Category Archives: Year In Review

Finding Better Balance in 2017

The Universe has a way of sending me exactly what I need, when I need it. As I wrapped up 2016, I reflected on the year. While I had stayed on top of all the things I’d said yes to (and then some that I inherited out of familial duty) with most of my sanity intact, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I wanted to or had set out to do. Keeping up isn’t always the same thing as being effective, I found.

Confession time: I had a really rough January.

I spent the last half of 2016 teetering at the edge of losing all the things I was juggling just trying to stay on top of everything. I volunteered enough hours in my several roles within the League of Utah Writers that I won a really prestigious award (when I’ve officially been awarded it, I’ll share details!) but I hadn’t completed the novel I’d been on track to finish when the year started.

I still haven’t.

A lot of this is because I decided (almost on a whim) to return to college to finish my degree. However, that wasn’t the only reason if I was being completely honest with myself. In the darkest moments of January I actually resented my shiny prestigious award. It represented concrete evidence of over 500 hours that I’d given to people besides me and my writing.

I spent 2016 doing things that were amazing. Don’t get me wrong. But much of it was at the expense of my own dreams and goals. I had done it all, except what made me happy and what meant the most.

Here’s where the Universe comes in. I follow a blogger and fellow writer who is a productivity expert. She supplies me with my yearly statistics and writing progress tracker and I’m in an online writing group she started. I don’t know her personally but she changed my life by writing about her own similar struggles last year. When I read her blog post reflecting about it, I realized just how ineffective I’d been last year at the things that really mattered to me.

I got to take a turn with my friends receiving, rather than giving, support and talked through a ton of these things with Hubby. Hard as it is to hear “I told you so”, he HAD been telling me this was where I was headed all year long. I just hadn’t believed him, thinking I had it in the bag and could handle whatever life threw at me. I was wrong.

Yes, me. Wrong.

Mark your calendars. This might not happen again for eighty years, folks!

What I realized from all of this is that my personal productivity was suffering because I was not focusing on the right things. I was doing everything believing I was being successful and effective and in reality I was neither. I started taking stock of things I did and evaluating if they were the right things to be spending my time and energy on based upon whether doing them would bring me happiness or achieve my own goals. When I approached things from this place, it was much easier to say no to things without my FOMO (fear of missing out) rearing up.

I spent February implementing changes and am in a much better place because of it. Here’s a rundown of the subtle changes I made that had the most impact.

FACEBOOK LAST

I moved Facebook (and all the other social media I do) last in order of things I do each day. I thought I was already doing this since I usually set aside specific time every day for that. The small change I made was to stop getting notifications that popped up when I would get a new message or someone would interact with me online. I was getting them so I would know if something pressing came up that I could handle easily. These things I thought kept me on top of things were actually Unscheduled Interruptions. Once I eliminated them, it was easy to see how much. I still can see the total number of notifications as a passive thing if I happen to glance at my phone over the course of the day. But not knowing the details of what I’m missing gives me the freedom to “do” my social media on my own time after the things that matter most are done. I do this even for email – which surprised me. But, the idea of keeping up on email and being reactive to requests doesn’t support the reality of getting the right things done. Let’s face it, email was created as a way to communicate without the need for instant response.

SHORT STORY A MONTH

I knew when I enrolled in school that my writing time would be cut in half at best and I was right. I lost steam on the novel and found it harder to pick up seamlessly when I only had stolen moments to write. But I still have stories in me and I’m much happier when I’m writing. So I committed to what’s left of my writing group to write a story a month with specific deadlines. We’ve only been at it for a month but January was successful. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least twelve drafted stories that I can have at my disposal when that perfect opportunity presents itself without stressing about how I’ll find the time. Making my writing the first thing I do when I have free time has kept the focus on my own creativity.

DELEGATION

This one is a tough one for me. But it’s been a year with my fellow leaders within the League and I’ve discovered others who are just as anal and committed to getting things done as I am. Knowing what each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are and who has what specific skills has allowed me to trust more and more things to others. I also get to be in charge of building a team to split up the work of putting on conferences and it’s going extremely well. Much more so than where I was a month ago when I was ready to quit completely so I could spend all my free time on my own writing. Bottom line, I love the work I get to do to help others achieve their dreams and find opportunities within the writing community to grow. I wouldn’t trade it but I’ve also found a way to make it work better within the boundaries of my life.

