reading and (w)riting, no ‘rithmetic

Last night, I wrote about my hope, my not-hope, and my forever-hope, all threaded through with the discouraging guanoshow that was 2016 A.D.

Today, I turn my mind and heart to lovelier things. When it came to reading and writing, 2016 was one of my best years ever. 🙂

On Reading in 2016

In 2016, I started reading 67 books, and I finished 64 of them. (The unfinished 3, I just couldn’t get into or enjoy, but I won’t mention them by title.) That’s 17 more books than I read in 2015, and I credit intentionality for the difference. Last year at this time, I purposed to read as many women authors as possible. At some point, my to-read list and to-read stack basically exploded. When the rumblings echoed away and the dust settled, I found a SMORGASBORD BOUNTY OF WOMEN’S VOICES, and I devoured them with vigor. YUMBLY IN MY READER TUMBLY.

This was the first time in my life I’ve read so many women in the space of a year, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

These voices rang fresh and clear in my mind. They reverberated with beauty and sorrow, disgust and joy. They spoke things I’d never before heard. They made me laugh and cry and think. They inspired me to write more. They inspired me to write more freely.

Reading these women, I found myself living the reality that I could write as they do, unbound by shackles.

HALLELUJAH I’M FREE

But more on my writing later. First, their writings.

Books I Read in 2016

Asterisks indicate particular favorites.

  1. The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee ***
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke *
  3. Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse *
  4. Journey to America by Sonia Levitin
  5. Dark Beyond the Stars edited by David Gatewood *
  6. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas *
  7. Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood, #1) by Aliette de Bodard
  8. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor *
  9. The Giver by Lois Lowry *
  10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab *
  11. When the Silence Ends by Jade Kerrion
  12. In the Woods by Tana French *
  13. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin **
  14. Gateway to Reality (Reality Series #1) by Becca J. Campbell
  15. Kushiel’s Chosen (Kushiel’s Legacy, #2) by Jacqueline Carey
  16. “The Father Hunt” (A Flawed Story) by Becca J. Campbell
  17. The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass
  18. The Likeness by Tana French *
  19. Kushiel’s Avatar (Kushiel’s Legacy, #3) by Jacqueline Carey *
  20. Open Minds (Mindjack Saga, #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn *
  21. A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2) by Madeleine L’Engle
  22. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) and short story “Glitches” by Marissa Meyer *
  23. The Haunting of Gillespie House by Darcy Coates
  24. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess **
  25. The Three by Sarah Lotz
  26. Blood Oranges by Caitlín R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney
  27. Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto
  28. You by Caroline Kepnes **
  29. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  30. Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
  31. The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
  32. Sword-Bound (The Sword-Dancer Saga, #7) by Jennifer Roberson
  33. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
  34. The Wild Road (Book 3 of Karavans) by Jennifer Roberson
  35. Timebound (The Chronos Files, #1) by Rysa Walker *
  36. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  37. The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude *
  38. Just One Damn Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book 1) by Jodi Taylor *
  39. Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials, a short story by Annie Bellet
  40. The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Series, #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg *
  41. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater **
  42. Tiny Bites: A Collection by Stacy Claflin
  43. Kindred by Octavia Butler *
  44. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl *
  45. Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  46. The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
  47. Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5) by Charlaine Harris
  48. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  49. Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson
  50. Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell
  51. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
  52. The Christening Quest by Elizabeth Scarborough
  53. Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1) by Rachel Caine *
  54. Trey of Swords by Andre Norton
  55. Uprooted by Naomi Novik **
  56. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, 1) by Meg Elison *
  57. The Fading Dusk (Smoke and Mirrors #1) by Melissa Giorgio
  58. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando *
  59. Jinian Footseer by Sheri S. Tepper
  60. The Kraken Sea by E. Katherine Tobler
  61. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped by Madeleine Roux *
  62. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope *
  63. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness **
  64. The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts *

Recalling these stories is like thinking back on the utter joy and satisfaction surrounding delectable holiday meals. Here’s hoping for even greater tastiness in 2017.

