Trying to Pass On Favorite Books to the Next Generation

When I was, oh, 15 or so, I very intentionally packed away all the children’s books I’d kept, with the thought that I would pass them on to my children when I had them. The box of books got moved around for a while, and as of right now, the books are sitting on the bookcase in the basement, which is sort of a catchall for books from my spouse’s and my childhoods.

(His are mostly old joke books and scouting-related things, some space and science books, things like that. All our yearbooks are down there. Mine are a lot of Star Trek novels, manga, and old scifi that, for the most part, I never got around to reading.)

(Some day.)

Anyway, I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way for Parents, which is about instilling creative principles in your children, and there was a section about reading to your kids, which for us has fallen apart in the last few months, partially because of my spouse’s medical issues, and partially because the bigger, mobile one has started reading on his own in his bed, and so is less interested in me reading to him.

(Tragic, I tell you what.)

Anyway, I was reminded that it is good to read books to your children, and I also remembered that I’d tucked these books away for said children, and so I went downstairs to see what I’d kept.

(The other thing is that we’ve been reading library books, and the library finally re-opened and wanted all their books back, and so I had to give them back and now we have nothing. And it sounded like a good idea to read books we owned, so when it took us three months to get through a book, the library wasn’t grumpy about it.)

I kept a lot. More than I thought I had. Pretty much every Bruce Coville book ever. Ones I had to read for school like Maniac Magee or Caddie Woodlawn. A bunch of fantasy books, including ones more often thought of as adult books (like Gulliver’s Travels).

Anyway. It was a lot. And so I picked out…six or so and took them upstairs to see which ones the small, mobile ones wanted to read.

(I took a variety–Gulliver’s Travels; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Mr. Popper’s Penguins; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Sideways Stories from Wayside School; and The Castle in the Attic.)

And the bigger, mobile one was basically like, I don’t want to read any of those, leave me alone.

Which was sad! But I rallied and asked the smaller, mobile one, who picked The Castle in the Attic even though I was sure she’d go for the penguins.

(She says she doesn’t like penguins.)

And then I made the big one come listen anyway even though he whined the whole time.

While I understand that my small, mobile ones are not me and have different interests than me, and hence may not like the same things as me in the long run, I will say that the bigger, mobile one is very similar to me in personality and interests, and has to this point liked the books we have read together (which includes things like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Phantom Tollbooth, as well as classics like The Wizard of Oz). And when I talked to him later, he said he made a fuss because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to read the new Dog Man before his dad made him turn off the lights and go to sleep.

So we’ll see how it goes in the long run.

Will I be disappointed if the small, mobile ones don’t want to read the books I saved for them? I mean, yeah, to some extent. But to be fair, I haven’t read most of these books in at least twenty years either, and I don’t really remember most of them. And there’s been tons of great children’s books that have come out since then, and there’s only so many books you can get through.

And there’s something to be said about the pleasure of wandering through the library and picking out whatever books appeal to you, and I don’t want to rob them of that.

I don’t think I read much of what my parents wanted me to when I was little either; after my dad gave me The Old Man and the Sea when I was eight I pretty much wrote off all his suggestions, and I can’t remember my mom ever giving me any. Mostly I just explored on my own and my parents let me read whatever.

(I remember sneaking in and stealing my mom’s copy of Interview with the Vampire because she wouldn’t let me read it. And also one of Dick Francis’s mysteries because both my parents loved him.)

What do you think, squiders? Is it worth it to pass on your favorites to the next generation?

(To be fair, I saved like, 25 books. Maybe if I’d saved only ten or something, or five…)

Stupid June (and Butterfly Update)

Well, squiders, yesterday morning, the other butterfly hatched. And it did exactly what you would expect it to–it climbed all the way out of its cocoon, hung there with its wings nice and straight until they dried out, and has since been climbing and flying around the butterfly habitat.

So there’s something definitely wrong with that first one. Poor guy. I think he didn’t come out right, or maybe he didn’t form right in the first place.

With the second butterfly out, I needed to refill the sugar water and put out a new banana slice for them, and both of those seemed like a bad idea with the first butterfly still hanging out in the water bowl, so I very carefully lifted him up with the flat side of a butter knife and put him out on the ground part. He’s definitely still alive, but he can really only move the top part of one wing.

Tomorrow is release day (technically today should have been for the first one; the instructions say to release them three days after they hatch) and he is going to be eaten by a bird. I am sorely tempted to at least try to smooth his wings into the right position but that it probably not going to help anything.

