100 Books, 100 Quotations – 2017 -Addendum

I ended up with 15 extra books this year! Here are the bonus 15 in addition to the first 100 in the last post. Now onto 100 more books for this year!

  1. Room by Emma Donoghue — “God’s yellow face isn’t coming in today, Ma says he’s having trouble squeezing through the snow.”
  2. The Emotionary: A Dictionary of Words That Don’t Exist for Feelings That Do by Eden Sher, Julia Wertz — “emote + spiral / Emotal / v. to feel, think and judge oneself in rapid succession, ultimately causing immobility”
  3. She, Myself, and I by Emma Young — “Right now, she is in a coma. Her body is intact, but her brain is dead. I have essentially the opposite problem. We’re two halves of a person.”
  4. The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag — “I think we have much to learn from each other.”
  5. Swords, Sorcery, and Sundry by Mina MacLeod – “He once knew an assassin who would give speeches in such situations, or worse, puns.”
  6. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt — “I can’t believe it. My experiences with endless frustrations and having to work on things for so long has actually paid off.”
  7. Catmas Carols by Laurie Loughlin and Gemma Correl — (to the tune of We Three Kings of Orient Are Chorus) “Home is heaven. Home is good./ Home is where we get our food./ Why go out for christmas parties? / Frankly we’re not in the mood.”
  8. The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George — “The KINGDOM OF WEIRDNESS will be a paradise of freedom on earth in which joy and happiness and clean forests and other unbesmirched kinds of nature reign and now one judges anyone else and eventually everyone will see how VASTLY SUPERIOR Weirdness is to quote unquote ‘normalcy’ and quote unquote ‘normalcy’ will wither away.”
  9. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston — “Though it might have appeared pure politics to officially recognize all religions practiced in the Empire as part of its Church, the practical effects have been far-reaching. From Islam–the most numerous– to individual indigenous groups in Australia, we serve better when we talk like grown-ups and avoid petty squabbling.”
  10. The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill — “See the leaves on her horns? We gradually harvest them to make a special brew.”
  11. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones — “The rule was: Lose your temper, lose a customer. She had just proven that rule. It troubled her to realize how very enjoyable it had been.”
  12. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling — “As the weeks passed, Alec realized that aside from certain rapidly diminishing ethical qualms, he had never been happier.”
  13. Witches of America by Alex Mar — “I want to grasp the moment when that confidence becomes conviction; to know what it’s like to believe, without doubt, that you hold the key to the Mysteries, that you are capable of magic. I decided to press deeper, to try to discover just what that faith this built on.”
  14. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake — “I used to love this lighthouse. It always seemed so magical when I was six or seven, but you can only hold your own mother’s hair back while she pukes up vodka so many times before you get a little disenchanted.”
  15. Project Semicolon: Your  Story Isn’t Over by Amy Bleuel — “The semicolon was chosen because, in literature, a semicolon is used when an author chooses to continue a sentence, rather than end it. You are the author and the sentence is your life; you are choosing to continue. This book is filled with examples of people who chose not to end their sentences.”
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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.

 

100 Books, 100 Quotations

As of April 7, 2016 I decided to read 100 books by the end of the year to get me out of a reading slump. I needed to keep track of them. So, to help me remember each book, I wrote down a single quote. This list is my literary year (or 9 months) in review— from graphic novels to cookbooks, from picture books to epics, from poetry to prose, from new to old, here they are…

1. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley — “Cookies are all about comfort. Sometimes something simple can comfort the most.”

2. Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang, illustrated by Chong Chang —“‘Oh, I’m all mixed up,’ cried the little creature. ‘Doesn’t anyone know what I am?’”

3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik — “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside out valley.”

4. Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson — “Why had this Guardian chosen her? She could protect no one. She had never done a very good job of protecting herself.”

5. Through the Woods by Emily Carrol — “It killed livestock, wrecked fences, came from the woods (most strange things do).”

6. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker — “What artists choose to make art about has absolutely no bearing on what they’re attracted to or what they might want to experience themselves.”

7. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente — “September could see it. She did not know what is was she saw. That is the disadvantage of being a heroine, rather than a narrator.”

8. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann — “This poem is much more attractive. / With the Healing Brush Tool”

9. George by Alex Gino — “Scott snuck glances her way too, but where Mom’s eyes were filled with concern and confusion, Scott looked at George as if his sibling made sense to him for the first time. George had never been gladder to have an older brother.”

10. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay — “I have never considered compassion a finite resource. I would not want to live in a world where such was the case.”

11. The Aspects of a Novel by E. M. Forester — “History develops, Art stands still, Is a crude motto, indeed it is almost a slogan, and though forced to adopt it we must not do so without admitting it vulgarily. It contains only a partial truth.”

12. How They Met and Other Stories by David Leviathan — “Sallie’s doubts were only reinforced by her textbook. It defined a ‘couple’ as ‘two forces on a body of equal magnitude and opposite direction, having lines of action that are parallel but do not coincide.’”

13. Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy — “Oh, I’ll marry him! He seems brave and kind and I much prefer adventuring to dancing anyway!”

14. One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva — “Alek put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. ‘Nik, there’s a difference between need and want. Remember that, okay?’”

15. Emperor of the Eight Islands: The Tale of Shikanoko by Lian Hearn — “Sesshin smiled and nodded. ‘I am what I am and what I have always been, a poor soul on a journey.’”

16. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce — “Alanna stared at herself in the mirror. Her twin stared back, violet eyes wide in his pale face.”

17. Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler — “‘Never forget that even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.’”

18. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis — “Wednesday would put together an eloquent string of seemingly unconnected adjectives that one day, months later, would make perfect sense.”

19. Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers & Eaters tales retold by Jane Yolen, recipes by Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrations by Philippe Beha — “A storyteller never tells the same story twice, because every audience needs a slightly different story, depending upon the season or the time of day, the restlessness of the youngest listened or how appropriate a tale is to what has just happened in the storyteller’s world. And every cook knows that a recipe changes according to the time of day, the weather, the altitude, the number of grains in the level teaspoon, the ingredients found (or not found) in the cupboard or refrigerator, the tastes or allergies of the dinner guests, even the cook’s own feelings about the look of the batter.”

20. Are We There Yet? by Nina Laden — “No.”

21. Anything Could Happen by Will Walton — “There’s a pounding in my chest. That’s your heart, I think, all broken up but beating anyways. It’s trying to save you. Feel it go, Tretch. Feel your heart, working harder than ever. It is working to save me, and everything else is working to save it.”

22. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci — “Being pretty here involves so much more than just being pretty, and frankly I don’t have time for it.”

23. Fairy Tales for Angry Little Girls by Lela Lee — “The new queen was attractive, but she was very insecure.”

24. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale — “I didn’t really know what I was doing… but that didn’t seem like a good reason not to try.”

25. Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell — “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.)”

26. Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon — “Being… extremely cute… doesn’t mean…you can’t get… EXTREMELY MAD!”

27. I Want a Monster! by Elise Gravel — “Papa takes me to the Monsterium. This is the best day of my life!”

28. The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer — “Vikings! Who will steal our cookies and make us say… Gribnif.”

29. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson — “The more I considered it, the more I realized how much I have in common with these koalas. We’re both immunocompromised, lightly diseased, exhausted, and full of toxins. I’m totally a koala.”

30. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst — “My magic was small and quiet, like the rest of me, and easy to keep hidden.”

31. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt — “There is no experimental model of the transgender person; there is no lab protocol; no double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials. There are just human beings, each of us understanding, often without thinking about it, who we are, male, female, or something in between.”

32. I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler — “This book is a call to question rather than to please. To provoke, to challenge, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite.”

33. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “‘I am widely considered to be unduly suspicious of everyone and everything,” Kazul said in a dry tone. ‘Particularly wizards.’”

34. Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “This young woman didn’t look like a princess (except for the crown), and she didn’t act like a princess, and she didn’t talk like a princess.”

35. Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “She refused even to put on the tall, pointed hats most witches wore, and she dressed in loose black robes because they were comfortable and practical, not because they were traditional. All of this occasionally annoyed people who cared more about the propriety of her dress than the quality of her spells.”

36. Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “Mother had taught me a lot more about dragons than she had about princesses.”

37. A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass — “Reading always makes me tired because sometimes I get so caught up in the rainbowlike colors of the words that I have to read passages over and over.”

38. Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil — “I am slightly curious, however, as to what level my self-loathing will sink to today.”

39. Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale — “The current plan happened to consist solely of pretending I had a plan.”

40. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth — “But all those times, no matter what the occasion, it had eventually ended up feeling sort of phony, like I was playing at a relationship with God, just like any little kid playing house or grocery store or anything else, but not like it was real.”

