100 Books, 100 Quotations – 2017

Last year I began a 100 books/100 quotes a year challenge to get myself out of a reading slump and to read outside of my preferred genres and age ranges. I continued this challenge into this year and just hit my 100 books!

I’ve slowly been poking at Goodreads to figure out how that all works, so you can follow me over there (authorialfuries) and keep watch for new books in that new little sidebar I added here. I’ll learn the ways of bookish internet eventually, I promise.

Before I drop the 100 books in here, let me mention some reading highlights this year. This was the Finally Reading V. E. Schwab Year and loving A Darker Shade of Magic as much as people were telling me I would. She also happened to do a signing at a bookstore near me and I was able to go! Totally worth the hour drive! Something I would suggest of literally anyone if they get the chance.  I went away wanting to write again. Looking back, this year seems to be the Year of Exciting Book Signings since I had the opportunity to see Roxane Gay! Once again, if you ever have the chance, listen to her speak and read everything you can. Both were wonderful, engaging signings. Bonus: Roxane Gay commented on our Toast totes and it was everything. I suddenly understood the phrase To Fangirl deep, deep in my heart..

Onto the 100 books!

(Note: I’ll add a new post at the end of the year to see how far past 100 I can read.)

  1. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely — “We tried to edge our way a little closer to the front line, and with all the camera crew hovering, and people watching us on their TVs back home, I wondered if anybody though what were doing was unpatriotic. It was weird. Thinking that to protest was somehow un-American. That was bullshit. This was very American, goddamn All-American.
  2. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand — “Sometimes before you can give someone help, the person has to ask you for it, because they have gotten really good at hiding what hurts them.”
  3. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan — “He is a prince, and I am a frog. A hairy frog that is due for an eyebrow wax and breast reduction, with a sexual orientation that will get this frog imprisoned sooner or later.”
  4. Beast by Brie Spangler — “I can’t be the prince, can’t be a bodyguard, definitely do not want to be the Man, and now even being a friend feels all shot up with holes. Don’t quite know what that leaves me, but it feels like nothing.”
  5. Yes Please by Amy Poehler — “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate.”
  6. The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne — “Before my brain could catch up with my mouth and shut it down, I said it. The idea. The only possible solution.”
  7. Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi — “But now the elf princess had turned into a pumpkin. Prince Charming had faded into the virtual night. Reality had set back in. I felt like crying, but I was too proud to allow the tears to fall.”
  8. The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Abigail Halpin — “Or he could be attacked by a bear or he could freeze to death, but those are endings that don’t usually happen in kid’s books. Adult books are probably different because they don’t worry about terrible endings.”
  9. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab — “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”
  10. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab — “She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.”
  11. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab — “Anoshe brought solace. And hope. And the strength to let go.”
  12. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman — “I hope none of you are here for answers. Authors are notoriously bad at answers. No, that’s not right. We’re not bad at them. We come up with answers all the time, but our answers tend to be unreliable, person, anecdotal and highly imaginative.”
  13. The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds by Julie Zickefoose — “In winter, when they’re gobbling down the suet dough I mix up for the birds I want at my feeders, I think of a starling as nothing more than a capacious digestive tract propelled by a set of triangular wings.”
  14. Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck — “Not everyone has the time, yard space, fertile soil, or inclination to plant a tree, but everyone can learn to appreciate and cook with fresh fruit. When you crunch into a crisp apple on a blustery fall day, or eye a basket of burnished nectarines, part of what you consume is the grower’s story.”
  15. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss — “‘I am a myth,” Kote said easily, making an extravagant gesture. ‘A very special kind of myth that creates itself. The best lies about me are the ones I told.’”
  16. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman — “‘Because,’ said Thor, ‘when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.’”
  17. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner — “I hadn’t wanted to be a soldier. I’d become a thief instead, to avoid the killing. See where that had gotten me.”
  18. Bestiary by Donika Kelly — “Love Poem: Pegasas/ Foaled, fully grown, from my mother’s neck,/ her severed head, the silenced snakes. Call this/ freedom.”
