Intentions for 2023

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com – I like this visual of intentions in the sand, because they may change or wash away completely and be replaced with something else.

Since the insanity that was 2020, I haven’t really set New Year’s resolutions. My logic has been that the world may be an entirely different place at the end of the year than it was at the beginning, so why bother “resolving” things that may no longer apply? That’s still true. But I’ve also found myself saying, “This year I’ll try to do X,” fairly often. So, these are not resolutions. They’re not resolute. They’re intentions. Things may change. You can read more about the difference here:

  • I learned quite a bit about myself as a writer in 2022. Earlier in the year, I wanted to become more of a plotter. I’ve always been a pantser, but I wanted to make my revision and editing process easier. When I tried to outline, I kept getting blocked. I’d feel like, “How am I supposed to know what happens at the climax? I’m not there yet!” I managed to get myself pretty stuck. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to pants again that things started to flow. I started by doing 5 minute writing spints each day, just to produce something to work from. Then I increased the time by another 5 minutes and so on. Now I’m more excited about my WIP than I’ve been in quite a while. A lot of people swear plotting is superior to pantsing (or vice versa) but the truth is that different people work best in different ways. In 2023, I intend to go my own way, and not try to force my process into a mold that doesn’t work for it. I also want to accept that what works for one book may not work for another and to accept those changes as they emerge and evolve.
  • I want to notice when I’m happy and give myself permission to enjoy it. I have a tendency to notice when I’m sad or angry, but take positive emotions for granted. When I do notice I’m happy, I often ruin it by wondering if it’s justified and how long it will last. I want to be more accepting of happiness for just what it is, in the moment.
  • I want to make an effort to be generous with my time, my energy, my attention, and my understanding. I often have a scarcity mindset, particularly with things requiring energy. I’m going to try to remember that all of these qualities are renewable. They may be finite for a time, but they’ll always return.
  • I plan to do more rereading in 2023. I’m not usually great at that because there are a lot of books out there that I want to read that I haven’t read yet! But there’s also quite a lot that I’d like to revisit and see how my perspective has changed. See a list of them, and why I want to reread them here.
  • My words of intention for this year are JOY and GENEROSITY.

I’m not going to hold myself accountable for these things though. My priorities and values may change as the year evolves, in which case my intentions will probably change too.

Have you set any resolutions or intentions for 2023?

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Things I Look Forward To

Yes, if something especially exciting is happening such as a holiday or special event, I will look forward to that. But often it’s the small things. Remembering them can also make me feel better when I need to:

Photo by Miriam Alonso on Pexels.com – The photo isn’t me, but it’s how I feel about snow!
  • the time at the end of the day, before I get ready for bed, when I can just have dinner and watch TV and know I don’t have to deal with anything or accomplish anything more today
  • reading in bed before I go to sleep (sometimes for longer than I plan to, if it’s a good book)
  • getting together with my family
  • plans with friends
  • meals (well, really lunch and dinner, I have a little something for breakfast but I’m not much of a morning person in general)
  • caffeine break (especially during a long work day)
  • the change in seasons
  • snow (even though I’m (technically) an adult I’ve never outgrown the “snow day” mentality!)
  • Top Ten Tuesday when there’s a topic I really like

What are some little things that you look forward to?

I’ve Been (Busy-ness edition)

I’ve been:

  • Busy with work. That’s why I’ve been intermittently absent from blogging. I do miss it though!
  • I watched the fourth season of Stranger Things over the summer (hard to believe I haven’t written about it before now!), and was I the only one who was disappointed with it? I feel like (probably due to the pandemic) they show has been running for six years, yet the action of the plot only covers two years. Yet the teenage cast definitely looks about six years older than they did when it started. Some of the older cast have a hard time passing for teenagers! Also, the episode structure was a problem for me. A seven episode part A and a two episode part B? Why? Also each episode did not have to be 70-80 minutes long in part A and 1.5 hours in part B. Each episode could easily have cut 20-30 minutes and been just as good or better. I’ll still watch the fifth seasons (I’m big on finishing what I start!) and I hope for a return to form, because I definitely felt this was past it’s sell by date.