41. Shrill by Lindy West — “Mother or monster. Okay, little girl— choose.”

42. 45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson — “Air-conditioning is my friend; sweating is not.”

43. Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli — “But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”

44. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg — “IM FULL OF RIGHTEOUS FURY”

45. Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom — “How can I be this person who likes the way she is, has self confidence— or at least some semblance of what appears to be self-confidence— if I still have to spend so much time trying to change?”

46. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman — “My own survival required me to counterbalance interesting with invisible.”

47. Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki — “There’s nothing wrong with being unsolved. Unsolved just means not everyone gets it.”

48. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga — “I got Little Miss Indy-Alternative-Goth-Gaiman Fan to like my graphic novel. They call that ‘crossover appeal.’”

49. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell — “Eleanor had never thought about killing herself—ever— but she thought a lot about stopping. Just running until she couldn’t run anymore. Jumping from something so high that she’d never hit the bottom.”

50. Faux Paw: Magical Cats Mystery by Sofie Kelly — “Marcus liked to tease that I thought pretty much any problem could be solved with a plate of brownies. That wasn’t true. I thought a blueberry muffin or a nice coffee cake would also work.”

51. Landline by Rainbow Rowell — “For a hallucination, this conversation was progressing very rationally. (Which made sense; Gerorgie had always been good at writing dialogue.)”

52. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman — “On the third day, I slept at last and dreamed that I was alphabetizing an infinite library that turned out to be myself.”

53. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo — “It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.”

54. The Goblin’s Puzzle: The Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton — “There was no point in saving the people from an oppressive tyrant if he had to tyrannize them oppressively to do it.”

55. The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull — “Flora bowed to her hive, set her engine to hard ascent, and leaped from the board.”

56. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic: A Novel by Emily Croy Barker — “Anything that threatened her control of her own body seemed anathema.”

57. A Victorian Flower Dictionary: The Language of Flowers Companion by Mandy Kirkby and Vanessa Diffenbaugh — “The Order of the Thistle, a chivalric order founded by King James VII, has a famous motto: Nemo me impune lacessit, ‘No one harms me without punishment’, evoking the prickly aggressiveness of the plant.”

58. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — “I don’t know, maybe your experience differed from mine. For me, growing up as a human being on the planet Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

59. Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss — “If he had been a book, I would have hurled him across the room.”

60. If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki Vansickle and Cale Atkinson — “If only I could have a pet with strange, exotic powers, I know that I’d find lots to do to while away the hours.”

61. Talking Writing: 50 Contemporary Writers on Novels Short Stories, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Playwriting, Digital, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Blogging, Criticism, Comedy, Erotica, Crime, Young Adult, Screenwriting, Picture Books, Memoir and Much Much More by Kirsten Krauth — from the piece “The Importance of Being Rejected: An Incentive to Improve” by Adrian Deans— “This was a key moment in my development as a writer— realizing that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. (At least, not yet.)”

62. The Sandman Volume 1 Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III — “I sprinkle sand into the waters of night. The grains burn as they fall, reminding me of another in times long passed away.”

63. The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey — “Air, though, they tend to be the scholars, the artists, or the entertainers. Lots of creative types in Air.”

64. Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster — “Going after badgers is the best way to scorch your sentiment. They are great tutors. In the darkening woods they look you shrewdly in the eye, finger their corduroy braces thoughtfully, and then slash open your face.”

65. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch — “To the right, a stone walkway meanders into a forest of maple trees, a hidden path for midnight trysts or assassination attempts.”

66. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce — “In the three years she had been disguised as a boy, she had learned that boys know girls as little as girls know boys. It didn’t make sense— people are people, after all, she thought— but that was how things were.”

67. Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng — “These are the new rules, which no one has outlines but which she already knows: Don’t talk about Lydia. Don’t talk about the lake. Don’t ask questions.”

68. Grim by Christine Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa, Amanda Hocking, Claudia Gray, and Rachel Hawkins — “‘You are a kind and generous person, and I like you a lot,’ said the giant. ‘But we could fill this castle ten times over with the things you do not know.’”

69. The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce — “‘I think as a human being,’ she retorted hotly. ‘Men don’t think any differently from women— they just make more noise about being able to.’”

70. Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “My reluctance to use force isn’t ideological, it’s practical. Violence is stupid. Even as a last resort, it only ever begets more of the same.”

71. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce — “‘The trouble with arguing with a cat is that cats don’t hesitate to say anything about you, no matter how crazy it is,’ she complained. ‘You can’t win an argument that way.’”

72. Saga: Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “In romantic comedies this is called the ‘meet-cute.’ I’ve always hated romantic comedies.”

73. Saga: Volume Three by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Over the years we met every kind of person imaginable. But no one makes worse first impressions than writers.”

74. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley — “I remember being asked at a baby shower once if I wrote children’s books. I found it difficult to even respond to that, because I’d just published a science-fantasy noir book about a bisexual bounty hunter who lops off people’s heads for a living. There is of course nothing wrong with writing children’s books, but I couldn’t help wondering what that person would assume I wrote if I presented as a dude.”

75. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire — “Her parents loved her, there was no question of that, but their love was the sort that filled her suitcase with colors and kept trying to set her up on dates with local boys. Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

76. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig — “She thinks, I want an orange soda. And I want vodka to mix into the orange soda. And, while we’re at it, I’d also like to stop being able to see how people are going to bite it. Oh, and a pony. I definitely want a goddamn pony.

77. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig — “Grade school— elementary and up— is like being dropped in a dunk tank filled with starving piranha.”

78. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale — “Her pulse clicked in her jaw, and she held on to that noise, tried to take comfort from it, as if the quarry and home were as near as her heart.”

79. Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale — “I am trying to choose words carefully, you see. Master Filippus lectured on the importance of word choice in our Rhetoric lesson. Words can fall hard like a boulder loosened from a cliff. Words can drift unnoticed like a weed seed on a breeze. Words can sing.

80. Saga: Volume Four by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Admit it, you’re probably a very different person at work than you are at home. Everyone needs to be someone else sometimes.”

81. Saga: Volume Five by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Cheer up, Beard of Sorrow.”

82. Saga: Volume Six by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us feel like complete foreigners from time to time. Usually associated with invasions, abductions, or other hostile acts, the term ‘alien’ gets a bad rap. But over the years, the word has come to mean something very different to me… future friend material.”

83. The Black Book of Colors by Merena Cottin and Rosana Faria — “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

84. The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale — “‘Are you so afraid of a baby girl?’ Miri said, leaning toward him across the table. ‘How about me? Do I terrify you too? Watch out, I wear a dress and don’t grow a beard, and if you don’t keep me in check, I’ll steal all your power!’”

85. How to Be Brave: A Novel by E. Katherine Kottaras — “Liss teases me, ‘You can take the dork out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the dork.’”

86. Sprout by Dale Peck — “In Long Island, all the roads were, first of all, streets, and they were also, you know, paved. Dirt roads belonged to movies set in other countries, other centuries. Yet here they were, their washboard ridges shaking our suburban car to pieces, as if to punish us for disturbing a quiet pastoral afternoon.”

87. A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett — “So let’s not get frightened when the children read fantasy. It is the compost for a healthy mind. It stimulates the inquisitive nodes. It may not appear as ‘relevant’ as books set more firmly in the child’s environment, or whatever hell the writer believes to be the child’s environment, but there is some evidence that a rich internal fantasy life is as good and necessary for a child as healthy soil is for a plant, for much the same reasons.”

88. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins — “Americans called this time of the year ‘October’ or sometimes, ‘Autumn,’ but the librarians reckoned time by the heavens. Tonight was the seventh moon, which is the moon of the black lament.”
* I read this one on Halloween. Would recommend that.

89. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — “‘It’s just that getting paid to do nothing is a constant reminder that I’m doing nothing,’ Lincoln said. ‘And doing nothing takes more energy than you’d think. I’m tired all the time.’”

90. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg — “No one had ever told me that my writing was all over the place. I could feel heat spread across my face and into my ears. Take away my labels, fine. Just leave me the things I know I am, like being a good writer.”

91. Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture by Stephen H. Segal, N. K. Jemisin, Genevieve Valentine, Eric San Juan, Zaki Hasan — “I wish I could remember who asked me the question. Because I know for sure that my answer is what set me on the path that has brought me here, to you, on this page. The question was: ‘What was our religion when you were growing up?’ And my answer was: ‘Uh, science fiction, pretty much.’”

92. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin — “Fortunately, where reason failed, blind panic served well enough.”

93. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell — “(Which is my rough luck, pretty much always. As soon as you start carrying a sword, all your enemies turn out mist and gossamer.)”

