Books Read in 2017

books

Greetings!

In the interest of seeing how what I consume affects what I produce, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read for several years now. It started off as an entry into an annual library drawing and has since become an interesting way to look back on my past reads. Since the list is long, I will not launch into explanations of every book, though I may describe ones that are especially good or bad.

My list is shorter this year than in the past, partly because I have started reading more periodicals (which I do not list). I’ve also consumed more craft and cookbooks. Since these types of nonfiction are not so much read through as browsed and used as inspiration, it didn’t seem fair to include those titles in my tally unless I actually read them from cover to cover. My other non cover-to-cover reading is primarily Rattle poetry magazine. Poetry requires more thought per page, even though the pages themselves are usually much less than a traditional book.

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Here is a handy little color code, to make things easier:

Ebooks (novels, non fiction, & graphic novels): Red

Audiobooks: Blue

Physical books: Black

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  1. Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition by Dan Wells (ebook via Overdrive)

–one of the most original science fiction stories I’ve read in years. A cosmetics company creates a beauty product that accidentally overwrites your DNA, which naturally has apocalyptic consequences. It’s satirical, funny, witty, and horrific. Every science fiction fan should read this.

  1. Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick (audiobook via Overdrive)

–It’s by Philip K. Dick. What else is there to say?

  1. In the Company of Russell Atkins (poetry anthology) (paperback)

–I read this mainly because I attended the book launch in Cleveland. I had never been exposed to Mr. Atkins’ poetry before. While I can’t say his verse was my cup of tea, the other contributors whose poems appeared in the anthology were greatly influenced by his work. I didn’t love every poem, but those I did, stuck with me.

  1. Aesop’s Fables (paperback)
  2. True Grit by Charles Portis (ebook via Overdrive)

–Every year the Massillon library and the Massillon Art Museum collaborate to promote a book for the NEA Big Read. True Grit was the 2017 selection, free copies were available all over Massillon, and the Massillon Art Museum’s main exhibit featured costumes from the movie adaptation.

I’ve never been a fan of westerns, but this book, told by the main character about an adventure from her childhood, made me reconsider the genre. The things I didn’t like about the other westerns I’d been exposed to was the lack of characters I could identify with, their overwhelming machismo, and the stereotypical depictions of cowboys doing stereotypical things. This novel is nothing like that.

The protagonist is Mattie Ross, a young girl whose father was murdered. She hires a gunman to hunt down his killer and accompanies him along the way to make sure she gets her money’s worth. She’s believable both as a child forced to bear the burdens of adulthood and a no nonsense female character; she suffers no fools and fights to be taken seriously. I really felt for both her and the gunman, Rooster Cogburn. I loved it.

  1. Wonder Woman volume 1 by Greg Rucka (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  2. Female Force: William Moulton Marston, the Creator of Wonder Woman (digital comic via Hoopla)
  3. Lock In by John Scalzi (ebook via Overdrive)

–In the tradition of great science fiction, this novel shows how technology adapted to humanity–in this case, to deal with a condition that traps people inside their bodies–transforms human society. There’s also an awesome murder mystery that’s complicated by that same technology.

  1. Bombshells volume 1: Enlisted by various authors (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–I read this mainly on the recommendation that it is a great graphic novel illustrating female superheroes. After reading it, I honestly don’t understand how anyone could think that.

In an alternate history dominated by female superheroes, Bruce Wayne never becomes Batman because his parents are saved by a female superhero. Other male heroes never emerged or at least serve different roles. However, while all the men are off fighting the war, the female heroes are still sexualized objects for male pleasure; they are all basically Forties pin-up girls that just happen to fight crime too.

Batgirl wears a baseball-themed costume complete with tiny shorts and wields a bat. Wonder Woman meets up with army brass who give her a costume to wear as well; she thinks she’s dressed as one of their goddesses, because she sees a pinup girl painted on the side of a plane. And don’t even get me started on Harley Quinn. Her plot made no sense, and each page…just, no. Read it if you must, but you’ve been warned.

