Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Librarial Interlude - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

When I first started this project my goal was to improve my writing, and I think I have in small steps and almost imperceptible increments. Reading definitely improved my writing, though, I can never quite say how. Tips and tricks, probably, you tend to pick up small things when you're around people just doing their thing. The bottom line is, though, that my primary goal was to improve my writing. I noticed something strange towards the end of my hiatus though.

Now, during my hiatus I never really stopped writing. I journaled regularly at least, which mostly consisted of me complaining for several pages at a time. Occasionally, when inspiration struck me, I would write blog posts on No One Will Recall- my general repository for creative writing. Towards the end of my hiatus I also started working on other pursuits. I started to improve my fitness and then my diet. My wife and I also changed how we structure our finances in a pretty drastic way. These two major changes involved quite a bit of research, aka. reading. We had read a book on finance and changed our finances. I had read a book (by someone I trusted) on fitness and began to devote a lot of time and energy to it. I stuck with both plans for over two months, successfully, before a thought hit me. I was working harder, and more efficiently, on fitness and finance than I was my writing.

Well, the holidays are always a horrible time to kick anything off so I let the realization sink in through the Christmas season. A week or so after New Year's day I strolled into the local library where I kicked open the door, demanded a library card, and was promptly shushed by the clerk and made to apologize. Apparently libraries don't appreciate melodrama. I did get myself a new library card, though, and immediately set about loading-up on books about writing. It was time to get serious.

The first book I started reading was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. The book had appeared on several lists of must-read books for writers and, I figured, it was hard to go wrong with the titles populated multiple lists. Now, I feel a little guilty for admitting that the first book I've ever read by Stephen King, a nearly legendary author, is On Writing. (I will admit owning one book by him that I never got around to reading it - Cell). So, I found myself in the awkward position of saying 'Well I heard his books were great so I'm sure his guide to writing is wonderful'. Luckily for me I no longer live in Maine so I don't have to worry about bumping into him. How would he know? He just would, and I don't think I could survive his judging gaze. One potentially awkward conversation avoided: Check.

On Writing isn't so much about writing as the journey of Stephen King on his path to become a writer. To be sure, there is quite a lot of good writing advice within the pages too, but I actually found the tales of his efforts to be published more enlightening in many ways. Although, I'll say that one of the more useful bits that I gleaned from On Writing was that I should use word count as a way to track my daily writing progress. That advice was also echoed, later, in my other reading, by Anne Lamott and Terry Pratchett. So now I write with a 500 word daily goal in mind.The pages of On Writing are filled with beautiful little gems of information for any budding writer. Sometimes you have to pay close attention, however, as many are easy to breeze by.

I've found, as a writer, the most perilous aspect of the craft is simply staving off doubts and maintaining a will to write. Reading about Stephen King writing in the laundry room of his old apartment and working crap jobs, the ones hovering around minimum wage, goes a long way toward allaying fears. It's comforting to know that even the great Stephen King started out humble. Some of his most common advice throughout the book is simply to keep writing and keep submitting your work to be published (articles included).

For me, On Writing served as a source of demystification. Writing has always been shrouded in a sense of mystery. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you follow the rules, sometimes you break them. The rules, to me, always seemed to be in flux, and the path to being published was an utter enigma. I discovered that there are resources that list publishers accepting submissions, and what kinds of submissions. I was pleased to discover that there are resources advertise book agents looking for clients. I was also surprised to hear that the first step to working as a writer is, essentially, keep asking around, writing, submitting, and improving, until you have built a kind of record. Your published works become a portfolio that you can point back to. Kind of a short-hand for "look at how great I am". In other words, just the art world's version of every resume ever. Granted, I think I'm still a long way from that, but when you're a long ways away a little confidence helps a lot. Probably the greatest source of help for me was by way of a confirmation. I had always suspected that being a writer just required hard work and diligence. There was always a part of me that wondered if there was some secret, some method, I was missing though. The answer, at least according to Stephen King in On Writing, is no, there really isn't any secret. Hard work, diligence, and a little creativity are key. For me, that is some of the best news I could get. I can work hard- I only ever feared that I needed more than that. So all that's left is for me to roll up my sleeves and keep writing.

Well. *Rolls up sleeves* I'm ready.

(P.S. - If you are wearing a T-shirt it looks really weird when you roll up the sleeves. I just tested it. So leave your sleeves alone. Roll up metaphorical sleeves instead. Geez. No one tells you these things. 'Roll up your sleeves and get to work' they said...)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

One Year Later - Hiatus End

Yuma, Arizona is one of the sunniest places in the U.S. Today just happened to be cloudy.

What do you say to an audience that you've walked out on? Anything you want I suppose, most of them have gone home. 

