My Dysfunctional Relationship with Library Books

I adore libraries. I love them so much. They are my happy place, and I have a not-so-secret but currently-impractical-as-fuck desire to be a librarian. (Impractical because, um, yeah, don’t have money to go back to school for a COMPLETELY NEW SET OF SKILLS.)

I love to go to the library and browse books. The shelves are full of possibility for me, even when the SFF section is severely lacking (as it often is, where I’ve lived — why would we have book ONE in a series anywhere in our system? MADNESS — here, have books #6-9, they’re much better. I jest, only partly). The library is about so much more than the tried and true SFF for me — it’s about exploration, finding something new.

Several somethings new.

Every time I go to the library for one book I invariably come home with a bag that is BULGING with them. My library book bag is a good size; it’s canvas, from the Questionable Content store on Topataco. It carries a good number of books — it carries the amount of books I will actually read in the time I have them out. Yet I always overfill it, sometimes carrying books in my arms, too.

At some point in my life, my reading skill went down. I used to be a fast reader with high comprehension. I am now a slow reader, with high comprehension only if I have enough energy — which is often not the case. I like to blame university for this change — you can often hear me lamenting that I used to be an avid reader before 10 years of academia broke me. That’s partially true; it took me a while to be emotionally ready to be a reader again.

I am emotionally ready now, and still my brain won’t cooperate.

Continue reading My Dysfunctional Relationship with Library Books

Reading more women authors

This is not actually something I need help with, in the most general of terms. I tend to read women authors by default, and often have to work to seek out male authors.

I consider myself lucky — in this one, small way, my brain has escaped patriarchal programming.

Well, perhaps. I think I still read a disproportionate amount of cisgender, white, able-bodied, women authors, and I often only read the speculative fiction/SFF genres. My defaulting to women authors still does not yield much diversity in what I read.

So I am taking a page from Lilit Marcus’ book, here in 2014, and actively seeking out more women authors — but more specifically, queer and trans* women (including genderqueer folk who are socially classed as women/assumed to be women), women of colour, indigenous women, mixed race women, and women with disabilities. Also, I’m going to attempt to branch away from SFF and read other genres.

I won’t be reading women exclusively — as I said, I already default to reading women authors, so I actually have to actively seek out male authors most of the time. However, if I read a book by a man, I will then read 2 by women.

And I’m not sure how many books I’ll get read. I don’t do much reading these days; I think university killed my joy in it. But I will try; I will work very hard to read several books this year, and to seek out different types of books by more queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, WOC, and disabled [women] authors.

Are you participating in #readwomen2014?

(Worth noting: the hashtag was created by Joanna Walsh, and most of the credit for the idea is given to her — but Lilit Marcus deserves credit for the idea, and I’m giving her her due.)

And if you have any recommendations for books by queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, disabled, and/or women of colour authors that are not SFF, please let me know in the comments!

 

Predictions

There are 344 days remaining in the year. Describe what you’d like to be doing on day 211. (Hint: that’s July 30th.)

-The Daily Post

I have my whole year planned out for writing, editing, and publishing. I really hope things go according to plan (in my personal life, too). If they do, on July 30th I will be…

…penning word 50,000 on Anala, third book in The Third Age.

…continuing work on my outline for book 4 in The Third Age (as of yet untitled).

…working on the ebook for From the Ashes, book 2 in The Borderlands Saga.

…preparing for an epic Long Weekend. (August 4th is B.C. Day.)

…playing Guild Wars 2 (I assume that by the time July rolls around I will actually own a real copy, not the free trial account I played once in August that made me immediately fall in love with the game).

…engaging in ongoing preparation for my classes, which will start up in September. I’m going in for my Master’s, and I’m also applying for a diploma program at a different school.

…doing what I hope will be daily habits by then: cooking, cleaning, knitting/crocheting, and reading. (Writing, too, but that’s mentioned above.)

To make those things happen, I need to stay on track with my goals now, in January, and in each month between now and July. I need to finish my plot outlines, and my first drafts, and second and third drafts; I need to put together story bibles. I need to work every day.

It’ll be tough. I hope I can do it.

The Writer’s Journey, Chapter 1

Cover image of The Writer's Journey, Third Edition, by Christopher VoglerI’ve started reading through The Writer’s Journey (Third Edition) by Christopher Vogler. I was given the book ages ago by mom and never really sat down to read it. (I have such a huge pile of books that are TBR.)