So…what *is* in store for 2017 A.D.’s To-Read List?

Well…lemme tell ya. The other day, during our family’s roadtrip back to Oklahoma from our Florida-panhandle Christmas, I decided to head a head start on my reading list for this year. I already had a few titles and authors in mind, but I hadn’t collected them all in one place yet. Here’s the tentative reading plan so far; the only order is “ladies first” again (with a single exception):

Currently reading: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Further reading
Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl
Sarah Maas, Throne of Glass 2
Aliette de Board, Obsidian & Glass 2
Lowry’s The Giver sequel
Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows
more from Kerrion’s Double Helix series?
Tana French on nightstand (that’s not the title, it’s where I’ve stacked the book)
Jemisin, 100k Kingdoms 2
Cass, The Selection 2
Quinn, Mindjack 2
L’Engle #3
Meyer, Cinder 2
Bloggess, Furiously Happy
Carrie Ryan 3
Walker, Timebound 2
Taylor, St. Mary’s 2
Holmberg, Paper Magician 2
Stiefvater, Raven Boys 2
Sookie Stackhouse #6
Caine, Weather Warden 2
Lilith Saintcrow, Night Shift
Delilah Dawson, Three Lives of Lydia
Ellison, Road to Nowhere 2
Harkness, Discovery of Witches 2
Kepnes, Hidden Bodies
St Crow, Strange Angels 2
The Power, Naomi Alderman
Slipping, Lauren Beukes
Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen
Fifth Season, Jemisin
Thin Air, Paver
Copper Promise, Williams
Crosstalk, Willis

Wendig: Aftermath, Invasive, Thunderbird
Nod, Adrian Barnes
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Hendrix
NOS4A2, Joe Hill
Versailles, Yannick Hill
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
Paper Menagerie, Liu
Lovecraft Country, Ruff

Well, then. There’s my 2017 reading list already more than halfway sorted, and the year isn’t even a day old yet. And so it goes.

On (W)riting in 2016

Compared to previous recent years, I accomplished quite a bit in 2016. Not as much as I’d planned — I published only one book instead of two — but I ain’t kicking myself over it.

Not too much, anyway. 😉

The Elevator

elevator_cvr_lrgIn tags list at the end of this post, please to be clicking “The Elevator” for more details about this novel. For now, I’ll just say that I consider The Elevator my best published work to-date. As of this writing, it has but one Amazon review to its name, which makes me sad for it. Completely objectively and also quite biasedly, I think the book deserves more. Apparently, others’ mileage varies. Oh well. Can’t make everypony happy, and I long ago decided not even to try. 😉

But come on. It’s a space fantasy adventure with a chaotic psychopath, a cross-dimensional traveler, a vampire, a mech-woman, and two adorable smartass street urchins, all tied up in the nature of Reality at the heart of the multiverse. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

*ahem*

Don’t answer that. Unless it’s with a resounding silence in which you fork over money for my book. In that case, BRING IT ON.

I…uh, what?

elvendeadThe Elven Dead & Other Legends of the Light-Walkers

Ohhhhh, did I ever have such plans to publish this anthology in 2016!

Alas and alack, ’twas not to be.

I just ran out of oomph, y’all. In its final eleventh, 2016 managed to plaster me with that guano I mentioned before, and I didn’t cleanse myself of the disgusting sludge in time to hit “publish.” The short story collection *is* complete, minus a couple of touch-ups. I even have the cover art, thanks to fabulously talented Sam Hunt. All that’s left is to put in some butt-to-chair time to get the book out into all y’all’s greedy little reader hands.

Come on, I know you want it. 😉

Soon, my inklings. SOON.

Writerly To-Dos for 2017

What’s next? Well, that’s an excellent question, dearies. In early December 2016, I counted up the number of projects I could possibly turn to next — after taking care of the pesky pubbing details I mentioned above, of course. The count numbered 9. I repeat, NINE.

Nine project ideas with equal potential for becoming my next completed work.

People ask writers where we get our ideas. The better question is how can we NOT get ideas, so that we have space and time enough to work with the ideas we do have.