  19. Quarter Life Poetry: Poems for the Young, Broke and Hangry by Samantha Jayne — “They say in your twenties/ each moment is priceless/ if each moment isn’t/ an existential crisis.”
  20. Love is the Pain of Feverish Flowers by Kwon Cheonhak, translated by Kim Hana — “I will send with the wind/ the thing which will be gone with the wind”
  21. Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 200-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week by Ursula K. Le Guin — “Imagination is not a means of making money. It has no place in the vocabulary of profit-making. It is not a weapon, though all weapons originate from it, and their use, or non-use, depends on it, as with all tools and their uses.”
  22. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas — “Calaena hit the landing, ran for the tomb door, and prayed to gods whose names she’d forgotten, but who she hoped had not yet forgotten her.”
  23. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis — “That look said, without the need for words: You will never be impressive enough to be worthy of my attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any fireballs to belch into this woman’s face in answer.”
  24. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab — “My thumb traces over the words, The wind is lonely.
  25. The 13 Clocks by James Thurber — “‘I hope,’ the Golux said, ‘that this true. I make things up, you know.’”
  26. Roses and Rot by Kat Howard — “So I had put together a portfolio, written my artist’s statement– an activity that always made me feel like I was writing some strange manifesto that had nothing to do with why I actually wrote– and sent in my application.”
  27. Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough — “Uh-oh. When I start noticing the length of shadows on the floorboards, I know I’ve entered that psychological state my father likes to call the Self-Pity Parade. It begins with a hypersensitivity to tacky cliches of despair like long shadows and howling dogs.”
  28. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel by Mark Haddon — “I find people confusing. This is for two main reasons. The first main reason is that people do a lot of talking without using any words.”
  29. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald — “Ever now and again a pair of big gray eyes peeped up over the edge of the book, like a prairie dog sticking its head up to check whether the coast was clear.”
  30. It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt — “This is what it looked like when the sun finally came up. I was tired, we both were, but we did it anyway.”
  31. I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil — “What was wrong with everyone?”
  32. The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey, illustrated by Sfe R. Monster — “Being despised is exhausting.”
  33. To the Sea by Cale Atkinson — “It’s not everyday you meet a friend.”
  34. Siren Sisters by Dana Langer — “Like most of our family stories, I don’t know all the facts and details. It’s the curse of the youngest sibling.
  35. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella — “The truth is, if you don’t communicate with anyone new, ever, at all, then you lose the knack.”
  36. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell — “It would please Lafayette that the pleasant patch of grass bearing his name is where all sorts of splittist, foreign and domestic, routinely air their grievances. After all, the only reason a there’s a statue of him staring at the White House is because as a teenager he defied his father-in-law’s edict to settle into a boring job at the French court, explaining afterward, ‘I did not hesitate to be disagreeable to preserve my independence.’”
  37. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — “That night when I replayed our introductions over and over in my head, I realized that he didn’t flinch when I called myself fat. And I liked that.”
  38. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor — “‘Tribal’: that’s what they called humans from ethnic groups too remote and ‘uncivilized’ to regularly send students to attend Oomza Uni.”
  39. Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson — “The Dowayo people of Cameroon in Africa have special forms of pottery for different people (a child’s bowl would look different from one belonging to a widow), and there are taboos against eating from another person’s designated food pot.”
  40. Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar – “Sherzad stepped back. ‘I’ll miss you. Remember to sleep where you can see the stars, baji. No matter what you’ve been through, the lights in the night sky will always sooth away the day’s pain.”
  41. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson — “That night I can’t sleep. I can’t stop thinking about how I’ll never experience what Livvy’s experiencing tonight. It’s a biological impossibility so unfair it makes my entire body throb.”
  42. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill — “It was the first lie she ever told. Even though the words were true.”  
  43. Cinder by Marissa Meyer — “With a yank of the last wire, her foot clattered to the concrete.”
  44. Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall — “I have– I hate myself even as I think the word– a crush.  I have a crush on my best friend. I have become a teen rom-com cliche. There is no hope for me.”
