Book Review: What If?


From Amazon:

Millions of people visit each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

When I was much younger–perhaps 12 or so–my grandpa got me a book called “Do Penguins Have Knees?”. It was an odd little book that asked a bunch of weird questions and tried to answer them. It was moderately interesting. I think I sold it to the used bookstore a while back.

What If?, by Randall Munroe, is what that book was trying to be. I don’t usually read non-fiction, unless it’s a textbook. There have been relatively few non-fiction books that I have actually enjoyed, everything else has been, while perhaps interesting and informative, often dry and boring.

This book is not dry. This book is not boring. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. The book is written as a series of utterly ridiculous questions, such as “What would happen if you pitched a baseball at nearly the speed of light?” and the answers are scientifically researched and thoroughly thought out. But the way they are presented is pure awesome. Munroe’s managed to create a blend of his signature stick-figure faceless comics (If you do not read xckd, you’re missing out on life.) and utterly hilarious comparisons that nevertheless make sense.

None of the explanations are incredibly high-brow either, and Munroe includes very few formulas and calculations in the text. You do not need to be afraid of being lost in the “science”. Everything is perfectly accessible to most of the people with the capability to read, even children. (And I would recommend this book to them as well.)

One or two of the questions are not quite as funny. There’s one question in particular, the one concerning soulmates, that made me sit back and think hard about my life, about humanity. I didn’t see this as bad, though, as he still answered the question thoroughly and in a very interesting manner.

Besides, what’s a good book worth if it doesn’t make you re-examine your life?

The book itself is a work of art, on a scale I’ve rarely seen outside of special editions of books–and the Stormlight Archive. There are full inside cover illustrations, as well as an illustration on the physical cover of the book, *and* the dust jacket. Seriously. Take the dust jacket off and look at it.

I honestly don’t have too much more to say about this book, which is slightly unusual. I guess I’ll just flail around here a bit more about how incredibly funny it was and how you should GO READ IT NOW. Even if you don’t read non-fiction, ever. (Also, I used caps in this review. I never use caps.)

In conclusion: Since the invention of the book, there have only been five books that were rated the most brilliant, the most hilarious (Alcatraz 1-4, Hyperbole and a Half.). This one left them all behind. 5 out of 5 stars. GO READ IT.



The Book


Austin is awesome, and BookPeople is even more awesome. They’ve brought some truly amazing authors to town–last year, I met Brandon Sanderson. Earlier this year, it was Patrick Rothfuss. This time, it was John Scalzi.


Scalzi’s pretty awesome.

I will admit that, until last year, I hadn’t read anything by him. I picked up Redshirts and read it, before it won the Hugo. I’m pretty sure it was actually before it was even nominated. (Hipster reader achievement: Read books before they’re cool.) It was fun and funny, but I wasn’t blown away. The Codas felt odd, and the whole thing didn’t quite take itself seriously enough. I knew my dad had some Scalzi, but I didn’t look any farther into it, mostly due to my massive TBR bookcase. (Or two.)

That being said, I knew he was moderately famous, and when it was announced that his Old Man’s War series will be adapted for TV, I put those books higher on my priority list.

Then came the announcement that he was coming to town. Intrigued, I grabbed The Android’s Dream and Agent to the Stars from the store, and borrowed the Old Man’s War series from my dad. Unfortunately, I was only able to read Android’s Dream and Agent before the signing, but they were both fantastic. Andoid’s Dream, in particular, blew me away.

They were good enough that I bought everything of Scalzi’s that I could, the day of the signing. Count me in as his fan. I managed to get 11 of his books signed, and I’m hitting myself over the head for forgetting to bring Redshirts. (Hardcover, 1st/1st, too. It was hiding on my bookcase, [Which is double stacked; I only have 1 in my apartment.] and I missed picking it up. 😦 ) Also, this happened.


So yes, I got an extra copy of The Way of Kings and had Scalzi sign it. No, you don’t get a picture of it. I’m showing it to Sanderson first, to see what he has to say. 🙂 (I’m actually now on a quest to get copies of The Way of Kings signed by as many other authors as I can.)

Anyway, the signing itself. Like Rothfuss, Scalzi did a reading/Q&A before the signing, which lasted an hour. It was the most fun hour ever. He read from his upcoming sequel to The Human Division, and went through one of his old blog posts, then answered questions ranging from writing to how he washes clothes when he travels. He had us all rolling on the floor the entire time. At the end of the evening, I was seriously wondering why he is not a comedian. He loves speaking, that much is obvious. I guess he simply loves the writing more, which is fine by me. He’s a spectacular writer.

