A Quiet Beginning to a New Year

I haven’t been very inspired to post lately, and I thought I might make myself write some reviews. But then I thought, why don’t I just share what’s on my mind? Isn’t that why I created this blog in the first place?

I like the idea of resolutions, goals, and new beginnings like most other people, but I don’t like the hype of New Year’s and I don’t like making promises I won’t keep. So this year, I kind of just decided to not really make any real resolutions. I thought this was a good idea, and then I read somewhere that not making resolutions or goals because you’re afraid of failing is not a good reason to not make them, and I thought, ouch, OK. But then I still didn’t made any.

I don’t want to make resolutions just for the sake of making them either though. I like having direction but right now the only direction I feel really compelled to go in is to keep doing what I’ve been doing. So last year I hoped would be the year I would start querying agents, and it wasn’t, so now I really hope it’s this year and will continue to work towards that. I don’t have any big goals otherwise. I do anticipate things will change in my life, for example, I know my husband and I will be moving into a new house this year, but it’s not like anything I am resolving to do majorly different. Basically, I am just going to keep going forward until I feel it’s time to make changes. I feel like I am usually aware of what  needs improvement in my life and can usually devote myself to at least taking small steps in the right direction.

I asked for this big calendar for Christmas that is all the months together, so you see the year at a glance and you see it more so by weeks than months. It’s a neat idea and I wanted to write all kinds of things on there, but right now it’s just blank. Part of me is upset by this, but then I realize I don’t want to write things on there just to fill up blank spaces. When I get ready to send my story to beta readers, I will write the day I’ll send, along with a targeted deadline for my next step. I’ll fill it out as I go, taking one goal at a time. I don’t want to say today I will query by May and then life happens and it’s too early or I get some crazy creative mojo and it’s late.

So there has been no pomp and circumstance for me in 2016, but I aspire to be do my best everyday. To each day be realistic with what I need to get done and find out how I can do it. And if I mess up that day, I don’t want to beat myself up; I’ll start fresh again the next day.

One thing I am working on pretty faithfully these days, since it’s clearly not this blog, is my new bookstagram Instagram account. Please check it out and follow me if you haven’t already! I’ve gotten a decent number of likes and comments and such, and try to do the same for other accounts, but I don’t have very many followers.

How’s this new year looking for you? Do you have a lot of big resolutions, or has it been a more quiet beginning? 

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Why Hello

whale-hello

As it is now August, I suppose I ought to make good on my promise to return from hiatus. I have to admit, I haven’t missed blogging too much while I was away. Sometimes I kind of wanted to write a post, but I was fine with waiting or posting it on my Tumblr (I did two Top Ten Tuesdays there as well as my TNG season 5 recap). I do have a few new post ideas, though only one partially written (whoops), but I will probably keep my posting light going forward as I have decided:

1.) I definitely want to keep my fiction writing as a top priority, and…

2.) I have decided I’m not going to try to keep as a “big” blog.

I really enjoyed growing in subscribers and comments, coming up with different content, but then I felt I plateaued and stagnated. I figured this hiatus would help me determine if I was ready to come back into this full force and try to make this blog bigger and better, or if I would just be content with it as an outlet when I wanted to say something for whoever wanted to read it. And I have decided on the latter.

I am definitely grateful for all my readers and appreciated the comments several of you left on my hiatus post. I hope you will stick around for whatever I may bring.

Here are the posts I do intend to write sometime in the next month…

– Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Start of Me & You (I’ve gathered a few pictures for this and still have a way’s to go, but I’m REALLY excited about this one!)

– Why You Should Watch Deep Space Nine If You Love Mistborn (& Vice Versa) (This is the one I’ve started writing and I think it’ll be interesting!)

– Mini movie reviews for Inside Out, Ant-Man, and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

– Mini book reviews (I haven’t decided how many of the books I will be reviewing from what I read over my hiatus, but I read several good ones!)

So… how’s it going, everyone?!

Brainstorming Blog Titles

Sometimes I go back to my drafts to see if I find any blog posts I started writing but didn’t finish, and I found a list of blog titles/concepts I had written down back when I was brainstorming the concept of this blog over 2 years ago. I have to say, a lot of these I just don’t understand what was going through my head… but I suppose that’s what brainstorming is all about!

Rewrite (There was a note next to this that said “rewrite with the door open,” and I have no idea what that means.)