94. The Story Book Knight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty — “Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed. While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read.”

95. Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World by Deborah Blake — “By creating daily practices, a practitioner can feel more grounded and centered in reality, allowing for more mindful choices to be made on a daily basis. By consciously consuming and by choosing love-based human interactions, our empathy increases and so does our engagement in this strange thing called life. By bettering ourselves, we better the world, creating a solid path of living magick.”

96. Timekeeper by Tara Sim — “Here, he felt needed. Valued. The tower was a sanctuary, all gold lines and hand curves, glint and glass, standing old and steady under the thrum of time.”

97. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman — “‘I think,’ said the bear, ‘as a responsible adult, I should point a few things out.’”

98. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel: A Novel by Sara Farizan — “The class is silent again. I hate when this happens. I’ve never done will with awkward silences or pauses. I can always hear people breathing. I can hear myself breathe. It’s the most uncomfortable feeling ever.”

99. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz — “The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

100. Invasive: A Novel by Chuck Wendig — “The future, it occurs to Hannah, does not frighten him the way it frightens her. That worries her. Someone with his power and experience shouldn’t have such raging optimism— and deception by powerful men is a danger as persistent as global warming, famine, or disease.”

I’m officially over my reading slump.

November 2016, Go Home.

In the middle of Nanowrimo 2016 I stabbed myself in the hand. I am not talking metaphorically here. I literally lost a fight with an avocado and stabbed myself in the hand. There was blood. There was an ER visit. Luckily no stitches were required, just fancy flesh glue, before sending me on my merry way. I might add that this also happened right before Thanksgiving, so I heard every iteration of “you won’t have to peel potatoes this year!” from everyone in my life. Which, honestly, is the real travesty here. Come up with some new material, y’all. (And what I really got myself out of was taking brussels sprouts apart leaf by leaf.)

I’m going to take a moment here to say that this post is taking me forever to type as my hand still aches and my typing speed is laughable. USE APPROPRIATE KNIVES. Ahem. Anyway.

I’ve never done Nano before, but I decided that this was the year I would do it. I had an intense chapter by chapter outline of a book I’ve been wanting to start, but have been a bit leery about. Characters charts made and filled out. A general good feeling about writing. Not to mention wanting to distract myself from a certain event happening on a November Tuesday. So you know, I thought it would go well, I really did. Ahhh, to have hope.

Then I stabbed myself in the hand.

I am not clumsy. I don’t slip on ice. I don’t fall. I’m adequately athletic. I can count on one hand actual injury-inducing accidents I’ve had which is surprising given how absent-minded I am. Do you know what I spent part of my last few weeks doing? Using various knives to carve hair sticks. Did I injure myself? No. Instead, in the kitchen task I’ve done a million times… that’s when I decide to get stabby.

You know, leave it to 2016.

There is a saying about sharp knives and dull knives. It’s something along the lines of a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. It was a dull knife I let slip– a dull knife that left a jagged cut that will not heal with the speed and cleanliness of a sharp knife. It wasn’t, isn’t, fit for the job and now I’ll pay the price.

When you experience a trauma, you need time to heal. You can’t leap back into something, your mind reeling with pain and frustration and exhaustion and expect to be up to par.

You need time.

You need time to process

You need time to heal.

You need time to get angry.

I’ve been angry for weeks. Seeing my own blood seep through a towel as I held pressure on it broke me. It snapped me from anger at the world to anger at myself. My hand slipped. I had made a mistake. I had stopped writing. Just downright stopped. I couldn’t find the worth in it, not for weeks. I couldn’t find it. I spent my time doing anything other than writing.

Rallying cries fill the world right now. Art matters. Your stories are important.  Keep writing. Write. Write. Write. Keep creating Create. Create. Create.

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, resting my left hand on my keyboard because it is still swollen wondering about Nanowrimo. Wondering why I think I should spend time typing away at that book rather than giving my hand time to rest. Wondering why I think I should fling myself into writing more than ever. Wondering why I think I need to write right now. (Also, wondering if I can take more ibuprofen, since it’s worn off…. I can’t. Not for another hour. Maybe I’ll eat some pie instead.)

Narrative is a way to reach people when so many other ways fail. I live somewhere very, very red. (I don’t mean because I bled on it.) I’m very, very blue. (I don’t mean my depressive spirals.) I’ve spent too much time not knowing what to do, feeling helpless and exhausted and angry, because I’ve forgotten what I can do. I can write. You can write. We can write.

