Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die – How Well Have I Done?

I saw this on Hannah J. Russel’s book blog. I decided to see how well I did!

Title

Read?

Author

To Kill A Mockingbird Yes Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The Diary of a Young Girl Yes Anne Frank
1984 Yes George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Yes J K Rowling
Lord of the Ring Trilogy Yes J R R Tolkein
The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald
Charlotte’s Web Yes E B White
Little Women Yes Louisa May Alcott
The Hobbit Yes J R R Tolkein
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Jane Eyre Yes Charlotte Bronte
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
Animal Farm Yes George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye J D Salinger
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Yes Mark Twain
The Help Yes Kathryn Stockett
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Yes C S Lewis
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief Markus Zusak
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Night Elie Wiesel
Hamlet Yes William Shakespeare
A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
A Wrinkle in Time Yes Madeleine L’Engle
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Yes Douglas Adams
A Christmas Carol Yes (Was Scrooge in a play, actually) Charles Dickens
Of Mice and Men Yes John Steinbeck
The Secret Garden Yes Frances Hodgson Burnett
Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare
The Handmaid’s Tale Yes Margaret Atwood
Brave New World Yes Aldous Huxley
The Little Prince Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Where the Sidewalk Ends Yes Shel Silverstein
Wuthering Heights Yes Emily Bronte
The Giver Yes Lois Lowry
Anne of Green Gables Yes E M Montgomery
Macbeth Yes (Def fave Willy Shakes play) William Shakespeare
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Yes Mark Twain
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Yes J K Rowling
Frankenstein Yes Mary Shelley
The Bible Yes Various
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Steig Larsson
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
The Fault in Our Stars John Green
The Colour Purple Alice Walker
East of Eden John Steinbeck
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
Catch 22 Yes Joseph Heller
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
The Stand Stephen King
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Watership Down Yes x like 12 Richard Adams
Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Ender’s Game Yes Orson Scottcard
Great Expectations Yes Charles Dickens
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Yes J K Rowling
The Old Man and the Sea Yes Ernest Hemingway
A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
The Princess Bride Yes William Goldman
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Yes Roald Dahl
The Life of Pi Piin Elama
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet
Les Miserables Victor Hugo
The Scarlet Letter Yes Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dracula Yes Bram Stoker
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Yes J K Rowling
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
The Raven Yes Edgar Allen Poe
The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
Outlander Diana Gabaldon
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Good Earth Pearl S Buck
The Time Traveler’s Wife Yes Audrey Niffenegger
The Odyssey Yes (if reading it in Latin counts) Homer
Celebrating Silence Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
And Then There Were None Agatha Christie
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
The Thorn Birds Colleen McCullough
The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls
Mockingjay Suzanne Collins
The Things They Carried Yes Tim O’Brien
The Road Cormac McCarthy
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Siddhartha Yes Hermann Hesse
Beloved Toni Morrison
The Story of my Life Helen Keller
Phantom Tollbooth Yes Norton Juster
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler E L Konigsburg
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As of 4/29/2019, I’ve read 47 of the 100 books. Granted, a lot of them I read in high school, so I don’t remember a ton about them. Still – as a good Southerner, I should have read Gone with the Wind! Shame!

Did I Commit and Submit a Short Story?

Last month, I repeatedly talked about how I wanted to submit a short story to a journal or anthology.  Well, I dragged my feet about it, but I submitted on April 30th, not too many hours before the deadline for my goal.

Jingle Bells

I ended up submitting my short story, Watching You, to The Dark magazine of horror and dark fantasy.  I read a few of their stories, and I thought mine was appropriate for the magazine.  That being said, a lot (but not all!) of their recent stuff had a Hispanic flavor, but I thought I had a chance.  The Dark was a higher level journal than the one I had originally identified for the story to go to, and I thought perhaps I should aim high then try somewhere else later if it failed.

What was more?

It has a reply time of a single day.  That would give me enough time to look the story over again and submit it to the anthology I had first identified without breaking simultaneous submission rules.

So I have my first rejection letter!  And I only seriously wanted to die for like 6 hours after I got it!  I’m not feeling very good right now, and I’m not sure if I even want to make the goal to submit another short story this month.

