The world I want to live in

I want to live in a world where I can be unrestrained, passionate, an artist, a writer, a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes geek, a quantum physics dabbler, a Jesus-follower, a wife, mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a photographer, a foodie, a singer, a collector of ridiculous junk, a lover of everything about the cramazing human body, a tinkerer, a plotpantser, an advocate of even the most difficult truths, a ray of sunshine.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay that in addition to most of those roles, I’ve also been a mentor, a counselor, a mediator of conflicts, an innkeeper, an events organizer, a language instructor, a treasurer, a dollmaker, a carpenter, a construction worker, an archivist, an historian, an editor, a vice president, a genealogist, a hair stylist, a caterer.

I want to live in a world where functioning in all of these ways does *not* mean I’m “indecisive,” “rootless,” “aimless,” “absent-minded,” “careless.”

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be whomever the spirit leads me to be at any given time.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be me.

I want to live.

What’s the scariest book you ever read?

This post has been languishing in Drafts for a couple of eternities. I think it began life as a comment I left on someone else’s blog — possibly Chuck Wendig’s. I thought it worth sharing here.

What’s the scariest book you ever read?

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe
Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick

I have to list three, because all three freaked me out the most at different times of my life.

House of Leaves really messed with my mind when I read it 5 or so years ago. Somebody named Gareth says the book gets into your head like a virus and changes the way you think. That’s how I perceived it as well, and it was deeply disturbing. House of Leaves is one of maybe three books I’ve ever read of which I say, “This is more than a book. And, to quote the book itself, ‘This is not for you.'”

I know “The Fall of the House of Usher” isn’t a book, but I’m including it anyway. It’s my blog; I can do that. “Usher” got to me because — well, because of the whole thing, but mainly the way it all comes to a point with Roderick Usher’s final words. “…Have I not heard her footstep on the stair? …She now stands without the door!” The man’s awful horror is infectious. Madeline herself never scared me; but the way Roderick turns her into an impending, unstoppable doom…. Somehow, in my head, he makes her over into Yeats’s “rough beast” that “slouches towards Bethlehem.” Horrible and terrifying.

Teacher’s Pet is in the Point Horror series. I probably read it when I was 13 or 14 — still my pre-Stephen-King days, so I was still ultra-impressionable (IT took care of that a few years later). 😉 But Teacher’s Pet got to me for two reasons: One, the main character was a teenage writer like me, and unlike me, she was immersed in a writing world I still could only dream of; two, I was spooked by the idea that you can get so very, very close to someone and not know until it’s too late that they’re murderously crazy. I haven’t re-read this book in years, but I suspect I would still get a little thrill out of it.

How ’bout you? What book scares you the most?

what happened during my twitter break

Hi loves.

Now that I type that, I want to go back and a rewrite it “Hi loaves.” As though y’all were bread. Yummy, squishy, fresh-from-the-oven bread…mmmmmmm….

Okay. Getting weird now.

Anyway. Hi. I recently took a Twitter break. There was stuff on Twitter, and people were angrier about it than usual, and I’m dealing with a lot of my own blurglemamjufloobelschnitzen right now, so other people’s helter-skelter emotions were more than I wanted to futz with. So I took a Twitter break and got into a happier place (although the blurglemamjufloobelschnitzen is still very present) and drank tea and did yoga and binge-watched Netflix’s Daredevil, which is cramazing and WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING IT.

*eyes you suspiciously*

*coughs*

But while I was on my Twitter break, I collected a series of blatherings that I would’ve tweeted had I been tweeting. I shall now share those blatherings with you. I might or might not editorialize upon them as I go. Some of these will appear on Twitter because I want to share them there. It’s my blog and my Twitter account. I can do that.

*eyes you suspiciously*

What Happened During My Twitter Break

I want a nerd cave.

Toddler: What did Donald Duck do?
Me: I’m not sure. I can’t think of where you would’ve seen him.
Toddler: No. I never met him before.