I had, quite literally, the best seat in the house. I was directly in front of Scalzi, with not a single other person in front of me. It made things even better, and it was totally worth arriving a bit over an hour early to save my seat.


Scalzi’s signing wasn’t as packed full as the one for Rothfuss, but we did reach the fire-martial enforced seating limit at some point, and people had to stand in the back. This delighted Scalzi, as he and Rothfuss had been discussing the fact on Twitter that morning. It was a good turnout, and the crowd loved him.

The signing line itself was quite long, and I was kicked to the back for having too many books. In all honesty, this was fine by me. I ended up second to last, and it was probably 2 hours after the Q&A ended that I actually got to meet him. The lady in front of me was a huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd, and had come through the line again, like I had, because she had too many books. We spent the entire time chatting about favorite books and authors, conventions and events attended, and all kinds of awesome things like that. It was very nice to meet someone else who speaks my language and understands my obsessions. At the end of the signing, she even gave me a ride back to my apartment. (It was late, the busses had stopped running.)

The man behind me had something quite special too. In addition to Scalzi’s books, he had a small book of writing prompts, the kind of thing you would use with a child just getting into creative writing. Each prompt had a lined page with it for you to write a very short story. This man had signed, original stories by Lev Grossman, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, and a pantheon of other amazing names. I must admit, I was incredibly jealous of some of the authors that he had met, and the fact that he’s got stories from all of them. Here’s Scalzi doing his entry. (Oh, and the man drove down from Houston to come to the signing, and was heading back that night. I want to be able to do things like that some day, when my favorite authors go on tour.)


Overall, it was a delightful evening, and I’m really glad I went. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you have the opportunity to see an author whose work you enjoy, especially if it’s an individual speaking event, DO SO! These people love their fans, and they have been, without exception, some of the nicest and most entertaining human beings I have ever met.

Guardians of the Galaxy: I am Groot

This blog is primarily about books and school. I’ll occasionally post about other things, but I’ve never done a movie review before. I’ll probably never do another. This isn’t even a full review, more of a quick reaction/bit of fun. But I feel like I need to do it.

There’s a reason I’m doing this one. I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday, after my classes for the semester were over. It would have been fun even if it wasn’t a good movie–I was glad to be out of classes for a few days, and I needed something to celebrate. I would have still enjoyed myself. I went in with moderate expectations.

I was blown away.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the best movie I’ve seen in many years. I may love the Hunger Games movies just as much, but that’s because I love the books. Same with the Lord of the Rings movies. The Avengers came close, but only with the entire universe of super-hero movies behind it. The Game of Thrones TV show is pure awesome, but it’s not really in the same category as a 2-ish hour movie.

If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor. Go, buy a ticket and watch it. Bring your friends, if you can.

I have never, ever laughed, cried, and cheered so much at the movies before. Guardians of the Galaxy was simply amazing.

I am Groot.

Recent Ramblings

This post is a bit of a ramble, so bear with me, though I do have several points I make throughout that I think are important.

The first of which is that being a Computer Science major is awesome, if you’re looking for a job. I’ve finished only a year of my CS degree so far. I know several people who have taken the same classes that I have, and are off doing internships this summer, and even more who are a year ahead doing the same thing. And I’m not talking small deals, either. Several of them are off working for Google, Microsoft, or even Apple. Getting paid, and in some cases, they are being paid to move out to California for the summer, including transportation.

Second point: If you do not love Computer Science, don’t do it. I also have several friends I made during the last year who attempted computer science because of the money you can make, while they didn’t really enjoy, or in some cases, fully understand what they were doing. Most of them have switched majors by this point, and those who haven’t are just trudging through. Working in computer science should be a joy. I absolutely love to program. I’ll come back to this topic later, but the point I want to make here is that if you don’t love computer science, do not do it for the money. You will be miserable, even if you manage to succeed. I just spent 11 hours doing the latest computer science assignment. I wanted to cry several times, and I am very thankful for the help I received from my friends when I was particularly stuck. But now that I’m finished, I understand what I did, and I love that I was able to do it.

Instead of looking for an internship, I am attempting to get my degree as quickly as possible (Though I may try to get an internship or full summer job next year.), so I’m taking two classes this summer. One was a math class that finished in 5 weeks, and the other is a computer science class that lasts the entire 10 weeks of the summer. It’s been challenging, certainly, and grueling, but I love it. We’re learning about how the computers work, at an incredibly low level (For computer scientists.), and that stuff is fascinating. I’ve been asking questions about it for years, and I finally have answers.