When it comes to writers’ ideas, picture a closet with all the junk just shoved in and the door slammed shut, in which each junky-seeming object represents a story or character idea. Except that the closet is actually a warehouse the size of Montana.

That’s why we never need people to tell us *their* ideas for a story *we* “should” write. Our ideas warehouse is already filled to bursting at the seams. Dude. The roof has practically exploded off. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND TRUE AND WRITERLY IN THIS WORLD, DON’T STUFF ANYTHING ELSE IN THERE

*ahem* But I digress.

In trying to figure out what to work on next, I enumerated and described my options to my writer friend Becca. She listened and asked pointed questions. Simply through conversing about my dilemma and sifting through the story ideas in my mind, I realized that I kept coming back with excitement to one particular idea:

the story of Taeven Ravenhair.

Taeven makes a cameo appearance in The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers 3) and gets a mention in Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers 2). I penned the first 12k words of her tale for NaNoWriMo back in 2004 — and promptly screeched to a halt because I had no clue which word should be number 12,001. The story’s been shelved ever since.

But in 12 years, Taeven has never left me alone. She’s not naturally a patient person, but she has exerted a monumental amount of self-control, waiting her turn. So, as I shared a bit of Taeven with a fellow writer, suddenly it all turned crystal clear:

2017 is the year in which Taeven finally gets a real voice.

Of course, as soon as I decided this, I frantically typed out four pages of notes and then started writing a completely different story.

And so it goes, right? Busy, busy, busy.

This new story, currently entitled The Flight of Elfled unBlessed isn’t part of my Legends of the Light-Walkers series, but it does take place in that universe. It promises to be a novella, so I’m hoping it won’t take up too much of early 2017. But more on it later.

Taeven’s story has gathered dust under the title The Bearers of the Stones. I never really liked it, so I tried to come up with something more suitable while I was taking those four pages of notes. As of a couple of weeks ago, Taeven’s story is entitled Sister of the Black Flame — subject to change at my writerly whim. AH THE POWER MUAH-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAA

So. 2017 shall be:

  • pubbing Light-Walker shorts collection
  • first draft of Taeven’s story, hopefully final draft
  • Elfled’s story
  • getting paperbacks prepped and on sale pages for all the longer works

Plus LIFE.

And enough.

For now. 😉

current events; also, stereoscopic vision really freaks me out sometimes

The second half of this entry’s title was a note I emailed to myself more than 3 years ago under subject “blog not tweet.” Actually, the email’s subject line reads, “blog not twwet,” but Ima chalk that up to typo-ing. As it turns out, there are twelve emails nested under that subject, so I’m sharing their content here. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Blog Not Twwet, Because Clearly I Can’t Spell

It is not a happy thing when the baby eats a dead bug. *SIGH*
(2016 Note: This, too, is a message catapulted into this future from about three years ago. The baby has since turned into a preschooler, apparently suffering no ill effects from having consumed dead insect carapace.)

HEY I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT LET’S TELL RIDDLES AND I’LL EAT YOU MAYBE.
(2016 Note: I’m assuming this references Gollum.)

Your choices change the direction of other people’s lives. You are not isolated.

(This one’s emphasized because: important.)

Sometimes you just gotta take a few minutes and shave your legs.
(2016 Note: NO.)

Floor messing with head PIC
(2016 Note: I have no idea what this means.)

And now, it seems, quotes:

“@BenHoward87: If you see a centaur, remember it is not your friend. It is a mythical creature and as such does have the capability for rational thought.”

“@BenHoward87: Peanuts cartoons + Morrissey lyrics = the hilarity of existential despair

“@scalzi: Most nerdy t-shirts just don’t seem that clever to me anymore. Clearly, my next t-shirt should read WHY ARE YOU ON MY LAWN”

Remember when Scully wore shoulder pads?

Remember when desktop monitors were the size of anvils?

Remember when we couldn’t Google anything?

Remember when payphones?

“@LeVostreGC: Siri, wher ys the horse and the ridere? Siri, wher ys the horn that was blowinge?”

Wher in the worlde ys Carmen Sandiego?

