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.

You know what happens when you assume, right? (Hint: ass-u-me.)

This is a post about how I made an ass of myself.

And nobody knew about it but me.

So no one would ever have had to know.

Except that I’m putting it on the internet.

Which might make me an even greater ass.

The jury’s probably still out on that one.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn't that kind of blog. I think.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn’t that kind of blog. I think.

So, I was driving, right? And I stopped at a light on Memorial Road and May Avenue in north OKC, and there was a man with a sign that read, “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS,” and I was at the front of the line of cars, and I thought, “Great.”

He wants me to give him money.

He’ll probably use it for alcohol.

I don’t want to give someone money for alcohol if they have a drinking problem.

I don’t have cash anyway.

Who carries cash nowadays?

Wait. I do have a couple of dollars.

But that’s my emergency money.

You know. Just in case.

(Of I don’t know what. But at least I have it.)

I’m not giving him my emergency stash.

I don’t have anything to give him.

Oh, look. There’s the guilt.

Because I’m supposed to help the poor.

And what kind of awful person am I, if

A. I automatically assume he’s an alcoholic, and
B. I don’t help someone who needs help?

I suck.

*sigh*

But also, I’m a woman, and I’m by myself.

What if he’s dangerous?

(Not because he’s apparently homeless. Just because he’s male.)

Okay, I really suck.

But I’m still not giving him any money.

Screw it.

That was my train of thought in the second it took for me to pull up at the light and for the man on the corner to make eye contact with me.

Eye contact.

Shiny.

He held his sign higher. And the words “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS” might as well have been divine fire from on high emblazoned across the sky, searing my retinas. But still, my retinas perceived the man, and my mind assessed him. About my age. Longish, dark curly hair. Bright blue eyes. Clean-shaven. (Clean-shaven?) Backpack. Old clothes. Pain.

He held his sign higher, and I held up my hands and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

He moved on past my car, but not before he said something that I couldn’t hear but that was clearly — clearly — a derogatory response to my choice.

He probably just cursed me out.

He doesn’t know if I’m just refusing to give him what I have, or if I really don’t have anything.

At least he didn’t flip me off.

Dude, I’m sorry, okay?

I need my emergency money.

And then there’s the possible addiction thing.

Oh, God, I suck.

With both hands gripping the steering wheel and my eyes on the red stoplight, I sat there and looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. The thing is, I’ve done this assessment in the same situation and with the same results countless times. It never changes, because I never come to an answer that makes sense to me.

Memory delivers me my old neighbor, Alex, who would come to my door asking for a couple of Euros to buy bread and cheese and meat so that he and his wife could have something to eat. Never mind that a couple of Euros isn’t enough to buy bread and cheese and meat, but it is enough to buy a beer, and if enough neighbors give him a couple of Euros, he’ll have enough to buy the number of beers it takes for him to get drunk enough (again) to beat his wife instead of fixing her a sandwich.

The specter of Alex and his wife haunts me at the traffic lights and the street corners and the mouths of alleys where men in disheveled clothing ask me for money and use God as their letter of reference. I do not know what to do with these men. I cannot know their hearts, and I cannot know the source of their pain.

I look into the bright blue eyes of the man at Memorial & May, and I don’t know what I can do for him that will allow both of us to leave this corner with guilt-free, satisfied smiles on our faces.

I’m thinking all of this as the man moves on past my car and I grip the steering wheel in miserable indecision and I look down and see a Walmart Great Value brand granola bar in the car’s center console.

I grabbed the granola bar and punched the window button, and I swear I leaned halfway out of that window, waving that white-wrapped granola bar like a white flag of surrender, with the Goodness of the universe as the enemy who opposes my bitter self.

“Sir?” I screeched out the window. “Sir! Hello!”

He was three cars back, but he came running. I prayed that the light wouldn’t change and that the drivers behind me wouldn’t be too irate, because I wasn’t rolling up that window or letting go of that granola bar until I could place it in that blue-eyed man’s tan, possibly grimy, but also possibly clean, and who cares about their condition anyway? hands.