  • I also caught The Midnight Club which I liked a lot more than some people seemed to. For context I loved The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, but I wasn’t so thrilled with Midnight Mass. I felt like this was a return to characters I cared about and invested in. I liked the frame structure with the kids having a story telling club, and us seeing each story, as the larger story of the club unfolds. I read Christopher Pike’s novel it’s based on about a million years ago. The series also seemed to incorporate some bits and pieces from Pike’s other work. For some reason I remembered the book having a twist, that wasn’t in the show. I looked it up, and it doesn’t look like it was in the book either. So now I thinking something else entirely had that twist?

  • Writing – I’ve put Frost to the side for now. I need some distance from it. I do hope to get back to it eventually. I’m working on something else now, and trying to approach it from a plotting perspective. Traditionally I’m more of a pantser- but I’d like to spend less time editing and rewriting later on. But I find myself getting stuck as I outline and writing up until the part I’m stuck, so the process ends up being more pansy and less plotty. Any thoughts, help, or suggestions are welcome!
  • Reading – I read The House in the Cerulean Sea recently and I have thoughts about it. Firstly, I really enjoyed it. It was lovely comfort fantasy. But then I learned that author TJ Klune was inspired by the Sixties Scoop in which Canadian indigenous children were taken from their families and put in residential schools (which weren’t really schools at all…) and I found it troublesome that Klune turned this into what is, in the book, a cozy, comforting, loving place. I don’t think Klune intended to put a lovable spin on atrocities at all. But I’m trying to find a way to integrate my discomfort with this element with my enjoyment of the sweet, warm fantasy novel. I was planning a post about this, but, again, I’ve been too busy to put it together lately! I would love to know what other people think about this topic. ETA: Someone in the comments draw my attention to another element that I hadn’t considered: novels about orphanages often don’t reflect the grim reality. That doesn’t necessarily bother me. So now I’m reconsidering things again!

The Best Faerie Tales (That Aren’t For Children)

I was honored to be asked to write an author list for Shepherd.com. Since Beautiful is a faerie tale (I explain why I used that spelling in my intro!) I went with a list of other books that portray faeries as ambiguous and “other” in some way. Basically these aren’t your butterfly-like creatures hopping around gardens! Check out my list here, and let me know what you think. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Is there anything I should have included?

Reading Gender

image credit: the guardian

We all know that the literary canon is represented by white, male writers to a disproportionate extent. But there are many exceptions, and diverse writers are gaining more exposure all the time. Women read about 50% female authors and 50% male authors. But for men that ratio is about 80:20 in favor of male authors. Why? I think there are a lot of reasons having to do with how our society at large sees and defines masculinity. But The Guardian recently put out a list of Books By Women That Every Man Should Read. The list included contributions from the likes of Ian McEwan, Richard Curtis, Salman Rushdie and more.

On one hand I don’t want to criticize The Guardian for seeing the discrepancy between male and female reading habits and trying to rectify some of the imbalance. But something about this article doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s the authors who are left off. The omissions include (but are no means limited to) Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, any of the Bronte sisters, Agatha Christie, Zora Neale Hurston, Patricia Highsmith, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson and that’s just off the top of my head! But there’s no way a list like this could possible be comprehensive. They asked a handful of men to name a favorite and these are the ones that came up. That’s fair. If they’d been asked to list favorite books by male writers there would be many gaps and omissions as well. That’s the nature of such a list.

10 Powerful Female Authors (list and collage by Bookstr)

Maybe what doesn’t sit right with me is the idea of a bunch of men telling other men that these are the books by women that are “acceptable” for them to read. I’m aware that’s not the intention. The intention is the highlight great work by female authors. But it’s how it comes off.

This article also spurred me to think about my own reading habits. Looking at the books I’ve read so far this year, I’ve read thirty eight books so far. Nine were by men. Clearly I gravitate toward women authors in my own reading. My TBR looks more or less consistent with that proportion. So am I in any position to criticize men for reading things are they feel are in line with their own experiences of the world? Maybe not.

I think the take away is that we should all try to step outside our comfort zones. That goes for gender, but also for race, ethnicity, nationality, class, and any other category you can think of.

Do you gravitate toward books that reflect your experience/identity? If so do you think it’s worthwhile to try to read outside that comfort zone?

Spring Cleaning: A Poem

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Open the fridge and reach for the milk.

The inside of the fridge is tinted dingy grey.

Take out the milk and reach for a cup.

See a rim of dust beneath it.

Look around the room.

The scales fall from my eyes.

Everything is

Crusted

Dusted

Rusted

Pick up a sponge.