The smaller, mobile one is overjoyed by her one functional butterfly, so there is that. But, man, if I’d known how emotional this was going to be, I would have bought her…I don’t know, sea monkeys or something. Do they still sell sea monkeys? What even is a sea monkey?

Maybe I should have gotten the ants.

June was basically a wash in terms of story writing. We talked about what I did get done earlier, but in terms of writing writing, I wrote a grand total of 2.4K, 1000 of which was a prompt response, and 1.4K of which were on my changeling story at the very beginning of the month. I mean, it’s not the worst, but it is pretty bad for me, especially since the changeling story (did I tell you guys the working title? It’s Through the Forest Dark and Deep. I made icons and a banner and everything.) was going so well at the end of May.

I didn’t even get my two prompt responses for the month. I’ve been sitting on my Pinterest prompts for weeks, and I finally consolidated a plot to go with them a few days ago, but still haven’t written it. I gotta say, the Pinterest prompts are both an excellent and a terrible idea. Since I’m picking prompts purely on age (how long they’ve been on the board) and not how well they go together, some–all right, most–of the stories have been a challenge, and now I need to do two this month to catch up. But combining prompts that don’t go together has been interesting and challenging.

But, anyway, screw June. And it’s over. July may not be much better–a lot of the challenges that messed up June are still here, after all–but at least, for now, there’s potential, you know?

How are you faring, squider? Is it hot where you are? It is so hot here, augggh.

I am Unnecessarily Invested in These Butterflies

So, for the smaller, mobile one’s birthday about a month ago, we got her a butterfly kit. You know, one of the ones where you put caterpillars in and eventually you have butterflies.

(She asked specifically for either an ant farm or tadpoles, but I didn’t want ants in the house when she invariably somehow let them out, and what do you do with tadpoles once they’re frogs? We do not live in a frog climate.)

Butterflies, though, we could do butterflies. They don’t live that long in the great scheme of pets, so they seemed a safe bet.

Now, the butterfly kits do not come with caterpillars. What they come with is a coupon to get caterpillars from Uncle Milton, who, as far as I can tell, is the purveyor for all caterpillars for all butterfly kits ever.

(And also ants for ant farms.)

So we give her the kit, we order the caterpillars, and they come in about 2 weeks. We’re supposed to get 4-5 caterpillars, but we have 3, with possibly one more dead on arrival that is soon either consumed by the other caterpillars or buried in caterpillar poop/food.

Smaller, mobile one is ecstatic. I try to decide if it’s worth contacting customer service over not getting our 4-5 caterpillars. (No, was the conclusion.)

We put the caterpillars in the kit, or, rather, a small, removable section at the top of the kit, where they have lots of “caterpillar food” (which looks like sand and smells like death) and a place to make their chrysalises. Smaller, mobile one takes them everywhere, even though I tell her it’s probably not a good idea to shake them around so much.

This proves unfortunately true when she takes them outside and the neighbor kids knock them over.

And then there were two caterpillars.

(Again, not sure if the now-dead one got eaten or buried.)

Smaller, mobile one is very upset about the dead caterpillar (she’d named them all) but got over it pretty quickly. I, on the other hand, am also very upset about the dead caterpillar. They’re not my caterpillars. I’m not terribly fond of caterpillars in general. But they’ve like, imprinted, or something.

I am much more upset for much longer than the smaller, mobile one, which is ridiculous.

(Actually, we originally thought they’d all died in the knocked over incident, because none of them moved for several hours, so I guess it’s good that we ended up with two.)

The remaining two, Lacey and Turner, got humongous (seriously, much larger than I expected based on their size when we got them) and made cocoons, hoorah. Success. But also kind of gross, because they left parts of themselves outside, which eventually separated and just kind of…hung off the top of their little ceiling. I am learning all sorts of things, and most of them are things I didn’t need to know.

So, yesterday, we awoke to one of the butterflies (smaller, mobile one says it’s Turner) hatching out of its cocoon. Hooray! Except…it got about halfway out and then stopped moving. Seriously did not move for over twelve hours. I was convinced it had somehow died halfway out. Its wings stopped unrolling, it stopped moving its legs. Nothing.

And I was really upset. Again. It’s ridiculous.

This morning, said butterfly was all the way out, down in the pool of sugar water at the bottom of the habitat, and I assumed it had just fallen down, since its wings were still messed up and now it was hanging out in the water. Its head was out of the water, though, and when I moved the net (with the thought that I would pull it out if it were dead) it moved. So, still alive, I guess?

I don’t know what’s going on anymore. Maybe this is normal.

But I’m exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of what this poor butterfly is doing.