I don’t talk a lot about my faith here. But one thing I’d like to say: “High Church” has done the world a disservice by painting women into a powerless, subservient, subjugated role for the past two millennia. I just read The Day I Met Jesus etc by Frank Viola & Mary DeMuth. Whether you’re a believer or an atheist, this book challenges what you think you know about what the Bible, especially the New Testament, says about women. I dare you to read it and not find something that surprises or even shocks you.

“Women…were the first evangelists.” –@frankviola & @marydemuth

I grew up in a Christian household…and it’s only now, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as an adult, that I realize the book contains a conversion experience complete with immersion (baptism) for the forgiveness of sins. Forest for the trees….

When you reach behind the couch to unplug your laptop and plunge your hand into a spider web. #no

If you consistently drive 5-10mph below the speed limit, I don’t understand you.

Also, when you speed up as I’m trying to pass you, I am, indeed, talking smack at you from the safe confines of my cafr*.

I am become an hummus addict.

It’s funny how I can tell a European by how she writes the date. 15. 12. 2012. And judging by the 1s, she’s German.

St. Booger and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory, y’all. It’s MORSE code, not Morris. Morris is a CAT, for crying out loud.

I never saw Affleck’s Daredevil, but the Netflix version looks scrumptious. Ahh, Netflix. How can you do this to me? Don’t you understand I have a life beyond your gooey deliciousness?

The business side of writing is not for sissies.
I am trying really hard not to be a sissy.

Toddler: What kind of man are you?
Me: I am no man! …I’m a woman.
Toddler: Are you a mama woman?

Sometimes I forget how to girl. I paint my nails and then go mess with tinfoil. #ruinedmanicure

Toddler dumps milk onto table, pats the puddle: I made my hand!
Me: No. That’s not nice.
Toddler: I made a ghost. I made an elephant.

“I like to have space to spread my mind out in.” Virginia Woolf

I really seriously do need to read more Yeats.

What? What ridiculously delicious and decadent dark chocolate cake? I don’t know what you’re talking about. 😉

I appreciate that she likes to clean things. I don’t appreciate that she intentionally dumps her drink out so as to have something to clean. #toddlerlife4eva

Pie. #Supernatural

Inability to go back to sleep after waking too early, YAY! That’s my FAVORITE!!!
#lying

If you follow me on Pinterest, please forgive yesterday’s overabundance of #Supernatural pins. I’m jonesing to start Season 10. #cantstandit

Toddler: Are you fond of me, Mama?

This is not for you.

All I gotta say is, when H&M opens in Oklahoma City, those clothes had better look European.

Pb&j with a dab of honey in the center. #comfortfood

Some days, when I watch a great show or read a great book: “Wow, I’m so inspired! I’m gonna go write and be awesome like *that*!”
Other days: “Wow. That was such awesome writing. I’ll never be able to write like that everything I write is crap why should I even bother….”
*sigh*

I really thought science would’ve delivered unto me a new set of sinuses by now.

*Yes. My cafr. While I drive, I drink my corffee.

it’s time to paint a tiger

it’s time to paint a tiger
by Courtney Cantrell

it’s time to paint a tiger
and i am not ready

the wildness is what gets me
i guess
sharp gleam of jade eye
power of muscle and mercurial spirit
contained in a casing of banded skin
tiger tiger burning bright
greed would turn you into a rug
your greed would break my neck drag me off
devour me

but all i want is to paint you
and i am not ready

     how do i capture this in words
     elusive feelings so resistant to the bars
     of serif font in black-and-white
     how do i chronicle a slow descent into
     sad unhappy gloomy
     life as a darkening mass above my head
     wretched forlorn forgotten

     angry

     how do i catalog despair?