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, writing away because it is what I can do. I can write through this ache. Writing because this cut will heal. Writing because this is my answer. Writing because art does matter. Our stories matter. (Also writing because I’ve run out of pie.)

…anyway, what was I saying about metaphor?

What Happens When You Read

When you read you end up drinking a mixture of black tea, coffee, and condensed milk.

Allow me to explain.

When you read you end up drinking a mixture of black tea, coffee, and condensed milk.

Allow me to explain.

It all started with my library’s summer reading challenge. Part of the challenge this year was reading books across genres. A sample of the genre lists: Travel Memoirs; Mystery & Thriller; Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Paranormal; and Appalachian Fiction. Each list had about 10 books to choose from. Unsurprisingly, I had read the majority from the SFF list. Out of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Paranormal list I had not yet read: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo.

Now, I normally don’t do book reviews because they go something like this:

FIVE STARS THIS IS THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. PERIOD. NOTHING WILL COMPARE.

Or…

BORED.

Or…

I AM FILLED WITH NARRATIVE FURY. STARS WILL NOT ENCOMPASS MY RAGE.

The Ghost Bride falls solidly into the first category. Lovely prose. Engaging characters. Intricate storytelling. Well-paced plot. That is the extent of any real review here. The end. What I am saying is: Go read this book right now. Stop reading my words and go read hers.

So, of course I wanted to know if Yangsze Choo had written anything else. Off to the internet we go!

If curiosity leads, it never takes you on a straight path. You twist and turn and wander your way through words and links and ideas you never really had any plans on encountering. You find new things pressed between old things. Unknown pressed between known. Things you never knew you wanted to know.

In my wanderings I found her blog. Which lead me to this paragraph“In Malaysia, a favourite breakfast item is a soft-boiled egg served in a bowl with soy sauce and white pepper. Thick Hainanese toast, grilled over charcoal and lavishly smeared with butter and kaya, a caramelized custard spread, is the traditional coffee shop accompaniment together with piping hot coffee (or more scandalously, the subversive drink called chum, which is coffee and tea mixed together with condensed milk).”

Can we look at that last bit a bit closer: COFFEE AND TEA MIXED TOGETHER WITH CONDENSED MILK.

First thought: WHAT IS THIS CONCOCTION AND WHY HASN’T IT BEEN IN MY LIFE?

Second thought: I need a recipe.

Once again with help from my old friend Google, I found this recipe over at Saveur that seemed impossibly easy. Which lead to the third thought: I need to go to the grocery store.

*cackles over cans of sweetened condensed milk*

Fourth thought: I now have everything I need.

A classic drink for us during the holidays is swiping the used sweetened condensed milk cans after cookie baking and pouring in the last of the coffee. The coffee is usually the last dregs in the french press, so it’s the dark black sludge of caffeine infused darkness. We swirl it around until it lightens several shades and takes us into the nethersphere with its sugariness. It keeps us awake until the wee hours of the night so we can finish the unreasonable number of cookies we think a family of seven needs.

It felt like some kitchen witchery as warm, familiar smells of coffee and black tea swirled around the apartment. I poured cups of the milky concoction into small cups and served it with something I suppose you could call quiche. Quiche without the crust? Crustless quiche? Oven omelet? Egg loaf?

Overall opinion: FIVE STARS THIS IS BEST DRINK I HAVE EVER HAD. PERIOD. NOTHING WILL COMPARE.

I told you. I review in extremes.

It might be a touch dangerous that I now have a recipe for a liquid sugar and caffeine bomb which packs the punch of both tea and coffee. Somehow, you can taste both the tea and the coffee. I am not sure how, but by the magic of this drink they merge together into something new and yet also familiar. Additionally, after it kicked in, my brain was on fire. Delicious, delicious fire. While at work that afternoon I am pretty sure I was vibrating in my chair, twirling pencils around my fingers, and just generally bouncing around. (As much as a practically clinically stoic person is wont to do.) To quote Sister Number One, “If I had this while writing my dissertation, I would have finished six months earlier.”

I now know what to fuel myself with when all sleep is lost.

Word Quota

The last couple of weeks have been a tornado filled with sentence shrapnel. (Not to mention actual tornado warnings.) Words whipped up around me as I stood in the center, or perhaps I have been flung around with them. Have you ever seen those pictures of the aftermath of a tornado? Where a stake of wood has been driven through cement? That has been me lately. Just replace the stake of wood with a word and the cement with me. It makes sense. I promise you.

