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.

 

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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.

Wherein I Ramble About The Shannara Chronicles

I come at this with a lot of love. I grew up on 70s and 80s fantasy. Our bookshelves weighed heavy with Jordan and Feist and Eddings and, of course more apropos to today’s post, Brooks. I went from picture books to epic fantasy in not very many steps. From the Pokey Little Puppy to the Flaming Sword of Justice and Fate. As you do.  So when it was announced they were making a Shannara series I was filled with equal parts hope and apprehension. (And maybe a tiny part of me wants to fill the hole in my heart that formed after Merlin stopped airing.)

Let’s get this out of the way early on. I am glad that the pronunciation of Shannara is not like how I have been pronouncing it in my head for years. There is Book!Shannara that lives in my head untouched by TV!Shannara. TV!Shannara can do a retelling and a reimagining without touching the characters that live in my head.  Really it’s for the best. That doesn’t mean I am not going to compare them. Not in the least.

I took twenty two pages of notes while watching this show. I will admit they are small pages. But still… twenty two pages.  Here they are in all their glory. Note: I watched this with Sister Number Three, so there are  some interjections by her.


Episode 1

WAIT, IS THAT ANDER?

Ander is a baby!

Wait, there was no trial… Amberle was just… chosen. And gender wasn’t this big of a deal, right?

I am into this music.

Why was that credit scene red, white, and black? Why is that a thing right now? The elfstones are blue. I guess the tree is red?

Hi Gimli, nice tree.

Why is Ander the most dashing person in the room? Yes, we see his eyes are blue. You can stop flashing light on them.

ANDER IS STOIC. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Ahhh yesss, Mount Doom.

ALLANON.

We already know far too much about Allanon.

Why does he have Fandral’s sword?

*Enter the Farm Boy*

Always kill the parents. Just murder a bunch of people and call it good narrative.

THAT IS A BETTER ALLANON ENTRANCE.

LEAVE YOUR HOOD UP!

Eretria!

Well, clearly don’t accept drinks from sexy women.

Wil, look up the definition of “honey trap.”

Why is evil always ugly?  It’s not that easy to determine.

Episode 2

Wil, no.

You did not actually say “Your destiny awaits.”

I need Colin Morgan to give lessons to anyone who has to act magical abilities.

Note: I’ve started leveling characters up in Hyrule Warriors while getting Three’s description of this scene: “HE IS LITERALLY CRUSHING HIS FACE. FACE SMOSH.”

You are not witches.

I MISS MERLIN.

Real line: “The dagda–what?”

This is now the plot to Thor. Which is a classic, I suppose. Brother vs Brother.

I do not remember this much brother-angst.

Woman can leave home without being pregnant.

Well, aren’t all problems related to women’s love life choices?

SHEA WAS NOT A DRUNKARD. I can get over you making him Wil’s dad. Weird timeline wise, but ok. BUT NOT MAKING HIM A DRUNKARD. NO.

I am offended for Shea.

Allanon, you’ve met Arrow, you know how to put YOUR HOOD UP.

WHY IS SHE NAKED?

Allanon, you’ve talked more in five minutes than in two books.

Of course she was made up for the show, she calls Allanon out.

Note: We’ve referred to any character who randomly shows up, dispenses relevant plot knowledge, and disappears into the ether as having an “Allanon Complex” for years.

And now… she’s dead. Obviously.

Episode 3

I still miss Merlin.

How many shirtless scenes are we going to see?

Are the women really cowering at Wil’s feet right now? They are both fighters. No.

The music is once again the best part of this.

I am bored.

Still bored.

Bored.

Episode 4

I’ve worn Wil’s outfit in real life.

I’m EVIL= Dressed in black.

This dialogue is cringy.

Three: “We can’t compare things to Merlin and Sanctuary, it’s not fair. But Christopher Heyerdahl would make an excellent cloaked, hooded, and very tall Allanon.”

This is a fine Allanon for this show. However, I don’t get the creepy factor of Book!Allanon.

And we are back to the plot of Thor.

There is no recognition of time passing. I don’t understand their great, meaningful relationship. Especially when it feels like they are always arguing and have barely been together.

