Monday, October 30, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 23

This week I'm officially changing the title of these weekly posts to "weekly goals," and the corresponding tag as well.  If you're following along via tag, you can find all the old posts using the old tag, accountability and progress.

Last week ended up being an unexpectedly swamped week.  I'm not sure why I was so surprised by it, as I knew my mom was coming up to visit, I knew I was riding with my friend, I knew I was taking my dad to a procedure on Friday, and I knew I was taking my friend back and forth to an event on Saturday.  But all of these things took a little longer or required more involvement from me than I expected, and I finished the week so completely exhausted that I deliberately took yesterday as a day of rest and did nothing all day.

Despite all that, though, I still got quite a lot done.  I mostly reorganized the sales closet (my downstairs closet that I have organized with repair supplies, projects, and sales inventory), I repaired a lamp (a project that's been sitting in my living room for almost 8 years), I picked up a large vintage doll lot, and I met with the museum director to plan an event and a corresponding article.

Unfortunately, only about half of that contributed to achieving my goals for the week, so some of that is carrying over to this week.  I still have more organization that I want to accomplish, and I still need to finish the article for the museum newsletter; plus now I've agreed to write the copy for the event page too.

This is going to be a more difficult week, too, between the kickoff party late tomorrow night, and all of the write-ins.  I will lose an evening and about three-quarters of my weekend this week, and most weeks it'll be two evenings and three-quarters of my weekend.

With NaNoWriMo starting, this week's goals are going to be a little different:

  1. Get as much organization done as possible
  2. Get started on NaNoWriMo
  3. Work on client dolls
  4. Write article and other copy for museum
  5. List items for sale locally
I usually love Mondays because I love the feeling of starting a new week, and all the possibilities of that blank slate laid out ahead of me.  It's usually a light feeling.  Today, however, feels rather heavy, as I look ahead to a busy, complicated week.

Hopefully getting a little more done today will help relieve some of the pressure tomorrow!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Accountability and Progress, Week 22

Once again, I'm considering whether I want to keep doing this style of accountability and progress posts.  I am going to try transitioning to a "Weekly Goals" format, with a summary of what I'm working on each week.  I'll still address what I accomplished the week before, but it should be a simpler format.

Last week was another week that didn't entirely go as planned.  My overall hours (which Toggl tracks) were down as well, although I think that's partly because I forgot to log some of my organization hours in Toggl.  I worked a little on sorting expense receipts in preparation for taxes, worked a little on organization, and did some prep and scheduling for NaNoWriMo, but overall I struggled to get much done.

This week I'm making a big final push to get the bulk of my organization projects done before November starts.  I have pushed off the work on the doll stringing ebook, and might consider that part of NaNoWriMo.  I'll probably do some prep work on my novel later this week or in the last few days of October so that I'm ready for NaNoWriMo to start Tuesday night at the kickoff.

I also have a couple of projects that really need to be started this week.  One is a couple of dolls I'm restoring for a local client, and the other is a doll article I'm going to write for the newsletter of the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys.  The director wants to improve doll representation, as she feels like the doll community is feeling a little left out, especially after the museum's Fall Show, which is primarily miniatures.  I'm meeting with her on Thursday to talk about the article.

I also have some things I want to list locally for sale, larger doll items that I don't want to have to ship.  That'll be income generating, so I should probably do it sooner rather than later.

Assuming this new format works out, I think I'll plan on making a list of no more than a few goals each week, to keep things simple and keep me focused.  This week it's all especially simple:

  1. Get as much as possible done on the organization project
  2. Refamiliarize myself with my novel in preparation for NaNoWriMo
  3. Get started working on a local client's dolls
  4. Get started on an article for the museum newsletter
  5. List some items for sale locally

Let's try this format and see how it goes.  It's a little simpler and will hopefully help me to meet my goals a little better, but I'm also hoping to make the posts a little less boring.  And of course, I'm still planning on posting more in general.

Edit: All future posts will be under the tag weekly goals. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Belated Banned Books Week: Book Review #2

I blogged recently about the first book I read from the list of most frequently challenged books of 2022, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  I also recently finished Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison.

This was a dramatically different book than Dying Girl.  Rather than the quirky, irreverent sense of humor and awkwardness that characterized Dying Girl, Lawn Boy was often seriously and painfully so.  As the author says in the afterword, at its heart it's a novel about the vast class differences the poor experience, and man oh man was it accurate in that regard.  I recognized from my younger years the feeling of barely ever being able to get ahead before something else would set you back again.  It was painful and far too real.

The book was ostensibly challenged because of LGBTQIA+ content and claims of sexually explicit content.  There is NOTHING sexually explicit in this book.  You know the main character and the love interest have sex, but the only thing the book actually describes is them kissing and then waking up in bed together.  It is painfully clear that this is just too sexually explicit for opponents of LGBTQIA+ content.  It's the old problem of "I don't mind if you do it, but why do you have to kiss in public," while straight kissing in public is permitted.