A year ago I put No Book Unread Project on hiatus, for good reason. Looking back on 2016 it was a hell of a year. I quit my job, moved my family from Maine to Arizona, sidled into a small condo, and reoriented my life. I'm not sure how many can relate to this, but it was a year so full of change and life (frequently not in the uplifting sense) that it felt like two years.

Ah, life with neighbors. I had forgotten that was a thing.
So here I am at the precipice of a new start to No Book Unread. I have spitefully waited for my domain name to expire and bought it back from a more reputable company. I have refocused my efforts on writing and reduced distractions. I have more books than ever to read and, if that weren't enough, a shiny new library card with which to distract myself. 

I could say much about the move and my writing struggles, about a lot of things. The important thing is this though, I'm not giving up. The Project will continue, as will the reading, the experimenting, and, especially, the terrible humor.

In short, I'm back. Did you miss me? Don't answer that.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Life in Motion - Official Hiatus

My life right now is coffee and escapism.
[Edit: So in the midst of the holidays I accidentally let my domain name ( expire so I'm back to my BlogSpot url ( for now. Due to a woeful lack of experience I originally signed-up with who are I've found out are less than reputable. When my domain name lapsed I was going to renew it but wanted a whopping $65 to renew all said and done (normal is $10-$20). I tried to transfer to a more reputable site ( but found that the WHOIS data (which basically public registry information containing data about the website owner including contact info) was altered because default opts you into a WHOIS privacy thing which meant the listed email was not mine but one owned by (WHOIS privacy seems to be fairly common. Basically instead of listing your private info the company lists their info and entities/individuals who want to contact you are supposed to contact the company and, I assume, the company either handles it or notifies you.) Either way I needed to accept a confirmation email and because my email wasn't the one listed there was no way I could transfer my domain. I tried to change the WHOIS data but apparently I can't do that if the domain is expired. Man, I've learned a lot about domains in the last week! So, I was going to renew my domain but you know what, screw that. I'd rather let languish until it becomes publicly available again rather than pay those bastards such an exorbitant price. Spiteful? Yes. Yes I am, but if you disagree with something you might as well make a point of not supporting it. With any luck will be available in a month or so. If not, oh well, I might just have to look into a different web address.]

Hey everyone, I'm not sure how many people still stop by these days (other than the huge number of bots from Russia according to my analytics) but for those of you who do, you have my thanks. I've never had a huge following so I appreciate those of you who take the time to check for my sporadic updates.

Life has been increasingly tiring  and steadily busier of late. I've felt burnt-out recently and I haven't been reading at all, which is why I haven't made any updates in a long while. No reading = nothing to post about. Unfortunately I'm at a point where I'm dissatisfied with my work and my brain won't let me just push through that. Work sucks the energy right out of me and I feel completely useless by the time I get home. I'm actively working to change my circumstances but it's a slow process and I just haven't had the time nor the energy to put into NBU.

I'd like to return to No Book Unread eventually, but I feel it's for the best that I place this blog on hiatus. I am in the midst of selling our house, planning a move from Maine to Arizona, finishing a number of home repairs, and looking for new work. Until I can cross most of those off my to-do list I doubt that I'll be doing much book blogging. If things work out though I could have a lot more time in the future to work on my writing (and reading).

For those of you who enjoy my writing I do still write. If you would like to read some of my stuff that isn't necessarily book-centric I update sporadically on: .

No One Will Recall is centered mostly on short and/or fun pieces so that I don't fall out of writing altogether. I'm a bit more ranty over there and a little less structured, and also a fair amount more cynical/sarcastic, but truth be told I think that my writing is a lot more readable for it.

Hope to see you once my hiatus is over.


Friday, August 21, 2015

No Book Unread Project 1st Anniversary! - A Self-Review by the Numbers

So highlighters are actually useful. I always considered them a nuisance until recently.
Just shy of a month ago No Book Unread Project turned one year old! On July 23rd 2014 I was sitting in my garage (enjoying the weather from the shade) wondering what the hell I should do to get myself to read and write more. Then, as now, I was being a lazy sod scribbling madly in a fit of genius when my little idea came to me the heavens opened up bathing me in rays of light filtered through the clouds and heard distant music. I wrote my first post the same day. Same as then I am writing, once again, from my garage. It seemed fitting.