I’m seriously wondering if I’m cut out for this.  I know it’s just one rejection, and people are going to tell me things like “Oh, you have to do this if you want to be a writer,” but… well, that stuff makes me wonder if I want to be a writer.  Get used to wanting to die?  Get used to feeling like a worthless sack of poop that isn’t good at their passion?  I don’t like that!  It can’t be about that!

I don’t talk about it much on the blog because I don’t think people want to hear me whine about how I’m a f*cking lunatic, but I do have pretty crippling mental issues.  If you’ve ever wondered why I’m such a butthole on Twitter, it’s because I’m usually depressed, and not just a little depressed.  I am seeing professional help, but it’s a really rough time to live in my head.  That submission and rejection didn’t help.  I might actually be too depressed to handle this.

Right now, my goals are to not quit, to eventually eat again (self-punishment garbage that I know from an intellectual standpoint is stupid, but from an emotional standpoint I can’t get over), and to do some reading.  Maybe soon I’ll be able to submit something new (or even submit the same story to a different journal), but right now I’ve got to repair the ol’ cylinders.

Gettin’ Mad Political

This is for Chelsea Owen’s 22nd Terrible Poetry Contest.  The prompt was to write an acrostic about a person you hate, and boy do the depths of my disdain for people in real life reach some fantastic proportions.

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In order to assuage the sensibilities of my rather calm, easily embarrassed beloved spouse, I will avoid talking about how I wasn’t sorry that my enemy got cancer.  Instead, I’m going to write about two men who I despise politically.

When he was asked to look back over his presidency and speak of his regrets, Andrew Jackson responded:

I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.

Henry Clay

He looks like a dead opossum
E
xcept with much less hair
N
ever won a duel in his life
R
otten butthole of a man
Y
outhful joy never became him

Corrupt bargains were his specialty
L
ost more elections than Nader
A
llied with gilded corruption
Y
our political party is dead

John C. Calhoun

Just a rotten son of a gun
Obsolete before he was born
H
air was an absolute mess
Nullification was the sword he fell on

Campaigned against himself

Carolina was his weapon
Attempted to dissolve the union
Lied about Adams and Monroe
How ’bout that Vice Presidency?
Oh, you did nothing?
Until you became a traitor?
Nullification was so stupid

Dog Ghandi

I had a lot of dogs growing up, mostly because my parents didn’t do a terribly good job taking care of them and my brother and I were crappy to boot.  When I was in middle school, my mom took us to get our second Pomeranian.  I remember seeing that little ball of fur at the top of the stairs when we went to get him at the breeder’s.  I remember looking at my brother’s face and feeding off how his eyes lit up.  We all knew that dog would be coming home with us.

Spud was one of 2 pups to survive in the litter.  Born extremely prematurely, each about the size of a thumb, few of the pups were expected to survive – and some didn’t.  His premature birth meant he had bug-eyes and terrible vision, and he never had great constitution.

Pomeranian Dog

Basically Gandhi

This is a brief set of flashes about Spud.

Johnny Fever

Johnny Fever was a brilliant, ruby-colored betta fish.  He lived in a tiny betta tank, and we’d entertain him with a mirror and food and sometimes let him watch our finger move around outside the tank.  He had a Gary the Snail toy inside the tank.

Johnny Fever, however, had other ideas of how to entertain himself.  Like suicide.

He’d knock the light lid off his tank and struggle for freedom, flopping off his coffee table and onto the floor.  There he would gasp for breath, dying without water to deoxygenate.

Spud, who was allowed to wander the house, found Johnny Fever several times.  I remember how he just laid down and started crying until someone came and rescued the fish.  Not once did he touch the fish, not once did he test it with a lick.  He just laid down and cried actual doggy tears until someone came to rescue the fish.

Stuffed Animals

Spud loved stuffed animals.  A one-dollar animal bought at the dollar store would provide him with a year of comfort before it would finally become too dirty or damaged to withstand.  Stuffing was never purposefully removed.