  1.  The Shape of Home by Lee Chilcote (paperback, poetry re Cleveland and suburbia)

 

  1. Hag-Seed (a Hogarth Shakespeare novel) by Margaret Atwood  (ebook via Overdrive)

–The Hogarth Shakespeare series is a collection of modern day adaptations of Shakespearean plays by modern authors. In this retelling of The Tempest, Prospero is an actor cast out of his acting company who lives alone with his young daughter. It’s an original take on a classic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  1. The Flintstones volume 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–When I heard there were a series of graphic novels tackling Hanna Barbara characters, I was intrigued–but I was blown away by this one in particular. The story looks back at the creation of the town of Bedrock, Fred and Barney’s wartime history, and even tackles social issues like racism and the treatment of indigenous peoples. It is one of the wittiest satires I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

  1. World’s Best Life Hacks: 200 Ways to Make Your Life Easier by Sarah Devos (ebook via Hoopla)

–I picked up a few helpful tips via this quick and easy read!

  1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (ebook via Overdrive)

I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but it always seemed to get pushed back for other things. This book is so sad and beautiful. I really identified with the characters. I just loved it.

  1.  Protect Me (Mind Sweeper series, book 0) by AE Jones

–I love this Ohio author’s work. I enjoy seeing the world through the monsters’ or freaks’ point of view, which is usually both interesting and funny. I wonder what that says about me.

  1. Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton (ebook via Overdrive)
  2. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (audiobook via Overdrive)
  3. Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 1 (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
  4. Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
  5. Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
  6. Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Iron (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
  7. Wonder Woman Vol 4: War (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various

   23. Wonder Woman Vol 5: Flesh  by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)

  1. Mockingbird by Walter Tevis (audiobook via Overdrive)

–This was a beautifully told dystopian tale with a message of hope.

  1. Wonder Woman Vol 6: Bones by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  2. Wonder Woman Vol 7: War-torn by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  3. Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Lies by Greg Rucka and various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  4. Wonder Woman ’77: Vol 1 by various  (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  5. Scooby Apocalypse Vol 1  by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–This graphic novel is another fun reimagining of classic Hanna Barbara characters, though it isn’t as witty as The Flintstones retelling. It’s pretty much a straight up monster story with Velma and Shaggy working in a secret lab that causes the apocalypse. It is okay, but I honestly didn’t find it that interesting.

  1. Fight Club 2 (graphic novel via Hoopla) by Chuck Palahniuk, illustrated by Cameron Stewart

–Another interesting but weird read. I did not think it was as good as its predecessor, Fight Club (the novel).

  1. The 6.5 Habits of Moderately Successful Poets by Jeffrey Skinner (ebook via Overdrive)
  2. Doctor Who: Revolutions of Terror by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (ebook)
  4. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (audio book via Overdrive)
  5. The Walking Dead and Philosophy by multiple authors (ebook via Humble Bundle)

–I’ve been slowly working my way through the Pop Culture Philosophy series of ebooks I bought via Humble Bundle. If you get a chance, I strongly suggest you read them. The series tackles real philosophy problems by setting them in pop culture situations. This one tackles morality in stellar fashion, especially such sticky points as suicide, the ethics of killing, and the rights of a person (or zombie).

  1.  Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy by multiple authors (ebook via Humble Bundle)

–(see above) Same general take, but with different questions set in different worlds.

  1. Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams  (audiobook via Hoopla)
  2. The Walking Dead volume 27: The Whisperer War by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–I read this again to refresh my memory before reading the next installment. The book is good up until the disappointing ending. I know other fans loved it, but it didn’t make sense to me.

  1. The Walking Dead volume 28: A Certain Doom by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–I loved this installment! This book is so much better than the one before. There is character growth, unexpected twists and turns, and actual resolution for many plot points. Like all Walking Dead stories, there is more story left to be told. There always is; that’s the point of the series. But I felt very satisfied when I finished reading this one.