  45. Wrecked by Maria Padian — “Her roommate shakes with silent sobs. Haley just holds on. She doesn’t know how long.”
  46. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher — “I watched her go. I felt a bizarre mixture of friendship, lust, fear, pity, lust, confusion, panic, and lust.”
  47. Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman — “I’m not sure exactly how she will interpret this request as a personal attack, but I’m sure she has it in her.”
  48. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp — “I never realized that courage was so terrifying.”
  49. 10 Things I Can See from Here by Carrie Mac — “There would be no keeping calm and carrying on. There would be panic, and reeling backward.”
  50. A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind: How to Be “Normal” in Your Twenties with Anxiety and Depression by Emily Reynolds — “I felt like my identity was so wrapped up in my unhappiness that I wouldn’t be anything without it. If I was happy, or at the very least not unhappy, there’d be nothing to me.”
  51. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente, Illustrated by Annie Wu — “We call ourselves the Hell Hath Club. There’s a lot of us. We’re mostly very beautiful and very well-read and very angry. We have seen some shit.”
  52. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown — “The whole being-gay-and-a-preacher’s-daughter thing comes with some weird mixed messaging– Jesus Loves You. Well, maybe not you. It’s been a constant internal struggle, having grown up in a religious household, desperately wanting to believe in the great goodness all around me, yet hearing so much hate even when my dad did his best to shield me.”
  53. The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash — “I smile down at her. ‘Then I wish I was in one of your stories.’ And who wouldn’t wish that? Certainly everyone here– dressed up as aliens, and wizards, and zombies, and superheroes– wants desperately to be inside a story, to be part of something more logical and meaningful than real life seems to be.”
  54. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley — “Now he knew it to be absolutely true: He had a friend. And he was terrified of her.”
  55. Draw The Line by Laurent Linn — “Like blood, ink is miraculous. Whether confined in a pen or free on a brush, it spreads and builds, giving my drawings life.”
  56. How To Success!: A Writer’s Guide to Fame and Fortune by Corinne Caputo — “Delete unnecessary clutter words like “a,” “and,” and “the.” Grab the Reader’s Attention.”
  57. D.I.Y. Magic: A Strange & Whimsical Guide to Creativity by Anthony Alvarado — “As you mosey along, divide up the length of the walk, block by block into the different eras of your life.”
  58. Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras — “prose, purple: Purple prose– the art of writing prose so ornate, so flowery, and so overweighted with frills that the reader not only gets exhausted but also feels as though he o she is being smothered in highly scented velvet curtains– is a time-honored hallmark of wretched writing.”
  59. Writing Monsters: How to Craft Believably Terrifying Creatures to Enhance Your Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction by Philip Athans — “Monsters are scariest when they’re revealed in pieces, and scarier still when revealed slowly.”
  60. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman — “Spoons are excellent. Sort of like forks, only not as stabby.”
  61. Pukawiss the Outcast by Jay Jordan Hawke — “Just when you thought she was done with her tirade, she’d hit you with a prolonged diatribe, wrapped in a sermon, and topped off with a tedious dose of scripture.”
  62. Haffling by Caleb James — “ ‘There is no fair,’ I said. ‘It’s just a made-up thing.’ She looked at me. There were tears in the corners of her eyes. ‘I know that, but someone your age shouldn’t.’”
  63. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli — “She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.”
  64. Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Divya Srinivasan — “One day a tiger came to the palace. He was huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god though the world, which is how tigers move.”
  65. The Pants Project by Cat Clarke — “Sexist. Dumb. Unfair. Even the moms agreed with me. Mom said she hadn’t worn a skirt since her cousin’s wedding back in the nineties.”
  66. The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian — “I tried to distract myself from my anger by taking out a notebook and a pencil, and beginning a family tree.”
  67. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness — “The indie kids, huh? You’ve got them at your school, too. That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the thrift shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something.”
  68. A World of Cake: 150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions From Cultures Near and Far by Krystina Castella — “Cakes are rich with meaning and symbolism, inspired by the celebrations that surround them.”
  69. The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich — “Death by incineration is a thing of nightmares, but life for a successful Love Interest isn’t exactly a happily ever after. After winning, the Love Interest needs to be a perfect partner to prevent his Chosen from ever moving on.”
