Monday, April 28, 2014

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Synopsis:

The girl who wouldn’t die – hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist.
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras, leaving anachronistic clues on their bodies, until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and turns the hunt around. Source


I first heard of Lauren Beukes when Zoo City popped up on Siren's suggested reading list a few years ago. I loved Zoo City! It had a bad-ass Black female protagonist and I felt like the book was a modern, black retelling of  Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass.

As much as I loved Zoo City, there was nothing special about the writing style.  So I was shocked and blown away by The Shining Girls. The Shining Girls was a pleasure to listen to (I used a Playaway). The details, the settings, and the language was nothing short of beautiful. I felt like I was watching/listening to an artist paint a masterpiece.  A

Beukes was not afraid to use her brush strokes to paint exquisitely horrific pictures.  The scenes were so gruesome at times that I had to turn the player off because I was sick to my stomach. In that respect, she'd give George R. R. Martin a run for his money on crazy gruesomeness.

The antagonist in The Shining Girls is a serial killer with the ability to travel through time to kill his victims. Because of the the time travel angle, I thought it would be more science-fictioney.  But Beukes never fully explained how time travel possible.  I didn't mind that time travel was never fully explained, but  it could throw more critical readers off.

It was definitely a great book.  I highly recommend it.

Deep Thoughts:
-I wonder if the the little mix of sci-fi and the mainstream literature counts as magical realism.





Monday, April 7, 2014

Playaway


So this is more of a public announcement than a blog post, but anyways here it is:

Put away your eBooks and downloadable audiobooks and get to know Playaway. 

What is playaway you ask.  Well a playaway is a small device that plays pre-downloaded audiobooks. They are the size of a deck of cards and all you need is a AAA battery and some headphones to enjoy them.  I love playaways because I was growing tired of downloading the audiobooks from the library.  Depending on my internet connection, it took a while to download.  I know downloading something isn't a big deal, but it was an extra, cumbersome step that had mostly stopped me from using my library's digital selection. 

  
 I had been passing the playaways at the library for years. I never took them serious until I saw Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls (review coming soon) on a playaway.     


I love playaways, but depending on the library there is a limited selection. And unlike an audiobook that can be downladed onto a phone, a playaway is an extra thing to keep track of and I'm scared I'm going to lose it. I'm also addicted to my bluetooth headphones, and so I do not like to be attached to headphones.  But, I put up with the headphones, because In the long run I'm saving time.  

So yeah. Playaways.  One more reason to hangout (or atleast visit) your local library. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do You Remember the First Time You Were Happy

I don’t know about others but when I was younger, I felt like I was not supposed to be happy. And so I wasn’t. I was a miserable little girl, and, the worst part, I was mean to others. One day, the neighbor kids were mean right back to me. I didn’t like it, but I knew they were only treating me like I had treated them.  I did some self-relfection.  Yes, I was a unusual child.  I decided didn’t like being treated like crap so I wouldn’t treat others that way. 

I was no longer mean to people, but happiness didn’t come until later. I remember sitting in the back of my mother's car and a song was on the radio. I don’t remember what the song was, but some how it got into me. I started feeling it. The song made me HAPPY. It was the first time I’ve ever been conscious of being happy. I liked it. I liked it alot!

My fiance dislikes my taste in music.  but its part of my culture.  It's what I was raised on.  The soundtrack of my childhood.  Abandoning hip hop entirely is like abandoning family. LIke family you have to take the good and the bad. 


"Happy" by Pharrell Williams somewhat redeems Hip Hop in my eyes.  Some would say it's not even a hip hop song, but it is because Pharrell Williams is a hip hop artist.  The song reminds me that we are entitled to being happy. There is no mention of money or hoes or sex. Listening to Pharrell's voice and listening to the simple, catchy lyrics of "Happy" takes me back to the first time I was happy in the back of my mother's car listening to her music.  

Do you remember the first time you were aware of being happy?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Getting Thing Done Like A Boss


Through some  random internet playing I found the website Skillshare and their class: Get Things Done Like A Boss taught by Tiago Forte for $19.99.  I'm always looking for some way to increase my productivity and tame procrastination so I paid for the class and watched all the videos in one day.

Skillshare feels a bit similar to Penolope's Trunk's Quistic but the classes are much, much cheaper. 

Overview of the class:
Get Things Done Like A Boss (GTDLB) is taught by Tiago Forte
For all intents and purposes he's just an average joe who is teaching the productivity tips he learned from reading Get Things Done by David Allen.  I've never read Allen's book, so I can't compare the book to the class.

Quick notes on the class:
  1. The instructional videos with handouts were very useful.  The class was clear and concise structure.  I didn’t get bored or too confused.  I was able to finish all five chapters/videos and implement the system in one day.  Admittedly, I didn't get much else done that day.
  1. To implement the full program I needed Evernote and a task tracking program. I already had Evernote, but until the class I had not idea how to use it.  For a task tracking program there were two choices.  The first choice was Things for MAC.  I do half of my writing with a  Mac, but I didn’t want to pay the price for the apps ($49.99 for MAC, $19.99 for Ipad, and $9.99 for Iphone).  I downloaded the second choice, Todoist, instead.  With Todoist you only pay once for all platforms, but Todoist is $29/year.  So overtime, Todoist may not have been the best choice.  There is a free version of Todoist, but to follow the program I needed to buy the premium version. 

Final Thoughts.
For Cleaning...I've been using what I learned from the class daily for the past month.  The skills I learned are perfect for the home. My house (and my cubicle) has never been more consistently clean.  I do feel like a boss when it comes to cleaning.  Apparently all I needed was a daily list with reminders.  I really can't stress how much this has helped me keep clean.  I've become a little obsessed with cleaning now.  I hop i keep this habit.

