Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

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.

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?

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?

May is Going the Way of March

In that it feels like it’s taking a million years.

It’s the last week of school for the small, mobile ones, which is going very emotionally since they’re not getting to say goodbye in person. That’s been hard, especially since the smaller, mobile one will be going to a different school next year and may never see her school friends again.

Anyway, that’s been rough, and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better.

As part of our home curriculum, we’ve been watching Mythbusters (for Science!). Hulu has seasons 11-20 available for streaming, which is fun because the small, mobile ones really enjoy it, and because I must have stopped watching the show regularly before that, so most of the myths are new to me as well. There’s also a Mythbusters Jr. show which came out in 2019. We started with that one, and it was actually really great. But there’s only 10 episodes, so we got through that pretty dang quick.

The smaller, mobile one is also doing my drawing class with me this month. A lot of the focus of the class this month is on not being critical of yourself, and of just drawing to draw without worrying about everything being a work of art. We’re supposed to use normal paper and a pen, and she wants you to do confident lines as opposed to more sketchy lines.

It’s surprisingly hard. But fun! I have drawn some really awful things. And a couple of pretty good ones. Today we were supposed to practice drawing small things. I made the mistake of picking earphones to try and draw. The smaller, mobile one drew a bunch of adorable bees.

So, Eurovision is not happening this year, sadly, because life is cancelled, but they did put up all the songs that were in the running for the year, and have been putting up related programming on their YouTube channel (including contest shows from previous years). I was mostly underwhelmed this year (there are a lot of pretty songs, but nothing that really stood out) with the exception of what is, by far, the best Eurovision song of 2020:

Uno by Little Big, representing Russia

It is ridiculous and I love everything about it. They were robbed.

(Why is a Russian band singing in Spanish? Also, there is absolutely no substance to the song and I do not care.)

Aside from small, mobile one school drama, my month is going pretty well. I don’t have a lot of complaints thus far.

How is your May going, squiders? Is it lasting forever for you too? Did you watch the Eurovision songs for this year? Favorite?

More Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard

So, now I’m a little more than halfway through the first season of Star Trek: Picard, and I have Thoughts.

(Probably spoiler-y.)

And one of those thoughts is how depressing the universe has become. Everyone is sad. Everything has gone poorly. I was so excited to see Seven, but it was just the same.

It hurts to see beloved characters not get a happy ending. And it hurts to see new ones who are broken and confused.

I am a bit grumpy about that.

But!

I am so excited about the Romulans!

I love Romulans. They are my favorite Trek species, and I am so excited that they are getting so much screen time, and that we’re getting to see into their culture finally. AND THEY ARE SPEAKING RIHANNSU ONSCREEN. SOMEONE HAS GONE IN AND MADE RIHANNSU SPEAKABLE and my nerdy heart is so very full.

You see, back when I was a teenager, I spent a ton of time doing Star Trek roleplays in AOL chatrooms. We’re talking hours a week. I was on probably four or five different crews in various positions as various characters, plus there was a chatroom called Ten Forward Lounge, where you could go and hang out and roleplay whenever you wanted.

(Of course, we invariably had storylines going in there as well.)

One of my very favorite characters was a genetically-engineered Romulan Tal’Shiar officer who had been betrayed by her partner, picked up by the Federation and, since she was a child at the time (11, I think) was taken in by a Federation family and went on to become a Starfleet officer (and also a member of Starfleet Intelligence, because why not?).

How’s that for a mouthful of backstory? I was fourteen at the time I created her. But what it really came down to was that I wanted to play a Romulan but there was a dearth of Romulan specific sims (short for simulations), and the few that did exist were either too late or on the weekends, and that wasn’t feasible with school.

So that meant I needed a Romulan character to be in Starfleet, and man, I jumped through hoops to make that happen.

Now, back in the day, the Romulan language (Rihannsu, in Romulan) did exist to some extent–Diane Duane had started in some of her Trek novels and it had been expanded a bit–but we’re still talking about 30 pages when the entire thing was printed out. Which I know. Cuz I printed it out, so I could sprinkle in Romulan words in my dialogue (and also learn all the curse words).

But it wasn’t like Klingon. There was vocabulary and there was grammar put together, but most of the vocab was adjectives and nouns, so you couldn’t really parse together a whole sentence.

So, long story short (too late), I am SO EXCITED to see that it’s become a speakable language. If they put out an official Romulan dictionary and/or make it a course on Duolingo I am so there.

ROMULANS! I love them.

And I also love the Borg, at least old-school Borg, before they got a bit overdone in Voyager. (In my eighth grade tech ed class, when we made CO2 cars, I painted mine silver and put the Borg symbol on the top. And it beat everyone else, bwhahaha.) So the show has lots of Romulan stuff and lots of Borg stuff, and I am 100% there for all of that.