  70. Perfect 10 by L. Philips — “The witch sits across from me, gnawing on Cheez-Its, practically bouncing up and down with excitement on the cafeteria bench.”
  71. Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica — “He had had enough therapy over the years to come away with the idea that everyone was fundamentally neurotic.”
  72. A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica — “Being married to a slave-owning, sociopathic, court-appointed killer might make me pissy, too.
  73. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren — “But if a tree falls in the woods, maybe it makes no sound. And if a boy falls for the bishop’s closeted son, maybe it makes no story.”
  74. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso — “America’s first apple trees were planted from seeds, cuttings, and small plants brought by the Jamestown settlers to the New World in the early 1600s.”
  75. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon — “Dimple thought of Insomnia Con, of Jenny Lindt, of SFSU, of Stanford. Of all the things she’d jeopardize if she called Ritu auntie a backward, antifeminist blight on democratic society.”
  76. The Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle — “It’s depressing how my dog is a better human being than I am.”
  77. Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones — “Time to come forth and fight.”
  78. Best Enemies by Jane Heller — “Cardinal rule in publishing: Never tell an author the truth.”
  79. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer — “It would be easy to abuse a person when they never recognized it as abuse.”
  80. Poison by Sarah Pinborough — “What was this need to be seen as benevolent? If you were going to be cruel, then admit it. Embrace it. Anything else was just self delusion and weakness.”
  81. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, Katie Kath — “You know that chicken I told you about? It can use the Force.”
  82. Geekerella by Ashley Poston — “Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.”
  83. Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner — “I can spot an underemployed lazy intellectual anywhere.”
  84. Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn — “Was that personal growth or insanity?”
  85. The Best Man by Richard Peck — “We thought he was weird. He thought we were weird. It was great. It was what multiculturalism ought to be.”
  86. Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee — “‘Awkward’ — what an awkward word. It sounded like the cry of a giant scraggly bird. AWK. WARD. AWK. WARD.”
  87. Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee — “I never knew how to answer this. Because the question really was: SO ARE YOU GOING TO DIE? And usually I wanted to answer: YES, I AM. EVENTUALLY. AND SO ARE YOU, IDIOT.”
  88. The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo  –”Zot wanted that color too…”
  89. Inked by Eric Smith — “Growing up as ‘the orphan with the mysterious past,’ I’d become accustomed to those kind of looks, and the whispered bits of gossip, surrounding me and my grandmother, just two outcasts living on the outskirts of town.”
  90. The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith — “Your name isn’t Robert Jordan and you’re not writing the Wheel of Time series. Short and sweet, my friend.”
  91. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs — “White Knight Trolls can sometimes morph into Nice Guy Trolls who believe that women are just vending machines that you put Nice into until Sex falls out. They are mistaken.”
  92. A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Chris Appelhaus — “A round hound, a grey dog, a round little hound dog. / A greyhog, a ground dog, a hog little hound dog”
  93. Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell With Your Coven by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman — “The greatest one-word spell: “no”
  94. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla, Julie McLaughlin — “Now when you ask, ‘How are you, Charlie?’ I will say ‘Fine,’ even if I’m not fine, even if I know this amazing thing about starlings that would fascinate you to hear, instead of just hearing the boring old word: ‘fine.’ But if that is what people want, then fine. Okay. I’m fine.”
  95. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan — “I try to imagine her with a name i associate with Swiss cartoon characters or a famous supermodel- not my twelve-year-old Korean best friend.”
  96. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle — “Quinn, your life story is starting to turn into a documentary that people would walk out of because it’s both too sad and too slow.”   
  97. Into White by Randi Pink — “Black skin was filled with so many barriers, so many restrictions, so many.”   
  98. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani — “That pashmina will allow women to see their choices. You shall no longer be bound by fear.”
  99. Slider by Pete Hautman — “If you ever feel the desire to be completely and utterly miserable, I recommend two pizzas followed by an entire head of raw cabbage, eaten as quickly as possible.”
  100. One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman — “Shh, I thought at my brain, because I was never going to get any sleep with it making so much noise.”
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Worldbuilding: Healthcare