Just so you know, kinesio-taping your stomach to pull your abs together is not for sissies. #diastasisrecti
(2016 Note: I have a blog post about this. Search for it if you will. I’m too lazy to link to it right now.)

That awkward moment when you look in the mirror and there’s an ant crawling in your hair.

It occurs to me that I haven’t performed a solo in 7 years.
(2016 Note: It’s now been 10 years. I miss singing for audiences.)

Rain. Thunder. Contented. Sigh.
(2016 Note: Weirdness: As I’ve been copying & pasting the last ten lines or so, I’ve been listening to “Love, Reign O’er Me” by The Who. I didn’t know this line was coming up.)

I own a banana slicer and I am not ashamed.

In other news…

As part of my 2016 endeavor to read only women writers, I am currently in the middle of Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It is UTTERLY BRILLIANT. It’s one of those books that makes me want to do nothing but read. I resent Thanksgiving Day tomorrow because it will steal me away from this novel. I need to be working on my own WIP (newly retitled THE ELVEN DEAD AND OTHER LEGENDS OF THE LIGHT-WALKERS), but I’d rather read Novik’s book than work on my own.

DASH IT ALL.

P.S. In addition to random “blog not twwet,” I also ran across various Consortium emails from five and more years ago. I let them suck me into reading them, and now I just feel sad. I miss the Consortium-in-its-heyday so much. Being continually involved and multiple-times-daily connected with other artists was a balm to my soul and a life-giver to my spirit. Author-publishing is a lonely business. I desperately miss all-but-living-with other artists, back when everything was running smoothly. We made magic.

in 2015 i read 47 books. what about 2016?

2015’s Reads, 2015’s Faves, and Projected Reads for 2016

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve starred the ones I enjoyed most, and following the list you’ll find brief notes on each of those faves. My goal for 2015 was to read at least 50 books. Missing that mark by 3 isn’t too bad. And I beat last year’s tally of 45, so BAM.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important how many books I read, just that I’m intaking story and enjoying myself. But having a number goal keeps me focused on reading during the times when the sheer pleasure of it isn’t quite enough. I don’t know if other people go through phases like that, but I’ve been dealing with more of them since the depression hit. My yearly competition with my past self helps me get through the rougher patches. It’s a useful coping mechanism, keeping that little extra bit of joy in my life when I need it most.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2015 list:

1. Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht
2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon *
3. Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey (*)
4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt *
5. Stellar Science-Fiction Stories, #7 edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle *
7. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
8. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
9. Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1) edited by Robert Silverberg (Robin Hobb’s “Homecoming” *)
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss *
11. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) by C.S. Lewis
12. The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth *
13. The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #4) by C.S. Lewis
14. The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) by C.S. Lewis *
15. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis *
16. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis *
17. Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
18. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King *
19. 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
20. The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz *
21. The Lurker at the Threshold by H.P. Lovecraft
22. Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel, #3) by Brent Weeks
23. Resist the Devil by Watchman Nee
24. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
25. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. The City by Dean Koontz
27. The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig *
28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
29. Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin (*)
30. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
31. A Demon in the Desert (Grimluk, Demon Hunter Book 1) by Ashe Armstrong
32. Red Rain by R.L. Stine
33. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
34. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber *
35. The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
36. Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig *
37. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
38. Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score by Darwyn Cooke
39. The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King, #1) by S.A. Hunt
40. Protector by Becca J. Campbell
41. The Walking Dead: A Larger World (Vol. 16) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
42. The Walking Dead: Something to Fear (Vol. 17) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
43. Nightwalker (Dark Days, #1) by Jocelyn Drake
44. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare
45. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
46. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *
47. Hounded by Kevin Hearne *

The Faves

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
–a great story with unexpected twists
–cramazing character development
–classic sci-fi
–a writing style that turns the reader’s imagination into a co-storyteller

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
–utterly engrossing and heart-breaking
–McCourt’s style is so vivid and immediate, I felt like I was right there living it with him through the whole story.
–made me keenly aware of my own privileged upbringing; expanded my world

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
–HOW did I never read this book as a kid?!?
–SO GOOD
–in the vein of C.S. Lewis, which means brilliance & excellence in imagination, theme, message, story

“Homecoming” by Robin Hobb in Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1)
–Hobb’s story gets my vote for best character-development of this year’s reads; I’m just a sucker for the redemption of the snobby, spoiled, rich-girl type 😉

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–GAH THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE
–some of the best fantasy I’ve read in YEARS
–almost read this too fast; it’s truly UPDA
–can’t wait to read Book 2 this year!!!