I just wish the characters weren’t so sad and hopeless. Discovery is a bit violent at times, but it still has that hopefulness, the idea that if we work together and make sacrifices, we can make the universe a better place. I hope Picard gets there too.

Watching/watched Picard, squiders? Thoughts? Thoughts about Trek in general (or Romulans in specific)?

(Oh, and that convoluted character I made up all those years ago? Became the inspiration for the main character in my high fantasy trilogy. Ha!)

Library Book Sale Finds: One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

As we discussed last September when I was doing my foundational book series, Wait Till Helen Comes was a formulative book for me when I was a child, one that is still creepy to this day. So when I spied a much newer Mary Downing Hahn book at the last library book sale I went to, I definitely grabbed it.

Title: One for Sorrow
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Genre: Children’s horror
Publication Year: 2017

Pros: Still creepy
Cons: Suffers from protagonist issues

One for Sorrow is oddly timely, since it takes place during the Spanish Flu in 1918/1919. It follows Annie Browne, who has moved to a new town and started at a new school. She’s almost immediately latched onto by another girl, Elsie Schneider, who is hateful and mean and keeps Annie away from the other girls so she can’t make other friends.

Elsie is eventually home sick for a week, allowing Annie to get away from her and make new friends. But when Elsie dies of the Spanish Flu, it gives her the opportunity to make sure Annie can never get away from her.

I had to put the book down for a few days in the middle because life was so awful for poor Annie (though she’s kind of a pushover and will go along with bullying) and I didn’t want to deal with. But, in general, this book was a fast read, with good imagery,

My biggest complaint is Annie, and the way Annie is treated by the plot. Annie doesn’t do anything to try and help herself, really. She doesn’t stand up for anything, either when Elsie is pushing her into things she doesn’t want to do or when her new friends are doing things she doesn’t agree with. And once the haunting begins, it doesn’t get any better.

And–SPOILER ALERT–Annie doesn’t even do anything to get rid of Elsie, in the end. A nice old lady who can see ghosts conveniently comes along, and shows Elsie the way to move on.

It reminded me of the House of Many Ways, which we read as part of a readalong of the Howl’s Moving Castle series (Howl’s here, Castle in the Air here). In it, the main character is a little girl by the name of Charmain, but she doesn’t really do anything. Grown-ups come in at the end and do most of the real work, and it felt the same here.

House of Many Ways was one of the last things Diana Wynne Jones wrote before she died, and Mary Downing Hahn has been writing children’s horror for around 40 years. It makes me wonder…do authors, as they get older, sometimes feel bad about the danger they put their child protagonists into? Does it make more sense to them, over time, to have someone older and wiser come in and save the child?

I’ll admit that’s a pretty big leap to take based off of two data points. I would need to make an actual study of it–read different children authors’ books over time, see if there’s a trend toward children becoming less proactive throughout the books. But it did strike me as an interesting coincidence.

What do you think, squiders? Have you noticed this trend, or am I seeing things that aren’t there? Read this book, or any other newer Mary Downing Hahn book?

2020 is Lasting Forever and Yet…

…and yet, nothing is getting done.

Well, not nothing. But I think it feels like nothing, for a lot of people, because of the distortion in how time is passing. Since it feels like a hugely long time period, it feels like we should have been able to do a bunch, but it’s all an illusion.

That being said, April went pretty well for me. I set a goal of 10,000 words on my changeling story for camp, which I managed (as well as my two prompt responses for the month, and several pages on my handwritten story).

Speaking on the handwritten story, I’m running into an issue I didn’t consider, which is that I’m having issues figuring out my pacing. As you know, pacing is not something that comes naturally to me, and I’ve started building my pacing into my outlining to help me not have to add it in during revision.

Now, I haven’t outlined the handwritten story that completely (I did major plot points and plot/character arcs), but even if I had, word count is hard to tell, so it’s a little hard to tell where I am in the great scheme of my story. That’s a little problematic, but it’s probably not the end of the world if I just let the story go and fix it later. I have experience with that, at least.

The changeling story is going pretty well, actually! This is my third start on the story (the previous two starts add up to about 6K total) and I’m about 12K right now out of what I think will be about 75K in the end. I haven’t actually re-outlined or changed anything (except character names keep changing between drafts–the MC’s name has changed each iteration, and the love interest and sister have both also gone through a name change) but I did add in another point of view. We’ll see how that goes in the long run–I’d originally planned on setting it up like a romance (so female main character and male main character points of view) but my inclination is that this will work better for the story overall.

Well, we’ll see.