Spending time on what is really important to me and focusing my efforts on activities that drive my goals, not just crossing off things on a list, has made a huge difference for me. The key for me is mindfulness about what each thing I’m doing and how it is contributing to those things that matter most to me.

Shout out to Jamie Raintree, without whom this journey out of my dark place would have taken forever! Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2017.


2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!


2015 In the Rear View

I am not one who makes resolutions with the changing of the calendar. Instead, I’m continually analyzing, taking stock of where I am and where I want to be, making course corrections as I go. As the year rolls over to a new one, I do like to look back at the last year and note the lessons learned.

2015 was monumental in many ways.

In terms of my writing career, this was a banner and extremely noteworthy twelve months.  My first publication Secrets & Doors released in February. In May, I sold my first short story to an online magazine. All while I revised my second novel. In August, I submitted to my first writing contest, where the old adage of “you cannot please every reader” was proven, and got valuable feedback from professionals. In September, I submitted to my first open call for submission and edged out thirty other writers for a spot in a new collection releasing next month.

That last one was the writing highlight of the year for me. As much as I love focusing on the successes along the way, I am also secretly worried that I don’t really have what it takes to make it as an author. That no one but my friends and family will enjoy what I read. I shrivel and give in to self-doubt often and have to remind myself that just putting my work out there is a step many artists and dreamers won’t ever take. While my first publication was traditionally published, I didn’t have to submit as part of an open call once I joined the collection of authors that eventually became the Secret Door Society. My self-doubt always whispered in my ear that if I had to go up against an open call of other professionals I may not be worthy. By taking that step and proving myself wrong, I have been able to quiet some of those internal fears that seem always lurking.

On the other side of the coin, this was a very eye-opening year for the more disappointing side of writing. While I sold a short story to a magazine, it was not published. What was to be a print magazine with a broad readership potential turned out to be a fledgling idea prone to delays. The format changed to an online magazine instead and then put on hold until further notice. I got the rights back to my story, but it was a sad disappointment all the same.

The most difficult lesson I took away from 2015 was the value of time. Time as a commodity has been a consideration for years. Each time I decide to do something new, like pursuing being an author, means I have to give up other things, like television. This year I got caught up in activities that took a lot of time, too much time, time I didn’t have, to be part of a writing organization. At the end of the year, the organization had ultimately failed and all I had to show for the time I’d devoted were months where I’d spent all my writing time NOT writing. Because of this, I’ve decided to devote 2016 to producing rather than associating. I can aspire to be on writing panels and making appearances at writing conferences when I have more publications under my belt. If I’m a writer who doesn’t spend the majority of my time writing, I’ll never get to where I want to be as an author. Bottom line, it makes no sense to promote yourself to potential fans until you have something for them to read. I lost sight of that for a few months this past year. Months I won’t get back, which makes me a tad bitter when I let myself dwell on it. Which I don’t very often.

The other areas of my life were overall positive this past year.

The flip side of the time coin came with the improved family dynamics as a result of Hubby’s new job. Having him on a day shift schedule and home with us all the time has made a huge difference in the quality of our family. I can’t wait to spend as much time together in 2016 as we didn’t in the preceding eight years of dreaded night shift. Every day that we get home from work together and spend the evening taking turns running the kids around and cooking dinner together is a gift.

Financially, 2015 was also noteworthy. We achieved our ten-year goal of being debt free except for our mortgage. Which was also why Hubby had the luxury of quitting to find a day job. Of course, it didn’t last long since the cars are all old and paid for (aka time to die!). I leased my first brand new car and I love being part of the Volkswagen family. 2016 will see a massive remodel to our house, which will be fantastic – when it’s OVER. During will be another story…

My health this year has still been a bit of a roller coaster but more like the kiddie coaster with baby hills and far easier to manage than years past. I still struggle with things like how much is too much fluid to drink every day – enough to stave off a flare-up of gout but not too much so I retain water and have to take diuretics that give me massive charlie horses and require yet another drug to counteract the effects. I’m still in remission and according to my doctor that means I have an indefinite number of years ahead of me. I’m far luckier than a lot of people and, considering all the insanity I’ve been through in past years to get here, I can deal with monthly blood draws and relatively few medications. Even being a vegetarian has become somewhat routine after two years.