Push a broom.

Drag a cloth.

Think about doing it all.

But needed is:

That new window cleaner

A better mop

That swiffer wiffer wonder jet thingy.

Can’t do spring cleaning without that.

Get it next time I go out.

Until then

Dust off the cup

Put the milk back in the dingy fridge

Put the scales back on my eyes

And close the door.

I’ve Been: Thinking About What Feels Like Work Edition

  • Working, working working (by which I mean day job stuff.) Which unfortunately doesn’t leave much left for writing. Maybe it’s less about time than about mental space. I feel like I’m using the part of my brain that I usually use for writing fiction elsewhere right now. I’m hoping that some distance from my writing helps a bit. I’ve been experiencing some frustration with this book lately. I think it needs some more worldbuilding, but I’m not sure how to incorporate that into the action of the story.
  • Thinking about my writing “career.” I put “career” in quotes because I’m not sure that’s the word I want to use. I don’t really have financial goals for writing, beyond not losing too much money. I write because I love it, and I want to publish to share it with people. If I were legitimately going to go into business publishing, I would need to write at a much faster pace than I’m capable of right now. But, as I said, my goals aren’t really financial. A lot of literature aimed at self-publishing seems to be disparaging of writers who treat writing as a “hobby.” I don’t call it that, because I don’t think of it that way. I put a lot into writing emotionally, mentally (and, to some extent) financially. And yes, I do get a few dollars from it here and there. But I don’t think “career” or “job” is the quite the right word either.
  • Working on a series of posts for this blog. I’ve been working on them for a while actually and they’re almost ready. For some reason blogging doesn’t take as much from me mentally/emotionally as work and writing (fiction) do. It’s interesting how we perceive similar tasks differently. Blogging just seems like a more “for fun” category, whereas fiction and work are for other reasons.
image credit: travel.earth
  • Trying to watch Dark on Netflix. I think I run into the mental space issue here too. When I’m verging on overwhelmed with other stuff, I want my TV mindless and escapist. Dark is good, but it’s very demanding. With family trees and multiple timelines I have to use the wiki summaries and the official site to keep track of everything, sometimes pausing in order to do so. I’ve made it through season 1 and I’m invested enough to want to keep going, but it’s hard to summon up the energy when I just want to relax.
image: ign.com
  • Really enjoying binging iZombie. I’m so not usually a fan of anything to do with zombies, usually. I’d read something good about this though, and I was in the mood to watch something silly so I gave it a shot. It’s silly. But also fun and even clever occasionally. It’s about a young doctor who is turned to a zombie at a party (you get turned when a zombie scratches you). She gets a job with the medical examiner, because easy access to brains not being used. But when she eats a brain she gets memories of the brains owner. So she helps the police solve their murders. Her medical examiner boss/friend is working on a cure for zombie-ism. Her family and friends are struggling to deal with some unexplained changes in her personality recently. Oh yeah, and while she gets the memories of the brains she eats, she also gets some of their personality traits. It’s the kind of mindless (but brainy!) entertainment that I’ve been needing lately.
  • Reading Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches. One of my reading highlights of last year was The Ten Thousand Doors of January. The Once and Future Witches proves (at least so far, I’m only a bit more than 1/2 of the way though, more on that in a bit) that her first book wasn’t a fluke and that Harrow is an author who will be an auto-buy for me in the future. But as much as I’m liking it, I’m not reading it as quickly as I usually read. I don’t know why. It seems to be engaging more of my critical brain than fantasy sometimes does (the fantasy is very tied to history, and it’s worth thinking about where they diverge and why).

2021 Year in Review

I’ve Been:

Those We’ve Lost This Year

TV Talk

Thoughts about writing, genre, stories and more:

Readathons:

Best of 2021

I’m hoping to get one more post in this year, but if I don’t, have a happy and safe New Year!

Something Halloweeny This Way Comes…

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I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid, I was hardly alone in that love. With it’s custom blend of fantasy, make-believe, and candy, it’s a holiday that seems tailor made for the young.

