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. 😉

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!

Apparently, I’m not a real writer. And I’m guessing you’re not, either.

Hile, inklings!

Tonight, I have opinions. And they will not be silent. You’ve received fair warning.

A couple of authors I follow on Twitter — namely, John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig — led me to this article by Lisa Morton, Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, in which she expounds upon the difference between a professional writer and a “hobbyist.”

What a terrible, long sentence. My apologies. But I’m letting it stand, because I’m not a real writer anyway, and I probably don’t know any better.

Okay, okay, so that level of snark on my part is a bit uncalled for. (Maybe.) Especially since Ms. Morton isn’t calling me a “fake” writer (as opposed to a “real” one). She’s acknowledging that I’m a writer, just not a professional. Well, I kinda take umbrage at that.

Morton lists ten questions, which, according to her, a writer must answer with “yes” in order for her to consider that person a pro. In her graciousness, she will “cut you a little slack and say you can get off with 80% and still call yourself ‘professional’.” Please note that this is a direct quote in which Morton has her closing quotation marks in the wrong place. But who’s counting.

She also warns that if you scoff at her questions, she will consider you a hobbyist, and you are not to call yourself “professional” in her presence.

No. I’m not even kidding.

I know nothing about Lisa Morton personally. Until tonight, I’d never even heard her name before. Yes, there are places in this post where I’m pointing out her incorrect punctuation and grammar (still to come), but I have nothing against her personally. But her tone and word choices sound elitist to me, and as a writer (whose level of professionalism is tbd), I feel the need to speak out against it. Because it’s bad form, y’all.

Anyway, back to the questions. Or, as Morton puts it, “onto the questions.” (She really means “on to.”)

Lisa Morton’s 10-Question Acid Test of Writerly Professionalism (I just made that up.) and My Answers

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. My home is messy because I have a 10-month-old and cleaning is low on my priorities list.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

No. When I get the chance to go out with friends sans baby, I jump at said chance because if I don’t, I will go bat guano crazy.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

Rarely. For the last several months, TV has been the only way I can unwind, and if I try to write instead, I just fall asleep.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

Yes.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites [sic] (either research or networking potential)?

No. I haven’t been on vacation in 4 years because I can’t afford it.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No. I don’t enjoy discussing the business of writing. I do enjoy discussing the craft of writing and will do so happily at any given opportunity. However, I will not do so to the exclusion of chatting with a good friend, because I love my friends (both writers and non-writers) and care about maintaining my relationships.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

Sort of. Before I had a baby, I spent 4 years at a job that paid no money at all at the time: writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

I don’t understand this question. Does this mean I should think my current home isn’t nice? If I do think my current home is nice (which I do), how does that automatically mean I don’t have a professional mindset?

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Since I’ve answered only one question so far with “yes,” I guess the answer to this one is “no.”

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Is this a question about suicidal tendencies?

One out of ten. I don’t even score as “pro” within the bounds of Morton’s gracious 80%. The thing is, even if I weren’t devoting most of my time to keeping a baby healthy, whole, and happy — even if I were at my previous writing “level” of 5-8 hours per day instead of 2 hours per week — even if that were the case, I’d still only score as “hobbyist” in Morton’s eyes.

Not that it matters. As I stated above, I don’t know Morton, and I never heard of her until today. I have nothing against her personally — but neither do I care about her opinion or her classification of me. Her scoring system isn’t the be-all, end-all of whether or not someone is a professional writer. Her scoring system is a subjective description of her own process and her view of her own writing career. As far any other writer is concerned, it’s a moo* point.

The end of the matter is, there’s really only one thing that distinguishes a professional writer from a hobbyist. A professional writer gets paid for writing. BOOM. If you get paid for writing, you’re a professional writer. That’s it.

Morton’s list is elitist and exclusionary. It keeps people out — when what needs to happen is that we writers band together and invite each other in. We need to challenge the darkness individually and collectively. We need to form a tribe that affirms and reaffirms and assures and reassures. As my friend and fellow indie author Bernard Schaffer writes,

“We all learn together, share our information, and support one another’s endeavors, including stepping in and saying when someone is doing something they shouldn’t. …Be a member of the community and support it, both financially and socially, and it will support you back.”

~from The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing

Designing a test to see who’s pro and who isn’t does nothing more than exclude those who need a tribe’s support the most. And if those people are consigned to the outer regions where “hobbyists” apparently dwell, there’s little chance they’ll ever discover motivation for “becoming professional.”

As for me? Well, I’m not earning the big bucks, that’s for sure. My books were selling well enough to make a car payment, but summer sales are down. So at least I’m contributing something to the grocery budget. Once I get my WIP finished and published, I have every confidence that at least a few more car payments will be in my future. ; )

Hi. My name is Courtney Cantrell, I get paid for writing, and I am not a hobbyist.

___________________

* “It’s a moo point. …It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter…it’s moo.”

~Joey Tribbiani,
“Friends”

In the Beginning (Consortium Roots)

Hile, inklings! I hope you’re all having a cramazing life today.
: )

At the end of a blog post on her Go To El, the fabulous El recently posed the following question:

Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?