The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth
I don’t talk a lot about my faith on social media. But I will say this: “high church” has done the world a disservice by painting women into a powerless, subservient, subjugated role for the past two millennia. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic, Viola & DeMuth’s book challenges what you think you know about the Christian Bible’s treatment of women (especially in the New Testament). I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not finding something that surprises or even shocks them — in a good way.
This book about women is a wake-up call.

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5), The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6), The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7) by C.S. Lewis
–simply a pleasure to re-read as an adult
–beauty, truth, challenge

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
–classic King, thrilling and excellent from start to finish
–HOW does the man manage such perfect character development?!
–loved the female characters in these stories — such powerful agency!

The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz
–classic boy-and-his-dog-in-creepy-world Koontz
–dark and gritty, captivating and ethereal

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig
–another UPDA
–sucked me in from page 1 & refused to let go
–excellent wrap-up to the trilogy
–really hope to read more stories set in this cornpunk world!

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
–another non-fic that all of my fellow Jesus-followers need to read
–insightful, heart-breaking, heart-warming
–this book will offend a lot of Christians
–I loved it. 🙂

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig
–loved getting another *slice* of Miriam from Wendig
–perfect intro to Dawson and Hearne, made me want to read more of both
–cheese?!?
–delightful

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
–thought I loved the first book in the series until I read this one
–rare that a sequel upstages its predecessor, but this one does
–fun, “fresh” (LOL) take on zombies
–MC Angel’s voice reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse
–will read more in series

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
–fun frolic of a druid story
–reminded me of Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt
–loved the characters’ voices
–at first distracting but then fun to puzzle out the Gaelic names as I read

Runners-up:

Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey
–rich, detailed world-building
–enjoyed seeing how the main character’s growth determined the intricacies of the plot

Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
–yummy to read some classic sci-fi with a strong, scrappy heroine!

Q: What’s in store for 2016?

A: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LADIES.

Right now, I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a humdinger of a novel, penned in Jane Austen style (in A.D. 2004, mind you) and clocking in at 1006 pages. Uffda. I’m unused to reading this style of doorstop anymore, so it’s slow going and takes a lot of concentration. BUT it’s a fabulous challenge and a great read. I’m loving all the subtly sarcastic asides about early 1800s British culture. And reading these characters is like watching a movie. And it has magicians and fairies. Just fun.

Projected reads this year include: Jade Kerrion, Tana French, Susan Kaye Quinn, Marissa Meyer, Kiera Cass, most of the female authors listed here, Delilah S. Dawson, Cidney Swanson, Carrie Ryan, and Julie Hutchings. After these, I’ll turn some attention to Wendig, Gaiman, Hearne, King, Koontz, Yancey, and others.

Why all this focus on female authors? Because I realized some time back that I read mainly male authors, and I want to support my sisters of the written word. Plus, women’s voices simply aren’t heard enough, and I want to redouble my efforts to hear them. I’m exited to hear them, to discover the nuances of their words and imaginations, to let their sounds thread through my soul in new ways. The gentlemen will have their turn, but for now, it’s the ladies who get all my love. 😉

Happy reading in 2016!

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.

Pubbed and Read in 2012

Just a quick review!

Rethana's Trial front

Published

SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT, Book 3 in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch.

RETHANA’S SURRENDER, Book 1 in my epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers.

RETHANA’S TRIAL, Book 2 in Legends of the Light-Walkers.
 