A little over a month ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew Java. Since that’s what I spent the past year learning, I messaged him saying yes, I do. He replied back, essentially offering me a job on the spot.

They need people in Computer Science, people. The jobs are there.

I ended up as a teaching assistant at an awesome programming camp these past 2 weeks, working an Introduction to Java course the first week, and an Advanced Java course the second.

It’s been an amazing experience. I have come away tired and inspired. (That should be someone’s slogan or motto, somewhere.) I’ve worked 8-5 at camp. Not only am I in the classroom constantly running around, helping 17 (Advanced) or 31 (Introduction) kids with a wider variety of confusing bugs than I ever thought possible, I have also been playing games and eating lunch with them during their breaks to keep them entertained, so I’ve basically had no breaks.

I then go to class, often from 5-8 in the evening, a three hour long upper division CS class lecture.

To say that I am exhausted at the end of every day would be an understatement. I’m not entirely sure how I actually did manage to make it through the past two weeks, and it’s an experience that I’m not sure I ever want to repeat. I have a newfound respect for those who work while they go to school. Next summer, it’s going to be all school or all work, none of this crazy combo stuff.

Nevertheless, I had the time of my life. These kids are, no exaggeration, geniuses. Many of them are grades ahead, and I know for a fact that we had at least one pre-teen in the teenager camp, who fit in perfectly. These kids love computer science. They want to learn it. It got to the point, both weeks, where I (literally, in a few cases) had to drag them out of the room during break times, so that they would get outside and exercise. When you love what you’re doing, and you’re always just a few lines of code away from making it better, it’s addicting.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from this is that kids are hungry for knowledge. They love to learn. Given the right material (For these kids, it was computer science. For others, it may be art, or music, or something completely different.), presented in the right way, they will devour it. I have never seen so many people learn so much, so quickly. It was amazing.

Several of the students have asked me for more. I know that I will be keeping in touch with at least a handful of them for years to come, encouraging them to keep up their studies and helping them with projects they choose to do on their own. I spent lunch many of the days explaining more advanced concepts to several of the students, who would simply not stop begging me to tell them more.

Also, this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 9.41.38 PM

I don’t think I can put it better than that. Seeing that light go on, seeing that student achieve what they’ve been working on for hours, seeing them know that they have conquered it, surmounted it, that they know it is theirs, seeing that they, in Mary’s words, “have leveled up,” and knowing the integral part I played in that experience, is one of the most humbling and exhilarating experiences I have ever had the pleasure of having.

At that point, the thanks the students will sometimes give you is almost forgotten, but it truly does count. I know that, both weeks, several students filled out on their course surveys saying that I was awesome (There may have been brownies involved the second week…). The camp director told me that she had received several emails from parents whose students had many good things to say about me. The instructor with whom I worked both weeks (And who was the only reason that the course ran smoothly when they changed the curriculum on us at the last minute and threw us completely for a loop in the advanced course, where she and I were the only staff in the room.) thanked me profusely. Some of the students even bought me candy at the end of the week as their way of saying thank you. Every one of these gestures touched me, deeply.

The lesson to take away here is that if someone makes a difference in your life, if they help you through something difficult, if they’re there for you, thank them. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate gesture. It can just be a few words, or a comment on an evaluation. It can be a small gift, or even a recommendation to someone else. You may not think it makes that much of a difference. But it does. Being told all of those things (Most of them on the last day of camp.) has been amazing. It really has made this whole experience totally worth it.

A few random reflections before I finish up: I remember staying up until midnight for the year 2000, and watching to see if all of the computers would crash with the Y2K bug. Some of the students I’ve been working this week weren’t even born then. And they’re in high school. I feel old.

I also managed to take the kids on a field trip each week. The first week, we went to see the visualization lab at UT, which is powered by a set of supercomputers, and has some massively impressive stuff (Like an 80-monitor data visualization set-up, a good 4’x8′ touch screen, and an Oculus Rift headset.) that the kids–and I–really enjoyed. The second week, I took them on a tour of the CS building, which ended in the lecture hall with a Q&A session. One of the kids told me the next day that the tour was what finally made up his mind: he is determined to be a CS Major at UT Austin now, and I know I encouraged several other brilliant students who will fit in well to pursue it also.