Every morning, someone would put food out for Spud to eat.  He would thank the person graciously with a couple twirls, then pick up a few kibbles and bring them to each of his animals.  Once done distributing the goods, he would go eat the portion he’d saved for himself.  Of course, after that was completed, he’d come nuzzle an animal, worry about why it wasn’t eating, then consume the kibble he’d given them.

He did this almost every morning.

The Man with No Nose

My dad owned his own construction company.  It was a small business, and he built houses and artisan cabinetry by hand.  One of the employees he had while we owned Spud was a man who’d been to prison for hauling and selling cocaine, but papers and probation officers said he’d reformed.  I never saw the man in person, but everyone said he was missing part of his nose from where it’d burned up from all the cocaine.

One evening, my dad caught me slinking through the dark living room.  He sipped coffee in the room, all the lights off, and asked me if I loved my dog.  He gave me an offer, said that the Man with No Nose would give me $1,500 for that dog.

I said no – I loved my dog.

$2,000.  $3,000.  How much would I be willing to sell that dog for?  The little rat couldn’t be worth that.

I wanted my dog.  I wanted to come home after school and see the little thing, go on hikes through the woods, carry him when he got tired.  I wanted to watch Le Tour with him during the summers.  I wanted to comfort him during hunting season when guns echoed through the mountains.

He took another sip of his coffee and said I didn’t love that dog, that I was passing up a great deal.

Hugging

Some dogs don’t like when humans hug each other.  Spud was no exception.

When two people hugged within his (albeit rather limited) line of sight, he would cry and run up to them.  He’d paw at their legs and squirm, as best he could, into the middle of the hug.  Upon reaching the center of the hug, he would stop crying and accept that all was right in the world.

A lot of dogs don’t like hugs because they feel trapped, but Spud would reach up with his front paws and beg to be hugged.  He’d wrap his little arms around you, fall asleep on your lap, and cry out to be loved.  He was patient with even small children.

Few small dogs can say the same.

The Crows

We lived in the middle of nowhere, and crows flew around everywhere.  Crow season meant the air was rife with the sound of bullets as people mowed through the murders.

Not exceptional in our hunting skills or our dedication to crow shooting, the little hollar in which I lived was home to a large number of crows.  Crows, while not mockingbirds, are still pretty smart and have complex vocal chords.  After figuring out that our little dog wasn’t truly competition for tablescraps, they also found a way to copy his high-pitched bark and barked back.

Out of all the things that could disturb this little, nearly-blind dog, crows caused him more consternation than anything else.  Though he usually ignored TV, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation contained a holographic crow as part of Data’s imagination, and poor Spud flipped out.  Any crow, whether on TV or real life, would make him cry and bark.

After killing him, my father supposedly put him in a shallow grave.  The crows may have dug up parts of him, left the majority of the work for buzzards or coyotes.

I can’t stand that thought.

Soccer and Snowcones

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“Jim!” I shouted.  The doofus left the field without me and Squidge – what could he be thinking?  After soccer came snowcones – that is the vow all the moms make.  To have a mom that broke this sacred tradition is to openly announce that one is uncool to the max.  “Where you going, man?”

He turned around.  “Uh, dentist, man.  Dentist, yeah.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Dude, your mom’s not even here.  Just chill – why you want to get to the dentist so fast?  Come get snowcones, bro!”

He pretended like he couldn’t hear me and kept walking.

That was a long time ago, though.  If I’d kept my mouth shut over a $1 snowcone, Jim’s shoes wouldn’t have been noticed the next day at school.  If I’d just let his dentist excuse fly, maybe he’d have more friends.

I hear there’s free snowcones in heaven, Jim.

(145 Words)

***

This depressing mutha was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers #200.  Thanks to Yinglan, provider of the picture! 

This was not a true story, but I think most people have those moments where they regret what a dirtbag they were when they were younger.  I know who my ‘Jim’ was.

 

How To Start A Writing Blog and HAVE FUN

There’s plenty of ‘how to blog effectively’ articles out there, and you may be wondering, “Why should I take advice from someone who has ~300 followers?”