It feels weird not to be working on the nonfiction books after working on them for so long, but also nice to be done with the project. And there’s the SkillShare classes too, so it’s not like I’m abandoning the idea completely.

My goals for May are to write 20K on the changeling story, another 5 pages on the handwritten story, and do my two monthly prompt responses. I’ve also picked another drawing class to take and will be doing a story arc class as part of my year of education.

May kind of feels like it’s going to go the way March did–taking a million years because everything changes from day to day–but I guess we’ll have to see.

How are you doing, squiders? Any major plans for the month?

Foundational Books: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

So, if you remember, oh, last summer, I went through some of the books that have made me who I am today, as a writer, but also in general.

(Apologies for being late AGAIN, I can’t even blame the quarantine this time. I did a push to finally get my new SkillShare class live–I always forget how long it takes to edit the videos, and my new microphone is so sensitive I had to get up at 5 am to avoid noise from the small, mobile ones and the neighbors.)

(It’s here, if you’re interested. It’s about setting goals in your writing and sticking with them.)

But I realized I forgot perhaps the most important book at all. The one that I’ve read the most times over the years. The one that I turn to when I need comfort, or I need to sleep after I read/watch something too scary. The one I used for my senior quote in high school. The one I used scenes from to try out for plays. The one I can still quote bits of from memory.

Phantom Tollbooth cover
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I don’t remember who recommended the book to me, but I first read it back in middle school (my copy is the 35th anniversary edition, and we’re coming up on the 60th anniversary, so that tells you how long it’s been in my life). And who knows how many times I read it over in middle and high school. As an adult, I’ve read it less often, but I still do re-read it periodically (I’m currently reading it to the small, mobile ones).

The entire book is a masterful play on words and concepts. Even as an adult I really appreciate the pure mastery of the idea. (I perhaps understand the Humbug better now than I did as a kid.) We have Milo, our bored main character who doesn’t see why anything is worth the bother. When he receives a toy tollbooth from who knows where, he decides to play with it, because he doesn’t have anything better to do. But it allows him access to a world where knowledge is more literal than in real life.

It’s hard to put the book into words, really. This is a book that I have loved so much and so long that I find my tendency is to wax poetic about its many fine features and scenes, and sometimes I get a bit spoiler-y and we can’t have that.

I highly recommend it to anyone, anyone who’s loved learning at any point in their lives, anyone who likes puns, anyone who likes a rewarding story about friendship and what’s possible if you decide to try.

But I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book, from the Whether Man in Chapter 2:

Whether or not you find your own way, you’re bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it’s quite rusty.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Read The Phantom Tollbooth, squiders? Favorite character? (I am partial to Tock.) Other related thoughts?

Let’s Not Be Sad

Good Lord, squiders. I have sat here all day, trying to figure out what to blog about. My thoughts keep going back to what’s going on in the world, which is depressing and awful, and, to be honest, I don’t want to talk about that. Everyone is talking about that. It is everywhere and inescapable. I mean, it makes sense, because it’s affecting everyone, but me talking about it isn’t going to add anything to the conversation.

(Monday I made face masks out of my leftover fabric from the bookmarks I made people for Christmas. That was…surreal. Also the first mask was super easy and then the second and third masks kept jamming my sewing machine and I didn’t change anything so I don’t know why.)

And, I mean, it’s April Fools Day. Now, I’m not a huge AF fan anyway, but you know how many AF jokes I’ve seen today? None. Nada. Not a single one. The whole world said, “Nope, not this year.” I appreciate that. But it’s still kind of depressing.

So! Let’s focus on the positives, shall we?

March was a freaking roller coaster that lasted forever, but it wasn’t all bad. I did some really nice watercolors in my travel journal (though the travel watercolor set I have has some…interesting colors). I got to rib my sister about getting old (she’s two and half years younger than me, but as older sister I am required by law to tease when appropriate). It is well and truly spring now.

I also got some things accomplished. I finished the draft of the scifi horror story. (And found a title for it! Finally.) I finally got through my February writing book. I’ve got the final nonfiction book more or less ready to go. My Pinterest prompt spawned a whole novel idea…which, uh, I guess I’ll add it to my list? (I wrote creation myth for the prompt.) I wrote more than I did in February.

And April, even if we’re still in the midst of all this, well, it kind of feels like a new start. At least March is over, amirite? Plus, there’s Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m going to work on the changeling story I started as part of How to Think Sideways last year. I stopped cuz I lost interest in the story, but I’m hoping I can poke it into something usable.

I guess if I can’t, there’s always the story I came up from my Pinterest prompts? Or I could go back and finish the draft from Nano. Always options. Too many options.

How did March go for you, squiders? Plans for April?