You should never wear an outfit that Scorpius would be proud of.  However, Tilton is cool. Even if this outfit is… ridiculous.  She will also probably end up dead.

Yes, you definitely killed this evil monster by snapping it’s neck.

Chop of it’s head at the very least, this is a magical being.

NO GENRE SAVVY.

Yep, you didn’t cut of it’s head. This is what you get. Murdered.

Episode 5

Flashback. I only care if it is about Shea.

It’s not about Shea.

Already shirtless. Ahem, I mean: Plot.

I am so tired of ugly bad guys.

This would be more interesting if we didn’t assume he was about to die.

I am into this battle theme. I LIKE THIS MUSIC.

Yep, dead.

They have significantly Shakespeared up the brothers’ relationship.

“Boy!” said with disdain– the mark of The Farm Boy.

Villains: Ugly men + gorgeous scantily clad women.

THIS IS NOT BOOK!CRISPIN.

Was anyone this racist in the books? I do not remember this.

Oh right, I haven’t actually talked about Bandon yet.

He is so going evil.

Starting to practice your seer powers on an ancient druid seems like a bad idea.

That tourniquet was on the wrong side.

Why is there an attempted rape? Why does it always go there?

I wish I would have been counting gratuitous bathing scenes.

Why does it look like a pig?

Writers room scene:

Writer 1: Hey guys, how do we make this dude not look like the balrog?

Writer 2: Dual axes…

Writer 3: …and slow mo.

Writes chorus: Nailed it.

It looks like the lego Balrog. I can’t help giggling at it and I am not sure why.

“Prince,” said with disdain.

Confirmed: Plot of Thor. Shapeshifter on the throne.

Episode 6

I now have ice cream.

Your sword is very far away.

A playground? No.

I am in physical pain, but I have mint ice cream.

Amberle, you will actually be happier as a tree. I can almost guarantee you.

FROLICKING.

Seriously, just turn into a tree already.

Has any episode not had a shirtless scene in the first five minutes?

I just snorted at the phrase “There’s a storm coming.”

SWORD TWIRL.

Three: “Mal might have been Captain Tightpants, but Ander is Prince Tightpants.”

AND THEY CALL IT A MINE. A MINE.

HOW IS THERE ANOTHER BATHING SCENE?

Wil, you occasionally have moments of genre savvy, then you turn into a complete fool. Own it. Learn something from listening to Shea’s stories. OH WAIT, HE WAS A DRUNKARD.

Is he really being framed by one streak of light?

EVERYONE’S EARS ARE THE SAME SIZE. I LEGITIMATELY CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH OF A DIFFERENCE.

Speaking of ears, I do like that one of Arion’s is slightly crooked. It’s a nice touch.  Clearly, Mr. Dashing can’t have crooked ears, but it’s nice.

The changeling is even doing the Loki-lean on the throne.

Now… there is a creepy laboratory?

Creepy child. Check.

*creepy giggling*

Three: “Don’t put me down for mummification.”

How touching. Turn into a tree.

Now Ander is a drunk? No.

Why is it dead parents and/or alcohol. Always.

ORGAN MUSIC IS PLAYING. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS GLEE OR HORROR I AM FEELING.

Episode 7

Don’t worry, I am sure that palm injury will heal into a silvery circle. As they do.

No one was shirtless before the credits. Good job.

Soaking wet, yes. Shirtless, no.

Three: “That hairdo is right out of Red Sonja.”

Now Allanon is shirtless. We were doing so good.

WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS NAKED. I MEAN WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PLOT.

Me out loud: I’ve worn that outfit. Why do I dress like a post apocalyptic elven man?

Three: Meaningfully raises her eyebrows.

Me: Nevermind, don’t answer that.

They fall into a high school. I can’t do this. The banner actually reads “We can all be Heroes.”

Either own the absurd or play it serious.

THEY ARE LOOKING AT A YEARBOOK.

WHAT IS HAPPENING.

I care more about finding out about these composers than Allanon’s resurrection.

Also, I do not remember Allanon having this much trouble staying alive.