I may be repeating myself a bit here, and I know this is the oldest advice in the book, but do something you love. I am addicted to computer science, and teaching is simply one of the most rewarding and instinctively natural things I have ever done, so this combination was pretty much perfect for me. (Even though I was a TA, and did not actually teach for any of the lessons, I spent at least 75% of the class time on my knees next to students, explaining how to do something they wished to do in their program, or what was wrong and how to fix it.) If I had been doing some kind of boring manual labor job (Which might not have been as physically and mentally taxing as this past week.), I would have broken already. I only persisted because I loved it. It truly, truly, makes a difference.

So… Thank you. To my fellow staff–directors, instructors, and TA’s–and to the students. You made my last two weeks absolutely insane, but the best way possible.

I don’t know if I ever want to do it again.

(For those who are curious, I was working at Digital Media Academy. Here’s their website. If you know someone of an appropriate age who is interested in computer science, or a field covered by one of their other camps, do what you can to get them to one of these camps. They are seriously one of the best experiences you can give that person/yourself.)

Meeting Patrick Rothfuss, or, A Moment in Time

Yesterday, I met Patrick Rothfuss. As some of you may know, he’s one of my favorite authors of all time. For those of you who don’t, my list goes:

1. Brandon Sanderson

2. Patrick Rothfuss

3. J. R. R. Tolkien

4. George R. R. Martin

5. Robert Jordan

While Sanderson occupies the top slot, and likely always will for me, the others switch around, depending on my mood. My meeting with Rothfuss yesterday may have something to do with his current position on the list, but my point remains. I’ve now actually met 2 of my 3 favorite living authors, and at the moment, the two whose work I love the most. I consider this a pretty good track record for a 22 year old kid who can’t afford to attend a convention and mostly gets around on a bus or a bike. GRRM is going to be a little harder to track down, but hey… What’s a goal for, if you don’t have to work for it?

I’m going to take a moment here to say that, if you have an author that you really love, and they come to your town, or even come to somewhere near you, take the opportunity to visit, to watch them speak, to have your books signed, to meet one of your heroes. I promise you, you will not regret the experience.

Anyway, back to yesterday. This event was put together on less than a week’s notice by BookPeople, an awesome local independent bookstore, and I’ve not been thinking of much else this past week, even though my accelerated summer classes have started at full force. I went in right after my first class and reserved my spot by pre-ordering Rothfuss’ next novella (That I didn’t already have pre-ordered), The Slow Regard of Silent Things. While I was there, I took a picture of the front of the store, where they had a sign about the event.

BookPeople’s Sign

I then tweeted this picture, expressing my enthusiasm for the event. 20 minutes later, Rothfuss tweeted that he would be in Austin, using the same picture. Here’s links to the tweets: Mine, Rothfuss’. Needless to say, I was already over the moon because of this, and could hardly sit still for the entire rest of the afternoon.

I skipped out of my afternoon class early (Don’t tell my mom.), and managed to arrive by 6:30 or so. All of the chairs, plus floor seating in the front of the room, were already taken, and I had to stand back, peering over several people and an alternative healing bookcase to see Rothfuss. He arrived right on time, and did an hour long Q&A and reading, which I’ll get back to in a moment.

After the Q&A, the bookstore staff began having people form a line for the signing, based on wrist-band color. Since I was not in any of the first groups, I took this time to wander around, and managed to meet another Redditor from /r/fantasy. It’s always cool to meet someone you first met online, and find out that they are indeed a real person. (Any parallels between meeting authors after reading their work and stalking them online are entirely intentional.)

Eventually, she went home and I stood in line for the signing. I spent most of my hour in line talking to the two people closest to me. The girl two places in front of me and I exchanged book recommendations as the line passed through the bookstore, and I have a few new ones to go look up, and others that I already have which need to be bumped up in priority on my reading list. The rest of the time was spent in conversation with the man directly in front of me, about various interesting topics. Finally, we made our way to the room for the signing. Several people in front of me, one person had a copy of Jim Butcher’s latest book, and Rothfuss gleefully signed it, saying, “We’ve signed books to each other before.”

And then it was my turn. I had a basket to carry all of my things, since I had three books, two decks of cards, a book-plate, and a piece of paper for Rothfuss to sign. I unloaded them, and he signed everything, polite and smiling the entire time. Pictures of the signatures below.

IMG_8093IMG_8091  IMG_8096 IMG_8088IMG_8097

The book with only his name is Rothfuss’ contribution to the Unfettered anthology. Oh, and I didn’t put the picture of the paper in…. About that… I took screenshots of my tweet and his, with the picture that I had tweeted, and printed them out. Sadly, I was only able to get black and white, but hey! It’s still awesome. Here’s a picture.


When I handed him this paper, and told him what it was, he said, “Thank you for spreading the word.”