When he reached me, he was saying something about not being able to run. I met his eyes and said, “I found this.” And I offered him the granola bar, and he took it, and he asked, “Did you hear what I said?”

I swallowed. Hard. “No, I didn’t.”

He smiled. He was already turning away, moving back down the line of cars. But he locked eyes with me one more time.

“I said, ‘I love your hair.’ God bless!”

I swallowed again, harder this time. “You, too.” It was all I could manage.

And then he was gone, and the light turned green, and I drove away and thanked God that I don’t have to be a slave to my assumptions. I don’t have to be an ass. If I’m an ass, it’s by my own choice. And I always get another chance.

Sometimes, that chance is delivered via a blue-eyed homeless man who loves my hair. We both left the corner of Memorial & May with smiles on our faces, and that’s how this story can always end.

Iñigo Montoya: You Keep Using That Word

If you enjoy the movie “The Princess Bride,” you’ll recognize the following quote:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

~ Iñigo Montoya

Even if you’re not a “Princess Bride” fan or haven’t seen the movie, it’s likely you’ve been around the intarwebz long enough to have seen the quote bandied about in forums (fori?), in memes, on Twitter, on Facebook, and anywhere else web users tend to bandy such things about.

Today, I’m gonna bandy it some more.

Reality

We each perceive life, the universe, and everything differently. We make judgments, form opinions, and choose courses based on these observations. Lots of times, we don’t understand each other’s judgments, opinions, or courses simply because our perceptions of the same event/person/situation are so vastly different. We’re operating from different realities; therefore, if m/any of our interactions are to be beneficial, we have to step back and try to learn each other’s language before we can even talk to one another.

Please To Be Noticing

I am not saying, “Absolute truth does not exist.” I happen to believe that absolute truth does exist. For one thing, the statement “absolute truth does not exist” is, in itself, an absolute truth if one believes that it is true. Therefore, to make the statement is to contradict oneself.

I try to avoid contradicting myself. As one does.

You Keep Using That Word

So. As I look around at our world, our cultures, our occupations, our communications, our notions, ideas, brain-farts, and conundrums, I keep coming back to the quote from Mr. Montoya:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And I ponder that it applies to all of the things I just mentioned (and more):

I do not think that argument supports what you think it supports.

I do not think that conversation meant what you think it meant.

I do not think that person said what you think s/he said.

I do not think that person feels what you think s/he feels.

I do not think that job functions the way you think it functions.

I do not think that party espouses what you think it espouses.

I do not think that candidate stands for what you think s/he stands for.

I do not think that religion embraces what you think it embraces.

I do not think that country represents what you think it represents.

I do not think that culture embodies what you think it embodies.

And so on.

And, of course, it would be perfectly valid for you to direct those statements back at me.

That’s how interesting conversations start. : )

Books I Read in 2011

My To-Read Shelf for 2012 -- not counting ebooks!

Well, my lovelies, ’tis the last day of the year! Thus, it’s time for me to share with you the list of books I read this year.

I’m slightly disappointed in myself, because this year’s count is lower than last year’s.

In 2010, I read 58.5 books.

In 2011, I read 42.

What made the difference? Well, becoming a published author, for one. By necessity, I had to spend more time working on my own books than reading others’. There were days when I was so worn out by the time I finished my writing and editing, I had no mental capacity left over for reading. Sleep and vegging in front of Netflix had to take precedence.

I know, I know. What kind of writer am I, choosing a movie over a book? Sheesh. Mea culpa.

But another thing that cut into my writing time was becoming an acquisitions editor. When it comes to my own novels, Consortium Books is my indie publisher. But when it comes to novels by our Consortium artists, my job as acquisitions editor requires me to read each of those novels and (a) approve it for line and copy editing if it’s ready or (b) work with the writer on getting it ready if it’s not.

This, too, takes time. Sometimes, it means I’m reading the same book two or three times. Always, it means I’m reading fewer already-published works.

