Other Random Thoughts

Kindles, And Other Things

I finally caved and bought an e-reader. Kindle, because I'm already addicted to Amazon for a number of other things, and Paperwhite because I liked it better than all the other non-tablet options. I've had it for about three weeks now and I like it - but I had to swap my book list over to List view instead of Cover view because I was sad that everything has to be in black and white. I logged on to Amazon yesterday and saw an announcement for an all-new Kindle Paperwhite coming at the end of the month. Of course there would be- I just finally joined the e-reader masses. But I'm not missing out on anything essential, so that's a consolation.

One thing that they did announce for Kindle that I am very excited about is a "Coming Soon" integration with GoodReads. I sincerely hope that this integration will be available for all Kindle types, and not just for the latest models, because I love GoodReads, use it more than I should probably admit, and will not be upgrading my Kindle a mere six weeks after purchasing my original. So, we shall see.

In semi-related news, I am looking for bad books. I began this little endeavor while scanning through the free Kindle books and finding books so bad I couldn't stand to read more than a few pages. At first I was actually looking for good books to read and just finding all the ones that never had seen an editor or reviewer of any kind, but then , after a few particularly bad ones, I started seeking them out. I plan to sprinkle their special badness in with the other books I read - my hope is that they will be so bad they will be funny (which has happened on occasion) as opposed to so bad it tries to melt my brain. As a bonus, they will automatically give the other books I read a better light!

This whole thing got started when a friend and I were chatting and she told me about the worst book she had ever read, no competition. It was a delightfully entertaining discussion that ended with, "Seriously, it's the worst thing I've ever seen. Nothing happens. Ever. My brain almost died. Hey, you should read it!"

And for reasons still unknown to me, I let her talk me into it. I sat down and read it. And she was not kidding. I was prepared to be lenient, thinking it was an amateur writer, maybe just publishing an ebook as a trial run or for fun.

So wrong. Apparently this book is also available in paperback and is touted by some (I have no clue who) as the magical book that will keep kids off drugs for good. The reason for this still mystifies me, as the entire book is, in fact, an argument for becoming a drug dealer so that you can retire as a multimillionaire at the ripe old age of thirty-something.

Really.

So after forcing myself to read that mess, I have become determined to find a book worse than that. Specifically, books that have no discernible plot, or are so poorly written, or some other nearly-objective thing that makes it bad. (I'm not just going to pick a bunch of books in a genre I don't enjoy and rip them all apart. I can appreciate good writing and good storytelling, even if I don't personally enjoy the story being told.)

If anyone is interested in adding to my Bad Book Library, leave a comment with the worst book you've ever read and why it's bad. You don't need to go into full spoiler-review mode- just something like "the characters are all so dumb that they forgot to finish the story" or "I literally could not read this because the grammar/spelling/etc. was so terrible."

I am looking forward to writing humorous reviews about the worst books ever. I hope you enjoy the badness in all its glory. :)

GoodReads and Amazon

Amazon Acquires GoodReads Not sure how I feel about this. I love GoodReads and I love Amazon, but for very separate reasons. I am hoping I will be able to have my Kindle purchases automatically added to my To-Read shelf on GoodReads; that would be awesome. Otherwise, I'm reserving judgment until I see what happens.

Thoughts?

Feast to Follow Famine

Please don't look at the date of my last post. I may have to hide. I made up for it though, honest! I give you... The Great Smorgasbord of March 2013.

Smorgasbord is such an awesome word.

 

Additional things not in AHM post: - Has anyone tried the latest version of Microsoft Office (2013)? I have it installed on my laptop right now and man, did it throw me. Some good, some bad, and a lot of WTF were they thinking? The most annoying thing to me is how all the tabs across the top are in ALL CAPS. Because we haven't already established that all caps is extremely annoying and no one likes being yelled at all the time...

- I recently got my first smart phone. I'm pretty sure I will never be productive again. But I can listen to Pandora and goof around on GoodReads, so it's all good... right?