But I took it more seriously than most kids. I started planning costumes months in advance (literally, months- I would come up with costume ideas all year round and then have to wait until Halloween to use them). Then, around mid-September I’d start thinking about the logistics of costumes. For example, the year I tried to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid I was presented with several problems. One was that I would have to walk around in a more modest version of Ariel’s shell bra. Even though the costume had significantly more coverage than the movie version did, my parents didn’t think it wise for me to walk around with no sleeves and a bare midriff on a chilly October evening. That was solved by a flesh colored shirt worn underneath. But then came the challenge of walking around in fins. My tail had an opening at the bottom for my legs, but it wasn’t wide enough for me to take more than mini-steps, so it had to be expanded slightly. Such alterations and decisions required a lot of time and thought.

Not me in my little mermaid costume. I looked much sillier. Less cartoon-y though.
image credit: goat.com.au

My Halloween seriousness wasn’t just limited to costumes. I used to plan my trick-or-treating route. I knew what houses had the best candy, and where to go for “filler” items. I knew there was a limited amount of time for trick-or-treating: eventually my mom would say it’s getting late and we should go home. So I wanted to hit the best houses in the shortest amount of time. In between, of course, I’d stop at all the other houses. I wasn’t one to turn up my nose at any candy!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

But like all children, I eventually grew up. I didn’t grow out of Halloween though. I’m not much of a party girl, and since my friends in college weren’t big party animals either, we’d rent a bunch of Halloweeny movies, stock up on candy and make it a movie night. It was more fun then it sounds. So I’ve sort of maintained the tradition into adulthood. It’s not as much fun as it was in college, since I don’t usually have a group of friends who can easily come over and join me (one of the advantages of dorm living is that everyone is a few doors away!) and I’m more health conscious so I don’t let myself have quite so much candy.

I do save seasonal films to see, books to read and TV shows to binge. Here’s some recommended Halloween media. Just note that while I like “spooky” and “creepy”: I’m not a fan of horror per se. I don’t like blood and guts. I also (for the most part) left off stuff that’s aimed primarily at kids. There’s some good stuff there, but it’s a whole nother list!

Books

image credit: thehauntedlibrarian.com

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury– This is a very seasonally appropriate book. It feels like fall. Actually I think I’d call the story more “dark fantasy” than “horror.” But I suppose it depends on one’s scare threshold. I have some issues with the florid writing in this one. It’s appropriate in some places, but in others I think it slows things down. Still definitely worth reading though.

We Have Always Live In the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson– It’s hard to go too wrong with Shirley Jackson for Halloween! I think We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the most Halloweeny, but it’s a close race.

The Birds and Other Stories, Don’t Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne DuMaurier, and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- A lot (but not all) of DuMaurier’s work is Halloween appropriate. I think you can make the argument that Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel deserve a place on this list as well.

The Other by Thomas Tryon– I didn’t like this one at first but by midpoint it was hard to put down! Some of the twists I saw coming but others took me by surprise. Tryon’s novel Harvest Home is also Halloweeny, but I didn’t like it as much.

The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski- This is a haunted house story meets psychological thriller that takes place over several layers and incorporates different forms of text within a text. I didn’t include music on this list, but the author’s sister is singer-songwriter, Poe, who put out an album called Haunted that contained several songs connected to/about the novel.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Like The House of Leaves, this book plays with form. It incorporates photographs, documents, and there’s an app you can download to access bonus content. But more importantly, it tells a creepily compelling story with elements of murder mystery and supernatural.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie– If you love Agatha Christie, Poirot’s investigation of a deadly Halloween party is a seasonal must.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman- The first in a series, and I’d recommend starting here. It’s good if you want Halloween and witches without being too scary.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– I’d recommend this to readers who appreciate atmosphere and ambiguity.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub– Just what it sounds like! It has one of my favorite ghost story beginnings: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me—the most dreadful thing . . .”

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- This is a ghost story, but in an unexpected way.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill– Another creepy British ghost story (gotta love them!)

TV

image credit: thebrokenanchor.com

The Haunting of Hill House– This Netflix miniseries is inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, but it’s not really an adaptation.

The Haunting of Bly Manor- This miniseries was the work of the same team as the above, but deals with a different story and characters. This one is inspired by Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but again it’s not an adaptation per se. I didn’t care for the team’s third outing, Midnight Mass (perhaps because it’s doesn’t have a clear literary inspiration?)

Locke and Key– This series is based on a series of graphic novels which I haven’t read. Apparently they’re darker than the Netflix series. In TV form this plays sort of like Narnia meets The Haunting of Hill House. It’s fun, a little creepy, but nothing too intense. I didn’t like the second season as much as I liked the first, but it was still fun.