The book is a look at the Hero’s Journey and how it can apply to writing and a writer’s life. The Hero’s Journey is the idea that every story is, at core, the same. It’s a monomyth paradigm put forward by Joseph Campbell.

There are a lot of problems with this paradigm being touted as universal. The Hero’s Journey has a definite Western bias and trying to apply it to non-Western stories and myths is, to my mind, a form of literary colonization.

However, I still think the book will be useful to me. Not because the Hero’s Journey is universal, but because it is specifically biased to Western civilization, and I am a Western writer, with a Western audience.

The book also doesn’t push formula, which is unexpected, honestly. It puts forth the Hero’s Journey as a form, but says that to make it really work, one must internalize one’s understanding of it and then do one’s own thing. It’s form, not formula. It’s a map, with possible rest stops marked out, not an itinerary from which one may not stray.

The rest stops he marks out are as follows, with my own understanding of what each rest stop means.

Continue reading The Writer’s Journey, Chapter 1

Dreams Made Flesh

I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

Bring it on, 2014

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to ramp up for a bright and shiny new year. This cold is going to get kicked to the curb and I am going to kick ass all over 2014.

At least for the first month.

Here are my resolutions, goals, whathaveyous, to keep me on track to accomplishing my dreams this year.

Resolutions

I resolve to be true to myself. This is the only resolution I feel comfortable making and it’s a tough one to keep, when I’ve spent so much of my life swaying to please other people. With this resolution, I promise that I will please other people only if it pleases me to do so; that I will think of my own well-being first and foremost; that I will not forget where I end and another person begins; that I will treat self-care as a primary goal, not something I tack on after everything else and then feel guilty about.

While I am a stronger supporter of the idea of a community of humanity over “self-made” and “bootstraps”, there is no way I can be a contributing member to ANY community if I am not taking care of myself first. I believe anything I give a community is worthless if I am being untrue to my deepest self.

Goals

Unlike resolutions, I have a lot of goals and they fit better into categories…and subcategories.

Writing

Word count:

  • Write 150,000 words in 2014. That’s 411 words a day. Things that count: fiction, poetry, blogging. Things that don’t count: worldbuilding, journaling (any writing I do at my Livejournal or Dreamwidth blogs are considered journaling, unless they’re cross-posted here — which very rarely happens). To help keep me accountable and on track, I’ve joined the communities getyourwordsout and inkingitout on Livejournal and Dreamwidth, respectively.
  • Reach 50,000 words in either Nanowrimo or one of the Camp Nanowrimos. I’m not sure if I’ll make this one or not — I embraced quitting Nano this year and that may be the start of a trend, or it may be a one-off event. I’m setting it as a goal mostly to see if last November was a one-off or the beginning of the end of my relationship with Nano.
  • Utilize the 750words site again. My word count goal every day to make 150,000 words in 2014 is 411. I’m going to try and top that every day by hitting 750, and the 750words site is a great way to do it. Also, there are some badges I want to attempt to get.

Projects:

  • Finish rewrites/edits for The Jade Star of Athering (book 2 in The Third Age).
  • Finish writing From the Ashes (book 2 in The Borderlands Saga).
  • Finish worldbuilding for Dead Transgressions.
  • Get halfway through Dead Transgressions (includes some necessary rewrites).
  • Assuming I find back the files, finish The Man of Bronze.
  • Start work on Anala, book 3 in The Third Age.
  • Start work on Book 4 in The Third Age, as of yet not titled, occurring at the same time as Anala. Outline is a must!
  • Start work on The Moonrunner (book 3, Borderlands).
  • Non-official goal: make real progress on my web serial, Dark Fascination.

Blogging:

  • Postaday: post here every day in 2014. (I am not going to be too harsh on myself if I miss a few days, but the idea here is to post consistently, not once or twice a month.)
  • Find back my blogging voice. This isn’t a goal that’s quantifiable, but it is something I want to work towards in 2014, so I’m listing it here.

Personal Stuff

Reading

  • Read 10 books for pleasure. For pleasure means they’re not for worldbuilding research or school or something similar.
  • Make a real dent in my To Be Read pile. Ideally this would mean reading 100 books; my TBR pile is massive. Instead of giving myself a number that I’ll feel worse about not getting any closer to as time goes on, however, I’m just going to leave the goal as is: make a real dent. I’ll know when I’ve done it.