I may have been a little excited about this, and during the rest of the signing, as you may be able to tell from the picture below.


After the signing, it was after 10 PM, and I was worried that the busses might have stopped running. But the man in front of me in line offered me a ride, and after chatting through most of the line, I figured that I could trust him. (Plus, he likes Rothfuss. That’s a good character recommendation right there.) And then he decided to take me out to dinner before dropping me off right outside my dorm. That was a nice treat, and a very nice way to end the day, and I’m still not sure if I was able to thank him enough.


Except I haven’t told you everything yet, have I? No, no I haven’t. The Q&A and reading. Rothfuss offered us two choices: We could have what he called a “first date” Q&A, where people asked questions such as who his influences were and where he finds inspiration, things that he’s answered hundreds of times in the past at these events. Or we could turn off our recording devices, and have what he termed a “fourth date” conversation, where we got more personal, more intimate. He could allow himself to be more free in his responses, since they would not be posted–and possibly taken out of context–on Youtube before the signing line was even done.

The crowd, all 400+ of us (Who came with less than a week’s advance notice for the signing…) voted, unanimously, to go with the second option. And so Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicle, and one of the most brilliant writers of our generation, gave us a little peek into his soul. I have no video or audio recording of this event, and I believe that none exists, nor should it. Here is my only picture from the Q&A session itself, taken before we decided what type of event it would be.

Rothfuss is on the left.

After the questions, he read excerpts from the novellas that both he and Neil Gaiman have in the upcoming Anthology, Rogues. I’m not going to write down much of what happened during the Q&A itself, but I will say that he answered questions in an open manner, and allowed himself to get sidetracked and excited. He let down his public persona, and gave us a glimpse of the man behind the curtain. The questions started with a little girl asking what Rothfuss’ favorite cake is, a question he was delighted to answer and said that he had never been asked before, and his rambling answers to later questions ranged across topics from writing to sex, from determination to child psychology, and many places in between. It was beautiful, it was fun, and it was an experience I will always remember, even if no complete records exist. I have it in my head, and for me, and the others who were lucky enough to attend, it truly was, as Rothfuss said, “A Moment in Time”.


Book Review: The Crimson Campaign


WARNING: The Crimson Campaign is the sequel to Brian McClellan’s debut novel from last year, Promise of Blood. If you have not read Promise of Blood, go read it before you read this review. It contains spoilers for the first novel. (And yes, it’s well worth reading. I loved it.)

On the front lines of the war with Kez, Field Marshal Tamas attempts a daring maneuver–and fails, leaving him trapped behind enemy lines with only a handful of Adran troops. With no way to push through the Kez army, he must instead turn north to try to get back into the country with his remaining soldiers. Unfortunately for him, he is pursued by a force much larger than his own. The Field Marshal has faced large enemy forces before, but this time he may have met his match. And some of his own troops aren’t happy with him…

Back in Adro, Taniel Two-shot is still trying to figure out why he is still alive–he should have died when he tried to kill Kresimir, likely the closest thing there is to a god. Before he can, however, he must head to the front lines to help hold back the Kez army. He is one of the best soldiers left in Adro, and they need him. But without his father around to keep him outside of the chain of command, he’s bound to bump heads with some of the men and women in charge of the army.

Inspector Adamat’s investigation for Tamas is over–he unravelled Kresimir’s promise, and found the traitor on the council. But his work is far from over. Lord Vetas still has his family held captive, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them back. This very well may mean that he’s going to break some rules–important ones–to try to get them back. He may end up in much more trouble than he ever bargained for.

Nila has been captured by Lord Vetas, and now tries to keep her young charge safe in his household. But as she tries to escape, her story is about to get a lot more interesting.


I enjoyed Promise of Blood, though I felt it had a few issues, mainly with characters acting stupid when I felt they should have seen something that was obvious to me as a reader. It was an engaging read, and I highly recommend it.

The Crimson Campaign steps everything good up a notch, and takes the issues down a notch. It’s better in almost every way. The characters continue to grow, and the tension is constantly ramping up. There’s hardly a moment to breathe in the entire book. The hardcover comes in at just under 600 pages, but every one of those pages is powerful. I tore through it in two days, and I’m left wishing it had been about 500 pages longer, and that I had the sequel already. My soul for an ARC?

My biggest complaint? The fact that the book seemed to end almost mid-scene for one character. There’s very little relief in the tension, and I have a feeling that, once the third book is released, the entire trilogy will read beautifully as a single story. If you’re the kind of person who wants a sense of finality in the books they read, a nice tying up of all major plot-lines, then you should wait until the trilogy is finished.