If your character broke their leg how would they mend it? If they have a cough who would they see to heal it? If they had depression who could they talk to? Would they staunch their own wounds and hope for the best?

Healing can be confined to the few.

Healing can be given to all.

Your world, your rules.

Medicine can be easily accessible or it can be only for the the wealthy. There could be an underground for doctors and nurses. Healing could be taken from the people as a punishment. Medicine could keep people compliant– given out only as a reward. How does your government heal their people? Or does the government ignore the needs of its people?

Who has the power?

Sickness could shatter a person’s wealth as much as their health– keeping those without money from seeking out what they need. A cure could be too expensive for the common people. What do people sell to afford their life? What is the cost of just one band aid?

If you are writing a book with magic, is healing in the hands of magic-users or in the hands of scientists, or somewhere in between? Witches could brew up a potion to alleviate cramps. Wizards could charm a prosthetic to grow with a child. Mages could ward against malaria. Sorcerers could spell against seasonal affective disorder. Healers could treat gender dysphoria, sculpting bodies by magic.

Is the child mortality rate high? Is a pregnancy ripe with fear for the mother and the child? Is birth control accessible to all who need it? Is it available to people who are biologically female or male?  Hidden in back alleys, mages script a morning after spell because it’s disallowed by the crown. Witches create coven of midwives. Wizards draw protective runes across bellies.

Is mental health seen as a stigma? Do empaths work as counselors guiding their patients? Or are people left to suffer in silence, their minds betraying them, while pretending nothing is wrong?

Consider what sort of world you want to build.

What sort of world do you want your story to unfold in?

 

Worldbuilding: Birth, Death, and Cake

Imagine the scene: You, face alight with a fiery glow. Light flickers across your face, eyes closed in concentration as you focus your will. Onlookers chant in cadence. A rhythmic beat of friends and family surrounds you. Sibilant syllables flow around you hissing out your name. You take in a breath– a single breath. The chant grows. You release your will and your breath together. Smoke curls up in soft coils in front of you. Finally, finally the chant fades away. Taken up into the void by swirling smoke. You dive forward, glistening knife held in your hand, to begin the yearly sacrifice. You devour what is before you. Your year begins anew.

Or, you know, a traditional American birthday.

Cheers.

Unless you are a celestial being spawned from of primordial ooze, you have a birthday. I suppose even if you are a celestial being spawned from primordial ooze, you have a spawned from ooze day. You have a reason to celebrate coming into this world.

I recently read Krystina Castella’s A World of Cake: 150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions From Cultures Near and Far. In addition to some delightful recipes, the book is peppered with anecdotes of cake and culture across the globe. It seems inevitable, almost, to devote some time to the inexorable link between cake and birthdays, birthdays and cake. I will just say: CAKE. Personally, I almost always have a chocolate cherry cake for my birthday. Although this year, I might shake it up a bit because this book is wonderful and try something new.  (Update: I made tiramisu.) There are all sort of connections between food and life– food as a wellspring of life crops up in the inevitable traditions linking food and celebrations together. Bounty. Harvest. Plenty. Life. All these words, ideas, reasons to celebrate, fold together into life events. The tradition of marking a birthday crosses borders across the world.

The bookend to life, I suppose then, would be death. Food continues into death as well. Let us return to cake. When all else fails, always return to cake. We have celebrations with birthday cakes, name day cakes, quinceanera cakes, but cakes and food are not contained only to birth and life, but to death as well. A Thai tradition is to create a cookbook to share the deceased favorite meals and recipes with family and loved ones after their passing. We cannot forget the pan de muerto, sweet anise and orange flavored breads, made in the time leading up to Dia de los Muertos. The bread of the dead is eaten by loved ones and shared with the dead.

There are few things we can say cross all borders.  Food is one of those few things that connect us all. There is a unity to the people standing around a cake waiting for someone to make that first slice. There is a unity in handing out a piece of a whole to everyone in a family, to everyone in a community. There is a unity in food.

Writing Prompts, Writing Tropes: THE SEER

Let’s write up a character study today. The only caveat is that this character is a seer, an oracle, a soothsayer, a psychic, a sage, a clairvoyant, a ????.  They could be believed by others or they could be ignored by others. They could believe in their own powers, or they could be the most skeptical of their powers. However, they need to use one of the ten powers of divination listed. How do their powers affect how they see the world? Go as literal or as figurative as you want. Funny or serious. Whatever genre you please. Go write a character today.

  1. Cybermancy – Divination through computer
  2. Geloscopy – Divination through laughter
  3. Hydromancy – Divination through water
  4. Moleosophy – Divination through moles on the body
  5. Phyllorhodomancy – Divination through rose petals
  6. Pyroscopy – Divination through burning paper
  7. Tyromancy – Divination through cheese coagulation
  8. Ailuromancy – Divination through observing cats
  9. Alectryomancy – Divination through chickens pecking through grain
  10. Crithomancy – Divination through food, often bread

Writing Prompts: Summer Solstice

Today is a great day. Today marks the fact the days are going to start getting shorter. Come back to me chilly winds of autumn and winter. I am weary of such disgusting heat and it hasn’t even gotten that hot yet this year (where I live). Mostly, I cannot wait for the sun to set at a more reasonable hour, I say as I look outside at the bright 9:00 p.m. sky. Following up from the first line prompts for the Spring Equinox, I figured I’d keep it up and do a whole set this year. Have a dozen.