- I carpool to work. Usually it's no big deal, since my ride lives in the apartment complex next to mine, so I just walk over the hill to her car. Since we got hit by snow storm Saturn, I now have about a foot of snow to contend with. (sidenote: I accidentally typed "snow" as "snot" for a second. So glad I don't have a foot of snot to wade through...) I quickly learned that this made for a cold, wet, and painful experience. Luckily, my friend is kind enough to drive over to my place to pick me up. I want to install a rope-tow and a sled, like the ones at snow tubing or ski hills. That may be an awesome way to start the day.

- Speaking of sledding, did you know it's very difficult to sled in a trenchcoat? Yep.

- I'm sitting next to two big piles of library books right now, one of which I'm about halfway done with. I'm pretty sure I can hear it calling to me, so I'm signing off to go finish that up. :)

An Impossible Task...

...but I think I'm up for the challenge. What my brain said to me:

- read 365 books by midnight, Dec. 31. Bonus points if they are all first-time-reads.

- since you're now hooked on Goodreads and have always enjoyed reviews, write a review for every one of those books you just read.

- Keep your day job, or you can't buy new books or pay for the Internet. And other things like food.

- Keep writing - just because you're tripling the amount of books you read in a typical year does not give you the right to slack off! And also, I'm on to you. You feel shame for not posting regularly so you dig through your archives for things you like. Fix that by writing new stuff you want to share. Honestly, why must I have to tell you this?

- Speaking of which, start using that list of literary agents you have and get submitting. Your book won't publish itself. (Yes I know there's a thing called self-publishing, but that still requires you to do work. The book doesn't actually do anything.)

- Sleep is for the weak.

 

My answer to all this?

BRING IT ON!!!

Oh, and... I am totally weak, because I adore sleep. Seriously. In fact, I'm writing this on my laptop as I lie in bed right now, and I'm envious of my hubby because he's doing the peaceful-sleep-breathe thing right now. Must mean it's time to sail away to Hushabye Mountain. (One hundred points to anyone who knows that reference.)

 

An Eating Order

I love food. For anyone who knows me personally, this may be the most "DUH" statement they have ever read, but it is relevant, I promise. I am a bit of a picky eater. Some of that is preference - for example, I'm fussy about the texture of the foods I eat (or, more accurately, I'm very specific about what textures I will not eat). Lima beans, peas, and anything else that has a similar dry, mushy taste all goes into the NO pile. Some pickiness comes from food allergies - being allergic to things that are found in just about any kind of cheap candy, gum, snack mix, ice cream, etc. is pretty sucky.

I am also a thin person. For anyone who knows me personally, this may be the second most "DUH" statement they have ever read. Again, still relevant.

I'm very used to reading the ingredients labels on anything before I eat it, because I have had too many bad experiences with food allergies sneaking up on me to leave it to chance. But I've noticed that more and more, people seem to think I read the ingredients (and nutrition info) because I am thin and therefore must count every tiny morsel I consume. There's been more than a few judgmental looks when a package of storebought cookies gets passed around and I check the label before deciding not to take anything. Clearly, my refusal is a judgment passed on all the people who did take a cookie.

Truth is, I love cookies. I love snacks, and candy, and healthy food too. I eat things I don't like because I need the nutrients (like the bananas I eat every morning, even though I hate the texture) and I eat things I do like because, well, I like them. And sometimes also because I'm hungry. (Mind-blowing, I know.) But I need to make sure I'm not blindly eating food I'm allergic to, and most of the time it's just easier to pass on the tasty-looking desserts than it is to chance getting sick.

There's no soapbox here, or angry rant. Just a note to everyone to say, "Hey, if you have a friend who happens to like food, and who also happens to not eat food sometimes even if she likes it, that's ok. Chances are, there's a good reason." I would say that there's even a possibility that she's not hungry, but for anyone who knows me personally, that may be the biggest "INCONCEIVABLE!" statement they have ever read. :)

I'm off now - I think I hear chocolate chip pancakes calling my name.

