Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, teaching and anything else that interests me

My writing

Last month I read Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox and as I did, I set myself some writing goals. One of them was to check back in with myself one month later to see how I was doing with the goals and, more importantly, whether or not I was still writing.

My goals involved writing at certain times of the day (7-8:30 am) and a certain number of words per day (2000). I was going to finish editing our first book by 2/15 and be be well on my way to finishing the first drat of the second book.

Well, it didn’t exactly work out like that. I have written a few days from 7-8:30, but not many. I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to stress about that goal. I am still usually writing in the morning, but if that doesn’t happen, I write in the afternoon. The important thing, as far as I am concerned, is that I have written every single day since January 19. It has been a long time since I have written every day, and it feels good to be back in the groove.

I also failed pretty big on the word count goal. I only wrote 200o words on 8 days. But, in 30 days I have written over 35,000 words. Not a record, by any means, but I am happy with it.

Part of my problem with word count was the fact that I actually exceeded  one goal. I finished the first draft of the second book on February 1, not March 15 as I had thought I would. Once I didn’t have that bog project to work on, writing 200 words a day got harder. I started on the third book but am just writing scenes. I think I could probably start writing more on it, and I prob ably will this next month.

The first book hasn’t moved ahead hardly at all, and it should have been completely finished by now. I am a little bummed about that but not overly so. I think that having the second one ready to go and being able to publish two books almost at once is a good idea.

So what are my goals for this next month? I want to:

  • write 2000 words every day
  • finish second draft of the second book
  • get third book up from it’s current 3000 words to 30,000
  • continue to develop the blog for the books

That should be doable if I set my mind to it. Starting in April I will be busy teaching again, so I need to get as much done before then as I can.

I am not setting goals about finalizing the first book because it still requires input from my son. I have no control over that right now, so why stress. I am also not setting time of day goals. It just doesn’t work.

I’ll try to remember to come back next month and let you know how I’m doing. Hopefully, it will be good!



OK, I’m happy again!

My new Kobo arrived yesterday. Instead of the Glo HD, which they no longer make, I was given an Aura, 2nd Edition. It is very comparable to the Glo HD, as least as far as I have seen so far.

I charged it and set it up yesterday. That part went extremely well. Of course, this is the 3rd variety of Kobo and the fourth actual ereader I have had over the last 5 1/2 years, so I have a lot of experience with the setup process.  But I really think this was the easiest setup ever.

The Aura supposedly has up to 2 months of battery life. I was below 40% a little while ago, so I am charging it again. I did some stuff with wifi after it was charged yesterday, so that may have affected battery life. After I unplug it this time, I’ll be better able to talk about battery life.

The only thing I am having trouble with is using the virtual keyboard. I swear I hit one key and it gave me a different letter. I am not sure what happened. Fortunately, I don’t use the keyboard much except to set up wifi connections, so this isn’t a big deal.

I am so glad to have a functioning Kobo again! I read a lot on my Kindle ever the past month, and I have to say I just don’t like it as much. It isn’t as comfortable or as intuitive for me. But I have to say that it has been very reliable so far, and that counts for a lot with me. I read too much to not have a functioning ereader! But I am really happy that my new Kobo gives me a functioning ereader that I really like!


January reading, part 2

OK, back to finish this up!


The three books of Speculative Fiction I read were very different from each other, and I liked all of them very much.

  • Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber was the Tor.com free ebook last month. I posted before about how much I was enjoying the book.  It was excellent. It is science fiction set in a medieval society, and it really does tell us a lot about ourselves. There is a great review of the book from 2009 on Tor.com. I agree with a lot of what it says, but I take exception with other parts. She hated the names, and I loved them. I loved reading them out loud to myself to figure out what the name was. It was fun!  What I didn’t care for was the extreme amount of detail about ship design. The big question, as far as I was concerned at least, was regarding the role of tech in our lives. We see tech far beyond ours today slowly introduced into the medieval society where tech has been been outlawed. Will the tech save mankind or kill most of it off – again?   I want to read the entire series. Unfortunately, I will probably have to buy paperback copies since they are cheaper than the ebooks! But regardless of the cost, this is a series I really want to read in its entirety.
  • Ad Astra by Kevin O. McLaughlin was another book I really enjoyed. I have read other books by McLaughlin, and they have all been good. An alien spaceship has been discovered deep inside the moon. The team that is trying to learn all about it doesn’t all agree on what should be done with it. That leads to a confrontation in space while it is on a shake-down voyage that ends up being a real test of the ship and its human crew. A lot of reviewers on Amazon didn’t like it, saying it was too short.  I didn’t feel that way at all. Yes, it is the beginning of the series but it is a pretty complete story in and of itself.  I will eventually read more in this series.
  • Removed by S.J. Pajonas was a great read! it is speculative fiction in that it takes place in the future. Most of humanity has died and what is left lives under a dome in northern Canada somewhere. As usual with Pajonas, Japanese culture dominates the story. As a matter of fact, the story is completely Japanese culture. It was a fascinating story, and I came away from it feeling like I had learned something. I will definitely be reading more in this series!