The reason I think you should care is that I feel those 300 followers is about average, perhaps a little more or less, to what you should expect after blogging in the writing community for about a year (which is where I am) with absolutely 0 online presence beforehand.

The main way to succeed at blogging is to not give up.  You may never get paid for it, and you may never get famous, but you will still gain from the experience.  Here’s how.

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What Blogging Can (Will) Get You

You can easily get articles about ‘how to direct traffic to your blog’ or stories about how people succeeded.  Some of that crap works, but in real life?  This Bo Burnham quote sums up my thoughts on most of that advice:

I would say don’t take advice from people like me who have gotten very lucky, we’re biased. You know, like Taylor Swift telling you to follow your dreams is like a lottery winner telling you, ‘Liquidize your assets, buy Powerball tickets, it works!’

— Bo Burnham on TBS’s Conan, 2016

bo burnham

The same can apply to advice from successful bloggers or, gasp, authors.  Sure, they put in the effort, they had skill, and they did what was necessary to start the process, but an element of luck plays into all of it. None of us are failures when luck or zeitgeist didn’t fall our way.

What you can really expect is to contact a few other dedicated bloggers or, in my case, author-bloggers.  You can expect to see more of what other people do, recognize what choices you have and what steps you need to take if you do want to chase a dream like publishing – either traditional or self-published.

What You Must Pay

While I believe having more than the free plan would help me grow my blog, direct monetary loss isn’t what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about payments of effort.  Time is something even free bloggers have to spend.

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When it comes to your own posts, you’ll figure out your balance of quality vs. quantity.  I decided to post every day for 3 months in 2018, and that was definitely when I got through the beginning slump – but posting every day isn’t necessary.  What is necessary, if you want to keep growing, is to just not quit. Keep commenting and reading even if you post once a week or once every 2 weeks.

This leads me into the other ‘payment’ – comments.  Likes are penny candy after a while, and you can’t be sure some of those people even read your stuff.  Try using the wp reader for a while – it’s way easier to like than it is to go to the website, load it, read it, then like it.  So yes, like, but also comment – comment like you think the poster is about to quit and you’re the only one who can prevent it.  Even if they don’t care about you in return, you did a good thing.  Start a conversation, be the reader you want other people to be.  Don’t depend on getting secret readers or stuff like that.

Eventually, commenting won’t feel so nerve-wracking.  You’ll just do it.  Right now I have a hard time commenting on popular blogs because I feel like I can’t add to an already illustrious conversation – but that’s not true, and I can get over that psychological block.

Also, don’t be an asshat in the comments.

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Have a Good Time

Warning: atypical advice ahead!

If you don’t enjoy blogging, don’t do it. It’s that simple. The chances of getting internet fame or causing your book sales to skyrocket are low, especially after a short time online. If you don’t enjoy the platform, try posting less often.  Try finding a type of post you like better.  Maybe try Twitter (which makes me a nervous wreck, but you can find me @hrrgorman) or Tumblr or Instagram.

If you don’t like blogging, you’ll require more comments, likes, and traffic to feel worthwhile. You might get them – it is possible – but that’s still got a lot of luck basis. If you don’t like blogging, really consider what your ‘final straw’ is. Don’t let online bs drag you down in real life. Have reasonable (aka low) expectations if you are a stat dependent creature.

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Do you have any tips for beginning bloggers?  Any questions about startup, fears about where your blog is going?  I’d love to have a chat in the comments, so meet me there!

In 2 weeks, I hope you’ll enjoy my post about writing prompts and how they are super useful to worm yourself into the writing community on WordPress!  Give me a follow if you’re interested!

By Knowledge or Faith

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When I was little, I celebrated the rays of the sun diffracting around clouds or through the branches of trees.  The angelic light spread like a halo around the object, and I thought it proof that some higher power were real.  This light from above had such a strange quality, one that wasn’t replicated daily or even weekly.

In college I learned of Snell’s law, of diffraction, angles, translucence, and wavelength.  A miracle, somewhat holy, became a set of numbers and laws.  The magic of cloud-halos was lost as the harsh loneliness of science and knowledge took its place.  The faith that God was there with me, showing his presence with the shape of the light, was no more.

