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.
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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!

Myth & Language

If you are writing a brand new fantasy world, should you ever use the world herculean?

Should you use the word chronology?

How about chaos?

To reference this very blog, what about fury?

Oh, or nemesis?

Is anyone an adonis?

Should voices echo without the tale of Echo and Narcissus?

Can a siren wail a warning, if a siren has never lured someone into the sea?

A bard can’t have a muse in a world without the muses.

My world doesn’t have the god of war.  However, certainly some things could be described as martial.

A trip can’t be an odyssey if Odysseus has never traveled the long, long way.

Could something be an ambrosia, if the gods never ate it?

Can someone truly harp on a subject, if harpies never screeched?

I am not sure someone can have a mentor if Telemachus never needed a teacher.

Should anyone get lost in a labyrinth, if there is no Minotaur?

Can you point out someone’s Achilles’ heel if he was never held in the river?

Let’s just mention asking what someone’s fate is here for a moment.

Language is a tricky thing. Where do you draw the line between fully using the language, but also realizing that some words don’t make any sense in the world you’ve created?

We, for the most part, write our books in our first or a familiar language. For me that is English– a language influenced by languages and cultures across the globe. We borrow from the French and the Greek, from the Spanish and the Indian, from the Arabic and the German. English is a ravenous language, hungering for more words to throw down its gullet. Although we might now want to stop and research the etymology of every word we place on the page (we would write our books even slower), we should be aware of where words come from.

Language has history.

Language builds worlds.

There isn’t a simple answer to word usage in novels. However, it’s something to be aware of when you are writing fantasy.

What do you do when you are writing a world in which Hercules never performed his labors, the god of time was never spoken of, or the tales of the Furies never passed from generation to generation?

Language affects myth.

Myth affects language.

I avoid using words and phrases where the legend is still present. I know that sounds a bit wacky- let the legend speak to you.  Is it present?  However, what I mean by that is that words like herculean and muses and Achilles’ heel all are still based in the listener and user’s knowledge of the myth and metaphor. Words like echo or chaos or fury, while still mythological in etymology, are not linked to the knowledge of the myth as others. I know that is shades of meaning, and layers of understanding, and some people might heartily disagree with me.

Another way I could say this is: I will use words where the definition has surpassed the myth, rather than the myth surpassing the definition.

Language choices really can put a writer between a rock and a hard place. Or wait, is that between the devil and the deep blue sea. Or is that a Scylla and Charybdis?

Those are just some musings for the day.

 

Worldbuilding: Discordanant Elements

Let’s talk about moogles. Kupo.

Let’s talk about moogles. Kupo.

… Spoiler Alert: Final Fantasy.

I recently finished Final Fantasy XV, instead of raging about my myriad of problems, concerns, general angst, and annoyed love with it I’m going to talk about moogles. No, I have to say something about XV. I’ll inevitably have a cat named Prompto. What a dork. I promise this has something to do with worldbuilding. I’ll get there.

On that note, back to moogles. I’m not going to give you the full History of the Moogle. If I ever went back to school that is the name of my dissertation. The History of the Moogle: Foundations of Fluffiness and Folklore. An entire chapter would be dedicated to the “-mog-” naming system. Note: Worldbuilding discussion about names… coming to a computer screen near you soon(ish). Instead, here are some brief highlights from the games:

First playable character: Final Fantasy VI. This cast is huge and includes a Yeti. It would make sense this is when we first get to play a moogle ourselves. There is an entire moogle army/invasion section.

Final Fantasy VII: Cait Sith. Ummm… Cait Sith. I don’t know what to add. Who is looking forward to that in the remake. Raise your hands! Most importantly, there are no living moogles here!

They are practically nonexistent in Final Fantasy VIII, only appearing as a pseudo Guardian Force available through the Pocket Station and a few dialogue mentions across the game.

Mog as a summon in Final Fantasy IX. Eiko’s little buddy turns out is not so little and is a Eidolon disguised as an orange pom pomed moogle named Mog. Additionally, moogles function as your save point and you in turn run their mail around for them. I love you so much, IX.

In Final Fantasy X we see them pass into legend again. Rather than a living being, they are an equippable doll for Lulu to use as a casting weapon. They reappear in X-2 as Yuna’s mascot dress sphere.

XII brings us full circle to see them once again as a race incorporated into the world, not as a legendary creature.

They return to creatures of legend in XIII. An exception might be made for XIII-2’s moogle who is also a weapon and can speak. Much like the rest of XIII-2, that was unclear and a little bizarro.

That was not as brief as I planned.

In the list of things Final Fantasy fans expect in their games, moogles rate up there along with chocobos, summoning, and crystals. Chocobos are an easy thing to incorporate, they often operate as the Final Fantasy equivalent of a horse. Side note: In XV there is a line of background dialogue of “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Are there horses in this world? I don’t think we ever see horses. Have horses fallen into legend as chocobos took over their role? Is this a hint that the world is much larger than we see, are there horses on the other side of it? Or, would it simply be more appropriate to say “I’m so hungry I could eat a chocobo.”  It is a translation/idiom error? Why does this line exist?

Anyway, chocobos are not a problem to work into a game of varying levels of technology and magic. Moogles, however, have a particular aesthetic. How do you work in a fluffy white creature with a pom pom delicately attached to their head and sharp bat wings protruding from their back into a game like XV?

Moogles are painted in two different ways: real and legendary. Looking across the games, those with the most advanced tech and greatest focus on humans have passed their moogles on into legend. Mainly: VII, VIII, XIII, and XV. I cannot imagine what hyperrealistic moogles would have looked like in XV. Perhaps they could have gone with the demon route and made them into enemies that only came out at night? That could have been frightening.

In games that include moogles as living beings such as IX, there is less of a focus on humans as the dominate race and realism. In XII, where technology is often seen in browns and bronzes and given a more naturalistic look, moogles are real. While humans seem to be the majority, the world also is home to viera, bangaa, seeq, and others.  Keeping moogles as living creatures with their own culture makes sense here, in worlds where magic and technology operate together.

The game that plays with this divide is IV. While IV has an almost steampunk aesthetic, the technology is in general not comparable to what you see in VII, VIII, XIII, or XV.  However, technology plays a major role in the game, and humans are dominate. This is a case where magic is a legend, while moogles are not.

How do you make your worlds make sense?  How do all of your little bits and pieces come together to make something that makes sense as a whole? When we are working on our own stories, we usually don’t have 30 years worth of narrative history and expectations to work with.  However, we can learn from the multiplicity of ways similar elements are morphed and altered to create a world.

Ask yourself: Would a moogle from IX, book in hand muttering about kupo nuts, traipsing through the background of a gritty, electric Midgar break a bit of carefully built world?

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?