We’re All Stories in the End (This is a quote I like a lot that I have seen attributed to Doctor Who, and there’s also a pretty similar quote in Tiger Lily, though I had not read it at the time.)

Turn the Page/Page Turner (Page Turner sounds too close to The Perpetual Page Turner, so it’s probably good I didn’t go with that!)

Young Adult (I liked this one but I knew I was ripping it off of the Charlize Theron movie with the same name.)

I Love Good Stories (This one was highly considered.)

Rewriting the first poem you ever loved (I think this is from a quote.)

Some stories stay with us forever (From Sam’s speech that I talk about all the time)

Castles in the Air (From a Little Women quote.)

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality (from a quote)

Rage Against Reality

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home (Again, from a quote.)

Runaway Art

The story is never over (This is from a Bablyon 5 movie.)

Tell Me A Story (I think this one and the next one were derived from a Phillip Phillips song.)

I’ll Tell You A Story

Dreaming Awake

Write. Watch. Read. (I really almost did go with this one, but I thought people would get the order mixed up.)

Austen, Nolan, and I

Courageous Creativity

Creative lifestyle

Creative Rush

Batgirl Writes (I think I knew this sounded dorky, but I was trying to show my nerdy side.)

It’s Like the Great Stories (Again, from Sam’s speech.)

From Jo & Katniss (Getting there!)

Myth

Fable

Prequel/sequel

Read. Watch. Write. (Yet another order of those words.)

I feel like that’s a pretty long list! I was trying to iron out the idea that this blog would be about stories of various kinds, and it looks like I might have been considering creativity a topic at the time as well.

What was your brainstorming process for you blog like? 

My TWO Year Blogversary!

Wow, this really sneaked up on me! I can hardly believe that I have blogging here at Ode to Jo & Katniss for two years!

jlaw-excitedThis time last year I thought I might not still be here in this capacity in a year, possibly switching over to an author-focused site, but that hasn’t happened yet and I’m not going to make the prediction of when it will anymore. In fact, even if/when the day of that website comes, I may still keep this one going for at least a little while. I just love the interactions I have on here with all of you; I especially love coming up with posts for my feature Bookish Wedding Inspiration, interacting through discussions, and sharing my favorite episodes of Star Trek. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has ever left a comment or read a post on here, and even more thanks to my most frequent readers/commenters. You know who you are, and so do I, and I really, truly appreciate that you spend your free time on my blog. THANK YOU!

kate-happyI’ve discovered so many awesome books and authors and learned so much from all of you that I never would have otherwise!

Last year for my blogversary I took a look back over the year and shared my favorite posts from each month, so I thought I would do so again, in case you missed any of them or just want a walk down memory lane…

February 2014: What the New Adult Genre Could Learn From Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

March 2014: Buying Into Romances

April 2014: TV Series Finales

May 2014: aMAYzing

June 2014: Bookish Wedding Inspiration: Tiger Lily 

(Nothing stood out for me from July, so I cheated on August…)

August 2014: Always Learning and Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Grisha Trilogy

September 2014: About A Writing Conference and Some Soul Searching (and I’m totally cheating again to include Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Hunger Games)

October 2014: Compare & Contrast: The Winner’s Curse & Of Metal and Wishes

November 2014: Leigh Bardugo Event! 

December 2014: Discussion: Favorite Authors

January 2015: Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Leviathan Trilogy

So once again…

emma-thankyou

for a fabulous two years, and…

love-you

As Seen on Tumblr (& Twitter)

As some of you know, I recently started a Tumblr account after discussing the possibility here on the blog. For those who didn’t know, here’s some things I’ve been posting that you missed. If you’re on Tumblr and enjoy what you see, then I’d love the new follows!

– I answered some survey questions after being tagged by Asti

– I posted the Mid-Year Book freakout survey, which I found via Chiara

– I always post pictures of books as I start to read them

ruin-risingI post a lot of Star Trek

And Emma Approved GIFs

I post quotes from books as I read them

– I’ve been meaning to post story inspiration boards weekly but have only done a few so far…

mood-story-board4– And just whatever else I feel like!

