Disappointment Birds

When a birder is planning a trip to the Galapagos, there is a question people ask.  “How many new birds do you think you’ll see?”

I don’t have a good answer.  You see, unlike some birders I know, I don’t make a list of every possible new species I might see on a trip.  Instead, I pick my three “disappointment birds.”

I don’t want to see 12 new birds on a trip and be disappointed because I missed 2.  I want to be excited about the 12 I saw!  In order to facilitate this, I made a rule early on in my birding travel that I get to pick 3 birds that I will be disappointed if I miss.  Everything else is bonus.  I have not yet gone on a trip where I missed my disappointment birds.  It’s been close; on a couple of trips my third bird was spotted on the last stop on the last day, but I still got it.

This has already worked well once.  In Colorado there were many new woodpeckers that I hadn’t seen.  As I adore woodpeckers, this was a potential downfall.  I could have been very disappointed if I didn’t see all of them, but a couple were particularly tricky and we weren’t spending the entire trip looking for woodpeckers.  So one of my disappointment birds wasn’t defined; it was just “a new woodpecker.”  I saw three new species; not only was I not bummed that I missed the rest, I was extra excited about the 2 that made it past the one I wanted!

I know, now you want to know what my disappointment birds are for the Galapagos, right?  Blue-footed Booby, Lava Gull, and Galapagos Mockingbird.  I’m most worried about the booby, since they are typically found further out from shore than I plan to be, but I think I’ll be okay.

I’ll let you know post-trip if I was successful!


A Brief Reflective Moment

I didn’t want to blog today.  I worked late, there is interesting TV on, and I figured that most of my readers would be okay giving me a pass.

However, I have a very well-developed sense of guilt.  I practically have my own personal “nag” resident in the back of my brain.  I felt bad not writing; I’m supposed to write every day – if I just choose to skip, then I am not living up to the standards I have set for myself.

This personality trait makes for a lot of difficulty.  When someone “yells at the messenger” and I get the brunt of it, I take it a lot more personally than I should.  If I say something that comes out sounding dumb, or that is taken wrong, I run the scene through my head on loop repeat for days.  Even when I’m supposed to be relaxing, I’ll feel guilty not working if I have a to-do list.  I don’t break rules easily, even when I’m just imagining the rules (like not parking somewhere if there is an ambiguous sign). 

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to link this guilt to something productive, like stopping myself from eating junk food or making myself work out.  With the blog and my new writing routine, at least I’ve tied my guilt-monster to something useful!

Setting Goals

Goals are good.  They can help you get things done, look toward the future, and prioritize your time.

I have a rule about goals.  Is anyone surprised?  I will not set a goal that requires another person’s involvement.  Thus, when all my friends were setting the goal of being a wife and mother, I did not.  That depened on a man, and I have no control over the behaviors of others.  This means that I cannot make “getting an agent” a goal, but I can make “send out X query letters” a goal.

In the next 6 months, I have set myself two large goals: finish “Burden of Knowledge” for Serial Central, and complete another novel.  (You can vote on which novel I should work on in yesterday’s post.)  Of course, that is on top of continuing to post here everyday, and sending out more query letters to try to get the first novel published.  🙂  I like to do lots of things at once.

Wish me luck!

What I Read: Print Media

I read a lot, as I mentioned in the previous post.  I also read a lot of different things.  I’m starting to find more and more in the internet world to read, but print media is where I’m most comfortable.

I subscribe to National Geographic.  That is the main magazine I read, although I do peruse my husband’s Birder’s World for a few of the columns.  (I especially like “Birder At Large” by Pete Dunne.)

I read a lot of non-fiction books.  My taste here is somewhat eclectic, although most of it has to be interestingly written and geared toward non-experts for me to enjoy it.  Broad history (like Guns, Germs, and Steel or A History of the World in Six Glasses) and linguistics and grammar (Eats, Shoots & Leaves and The Unfolding of Language in particular) are two areas that I find fascinating.  I am also a science and bird geek (I have a degree in zoology and 767 birds on my life list) so books relating to those topics are also frequently in my world.  Some of my favorites are The Verb “To Bird”  and The Big Year.  I definitely don’t stick with those areas; I liked both of Malcolm Gladwell’s books that I read, and I am open to almost any subject if it fits the previous criteria. 

When it comes to fiction I am a bit more narrowly focused.  I do enjoy the occasional general fiction novel – I am quite fond of Michael Crichton and Dan Brown – or perhaps a mystery now and then, but the bulk of my fiction reading is fantasy.  My favorite authors are Mercedes Lackey, Jacqueline Carey, and Terry Goodkind.  I will also happily recommend Cecilia Dart-Thornton or Robert Jordan, if those are more suited to your tastes.  And of course, I love the Harry Potter series.  I plan to re-read them once the last of the movies is out.  (Another rule: no movies based on books I like.  I did find that I can enjoy the Harry Potter movies if I haven’t read the books lately, but that means I have to wait before I read them again.)  Much to the shame of my fantasy-reading friends, I started reading Tolkien in junior high and high school, and couldn’t finish them.  Maybe I should try again… 

What about you?  Anything you’d recommend for me?

Reading Journal

Like most authors, I read a lot.  When I finish one book, or magazine, or whatever, I move on to the next, sometimes immediately.   There have always been books, magazines, and newspapers in my life.  As a child I remember being shocked by the choices on a survey question at the end of a standardized test.  The question read, “How many books are in your home?” so I started to estimate books in my head.  I stopped in surprise when I saw the choices: 0-10, 10-25, 25-50, over 50.  I had more than 50 books in my bedroom at home, let alone in the whole house!!  The thing I remember most about that moment was my shock (and pity) that anyone could have less than 10 books in their home.

With all of that reading, I find moments where I remember a plot, or a character name, or I want to recommend something, and I can not remember the title or the author.  The final straw was when I started reading a book that I thought was new, only to realize that I had read it before.  That was when I came up with the idea for my reading journal.

My reading journal is a beautiful bound journal with lined paper.  It was a gift from my husband, along with its own fancy pen.  When I finish reading a book or magazine (but only something that I have read completely, another one of those rules) I write it down.  This lets me keep track of what I’ve read, count how much I’ve read, and reference it later.  I just record title and author, or month/year for magazines, since typically it only takes seeing the title to remember the book. 

The best thing about it?  I can total what I’ve read.  It turns out that I average one item per week, more if I read shorter things and a little less when I’m writing a lot. 

If you’re curious about what I read, you’ll just have to be patient.  I’m planning to address that tomorrow.

Losing My Voice

I make a lot of rules for myself, in order to make my life easier.  No treats on the weekends until I get something done.  Don’t eat anything at work that I didn’t bring from home.  I am a rule follower, in many ways, so having rules helps me stick to plans.

One rule that I’ve been breaking lately is “no fiction.”  That’s the rule I made while writing my first novel.  Reading was allowed, but only non-fiction.  I didn’t want my voice or tone to change based on what I was reading at the time.

It was a very painful rule to follow, especially considering that it took me about 8 months to finish the first draft of the manuscript.

This time I have been less of a stickler.  I feel that I solidified my writing style when I completed the first manuscript, and while I have been trying to deepen the tone and make the details more complex, I’m not so worried about losing my voice.  I love non-fiction, and that’s most of what I’ve been reading lately, but I haven’t kept the fiction off the bedside table while working on this new book.