to share them on here.  Well, here are my 12 for 2012:

1.  Get my novel Someone’s Watching on the market one of two ways:

a.  submit to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest, and if nothing comes of that

b.  send queries/samples to at least six agents.

2.  Get up at a decent hour and write every weekday for Textbroker.  It’s my main source of income and I need to be more consistent with it.

3.  Finish writing that business plan by the end of February.  Market statistics, prepare to be discovered and conquered!

4.  Be more consistent updating my blog.  Aiming for at least one post per week!

5.  Scrap the original draft of SW’s sequel and begin a new one while waiting on contest results/agent responses.

6.  Read at least two completely new books each month.

7.  Finally start that cooking blog I’ve been dreaming about for weeks.  Keep a lookout for the link!

8.  Write reviews of each of the 24 books I read.

9.  Try writing something besides novel-length fiction.  I’ve done short stories, poetry, and CNF many times but only under the eyes of a professor.  It’s time to break out on my own with a different genre I enjoy.

10. Pitch a few articles to a print publication.  I love the freedom and simplicity of ghostwriting, but I do miss seeing my own byline 😀

11. Participate in NaNoWriMo again.  I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment!

12. Keep a writer’s notebook.  I had one in high school, jotting down any random idea, phrase, or image that popped into my head.  The last few years, I’ve slacked and probably lost a lot of good ideas.

It’s a lot of writing and will take a lot of dedication.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the only way to move forward in life is to set your eyes on a target and push towards it as hard as you can.  The act of writing itself is heading towards a goal.  As we finish each sentence, we’re one step closer to the resolution of the story.  So, I raise my metaphorical glass to you and welcome the New Year!

What Are Your Writing Goals For 2012?

2011 was a whirlwind year on my end, and 2012 promises to be even more so.  That’s why, I propose to make it interesting: 12 Writing Goals For 2012.

Why 12?  Because that breaks it down nicely into 1 goal per month, it’s easy to remember, and it makes a good blog title.

I think it’s important for everyone to have goals, especially those of us in the creative disciplines.  It’s far too easy to just drift around, letting the Muse take us wherever, not committing anything because we don’t want to stifle that creative drive in ourselves with deadlines.  And while drifting with the winds of inspiration is a fun and vital part of being a writer (or artist, or whatever), those of us who really want to make something of it do have to knuckle down at times and commit.  Just like our characters need to move and grow to make a story, so we writers need to move forward.

How far you move forward, to where, and at what pace is up to you.  One writer may commit to searching for a publisher/agent for that fermenting manuscript, while another may just want to finish a sonnet started a few months ago.  Some of us may want to move into freelancing full-time, go back to school, try a new genre, or market an already-published work.  Some of us have goals of finally cleaning out that spare corner of the basement to make into a personal writing space.

Whatever your goals are, I encourage you to commit them to paper and keep them somewhere you’ll see them everyday.  Shoot for the big pie in the sky, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself or make a “goal” out of something you really have no control over.  By that, I mean, don’t try to tell yourself you’ll have signed a publishing contract by December 31st, since even the best writers really have no control over whether or not someone offers them a contract.  (Unless, of course, you have publishers knocking down your door to publish your novel, in which case, I envy you and implore you to make signing a contract a goal.)

So, instead of saying, “I will get a contract!” say, “I will send my completed manuscript to [X number of agents/publishers] by [date]!”

So sit down and think about your writing goals (and other goals) for 2012.  Write them down, think about them, talk them over with a trusted friend or fellow writer.  Revise them as necessary.  Share them on your favorite writing website, on your blog, over dinner with your family, with random strangers.  Make yourself accountable for achieving them and come up with a rewards system when your do.

I’ll be back on December 31st to share my goals and see how you’re doing 🙂