  1. Even on midsummer, she thought, the sun should set.
  1. Elderflower blossoms swirled atop his tea.
  1. “Gather herbs at the most potent,” they said, “on noon of the longest day.”
  1. A wreath of flowers drifted from her hands to rest on my head.
  1. The picnic lasted as long as the day.
  1. “Y’all can whine about the heat all you want, but I’m having a feast.”
  1. I lit the family fire for the first time.
  1. “And you thought building our own Stonehenge was silly,” he said, surveying the lopsided creation.
  1. She dressed the darkest on December 21st, but the brightest on June 21st.
  1. “I thought maypoles were put up, in you know, May?”
  1.  We watched the earliest sunrise crest the horizon, the lights painting the sky in a way we could never describe again.
  1. Quicker and quicker and quicker the dancers leapt around the fire; the crackling flames chased their steps.

Let’s Talk Names

Imagine, if you will, a person. This person has hope and dreams. This person has a past and a future. This person has a style and a voice. This person is one in several billion.

This person is… a person.

This person is your character and they need a name.

Imagine, if you will, a person. This person has hope and dreams. This person has a past and a future. This person has a style and a voice. This person is one in several billion.

This person is… a person.

This person is your character and they need a name.

If you could listen in on my writing process you would know that some video game boss music is playing right now and it is apt. Nothing puts me in more of an exhausted haze then trying to name the characters I will spend years with. This post may have something to do with a character’s fourth name change in five years. Nothing sounds right! I gave naming power over to one of my sisters and just told her to pick something because I’ve hated every version of her name.  She’s pleased she named a queen. I’m pleased I don’t have to think about it any more. It’s a win-win.

However, we can’t always outsource our naming responsibilities.

Let’s talk about reality for a moment. We don’t choose our name. At least not in the beginning. You get a little older and you can do whatever you want, but there at the beginning the naming falls into your caregiver’s hands. For something that is so pivotal in our lives, it isn’t our choice, not really.

With naming comes histories, expectations, and futures all rolled into one.  It’s a lot packed into just a few syllables. Consider your name. What does it say about you? Perhaps even more interestingly, what doesn’t it say about you?

I’m going to take a moment to deconstruct the name I’m most familiar with– mine. You’ll see most of it up in the website bar. Here it is in all it’s glory: Nicole Faith Getson.

I’ll start with the last name. Getson. There aren’t that many of us around. The story is that Goetz needed to be softened. Changed. Melted into the melting pot. The family adopted a different, Americanized version of the name. Goetz turned into Getson.

On to the middle name. When the first act of your life is almost dying, you end up with the name Faith. There are a whole category of these sorts of names. Names that mean things: Faith, Chastity, Honor, Charity, Grace, Hope, Justice, Patience, etc.. Virtue names echoing a puritan past. These names are a far cry from some names used in the past. If we were actually were Puritans in 1600s my name would have ended up being Safe-On-HighHere is another fun fact about my family: we aren’t particularly religious. When people hear my middle name, I get strange looks. Yes, indeed, I’m a walking misnomer! (Hi Mom! *waves* I can already feel your phone call. Talk to you soon. While I’m in the parentheses here, I’ll go ahead and paraphrase this phone call from my mother for you: “You can have faith in many things other than a higher power, including yourself.” Thanks Mom!)

Let’s move on to the first name– Nicole– the name most people everyday know me by. The name that is shouted to get my attention. Something I’ve learned over the years is that people assume my nickname is Nikki. It’s not. It’s Cole. If you need my name to be shortened, please refer to me as the combustible rock, thanks. Yes, yes, I know that is spelled coal.

I have the added bonus of a masculine nickname as a woman. My name takes people aback. I hear refrains of: “Are you sure it’s not Nikki?” The many years living my life assures me that no, that is not what my name is. I’ve also been told on multiple occasions that I am not a Nicole.  Every once in awhile a person will then rattle off a list of names that seem more like me. Emily usually ranks high on these lists and I am not sure why.

Please do not do this to people.

I REPEAT: DO NOT DO THIS TO PEOPLE.

A baby naming book is within arm’s reach of my desk. It hangs out on a side table beside my desk. It’s always there, hovering just out of my sight line, lurking, waiting for the next character for me to name. Waiting for me. Staring at me. Coming for me. This is why sometimes instead of trying to come up with names I send an email out to my Naming of Random Things Think Tank (PATENT PENDING) and they get to come up with a side character’s name, because I just cannot.