Maybe tomorrow its wings will have untwisted and it will be out of the water and everything will be great. Maybe tomorrow the other one (Lacey, according to the smaller, mobile one) will hatch and come out in a much more dignified manner, or maybe it too will get halfway out and then pretend to be dead for half a day.

I can’t quite fathom why I’m so invested. Maybe it’s because I am one with the animal kingdom and invested in the welfare of its inhabitants. Maybe it’s just more suffering on top of everything else going on ’round these parts.

Who knows?

Maybe I should have gotten her the ants.

butterfly habitat

Do you know anything about butterflies? Have you done one of these yourself, squider? Is this normal butterfly behavior? Should I put this poor butterfly out of his misery?

Augh!

Why I’m Learning Watercolor

So, as you know, Bob (sorry, writer joke), my word for 2020 is education, and part of that is taking a different art-related class on Skillshare each month.

(Except my membership runs out in August and then I shall have to fend for myself. Or, most likely, work my way through the drawing books I own.)

As far as art goes, I’ve been drawing forever. Mostly I sketch things out in pencil and then ink over them. You guys have been seeing examples of that technique since the blog began.

(Sometimes I just draw in ink and risk doom. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.)

But I’ve always run into an issue, and that’s with coloring. Despite my best efforts over the years, I just don’t really understand shading. I mean, I understand the theory of it. Somewhere, there is a light source, and depending on where you are in the drawing, some areas get light and others don’t, and the ones that don’t are darker than the ones that do.

It just never comes out looking quite right.

When I was younger, I tended to just use markers, which work out okay as long as you’re careful, but I still wasn’t shading. Just doing color block. And the same thing digitally, which was really frustrating, because invariably I had line art I liked which was then ruined by being colored.

(Which is why I did it digitally actually, rather than risking ruining the actual paper drawing.)

I have taken some classes on shading, and it has helped, but I still don’t feel particularly comfortable with it.

ANYWAY, long story short (too late), I decided to try out watercolors. Watercolors are kind of weirdly ethereal, and shading doesn’t seem to matter that much, since the colors are naturally variable based on the amount of pigment and water, etc.

And I actually really like them. I started a sketch journal at the beginning of the year and have been using an ink/watercolor combination, and the pictures have come out really well. Plus it’s WAY faster to color something with watercolors over colored pencils or markers.

This month I took two, shorter watercolor only classes. Previous classes I’ve taken have been watercolor/ink combos, but I thought it might be good to have a better understanding of the medium on its own.

The first project was to make a pattern, so I, of course, chose alpacas:

Alpaca pattern, because why not

(There is ink on that one, because otherwise they were just blobs. Also the dark brown was a mistake.)

Next we were supposed to paint something around us.

Tea kettle and vase (not pictured: coffee mug)

The teacher ended up with a really pretty flower bouquet but we work with what we have.

And the third project for that class was to paint the room, which went okay. I went out and bought real paint brushes, including a 1-inch flat one which makes it way easier to make a uniform color in an area. I don’t have a picture of that one, though.

The second class actually made me practice shading, the horror.

The ubiquitous sphere shading exercise

I mean, it’s not horrible. But I’m not going to pretend it’s good either.

And then we were supposed to use all the different techniques from the class to make a picture (including masking fluid, which I don’t own, white highlights, salt, etc.) but I am lazy and painted a pool.

The smaller, mobile one was disappointed that I did not include the cartoon fish on the bottom

Am I getting better? Hm, dunno! Probably a bit. All the art teachers on Skillshare talk about finding your own style and whatnot, and thus far my watercolor-only style seems to be a bit messy, but I don’t mind it. As I said above, I kind of expect watercolors to be that way. If I want something to have more structure, well, that’s what the ink is for.

The drawing/painting is also a nice stress reliever, and I’ve found it’s easier to work on this year than the writing has been, probably partially because I’m mostly doing it for fun, and probably partially because I don’t typically have to think too hard about it.

(Perspective! That’s another issue I have with watercolors. Everything kind of ends up caddywhompus but perhaps that adds to the charm. Or so I will tell myself.)

Anyway, that’s how this month has been going, art-wise. Know anything about watercolors? Thoughts about painting or drawing in general?

I’ll see you next week, squiders, hopefully with a library book sale find review, but reading’s gone soooooo slow this month, so we’ll see.

What Happened to June?

Other than giving everybody whiplash and churning out new things every three seconds.

I mean, we’re a week out from the end of the month, and I’m not even sure what I’ve done for the past few weeks.

Not writing, that’s for sure. I wrote a short prompt response on Sunday, and it was the first time I’d written in forever.