McClellan avoids what is commonly seen as one of the biggest pitfalls in fantasy today. Many criticize some authors, such as GRRM, of growing their story too much, adding too many new viewpoint characters, and trying to juggle too many plotlines. While I enjoy the intricate stories that these authors create, and the massive scope they’re able to convey, I also love being able to read stories with a clean core cast, and McClellan manages to tell the tale in the second book without adding even a single viewpoint character to his cast. He’s even said that the third book is looking to be slightly shorter than the second. I’m glad that he’s managed to keep his cast manageable and his plotlines focused.

His lack of female viewpoint characters is slightly annoying (Only 1 out of 4.), but several female characters became stronger in this book–Vlora and Ka-Poel at the top of the list–and our sole female viewpoint, Nila, is poised to be, perhaps, the most interesting character in the third book.

In addition, his short stories have focused mainly on female characters (Oh hi there, Verundish, it’s nice to see you again, even if you don’t get much page-time.), and I felt this helped to flesh them out a little more in this volume, (and Promise of Blood), even if they aren’t viewpoints.

It’s not terrible relevant to the content of the book itself, but McClellan’s covers continue to be amazing–and representative of the book itself. I love looking at his books on my bookshelf.

Verdict: 5/5 Stars. Amazing book, powerful, never boring, beware of cliffhangers. You should get and read it as soon as you can.

Since Amazon is misbehaving with regards to books right now, I’ll simply link you to Brian’s page for The Crimson Campaign, where you can find links to all the various places you can buy the book. You can even get a signed copy directly from him.

Reflections and Resolutions, 2013-2014 Edition

Another year has come and gone, whether we want it to or not. Such is the nature of time.

2013 was quite a year, for me. I finally met not only a real author for the first time, but my favorite author in the world, and I enjoyed it! I earned my Associates of Science degree in Mathematics at the community college, and transferred to the University, where I am double majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. I am loving all of my classes, and quite ready for the spring semester to start. My grades have stayed where I want them. I have even made some friends, for the first time ever. We fell in love; she fell out of love. I decided to read every Hugo and Nebula award nominated and winning novel, and have started on my epic quest to obtain them all. I discovered and read many, many new authors–at least, new to me. Old news to many of the more well read in the genre.

By the way, here’s my current bookshelf, to-read. Everything on top (3 rows + stacks) has not been read yet.

That’s resolution 1. Read as many of those books as I can this year. I’ve started making a spreadsheet of my reading habits, which can be found here, and it has me projected to finish reading everything I have in this picture around the beginning of 2018. But I know that’s not going to happen for 2 reasons. First, I read faster during the holidays. Or rather, I read more. I don’t have that much time during the school year. Over the past 11 days, I read A Storm of Swords, which averages to just over 100 pages per day. There’s no way I’ll have that much time once the semester starts. The other one is new releases. I’m already planning to purchase at least four books before the end of the Spring semester, all of which I will read when they are delivered. (Staveley (Yes, I’m buying the final copy, in hardcover, and re-reading it. It was that good.), Lafferty, SANDERSON, and McClellan, if you were curious.)

Resolution 2 isn’t much of a shocker. I’m going to write every day this year. So far I’m going strong (with 1k+ words every day), and I see no reason to stop. I managed it for most of the days last year, and I can again this year.

Resolution 3 is to do some significant revisions to at least one of the novels I have written. Right now, there’s two I have completed, and one more I’m working on. This probably won’t happen for a while, but at some point I will do this, and I’m talking about serious revisions, such as taking out or inserting new chapters, rewriting entire scenes, changing characters, and so on. I want to try to take a long work that I’ve completed and make it significantly better.

Resolution 4 is to continue to do well in school. Basically, don’t let my grades drop. I know, I know. I’m resolving to do a lot of things that I’m already doing. But sometimes, you have to set resolutions that you know you can achieve, so they don’t seem so daunting. (And also to keep you on track and make sure you keep up things you like doing/are good at.)

Resolution 5 is to submit short stories, at least one per month. I kind of fell off the band wagon with this at the end of the year, and didn’t submit anything in November or December (Though I did submit a few and get my first rejection emails before that.), but I’m going to submit something this month. Yay for more rejections. Along with this comes writing more short stories, something I haven’t done since October.

Resolution 6 is to get some kind of paying job. I need it, honestly, to be able to afford school and my reading habits. I’ve applied for a job assisting in classes at UT, but if I don’t get that, I’ll look for a tutoring job of some sort, something I can do to earn a good bit of money on the side.