I Resolve to Make Lists

I hate New Year's resolutions, because I have never met anyone who has successfully kept to a single thing they set out to do for the entire year. I have seen lots of people make it up through May, but then they just seem to "take a break" for the summer and then just let it die out as winter looms closer. So instead of being resolute with my decision-making for the next 365 days (366? Is it a Leap Year? Not sure and I can't be bothered to check a calendar...) during the wee hours of the new year, I make lists of lots of things I would like to see or do. Some lists are important things and I take them seriously (for instance, last year I included "get new car" because our old one was terrifyingly old. We did end up replacing it - funny story, but I'll save that for another time...) Other lists are more fun. Something that's been on my long-term goal list every year, that I always fail, is to find a nickname that sticks. So far in my life, I have had one nickname, and now it's obsolete because I changed my name when I got married. So the search continues.

But I thought it would be fun (and interesting) to see what first comes to mind for my Fun List for 2013, now that I'm home again, it's 1:30 AM and I'm feeling a little warm and fuzzy towards the new year right now (no clue why that is, and don't look at me like that. The Bailey's was like that when I got here.)

1. Finish another novel (write and do at least two edit passes)

2. Write at least 1000 words every day (work meeting notes do not apply)

3. Torment the pets more often. They could use the exercise. :) (Note to self: this means you need to save orange peels.) (Second note to self: now you have to explain that story, too. Good job.)

4. Read some of the massive library you're accumulating on GoodReads/have on hold at the local library

5. Write a review for every book you read

6. Do more puzzles

7. Learn some form of martial art (yep, it's time. Suck it up and be a beginner.)

8. Remember that book you made for Erica? Yeah...

9. Finish and hang some of your cross-stitch projects

10. Spend more time with The Hubby - And all the new Xbox games you got for Christmas have co-op!

There will be more, and things will get scratched out and reorganized, but I like to throw things down when I first think of them. One major event in that list, a bunch of things I would like to be better at and have already started work on, and reminders to spend time with and care for the things you enjoy and the people you love. I'd say not bad for a first draft.

Do you have a resolution or new year's wish? I've got a comments thread where I would love to collect more ideas!

See you in the new year - I'm off to sleep for now. Free Hugs (internet style) for all!

Holy Cow I Survived

No, I'm not talking about Winter Storm Draco - although that's still going on and I can't really get out of my place right now. I have officially made it to my end-of-year vacation! Just in time, too, because my dining table is literally covered in stacks of books I want to catch up on. And there's all the writing I want to get done, now that I've lived through the last big work deadline of the year and have some time to let my brain relax... and all the cooking I need to do (ok, cooking Hubby needs to do, that I need to taste-test) and snacks to be made (and promptly eaten) and movies to see and presents to shake to determine the contents and pets to play with and games to play and puzzles to solve and waitasecondwheredidmyvacationgo? I suppose I had better re-think my no-sleep strategy if I want to be able to get any of those things done. Hmm. And seeing as it's after midnight now, I should probably stop this post before it gains a life of its own and tries to devour my life. (Hey, writing does that sometimes. Don't look at me like that.)

In other news, Head over to AHM for a quickie review of what may be one of my new favorite authors (spoiler alert: it's not even fantasy fiction!).

Blink and You'll Miss It - Also, Trees

Kallizar and Mahliz work together when their king is threatened - who knew?  

In other news, I got my Christmas tree up yesterday! We were a bit concerned because our dog is 7 months old and is utterly convinced that everything must go into his mouth, but the tree put up a good fight and survived while we were gone to church. It's an artificial tree because of my husband's allergies, and holy whoa is that thing sturdy. I'm pretty sure I could fall into it without knocking it over (not that I'm going to try, because I would probably crash it into the fish tank, and that would suck. Especially for our downstairs neighbors. And the fish.)

I still haven't worked up the courage to put any ornaments on the tree, but I did get the lights up - nice multi-colored LEDs that look like little fireflies when you shut them off. So cool! :) We actually bought some el-cheapo ornaments for this year so that none of our fragile, important ornaments get destroyed during the dog's first Christmas experience (or when the cats inevitably decide the tree is the new sweetest place ever for hiding from said dog). I fully expect to be getting ready for work one morning and see two pairs of cat eyes poking out at me from between the branches...

