On Writing, Self-Discipline, and a Parade of Cheese Melts

I’m a vegetarian.

It’s not a huge deal in my day-to-day life. I do my thing, shop at the hippie grocery, and make jokes about bidding people ‘so long, and thanks for all the fish-flavored soy protein crumbles’. I live and let live, and most people don’t know unless I eat with them on a regular basis. Thing is, I work at a decidedly non-vegetarian restaurant, and the only item on the menu I can eat (besides the occasional meatless salad, which doesn’t offer much in the way of sustenance or protein) is a cheese melt.

Now, cheese melts are all well and good, and this particular cheese melt is quite tasty. But ask even the biggest cheese-melt aficionado to eat a cheese melt between four and six times a week every week for two years, and—well. Let’s just say that if hell exists, I firmly believe it is, in fact, an all-you-can-eat buffet that serves nothing but cheese melts.

I’m pretty over cheese melts, is what I’m saying. But I can’t say I’ve ever been tempted to try out the chicken tenders or order the Philly cheese steak. Being vegetarian’s a part of me, so ingrained that it just wouldn’t occur to me to try out a meat dish.

A while back I had a brainwave: if you ask me, I’ll say writing—or at least the urge to create people and places and stories—is just as important to me as being vegetarian, if not more so. I only gave up meat five years ago, and I’ve been making stories since I learned how to talk. Giving up writing forever would be impossible.

And yet, although I’d never thought twice about sticking to my vegetarianism even through a never ending parade of cheese melts, I didn’t have the remotest sense of self-discipline about my writing. Although I would occasionally try to keep to a schedule or manage to meet a word goal for a couple of consecutive weeks, I never really tried to be professional about my writing goals or stick to a serious plan.

It wasn’t easy to change my attitude towards my writing, but it’s been worth it. I’m still not perfect about it, and, as I do have a mental illness, I have to be very careful about balancing my work/free time balance. However, for the first time in my life I am within an arm’s length of actually finishing a novel, and I have managed to keep to my goal of updating this blog at least twice a week.

Sometimes, after a long shift on my feet and a dose of meds that cause short-term memory loss and fatigue, I feel like writing about as much as I feel like scarfing down an entire plate of cheese melts. But the more I force myself to work through it even on those days, the easier it gets to sit down and write every day. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Review: The Ice Princess

Title: The Ice Princess
Author: Camilla Lackberg
Format: Paperback

The Premise: The Ice Princess, by Camilla Läckberg, is a Swedish mystery set in the small town of Fjällbacka. When the apparent suicide of a successful woman turns out to be murder, one of her childhood friends and a police detective team up to solve the murder and discover its connection to the twenty-five year old of a local man.

The Verdict: Despite some debut-novel blunders and the predictability of its plot twists, Läckberg’s wonderful characterization and skillful use of POV manage to carry the story, and The Ice Princess is a solid and engaging, albeit not groundbreaking, start to a series.

The Rating:  4/5

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Reading: Books I’m Looking Forward To

Done for the Bout of Books challenge on River City Reading, here are some books I’m really looking forward to reading this year, all of which are slated to be released later this year.

Coming out this year:

1. Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?–Ella Martin. Admittedly, I first heard of this book due to a slight twitter-acquaintance with Martin. However, early reviews look good, and the premise (a contemporary, YA take on Snow White set *after* Prince Charming rides in on his white horse) has me hooked and waiting impatiently for this July 1st release.

2. Dashing–Elliot James. Charming, James’ first book in the Pax Arcana series, was a light but hugely entertaining urban fantasy starring a ridiculous werewolf who teamed up with a Valkyrie and a lesbian priest and featured chapter titles that often had puns in them. I think it’s fair to say Dashing is one of the books I’m most looking forward to this year. Release date is September 2nd.