Well, there was the anthology. Since I book format professionally (and because I love it a lot), I’m always in charge of doing anthology formatting. I also coordinated the intros for each story, wrote the intro for the anthology (and the back cover copy/description), and made the cover.

So that’s not too shabby!

I also took on a paying client for a nonfiction book, and I’ve been participating in the Summer Marathon over at my speculative fiction forum. I’ve talked about the winter/summer marathon before, but it’s basically a 12-week intensive critique cycle, where people in the group give you feedback on your story and you give them feedback on theirs. This time through I’m doing my scifi horror that I finished earlier in the year (now tentatively titled Rings Among the Stars) and it’s going really well. And because it’s a novella, I’m actually going to make it through the whole story over the course of the marathon, which is amazingly valuable.

There’s eleven stories in the marathon, though, so it takes some time to get through everybody else’s. You don’t have to–you only have to do two–but everybody always does everybody, or tries to.

So. Hm. That’s probably where my time has been going.

Plus I did something called the Stay-at-Home Story Summit, which was a mixture of marketing and craft webinars. That…may not have been the best use of my time. And I went to a couple of panels at TorCon for industry research. Yes. We will call it that.

Oh! And I started listening to my podcasts again. (I haven’t been for about a year.) I was already wildly behind, and so I continue to be so. I did drop one, one of my fantasy stories, because I realized I didn’t actually care about it that much and slogging through six years of podcasts to catch up sounded unbearable.

This post is actually very cathartic. I’d been feeling so bad because I wasn’t writing (or reading, either), and now I can see that I’ve actually been fairly productive, all things considered.

How has your month gone, squiders? Getting everything done that you hoped to?

Announcing The Best of Turtleduck Press, Volume II

How are you, squiders? I am exhausted.

But I come bearing good news, or at least a book, which is basically the same thing.

In celebration of our tenth anniversary over at Turtleduck Press (holy carp!), we’ve put out The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol II.

Cover of The Best of TDP Vol 2

(In case you’re wondering, The Best of Turtleduck Press, Volume I came out in 2013, on our third anniversary.)

This was a fun exercise for our anniversary, since we got to read back through all the stories we’ve written for the past six years or so (and more, in some cases) and see which were our best. Each author has two stories included–one voted on as their best by everyone else, and the one they felt was their best.

(As an aside, both my stories are from the last few years, which, to me, is a good sign, because it means I’m getting better over time. Hooray!)

The anthology is currently ebook only, and only $.99. If you’d like some great shorts to read, you should go and get it.

I hope you’re doing well despite all the turmoil in the world, squiders. Regular posting returns next week.

Small Hiatus

Hey, squiders. Interesting times, eh?

I try to stay mostly on topic here at the blog, but at the same time, it almost feels…unseemly…to pretend like everything’s fine.

So I’m not going to.

I firmly believe that people have the right to not be judged or treated differently based on the color of their skin. I hope some positive action comes out of this.

No posts this week. And I won’t make guarantees for next week either, both because of this, and because my husband’s medical issues will be moving into a new phase as of Monday.

Stay safe out there, squiders.

Stupid Middles

Well, squiders, if you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said my changeling story was going great! I figured out a potential title, writing was going good, I’d gotten my main characters into the same place. Things were lovely.

Today everything is awful.

It’s like when I was working on World’s Edge for Nano, actually. Now that I think about it, I had issues in the exact same spot then. The beginning is fine–there are things that need to happen to get the plot rolling, and then there are other things. And there are things that need to happen in the middle, and then things that need to happen at the end.

But that section between the beginning events and the midpoint is a sink hole.

In structural terms, I’ve heard this section of Act II referred to as the “reaction” phase. (Act II is often broken into two halves, one before the midpoint and one after.) Basically, the idea is that the main character is reacting to whatever the turning point between Acts I and II, and that goes on to the midpoint, when things pivot in some manner, and then in the second half the character makes a decision and starts to act on it.

It’s an easy place to get lost, unfortunately.

I don’t necessarily remember having middle issues in general, but it’s been a while since I’ve written a full novel draft from scratch and maybe I always have. Or maybe, because my pacing and structure used to have issues, I had different issues. Who knows? Besides, each book is different, and there are different problems each time.

But, anyway, my Act II Part 1 section has 20,000 words assigned to it, and I’m 10K in, and I’m a little lost. Each scene needs to progress the plot and the character arcs, so I can’t throw in a lot of random stuff, but I’m not quite sure what to do instead.

The good news is that, hooray, revision is a thing. And I know from experience that it is easier to tweak arcs and make sure theme and tone are consistent if the story is already written and you generally know where you’re going.