But that doesn’t mean the faith never mattered.

(127 words)

***

This was written for the 199th FFfAW Challenge!  Thanks to Jody McKinney for her lovely, nostalgia-bringing picture. 

Remember Lot’s Wife

“Remember Lot’s wife?” Lance asked.  He rolled the wire cord out, taking careful steps as he laid it on the ground.  “God turned her to salt for lookin’ back.”

“That was Sodom and Gomorra, though, not the bowlin’ alley. You suppose God’d saltify us if we just take a last couple throws?” Despite his reluctance, Drew placed the charge mechanism on the ground and fed in Lance’s wire.

Lance sat down behind the blast shield. “Dunno ’bout that.  Place coulda been full of sin.”

Drew nodded. “Boss’ll be mad even if God isn’t. Help me run the final checks.”

ancient antique archaeology architecture

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

***

This was written for the January 3rd Carrot Ranch prompt – looking back.

Update on the wisdom teeth: trying not to get addicted to opioids, so I’m suffering through on ibuprofen right now. I still can’t feel my lips and part of my tongue, which is weird, and my mouth is so swollen I can hardly talk or eat.

Skeet Skeet

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It always burned my dog-hide that my little brother was more athletic than me.  It didn’t matter what game it was – whether football, basketball, bowling, or even shooting, he was always top notch whereas I was something much lower rung.

Every day after Thanksgiving, my extended family would get together and do some skeet shooting.  There was no winner, but there certainly were losers.  I was the lame-o nerd who ‘wasted expensive bullets’ and usually just threw some skeets.  Hell, even my cousin who smoked so much that he couldn’t run a lap around a football field could shoot better.  My grandpa who has super progressed glaucoma would laugh.

Every time I was forced to attend, the prayer slipped through my lips, dear Lord, why does the alternative to skeet shooting have to be shopping? 

(135 words)

***

This was a rather detailed picture to write a story about for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers #194!  Just in case family members from my Facebook read this, know that this was only loosely based off real life, and I’m not mad. 

Thanks to Yinglan for the picture!

Life Update

Cheerio, y’all!  I hope this week has been great for you.  Anyway, some things need to be said, just so it’s not left hanging.

I might not have been as responsive lately as I would have liked to been.  However, I’ve still managed to keep myself involved enough that I don’t think I’ve dropped off the face of the blogosphere, and I’ve tried to read stuff (even if I haven’t done my due diligence and commented).  People often claim things like “my real life is catching up to me,” and I think I’ve finally hit a point where I can actually say “I sympathize” and mean it.

Anyway, some updates I wanted to give:

  1. There’s a new type of post that I’m putting here on Sundays!  I made a relateddracula-1226357_640account for Dracula and am posting stories from ‘his’ account.  The idea is to have a humorous, weekly blog update from an evil, magical creature who’s honestly a bit of a blueberry cuntmuffin.  So, yeah, the Dracula stuff is written by me – but I’m only putting that admission here so that I can send potential naysers a short explanation.  He has purposefully terrible grammar, so we’ll see how that goes.
  2. I knew, even back in September, that November was going to be a rough month for me, so I didn’t plan anything NaNoWriMo related.  I had definitely hoped to get more writing done than I actually did, so that sucks. 😦
  3. I WOULD LOVE TO HELP BETA READ YOUR NaNo STUFF IF YOU NEED SOMEONE.  Things I’m good at include technobabble, anachronism catching, and spotting inconsistencies in worldbuilding (especially magical or technological lore). I’ll be ready to start on December 5th.
  4. Speaking of December 5th… I have a major deadline at work on the 4th.  That’s why you’re seeing this post in the first place. Work’s been making me feel like
    dr strangeloveAnd that suuuuucks.  But one day, when I’m a little farther removed from it, I’ll maybe tell the story of why it was so bad, haha.
  5. I’m not trying to ignore you!  If you’ve felt ignored by me recently and want some attention, please let me know in a comment or something.  I honestly don’t care too much about stats, but I want to make sure I stay in touch with the people I’ve become friends with.

Anyway, I hope that’s enough life update and not too boring.