I’m having word whiplash. So many words. Too many words. Reading a few hours a day, writing a few hours a day, and working at a library means I am literally surrounded by words all of the time– both in the literal and figurative meaning of that particular word. Since the new definition accounts for both these days, I’ll go ahead and double dip.

I accidentally missed posting last week and the week before that and the week before that and ok, so it’s been a month. A new novel has taken over my life in a drastic way and blogging takes more words. Too many words.

I ran out of words.

No more words.

Goodbye words.

I need a break.

I’ll see you when I see you.



Hello again.

I’m back.

Silence didn’t last long.

I’ll be back with my irregularly scheduled rambles once a week starting with this.

A Toast to The Toast

The Toast is closing. Long live The Toast.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is going to be, but I feel like I need to acknowledge the internet news of today in some way. As a feminist cat-loving writer, recently turned librarian, The Toast is, was, a community I felt at home in. (Even if I only broke my lurker status about a month ago.)  I live on literature, news, and feminism stitched together with satire and self awareness.  

As saddened as I am by the closing of The Toast, I also look forward to the future of their contributors. I can’t wait to see what Mallory, Nicole, Jaya, Nikki, Marco and all of the other contributors have to offer in the coming years. Maybe this will actually make me get on Twitter more than once a month. I MUST KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING NEXT. Anyway…

The internet breeds both massive communities and microcosms. The Toast was somewhere in between. You start to recognize those usernames with well-placed comments and gifs. You start to wait for the next article in that series you love. You also start to realize you are far too witches for the rest of the internet. It was a place where writing, where art, brought together a community.

Ahh, there we are. I know where this post is going.

Throughout the run of The Toast Mallory and Nicole have been fairly transparent about the ways in which money affects their writing and running of the site. In a time when we have The Huffington Post giving us reasons why not paying authors is really in the best interest of art– it’s more authentic that way— we also have The Toast acknowledging that the creation of art can be hindered by that very lack of monetary support. As much as we might try, artists cannot exist on the ephemeral love and creation of their art.

Rather than falling into a depressive funk today about losing something, look forward to what is to come. Together as a community we can promote artists. Go to that webcomic you read every day or that blog you always go to for recipes. Find their Patreon, their donation button, or their personal homing pigeon and give them something, anything, for the art that you enjoy everyday.

Today, toast an artist.

Harping on Hobbies

At first books and all things book related were my hobbies: reading, writing, lurking at libraries and bookstores, etc. You could say the general act of hoarding words like a literary dragon was my hobby.

Then I started assigning failure to my hobby. It became something that I couldn’t experiment in for fear of failure. The worlds I created to escape into became query letters that plagued me. The ghosts of manuscripts constantly clawed at the back of my mind reminding me that they were far from perfect. Rejection letters danced in my head like deranged sugar plum fairies.

My escape became what I needed to escape from. It took a while to realize this because when I was stressed or anxious or upset, I would automatically turn to writing.  However, when I sat down those anxieties worsened with every passing moment. I needed something else to turn to as an escape.

Now the rambling begins…

With writing, you can scratch things out. You can backspace. You can delete. No matter what you can get back to a blank document. Even a material thing can be destroyed. In a moment of drama years ago I tossed an old handwritten manuscript into a bonfire my mother had started.  She watched on perplexed as I watched words turn to ash. I always imagined the ashes fertilized the willow tree downwind.

So that is what I would do. Write a word. Delete a word. Write a paragraph. Delete a paragraph. Write a manuscript. Ignite a manuscript. I caught myself in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. That sounds far more dramatic than the actual act of sitting in front of a computer over and over again watching black letters appear and disappear. Wanton deletion is far easier to accept than your writing not being perfect.

My motto: ctrl + a + delete

There are a few hobbies that always seem to cycle back into in my life. They always related to art or music. With art there is something concrete at the end. I’ve created something for good or ill. With music, it’s far more transient. The notes float in the air around me for a moment before they disappear. Except for the instrument itself, everything seems fragile and fleeting.

Painting is final. You have to live with your mistakes when you paint. There is something cathartic about that. If you add a stripe of red across a canvas, it is there now. It exists. Even if you paint over it it adds a thickness to the canvas. You can’t get rid of it completely. You can take a knife and chip away at it but remnants will still be there and the knife will scar the canvas. Even the action of trying to get rid of it marks your time in a way that getting rid of writing does not. (You can always go my route of “cleansing by fire” but keep a fire extinguisher nearby please.)