Still haven't figured out a good (safe) place to hang our stockings, but I'm determined to figure something out. That was one of my favorite things as a kid and I have gone two Christmases now without that ritual. Time to bring it back, even if I have to pin them to the wall or hide them in the library or something. I am not above drastic measures.

Random holiday fun fact: Cathedral Windows are possibly one of the best food inventions ever - nuts optional (but no coconut, thanks... *shudder*). Way better than fruitcake. Check them out, make them, and melt in their tasty deliciousness. :)

 

PS. My mind was just blown doing a Google search for the Cathedral Windows recipe - apparently it's really popular to make these with different colored jell-o? Weird. But I imagine also tasty.

Mmmm, food... :)

Totally Panthered

Panthers at my desk
Panthers at my desk

Over the years I have heard many terms/phrases for when someone is stuck with a seemingly impossible task: they're up a creek, caught between a rock and a hard place, they are toast (or toasted), doomed, etc.

For me and my office-mate, it's all about panthers. A deadline came up that, put mildly, scared the living daylights out of me, and I may have gone a little crazy. At the same time, my office-mate was fighting with some software that was doing everything in its power to flummox her and deny her the right to sanity. It won, for a bit.

Panther necklace
Panther necklace

We were so lost for words that the next natural thing to come to mind was panthers. It was funny - made us laugh and let us get back to the important stuff we were trying to do. But it kept growing and growing... and now, every time we are stressed out about a difficult or monumental task, all we have to say is "I'm totally panthered." We've even spread the word to a few of our friends.

Leopard
Leopard

Various indicators of panthered-ness have appeared in our office: small stuffed animals, sticky notes counting the number of panthers in the room (invisible, obviously), and most recently, little panther charm necklaces that we wear when in super dire need. One friend bought us figurines of other big cats (because he couldn't find any actual black panthers), so I have a tiger living on my desk, and my office-mate has a leopard.

Some days, it's not so bad to be totally panthered anymore. :)

Shelves
Shelves

Alexis H. Masters Alive at Last!

Last post I mentioned transitioning the majority of my writing-focused posts over to my new website, Alexis H. Masters. It's very cool and you should definitely check it out if you liked anything here. But what I didn't really mention was why I'm switching sites (or, more accurately, adding that site and changing this one). Once again, it goes back to the submission requirements from the beginning of the month. One of the fields asked me for my name; the next asked me for my preferred author name. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent trying to decide whether I wanted to use a pseudonym - and if so, what it might be. Eventually, after a long discussion with my sister (who is amazing :) ), I opted for pseudonym. And, once that was for sure, I pulled up a list of names that I have always liked but haven't found a character to fit them. It was a short list, and Alexis Masters was at the top. Since she will be much more Google-able than my given name (which I love, but is extremely common), she won top choice. I also decided to include the middle initial "H" for two reasons: 1. I love middle names and would be sad without one (yes, it does stand for something) and 2. adding the "H" gave me a unique domain name for my site which at the date of posting this is the #1 hit on Google for my new name. And that's pretty sweet.

Things you can expect to change:

RealmwalkerWriting will shift into a more casual blog style. I'm not sure exactly what I want to keep here vs. post exclusively at the AH Masters blog, but I expect to have more spontaneous, not necessarily writing-focused posts here. I want it to be fluid and fun.

AH Masters will become the main hub for all my writing, with a focus on things on the road to publication and/or important announcements from/about me as an author (for example, upcoming writing conventions I may be attending or the latest news that's relevant to new or aspiring authors). AHM will also pick up the random writing sketches that used to be posted here, so if you're interested in following more on characters like Alec, Akitis, KetKet, etc., AHM is the place to go. (Unsurprisingly, anything related to Kallizar will also be up on AHM, so all of those characters and any teasers I decide to throw out there will be over on AHM.)