the wildness is what gets me
i know
pupils dilate, track my every shudder
those powerful muscles coil
the creature waits motionless
ready to leap the moment i look away
tiger tiger burning dull
lulling me into a false sense of safety
tricking me into a belief that
i have a handle on this situation

i do not

we stare each other down, the tiger and i
my canvas screams for paint
my fingers itch to slather this blank space in wet color
but i can’t paint unless i look away from what hunts me
the tiger and i stare each other down
and the hair stands up on the back of my neck as i realize
all my paints are the color of crimson

     i stand already eviscerated
     my heart caught in the creature’s claws
     i didn’t even see it move

     my world is spattered with gore
     there’s blood everywhere

except for that damned white canvas

the creature refuses captivity

     i can only stand here
     and stare
     and bleed

it’s time to paint a tiger
and i am not ready

May 2, 2015

I can fit my whole fist in my mouth (weirdness + #amwriting update)

Me: I would seriously throw up if I had to remove somebody’s eyeball. Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

Ed: Don’t think about it. You won’t have to do it anytime soon.

Me: I might. There could be a zombie apocalypse and somebody could have a tumor in their eye.

Ed (in Schwarzenegger voice): It’s not a tumah.

____________________

Ed: I hate that story.

Me: What? “The Three Little Kittens”? Why?

Ed: Because I’ve read it about a million times!

Me: Well, the good news is, I can still fit my whole fist in my mouth.

Ed: I… what? Why are you–? Your whole fist?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…what are you doing, just sitting in here all by yourself, stuffing your fist in your mouth?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…I…okay. (walks out)

____________________

In the car….

Toddler (from backseat): I need a pah*!
(*pacifier)

Me: You don’t need one right now. It’s not naptime.

Toddler: I need a pah!

Me: No, not right now.

Husband and I converse for several minutes. Suddenly–

Toddler (singing to tune “Wheels on the Bus”): A baby in a bus say, I need pah, I need pah, I need pah. A baby in a bus say, I need pah, all through the town.

Me: Well, that’s the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever heard.

____________________

In other news,

my January progresseth apace with editing every moment I get.

Legacy (Legends of the Light-Walkers #3) (working title) is still underway: I’ve finished Draft 0.1-1.5 (I’ve lost track of which version this actually is by now) and am now in the throes of editing and rewriting based on feedback from three beta-readers. Since all three know what they’re doing, I have my work cut out for me. I’ll write a more comprehensive Writing Life update soon.

Also, I really can fit my whole fist in my mouth. Cheers.

_______________________________________________________________

This is why I should stay off of Pinterest.

Ed: What are you *doing*?

Me: It says to reblog this with my tongue.

Ed: Okayyy….

Me: According to this, 95% of people can’t do it.

Ed: I don’t doubt it.

Me: My touchscreen won’t respond. I have to dry my tongue first. How do you dry your tongue?

Ed: You probably don’t.

Me: Nnng. Mmmp. Guh. Shoot, I have to start over.

Ed: …

Me: There. I did it. I am so superior to 95% of people.

Ed: *sigh*

UPDATED: Why Amazon deleted all my ebooks

UPDATE: Rethana’s Surrender, Rethana’s Trial, Colors of Deception, Shadows after Midnight, and Stains of Grace are once again live at Amazon. And the reviews for R’S TRIAL and STAINS have transferred. HALLELUJAH! Hopefully, the other books’ reviews will transfer soon. (Draft2Digital has notified me that I shouldn’t be surprised if it takes a week or more for this to happen [if it happens at all {I remain dismally skeptical on this point }].) (I hope I got that punctuation right.)

(You should interpret my overuse of ( ) as an indication that I am keeping a stiff upper lip, old chap.)

To my dismay, D2D also corrected my misconception that ranking would transfer. Ranking will, in fact, NOT transfer. I guess it’s not such a big deal for me, since I’ve never ranked terribly high anyway…but it really sucks for a ton of other D2D authors who DID have a decent ranking. Great sympathies to them. This situation is so very frustrating for all of us.

~C.

Hile, lovelies,

Once upon a time, you might recall, I wrote a review of a great tool for writers called Draft2Digital. In brief, Draft2Digital (D2D) does all the work for me of uploading my books to the vendors Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble. I called D2D “the only thing you need to self-publish.”