I also recently did a recast dreamcast for Pride and Prejudice… wouldn’t this be brilliant?!

pride-prejudice-recastAnd then lastly, I thought that those of you who have read this blog long enough to know that yes, I have somehow managed to never read Harry Potter, will be happy to know (if you didn’t already find out from Twitter) that I finally ordered a box set of the series! My husband, who has also never read the series, expressed interest, and I have thought about it before as well, and with out birthdays coming up soon, it seemed like a good time to find a set that we liked the look and price of, and it came in the other day!

IMG_1846I ordered these from Scholastic’s website, and if you want $25 or more worth of books from their publishing company I would definitely recommend it! They have good prices, and for orders of $25 or more you get free shipping, and it’s MUCH faster than Amazon (I’m not talking to Prime members, I’m talking to us rebellious folks who refuse to bow to Amazon’s every whim). I plan to start the first book pretty soon. I don’t think I’ll binge read them; I plan to read books in between, but I would like to try to read one of them every 6 weeksish maybe? Of course, if it gets really intense towards the end then I might end up reading the last few in a row! We’ll see! I wanted to read the books before watching the movies and my husband decided he wanted to wait until after, so thankfully we’re not going to have a problem with wanting to read them at the same time.

What have you been up to lately? 

Reading Since Blogging

I know there have been a lot of posts from others about how blogging has affected their reading habits, and I wanted to talk about how it’s looked for myself. This all started when I was thinking about how I rate books. I have wondered before it I was too picky with my ratings. Last year I only gave out three 5-star ratings, but I also only read like 20ish books. I know this is shocking to most book bloggers, but I’ll get more into that later. I’ve only given two 5-star ratings so far this year, but I’ve already read about the same number of books as last year. And I’ve also have given out quite a few 4.5’s, which to me is for for books that don’t have quite all the punch of an exemplary 5-star book, but are still pretty dang awesome.

I think I’ve become both more critical and forgiving as a reader over the last year or so, if that makes any sense at all. I can spot the tired tropes and phrases and recognize weak plot points or weak character traits, but I also find myself looking for the good in every book if I can. As an aspiring author myself, I know that behind every book is a story that was once a burning idea in the author’s heart, so even if maybe they did not execute as well as we might have liked, there is something in the story that called to them, and maybe we can spot just a glimpse of that. That’s why I haven’t given out any 1 stars since I started blogging, I believe. That and I’m pretty careful about avoiding or dumping duds.

One of the other big changes has been the speed at which I read, and this has really crept up on me. Before I started this blog, I didn’t always have a “current read.” I didn’t know what Goodreads was. I read just a handful of books a year when the mood struck me. I never felt like I was a slow reader, that is until I started the blog and compared my reading speed to other bloggers. I figured other bloggers were spending a lot more time reading than I was, which was (and still is) probably true. I usually don’t spend more than an hour a day reading, and more often or not I actually skip reading completely on weekends. Basically, most of my reading happens during my lunch hour at work. I do sometimes read outside of that, and I think maybe I have done more of that this year than last, but not enough to explain the significant strides I’ve made in my reading speed. I think, simply put, I am just flat out reading faster. Which is a definite bonus, because I can enjoy more books that way.

belle-libraryAnd lastly, I do believe that reading has helped me when I write… though I admit, the more I read the less I tend to write. I’m still struggling to find that balance. But when I do write, I think the words just come out better. And that is definitely awesome! Now just to find the balance of writing/reading/blogging that I have been struggling with…

What about you? How have your reading habits changed since you started blogging, or in general? 

Let’s Talk About Tumblr

This is probably a blasphemous thing to do on a WordPress blog, but this isn’t abandoning one format for the other. It’s simply about expanding my horizons.

I read something a few months back that really stuck with me. It was from author Jon Acuff (who went from blogger of Stuff Christians Like to writing books to writing and speaking about chasing your dreams), and he mentioned that he asked a group of teens who out of them read traditional blogs, such as what you are reading right now. Not a single hand was raised.

It shouldn’t have been so shocking to me. I know a few teenagers do read this blog, so obviously this is not the case all across the board, but I imagine that was a decent sample group. I mean, I work with teenagers at church, and I know:

1. They communicate via Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, etc. All short and sweet.

2. They might use Facebook a little, but not much.

3. They don’t really do e-mail.

(By the way, if any of you girls read this blog but have never told me before, *waves!*) 

Since then, the thought of starting a Tumblr has crept into my mind (maybe before too). But what would I do with Tumblr, I wonder?