You can also follow me on Twitter: AlexisHMasters

My hope is the AHM site will be useful and fun for anyone who is a fan of my writing (or of me, if that randomly happens)- that there's a central place where I can share the latest goings-on in my writing life and have a community of people who read and discuss and meet up there. High hopes, maybe, but it's a start. :)

Ok, I think that covers it. Go check out AHM and sign up to follow it to get sneak peaks and tasty tidbits of Kallizar's story that aren't out for publication (and won't be posted anywhere else!). Also feel free to answer the latest poll and leave your comments (there's no beep, but you can imagine one when you answer the poll question). :)

-Alexis H. Masters

New Name, New Face, More Great Stuff!

Really quick update - I promise to have a follow-up with more details, but I wanted to let you all know now. I have begun the transition over to my new blog site, AlexisHMasters. All my writing posts are already over there, along with all the comments you've left me about them. :) The plan is to use my new site as a writing/reading hub and build up my writer name. Look there to find more information specific to my writing and reading recommendations, upcoming schedules for any events I might be attending, etc.

Realmwalkerwriting (this site) will still be where I post all of my random character sketches, as well as whatever else comes to mind. I want this to be a bit less structured than the new official site - a place to have a bit of fun. I definitely plan to continue supporting it and posting new content to both sites once I get the last of the kinks worked out on the new site.

It would be awesome to see your support also over on the new site!

During Downtime...

Now that I've finished the latest revision of EUD, I'm letting it simmer for a little bit before I attack it again (and also letting my proofers take a crack at it). But since I tend to turn into a crazy person when I go too long without writing, I'm using this opportunity to put some good work into a few of my other stories that have been sitting on the sidelines for a long while. Alec will be getting at least a few more pieces; Jon (who hasn't been seen here yet, but might, if I get something I really like - the story is a different vampire story); and the latest project (which has no name) is a complete overhaul of a story I wrote back in high school that was a LOT of character development, and nothing else. It pretended to have plot but really, there wasn't much. But I'm ripping the characters out of that story and giving them an actual setting and plot - and I'm actually very excited about how it's coming along. There's only a few pages so far, but they're already better than 95% of the old stuff. Check back to see some new clips, and to see the second installment of Flailing Chaos!

In other news, I've been really busy with a lot of other cool stuff that I put on hold to finish EUD editing, so I'm also really enjoying that. Some goodies include Supernatural, Guild Wars (which I still love, but will be switching over to Guild Wars 2 for a while when it's released in a few days), various anime, various manga, Xbox gaming, and reading the latest Mercy Thompson novel, River Marked. So if you're looking for something to do, here's a starter list.

:)

25 Years Together

True story.

This post is especially for my mom and dad, but it's a good reminder for us all.

Today (July 17) is my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, God brought the two of them together in love and today they are still holding strong to their vows to each other.

I have always admired my parents and have many times thought that a life even only half as loving and kind as theirs would be amazing. As a kid, I looked up to them for help, answers, protection, and love. When I got married, I looked to my parents for advice and direction as my husband and I began our way down our own road. They were there for me growing up, preparing me for my adult life, and they are here for me now - and today, they celebrate all the love and memories that they've shared while being there for each other.

You've always been the cool parents, Mom and Dad. Partially because you're funny, partially because you're smart and witty (sometimes almost too clever :) ), partially because you're tech-savvy and you can still kick my butt with "today's trends" trivia. But mostly it's because everyone who sees you knows that you're a great couple. You fell in love and you stayed in love and you keep working at it, growing, making your lives stronger and better together. God has blessed you in so many ways and has made you incredible.

Here's to 25 years together, and another lifetime ahead. Stay strong in your faith and know that God is always with you and that each day together is a gift from Him.

With much love and respect,

-Sarah

Happy Birthday!

Today is my husband's birthday, so I thought it would be nice if I wrote about it on the Internet. At night. While he is watching anime. And possibly pausing it now to take his present, our new puppy, outside for the last walk of the night. I'm so thoughtful. :)

Really, though, I do want to dedicate this post to my dear Adam - you have been with me for almost two years now as a husband, and much longer than that as a friend. Thanks for putting up with all my random insanity. Happy birthday, my love!