  1. Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart (ebook via Hoopla)
  2. Improv Sewing by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut (ebook via Hoopla)
  3. Wonder Woman, vol 2, Year One (DC Universe Rebirth) by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  4. Hoopla: the Art of Unexpected Embroidery by Leanne Prain (Trade paperback via library)

–I began embroidering this past year, mostly via YouTube tutorials and practice. However, this book inspired me to sew my own original artwork and think outside the creative box I’d put myself in. It’s a series of articles about different sketch artists that use embroidery in unusual ways–from embroidering cartoons on fabric and stitching street maps on garbage bags to creating miniature portraits. I checked it out of the library three times, and I kept the last checkout overdue ten days so I could really finish. I rarely buy paper editions of books, but this one is definitely a must-have.

  1. Terminal Alliance: Book One of Janitors of the Post Apocalypse by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)

–I can’t imagine anyone other than Jim C. Hines–author of The Princess series, Goblin Quest, and Libriomancer— writing a book about space janitors and making it work. He brings the same irreverent humor to this science fiction gem that he’s brought to his other fantasy titles. Reading this is pure fun, and there’s actual science in this science fiction too!

  1. Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson (graphic novel via Hoopla)

–When I saw this graphic novel on Hoopla, I was pleasantly surprised! The story takes place shortly after A New Hope and the destruction of Leia’s home world of Alderaan.  The rebel leaders tell her to take time to mourn and lay low; the Empire has a bounty on all the survivors of Alderaan. Instead, she wants to gather them all together to keep what’s left of her home alive. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but this story sheds some light on Leia’s past and her motivations as she moves forward to save what she can of the world she left behind.

Now I’m just waiting for a series to be written about the older Leia, General Organa.

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My books read list this year is significantly shorter than last year, mostly as I consume lots of different things that I don’t necessarily read cover to cover. Currently I am reading a paperback version of Betsy Greer’s Craftivism (courtesy of my local library), Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle (hardback poetry anthology courtesy of the library), and The Very Best of Tad Williams (ebook collection courtesy my friendly neighborhood library via the Overdrive app).

 

I have temporarily put down (mid-read) How to Be a Craftivist and Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy due to time constraints. I need to prioritize library reading over the books I own so I can read them before they are due, and I proudly own those last two books. Since they are nonfiction essay collections, it’s easy to simply put them down and pick them up again as time permits. The Tad Williams book especially became a priority, because my son was really excited to share this author’s work with me. He hasn’t been this excited about reading fiction on his own in awhile, so I wanted to read it at the same time so we could talk about it together.

If you’d like to discuss any of the books in my list, feel free to comment below or contact me through Twitter or FaceBook. In the meantime, have a lovely week!

 

 

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Current Events: New Year’s Resolutions for 2018!

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I know you must be weary of reading other people’s resolutions for the new year. They are inherently selfish posts aimed not at you–the reader, but rather written for the benefit of the author: a public affirmation of their intentions for the new year. There’s something special that happens in a person’s brain when they write their goals down. The act of writing makes the idea concrete and mandatory. Combine that with the possibility of public accountability, and you have a recipe for (at least some measure of) success.

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So, in the tradition of utterly selfish writing, I am announcing my goals for the coming year. In the spirit of honesty and accountability, I did not accomplish all my goals this past year–mainly getting a literary agent. I did accomplish others though–such as reading more non fiction and poetry. I had a table and read at a local author convention, and by preparing and printing my own materials to sell I discovered I loved publishing my own work. It was empowering. Can you guess what my New Year’s Resolutions are for this coming year?

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1. Publish a book.
I want to publish my work. Although I have blogged and written for the past ten years, I have yet to publish a complete book. I still have my unpublished science-fiction manuscript, which I honestly love and think is pretty damn good. However, I am more heavily into poetry at the moment, and I still write quite a bit of flash fiction. I have a backlog of stories and poems, so I’m not sure if I want my first published book to be the novel or a collection of my shorter works. I may do both.