*boss music crescendos*

Names are a touchstone to a character. It’s often one of the first things we think of when considering a character it helps encompass all that makes them… them.

A character of mine changes his name half a dozen time over the course of one of my books. Being a poster child for identity crises, he uses these names to reinvent himself over and over and over. Each name settles him into a different culture and life. He switches his family name from first to last and back again. He changes how the vowels are pronounced. He changes where the emphasis is, all as he figures out who he is and where he fits into the world.

There is also a lot to unpack in a name. People don’t appear one day at the beginning of their most interesting plot points. They were born and given a name, maybe they changed their name, maybe they have a nickname, maybe they gave up their family name, maybe and maybe and maybe… there are so many options here that give a glimpse into both a character’s backstory and the world.

First Line Prompts: Now With Added Dragons

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a princess in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a dragon.

Do you ever think to yourself while reading a book, let’s add dragons? I certainly have. Here are ten of American Book Review’s Best First Lines for your first line writing prompts this week, now with added dragons.

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a princess in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a dragon.
  1. Happy dragons are all alike; every unhappy dragon is unhappy in its own way.
  1. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by any other dragon, these scales must show.
  1. There was a dragon called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  1. He was an old dragon who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
  1. A dragon’s life has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
  1. Once upon a time, there was a dragon who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
  1. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, are dragons.
  1. Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of a dragon.
  1. I have never begun a novel with more dragons.

Bonus round: It was a pleasure to burn.

As always, drop a link in the comments if you want to share your dragons!

 

My Publishing Dragons

If it doesn’t happen now, it never will.

If you haven’t been on the writerly twitter cycle recently Alyssa Wong talked a bit about youth success stories in writing. Then some other writers talked about it, so now I’m going to have some 20s something unpublished writer feelings about it…

I was eleven years old when Eragon was republished in a pivotal moment in my development as a young writer. Here was this kid not much older than me that had a book series already published. I read it in astonishment. Then I picked it apart finding the barely veiled references to The Belgariad, Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, and Star Wars. I read it disgruntled and annoyed. After the movie came out, every time I went into another bookstore covered in Eragon merchandise, my soul died a little. I scribbled what would be baby’s first book– a laughably terrible story I’ve written about before.

I would like to say that I ran Eragon out of my mind, but for years it was there, a tiny blue dragon nibbling away at my conscious. I wrote and wrote and wrote chased by a sapphire dragon. I gave friends bits and pieces of stories to read. Stories about princesses transforming into fairies. Stories about death and family. Stories about women wizards and warriors. However, no matter what I wrote, a winged shadow ran after me.

Someone gave me a copy of Eldest when it came out, I flipped through it, reading past the Elven world and into what I thought it said about the world of publishing. Now the dragon hounding me flared red. Scarlet. Jaws open ready to snap me up if I dropped from my breakneck sprint. I kept hearing about the writing success stories of young people. 

Looking back now, I had an unhealthy obsession with it publishing young. Take a breath.

Brisingr arrived as Eragon fever subsided, the movie had come and gone. Bookstores, no longer swathed in blue and red, returned to their old ways. It was a moment of relief to watch it subside. For a moment I slowed down. I didn’t have to be an overnight success as a teenager. Even still, whispers still echoed around me. Publish at 13. 14. 15. Publish now. Publish. Publish. Publish.

If it doesn’t happen now, it never will.

Dragon’s fire curled around my feet.

Dragon’s fire twined around my legs.

Fiery branches ensnaring me.

Creeping up, up, up.

If it doesn’t happen now, it never will.

In high school, I garnered up enough courage to give friends a whole finished manuscript– 300 pages of elemental magic, loneliness, and shadows. I still get inquiries about the main character. What happened to Ana? Last thing they read she blew up atop a tower– the end of the book a blaze of magic and anger. I don’t know, I wanted to say, but instead I give them a mischievous smile, Maybe one day you’ll find out. *

I discovered Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown around this time. I found it in a bookstore that only existed in my hometown for about a month before disappearing. As I never remember seeing anyone else in the bookstore, I imagine it appeared in my time of need, spat out the books I needed, and disappeared into the wind– A fairy godmother made of dust and paperbacks. Aerin became my unwitting guide during my teenage years. I read it when I needed solace, lady knights, and above all dragon slaying.