Now the LGBTQIA+ content is definitely there, but it's subtle (a discovery that the main character realizes about himself late in the book, although I could see it coming and I'm sure others would be able to as well).  But of course, if you're homophobic, even subtle is too much, and heaven forbid teens read about it!

But I actually suspect the class inequalities addressed in the book also have a great deal to do with why the book has been challenged.  It's not a flattering look at how our society treats lower income and minority populations.  But while homophobia is still fairly acceptable in our culture, and gay and trans rights are still being routinely fought over, overt classism and racism is more frowned upon.  So opponents of this book latched onto the easiest and most acceptable reason to challenge this book, the LGBTQIA+ aspect of the story.

The book ends with a great message of being true to yourself, and more importantly, standing up for yourself, in all areas of life: sexual preference, work, even with friends and family.  I suspect that those closet classist and racist opponents (as well as the homophobic ones) probably object to that as much as they object to the bleak picture of a sympathetic character living poor.

It's a tough read if you're familiar with how much of a struggle can be at a lower income, but I highly recommend it.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links.  Purchases made through the links earn me a small commission.  As always, thank you for your support!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 21

A few things have changed since I last wrote an accountability and progress post.  I started journaling to see if that would help me keep track of what I'm doing (and not doing), and also help with more frequent motivation to get things done.  I sometimes find that writing about what I need to do helps me to get going on them, but so far the journal is hit or miss as to whether that works.

I also had a really busy week last week, as expected, so that may be why sometimes journaling is a miss: I just don't have the energy to do things, even if I want to after writing about them.

Another new thing I'm trying is a product called brain.fm.  It's a music service geared toward helping with focusing, relaxing, or sleeping.  A writer friend recommended it and said it's really good for help focusing.  So far I'm liking it!  I will write more about it in a future post.

Last week was busy, as I mentioned.  Looking back on my Toggl tracking for the week, most of the busyness was "stuff for other people" rather than "stuff for myself."  I spent a lot of time babysitting, dog sitting, and working on Sunday's event at the doll museum.  I thought babysitting was going to prevent me from volunteering during the event, but as it turned out, I was able to come and help, just a little late.  It was a good thing, too, as the event turned out to be a full house!

Here's the rundown of last week's progress, and this week's plans.

Doll stringing ebook: I currently have this scheduled for a little later this week.  I do want to finish organizing my work spaces before take photos, so that I have the space and setup to get professional-looking photos.  That's part of why I keep pushing this. 

Ruby Ransome: I did push this back again, but this is the last time I can do so, as I want the last week of November to re-familiarize myself with where I'm at in the novel.

Blogs, websites, and social media: I've made a little bit of a comeback in the past week regarding my social media and blog maintenance, and am hoping to get a little more done this week.  I have some filming and photography scheduled for throughout this week and next.

Other projects: Last week I spent a lot of time prepping and volunteering for the doll event that was held yesterday.  This coming week, I need to schedule a meeting with the museum director, as I'm going to write a doll-related article for the newsletter and also start helping to plan the December doll event (which should be simpler).  I'm also hoping to get a lot more done on organization projects around the house, as I want to have that done before November and am quickly running out of time to do so.

On the horizon: I have most of the prep work done for November, with the kickoff, TGIO (thank goodness it's over party), and the bulk of my write-ins scheduled.  I might schedule one or two more, but for the most part that prep work is done, and I just have to wait for NaNoWriMo to start (not long now!).

This week promises to be busy, but not the mad rush of last week, thankfully.  My main goal is to make up for lost time on the organization projects due to the busyness of last week.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Belated Banned Book Week: Book Review #1

I finally got around to reading one of the books from the Banned Books Week list of the top challenged books of 2022.  This one was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

I just have to say... who challenges a book about a girl dying of leukemia?  Who does that?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was technically challenged for profanity and because it's supposedly "sexually explicit."  Okay, so let's unpack that for a moment.

The book is written in what seems to me to be a pretty authentic voice of an awkward 17-year-old boy (at least, from my experience with awkward 17-year-old boys).  What that means is that they drop some F-bombs, and that there are a few crude mentions of boobs and teenage hormones.

Oh the horror.  Please let us not let our kids read about teen boys having hormones.  Or thinking about boobs.  Oh noes.

So, yeah.  The narrator describes his epic fail where he complimented a girl's boobs in school.  And he mentions having boobs on his computer screen.  And mentions a boner once or twice.  And a few more mentions of boobs.

But honestly.  Does anyone actually think that banning this book will stop teenage boys from thinking about boobs or getting boners?  Or do they just not want kids to know that it's normal?  (Probably the latter.)