However, I have no complaints about devoting time to my own writing or to the writing of my cohorts. I’m helping get new works out into the world and into readers’ hands. That’s at least as valuable as reading works that are already out there, if not more so.

So, when I look at it from that perspective, I guess I’m not so disappointed in myself, after all. : )

(Not to mention the fact that a books-read count of 42 [aka answer to life, the universe, and everything] is not something I can argue with.)

Thus, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2011 list of books!

Books I Read in 2011

An asterisk indicates a favorite read for the year.

  1. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
  2. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
  3. *Lilith: A Snake in the Grass by Jack L. Chalker
  4. *Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold by Jack L. Chalker
  5. *Charon: A Dragon at the Gate by Jack L. Chalker
  6. *Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail by Jack L. Chalker
  7. *Absolute All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Neal Adams
  8. *Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  9. Black: The Birth of Evil by Ted Dekker
  10. Relentless by Dean Koontz
  11. The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card
  12. Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman
  13. The Cure by Anthony Marais (not finished)
  14. Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
  15. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
  16. *The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  17. Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks
  18. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
  19. Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist
  20. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  21. Ghost Targets: Restraint by Aaron Pogue
  22. The Walking Dead, Vol. 11 by Robert Kirkman, et al
  23. The Walking Dead, Vol. 12 by Robert Kirkman, et al
  24. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  25. The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter by Sue Denim and Dav Pilkey
  26. Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad
  27. Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad
  28. *Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  29. *Snow in August by Pete Hamill
  30. Conan, #1 by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter
  31. Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) by Jim Butcher
  32. A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue) by Consortium Books
  33. Death and the Dream by J. J. Brown
  34. Yesterday’s Gone, Episode 1 by Sean Platt and David Wright
  35. The Zombie Bible: Death Has Come Up into Our Windows by Stant Litore
  36. *Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
  37. Secret Life of a TEEN Agent by Joshua Unruh
  38. Taming Fire (Dragonprince Trilogy, #1) by Aaron Pogue
  39. *The Dragonswarm (Dragonprince Trilogy, #2) by Aaron Pogue
  40. Resistance Front by Kindle All-Stars
  41. *Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  42. *Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

_____________________
How ’bout y’all? How many books did you read this year? What was your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It ain’t about the stuff, y’all.

It’s not about rushing around two days before Christmas.
It’s not about slogging through car-clogged parking lots.
It’s not about plowing through a crowded store to find the best deal.
It’s not about snagging the last one of something off the store shelf.
It’s not about mashing the potatoes right.
It’s not about defrosting the turkey in time.
It’s not about how many different kinds of pie.
It’s not about the ubiquitous fruitcake.
It’s not about the Douglas fir or the Jeffrey Pine.
It’s not about the lights on your front lawn.
It’s not about getting presents.
It’s not about Santa Claus and reindeer.
It’s not about St. Nicholas.
It’s not about the nativity scene.
It’s not about the angels.
It’s not about the number of wise men.
It’s not about Baby Jesus.
It’s not about traditions.
It’s not about religions.
It’s not about the correct seasonal greeting.
It’s not about the agendas.
It’s not about the next new thing.

All of that is just stuff.

This ornament — a dove carrying a heart and an olive branch — hangs on my Christmas tree every year. It reminds me of these truths:

It’s about generosity.
It’s about compassion.
It’s about patience.
It’s about forgiveness.
It’s about kindness.
It’s about joy.
It’s about peace.
It’s about hope.
It’s about love.

It’s about LIFE all year ’round.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Happy Holidays.

Love,
Courtney

Baby, You Can Too Write a Novel!

Hey sweet’eart. Missing me? Good, I miss you, too. : )

Life’s got me hustling and bustling enough to keep my blogging fingers busy elsewheres — but I promise an update SOON.

In the meantime, click to read my guest post about life, the universe, and everything, and how You. Are. Enough.

42, y’all. BANGERANG.