So, I suppose my first real review question should be has No Book Unread worked out like I planned? To which I have to say, yes. I'm still writing at this very moment. Despite the fact that I stopped writing for a few months in the long term I have continued to read and write. NBU has given me a reason to stay focused and served as a reminder when I slacked off for a long period of time. Despite my glacial reading pace I've managed to read 14 books so far. That may be a drop in the bucket for some, but for me it's the most I've read in a long time. Arguably I haven't finished this many books in a similar time-frame since middle school. Now that's progress. (On the other hand something went terribly wrong along the way if you are indirectly competing with your junior-high self.) While at the rate I'm going I'll probably finish up my reading list under the rule of our eventual AI overlords I'm already noticing some improvements. What I'm curious about though is: Have you, my dear readers, noticed any change in my writing over the last year? Feel free to be completely honest, I won't even cry. (Okay maybe a little.) 

Monday, August 17, 2015

This Shattered World - (Dragonwing - Final)

About three weeks previous I found myself at my wife's bookshelves once again. I was looking for a book that might help distract me from my shirking of duties regarding The Briar King. (I stopped reading Briar King about halfway through January this year.) There was plenty on the shelves to choose from. After all, the No Book Unread Project is still young. I considered my options.

I could read another R.A. Salvatore book, Jennifer has twenty plus books by him which probably translates to roughly a half dozen series. Then there is the werewolf series, the one about Mercedes Thompson, written by Patricia Briggs. I read the first one in that series but hadn't bothered to pick up the next one yet. Of course I could always start the Kushiel series that Jennifer so adores; a series that always results in my lovely wife staring tiny daggers inscribed with 'why can't you be that romantic?' at me for the following week. I decided to take a pass on that one for the time being. I also considered the next Pern novel, but I enjoyed the sci-fi elements of Dragonsdawn so much that I an reluctant to pick up the next book, which is supposed to be more fantasy-esque.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Non-fiction Addiction - (Deer Hunting with Jesus - Final)

In January 2014, before I started No Book Unread, I was really just beginning to rally for the first time in my bare-knuckle brawl with creative writing or, well, writing in general. In the grip of a cold a wintry despair, fueled by my disparaging evaluation of my writing ability, my bruised ego and I wandered into the Biddeford public library. Perhaps it was due to a flash of inspiration that I wandered in, a sudden realization that the former writing masters of the world were at my fingertips within the walls of that amazing public institution; the library. Walking in I could almost feel a hand grasping mine, the leathery grip of Mark Twain maybe, whilst behind him the heads of other literary greats rose slowly from a field of clouds, nodding approvingly. There was warm laughter and then I floated off the ground and then...Erm, it gets a bit hazy after that.

In any case I was quickly charmed by the nostalgia and potential of the library. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the sight and smell of stacks upon stacks of books and after wandering around the Biddeford library for the first time I decided I was going to need a library card. I just had to have one. I wanted to tap into that vast bastion of knowledge, this reservoir of literary achievement. I stopped at the front desk, filled out a form and slid the completed card back across the counter. The polite lady behind the counter picked up the card and studied it for a moment.

"Oh, you live in Arundel*, that will be 30 dollars." replied the polite devil-spawn looking back at me. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

No Book Unread Project Update #4 - Purely Technical (New Comment System)

Using my slowly expanding knowledge of blogging customs and convenience tweaks I have been making a few improvements to No Book Unread at large. Perhaps the largest and most noticeable change (and also the most recent) is that I've switched to Disqus for comment management. Not that there was anything wrong with the default system but it was a bit clunky and isn't quite as visually appealing as Disqus is.

What this means. Unfortunately I was unable to import the old comments into the new comment system so, my apologies, but to those who took the time to comment before, those comments will no longer be visible. (Lost, but surely not forgotten.) The most likely explanation for this is that Blogger is just a dinosaur and can't reach the old comments with its stubby T-rex arms to hand them off to Disqus. Google apparently acquired Blogger and then promptly forgot about it, because it doesn't seem to be aging well. Despite Blogger's ease of use it has a lot of drawbacks, not the least of which being compatibility and versatility.

Guest posting has been enabled. I haven't tested it yet but I'm fairly certain that making a guest post is now a lot simpler. I want to make it easy for someone to comment even if they are just passing through.

Plans for the future. Eventually I'd like to host my own website. I know a lot of people work through Wordpress and swear by it, but I'm not entirely sure that's the direction I want to move in. For the sake of simplicity I might try starting a blog there just to test it out for a time, in which case I will make an announcement should that happen (probably an alt blog not a transfer). More than likely I will make the jump to trying my hand at web design once I have the time. I like the idea of the freedom and flexibility I'll have if I can code my own website. Getting prepared for that, however, will likely take a long time. On the plus side it might be possible to transfer my old posts and comments over should that time come.

Feedback. Any feedback, comments, or ideas for other improvements would be appreciated. As well as any noticeable problems. Feel free to do so in the form of a comment or by emailing me at Hmm, I should probably make a dedicated email for this at some point. Note to self...