Meanwhile, Inheritance came out the year I graduated high school. I never bothered reading it. For a moment the dragons pursuing me dropped below the horizon unseen.

Years passed as they do. With whispers still swirling: If it doesn’t happen now, it never will. Publish. Publish. Publish.

So…One of my first acts after graduating from college? Querying a fantasy novel .

I was a recent unemployed grad with a degree I ended up not wanting to go into and a book I thought was not atrocious. What else is a girl supposed to do? I didn’t know what else to do. (I mean I still don’t know what I’m doing, but now at least I’m employed.)

Within hours of sending out my first query, I received a partial manuscript request. I am not exaggerating about this here. It might even have been less than an hour. I tell people this bit of my life and they look at me in shock. Trust me, I was too. I expected silence. Instead of automatically replying, I went to the grocery store and ate too many cheese samples. I returned to my email and became even more amazed to see I was not hallucinating. It was still in my inbox.  

I didn’t get that agent and I don’t have an agent. Nothing went past that initial partial request save a polite no thanks little buddy, good luck. Getting what amounted to a form rejection on a manuscript hurt, but I deserved it. This isn’t my self-hatred and self-deprecation speaking. I really did.

I put that manuscript in a metaphorical dusty drawer for a while. Go think about what you have done, I told it. A few years later and I am typing this blog post up, so thankful for that rejection (and the few others that didn’t ask for any bit of my manuscript). It shouldn’t have gone anywhere. Impatience forced my hand. That dragon had not dropped below the horizon, it was right on my tail, only invisible. Stealth +100. My pursuer still whispered in arcane tones: If it doesn’t happen now, it never will. 

In that time when my manuscript was in detention? I wrote and wrote and wrote. Don’t get me wrong I sometimes wondered if I should ignore my gut and query again. But, in those years, with that manuscript hiding from me, no, I will be honest… me hiding from it, I found a voice that was mine. My writing changed. Evolved. Perhaps even improved.

I’ve pulled out that manuscript again, because I think there is something there. Something in the bones of the story even if the writing needs work. Working through it, chapter by chapter, pulling out the pieces that work and the pieces of nonsense, I’m making something better. I am making something that I could not have made years ago.

Take that, dragons.

* It’s been a decade in the making, but I know what happens to Ana. So I repeat: Maybe one day you’ll find out.

National Poetry Month: A Promise

As I stay far away from the internet (and most human populations on April Fool’s day) happy belated April!

April is National Poetry month. I am not one to purposefully read poetry, but I am always trying to expand my reading horizons. So, I am on here to say on the record I will read at least one book of poetry each week this month. I will do it.

I will read poetry.

I WILL.

First up is Donika Kelly’s Bestiary. I’m already interested in the premise of this one.

With no immediate plans for next week other than hitting the library, we will see what else I read this month! Who knows! Not me!

Mark your calendars. Expect a list of what I read at the end of the month.

I should also spend some time writing poetry this month, but I will not post that. No one should be subjected to my terrible poetry. I’ll save that for my eyes only. You are welcome.

Go read poetry!

Go write poetry!

POETRY.

 

Writing Prompts: Spring Equinox

This morning I woke up to a hail storm. Nothing really rings in spring like an aerial attack of ice. However, even with the grey skies, startling bolts of lightning, and a layer of ice, the birds were particularly chatty this morning.

The sun is coming back.

Spring is here.

Have a dozen first line writing prompts for today.

  1. Fingertips grazed the earth, trailing sprouting seeds in their wake.
  1. “Snowdrops,” he muttered, “just wait for the snowdrops.”
  1. “Do you know who makes the shamrocks appear?”
  1. My mom always said the robin was the first sign of spring, but I knew better.
  1. A fairy finds a home every time a tulip blooms.
  1. The nurse took a note down: “Female: Born 6:28 AM. March 20, 2017. Name: ______.”
  1.  I somehow found myself staring at a perfectly balanced egg.
  1. My sister grinned, “Your duckling impersonation needs work.”
  1. She murmured quietly as her broom swept east to west.  
  1. A faint peep floated down from the cherry tree.
  1. The white ice broke away revealing warm brown earth below.
  1. “Well, I thought they were rabbits.”

If you write anything with one of the prompts link to it in the comments! We all can use a little sunlight these days. Happy writing!