Quick Update

Hello, folks!

So. I’ve had a busy couple weeks! Flew to Kansas City for a wedding. My oldest friend – we’ve been  friends since two weeks before freshman year of high school, when we met in band camp! – was getting married and I was a bridesmaid. The wedding was on Valentine’s day, everything went smoothly, and the ceremony was short and sweet (my favorite kind! especially after all the long Catholic weddings I’ve been to). Then, while my newly married friend left for a weekend with her husband, I got to hang out with another old high school friend, who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me entertained, take me to a party, and give me more encouragement and pep-talks than I’ve had in quite awhile. It was so kind of her and I had an absolute BLAST.

Of course, then I had to come home and get back to work. And since I got back I’ve collected papers from students, and written THREE papers of my own. (And I have one presentation and one more paper to do in the next week and a half).

I’ve been crazy-busy and horribly stressed out.

BUT I also went to a concert this past friday (yes, another one). I went to see Jukebox the Ghost at House of Blues, and it was FANTASTIC. I plan to write more about it tomorrow, after I’ve had a chance to upload my photos off my mother’s phone (I borrowed it because mine can’t take pictures), and on to my computer.

So you can expect more about that later.

In the meantime, I better get back to work! Bye!

New Release News: Dominant Race

Hello folks! I got back from my Yellowstone trip late on Tuesday night, but I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and get caught up with the blogging yet.  I spent July 4th with my family, of course.  And then I spent most of Thursday and Friday reading, replying to, and deleting more emails than I could shake a stick at.  I also got some writing in yesterday, which was nice.

I hope to have organized all my photos from my trip and have some highlights posted here within the next couple days.  Until that happens, however, I want to share some news of a blog-friend of mine.

Elisa Nuckle, whose blog I follow joyfully, has just released her novella, Dominant Race - a fantasy about genetically-modified humans, and one Modified named Lilia who is trying to save her race.  For more info, a look at the cover art, and links to all the places you can buy it, go here to Elisa Nuckle’s blog: Dominant Race.

On top of that, Natasha McNeely of the blog Natasha McNeely’s Guide to the Beyond has posted a lovely review of Dominant Race and is doing a book giveaway for commenters.  Please go here to check that out and leave a comment on her blog!

I hope to have a copy of Dominant Race soon, and I’ll definitely post a review as soon as I read it.

In the meantime, I need to finish reading the books I’m currently working on: This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin (which is awesome, by the way) and Grave Peril (Dresden Files #3).  Hopefully, you’ll be hearing from me about those two books soon.

See ya later, folks!

Going Offline

Aside

Hello all! This is just a quick note to let you know I’ll be offline for the next few days.  Or, five days to be exact.  I am going to Yellowstone National Park with a friend of mine, and I’m not bringing my laptop, which I’m going to be completely out of touch until I get back on Tues, July 3rd.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it. It’ll kind of be like a detox.  I don’t think I’ve been offline for more than a few hours at time in like… a year… or something.

And my flight is at 6am. Which means I’m waking up at 3:30am to get to the airport on time. Oh God, WHY did I do that to myself???!!!

*sigh*

Okay, anyway, I’ll catch up with you all when I get back.  I hope you can keep yourselves entertained until then. :D

Rest assured there will be plenty of photos to share when I return.  See ya then!  Bye!

Blog Update

Hey there, folks! As you can probably tell, I’ve made just a few changes to the blog.  Mostly cosmetic.  Just to give you a quick rundown:

I changed the theme to Twenty Eleven, because I was looking for something more streamlined and also more versatile.  I changed the header image.  I still love the other image, which was done by my friend Denny (whose website, Insanesoft, is over there in the Links list), but I decided I wanted something that better reflected me personally and the wide range of topics I tend to ramble about on this blog, so my great great friend, Nathan Wilson, kindly agreed to create this new header image for free (I tried to pay him, but of course he wouldn’t let me).