I have many other small goals for myself, and I’m not ignoring those, but the six items listed above are my major resolutions for the year. What are your resolutions?


It’s December!





This post will bring you up to date with what’s going on in my life, just a little bit. I have a few other posts planned for the next few days as well.


As you can see above, I won NaNoWriMo! This is my first year to officially win, and it was awesome. I managed 50,138 words (the validation said 50,037) in the month, making it just barely past the goal for the month. But I made it. There were hard days, and there were… Not so hard days. I wouldn’t say that any of them were easy days, but that’s fine. I feel a sense of accomplishment. Winning NaNoWriMo has been something I’ve wanted to do for years. This year, I decided to finally do it… and I did! It’s nice to know that when I set my mind to something, I really can get it done. With all of the rest of the insanity that is my life.

One of the main reasons that some of the days were hard (And I only managed to write 600 words on a few of them) was school. I’m a full time Math and Computer Science double major, taking 12 hours this semester. In the middle of November, I had exams in all of my classes. That week, things really slowed down for me. After that, just when I was almost caught up again, I hit a rough spot in my writing. I still don’t know exactly what caused it, or how to fix it (I’m saving that for revisions), but it slowed me down as well. I ended up writing over 10,000 words the last 4 days of the month to finish on time.

The novel isn’t anywhere near complete, which makes me incredibly happy. I’ve always wanted to write long. I want to write books like my heroes do, and those are people such as Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, and George R. R. Martin.

The highlight of my month was definitely going to a midnight release showing of Catching Fire. That movie was perfect. I’m still not sure exactly how they made it so awesome, but I loved it. All of the returning characters were just right (Haymitch’s glass raising during the Interviews drew a round of applause from the audience. Effie breaking down during the reaping was powerful), and the new characters were, if anything, even better (Johanna Mason. PERFECT.). I know I sound like a bit of a fanboy, and I’m not sorry. I love those books–and re-read them right before seeing the movie–and seeing a movie that I felt did justice to the book was awesome.

I have managed to acquire, um… Far too many books. And yet, never enough. All I can say is that I love books.


All of the books on the top shelf–I haven’t read any of them yet. I started keeping a spreadsheet of my reading habits (found here), and by any measure, books I buy now won’t be read until 2015. And I still have 44 on my Amazon wish-list, and more than that at the bottom of that spreadsheet. (And more that I haven’t listed yet that I’ll try to get anyway.) Yeah… I’m a bit addicted, I think. But I LOVE BIG BOOKS, AND I CANNOT LIE. So there.

The next two weeks are going to be my last week of classes, and then my finals week. I’m feeling pretty confident going in, so hopefully I’m not just completely lost and hopeless. I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you about an awesome book I read that comes out next month. Until then, happy holidays!

Where I Will Be

So, if you’ve been following along, you know that I’m doing NaNoWriMo next month. Starting tomorrow, in fact. And it’s scaring me. I posted some about what I’m planning to do for it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s just not enough. I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with everything, and that’s only with making myself write 550+ words per day, much less three times that amount.

My biggest enemy is the internet. Seriously. So, for the next month, I’m going to unplug from the internet as much as I can. Actually, this will likely last through the second week of December, when my final exams are. Don’t worry; I’ll still be writing, and I’ll probably even throw up a few blog posts right after NaNoWriMo, to let you know how things went. Right now, though, after publishing this post, I’m going to shut down all but the essential tabs in my browser. This means that my games will be going. All of the fun pictures and other things. Yes, even my Facebook will be closed down. I’ll also be shutting down my Twitter client, though I may set a few more people to send push notifications to my phone first, so I don’t end up missing anything. I’ll keep open the NaNoWriMo page, the Magic Spreadsheet page, and any pages I need for my classes. I’ll still check a few websites regularly, such as I’ll check my Facebook notifications, and you can still get ahold of me by messaging me. I’ll check my notifications here, and of course my email will still be on. But many of the regular distractions of the internet will be gone.

I’m doing this for two reasons, honestly. The first being the most apparent; I want to win NaNoWriMo, and then do well on my finals. The internet will be a major distraction to all of that, and it’s something I can cut out of my life for a while to help with time issues.

The other reason is to see how I cope. Can I live without the internet? Obviously my ancestors–heck, even my parents–did it. Am I too addicted? What will the withdrawal be like? Also, do I really need the internet? If I can go without it for a month and a half, ages in internet time, can I continue to go without it after that? I’m going to postulate some answers to these questions, and I’ll post back at the end to see if I was right or not.