Cooking and baking

  • Learn to bake bread. Seriously this time. I didn’t do it in 2013 even though I said I would. I WILL in 2014.
  • Start making more things from scratch. There are a lot of things we go out and purchase that I think may be better made in the house — both financially and health-wise. I’m not a huge fan of highly processed food and it seems more and more everyday we just…don’t know what we’re eating. (It also seems more and more that people want to put aspartame into the weirdest things, which means I have to read the ingredients on EVERYTHING or die.)
  • Figure out my kitchen rhythm. When the Ogre and I live together I will be doing the cooking during the week. I need to figure out a way to make that happen so we’re both eating good, home-cooked meals and I’m not bone-exhausted by noon.
  • Bake something once a week. I used to bake about that often, when I was in high school. I miss it, and I’d like to expand my skills and repertoire.
They are SO DELICIOUS #cupcakes #omnom #getinmymouth
I mean, there definitely needs to be more of THIS in my life.

Physical

  • Start physiotherapy again. This is dependent on funds being available, but I have hopes I’ll eventually be making enough money that I’ll be able to start doing physio again (and thus, able to function more normally — normally for me, at any rate).
  • Following that: find some sort of exercise that I can do daily that doesn’t strain my back and gives me a mild workout. Do said exercise.
  • Get my sleep schedule back on track and keep it there. No more of this switching to nights BS every weekend.

Mental

  • Work on finding a therapist. Not an easy thing, but therapy is a good thing for me and I haven’t been in far too long. I have some stuff I need to work through and I can’t fix all my problems via journaling.
  • Create a real manifestation board. I had one of these set up on my vanity mirror for a while, but had to take it down when we were showing the place to people. I’m going to set up one that can be moved from place to place and isn’t dependent on furniture.
  • Do another Good Things Jar for 2014. I did this in 2013 and it kept me going to see it full of pieces of paper, just covered in all the good things that had happened (even if they were as simple as “Still breathing”). I’m doing it again, and being more diligent with it.

Spiritual

  • Set up some sort of weekly practice, and blog more often at the spiritual blog. (The two things are related, as I need something to blog about at said blog.)
  • Spend more time with my dog. If you don’t think that’s a spiritual experience…you’ve never shared your life with a dog.

I think that’s a good list of goals for an entire year. Now to write them out and have them scattered around my house so I can see them as daily reminders of what I want to accomplish.

What are your goals for 2014?

Wishful thinking

I recently got an iPad (the newest one) for various business reasons — mainly to see how ebooks look on it, and to eventually play around with creating books as apps (even though I’m not sure of the long-term viability of that idea, it’s my job as a publisher to, you know, keep on top of this kind of stuff).

So, I now have no less than three ebook reading apps on my iPad and a growing number of book apps. As there are a lot of free books in the iBooks store, I’ve got a huge collection of classics now.

And I find myself wishing that I could connect my GoodReads account directly to my ebook-reader apps so that I wouldn’t have to do anything to update my currently reading list.

There it is. The call of the incredibly lazy overwhelmed.

I just have trouble remember to update that I’m reading a book. Also, I read a lot when I travel, and a lot of times I’ll finish a book before I have a chance to get online again. Or be too jet-lagged to log in.

It’s difficult okay. 

Technique Tuesday: Link round-up

For my first Technique Tuesday I am doing a link round-up of great articles by other writes on key pieces of technique for your writing and your writing career. These articles helped me a great deal, and I hope they do the same for you.

That should be a good start. Happy reading!

30 in 30: Day 30 (my “Currently Reading” list is never limited to *one* book)

Cover of "The Magical Household: Spells &...
Cover via Amazon

What book are you reading right now?

I have three books that I’m currently reading. I have to read more than one at a time — usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Once I really get into a fiction book, I’ll stop reading the other fiction ones, but continue slowly going through the non-fiction.

So, as I just finished La Chiripa (which is fracking amazing, by the way — when it’s out in stores in October you have to pick up a copy; it’s just so incredible, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t usually like fiction set in the here and now — ie, non-speculative fiction), my current fiction book is Jane Eyre. I actually started reading this a while ago, and put it down, and put a bunch of stuff down on top of it, and forgot I was reading it…I do that a lot. This is also why I need to read several books at a time. However, I’m diving back into it now that LC is done.

My non-fiction books are currently Chop Wood, Carry Water, by Rick Fields, and The Magical Household by Scott Cunningham.

After that (or during) I’m moving onto the books listed here. Especially A Lion Among Men, as I’ve borrowed that from a friend and should return it soon.