Being Human (UK) This show about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who live together, was a total guilty pleasure for me. I didn’t particularly care for the American version though.

A Discovery of Witches- This is another TV series is based on a book series (also fun) that blends supernatural creatures. The biggies in this one are vampires, witches and demons, but there’s also some other weirdness.

Salem– This is sort of semi-inspired by the idea of the Salem witch hunts, but that’s about all it has in common with reality. There are plenty of witches, demons, and supernatural creatures here.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina– When I was a kid I loved the old TV show. I like this one too, in a different way. Literary and musical theatre references abound, which makes it fun for me.

Stranger Things- If you’ve been living under a rock, and missed this supernatural, 80’s set series, Halloween is the perfect time to binge.

Film

image credit: prevention.com

Hocus Pocus– A childhood seasonal favorite. It’s got a few moments that may creep the little ones a bit, but it’s mostly just funny and fun for the whole family.

The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values- Some more Halloween comedy classics!

Practical Magic– If you’re more into romcom and less into scary

The Changeling– A haunted house mystery that’s both sad and creepy.

The Other This is based on Tryon’s novel of the same name, listed above. It’s a pretty good adaptation, but the book is better.

Don’t Look Now– Based on Daphne DuMaurier’s novella of the same name (listed above).

The Others– A very gothic, Halloweeny haunted house story. It’s a favorite of mine in the genre.

Burnt Offerings– Another underrated haunted house

Sleepy Hollow– The classic legend gets the Tim Burton treatment. It’s just a fun movie.

The Woman in Black – Based on the book listed above. The 2012 film is good, but if you can find the lesser known 1989 film, I like that better. But I only saw that one once, a long time ago.

Poltergeist– I saw this movie for the first time when I was about 9 years old (don’t know how that happened) but needless to say it terrified me. I saw it again a few years ago. I found it less terrifying, but otherwise it holds up pretty well.

Workouts Yes this is sort of an unexpected category, but I saw a few fun Halloween workouts out there, so I figured “why not?”

Up To the Beat Fitness – 30 Minute Halloween Dance Party

Lucy Wyndham- Read- Halloween Workout

Were you’re favorites not listed? I could have listed more, but the post was already getting long! Maybe I’ll do an update next year. Let me know what you think!

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween

I’ve Been (Starting to Think About Publishing Edition)

image credit: techadvisor.com
  • Really enjoying Amazon’s Carnival Row. Has anyone else seen it? It’s a fantasy-mystery set in a sort of steampunk Victorian England called the Burgue, where humans and mythical creatures live side by side (though not without significant problems…) It’s definitely not perfect, but I really like it. It was renewed for a second season but production halted due to the pandemic. Then it resumed, then it stopped again. As of now there are five episodes for season two filmed, and Amazon plans to release those and then film the rest when they can. I’m hoping that’ll be soon!
  • Also really liking Netflix’s The Chair.
  • In a bit of a reading slump. For me, reading slumps don’t make me read less (nothing makes me read less!) but I enjoy it less. Probably because I’ve read several “blah” books in a row. Here’s hoping I find something good soon!
  • Getting lots of ideas for posts. I don’t know why that is, but my drafts folder is bursting. So stay tuned for more.
  • In the stage of editing hell where every word I write seems absolutely unpublishable and I start to wonder if I was crazy thinking that I could write another book.
  • Trying to make my internet presence a little more author-y (since I’m starting to work on actually publishing Frost. Ahhhhh!). I’m looking at new templates for my website, updating information, making logos… In some ways my blog/social media presence is all over the place. I know it’s supposed to be targeted to my potential audience and I should be focusing on read alikes for my blog, and similar genres in terms of film, tv, etc. But I’m not a focused person. My interests run far and wide, and I’d rather be myself online than focus and build a business. Besides you never know what will turn up in my writing someday.
  • Starting to think about getting some advance reviews for Frost. When Beautiful was published, one thing I wish I’d known is how much having advance reviews help with pre-orders and initial sales. So I definitely want to think about it for this release.
  • Wondering how on earth some authors are able to write and release several books a year! (see this post for more about that) I want to get to the point where I can do one book in two years, but it takes me four years per book to write/publish at the moment. Who knows if/when I’ll get there? I keep telling myself that’s OK: writing and publishing any books is an accomplishment! But I feel like I have a lot of stories I want to tell….
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