So I just need to get through this, and it can all be fixed later.

So that’s where I am. Aside from today being like pulling teeth, I’m on track and making fairly good progress, and I should be done with the draft by the end of July.

How are your projects going?

Promo: Ashes and Blood by Katie Zaber



This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn commenter. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

“I’ll start at the beginning. Long ago, before roads, before we built structures, before medicine was discovered, before the government was created, before man gained any knowledge, there were The Five. Independent from each other, The Five had a mutual respect for one another. They knew their roles in the world and their duty. They were gods…”

An adventure begins when an otherworldly tree captures the attention of Megan and her friends. The environment morphs around them, transferring them to an exotic planet. Stuck in a rural town still maimed by the plague, a chance encounter with a familiar face gives Megan and her friends some security during their adjustment period.

While settling into new, promising lives, they are attacked and stalked by planet Dalya’s humanoid inhabitants, who focus on Megan. One dark night, after an epic, magical attack, the Fae King’s knight is sent to fetch Megan. When she wakes up a prisoner, she learns that there is much more to this strange world, and it is oddly more like her own than she ever would have expected.


Read an Excerpt

Megan

It gives me chills to stand in front of the forest that morphed in front of my very eyes. I’m hesitant to walk through the tree line and down the path. The last time I walked down a path for leisure was a week ago. We had planned a picnic. Something simple, always easy to organize and do. It wasn’t hard planning our walk to Brynjar’s cabin today. What could go wrong?

I try hard not to think of all the possible outcomes—from returning to Earth to traveling to a completely new world.

Sarah and Dana were able to walk by without stopping to take notice or reflect. Ciara paused for a moment and then smiled gleefully, saying she had a good feeling.

I don’t. I feel dizzy, angry, and like I need to vomit. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go into the woods that changed my life, I don’t want to meet Brynjar, and I don’t want to go back where it all started.

I don’t.

About the Author
Katie Zaber writes new adult fiction. With multiple projects spanning from being transported to an alternate universe, to past lives, reincarnation, and trapped souls, to prophesied pregnancies—there are more stories to tell. She lives in North New Jersey with her boyfriend.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Dalya-Series-110665970357251
Website: https://zaberbooks.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Blood-Dalya-Book-1-ebook/dp/B087YJ8W87/ref=sr_1_1

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Help! There’s Too Much Free Content!

Oh, hey, first of all, I remembered another Eurovision song that stood out to me. It’s Feker Libi by Eden Alene, representing Israel.

(Yes, Israel is allowed to participate in Eurovision despite not being in Europe. And so is Australia which…I don’t even know.)

(Also, I wrote down my favorite countries for this year, and now I cannot find the list anywhere. What the heck? It was right here on my desk and now it is MIA.)

Feker Libi by Eden Alene

But anyway.

Have you guys noticed that there’s a ton of free content floating around since everything locked down in mid-March? Webinars. Concerts. Whole plays and/or musicals. Special shows from groups like Cirque du Soleil. Classes on everything you could possibly want. Even my alma mater is doing free lectures, conveniently hosted over Zoom.

And the stuff for the small, mobile ones. Lord. Every service remotely related to learning put out a ton of stuff. Educational videos. Virtual field trips. Math and reading and art projects.

And I’ve been hoarding them. Well, not the stuff for the small, mobile ones. (Though I do still have a video from my father-in-law sitting in my inbox that I may, eventually, put on for them.) I did at first, worried about them being home and me needing to teach them. But then the virtual assignments started coming in from their teachers, and I found we didn’t really have time for any of the rest of that, in the end.

(We did do a virtual tour of the Winchester Mystery House. That was pretty good. I’ve been there a few times in person–including a flashlight tour on Halloween one year–and the virtual tour covered most of what you’d get from actually being there.)

I even made a list, right at the beginning, of things we could do to entertain ourselves. We’ve done a few–online storytime and making a blanket fort–but for the most part, they remain undone.

But even as I found that I didn’t need things for the small, mobile ones, and that I, too, have plenty to do, it hasn’t stopped me from hoarding some for me. They’re such great opportunities! I could learn so much!

Except now I have literal hours’, if not days’, worth of stuff to watch. And no real time to do so.

Are you running into this too? How do you deal with it? Do I delete the lot of it, knowing I don’t really have time? Do I ration it, a little of something every day, until I get through? How do I know from looking what is going to be worth my time versus what isn’t?

It’s kind of like downloading books cuz they’re available for free, and then never reading them.

Anyway, I’m trying to wade through my unread emails in my inbox and it is daunting.

How are you?