I’ve slightly updated the “About” page, and added a new page that contains a list (a short one) of the few articles and things I’ve had published so far.  Hopefully that list will continue to grow over the next couple years.  *fingers crossed*

I also streamlined the categories I used, and went through EVERY SINGLE POST to update both the categories and tags.  And I’ve added a category drop down list to the sidebar.

The next thing I need to do is update the blogroll.  I feel bad because there are a number of blogs I follow that have not made it onto the blogroll (I haven’t updated the thing in months and months!), but that’s next on the agenda and hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend.

I hope you like the new look to the blog.  I haven’t made too many changes in terms of content.  I’ll still be rambling about all the things I have been.  However, as you may have noticed over the last couple months, I’m not really holding myself to that 3 posts a week schedule I tried so hard to keep up with last year.  With my schedule, it was simply untenable.  So, if you all don’t mind too much, I’m just going to go with the flow for now.  I will post as often as I can (and I know it’s been a week now, sorry), but I’ll post when I actually have something interesting to share and some energy to share, as well.  I’m not going to force it right now.  Quite frankly, between school work and teaching, working on rewrites for Midnight’s Knife, the blog, and myriad other things I’m involved in, I’ve lost a lot of my energy.  So I’m trying to find a way to make this work for me, in a way that will allow to keep up both my energy and my interest, and hopefully, therefore, keep things interesting for you as well.

Hopefully, I’ll have something new posted in the next few days.  Thanks for sticking around as long as you have, and have a great rest of the week!

Aside

Yes, I saw Prometheus.  Yes, I finished Fool Moon.  Yes, I watched the first ep of Sherlock ssn 2. No, I have not written a blog post about any of these things.  Sorry.  I’ll be back in a few days, hopefully, when I’ve stopped having anxiety attacks and fits of laying on my bed for hours staring at the ceiling for no apparent reason.  Sorry.

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

A Letter from Your Host:

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I saw you last!  I’ve been gone far too long, and for that apologize.  As my previous posts have made clear, this past semester nearly did me in.  I’m rather disappointed with myself, actually.  During the Fall semester I managed to keep mostly on top of my blogging despite my PhD study and teaching, but for some reason I just could not do it this semester.  In my defense, it has been universally agreed among my fellow English grad students at UH that this semester was especially heinous for some reason we can’t identify.  For some reason the workload, the time-crunch, the number of things going wrong, the stress, were all WAY worse than usual.  Bad juju. Gypsy curse.  Karma biting us in the ass.  I have no idea.

Anyway, the semester officially ended for me a week ago.  I wrapped up three papers (I got an A- on one which I am particularly bitter – an A- is grad work is about equivalent with a B-, maybe even a C, in undergrad work, and I know for a fact that the prof simply did not AGREE with my argument).  I graded an enormous stack of freshman papers, and turned in my grades to the department.

The same day I turned in my grades, my mother graduated, receiving an Master of Science degree in Technology Projects Management, with a focus in Future Studies (pictures of which I have been forbidden to put online because my mother is paranoid about the internet, despite – or because of – being a computer programmer/engineer).

That was two Fridays ago.

I have spent the last week wrapping up a last bit of work as part of the editing staff of University of Houston English Department’s literature journal Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature.  It’s our second year doing the journal, so we’re still getting the hang of things, but we’re pretty proud of it.  It is free and (as far as I know) you don’t need an account to view it, so please feel free to take a look.  It showcases the work of my fellow graduate students, and is affiliated with the graduate student conference I mentioned early in the semester.

I also spent the last week with my mother, who took a week off her day-job to celebrate graduating and get a little bit of a vacation.  We’ve been up to a lot this past week, and it’s too much to cover in one post so I’m spreading some of the fun out over the next few days to stretch my blogging-muscles and get back into the swing of things.