For Writing...I'm on the fence.  Since writing isn't my full-time gig, its hard to have solid goals.  I'm taking it one day at a time, task by task, scene by scene.  I've been enjoying listing the steps as they arise on Todoist but I need a few more months to see if this process works for writing.

For Work… The process produces a good roadmap and a daily reminder of what's important.  If I get distracted I have Todoist open, reminding me what I need to get done for the day. 

All in all, if you're having trouble cleaning and remembering what the hell you're supposed to be doing on a day to day basis or if you're just a productivity junky like me, the class Get Things Done Like a Boss is well worth the money.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Confession: I No Longer Want to be a Full-Time Writer

Writing is hard as hell! It’s so fucking hard that I had to curse. It's so fucking hard that I have forgone all dreams of getting rich and quitting my day job.  In fact, I'll happily keep a day job for the time being.

They say it's not about the destination, it’s the journey. The journey has taught me that writing is hard.  Its not a get rich quick endeavor and you have to love it.

I love writing, but for right now I'm happy to keep it as part-time gig.

I just said finishing Coal: The First Book in the Everleaf Series was hard and I don't want to do it for a living, but finishing COAL also given me a huge surge of confidence.  I've learned how to be consistent, wake up early, and market myself.  Most of all, I've developed the fortitude to look failure in the eye and face it knowing that it won't kill me or define me.  I have learned to fail forward.  

So today I start a new job and the confidence I've gained from finishing COAL has empowered me to look for another job.

I've been at the same job for close to twelve years.  Twelve years!  I was uninterested in looking for another job, but I haven't had a pay increase for a while and I decided I needed to leave.  Voices in the back of my head caused me to doubt if I could do anything other than what I was doing, but I thought about how hard it was to finish my book (the hours I've put in, the effort, and the criticism I had to willingly endure) and I realized I could do anything.

I also have to confession that I love my job.  I was lukewarm about it when I was first started, but after twelve years, I like having a good working knowledge of  something.  Within five years at this new job I should be able to call myself a master.

I don't want to write full time, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop.  I'm still a writer.  I still have a check list of books I have to publish or the characters in my head will drive me crazy. Coal is still mad at me for taking so long to finish his story.

Marketing Aside:  Coal: The First Book of the Everleaf Series should be in July.  Book Two will be finished a year after that (if all things go well).


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm Starting A New Job

I start a new job in one week.  Whoo.. It's been a stressful couple of months. My fourteen-year-old nephew died from a rare, very rare, type of fungal disease that attacked his brain.  And I've been looking for a new job. I love my current job.  I love my co-workers, the location, the routine, but I've been stressing over money as I wrote in earlier posts, so I finally decided to look for a better paying job.

While I was looking, I was concerned about my blog and whether having a blog dedicated to writing would affect my ability to look for a day job.  So I was on the fence about making the blog private.  I didn't.  

The writing blog, didn't seem to have any negative impact because I start a new job in a week and I'm super excited.  For one, it solves my money issues.  Two, my new boss seems super cool and I think I'll learn a lot in this new position.  And three, I'll be able to pay off my student loans and my HELOC in two years.  Three and half years after that I'll be able to pay off my house.  I will be completely debt free in five and a half years.  WaWah!!!  Happy Dance. Happy Dance. Happy Dance.

  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Year Cut

Happy New Year!!!

Warning: Another finance post ahead.  No one really wants to talk about money, but one day (in 10 years), I want to start writing full-time. For that to happen, I have to have my money under control.    

When I first started my financial journey five years ago (shout out to Single Ma and Get Rich Slowly for showing me how to budget and get out of credit card debt), I cut every unnecessary monthly subscription. But due to complacency, the subscriptions have creeped up.  So here are some of the bills I have cut.



Netflix
I subscribe to the 3 DVD Netflix deal for $25/month.  I’m wasting my money because I never mail the movies back.  I canceled the mail delivery and kept the instant option. Saving $14/month or $168/year. 



Treehouse  
Treehouse is an online learning platform for web design, web development and iOS.  I subscribed for my daughter to keep her busy during the summer for $25/month.  (side note: For every badge she earned, she got $25 from me).  When school started there was not enough time (or enough incentive, apparently) for her to keep earning the badges.  I canceled the service. She’ll be sixteen next summer and old enough to get a job.  So I won’t sign up again.  Savings: $25/month.  $300/year. 


Habits of Entrepreneurs 
I love Leo of Zen Habits.  He has been just as influential as Single Ma from Fitness, Finance, and Fun and J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly in helping me out of credit card debt  So I couldn't help but to subscribe to Habits of Entrepreneurs.  However, there are plenty of free podcasts telling us how to be entrepreneurs. I canceled my subscription saving $9/months or $108/year.    

For the entrepreneurial writers out there, I think this would be something good to explore. I’ll probably resubscribe in 2015 when I should have less financial stress... 

Family Gym Membership.  A few years ago, the YMCA was the best and only gym membership option.  The family rate was $58.  I lost a bunch of weight attending their classes, but times have changed and I am no longer willing to drive 15 minutes to get there, my kids are older and I can keep them in the house.  So I don't need a family membership anymore. I joined the gym around the corner for $30/month.  That saves me $28/month or $336/year.   

Home Security
I tried to cancel my security service ($200/year), but apparently I signed a five year contract. However, I get a $120 discount from my home insurance company, so really I only pay $80/year for the service.  I guess thats not too bad.

Total year savings= $912.  That may not be much, but that's enough for 2 airplane tickets.  (My favorite hobby is travel, so I measure money saved in plane tickets.  The average plane ticket is $400.)

I’m hoping this post inspires you to look closely at your subscriptions and cancel those you don’t need.  If you do,  come back and let me  know how much money you saved.