3. Skin Game–Jim Butcher If you’re any sort of urban fantasy fan and haven’t heard of the Dresden Files, I have no idea where you’ve been. If you have heard of it but haven’t read it, I highly suggest you do. While the first one or two books aren’t the strongest, the series really picks up quickly, and–well, I don’t want to say anything spoilery, so I’ll just say that Dang, you do not see some of those series-changing plot twists coming. Skin Game comes out May 27th.

4. The Shadow Throne–Django Wexler. The second in the Shadow Campaigns series, The Shadow Throne comes out July 1st. The first novel in the series, The Thousand Names, was one of my favorite reads of 2013: the series is a gunpowder fantasy which has both some of the best-choreographed battles and interesting characters I’ve seen in a fantasy novel in quite a while.

5. Raising Steam–Terry Pratchett. Raising Steam, the 40th Discworld novel and the third featuring Moist von Lipwig actually came out this March (having been released last November in the UK), but I am still waiting to buy it. Moist von Lipwig, an unpredictable con artist with a heart of–well, if not gold, at least some semi-precious metal–is one of my favorite Discworld characters, and if his newest adventure is even half as funny as Going Postal, I’m in.

Classics Club Spin Round Pick

In the rush of the bout of books readathon, I almost forgot that The Classics Club put up the spin post today. My ‘book’ to ready by July 7?

The complete poems of Emily Dickinson.

I’m sure it’s an actual book somewhere, but I mostly got them from the gutenberg project (all hail the e-reader!), which is my go-to choice when I can’t check something out of the library right away.

I’m really excited for this pick; it’s been quite a while since I sat down and read some poetry, and I’ve enjoyed Dickinson when I’ve read her in the past. I’m not sure if I’ll start on them right away, with the readathon going on, but I’m hoping to get a start before the end of the month.

What book did you get as your spin pick?

Bout of Books Readathon!

Okay, I didn’t realize the Bout of Books was going to be this week until late last night. But I’m still game! The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team More

Classics Book Club: Lysistrata

Title: Lysistrata
Author: Aristophanes
Format: Ebook
Reread or New: New

I read Lysistrata well over a month ago now, but I’ve been putting off my blog post about it because, quite frankly, I just don’t have a whole lot to say about it. It’s such a famous, old, and influential play that I pretty much knew what to expect before I read it (though I didn’t know I’d enjoy it as much as I did), but I don’t have a lot to add to what’s already out there.

The plot is pretty well-known: wives withhold nookie from their husbands in order to stop more pointless wars. It’s really cool how Lysistrata treats women as people with thinking brains, and the gags about people seeking or avoiding sex are hilarious: my favorite is when Myrrhine agrees to have sex with her husband, Cinesias…then proceeds to run back and forth grabbing items while Cinesias grows even more impatient and uncomfortable. Also, the ‘Is that a ___ in your pocket?’ joke was hilarious—and it just went on and on, getting even funnier with every line.

Hmm, what else? I was surprised both that the old men immediately decide to set the old women ablaze and that all the men are so quickly reduced to agony (having clearly never heard of masturbation). I liked the fact that the women also had sex drives and also grew impatient at their celibacy, and I loved Lysistrata’s impassioned arguing against war.

And there: my thoughts on Lysistrata. Not really substantial enough for a proper review or reflection/discussion post, but as part of the classic books challenge is to write about each book you read, I really didn’t want to skip posting about one—especially when it was only my second book in the challenge.

Review: Princess Ahira

Title: Princess Ahira
Author: K. M. Shea
Format: Ebook

The Plot: On her sixteenth birthday, Ahira, an unconventional princess, is abducted by dragons and becomes the personal captive princess of Azmaveth, a friendly duke of the dragons. During her stay among the dragons, Ahira has several adventures and befriends Azmaveth’s human steward, Kohath, and a wizard, Aaron. When war (led by the Valkyries) looms over the dragons, Ahira must find a way to help her new friends.

The Verdict: Princess Ahira is not incredibly original and has several flaws, but is eminently likable and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the friendships between Ahira and Azmaveth and Ahira and Kohath, although I found Shea’s treatment of most female characters irritating.

The Score: 3.5/5

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