I think that yes, I can get away from it. I’ve always prided myself on having a solid determination and a strong will. I want to win NaNoWriMo, and failing my classes is not an option. I’m sure I can do this, as I’ve managed to convince myself it’s the best way to achieve these goals and still be able to sleep, even just a little. As for the withdrawal, I think it will be tough, but I can live. I’ve already spent time thinking about each and every tab and option that I’m going to have to close down in my head, and while I’m going to miss them, and mentally I’m protesting, I’m also realizing that they aren’t essential. I can get along just fine without them. I will live. I may even feel less stressed and happier–and if that’s the case, I think I can get over any feelings of “Oh, I reed to go check this” that may impulsively appear. I think that, after the first week or so, it may even get to the point where I enjoy it more, not having all this stress. I’m hoping, honestly hoping, that the answer to my last question will be yes; I can and will continue after this. It will involve more work than I was hoping for–instead of just saying I’ll be gone, I’d have to actually go in and shut things down in several places, but I might just be able to do it. We’ll see.

I’ve done similar things before, though only on a smaller scale. I’ve quit certain games, closed down certain websites (Go dig up my post on Reddit.), and so on. But those have been singular actions. I’ve always been happy that I’ve done so, and so I’m wondering how I’ll end up in this one. Let me know what you think. (I still get notifications and emails about comments here, so I’ll be checking those. 🙂 )

What is NaNoWriMo

So, yesterday, I posted saying that I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month. I realized after the fact that I didn’t tell you what NaNoWriMo is.

The easiest way to find out is to go here. That is the official NaNoWriMo site.

However, I’m going to assume that you want to hear about what I think it is, and keep on rambling until I run out of things to say on the subject.

NaNoWriMo stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It happens every year in November. It is a challenge. Your goal is to start a new novel and get at least 50,000 words written on it during the month. Everything is self-verified, and so you really get out of it what you put into it.

Some people, quite fairly, ignore the “new novel” guideline. Instead, they continue working on whichever project they are currently working on, with the goal of adding 50,000 words to the project. If your novels are longer, or you are currently in the middle of a project, and think your writing process would be disrupted if you stopped writing on your current project for a month to write on the new one, then continue work on the old one. That’s perfectly fine. Also, many authors who do this already have a contract for a book, and can’t afford to stop working on it to start work on something else. That is, perhaps, the most valid excuse there is.

I, personally, don’t have a contract, nor do I have any current long-term projects that this would be interrupting, so I’m planning to start a new novel. I talked a little yesterday about my planning for this one.

But why would anyone want to do this insanity? If you’re sticking with it, that’s 1,667 words per day, or so, just to meet the minimum. That can take 1.5-3 hours, depending on your writing speed out of your day. Every day. It can be an incredible time sap.

I do it for a few reasons. First, the companionship. I made friends last time, and I know I’ll make more this time. I’m looking forward to doing so, and these are valuable friends. They’ve been through the same furnace you have. Keep them. Treasure them.

I also do it to… WRITE! Yes, surprise surprise. I do it to drive myself to start a new project, instead of piddling around and writing blog posts half of the days for my daily writing goals, and instead, focus on fiction writing every day for an entire month. I may not come out of it with a completed novel (I honestly hope I don’t. I want to write much longer projects.), but I will come out of it with 50,000 words on a new project. They are not going to be great words. But if you are forever agonizing over first draft words, trying to make them great, you’ll never finish anything. Right now, I’m still a new author. I want to write a few more novels before I start really digging in and trying to revise the ones I’ve already written. I want to improve my craft more by writing more, because I know there’s still a lot of improvement for me to make in that direction. Once I start to hit diminishing returns in that direction, then I’ll switch to editing, and make improvements there. I’m looking forward to being able to do so, and have a stack of novels to work on editing. But for now, before all that, I want to write a bunch of novels, and NaNoWriMo is great at helping me do that.

I do it for the feeling of satisfaction. It’s an incredible goal. It can seem insurmountable. It can seem crazy. But it is possible. People do it every year. I did it in July. I know I can do it again. And when you do it, and you finish that book, even if you know it’s not all that great, well… Having a finished novel on your computer, beginning to end, completely written out, BY YOU AND YOU ALONE… It’s one of the greatest single feelings on this planet. You have created this work of art. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is yours, and it was worth it. I love that feeling; I’ve had it twice now. I crave that feeling. I’m doing NaNo to achieve that feeling again.

So yes. Those are some of my reasons for doing NaNo next month, in the middle of the insanity that is university life. Why are you doing it, dear readers?