A Short Story Challenge

Yes, I’ve joined another challenge. But this one isn’t about books. At least, not specifically about books. It’s about short stories. A thousand of them, to be exact. In a year. Well, we’ll see about that. For myself, I may end up making this a perpetual challenge to see how long it takes me to read 1,000 short stories, then seeing if I can shorten the length of time it takes me to read another 1,000 short stories.

This challenge was posed by writer Travis Richardson, and the Twitter hashtag is #1000storychallenge, so you can join in or at least follow along and see how we’re doing. I’m grateful for this challenge because I feel like I’ve strayed from my short story roots. I’ve been focused on novels the past several years, but once upon a time I wrote lots of short stories. I even submitted many of them, and some of them saw publication. I had a sort of natural storytelling flow of about 2,500 words. But now I try to write something to a submission guideline of 5,000 to 10,000 words, and I feel cramped and stifled. More often than not I give up and declare it the start of another novel. But I’m set for novel starts at the moment and would rather avoid starting more until I get one out into the world.

So yes, I would like to get back into the mode of writing short stories to the point that I always have at least one out for submission. The Missouri Review just announced their contest winners, so my current-submission count is officially zero. But reading short stories, besides helping me get back into that concise rhythm, gives me exposure to more markets to try. Considering what a long-shot my TMR contest entry was — I wonder if their staff had ever before had to read a steampunk machine of death story — this is something I desperately need.

On Joining the Legendary Book Club of Habitica

Apparently I didn’t actually join the Legendary Book Club of Habitica when I joined the guild’s 2016 Modest Reading Challenge. Or maybe I did and they kicked me out because I didn’t post enough? But I did complete the challenge, which was a mere 12 books. Anyway, when I went to look at the 2017 challenges, I made sure to join the guild. And this year I decided to attempt the Ultimate Reading Challenge, which is 52 books.

I know, I know, I said I was done joining annual challenges, but I took a peek at this one and realized that it’s composed almost entirely of tasks I already have for other challenges. So I would be a fool not to join. A fool, I say! So, here are the 52 tasks (in no particular order):

  • A book with a red spine
  • A book set in two different time periods
  • The oldest book in your TBR pile/list
  • A book with a month or day of the week in the title
  • A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending
  • A book set around a holiday other than Christmas/Yule/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa/Festivus/etc
  • A book about a topic you already love – Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: The Book by Joss Whedon et al
  • A book set in a hotel
  • A book in translation
  • A book that takes place over a character’s life span
  • A book you never finished
  • A book that is mentioned in another book
  • A book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit
  • A book recommended by an author you love
  • A book with a single-word title
  • The first book in a series that you haven’t read before
  • A book about food
  • A book about a difficult topic
  • A book with a subtitle
  • A script or screenplay – Black Coffee by Agatha Christie
  • A book by an author who goes by at least one of their initials instead of their name
  • A book with a family-member term in the title
  • A book involving a mythical creature
  • A book featuring something that doesn’t normally talk doing so
  • A book with a cat on the cover
  • A book that is set within 100 miles of your location
  • A book by a person with a disability
  • A classic by a non-European author
  • A book with multiple authors
  • A book based on mythology
  • A book that is a frame story
  • A Newbery Award winner
  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
  • A book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color
  • A book with a title that has a character’s name
  • A collection of stories by a woman
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
  • A book of letters or about letters
  • A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited
  • A book with one of the four seasons in the title
  • A book you loved as a child
  • A book recommended by a librarian or bookseller
  • A book with pictures
  • A book that you can finish in a day
  • A book with a chase scene – Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • A book by an indigenous person
  • A book set in the wilderness
  • A book published before you were born
  • A book from a non-human perspective
  • A book nominated for an award in 2017
  • A book with career advice
  • A book of any genre that addresses current events

Since double-dipping is discouraged in this challenge, and I have to mark a task as completed in order to get the xp for it, I’m going to be declaring each task as it is completed and just hope it works out well. Most of these I have a pretty good idea what I’m going to read, but a few are new tasks. Like “a book with a chase scene.” Anybody have any suggestions for that one?

More 2017 Reading Challenges

Okay, the first week of 2017 has already come and gone (and Betty White is still alive!) so it’s time to nail down my reading challenge goals for the year. dff0b868f44a5487f22365767ea081d0

The aforementioned Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Award-Winning Science Fiction and Fantasy Challenge have both been updated for 2017.

Book Riot specifically states that double-dipping is acceptable for Read Harder, so I may do a little bit of that, but I will still try not to. The method I plan to use is to note all applicable categories when I finish/review the book, but I won’t officially declare the book for the category unless it doesn’t fit any other categories for that challenge. Needlessly complicated? Probably. That’s just how I roll.

For Shaunesay’s AWSFF Challenge, I am shooting for the Orion level (9 to 12 novels). (Shooting…stars….get it? ::sigh::) The categories only come into play for the bingo games, and Shaunesay is clear that not only may a book not count for more than one bingo square, it may not count for more than one bingo. I will definitely be giving bingo a try on the card that is a holdover from the 2016 challenge, but I doubt I will get very far on the Grand Master bingo cards. I’ve printed them out and will see how it goes, but I don’t hold out much hope for success there, as most of the GMs on the cards are not ones I’m already intending to read this year.