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I’ve considered ordering a small amount of print books (to sell in person), as well as making the work available by POD or as an ebook. My local library also has options to publish for free (Self-e), although I doubt that would give me print options. I’m also still open to the traditional publishing route, but, in the meantime, I am working toward self-publishing. Either way, I’m getting at least one book out this year.

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2. Market my book.
I’ve already worked on my “brand” this past year by setting up a more professional author site, as well as matching social media accounts and even business cards. I generally try to attend as many writing conferences and workshops as possible, although this year I was sadly unable to make some of them due to a family emergency. My writing blog is informal, but my author site functions as a resume with sample writing for prospective publishers.

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So when I say “Market my work” I’m talking about marketing the book I plan to publish this year–which will involve public appearances. I’m extremely nervous when speaking in public, so this is something I’ve been working to overcome for awhile. Hopefully, I will improve with practice.

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3. Learn to make one origami form with a dollar bill.
I know this one has nothing to do with writing, but I’m terrible at origami. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for awhile. I don’t need to learn a bunch of complicated forms, just a simple one that I can do well. I want to do it with dollar bills because I can use it for a craftivism project involving play money. Also, if I leave a tip with paper money, it might be cute.

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I’d love to hear what your resolutions are, if any, for the year 2018! If you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments below. And Happy New Year!
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**due to the holidays, my posts will be scheduled slightly off from the normal two weeks. My apologies. Happy holidays!

 

Short Story: Family Holidays

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The holidays: that time of year when family and friends you avoid are suddenly thrust into your life again, when you give gifts because of obligation rather than inclination. That time of year when those unlucky souls are forced to say “I didn’t get you anything”…or worse, be told, “It’s the thought that counts.” Ouch. That joyous time when you weather your family’s disapproval for the accident of birth. Let’s face it. Holidays are high pressure: expensive both financially and emotionally. And the biggies? They can be a real bitch.

So Glumdedumpling sat, elbows resting on the long wooden table, pondering his fate. This year, it was his sorry lot to be chosen organizer of the annual family reunion. Being a youthful three-hundred sixty-seven, he had tried to shake things up. Every year the gathering was held in a different location, determined usually by the chosen elf’s home environment. For several hundred years it had been held inside large trees, because cookie elves felt comfortable there. They loved the toasty warmth of indoor rooms heated by ovens or open fires; it was dangerous in dry season, but they were slaves to tradition. The diminutive toymaker elves felt fairly comfortable there, although they tended to fan themselves a lot and sit farther from the fire. The high elf cousins had not attended in ages. The other elves pooh-poohed their sea-going cousins, but Glum figured small quarters made them claustrophobic.

So the longer time passed without the high cousins, the more Glum became like his name. Even the bonfire merrily blazing away in the middle of the forest failed to brighten his spirits. He imagined the derision of his fellow elves. “Having the gathering outside? What a unique choice!” they said. Each time they asked, “You told them high noon, right?” failure stung him like a thousand pine needles. Each time they said, “So, this high elf dish is savory instead of sweet? That’s interesting!” he knew he was guilty of the highest heresy. Savory instead of sweet for cookie-elves and toymakers? What in Santa’s name had he been thinking?

Just then, Ravensong walked so gracefully into the gathering that she seemed to glide along the forest floor. Sunlight glinted off her snow white hair; its long full mane draped her like a robe. She carried a tupperware container full of cookies and set it on one of the long wooden picnic tables. Towering over her tiny cousins, she said, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this new venue.” Her voice tinkled like a thousand bells. “Climbing inside those trees was murder on my RSI. I tell you, after that last reunion, it took me centuries to feel better. Thank goodness for aspirin and heating pads!” Her laughter was like the sweet tinny chimes of a music box as she rubbed the base of her spine.

All the other elves were struck speechless. Even among eternal beings that don’t age past young adulthood, time can drag, and it had been a long time since they’d set eyes on something so beautiful. “Are those all the cookies you brought?” asked Merrybells, one of Glum’s cookie-elf cousins. None of the elves had eaten any sweets since early morning. They sat drooling, staring with unabashed hunger at the single plastic container.