I also read a couple of books of Historical Fiction.

  • Arthur: War’s End by Paul Bannister was the last book in his Forgotten Emperor series. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I have some of the others, but it was a good book. Arthur has made peace with Rome, but that only seems to lead to more trouble. It is worth reading if you have read the series.
  • The Uninvited Guest by Sarah Woodbury was great! I am totally hooked on this series. It is a mystery set in the Middle Ages and does a good job with the mystery and the history. No, I am sure it is not historically accurate in all details, but it is close enough for me. It was a fun read. I am working now on more in this series. I highly recommend it!

I read The Assassin’s Curse by Lindsay Buroker. This book was set in the Emperor’s Edge world. That’s where I started reading Buroker. I love the characters! This is billed as a short story, but by SFWA Nebula award standards, it is a novelette. Regardless of how we categorize it, this is a fun read. It’s too short to be an entry point into the series, but once you know Amaranthe and Sicarius, it’s great.

So that finishes up January’s reading.  Let’s see how February goes.

OK, I’m sad again!

On January 18 I received an email from Kobo stating that my replacement ereader would be shipped. So today, when I still hadn’t heard anything more, I called to inquire. I got through to someone and, after a lot of back and forth, she was able to get me a UPS tracking number. Apparently it was shipped on 1/20. That was way to long for me not to have received it. When I tried tracking the package on UPS, their site tells me that a shipping label was created on 1/19 and when it arrives at their facility they will update the tracking information. So I started a text chat with Kobo. The woman was very nice and referred my problem to the “device replacement department.” So within 24-48 business hours I should hear something back from them. Maybe.

I still prefer Kobo ereaders to Kindle, but their customer service is bad. The people I have dealt with have been nice, but they haven’t been able to solve my problem in over 3 weeks! It’s crazy.

January Reading

I got quite a bit of reading done last month, even though I didn’t have my Kobo for half of it.

I read one non-fiction book: Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox. This was another one that has had a big impact on my writing since I read it. I did the exercises, set the goals and have been attempting to meet those daily goals. I have written every day since I read it and, just today, finished the first draft of the second book my son and I are writing. The book inspired me to write more and more regularly, but it also gave me tools for doing that. If you are trying to finish a writing project or want to start one, I highly recommend this book.

I read a lot of Mysteries and Thrillers.

  • Once Gone by Blake Pierce was a good book.  I know I have talked about not really liking thrillers, and this definitely is, but I liked the book a lot. The main character, Special Agent Riley Paige is still recovering emotionally from being captured by a serial killer just a few months before when she is called in to solve another one. It almost seemed like too much, but maybe I was just hoping no one would expect someone in her position to get right back into it like that. (I know that is pretty naive!)  I plan to read the rest of the series.
  • The Westerlea House Mystery by Adam Croft is the second book in his Kempston Hardwick series. It is the first one that Mr. Croft sent me after I posted my review of Exit Stage Left last month. It was every bit as good as the first one. This was such a fun read! It had a real Poirot feel to it. In these books, Hardwick talks about Sherlock Holmes and Poirot mysteries.  This mystery could only be solved by a master detective like Holmes or Poirot or Kempston Hardwick. There are no real clues that lead the reader to solve the mystery ahead of the detective; we have to wait for Kempston. I like the way the relationship between Hardwick and his sidekick Ellis Flint is developing, too.
  • Too Close for Comfort by Adam Croft is the first book in his Knight and Culverhouse series. It is completely different from his Kempston Hardwick books; it is definitely a thriller. It took a while for me to get comfortable with the relationship between the two main characters, but that wasn’t a major problem. They are after a serial killer, and Wendy Knight has her suspicions about who it is. She doesn’t really figure it out, though, until it is almost too late. This looks like an interesting series, and I plan to read more of it. I hope you will, too.
  • Death Under the Sun by Adam Croft was another Kempston Hardwick book. And it was a hoot! The relationship between Hardwick and Flint seemed odd in Exit Stage Left, but it has grown since then. It is still odd, but very funny. In this book they actually go on vacation together — much to Hardwick’s dismay. Of course, there is a murder to be solved. It was a good story. I really can’t recommend these books enough. I have one more to read, and I will start on it soon.
  • Murder in the Abbey by Susan Kiernan-Lewis was the first of Kiernan-Lewis’s Maggie Newberry books that I wasn’t all that thrilled about. I have loved all the rest of them that I have read (four, I think), but this one was different.It could be because it takes place in England rather than in France. It could be because the main players are out of Laurent’s past. It could be for lots and lots of reasons or no reason at all. I don’t think it means it was a bad book or anything. It just made me realize how much I normally  enjoy reading about Maggie and Laurent’s relationship; Laurent was different in this book and so were things between him and Maggie. I look forward to reading more in this series, in spite of my ambivalence about this one.
  • Tropical Knights by John F. Beckman is a book I started a long time ago and just not got around to finishing. My reading was interrupted by changing devices and losing it in the shuffle because of the huge number of books I have. The book seemed a little dated in that they go into Cuba to take down a missile aimed at the US. I was also troubled by the fact that the female CIA agent lets the non-agency guy helping her do all the heavy lifting. That seemed a little odd.  But I enjoyed reading the book. I don’t know that I would rush out to get more in the series, but I might.