Speaking of bingo, there’s a Goodreads challenge group for 2017 Book Bingo. It has a lot of crossover to other challenges, and (unless the rules explicitly prohibit it) I always permit myself to count a book across multiple challenges, so this one should be relatively easy. So far I’ve finished two books for 2017, and I can fit both of them onto this board, which bodes well.

Another challenge with a game board is my local library’s GenreLand Challenge. It doesn’t have signups and prizes like the library’s summer challenge does, but it’s a nice low-pressure way to read eclectically throughout the year.

There’s another category-based challenge I’m doing since it also has a fair amount of crossover to other challenges. It’s from online book shop Better World Books, which is partially to blame for the fact that my library is measured in tons.

And I had better stop there, so I’ll wrap up with a quick reminder that the three (okay, maybe four if I make good on that threat to host a cat-cover challenge) reading challenges that I am hosting can be found in my new Goodreads group, Challenges from Exploding Steamboats. Invite all your Goodreads friends and frenemies!

 

My 2016 in Books

I finished 65 books in 2016, and the Goodreads site put together a nice little summary for me. As usual, I’m running behind on writing book reviews, but I’m certainly in much better shape than I have been some years. I’ll be giving priority to reviews for the Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Challenge so I can get those linked to Shaunesay’s challenge blog. I think I wound up with a whopping three qualifying reads for that challenge, falling short of my goal of five, but I will try it again this year.

I successfully completed two challenges in 2016. I read books for all 24 tasks of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, but I took advantage of the double-dipping option, so that does not reflect 24 separate books.

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Challenge completed on December 26th!

Though looking it over, I think I probably could have almost completed it without any double-dipping. Then over at Habitica‘s Legendary Book Club, I read 12 books, one for each month’s task in the Modest Reading Challenge. Sometime this week I need to check in over there and see if they have any new challenges I want to do, but it will need to wait until the houseguests have departed.

I did not fare quite so well on my Personal Reading Challenge or PopSugar’s Ultimate Reading Challenge. My 2016 PRC had 30 reading prompts, and I completed 27. Which isn’t too bad, I suppose. That comes out to 90%, which is definitely a passing grade. But it also allows for some double-dipping. I completed only 33 of PopSugar’s 41 challenge prompts, which comes to 80%, but I didn’t do any double-dipping on that one. Between the two challenges, I have 11 prompts unfulfilled, so I will be adding them to my 2017 PRC, which doubles it. Dang.

I haven’t yet chosen my top reads of 2016, but you can watch that link for developments over the next few days. The 2016 Stinker of the Year Award, however, goes to The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.

 

 

My 2017 Personal Reading Challenge

As I mentioned in a recent post, this year I started a Personal Reading Challenge based on 2015 reads that didn’t fit into that year’s challenges. My 2016 challenge consisted of 30 categories, and I have only five left to complete. Time is running short, but it is do-able. Fortunately for 2017-me, next year’s list is considerably shorter:

  1. A self-published book
  2. A book about a haunted building
  3. An illustrated children’s book
  4. A book with a key on the cover
  5. A book with the word “Girl” in the title
  6. A story told from a non-human POV
  7. An award-winning book
  8. A book with a woman on the cover
  9. A book by a medical doctor
  10. A book about a sheriff
  11. A book with a cat on the cover

And I fell short on two 2016 challenges (this one and PopSugar’s) so I’m adding those prompts to this one:

  1. A book featuring a bookstore
  2. A book set in a retirement community
  3. A book set on another planet
  4. A book you haven’t read since high school
  5. A political memoir
  6. A book at least 100 years older than you
  7. A book from Oprah’s Book Club
  8. A book recommended by a family member
  9. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
  10. The first book you see in a bookstore
  11. A book about a road trip

As before, feel free to join in! You can comment on this post and/or on your own blog or Twitter or whatever. I’m also starting a Goodreads group for this and other challenges I pose. I’d love to hear your suggestions for books for these categories.

A Challenging Season

Okay, let’s try to think happy thoughts, like maybe I will actually live to see 2018. (That’s looking pretty iffy with the incoming administration, but stranger things have happened.) So let’s take a look at the upcoming reading challenges.

The PopSugar reading challenge has become something of a staple in my life, so I will be setting up a 2017 shelf for that one. I have just now discovered the Goodreads group devoted to this one, and I am pleased to see that PopSugar has been paying attention to its discussions and suggestions. Another Goodreads challenge group I joined this year is the one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I stand a solid chance of completing that one this year! I’m looking forward to next year’s, but as far as I know, they haven’t posted it yet. I’m also looking forward to next year’s Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Challenge, even though I’m still behind on the 3-month version running through the end of this year.