1. Post pretty pictures (like I do on Pinterest, but I would just have to pick one instead of going on a rampage of posting 50 beautiful dresses in one sitting)?

2. Write short anecdotes about… life? writing? books and movies?

3. Reblog Fitz-Simmons GIFs?

I already feel like I spend too much time online and not enough writing or… you know… exercising or cleaning or *insert other responsible adult thing here*.

Anyhow, why am I so concerned about what teens do online? Because I want to write for them! If Tumblr is the best way for me to connect with them as an author, then I should probably have one. Several YA authors have embraced this format, such as Kiera Cass and Veronica Roth. And while at this point, I would be surprised if I quereyed agents this year (though there’s six months left this year, so I suppose it’s possible! But it would certainly be much later this year), when I do, I want to have an established presence already. I don’t want to basically say, “Hey, check out my social media presence that I started last week to impress you.”

I already want an audience base, which I have with some wonderful people who read this blog and have told me they totally want to read what I write one day (I’m so honored every time anyone says this by the way, truly), but I want to be up to date on things. I don’t think any author should feel pressured to be on every form of social media by any means, but since I have decided that for now, my Instagram is for my real life friends and not something I really share outside of that, all I really have that is “teen friendly” is Twitter. (Unless Pinterest counts? I’m not sure. I actually have a decent Pinterest following.) And while I usually tweet every day, it’s only occasionally interesting (or maybe it’s never interesting, I don’t know).

But I don’t want any avenue pulling me away from the ultimate goal of publishing a book.

Of course, there’s a lot to say about motivation and self-control, and I should probably stop blaming the Internet. 🙂

Anyhow, please share your thoughts about Tumblr if you have experience with it! Do you have one? What do you post on yours? What would you like to see from me if I decided to create one? How much time do you typically spend on Tumblr in a day? Does it have a good app? Please enlighten me! 

The Top 10 Books I Might Not Have Discovered Without Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie!

Before I started this blog, I found some YA book blogs that I would run across when searching for what to read after The Hunger Games, which is how I came across The Selection, Matched, and Divergent. I wasn’t religiously following these blogs yet though, and I still didn’t know what it was like to see hype surround a book at its release as I do now. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot from blogging, and I’m thankful to the community for introducing me to some great reads that I might have otherwise not found! This week’s list is in order of my absolute favorite book discovery from the blogsphere to well, I’m still really glad I found this!

Note: These aren’t necessarily my absolute favorites that I’ve read since blogging, but what I don’t think I would have read on my own. Some of my favorites I found on my own or I know I could have because of my awareness of something that would have directed me to it (like my awareness of Brandon Sanderson from his podcast would have still potentially led me to Steelheart). 

1. The Lunar Chronicles

GR-cinderI highly doubt I would have ever picked up a story about a cyborg Cinderella had I not read so much hype about it on various blogs. And it was rightly earned! I thoroughly enjoyed Cinder and Scarlet, and then Cress was just so near perfection… I just love this series, so much. I love the characters and just… everything!

2. The Book Thief

GR-bookthiefI might have had more feels about this book after reading it than I did while reading it. It’s just when I think of Liesel and Rudy I can hardly handle it! Their story is so poignant and I’m so glad I discovered it from blog hype.

3. Across a Star-Swept Sea

acrossastarsweptI decided to separate this one from its previous book, instead of lumping it together like The Lunar Chronicles because… it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want to! Or I guess because they stand on their own a little better. I ADORE THIS BOOK. I can’t imagine this still not being in my Top 3 for the year at the end of the year, and that might be a bold statement to make in May, but it had everything I want and love in a book. I NEED MORE IN THIS UNIVERSE, DIANA PETERFREUND.

4. For Darkness Shows the Stars

GR-fordarknessThe day I found out that Jane Austen retelling + genetic engineering existed in a book was a glorious day indeed.

5 (tie). The 5th Wave

GR-the5thwaveAgain, there was a lot of hype around this one that piqued my interest. Alien apocalypse? Hmmm… could be interesting. I really enjoyed it and am glad I checked it out!

5 (tie). Shadow and Bone (Grisha trilogy)

gr-shadowandboneI just finished Shadow and Bone last week and I am definitely intrigued by this world and its characters. I’m hoping that the trilogy will end strong, and it seems everyone also enjoyed Siege and Storm, so I’m looking forward to getting it and reading it soon so I can truly be on the bandwagon.