Thanks to Amazon, I’m having to rethink that assessment.

I still believe 110% in the D2D model. It works fantastically, it saves me time, and it’s more author-friendly than its competitors (mainly because it was conceived of and executed by writers).

But for reasons* unknown to me, Amazon this week decided to remove all ebooks published through Draft2Digital. According to D2D, Amazon claims that D2D is…

“…in violation of [Amazon’s] terms.” Amazon gave D2D “…no opportunity to appeal or correct their complaints, and showed little concern for the impact that action has had on [D2D’s] users….”

–Draft2Digital,
January 31, 2014
February 4, 2014

Amazon’s course of action was to block D2D’s access to its account and to de-list all ebooks published through D2D. Notably, all notification I’ve received on this situation has come from the very apologetic Draft2Digital. I have yet to receive a single communication from Amazon.

Today is when the fit really hit the shan (thank you, Zelazny). One of my books, Rethana’s Trial, has disappeared from Amazon entirely, because I only ever had the ebook for sale. (I am remedying this by at least finally getting around to uploading the paperback file to CreateSpace.)

The rest of my novels — Rethana’s Surrender and all three Demons of Saltmarch books — are still available at Amazon in paperback, but the ebooks are gone. I’ve still got ebooks for sale at Kobo, iTunes, and Nook, but those sales are barely pocket change. Since ebooks at Amazon comprise most of my sales, you can imagine where this leaves me. (READ: high and dry.)

Oh, and the A Consortium of Worlds anthologies in which I have short stories — available only as ebooks — have disappeared just like Rethana’s Trial. So much for those.

I probably don’t have to tell you that I am beyond frustrated over this situation. Today I spent a total of 6 hours filling out tax info at Amazon, as well as filling out information on five different books and uploading book files and cover art.

I was involved in getting the Consortium of Worlds anthologies on Amazon, so I’ve at least worked with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system before. But that was several years ago. And there’s a reason I went with Draft2Digital in the first place: SO I WOULDN’T HAVE TO TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN USER INTERFACES AND FILL OUT FIELDS AND UPLOAD FILES.

GAH.

I’m relearning/learning KDP in the middle of knowing that I’m losing sales as we speak. No, I’m not a best-seller, but I at least make enough on my novels to contribute to the grocery budget every month. And that happens to be money my family needs. Amazon is directly responsible for taking grocery money out of my pocket — READ: food out of my baby’s mouth — and oh honey you better believe that burns me up.

No, nobody’s gonna starve. But things are going to get a little tight around here if I can’t fix this fast.

However, since all five of my novels were indie-published (meaning I didn’t have to do all the uploading to D2D myself in the first place), I’m having to hunt down mobi files and cover art files and make sure I’m uploading everything exactly the way the original files were uploaded. Otherwise I lose my rank and all of reviews.

Oh yeah. There’s that, too. If I don’t do it all exactly right, the ranks and reviews of all my books won’t transfer to my new sales pages, and it’ll be like I’m starting my indie/self-pub career from scratch.

No, I don’t have a high ranking. No, I don’t have a lot of reviews. But I fought hard for what I do have, and to know that I might lose it all in one fell, Amazonic swoop is just utterly demoralizing.

I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m irritated. I’m discouraged. I want to sling profanities haphazardly.

Really, I just want to cry.

But I’m not going to cry. I’m going to do what I have to do to get my grubby hands on the mobi files and the jpg files and the rest of the info I need, and I’m going to get those ebooks back up on Amazon. And if the rankings and reviews don’t transfer, then so be it. I’ll start over. Because, yes indeed, friends and neighbors and assorted pets, I AM IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL, no matter how long it takes or how hard I have to work or how discouraging the road gets at times. This is a roadblock, and I’m going to flatten it.

Noli nothis permittere te terere.

I’m also going to watch this a few times because it’s FUNNY.

MAKE ME FRIES.