 
 
 

Read

The asterisks indicate particularly enjoyable reads. And I beat last year’s total. Yay readin’ me. : )

1. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
2. Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes (Gentlemen’s Edition) by Bernard J. Schaffer
3. Into the Flames by Jessie Sanders
4. Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King
5. Recursion by Tony Ballantyne
6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett*
7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll*
8. A Consortium of Worlds, #2 by Consortium Books, ed. Joshua Unruh and Courtney Cantrell
9. Another Fine Myth by Robert Aspirin
10. Myth Conceptions by Robert Aspirin
11. Queen of Dragons by Shana Abé
12. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
13. Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey
14. Legends 3 edited by Robert Silverberg
15. Velocity by Dean Koontz
16. The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
17. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons
18. Camouflage by Aaron Pogue
19. Jesus Manifesto by Leonard K. Sweet and Frank Viola*
20. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede*
21. Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
22. Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
23. Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
24. The Servants of Twilight by Dean Koontz
25. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
26. Revise Us Again by Frank Viola
27. Midnight by Dean Koontz
28. Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz
29. The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott*
30. Foreign Identity by Becca J. Campbell
31. A Consortium of Worlds, #3 by Consortium Books, ed. Joshua Unruh and Courtney Cantrell
32. The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
33. The Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams
34. To Green Angel Tower, Pt. 1 by Tad Williams
35. To Green Angel Tower, Pt. 2 by Tad Williams
36. Metamorphoses by Ovid (not finished)
37. The Dragonprince’s Heir (The Dragonprince Trilogy, #3) by Aaron Pogue
38. Saga of the Myth Reaver: Downfall by Joshua Unruh
39. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (still in progress)
40. Soft Come the Dragons / Dark of the Woods by Dean Koontz
41. Breathless by Dean Koontz
42. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
43. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith*
44. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
45. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini*
46. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi*
47. Karavans by Jennifer Roberson
48. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
49. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King*
50. The Waste Lands by Stephen King
51. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
52. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
53. Song of Susannah by Stephen King*
54. The Dark Tower by Stephen King*
55. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card*

Conclusion: I need to read and review more indie-pubbed and self-pubbed novels in 2013. This will slow down my progress on my to-read shelf, but oh well. There’s nothing like sacrificing for the cause, right? ; )

Happy New Year, dearest inklings!

ENJOY THE NEW YEAR’S READS!

I have a To-Read List. Let me show you it.

Once upon a time, in case you’d forgotten, I shared with you my To-Read Shelf.

Go on. Click through, look at the pic that goes with that post, and then come back here.

Now look at the pic that goes with this post. Please to be noticing the only slight difference.

This is many words.

Some of those books are even still the same ones that were on the shelf last December. *sigh*

And you know what’s worse? The Shelf isn’t the only place where I store books I want to read.

Since September 6, 2011, I’ve also kept a written list of book. And today, Ima share that with you, too.

Do note, my dear inklings, that the To-Read Shelf and the To-Read List contain mostly different titles. The Shelf holds books I’ve acquired to read. The List holds books I have yet to acquire.

Again… *sigh*

Such is the Writing Life: so many books to read / write, and so very little time.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here ya go. The List is heavy on the sci-fi and fantasy (surprise, surprise), but if you look closely, you’ll find some classics and some non-fic tucked away in there, too.

Courtney’s To-Read List

begun September 6, 2011

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card
Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert
Sorceror by James Byron Huggins
With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott
Terroryaki by Jennifer K. Chung
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Beta Test by Eric Griffith
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
Devil’s Lair by David Wiseheart
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Starters by Lissa Price
The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Levy
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Above by Leah Bobet
Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
God Behaving Badly by David Lamb
Silence by Michell Sagara
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Kop Killer by Warren Hammond
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson
Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson
Skylark by Meagan Spooner
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring
Clockwork Angel by Kevin J. Anderson (story & lyrics by Neil Peart)
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
Dracula, The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
World without End by Ken Follett
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Zombie Notes: A Study Guide to the Best in Undead Literary Classics by Laurie Rozakis
Death: A Life with George Pendle
A Scanner Darkly: A Graphic Novel by Philip K. Dick
Prey by Michael Crichton

_______

So, there you have it. The list is subject to change from one day to the next — admittedly, change by increase in length. I don’t think I’ve decreased it at all since I started it, mainly because other good reads keep dropping into my lap. Oh, and speaking of good reads Goodreads, you can always visit my page there to see what I’ve read and what I’m currently reading.