Besides spending a lot of money at the mall as a belated birthday present to myself (my birthday was May 6th, right in the middle of finals, so I didn’t have much chance to celebrate), there were several highlights: a trip to Brenham, TX where Blue Bell ice-cream is made, my mother’s birthday (which was May 18th), and seeing the Irish alternative rock band Snow Patrol in concert (but more on all of that tomorrow, and probably Wednesday).

I have a lot of plans for this summer that I’ll probably be sharing with you as well.  I intend to start revising Midnight’s Knife, the novel I wrote a first-draft of last summer.  I want to start practicing the piano again (I say this every summer, and I always do for a while before it falls away again).  my mother bought me a fantastic painter’s easel for my birthday and I’m going to start drawing (again) and painting (which will be a bit new, despite a little experience from high school).  I have an ENORMOUS stack of books I want to read (I started Hunger Games – FINALLY – on Friday afternoon, and finished it on Saturday night).  And I’ll be doing a bit of traveling as well.

On top of that, I am planning to sit down and build a new syllabus/curriculum for my freshman writing course, which will incorporate a lot of student-blogging.  I was not at all happy with my performance as a teacher this semester.  I mean, I was admittedly extremely busy with PhD stuff, and I still did okay by my students – I didn’t completely slack off or anything.  But I had much more trouble this semester staying on top of things, and keeping my students engaged.  I firmly believe that what I do is important, but that only remains true if I do a good job, put serious effort energy into it, and I did not do as good a job as I could have this semester.  That’s going to change in the Fall.

I also have some ideas for ways I want to change-up the blog.  And I’ll be frank, that’s not so much for the benefit of you, my readers, as it is for my benefit.  To keep myself moving, to keep myself interested, to find a focus or a rhythm or whatever that will work for me, and will hopefully make it possible for me to keep this up through the Fall semester when things have gone upside-down-wacko again.  I’m fiddling with some ideas/plans, and I’m waiting on one major component before these changes will begin to take shape.  But I’ll keep you in formed about that.

In the meantime, I hope I didn’t lose too many of you during my extended absence, and I hope I can keep you entertained over the summer at the very least.  I’ll see you tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Amanda

After-Christmas Update

After-Christmas Update:

1)     A couple weeks ago, I wrote a review of Terri G. Long’s novel In Leah’s Wake as part of a blog tour run by Novel Publicity.  For that review, I won best blog entry, and received a $100 Amazon gift card as a prize!  It was very very cool, and I am very grateful to the folks at Novel Publicity for choosing me.

2)     This week I participated in another blog tour run by Novel Publicity, this time for Farsighted, a YA fantasy novel by Emlyn Chand (who also happens to be the very awesome president of Novel Publicity).  If you haven’t seen those posts yet, please check out this author interview from Monday, and my review of Farsighted from Wednesday.  On both posts you can find information about entering to win prizes.  Today (Friday) is the last day to participate, so don’t wait!

3)     I had a wonderful Christmas.  Christmas Eve at one aunt and uncle’s house.  Christmas at my house with my mother and brother (I made Coq Au Vin for Christmas dinner, and it turned out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.  And we went to the movies to see Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows).  And Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), also at my house, with my grandmother and another aunt and uncle, for which my mother and I made ham with all the usual side dishes.

4)     I received a $250 Amazon gift card from my father and stepmother for Christmas, and I am going to have a BLAST spending it all (especially in conjunction with the $100 I already received from the blog tour prize). ^__^

5)     I also received a record player, which I’d been begging my mother for.  I’ve been playing the records I already have almost to death, and it’s definitely time to add to my little collection.  Thankfully, I just learned of a decent-sized records store not too far from where I live, so my brother and I are planning a trip to spend more money. ^__^

6)     For next week, I should be back to my usual blogging schedule: Science/Fantasy Monday, Bookworm Wednesday, and Free-For-All Friday.  I’ll have another book review for you on Wednesday, as I have just finished reading Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  I was thinking about doing a review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie too, but I’m not sure how many people care.  I guess we’ll see…

7)     I should be making more minor (and possibly not-so-minor, depending on how things go) changes around the blog in the next couple weeks.