I’ve struggled the past year where it came to fitness. Two years of focusing on survival and treatment of my disease relegated fitness to the back burner. I consider it a win that I’ve been able to maintain my weight overall, minus the water retention fluctuations of course, for the last couple of years. However, I’m ready to get beyond the mere survival and 2016 is the year I get back to being strong and fit, which has suffered since I had to give up running. The last half of 2015 has been off and on for yoga with my new, more demanding day job schedule and I’m feeling the effects. I’ve recommitted to my twice a week yoga practice and have started incorporating more cardio in the other days of the week. I may never run a Ragnar again but I can be strong and fit again.

This year brought three weddings within our immediate families – my sister, Hubby’s sister and Hubby’s brother – and the birth of a new niece who I adore. So much joy to counteract another year I had to spend without my Mom who I still miss every day. Life is a balance like that and what we’re left with overall is up to each of us as individuals.

I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year – but I still read a lot of great ones. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to – but I still wrote 84,966 words over the course of the year. (Yes, I track it to the individual word. Don’t judge, you know I’m a data geek!) I didn’t travel as much as I wanted to – but I got to go to Hawaii with my entire immediate family. Overall it was a fantastic year simply because I got to live it. And because I am the master of my fate and the captain of my journey, I can make 2016 an even better representation of my hopes and dreams.

May 2016 treat you well. Live in the moment, surround yourself with positive people who contribute to the achievement of your dreams rather than pulling you down, and take risks to live the life you love. That’s what I’ll be doing! Thanks for joining me on my journey and thanks always for reading.


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!


2013 In a Nutshell

I’m reading a book called “The Happiness Advantage” with my work book club. I’m not a huge fan of the self-help genre (and for some reason these are the kinds of books that always get picked by the group) so it is taking me months (and hopefully not countless library fines) to finish this one even though it is a fabulous book. What I’m learning is that success, performance at work, and general happiness are all a product of your positive outlook on life and not the other way around. As I am wont to do with every book I read, I’ve been internalizing all the different points the author makes and realize that somehow intuitively I’ve been applying some of these principles in my life already. Mostly because 2013 was by far the most roller-coaster of a year to date in my life.

Here’s a recap of the year:

  • I’m so glad to be alive since I didn’t die from the pulmonary embolism
  • Happy birthday, I’m done taking Coumadin! Let’s celebrate with leafy green vegetables!
  • I finished my first novel – finally!
  • Just kidding, back on Coumadin
  • Wait, why did I just gain thirty pounds in a couple of weeks? 
  • Good news, mammograms don’t hurt and I have medical proof I have a great rack
  • Wow, biopsy of the kidney really hurts but not as much as finding out I have a chronic kidney disease that I will never get rid of.
  • I’m officially more of a yogi than a runner but that’s okay
  • Treatment of kidney disease commences and I am feeling better
  • Started teaching yoga at work since no one else would get the ball rolling
  • Treatment isn’t working, how ’bout chemotherapy? We settled for vegetarianism and immunosuppression after I argued with my doctor for a plan that didn’t come with cancer side effects later.
  • Immunosuppression sucks ass! Time for a pity party from hell
  • Just kidding, I’m over the pity party and ready to BE healthy instead of wallow
  • When the dose is finally right, immunosuppression is actually great since I feel fabulous now!
  • Focus turns back to fitness and surprise – yoga is keeping me from being any worse off than I was before this whole mess.
  • Everyday yoga practice commences – I’m addicted
  • I finished my second novel – in a month!
  • Christmas in California’s warm weather – although the Californians think it is winter we know they are crazy.

The book is full of examples of positive psychology and proof that you are more productive and successful if you first start with a positive outlook rather than saying that once you get {fill in the blank} I’ll be happy. The one that struck me the hardest was talking about how there is a small subset of people who are more successful and happier because they can more successfully pick themselves up off the mat after failures or setbacks. They are the people who define themselves not by what has happened to them but instead by what they can make out of what has happened.