I thought I would get through all the books today, but I just don’t have it in me. I will finish tomorrow!

Before I close though, I want to again thank Adam Croft for giving me the rest of the books in the Kempston Hardwick series. It was a nice gesture, and I have really enjoyed the ones I have read.



It just occurred to me…

Every year I when I list me reading by genre, I start with non-fiction, but I seldom read more than one non-fiction book a month. So why does that come first on the list? The only reason I can come up with is a kind of vanity. As an intelligent, educated woman, I think I am “supposed” to read non-fiction. So I put it first and hope people will see that and think I am a serious reader. Truth is, it is all the other books that demonstrate how serious I am about reading. I guess I am more vain than I like to think!

I couldn’t be happier!

I wrote about how my Kobo had died, so I wanted to give you an update and give credit where credit is due.

In spite of my misgivings, I decided to contact customer service. I hated to do it because of all the really, really bad experiences I have had with them since I got my first Kobo in August, 2011. But I did it because… Why not?

I completed the online contact info and was told to call. So I called.  I was told that the wait was more than 50 minutes and that I could hold or leave a call back number if I preferred. So I did. That was yesterday early afternoon, and 24 hours later, I had heard nothing. (I guess I should be grateful I hadn’t decided to hold all that time! I would have been really tired!) So I called again.  And again I was told it would be more than 50 minutes or I could leave a call back. So I did. Again!

And then I checked the email I had gotten from them after I had initially contacted them online. It gave me a chat option. So I clicked. And waited several minutes to get someone to chat with. But finally I did.

At first I thought I was going to be really irritated because he wasn’t listening to me. But I went through all the steps he asked me to — even though I had done all of them several times prior to contacting Kobo in the first place. We ended the chat because I had to charge my ereader for an hour and then try all the steps we had gone through again.  I charged and tried, and I still had no luck.  So I started another chat.

This second chat went much better. We tried a couple m things that resulted in absolutely no change in the status of my ereader.  And then he said I qualified for a replacement. So I said, COOL!

Actually, they are more than replacing my ereader. They are being very generous.  And once again, I am glad I have a Kobo.  Or I will be as soon as the new one arrives!

So what did I learn from this?

  1. To try to solve issues rather than just giving up
  2. To try to contact them (and maybe all customer service people) by chat rather than phone because it is less frustrating
  3. That typing gave me time to temper my usual somewhat harsh responses when dealing with customer service people who are just doing their job and have no way of knowing I am a competent adult who has already tried every possible solution she could find online

So when I get my new Kobo, I will tell you all about it!



When you read a really good book…

you know it. There is a depth, a complexity, a simplicity that can’t be ignored.

One such really good book is the one I am reading now, Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. I am less than half way through the 736-page novel, but I have to say I love it. There is a depth to it that I haven’t encountered in a book since the last Tor.com ebook club selection I read.

I know some people would say that is only natural, that a traditionally published book is bound to be better than an independently or self-published one. I don’t believe that is true. Weber is an experienced author. His work is bound to be better than someone writing her or his first novel.

Another aspect of this, too, is that he is writing science fiction, and science fiction at its best tells us about ourselves and the world we live in.  This book definitely does that.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying this book. And I want to encourage you to go to the Tor.com ebook club page and sign up for next month’s selection.  If you like speculative fiction, you won’t be disappointed!

I’m so sad…

My Kobo died this morning. I am trying a couple things, but so far there has been no luck.  From my dealings with Kobo Customer Service a while back with my old Kobo, I know better than to try to talk to them about this one.

I can read all my Kobo books on my tablet or my phone, but I really like using dedicated ereaders. I won’t buy another Kobo, in spite of how much I want to like them.  Actually, I like them. I just don’t like their ereaders anymore, and I HATE their customer service.

There aren’t a lot of other options out there, so I will probably just make do with what I have. But I won’t be happy about it!


A nice thing happened the other day

After I posted my December reading, I got a nice comment from Adam Croft, the author of one of the books I had read, Exit Stage Left. He thanked me for my review of his book and offered to send me the others in the series. We made the necessary arrangements, and I got the three other books yesterday. I just finished the first one, The Westerlea House Mystery, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. As Mr. Croft had promised in his comment, we learn a little more about Hardwick in this one. I will write my review at the end of the month, as usual.

What I wanted to do today is to acknowledge Mr. Croft’s kindness in contacting me and sending me three free books. Yes, he knows I will read them and post my reviews. But I have posted reviews of hundreds and hundreds of books since I started doing this in 2009, and no author has ever contacted me. I thought it was a really nice thing for him to do. It isn’t like I have thousands of followers, but he took the time to acknowledge my existence and the existence of this blog. I really appreciate it!

And so, to repay him for his gesture, I just wanted to encourage you to check out his books.  He has written a lot of them, and they are available from all your favorite retailers.


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