Back to The List, though: Which of those books are you interested in? Which ones have you read? Which ones have you already read and found UPDA* and why? Which ones would you warn me away from and why? Let’s talk!

*UPDA = unputdownable

Why I Break The Spines of Books

Last week, my dearest, most darlingest readers, I wrote about my right brain’s sometime conflict with my left brain.  I used examples from my sordidly disorganized past, juxtaposed (ooh! big word!) with tales from my less messy present, to show that somehow, the two sides of my brain are learning to work together.

Pondering this ambi-brained-ousness reminded me of something particularly nit-picky I used to do but have abandoned in these, my wiser years.  (Insert guffaws here.)  So, here’s another look inside the mind of Courtney; please, pardon the dust bunnies and random (memory) holes in the floor, and do watch out for low-hanging whatnots and any underfoot baubles or doohickeys.

Behold! Beauty! Pristine perfection!

The Girl Who Ate the Book

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Courtney who loved books. She read pretty much anything she could get her hands on, and she devoured it all without ever getting her fill.

She borrowed books from friends and family. She bought new ones (books, that was, not friends or family) whenever she could scrape together enough cash to make a trip to the bookstore worthwhile. She brought the books home, tucked them into their special (alphabetized) places, and read each one in its turn. Her every book received its due attention and care, and all was well with Courtney’s reading world.

But, as is so often the case in utopias, there was a slight problem. You see, Courtney was something of a hypocrite concerning her books: She felt at ease in asking to borrow others’ books, but she was terribly reluctant to loan out her own treasures. Her selfishness didn’t extend to saying “NO!” when others asked to borrow a book…but she did feel a heaviness of heart and a quiet sort of desperation as the friend or family member in question departed with the loan.

You see, Courtney had rules for her books. And even though she tried to impress upon others the importance of following each rule, few people ever took her concerns seriously.

Don’t get the book wet.
Don’t get the book dirty.
Don’t write in it.
Don’t turn down pages.
Don’t dog-ear the pages.
And, whatever you do,
DON’T BREAK THE SPINE.

Courtney would admit (privately) that most of her friends and family could handle most of the rules. Nobody ever got one of her books wet. There might have been a single incident of a friend’s returning a book with a smudge of grime on the cover. Turned-down pages were a rarity. The dog-ears posed a greater challenge to the borrowers; but Courtney cooed over these returns and patiently folded each and every dog-eared corner back into place.

Alas, however, the most important rule was also the most difficult rule to obey. And once it was broken, there was no fixing the result.

When Courtney bought a new book and brought it home, she treated it with such care that, when she was finished reading it, it still looked as though it had just come off the shelf at the bookstore. Courtney never dog-eared the pages. Above all else, she never broke the spines. Her bookshelves were row after row of pristine, smooth, unbroken paperback glory. She read her books over and over, and not a single one looked used. Her bookshelves could have been featured in magazine articles on How To Make Books Last.

This, of course, meant that she read each book half-open, squinting at the pages and turning the book to and fro as she tried to decipher the words hidden in shadow closest to the spine. But who cared? The effort was so very worth it, when she could look at her pure, perfect bookshelves and know that all was right with her world!

Courtney, to the detriment of right honorable ideals of literacy and self-perpetuating inspiration, expected others to treat her books the same way she treated them. Whilst handing a loaner book to an as-yet-unsuspecting fellow bibliophile, she went to great pains to explain her reasoning concerning her rules. As she spoke, she didn’t seem to notice the increasingly deer-in-headlights look that swept the listener’s face. She certainly didn’t see when those eyes glazed over. All she knew was that she was making her rules quite clear, and she was doing it with a smile.

A well-devoured novel

When the loaned-out book came back with its spine creased, she felt devastated. The poor, precious book! White, ragged lines marred the former pristineness! Of course, of course, the book would be forever beautiful because of what was inside it…but those marks, those tiny cracks, those fractures would never mend. The treasure was tarnished. Past hope, past help.