In honor of the occasion, I have collected various songs and sayings that have been sung to me on my birthdays and compiled them here for you to enjoy:

"Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Adam, Happy birthday to you!"

"Happy birthday - you're one year closer to being dead." (Technically, no one said this to me... I said it to someone else as a joke and it stuck around... so now I'm passing it on. :) )

"Happy birthday - how does it feel to Still be older than me?"

"I stopped celebrating other people's birthdays after they turn 21. No one gives out free booze for a 25th birthday."

"Hooray, you've lived one quarter of a century! That's like being worth 25 cents!"

--And perhaps my favorite birthday song, of all time:

"You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older, and now you're even older, and now you're even older. You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older, and now you're older still.     TIME... is marching on... and TIME... ... ... is still marching on... This day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner, and now it's even sooner, and now it's even sooner, this day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner, and now it's sooner still!"

 

:) I love you Adam and happy birthday! :)

--The Wife

 

Lost and Love

I got lost. Not just a little lost, pull-over-at-the-gas-station-for-directions lost.

Very, very lost.

My life kidnapped me back in March and just now dumped me back on Earth. Hence the long gap between updates. However, during that time I was able to work on a few things (several, actually, but only a few that pertain to writing/reading/creative stuff) - which means I can start posting again!

...Assuming I can reset my password. I'm writing this in Word at the moment, waiting for the confirmation email to show up in my Inbox so I can get logged on. Hopefully my life won't decide to kidnap that, too...

 

In the spirit of last week, during which time I attended a cousin's wedding, I have a new question: What is the fiction book that best captures the feeling of a new marriage? I'm talking about all the preparation, dealing with unhappy or unsupportive friends/family, the excitement, the nerves, and the rush of wedding-induced insanity often labeled bliss. :) Are there any characters that you remember standing out because of how they dealt with a marriage (their own or someone else's)?

And maybe I'll throw this one in, too, since it's waiting not-so-patiently: Is there a character that "in your other life, you'd like to marry"?

I'll start off the answer to the last question - When I was little, I was convinced that I would grow up and marry Robin Hood (the fox from the Disney film). I still love him. Luckily, my husband (who is not Robin Hood) accepts this. :)

Jasper and Hime Mini-Feature

The previous post, Kitten and Mousie, mentioned my two cats - Jasper and Hime. I thought it might be nice if I gave them a little introduction, now that they're famous (and not related to any of the famous lolcats).

Jasper is the bigger one. He's about four years old, I think, and loves to play with people's toes (especially when they are wiggling under a blanket). His favorite cat toy is a fuzzy beetle stuffed with catnip. He also loves catnip in general and will lay on it whenever we sprinkle some on the scratch-pad for him.

Hime is just over one year old. Her name means "princess" in Japanese and is pronounced "HE-may". She is convinced that the walls are merely sideways floors and is constantly attempting to shift gravity to walk on them (so far no luck). Hobbies include hiding chapstick, pouncing on speakerphone-enabled cell phones, sleeping on ankles, and playing with big sparkly balls.

Both cats remind my husband and me constantly that we live here because of their good natures, and that we are only here to serve... and to sleep on. And for cuddles. And for the purchasing of new toys such as the beanbag. And for assistance in wall exploration.

Drowning in Books! (Save Me!)

I have a Plan.Starting this weekend, I will begin the frightening process of re-working part of book 1, which could really use some TLC.

However, I also have a Problem. I have been engulfed by other books! Help! I just meant to read one, I swear! But then it sort of grew and morphed and took over and now I'm drowning in books! I just can't stop READING!

The Plan will still happen. But it will be easier if I can somehow pull myself out of the sea of stories... so if you see me, throw me a rope! You can look for me in any of these books:

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher Bleach by Tite Kubo The Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs The Vampire Files by P. N. Elrod The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card Chronicles of the Necromancer by Gail Z. Martin Myst by Rand and Robyn Miller and David Wingrove

Alternatively, you can throw another book recommendation my way. I may drown, but I will drown happy! :)