“Well, the invitation said you were serving high elf western dishes, so I thought it only fair…” She trailed off at their ravenous expressions. “The others will be along shortly,” she added, “just parking the minivans. I just thought I’d…” She shrugged. “Yes, I’m the only one that brought cookies but–”

Suddenly she was flying through the air, her white main cascading behind her as she gracelessly landed on her ass. “What the–!!!” She caught herself before uttering more. She wasn’t used to this level of indignity.

As she sat silently fuming, Glum planted himself beside her on the forest floor. The needles pricked his bottom, but he ignored the discomfort. They watched the tiny elves fight over the dozen or so cookies like starving men and women. After a couple seconds, Glum said, “Don’t blame them too much. It’s my fault. I should have planned both savory and sweet.” He paused a moment before adding, “I figured planning the reunion could count as my gifts.” He fiddled with some pine needles beside him, avoiding eye contact. “I never know what to get three hundred relatives anyway and…” He sighed. “I didn’t get you anything.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” said Ravensong with a slight pause to denote just the right amount of condescension and disapproval. They watched the other elves fight over the last few crumbs like feral wolves.

They remained quiet a little longer. They could hear the high elves walking from the parking lot, footsteps lightly crunching needles as they approached the scene of utmost bedlam. Dusting debris from her glistening robe, Ravensong finally asked, “So, why aren’t you fighting over the damn cookies too?”

“I ate a bowl of vegan cookie dough before I came,” replied Glum. “I’m on a restricted diet, so I always come prepared.”

As the high elves gathered behind Glum and Ravensong, they took in the spectacle of their tiny cousins with a mixture of aversion and bemusement. Their own robes glistened, their hair glinted with magic, and the tupperware containers they held were filled with brownies, bowls of plum pudding, and fruitcakes. A light snow began to fall, grew heavier, then finally became torrential gusts that tossed the smaller elves like snowflakes. As Glum’s miniature cousins ran for cover, Ravensong and her clan held his small hand and walked to the bonfire—which still merrily blazed away. The storm parted around them; they sat down and started sharing food.

The little elves glared with disdain from their trees, refusing to come outside. They had had enough. So much for diversity! So much for new things! This was a holiday, dammit, a time for tradition! As Glum and the high elves split the savory and sweet dishes between themselves, they smiled, chatted, and joked about the past few hundred years. Eventually the smell of warm brownies overcame the tree dwellers, they lowered their heads in shame and joined the group at the tables. Though the high elves muttered a few words of derision, they were otherwise civil and passed the brownies and plum pudding around each table. Soon, all were partaking of the holiday cheer and sweets–everything, in fact, except the fruitcakes.

Tradition was one thing, but fruitcake was another. No one in their family was that crazy.

 

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

**due to the holidays, my posts will be scheduled slightly off from the normal two weeks. My apologies. Happy holidays!

 

POEM: The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge

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“The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge”

 
In a netherworld of eternal nights,

The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge sets

within its murky depths, the stage for yet

another act beneath its neon lights.

 

Nina Simone’s piano they replace

with guitars and mics; her solo ended.

It’s hard to run a lounge that’s attended

by those who nightly drink and also grace

 

that same stage–yet it works. Jimi and Jan

tend bar; there are drinks passed round. Martinis

and shots-they disappear like Houdinis,

as Hendrix holds the mob’s attention span

 

with variations on his famous tricks,

Joplin adjusts her maladjusted bun

of stringy brown hair, not to be outdone

by his performance–she chews swizzle sticks

 

as his feet perform feats unhygienic;

they mix drinks, change place settings, and break through

a new status quo. A bar so strange. Who

thinks it’s sanitary? Cacophonic

 

sounds echo meanwhile from the abandoned

stage. Audio being tested, Janice

eyes the mic just like a Praying Mantis

eyes its prey. Soulful melody unplanned

 

erupts as she leaps across the bar, not

waiting for the test to be done, and she

shakes her hair loose, and runs onstage–a bee

to honey. Jimi knows tonight’s her spot

 

anyway. Tomorrow is his solo

with his guitar. They will do a duo

afterwards, no hard feelings. Their pseudo-

rivalry lost to time, tunes, and tempo.