AMBERLE DID NOT JUST PICK UP BLUE DICE. NO.

THOSE HAD BETTER SERVE MORE OF A PURPOSE THAN A DRAMATIC SIGH.

ORPHANS BOUND TO A TRAGIC FATE.

Actually, nevermind. Now I want the elfstones to be dice. We are all saved by the power of tabletop gaming.

Did Eretria just shoot someone through the eye while rolling around on the ground? That seems improbable.

Three: “I think Allanon just did his overdrive.”

Poor Arion. NOBLE DEATH.

MEANINGFUL DICE CONVERSATION.

KING ANDER. Still tho, you are like 12. It is a good thing the camera just keeps lighting your eyes up blue. We wouldn’t want to forget who the dashing one is.

Three: “Now he is King Tightpants.”

Episode 8

I now have tea instead of ice cream.  

Note: Earl gray, although I didn’t know much I was foreshadowing then.

THIS IS A TOWN FULL OF NICE HATS.

Shut it, Allanon, there is always a choice.

I’m bored again.

A creepy cultist?

Where are you getting gunpowder?

Also, this is totally about human sacrifice.

Why does the creepy cult leader want to be Johnny Depp?

NO.

THEY SHOWED A CLIP OF STAR TREK? AND NOW ARE HAVING A RAVE?

WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?

I AM SPEECHLESS.

Episode 9

Bored.

They really have trolls under the bridge?

Embrace the weird.

Bandon is going evil.

Oh look, he attacked the king.

GO DARK BANDON. GO DARK. WE NEED A VILLAIN FOR NEXT SEASON.

A map on her skin? Does that happen in the books? I apparently have no memory.

I need to read Elfstones again.

CHESS ANALOGY. WE CAN’T HAVE PLOT WITHOUT IT.

Do you feel like a pawn? Maybe a pawn of prophecy?

Bandon, your eyes are getting squintier. If I learned anything from watching all the Merlin commentary, it means you are getting more possessed.

I think I’ve fought these witches in Zelda before.

This is bizarro.

I still don’t understand Kael’s plan?  Why is Ander such a bad king? Why is she going against him? I don’t understand. He is markedly less racist as far as I can tell.

TREE. TURN INTO A TREE.

WIL. YOU ARE A HEALER. THIS IS YOUR SKILL.

Episode 10

WHY ME? Because everyone asks that. Literally everyone.

Yep. Evil Bandon. Called it.

I am being sincere when I say this: Ander, thank you for allying with the “uglies.”

It really is terrible to be Arion.

Red magic doesn’t have to be evil? Why is it evil but also coded to the tree? Which I guess makes sense that it is holding back evil. But then blue is good. The color imagery going on in here is odd.

I repeat: Everyone who has to use magic has to go talk to Colin Morgan.

YES. CHOP OF THE HEAD. YOU LEARNED SOMETHING.

Save the world or let everyone die.

That isn’t a choice Allanon. That is being backed up into a corner. You really need to brush up on your definition of choice.

Three: “I want her to turn into something that looks like the Deku Sprout.”

YES. AMBERLE. TREE TIME.

King Ander: A study in blue eyes and tight clothing.

Bandon: Called it. Black eyes = evil. THAT OUTFIT IS FAB AND THE SWORD. FAB VILLAINY. JUST FABULOUS.

Tilton: Also called it.

Allanon… just keep saying words, wise druid words.

Eretria has to be rescued. Because of course.


 

As I finished watching the first season I asked myself one question: Will I watch season two?  Yes. Yes I will. 100% will.

However first, I am going to get out my battered copy of Elfstones and start reading.

Shannara

Every Thought I’ve Had While Reading Young Adult Novels

I’ll preface this all by saying that I have never gotten into YA. I am not sure why, but I just struggle with it. Which is ridiculous. There are great writers doing fascinating things across YA but I am just easily bored by it all.  However, in my “100 Books by the End of the Year Challenge” I have given myself, I’m trying to read outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone does not include contemporary young adult fiction. So please leave me YA book recommendations in the comments. Please. I don’t know what to read.