Then, one day, Courtney grew up, figured out what “devouring” a book really meant, got the stick out of her you-know-where, and started breaking book spines the way a wild animal cracks the bones of its prey to get at the marrow inside. Her friends and family heaved sighs of relief, started asking to borrow books again (for they’d stopped doing so after all of Courtney’s put-upon complaints and sorrowful looks), and everybody lived happily ever after.

THE END.

Let’s Talk About Mosquitoes, Hives, and Outlines

I love words and how other people use them. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a novel and enjoying it most thoroughly — and BAM! I hit a phrase that makes me sit up and say out loud, “Odds bodkins, that was perfect.” One of my most enjoyable challenges in life is learning how to do that to my own readers…and, as ever, I remain a work-in-progress.

But. I heart mightily (and sometimes, I even liver) how other people use words. So, for years, I’ve collected quotes. I buy nifty little notebooks in various sizes and scribble them full of the fun, inspiring, infuriating, thought-provoking, artful, and elegant ruminations of my fellow humans.

Courtney's Quotes Collection

Some of them are writers (my tribe! Woot!). One such is Laura Resnick, a fantasy author who penned the following gem:

“For the first half of a book, I’ll cling to my outline in helpless terror. Then I’ll start veering away from it, which will worry me deeply for weeks. When I finally finish the book, I’ll suddenly realize I haven’t thought about my outline in ages and don’t quite remember what was in it.”

Once upon a time, I did not believe in outlines. I’d never heard of this thing called “pre-writing.” My preferred method of starting a novel was to sit down at the computer, open a Word document, and start typing. And that, my dear inklings, is how in 2004 I came to be in possession of a 12,000-word chunk of fantasy novel that was supposed to be the sequel to an already-completed epic. Instead, more than six years later, it lies still in unfinished, digital ignominy. I hope to finish it someday…

…but before that can happen, I’ll need to do all the pre-writing: for nowadays, I’ve abandoned my lackadaisical ways (mostly), and I’ve converted to Putting Faith In Outlines. (Oy vey, was that a long sentence. Sorry.) Spontaneity is great, but when I’m writing, it just gets me stuck in squelching, mosquito-infested bogs.

I don’t like mosquitoes. They give me welts. And sometimes hives.

So I’ve learned to appreciate outlines, and I’ve learned to like outlines, and I’ve learned to trust outlines. And, like Ms. Resnick, I’ve learned The Desperate Writer’s Clutch (by which I do not mean a purse). The spectre of that 12k-word unfortunate loometh at the edges of my writerly consciousness, yea verily and forsooth. While working on my current rough draft, I even printed the outline so that I could have it well within clutching distance instead of having to switch from the novel doc to the outline doc. (It’s nice to have one’s comforting blankie in sight at all times.)

That said, the second half of Resnick’s quote resonates with me just as much as the first half does. I’m thirteen chapters into the rough draft of a 15-chapter, paranormal fantasy novel. For the first eleven chapters, I hobbled along, using my outline as my crutch. Sometimes, I felt strong enough for a steady walk. Rare bursts of enthusiasm gave me the power to sprint. However, whether walking or sprinting, I never let go of that blankie crutch outline. I still needed something to lean on.

Chapter 12 changed a few things. I didn’t look at my outline for days! Characters talked and did, and they talked and did without a whole lot of help from me. What made the difference? I think it was my deeper understanding of my characters.

When I started writing their story, I didn’t know them well enough just to give them free rein. Every time they spoke or acted, I had to check the outline: Is this how it’s supposed to go? It is? Okay, then, tally-ho. I couldn’t trust my characters yet. I didn’t know them.

Now, we’ve been through twelve chapters of adventure together, and I’m starting not just to know these people but to know them. Their edges aren’t so blurry; I can see some sharp outlines. Ephemeral wisps on the wind have solidified into distinct voices. I’m seeing the shapes of their souls.

There comes a point at which the characters, not the outline, lead my thoughts and guide my fingers. And that’s where the magic happens. And it is glorious.