__________________

*I have my suspicions, but it’s probably good form to keep those to myself for now, considering that I have no shred of evidence that certain big-name companies have anything at all to do with this situation. 😛

There’s nothing like a year-end post in the middle of January. Also: books I read in 2013.

So that’s why I’m doing my end-of-2013 post now. In the middle of January. Because there’s nothing like it. NOTHING. And you can’t convince me otherwise. So don’t even try.

Sorry. I’m having a health-crappy 2014 so far, and it’s making me combative. When I have the energy to get combative, anyway. Which isn’t often, so yay! But boo, this seems to be one of those times. I’m sure you can handle it, though, you thick-skinned things, you.

Anyway, my end-of-2013 post concerns mostly the books I read in 2013 and why there were so few of them. So here ya go:

Books I Read in 2013 — With Little *s to Mark the Ones I Enjoyed Most

1. The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura, #1) by Martha Wells*

2. Scalzi Super Bundle from Subterranean Press, by John Scalzi (The God Engines, The Tale of the Wicked, The Sagan Diary, How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, Questions for a Soldier, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop)*

3. Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee

4. Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna*

5. The Vampire from Hell (Part 1) — The Beginning by Ally Thomas

6. The Girl from Tenerife by Bernard Schaffer*

7. Carnival of Cryptids: An Anthology of Strange and Mysterious Creatures edited by Laurie Laliberte and Bernard Schaffer

8. Passion, Power & Sin — Book 1 by Mike Wells

9. The Final Winter by Iain Robb Wright

10. The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone by Robert Kirkman

11. The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out by Robert Kirkman*

12. The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

13. Tiny Dragons 1: The Sky Dragons by Bernard Schaffer

14. Ava Delaney #1: Thirst by Claire Farrell*

Just because I didn’t give something a * doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. But the *ed ones were extra fun for various reasons that include well-flowing style, good characterization, attention-grabbing (and -keeping) characters, and excellent world-building.

So, those were my reads for 2013.

Why There Were So Few of Them

Exhaustion. Busyness. The occasional touch of depression. Exhaustion. The “need” to numb my brain via someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet type of internet stuff (which “need” is a surefire symptom of burgeoning depression in Yours Writerly). Exhaustion. Busyness. And did I mention exhaustion?

I have a now-16-month-old. This should explain most of my 2013.

I’m not blaming her, and I don’t resent her for my lack of focus on readerly and writerly pursuits. In this season of my life, I have to make sacrifices. I know, I know, I shouldn’t sacrifice what makes me me, because if I don’t take time to recharge, I won’t be the kind of mother she needs me to be. I get that.

And I live by it as much as I can. But when the baby only naps for 45 minutes in an entire day (this happens frequently), one arrives at the end of the day with two choices: read or sleep. And in order to retain one’s sanity, one chooses sleep. This, as far as I can tell, is an Immutable Law of Nature, the breaking of which results in black holes in my brain.

Plus, I’ve also been having some bad neurocardiogenic syncope symptoms. They’ve been quite troubling lately, and I’ll blog more on them in the near future. But I suspect they’ve been bothering me a lot longer than I originally thought, and that this is part of the reason for The Great Exhaustion of 2013. But, as I said, more on that in a future post.

2013. Tired. Not enough books read. Certainly nothing near my 2012 total of 55, or even my “dismal” 2011 total of 42. Hey, at least in 2011 I had life, the universe, and everything going for me. That’s saying something.

But enough rambling. I’m already off to a good start in 2014. January isn’t over yet, and I’ve already finished five books and have started on my sixth. That’s nearly half of 2013’s total in the first month of 2014. Statistically speaking, I’m on a rockin’ roll.

Let’s see what the rest of the year brings.

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I’m a carrot-buy-aholic.

Me: So, umm…I think I have a problem.

Ed: What?

Me: I bought carrots today.

Ed: …

Me: Two different kinds.

Ed: …

Me: A package of baby-cut carrots and a package of frozen, sliced ones.