7. Code Name Verity

code-name-verityEven if I had discovered this one outside of blogging, I most likely would have dumped it because I would not have been so sure it would all turn out to be so interesting. (OK, so I have DNF’d one highly revered book after blogging, but I just couldn’t go on. I could get through this.) Even though I didn’t experience all the feels like some, I do have a great appreciation for this story.

8. Pivot Point

GR-pivotpointMy first recommendation for this book was actually from a non-blogger friend, but it was via Goodreads and I didn’t know what Goodreads before I started blogging so… there you go. And what really prompted me to read it was its rave reviews (oh, and the e-book was on sale! That’s actually the case with many on this list; take note, publishers!) But seriously, I love the sci-fi paranormal meets contemporary twist. I still need to read more Kasie West!

9. The Scorpio Races

scorpioPretty prose and a unique world.

10. Ready Player One

GR-readyplayeroneI do think I could have discovered this one without blogging, especially since I remember it being reviewed on Epbot a while back, but I read it for my book club that I’m part of with some fellow bloggers, so that was what really got me to read it. It’s certainly one of the most unique books I’ve read.

What are some of your favorite books you may have never discovered without blogging? 

Worn Out

You know when you have just weekends in a row that are packed with things to do, in addition to your already usually busy weeks?

That’s what April has been for me. And will continue to be.

And to make it worse, I’ve been feeling some pressure of trying to complete this 20,000 word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo that had potential to be feasible, but when working on a story I am not excited about and have not plotted out, and when so busy, well, I have found myself falling further and further behind my daily average word count. I think I’m going to decrease my goal word count, to 10,000 but it feels like a cop-out.

I could try to push myself harder for 20,000 words, but I don’t want to push myself in ways I don’t need to be pushed. I needed it in November. Right now, I really just need to edit and improve my NaNoWriMo project, and then once I finally get it off to some beta readers so THEN I can think about something else IF I want to. I thought I might reach that place by this month but I didn’t, and so now the edits have been delayed by forcing myself to write for a story that I am not as interested in as that one. And when it comes to blogging, I feel I’m in a pre-slump, as Stormy put it recently. I’m afraid I might burn out soon. But I think I can avoid it.

And I think the way to avoid is may be to post less over the next month or so… and not beat myself over it.

I already post less than I want to due to time. I try to post three times a week, but I would prefer four times, and sometimes I end up at two times a week. And I feel guilty when that happens. But I don’t get upset with others when they need to slow down or take a break. So I hope and assume you would all feel the same about me.

So for the rest of April and possibly through May, expect even less activity here. I will post only when I absolutely want to, meaning not because I want new comments (because confession: sometimes that’s my motivation) ,but because I have a post that I am excited to share. Who knows, that might mean one week I’ll post 3 times and the next week I won’t post anything.

Meanwhile, I need to focus on editing my November NaNo project, focus on other life stuff, and take each day one step at a time.

kitty-desk

This is basically me.

So this is not an official break or hiatus, but please be patient with me as I try to get my mojo back. I probably would have stopped this a while ago if all of you weren’t so awesome, so thank you for that!

Do You Ever Want to Change Your Ratings?

Sometimes, I feel sure about how I want to rate book right after I read it. It was amazing, 5 stars! I liked it but it wasn’t magical, 3 stars. Etc. But sometimes I struggle with the rating. Is this a 3, 3.5, or 4? I enjoyed it but it felt like a guilty pleasure because the writing was just so-so and some of it was annoying but it also gave me so many feels… And sometimes the more I think back to the book, I realize I may like it more or less than I initially thought I did. But at the same time, am I rating the book for its impact on me at that moment, or further down the line? Am I rating it based on the writing? Am I rating based on others‘ feelings about it? I try to consider all these things (except others’ opinions) when I rate.

Despite this though, sometimes after I talk to someone about the book, I wonder if I should go back (in time?!) and change the rating.

DeLorean_ArrivalBut in a strange way, it also feels set it stone. I put it out there on the Internet, not to be undone. Besides, I gave it the rating that felt right at the time. I think our opinions will change of stories, for better or for worse. It’s what happens as you go through different life experiences.

Sorry for the shortest discussion post ever, but I want to hear your thoughts! What do you think about when rating books? Are you ever tempted to go back and change your ratings?