There is no doubt about it that I am a changed person because of the last year. I have always lived life with a touch of spontaneity but now I’m even more apt to jump first and ask questions later. I also cherish my relationships with people – not just those closest to me but everyone I know – differently and more deeply. I know more than most how tenuous life is and how today just might be your last. If you know me in real life and I tell you that I love you, rest assured that I mean it. But that isn’t where I stopped. Back in October when I was deep in my pity party, I could easily have stayed there dwelling on how bad my life was and how I had been forced to turn vegetarian and how I will never be cured and blah blah blah. But instead, I switched my focus to all the things that could have been worse. I’ve never been hospitalized with all this insanity of health issues, I only had a couple of weeks that I couldn’t do yoga to the fullest, and I am able to do whatever I want now in terms of fitness – although running is again something I have to build up to since it has been so long since I did it. I learned last month that the six months I thought I had of immunosuppression treatment is actually a two year gig but I’m rolling with it. It isn’t chemo after all. Sure, I’ll have to be far more diligent with my facial waxing since one of the side effects apparently is increased hair growth but there are worse things, right?

If I’m recapping 2013 in a nutshell, I’d say it gave me a far greater perspective on how I want to live my life. I am still grieving in many ways about the loss of my perfect vitality but I’m also taking steps to get past that loss. I didn’t lose a husband, and I didn’t get a terminal illness (chronic doesn’t directly translate to terminal after all) but I did suffer a loss in the form of seeing the end of my life as I had previously defined it. Instead of wallowing in the grief, I’m redefining my life and living that new life fully. I’m not one to make resolutions with the New Year but I’m far more prone to reflecting this year. As I look ahead to 2014 and all the craziness I’m certain is in store for me and my little family, above all I am happy and hopeful. May your 2014 be the same whoever you are and wherever your circumstances find you. Thanks for reading!


    Book List Archive 2013

    Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.

    • The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
    • A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
    • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
    • Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
    • Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
    • The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
    • Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson 
    • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
    • Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
    • 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
    • And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
    • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
    • Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
    • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
    • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
    • Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
    • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
    • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
    • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
    • Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
    • The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
    • Joyland, Stephen King
    • Hounded, Kevin Hearne
    • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
    • Hexed, Kevin Hearne
    • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
    • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
    • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
    • Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
    • Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
    • Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
    • Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
    • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
    • Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
    • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
    • Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
    • The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.

    That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!


    Race Archive 2012

    Another aspect of my life summed up and recapped for another year.  This aspect did not live up to my overachiever, make-each-year-better expectations for myself but it is what it is.  This was a regroup and recover from injury year for me that was unfortunately cut short due to that pesky pulmonary embolism but I still accomplished almost everything I set out to do.

    Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back
    June 15-16, 2012
    200 miles Logan to Park City
    personal mileage: 13 miles
    *worst Ragnar ever in record heat and first one without Hubby due to his injury – I hate running in summer heat!

    Salt Lake Half Marathon & Relay
    Sept 1, 2012
    3-woman relay team
    personal mileage: 6 miles

    Big Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon
    Sept 22, 2012
    *sold out before I could register 😦

    SoJo 5K
    Oct 20, 2012
    *ran this one WITH a pulmonary embolism – and still won my division! Worst three miles I’ve ever run in my entire life.

    According to Nike+ which is still my favorite way to track my running, I ran one hundred and fifty miles this year.  And I know that many of those miles are actually walking at work since after Ragnar I didn’t do much running to train for the races that I did.  Plus, I chalked up basically zero running in November and December when I was recovering from the “glad you didn’t die” episode.  Compared to five hundred miles last year and three hundred the year before that, maybe I know what I gave up in order to read more in 2012 and more importantly why I went into 2012 barely able to run again after injuring myself.  I still love to run and don’t need to do races or rack up the most mileage to know just how much.  As I grow older and more introspective, I have come to realize that I run for me and the way it makes me feel and not for what other people think of me when I do it.