 

Smoke clouds drift, generated throughout the

room by the exhalations of humans

from every era. Through the haze, fuming,

each cigarette, each pipe, each cigar a

 

glowing red eye in the dimness. No one

seems to mind as long as the speaker works.

Janice dances with twirls and whirls and jerks;

she’s heedless, unworried that it’s been done

 

before. What’s more, when they hold Poetry

Slams, the Shelleys hold hands, recite their planned

rhymed words without one cough; a promised land

found within their eyes. Ingenuity

 

not confined to poems alone, but drinks

as well. Alcohol and opium mixed

–laudanum–preached to each free love amidst

the hungry, thirsting crowd. And Mary winks

 

to her freethinking spouse. It’s rather sweet

that after all their years together, they

still have magic. A marital display

when tending bar, moving to the quick beat

 

of words and sound, orders filled, they’re thrilled to

be around each other. Mistakes have been

put behind. Other times, the darkened den

silences them into wild watching who

 

next mounts the stage. A young man, blonde D.A.

haircut pulled smoothly back from his high cheek-

bones and blazing eyes may begin to speak

on The Method and acting in a play.

 

A full-lipped platinum blonde beauty with lips

the color of rose, may rise singing, her

voice ringing loud and long. A performer

in a billowing white dress onstage, hips

 

swaying softly as she exits to read

Shakespeare by the flickering candlelight

at her table. There, her companion’s white

hair seems to fly from his scalp at full speed,

 

the shimmering lights caught in each stray hair.

Each wrinkle he wears deeply cut within

his paper skin, yet a great youthful grin

begins, while watching her his old eyes flare.

 

As Jan finishes her set, the quiet

descends upon the crowded room. Silence

falls like a heavy curtain. The giant’s

midnight mane, baby blues, and a riot

 

of rhinestones adorning his sparkling

outfit–outshine shining spotlight. The King

has arrived. Rhythm rings, he starts to sing

Hound Dog. He sways his wide hips, hearkening

 

to the voices of his fans. He shakes and

quakes, his own voice quivers as he croons Love

Me Tender. Smiles and tears. He stands above

his audience as a man, proud and grand.

 

So many more mount the stage, work the bar,

so far beyond our home world. The artist

once known as Prince, and Bowie, guitarists

and comedians taken past our star,

 

its yellow glow- dim memory in this

land filled with neon twilight, ignited

by dreams–the only starlight provided

by its denizens. Replicators hiss,

 

create doppelgangers complete in each

detail–except for the spark of new life–

Explain their unexplained removals rife

with Why. Their originals forced to reach

 

a darkened sphere light-years away. No day

everyday, just night, they perform before

an unnoticed audience evermore

of little green men, -women too, who pay

 

to view the highlights of our alien

culture. An extraterrestrial zoo

to educate and entertain them too,

no politics, just delights mammalian.

 

They are cast into a forever lime-

light, each one a cultural icon of

their generation. Their sublime fans love

to mourn their loss on Earth, but they’re in prime

 

up there, these famous homo sapiens.

For all this artificial world’s a stage,

its eternal players forever share

spotlight within this enclosed stadium,

a neverending audience to rage

before, away, and with those stars up there.

 

 

 

*Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed my scifi stretched sonnet!

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

POEM: Aging in a Cup

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“Aging in a Cup”

 

When I was five,

there were no second thoughts

with that first cool sip

of sweet and tart–

the morning juice, the sugar rush

and tasty treat I was permitted

for the sake of a daily dose of vitamin C,

to be taken each morning

with a bowl of dry Frosted Flakes.

 

Now decades have passed,

and that cold glass of sunshine

is an act of bravery,

only possible when

taken with powder-yellow tablets;

 

stubborn determination tastes

like chalk on my tongue

and sours my stomach.