Music is final in its own way. You cannot take back notes already played. Once that string has been strummed, that key struck, or a woodwind blown, it now is in the world if only for a moment. You could argue it stays longer in the mind of whoever heard it, but I don’t feel like getting that philosophical today. Music is final in a finite sort of way. For that moment it exists and however you played it is the way it exists.

For someone constantly writing and revising, hobbies can be a reprieve from feeling wrong.  Yes, yes, I know revision is part of the process. Everyone has terrible first drafts. Yes. I know. Trust me. I know. In a lot of ways I love terrible first drafts. I love how they are like toddlers, words excitedly spilling over as they stumble across the page. Or how they are like teenagers, plot awkwardly jutting out as they figure out their place in the world. It’s wonderful to see them grow up into something clean and precise from the humble origins of a terrible, terrible first draft.

However, revising can also feel like an uphill battle in the snow wearing a swimsuit and flipflops. Halfway up you wonder why you aren’t better armored and why you left your weapon at home. It’s the point of revision where you hate everything and that’s ok. You hate your manuscript. You hate yourself for writing something so terrible. You hate the act of writing. Everything is the worst and it will never get better.

This is when I step back, take a breath, and play the harp.

I say the harp because I’ve only been learning it for a few months which means a few things. Thing one: I accept failure. Thing two: I get excited when I play even five bars in a row that make any sense. Thing three: It takes a lot of my brain power. Thing four: It can provide a truly terrible title.

Harps and Foss
The cats prefer the harp over the clarinet.

Let’s break this down a bit.

Thing one: I accept failure. By this I mean that I am aware that there will be mistakes. I know that notes will be wrong and my hands might just stop working in such a strange way. I’m a woodwind by heart so this is new territory for me. It isn’t something like writing that I feel like I have some sort of handle on and should not struggle with. I can allow myself to struggle and acknowledge that is part of the process.

Thing two: I get excited when I play even five bars in a row that make any sense. The other day I figured out the intro to a Legend of Zelda song. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you might remember this post. I’m basically one step closer to becoming Sheik. Anyway, what I’m saying is that there are small victories in a new hobby that are easy to forget about when you’ve been doing something for years.

Thing three: It takes a lot of my brain power. When painting or drawing I will sometimes listen to audiobooks, radio plays, or musicals. Even when writing my mind will wander as writing becomes less of an act of creation and more of an act of insistence. I refuse to do anything else while playing an instrument. My mind is focused. I’m not thinking about the bills on my desk, the unedited book on my shelf, or the unfinished programs for work. I am only thinking about the instrument in my hands clearing out the rest of the fog.

Thing four: It can provide a truly terrible title. See above.

Ok. Now to bring this rambling to a point. I had a professor in college who told us to occasionally try and learn a new language. He was talking to a class full of potential English teachers when he extolled this advice. We would need to remind ourselves how learning is a struggle. Remind ourselves that mastery isn’t instantaneous. Remind ourselves that we can and will struggle.

Having other hobbies reminds me why I started writing in the first place. It jars back the memories of initial discoveries and utter failure. It reminds me that it is alright to flail a bit while doing something. It reminds me to refocus. It reminds me not to automatically delete what I’ve written because it’s ok to struggle. It reminds me terrible first drafts are all part of the process.

In summation: don’t light everything on fire.

Note: I’ve spent my week grumpily having no idea what to write about as shown by how late this is posting on a Sunday. Whoops. Luckily, I spent part of my weekend catching up on writing blogs and became inspired by Chuck Wendig’s post Writers: When in Doubt, WWYL. Go read that. It’s far more interesting than my rambles. Cheers.

 

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dinner

Every year for Christmas Eve dinner we pick a theme to craft dinner around. This probably comes from at least three of us considering cooking a creative challenge. Some of our notable themes over the years have been: Meals from Hobbiton, Feast of Valhalla, and Holiday Hogwarts. Rosie’s meat pies, mead, and pumpkin pasties were central in years past.

Honoring our holiday Dungeons and Dragons game we chose to theme this year around our characters. Each person came up with a recipe that somehow represented their character. Our dishes ranged from hearty halfing fare to fortifying dragonborn provisions.

Thus our feast was held in a halfling tavern bordering a misty forest.

Now we must begin the planning for the spectacle that will be Star Wars Christmas. The cantina music has already begun…