And profanity?  Ha.  I promise you, your kid hears more F-bombs on a daily basis than they'll read in this book.

And honestly, those are just part of the authenticity of the voice.  At its heart, the book is the story of a kid whose friend is dying of leukemia.  He learns some real lessons about friendship and life along the way, and for many kids reading this book, the F-bombs and boobs are just a small part of an accessible voice, introducing them to some very real, adult concepts about reality.

I loved this book. It was funny, and raw, and all too familiar (from the point of view of someone who was once a 17-year-old girl, but who definitely had my own share of supremely awkward high school moments).

So today, do your part to piss off a conservative, and go buy this book.  Bonus points if you buy it for your kids, and you can even level up by buying it for your high school!  If you're buying it for yourself, it's also currently $2.24 on Kindle, so you can piss off a conservative for about the price of a king-sized candy bar.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which may earn me a small commission on purchases you make.  Thank you for your support!

Monday, October 09, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 20

Last week was another crazy week!  I actually got a lot done, too, of which I'm proud.  Not all of the things I wanted to do, but some important things, so that's good.

Looking back at my Toggl tracking for the week, I'm actually impressed with how much I did.  On Monday we finished some of the projects from the weekend.  Tuesday I had a productivity hangover and didn't get much done, but Wednesday I did a bunch of planning and blogging, Thursday I restrung a doll for a client and babysat, Friday I finished up some things and got the doll ready to mail out, and Saturday I mailed her out.  That's one of the quickest turnarounds I've ever had, so I'm proud of that!  And then Saturday we worked more on organization (and picked up a new cabinet I found to contribute toward better organization), and yesterday I babysat super early and attended a board meeting for the museum.

Yesterday I had hoped to get some more done around the house, but I was so exhausted from babysitting at 6am that I knew there was a good possibility I wouldn't get much else done that day, and gave myself permission not to.  And it turned out that I didn't, not just because I was tired but also because a friend of ours had a crisis and I spent the afternoon worrying about her.  After all that, I decided to read all evening, and was very glad I did.

I also received my new Kindle Scribe on Saturday and was reading and journaling on it all yesterday.  I'll blog about that sometime soon, too, because I'm incredibly excited about this new device!

Here's a more detailed rundown of how last week's productivity met expectations, and what I'm hoping to accomplish this week.

Doll stringing ebook: This has been moved again, but with everything else I got done the past week, I'm not sorry.  I've pushed this back to next week in hopes of completing more of my organizing project by then.

Ruby Ransome: I've also pushed this back until next week, though I may focus on updating the ebook next week and re-familiarize myself with the novel the following week, right before NaNoWriMo.

Blogs, websites, and social media: I'm slacking a little in the social media department lately, but I did get several blog posts up last week, on both this blog and my novel's blog.  I want to make a goal of at least one post per blog per week, and will expand that goal from there as I get a better handle on blogging regularly again.  Eventually I'd like to have all my blogs updated several times a week.

Other projects: At the beginning of last week, we finished mounting shelves and a TV in the bedroom, but then didn't work much more on the organization project until Saturday, when we rearranged the living room and picked up a new doll cabinet.  I still need to finish rearranging and reorganizing the living room and getting the cabinet filled, which I'm hoping to do this week.  I also have more to do in the bedroom, kitchen, and dinette, but I feel like I'm making good progress.

On the horizon: I'm still working on getting everything set up for NaNoWriMo next month, but we're getting there!  I still need to finalize details for the kickoff and a few write-ins, but we're getting there.

As I noted in last week's conclusion, I have a lot of balls in the air, so I'm trying to focus on the most important things for now.  All in all, last week was pretty productive, and I'm hoping to get a lot done this week too!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which can earn me a small commission for any purchases made through them.  Thank you for your support!

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Banned Books Week 2023

Someday I won't find out about Banned Books Week too late.  Unfortunately, this is not that year.

Banned Books Week, as it turns out (and as I found out thanks to an ad on Facebook), is this week, October 1-7.  Which means it's more than halfway over at this point.

I usually like to try to read something banned during Banned Books Week, for obvious reasons, but it may be a little late this week to 

Every year, Banned Books Week highlights the most frequently banned books from the previous year.  Here are the 13 most frequently banned and challenged books of 2022:

  1. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
  2. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
  3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  4. Flamer by Mike Curato
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
  10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  11. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  13. This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson

The reason there are 13 books this year instead of just 10 is that there was a two-way tie for fifth place, and a four-way tie for tenth place.  The vast majority of the reasons for challenging the books is LGBTQIA+ content, with "claims" of sexually explicit content being the next most common reason.  (The "claims" language makes me wonder if it's really the case for all of them; they all say the same thing in that regard.)

