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...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Learning From the Masters - (Mastery - Final)

Another New York Times Bestseller. I'm starting to wonder if there are any books I've read that aren't on that list...

When I stopped updating and disappeared for six months I didn't stop reading, although what I read wasn't exactly in-line with No Book Unread Project. My interest in neuroscience and psychology got the better of me, in part due to the long journey towards writing mastery that I've embarked upon. As a result I ended getting the non-fiction book Mastery by Robert Greene. For a non-fiction book though I found it completely engrossing. This wasn't the only non-fiction book I indulged in during my blogging break, but I'll touch upon that in my next post.

The book Mastery is about exactly what it sounds like it's about. Mastery is intended as a foundation for the pursuit of any sort of mastery. For some the first thing that might spring to mind may be the archetype of the ancient martial arts master in Chinese garb and a long white beard dangling from a weather-beaten chin. While you may be tempted to assume that Mastery applies only to physical pursuits it is intended to apply to everything from architecture to zoology. I'm tempted to recommend this book to anyone who wants to pursue one of their interests as a career, but I also find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating so take that with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Book Unread Project Update #3 - I'm Not Being Lazy This Time, We Had a Baby!

Hey everyone, today's update will be a relatively short one. I was hoping to have an update post in sooner than now but I had a very busy week last week. And for good reason: My wife and I had a baby! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Quiet on the Set - (Moving Pictures - Final)

In 20 days No Book Unread project will be one year old, so somehow it feels appropriate that I should review a book by Sir Terry Pratchett, one of my all-time favourite authors. I've been reading his books for years now. Unfortunately I feel lost for words, I've been sitting in front of a blank page for the better part of two hours now. Much as I'd like to gloss over this fact (and pretend that I knock these out in an hour) I feel compelled to mention why the right words elude me. So, let me indulge in a bad habit of mine for a moment: giving too much back-story.

Sir Terry Pratchett has long been an inspiration to me. He was an inspiration to many people for many different reasons, but to me in particular I was always in awe of Pratchett's ability to create a comical story while still making you care about the characters and the plot. He seemed to believe that comedy didn't have to be just comedy, which is something I feel that many other comedies seem to forget. Not to disparage a good series, but, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was just comedy. The characters didn't develop much, if at all, and the world felt bereft of lasting consequences. Of course, not every story needs those elements and 'Hitchhiker's' seems to work just fine without them, but it is a trend that is apparent throughout comedy as a whole. Movies are especially guilty; the story often only exists to provide more opportunities for the comedy to shine, and characters rarely seem to change beyond an, almost obligatory, lesson in friendship or romance. I suspect part of the problem is that any story that contains more than just comedy elements always seems to relegate comedy as a secondary characteristic, such as drama-comedy, horror-comedy, or romantic-comedy. I'll touch more upon that another time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

No Book Unread Project Update #2 - The Time Between

If you thought this blog was dead I don't blame you. One doesn't simply disappear from the internet for several months yet return to find the same level of attention and/or enthusiasm. Although, if I'm being honest, that's not why I'm here. That, may in fact, be why I stopped updating for so long. Shortly before I stopped updating I was more caught up with the idea of exposure, of being entertaining, and having a style, a persona, than in my actual writing. The process of building a blog, of actually having readers was exciting, but I also knew very little about actually managing a blog. So, I began to do some research. I started spending more and more time researching how to run a site. In order to get a better feel for the blogging community I spent hours upon hours networking and reading other blogs. In a relatively short amount of time my priorities changed. The easiest explanation for my absence is that I stopped being myself and got fed up with it.

In some ways my excess of time spent away from writing paid off. My site traffic increased. Clearly I was doing something right! I had readers! Surely as a writer there could be no better thing than to have readers? I spent yet more time learning about blogging, and more time browsing other blogs. As I divided my time between between my day job, reading, writing, and 'blogging', with ever more weight being given to blogging, my updates remained few and far between. Even as my site traffic continued to increase, even as I started actually getting comments (for which I was overjoyed), I was losing interest in reading and it became increasingly difficult to write, even when I found time to. In the end I stopped updating altogether because I was discontent and couldn't place why.