I posted the following as my response, and I felt it worth sharing here (especially for the benefit of MY NEWEST READERS, WHOM I WELCOME WITH MOST HYPERACTIVE JOY!!!):

“Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?”

Yes. ; ) Here’s the story:

Shawn: Courtney, you know Aaron Pogue? He likes writing, you like writing, our friend JT likes writing, and I like writing — we should form a writers’ group!

Me: Um, sure!

Me: Hi, Aaron and JT. Shawn says we should form a writers’ group. What do you think?

Aaron, JT: Um, sure!

*many writers’ meetings happen*

Aaron: Hey, Courtney, we should start a nonprofit organization to support the arts, and you should be the head of our writing school.

Me: Um, sure!

*shortly thereafter*

Aaron, Hey, Courtney, part of this nonprofit should be an indie publishing house, and we should help each other and all of our writer friends self-publish our novels.

Me: Um, sure!

Aaron: And Carlos and Julie want to help us with cover art.

Carlos, Julie: Yay!

Me: So does Amy!

Amy: Yay!

Aaron: And Jessie wants to be our editor.

Jessie: Yay!

Aaron, Courtney: And here are all these other people who want to help and whom we can help in return!

Everybody: Yay!

18 months later, the Consortium has published 6 novels, 1 speculative fiction magazine, and a stand-alone short story.

It’s unimaginably more than I bargained for. And it is wonderful. : )

_________

And you, dear readers? When did you get more than you ever dreamed possible? Share in the comments!

Also, I know that when we get “more than we bargained for,” the “more” isn’t always good. Sometimes, it’s pretty bad. Please do share those times with us as well, if you’re so inclined.
After all…”shared pain is lessened” (Spider Robinson).

Will You Be My Fracquaintribe?

Caveat emptor readtor:

This post might mirror my life: jumbled, disorganized, exhausted, frantic. (And yet, there’s a tranquil part, too, because I am SO THRILLED TO BE LIVING IN A HOUSE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1996!!!)

You’ve been warned. ; )

Word cloud generated with Wordle.net

*ahem*

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the definition of “friend.”

I really started thinking about it when I first joined Facebook four years ago — and people started “friending” me. Not be-friending, mind you, just friending. Suddenly, “friend” could be a verb that didn’t require a prefix.

Friend Me! I’m Friendly! And I’m Not a Psychopath!

And it didn’t require close connection with the person in question, either. We got rid of the “be-” and, at the same time, got rid of the need for knowing someone before we call them a “friend.”

On Facebook, I discovered, friends were friends. Acquaintances were friends.

Annnnnnd…total strangers were friends! What?! Upon a friend-friend’s recommendation, I found myself friending someone I’d never met in person or even online. I trusted the friend-friend not to steer me toward a crazy person, so why not?

So. “Friend” no longer meant “person I spend lots of time with and trust with most aspects of my life.” In this brave new cyberworld, a friend was someone with whom I had a connection either through personal experience or through decent referrals.

How cozy.

Along Came Twitter

Since May 2010, I’ve been a Twitterer. Or a Tweeter. Over a year, and I don’t know the nomenclature for what I am. Identity crisis aside, I’ve been tweeting and re-tweeting for 14 months now…

…and, wonder of wonders, I’ve got better connections with my tweetlings (as I call them!) than with the “acquaintances” and “total strangers” whom I have friended on Facebook.

My tweetlings tweet and RT (read: re-tweet) about me, and I about them. I help them out; they help me out. There’s a lot of give and only a little take. Whereas Facebook “friends” will opine and argue (sometimes discourteously), tweetlings tend to be polite.

From what I can tell, the rule on Twitter seems to be:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

I kinda sorta like that a lot.

Tribe Hummus*

The newest part of my What’s A Friend? Saga is that Dino Dogan of DIY Blogger NET invited me to join Triberr.

You can click through to read the whos and whatsits — but basically, Tribber is designed so that individual tribe members can automatically retweet each other’s blog posts, thereby giving each member access to the others’ followers.

I’m too new to tell, really, just how much Triberr is extending my reach…but extend my reach it does. When I tweet my blog posts, 339 followers see my tweet.

But through the members of my Triberr tribe, my posts reach 6,785 Twitter users.

That’s a lot of free advertising. ; ) It’s brought me some new connections, and I’m pondering setting up my own tribe. I’ll blog more about that in the future — so prepare ye for updates! ; )

Triberr members promote each other; simply by being a member, I’m doing something good for three other people. And by being members, those three people are doing something good for me.

Friends do that.

Fracquaintribes

So. What do you think of all this?

Ten years from now, will we still have friends?
Will we have acquaintances?
Or will we all be members of tribes or clans, less and less individualized and more community-minded?

Is any of this pointing toward a sort of hive mind?

Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated. All of this re-defining of relationships is interesting…but how far will it go before the intellectual exercise turns into a humanity we present-day Twitterers, Facebookers, and Triberrs no longer recognize?

If you’re reading this, you’re pretty much already in my fraquaintribe. So let’s talk. : )
______________________
*As I pondered the heading for this section, I Googled the word “tribe” for fun. “Tribe hummus” was one of the auto-complete options; it made me gigglesnort, so I kep’ it. ; )

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.