I am continuing my Completist Christie Challenge, of course, and I welcome people to join me. I don’t feel like administering others’ involvement, but discussion on the post is certainly fine. Likewise, I will be repeating my Personal Reading Challenge in 2017, so watch for that post. (Yes, I know, I still need to go in and do a massive update on the 2016 post.)

And now my friend Michelle Stockard Miller has created an entire Facebook group just for reading challenges, the aptly named Sleep Less – Read More. And…wow…okay, let’s see what I’m letting myself in for.

I am selecting the Mt Vancouver challenge level in the Mt TBR Reading Challenge 2017. That’s 36 books from my TBR piles. Here’s hoping I upgrade and scale even larger peaks as the year goes on! It looks like I will be joining several of the challenges posed by Bev Hankins. The Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge puts a clever spin on the game by requiring links in a “chain of evidence.” I’m going for a six-book “infraction” to start with and maybe I’ll be able to level up! Oh, and sure, let’s do the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunts. Both of them, why the hell not! I’ve just printed off the checklists and noted the date ranges on them, and my goal is at least six checks on each list.

Jamie Ghione is running several challenges in 2017, and I think I will give the Humor Reading Challenge a shot at the Cartoonist (1 to 5 books) level.

I was considering using the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge to bridge 2016 and 2017, but I just don’t think I’m up for it this time. It starts next week, and I need to get focused on NaNoWriMo instead.

I might host a real challenge myself for 2017. I’ve been trying to make “Start Less – Finish More” my personal reading mantra, and I track my ratio. I’m not doing all that well. So the No Book Left Behind Challenge would be for encouraging me to go find all those books I have abandoned and either finish them or give up on them. It should be a nice complement to Bev’s Mt TBR challenge. And maybe I can find a Keep Them Moving challenge over on the BookCrossing forums. Oh, dear, that’s another dangerous place!

Review: Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt

Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt
Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt by Chris Hedges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #42 for 2016
Read Harder Challenge Task: Read a book about politics, in your country or another
OFB Summer Bingo Square: A book you heard about on the radio

I had been planning to review this after the election, but the more I think about it, the more important I feel it is to state my opinions before it’s too late. Not that anybody really cares about my opinions on economics and politics, but still, there are big changes on the horizon, and I don’t want to be one of those who stand silently by while the world goes completely to shit.

Because that’s what is happening, I’m pretty sure of it. Hedges gets called “alarmist” and “hyperbolic” a lot, and I have tried to read this book through that lens, but I have to say that I think he is spot-on in his assessments as well as his clear disappointment in this nation’s populace, with its ability to distract itself so easily from issues that really matter in a very real sense. He is absolutely right that revolution is not part of our intellectual history. It’s something I have been struggling with in my research of the 18th and 19th centuries, so I was glad for him to articulate that so clearly for me, that we went straight from a monarchy to an oligarchy and have been kidding ourselves ever since.

This book deals with the wage-slavery we are seeing as a result of the current corporatocracy, but it goes so much broader and deeper than that. We have now reached the point of no return on so many levels, and at the risk of sounding like an anarchist (which I am SO not), I contend that the United States of America is an idea that had its chance. It had its day in the sun, and now it is going to fall — very noisily, very messily, and very painfully. And not just for us. We’re taking a lot of innocent bystanders with us. Hedges wrote this before Trump’s POTUS candidacy, but he predicted the demagogue’s ascendancy perfectly. He anticipated the racial and environmental battles with eerie prescience. And he pointed out (not by name, of course) that it would take a Bernie Sanders to inspire us to revolution.

And then, everything started going to shit. We had our Bernie Sanders. And then, suddenly, we didn’t. I try to convince myself that Bernie’s popularity and his willingness to bring socialism to the table, that he’s taking the fight back to Congress, that this all means that we aren’t doomed as a nation. But I just don’t know.

This book forced me to ask myself how much of a rebel I am. And I’m sad to report that the answer is “not very.” Part of me would like to see this country dismantled so we can start from scratch. It’s this mode of thinking, in fact, that got me Fs in Administrative Law in grad school two semesters in a row. But part of me is too complacent, too firmly ensconced in my white-privileged, middle-class existence to take those risks. That I worry about what would happen to the disenfranchised if we were to have a full-on revolution — does that make me a thoughtful ally? Or does it make me a privileged asshole who’s really good at justifying my cowardice?

I need to remind myself that Thomas Paine is evidently my historical soulmate. And I need to study him and his world. I need to dig deeper than the PC soundbites we got in school. I think that’s one thing that this book got me good and pissed-off about: public school propaganda. (And any private school I could have attended would have been so much worse!) So much of the history recounted in this book was never even mentioned, and what was mentioned was presented as a) anomalous, and b) ancient history. There was no sense that we were still on the continuum that has stolen so much from so many.

But what can I do? I am not Thomas Paine. I am not running for political office (and wouldn’t stand a chance of winning if I were). I don’t even have money to put towards causes. But I am a writer. Genre stuff, to be sure, but who says it cannot be of literary and social merit? So I am signing on as one of the dreaded Social Justice Warriors.

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