Ed: …

Me: Sliced like Ruffles potato chips.

Ed: You know we already had carrots in the fridge, right?

Me: I realized that later.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: I know that now. That’s why I’m saying I have a problem. Like with nail polish.

Ed: Nail polish.

Me: Yeah. I go to the store, I feel like I need to buy nail polish. That’s why I have so much of it. It’s the same with the carrots.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: It’s like a compulsion. I go to the store, I have to buy carrots.

Ed: …

Me: Buying carrots. It’s a sickness. I need help. I need Carrots Anonymous.

Ed: A little K.A., huh?

Me: Well, we’re speaking English, not German, so it would be “C.A.,” but yes.

Ed: Oh, yeah. That’s spelled with a “C” in English.

Me: I have to go now. I have to find a place for all the carrots.

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

First, I shall ramble for a while with thoughts on cooking. If you want to skip to the recipe, scroll down to “Cranberry Salsa Recipe.”

Rambling Thoughts on Cooking

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

If you know me in person at all, you’ve probably heard me express a certain level of dislike for cooking.

This is a strange paradox, because I love food, I love homecooked food, I consider myself a foodie. I took pictures of my food before it became uncool. Growing up in Europe and traveling a lot have given me ample opportunity to discover new-to-me foods, the recipes of which I’ve happily stockpiled in my kitchen.

I love them. I love having them. They warm the cockles of my gooey foodie heart. I just don’t seem to get around to using most of them.

Recently, I finally figured out that the main reason I don’t enjoy cooking is that it wears me out, and the main reason it wears me out is neurocardiogenic syncope. Even though standing in the kitchen for long periods of time doesn’t make me pass out, it does cause my blood pressure to drop, leaving me weak and sluggish and blah. A few weeks ago, I went through a phase where every evening after cooking, I’d have to skip most of supper and lie down for the rest of the evening. Meh.

(And yes, I would sit down while cooking, but we have a narrow kitchen and if I’m sitting, there’s no walking through it.)

On top of that, in the back of my mind is always the thought that the time I spend cooking, I could be spending playing with my daughter or writing or doing something else artsy. Yes, there is an artistry and creativity to food prep, but it’s not the primary means by which my creativity likes to burst or trickle or schlupp out of me. I do have fun cooking, but I don’t want to do it every day.

So. All of that to say this: I don’t always enjoy cooking, but I do have some favorite recipes. And one of them is the reason for this post.

The good news is, this one doesn’t require standing in the kitchen for a long time. BOOYA.

Lookit the yummies!!!

Lookit the yummies!!!

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

I’ve been using this recipe for years and have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it’s delicious. Like the tinkly laughter of small children. And the purrs of a hundred kittens. And like chocolate. Except that it’s salsa, not chocolate. Make of that what you will.

Mmmmm…chocolate….

*ahem*

This is really the only thing I ever “cook” that people actually ask me to make again.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here it is:

CRANBERRY SALSA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. or 3 cups fresh cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tbsp minced jalapeños
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup minced cilantro
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
16 oz. cream cheese
crackers

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients except cream cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours so flavors develop.

Place cream cheese on a plate; form it into a ball-ish; cover with salsa.
Serve with crackers.
By all the gods of galvanized whisk lickers THAT’S GOOD.

VARIATIONS

I’ve experimented with this recipe and discovered the following:

Chop the cranberries by hand or use a food processor; food processor is easier.
You can use canned cranberries (gross), but the salsa won’t taste good.
You can use dried cranberries, but the salsa won’t taste as good.
Honey will work as a sugar substitute, but the salsa will be runny.
An additional 2 tbsp of lime juice adds yumminess, but more than that is too much.
If you have a cramazingly powerful blender or food processor, you can shove all the ingredients into it and process the blurglemamjufloobelschnitzen right out of that puppy.
Your best option is to come be my cook, and I will pay you in cranberry salsa. EVERYBODY WINS.