I've read several of these books, many of them for past years' Banned Books Week, as some of these books are frequent fliers on this list.  I've read Looking for Alaska, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I don't remember it, but Goodreads says I've read The Perks of Being a Wallflower too, and I may have also read The Bluest Eye (although maybe I only read Beloved).

I think I'm going to go through the list and put books I haven't read yet on the hold list at my library.  I may not have a chance to read them this week, but I always try to celebrate my right to read banned books by reading as many and as often as I can.

Please note that making a purchase through the affiliate links in this post may earn me a small commission.  Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Writer's Business of Reading

I've been blogging a lot in the last few months about what I have (or have not) been accomplishing every week.  These posts do a disservice to at least one part of my life, because one thing I do a lot of is reading.

I've always seen reading as part of my "education" as a writer.  As Stephen King said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."  I've always believed reading to be a good foundation for writing, which is why my education was in literature, rather than in writing.

Old habits die hard and I still read every night before bed, sometimes for quite a while, and often at other times of the day as well.  As a teen I finished about 5 books a week, nearly a book every day.  I don't read that fast anymore (who has the time, as an adult!), but I still read a lot.  I have routinely finished an average of a book a week for the past several years, but this year especially I've been finishing about three books every two weeks.

I completed my Goodreads challenge for the year (52 books in 2023, a book a week) a couple months ago.  At the rate I'm reading, I think I'll easily get to 80 books or more for the year.  Most of what I read is in ebook form, checked out from the library and read on my Kindle.  (Because I read so fast, I prefer not to purchase everything I read, but I did recently spring for Kindle Unlimited.  The jury is still out on whether I'll keep it long term, but I'll post about it when I decide.)

Reading is probably one of the most enjoyable pastimes in my life right now, but it's also keeping my writing muscles somewhat activated even when I haven't been writing in a while.  I'm also planning on getting a Kindle Scribe in the near future.  I love the idea of taking notes in my research books a little more easily, and I would probably even use that feature to mark up manuscripts I'm revising.

I'm always reading something interesting, whether it's research for my 1920s vampire series, similar genre books, or particularly interesting nonfiction.  Feel free to visit my Goodreads profile, view my reading challenges, and follow me on Goodreads!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which pay me a small commission if you use them to make a purchase.  Thank you for your support!

Monday, October 02, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 19

Last week was moderately productive: I got things done, but not everything I'd planned.  The weekend more than made up for it, though!  We put up multiple shelves and made major progress on my organization project.  I'm a little exhausted today from how much we did over the weekend, but also very pleased.

Here's where I'm at right now, and where I'm hoping to go this week.

Doll stringing ebook: I did move this again.  My reasoning is that I really need a good photography space prepared in order to take the updated pictures for this ebook, and with everything else I've been doing, I haven't had a chance to prep a good photography space.  I have it scheduled for a little later this week, currently.

Ruby Ransome: I'm not worrying about this just yet.  I have tentatively scheduled to start working on my novel again next week, but for now I want to focus on getting this organization project finished.  I do want to get to work on it at least a week before November, so I'm not jumping into the deep end when NaNoWriMo starts.

Blogs, websites, and social media, oh my: You'll notice I officially changed the name of this category to include social media, which is where I promote my doll business.  I did work on my blogs a little more here and there last week, and got several social media posts up.  I have more to do this week.

Other projects: As I already mentioned, my organization project was the big focus this past week.  Over the weekend I got a set of four shelves hung in the hallway, which I've been planning to up for probably about six months.  We also made a run to IKEA and picked up a ledge shelf for showcasing special edition dolls, which I mounted yesterday, and a couple of Trofast units that we put together to hold doll things underneath that ledge shelf.  This evening I'm hoping to mount a couple other shelves that we picked up in the same trip, plus install a TV mount.  Later this week I also have a mirror, a large picture, and another wall shelf to put up, plus some more general organization to work on.

On the horizon: I've already exchanged emails with one of our write-in hosts, a local Barnes & Noble, plus our most important supporter of the local NaNoWriMo region, Enchanted Grounds.  EG always host our kickoff party - which is a big deal, as the kickoff is usually held from 10pm Halloween night until 2am on November 1st, to allow everyone to start writing right at midnight at the start of November.  It's a difficult event to find a venue for, and EG has been amazingly supportive over the years.  They also host a weekly write-in, so they're a wonderful local resource for us!  I'm hoping to make contact with other regular write-in venues this week, to get a few other events nailed down.

Writing this post up today, I'm realizing how many balls I have in the air right now.  I have a lot of things to focus my attention on, so it's no wonder when some things fall by the wayside.  For now, I'm going to keep focusing on making progress with my organization project.  I feel like that needs to come together first before other things (most of which requires organization and dedicated spaces) can happen.


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