Now, on to the snark.

First person, wonderful, I think, my mind reeking of sarcasm and italics.

Was this anyone’s high school experience? Alternatively: Was this anyone’s college experience?

Ah, they must be the love interest. They’ve got so much quirk. The quirkiest even.

How does anyone see through their perfectly disheveled hair?

Every Certified Young Adult™  lives in New York or wants to live in New York.

How can anyone be this disaffected at thirteen years old?

Never mind, I remember myself at thirteen.

The new person at school also known as: Plot Device.

Do you only go to school when Plot Device shows up?

You can tell she is cool. Her name is gender neutral.

No, he isn’t literally the next door neighbor. He can’t be. Yep, he is.

Aww, Plot Device is sad.

Mental illness isn’t a quirk. Stop it.

Neither is stalking.

Where are your parents?

Listen to your parents.

Oh, they’re dead. Or divorced. Or conspicuously absent.

Go see a counselor. Don’t lie to them.

I was so close to being a YA protagonist growing up: brown hair, hazel eyes, one dead parent, slightly taller than average, general level of awkward, extensive interior monologues. I just needed to work on my level of quirk.

This world has no introverts.

Why do lines like “I’m not like all those other girls with their makeup and boyfriends” exist?

Stop vilifying people for their fashion choices. What’s wrong with you? Let them wear their makeup. Let them wear their fandom shirts. And, gasp, let them wear both.

It’s ok to be single.

Did that character just quote an absurdly esoteric and unknown poet, philosopher, etc.? Answer: Yes.

THE QUIRK STIFLES ME.

Where are you getting your money? Right, everyone is upper middle class. What was I thinking?

It’s ok not to know what to do with your life. You are fifteen.

Why don’t you have homework?

Mom, you are welcome for apparently being the most boring teenager in the world.

Why does no one make healthy life choices? Ever. I know it’s for Conflict and The Plot, but every once in a while won’t break the narrative.

BROODING.

I am not satisfied by that ending.

… Why is this so compelling?

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.

What Does Lawful Good Even Mean Anymore?

WHAT WAS I JUST SAYING?

Does anyone remember last week’s post? Anyone? No? For a refresher: Why is realistic synonymous with dark, gritty, and violent? Why is so much of our narrative going there right now? Ok. We are all caught up.

Now for today’s. Oh, it’s about the same thing. The same thing that permeates our culture on repeat. A bad record of narrative. Take a hero, make them dark. Take a hero, make them gritty. Take a hero, make them violent. Take a hero, make them evil. Please stop Dark Knighting everyone. Please stop turning everyone evil. Please. Stop.

If you can’t tell yet, this is about Captain America.

I’ll warn you now that this post is disjointed and rambling and perhaps a tiny bit emotional.

This afternoon I got a text from my sister: *whispers apprehensively* have you heard today’s marvel comics news…..?

Why yes, I had and I am tired. I am so tired. Everything about this reads so terribly. Captain America was initially created as a Blond, Blue-Eyed White Engineered Supersoldier™ to fight against the Nazi regime. Are we getting that? Are we understanding what we are doing by turning Captain into an agent of Hydra? Are we understanding what we are saying? Are we understanding the rippling damage of Nazi Captain America?

I am weary. So, so weary. Where are the people helping people?

As our conversation continued, a text asked: Why can’t we have good heroes?

Let’s talk about the cinematic universe for a moment. I’ve fought depression and anxiety for… looks at a clock, then a calendar, then my life as a general entity… forever. Most of my life has been gray. Emotions clouded. Emotions without color dulled by depression. But I remember actually tearing up at the first Captain America movie. I felt ridiculous. I don’t cry at movies. Except for The Lion King, which doesn’t count. You don’t have a soul if Mufasa’s death doesn’t affect you. That’s just a rule of media.

However, here I was staring at the screen in the theater trying not to cry because a kid from Brooklyn doesn’t like bullies no matter where they’re from. It was a glimmer of a hero who wasn’t covered in loathing sardonicism. A hero who wasn’t disillusioned with the world. A person who wanted to help people. When I watched Winter Soldier, the introduction of Falcon as a hero who helped veterans, a hero who acknowledged mental health in a mainstream comic book movie, added to the team. I didn’t cry that time. Instead, I cheered. People helping people. A whole movie full of them.