    I’ve also learned this year that after the hype is over and I’ve done a race once (or more) that I need different goals to keep myself motivated.  Hubby and I are skipping Ragnars entirely in 2013 and I’m biting off a little more achievable goals for myself.  The only goal on the horizon is a half marathon six months from now with plenty of time to prepare slowly so no more injuries!  2013 will be a year of improving my overall health and doing as much running as I can.  It won’t be hard to improve after the crazy year 2012 was, that’s for certain.


    Book List Archive 2012

    It’s that time again!  Time for me to recap my year reflecting on how crazy my goals are for myself while comparing them from year to year to show what progress I’m making on being the best overachiever I know how to be.  Last year I was bragging about how brilliant I was at combining running with audio books so I could *double* my reading.  The total for 2011 was a whopping eighteen books.  Hold onto your hats, people.  2012 saw over double the number of the previous year. 

    • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (the prose of this book still haunts me with its beauty)
    • The History of Love, Nicole Krauss (book club)
    • Letters for Emily, Camron Wright (book club)
    • Bullet, Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Uglies, Scott Westerfeld (book club)
    • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (my pick for book club)
    • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (re-read for hubby on a road trip because of the movie)
    • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (re-read because hubby insisted – I made him read the third himself because I hated it so much the first time)
    • Towers of Midnight – Wheel of Time #13, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (20 years later the series still isn’t finished)
    • Following Atticus, Tom Ryan
    • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (book club)
    • Defending Jacob, William Landay (book club)
    • Dies the Fire, S. M. Stirling
    • One For The Money, Janet Evanovich
    • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand (book club)
    • The Ice Limit, Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston
    • Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, Chelsea Handler
    • Hit List, Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Variant, Robison Wells
    • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
    • On the Island, Tracy Garvis-Greaves
    • A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (another road trip read to hubby)
    • The Gods of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (had to find out what else happened!)
    • Calico Joe, John Grisham (book club)
    • 11/22/63, Stephen King
    • The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker
    • The Hollow City, Dan wells
    • Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K. Hamilton
    • The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
    • The Wind Through the Keyhole – Dark Tower 4.5, Stephen King
    • Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
    • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
    • 50 Shades of Gray, E. L. James (so wish this one wasn’t on the list!)
    • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (book club)
    • 50 Shades Darker, E. L. James (another waste of reading time I fully regret!)
    • The Maze Runner, James Dashner (book club)
    • Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
    • Legion, Brandon Sanderson
    • Hate List, Jennifer Brown (book club)
    • Lucifer’s Hammer, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    • The New New Rules: How Everyone But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass, Bill Maher
    • Radical Frugality, Nic Adams (work book club)
    • Area 51, Bob Mayer
    • Orchids For Lila, September Roberts (my friend from my “other” book club’s first published work!)
    • One Second After, William Forstchen

    Yes, you counted them right… (wait, you didn’t count them?  Well I did of course!) That’s forty five books in a year.  When two years ago all I could muster was a book club book a month and that was stretching it.  I read a grip of science fiction and remembered exactly why I love that genre so much.  I wasted far too much time on the oh-so-popular drivel otherwise known as 50-Shades.  I discovered I really like character/situation stories like Before I Fall, On the Island, Hate List and Defending Jacob that make you think about what you would do if you found yourself in an unusual situation.  I got to visit Mid World with my favorite Stephen King characters of all time even though I thought he was done writing their stories.  I found I am definitely NOT a Jane Austen fan.  My two favorites for the year were Middlesex and Gone Girl for far different reasons.  And, I’m looking forward to the conclusion of The Wheel of Time just as much now that it’s here as I was twelve years ago when I first started reading the series.

    How the hell did I read more than double the amount of books this year than I did last?  I have no idea except we took two long road trips that accounted for four of them and a couple of them were short and frivolous audio books that only took a couple of hours.  I don’t know how I’ll top this year but we’ll see what next year brings when it is all said and done.  Here’s to another year of happy reading ahead regardless!