Okay, that’s all from me for now.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and/or Holiday of your choice (^_^), and I wish you all a Happy New Year!  I’ll see you all in 2012!

Let Me Explain…

Let me explain…  No, there is too much. Let me sum up (bonus points to anyone who knows what that’s from):

1)     On Friday, Dec 9th, having completed one 20pg paper, one 10pg paper, one portfolio with various elements, one 20 min presentation, a final French translation project, graded approximately 50 student papers of various lengths, and compiled my final grades, I reached the official end of my first semester as a PhD student.  And survived!

2)     I spent yesterday (Saturday, Dec 10th) with my grandmother, as I had been too busy over the last month and a half to go visit her.

3)     I spent most of today (Sunday, Dec 11th) trying to clean the house, which became excessively messy and cluttered over the semester, so that I can start putting up Christmas decorations.  I will probably be cleaning and/or decorating all this upcoming week especially since we are Christmas-crazy in this house and I have four (count them, FOUR) Christmas trees.

4)     Beginning tomorrow (Monday, Dec 12th) I am participating in a series of blog tours with Novel Publicity. The first is for Terri Giuliano Long’s debut novel, In Leah’s Wake.  I am about halfway through the book myself (having started reading it the MINUTE I wrapped up my grading on Friday afternoon), and should have my own review up in a day or two.  The second is for Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch.  And third is for Emlyn Chand’s Ya novel Farsighted.

5)     I am planning some time over the next week or two to revamp a few things on the blog.  I’ll keep you updated on that.

6)     I have a list of 20 books I’m hoping to get through over winter break.  I probably won’t make it through even half of them, but I’m allowed to dream.  Be prepared for plenty of book reviews over the next month or two.

7)     I am also planning to get back to writing over Winter break.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to work on the story I started (and didn’t get far with) for NaNoWriMo 2011, or get back to editing Midnight’s Knife.  We’ll see.

In short, the hiatus is over.  I’ll be around for regular posting times again (MWF), through winter break.  When the Spring semester starts in mid-January I may have to adjust my schedule, but we’ll see what happens when we get there.  I look forward to getting back into the swing of things here, and to hearing from all you lovely folks again.  So please feel free to stop on by when you can.  The next few weeks are going to be fun!

Rearranging the Furniture

I’m rearranging the furniture around here.

Here’s a quick note to let you know that I’ve made a few changes to the blog.  Nothing too major.  I added a blogroll in the sidebar.  I’ve changed the tagline.  I’ve written a new “About” Page with more information.  And, in order to help me keep up with blogging during the semester, I am modifying my blogging schedule and beginning themed blog days.

Here are the themes I will be sticking to (or at least trying) from now on:

Science/Fantasy Mondays: I will write about science, fantasy/scifi, and the places were the two intersect.  This could come in the form of talking about anything from books to movies to scientists who inspire me, to science articles I find, and fantasy/scifi motifs.

Bookworm Wednesdays: This will be my book day, when I will write book reviews, talk about books I loved as a child or the books I’m currently reading, perhaps the books I’m writing, and maybe (hopefully) someday even author interviews (though there’s little chance of that at the moment).

Free-For-All Fridays: Exactly as it sounds, this is my free day, and absolutely any topic is up for grabs.  I love many things about the world and have a vast array of interests, which could be reflected here.  You’ll probably also see personal updates and academic-related things here.

Apologies

Some may have noticed that I didn’t have a blog posted on Monday.  Nor do I currently have one prepared for today.  I apologize for falling behind like this, but a situation decided to blow up in my face on Monday and I’m still trying to pick up all the little pieces.  So I’ve been very busy and very stressed out.  Today is beginning to look like it might quiet down a bit, so I should hopefully have my usual Wednesday post up sometime this afternoon or evening.

I would appreciate it if you’d stop by again this evening.  Thank you.