 

It’s worth it.

 

*Thank you for visiting. If you would like to meet me and some other local writers, please come to the Local Author Fair at Massillon Public Library on Saturday, November 11th, from 11am–2pm. I hope to see you there!

 

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

 

National Novel Writing Month: Prep is KEY (unless you don’t have time)

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Each November begins the literary mayhem known internationally as National Novel Writing Month–affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo. Aspiring novelists throughout the world take the challenge to write a 50,000 word rough draft novel. The rules are simple: you can’t start the actual prose before midnight on the first of the month; you must finish by midnight on the thirtieth; and the plot should have a beginning, middle, and end.  Of course, you could always participate as a NaNoWriMo Rebel, which lots of people do, in order to ride the creative energy of all the writers working through November.

All you need to do is sign up to be a participant at the NaNoWriMo site and enter your wordcount each day. In return, you get access to chatrooms, fun writing tools to keep track of your word count and how close you are to your goal, and (if you “win”) some prizes donated by site sponsors! One of the prizes this year is three months of free Evernote!

So, you could be a plotter (someone who likes to plan out their novel) or a pantser (someone who writes without an outline–seat of the pants) or someone firmly in the middle. I tend to like a loose outline so I don’t lose track of where I’m going, but there’s no firm rule. Just do whatever works for you.

And remember, the goal is to write a ROUGH DRAFT NOVEL. So the main goal is QUANTITY over QUALITY. After all, the idea is to stop procrastinating whatever story you want to write and just get it down, because you can’t edit a blank page. Editing is for AFTER November. So give yourself permission to write badly, let loose those creative spider monkeys, and see what they turn up!

Every year I have participated, I have completed my goal, so I thought I would share my strategy. It might work for you. If it doesn’t, feel free to do your own thing!

  1. Plan out your daily wordcount goal.  There are thirty days in November, but I know that it’s much harder for me to write on weekends than weekdays, so I plan to write only on weekdays. This translates to writing 2,300 words each weekday (instead of 1,667 every single day). This way, if I get sick or fall behind, I have a nice buffer; plus anything I write on weekends is a bonus! I plan to write every day, but it’s nice to have a break when/if I need one.
  2. Back up your writing OFTEN, at least once a day. You can do this by copying and pasting into emails or saving on two different online places; I use Evernote and GDocs. Some people even write their novels out by hand or print each night. Whatever works best for you is the right thing.
  3. Have an outline. I’m not talking about a huge deal, just maybe a sentence for each chapter you plan to write. I usually plan one thing for each day I’m writing. This year, there are twenty-two weekdays so I am creating a loose outline with twenty-two bullet points. I have a beginning, put something in the middle, and the end, and then I fill in the points between.
  4. Don’t be married to the outline. Be prepared to shift your goal as your characters and plot do things you didn’t expect. You can always tweak the outline and make small notes so you don’t forget important plot points, but really–just have fun with it. Being surprised by what your brain puts on the page is half the fun!
  5. Learn to be okay with writing badly. Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is shit. That said, this is only a first draft. If you love it, you can edit it AFTER November. If you don’t, maybe you can salvage something from it for other stories. No matter what happens, you’ve stirred up your creative juices, and that’s a GOOD thing!

Have fun this month, and happy noveling! If you want to follow my progress and be writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo site, my alias is ganymeder. Good luck!

 

POEM: Gathering

2016DadwithHarmonica2015

“Gathering”

 

Sitting by the pool

my father and his friends drink

cheap beer from cold silver cans

I fetch for them from

a white igloo cooler.

My small bare feet make wet sounds

on the pale coral-colored patio,

mini splashes for each tiny puddle

in its pock marked surface.

My mother walks back and forth

between the kitchen and through

the sliding glass doors,

getting chips and dips

and anything else the men require

as they watch the game on TV,

drinking their bicentennial cheer

with a mixture of slow sips

and large cool gulps,

regulating their temperatures

from the warm Florida sun

 

 

 

*written last April for National Poetry Month, in memory of my father.