    Let the madness continue

    We got into the sold out Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back!!!  Our number came up on the waiting list this week and I literally was jumping up and down when I got the phone call.  I wanted to scream but kept at least my voice composed for the angel on the other side of the line with the news I’d been waiting ever so patiently for months for.
    And so it is official – training starts the first of February.  Race day mid June with a semi-new crop of fellow crazies.  I’ve already substituted two runners from the original twelve who committed and paid back in July when we got on the waiting list.  Luckily I had two people waiting in the wings for a shot at joining the party. This year Hubby and I will be in “the other” van so we can experience the entire race route.  Since Hubby is back to tip top shape and is officially one of the strong runners, we have to be in the van with the ubber-hard “Ragnar Hill”.  And this year I’m taking a leg with shorter total mileage.  I learned my lesson last year.  Hard means hard when it’s labeled as such regardless of how innocuous the elevation map makes it look.
    I use Nike+ to track my running – it’s the coolest app on my iPhone – and every year they give you a rundown of the previous year.  I ran a total of five hundred miles in 2011 averaging three runs and ten miles a week.  Pretty impressive considering I haven’t run more than a couple of miles since Thanksgiving.  Compared to 2010 when I *only* ran three hundred seventeen miles I’m pretty happy with myself.
    I’m slowly easing myself back into training mode.  I ran twice this week and it still amazes me to wake up in the morning without pain in my foot.  All the physical therapy and massage therapy has worked wonders and I’m so grateful it was so easily solved.  It’s insane how much you get out of practice when you stop doing cardio regularly and I’m trying not to get frustrated that I can’t just head out and easily do three to five miles at a time.  I have January to get back to where I was before I have to start hard core training.  Twenty three weeks until Ragnar.  I hope it is enough time.

    Race Archive 2011

    Another list for my OCD.  Although this one seems tiny compared to 2010.  But it represents double the training effort so I’m recording it anyway.  Officially 2011 was the year of Ragnar.  The best part: doing both of them with my Hubby.

    Ragnar 2011 – Wasatch Back Relay
    June 17-18, 2011
    (192 miles, Logan to Park City, UT)
    Personal mileage: 21 miles
    Team time: 38 hours 05 minutes

    Ragnar 2011 – Las Vegas Relay
    October 21-22, 2011
    (195 miles, Lake Mead to Red Rock, NV)
    Personal mileage: 14.2 miles
    Team time: 33 hours 31 minutes

    I also trained for a half marathon in October which I got two weeks away from and had to cancel because of my injury.  The injury I could no longer ignore…  sometimes reality really bites.


    Book List Archive 2011

    Time once again to file away all the things from last year and clean up the sidebar for the new year ahead.  This year I successfully read more – thank you, Audible!  I doubled the amount of reading for my own pleasure this year by combining reading and running.  Still one of my most brilliant ideas!

    • Flirt, Laurell K. Hamilton
    • The Wave, Todd Strausser (book club)
    • The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, Elizabeth Stuckey-French (book club)
    • Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay (book club)
    • Dream Chaser (Dark Hunter #14), Sherrilyn Kenyon
    • The Help, Kathryn Stockett (book club)
    • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett (my pick for book club)
    • Icy Sparks, Gwyn Hyman Rubio (book club)
    • Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris (book club)
    • Pride (Shifters #3), Rachel Vincent
    • I Don’t Want To Kill You, Dan Wells
    • The Whistling Season, Ivan Doig (book club)
    • The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time #12), Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
    • My Name is Memory, Ann Brashares
    • The Aquariums of Pyongyang, Kang Chol-Hwan (book club)
    • American Gods, Neil Gaiman
    • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi (book club)
    • Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson (book club)

    Book List Archive 2010

    Time once again to placate my OCD tendencies and convert my side-panel list of books I’ve read into a posting for safekeeping.  This list is as dismally short as it was last year but I was also doing a lot more running than reading this past year so who is really complaining?  Instead, I’m thanking my book club for keeping me committed to reading at least a book a month!  And here’s to more time for reading in 2011!

    • The Unit, Ninni Holmqvist  (book club)
    • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe  (book club)
    • Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
    • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
    • The House at Riverton, Kate Morton  (book club)
    • Mr Monster, Dan Wells
    • Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett  (book club)
    • I Am Not A Serial Killer, Dan Wells  (book club)
    • Life of Pi, Yann Martel  (book club)
    • Oceans Apart, Karen Kingsbury  (book club)
    • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen  (book club)
    • Pavilion of Women, Pearl S. Buck  (book club)
    • Change of Heart, Jodi Picoult  (book club)