As our conversation turned to all caps my sister, who is also our familial Dungeon Master, chimed in with: WHAT DOES LAWFUL GOOD EVEN MEAN ANYMORE?

For a bit of background, she just threw our characters into a dungeon and handed us new character sheets. Our old characters were darker, grittier… I was playing a former assassin turned good. Actually now that I think about it, I was basically playing the creepy druidic, tiefling version of the Winter Soldier. Most of our final decision making was made by the half-drow rogue. Our last game deteriorated into a 30 minutes discussion of the morality of killing an goblin. Darker. Edgier. We fell dice first into the trap of dark, gritty narrative.

I’m now playing as a high elf bard who is the ridiculous child of Awful Fantasy and Guy In Your MFA. We have a trash talking barbarian from the bunny clan. We have Pun Isher, the pun slinging gnome. Each of them are lawful good. They are lawful good, but still have differing personalities and opinions. We can still create interesting stories even if we all are for all purposes “good.” We are playing as people helping people divorced from needing a dark past and a gritty future.  

Finally, a text quipped: I don’t like bullies, that includes Marvel writers!

So much of our life is sculpted by media, by storytelling. We learn through narrative. We learn through history. We learn through the stories of others and our own. We need stories. Diverse stories. Stories that question the norm. Stories that show the good and the bad. Stories that find glimmers of hope for everyone.

We don’t need Nazi Captain America.

Everything I’ve Learned to Write the Perfect Query

Dear Agent That Absolutely Wants To Represent Me Via This Unsolicited Query,

This is where you put a one line hook to your book that may or may not actually be completely out of tune with the rest of your query. You desperately try to match it to the style of your book. You stare at it for countless numbers of days, weeks, and occasionally months.

Here you expand upon your plot. I hope you only have one relevant character because that’s as many words as you are allotted. One. Ok. You’ve already used too many words. No. Stop. Stop now.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU HAVE ANOTHER PARAGRAPH ABOUT YOUR PLOT. HOW DARE YOU.

CALL TO ACTION. This book is about something and you somehow waited to put that all the way down here.

Now is the time to get pithy and reference this one specific agent even though you probably have approximately 5-10 queries out right now. It’s cool. A couple won’t bother responding at all. Just keep breathing. Breathe and be pithy.

Talk all about your wonderful writing credentials. Name drop a couple of conferences. What do you mean you are unpublished and unknown? Too bad.

Author bio? What author bio?

Thanks for the upcoming rejection,

~ Authorial Furies

Except you aren’t done yet.

Some of you want a sample chapter. HAVE AT IT. Please ignore the fact that the character I just talked about doesn’t actually show up for a chapter or two and actually this is an epic fantasy with like twelve main characters but totally only really focused on that one character because that’s how you write query letters and this is all one sentence because that’s how I live my life. #runonlife

OH WAIT. Now you want a 1-2 page synopsis of 120,000 words. Will do:

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

PLOT

CLIFFHANGER ENDING. HOPES FOR A SEQUEL.

And that’s it. That’s everything I’ve learned.

You can read more about my querying woes here and here. I’m sure more are to come as I convince myself to get out of my querying hiatus. I just couldn’t job hunt and agent hunt at the same time. That is the way to sadness. Sadness and chocolate.

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.

 

The Ten Most Frequent Responses to the Phrase “I write.”

1. “Something something something J.K. ROWLING something something something STEPHEN KING something something something BESTSELLER.”

2. “Did you know publishing is actually dead?”

3. “Why don’t you self publish? I mean The Martian is a movie!”

4. “Oh, I started writing a book once.”

5. “Who reads books anymore?”

6. “So, what’s your real career plan?”

7. “How do you afford anything?”

8. “Just write YA. They’ll publish anything for teens these days.”

9. “Will you read my (something that has never been revised)?”

10. “I’ll totally buy your book!” (levels of sarcasm vary)