Friday, September 19, 2014


I'm sitting at a cafe. I'm supposed to be editing my book, or writing the last story. Instead, I'm listening to the conversation at the next table.

It's two girls. (Young women? I'm 28 and still refer to myself as a girl, so I'm the wrong person to ask about the terminology.) They're discussing books they're writing. And I'm listening, and some of it sounds really good, and some of it sounds kind of cliche, but all of it is making me really happy because I've totally been there.

They're talking about characters like old friends, about plot turns (with the occasional interjection: "Oh wait! I can't tell you about that part yet. It'll spoil the ending."), about world-building, about making maps and pronunciation guides, about restructuring so that this part of the story actually comes at the end instead of the middle...

I love it.

Maybe it's that I'm young still. I was reading an introduction by Chuck Palahnuik, and he was talking about how when you're a young reader you want books that are mirrors. You want to see yourself, or something you can relate to. Sitting here listening to these girls talking about their books, it's like a mirror, or maybe a window to the past. It's me and Liz sitting around talking about the Red Quarter or the Doorkeeper. Or me and Amber swapping emails about Proverbs stories and Wishbook.

It's fun.

That's been the problem with the Halloween Stories, and why I'm kind of happy to be bringing that whole chapter to an end. As things have gone on, it's no longer fun. It's not the challenge or the new shiny thing it was at the beginning.

So I'm going to bring it to a close, focus on Doors and Half Miracle and Wishbook and whatever other stories creep in meanwhile.

It doesn't have to be a career or cause for stress. It can just be sitting around telling stories. That's really the way it should be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Rule

So, let's make a rule.

If you like someone, and you tell them how you feel, and they are honest with you and tell you that they don't return the feeling, here's where we're at...

(1) You have the right to be disappointed
(2) You have the right to be sad
(3) You DO NOT have the right to be angry
(4) You DO NOT have the right to make that person feel like they are at fault.

It's nobody's fault. You can't help who you are attracted to, and conversely who you are not.

Now, if they're a jerk to you when they tell you this, I guess you'd have the right to be angry. Not for the message, but for the method.

Had this happen to me recently. Someone asked me out. I didn't know how to tell them I wasn't interested, so I accepted, but finally got up the nerve to admit that I had been wrong. I didn't mean to toy with anybody's feelings, but I suppose he may have seen it that way.

I've never been on the other end of it. I've had overwhelming crushes on people, but they were dating someone, or they weren't interested in someone of my gender, or I just knew due to their personality/the context of our relationship that I'd have been denied. So rather than risk it, I curled into a little protective porcupine ball - soft center hidden, scary spikes sticking out.

Dude, there's a reason I'm alone.

That reason is me.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

10 Books

First of all, that last post was unnecessary terror. My project is 95% funded now! Woohoo! So... yeah.

But on to what this post is really about. Books!

I did this for facebook but also wanted to share here:

You must list ten books that have stayed with you in some way without taking more than a few minutes to think too hard about it. They don't have to be great books, just ones that have affected you in some way.

(1) Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. In a heartbeat. My teacher read this to us in Kindergarten, and it rocked my entire world. When people ask me what my favorite book is, I always say this one. Then they hem and haw a bit and say, “Yes, but what is your favorite book FOR ADULTS?” and I say this one again. 338 words is sometimes all it takes to tell the kind of story that sticks with you forever.

(2) I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. This book features such a funny, charming narrator and a cast of some of the kookiest and most wonderful characters I’ve met in fiction. It felt like I was reading a friend’s diary; like these were real people, family even. I read this one again and again and again.

(3) The Tolkien Reader, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I really should say Lord of the Rings, but to me it was the book I discovered after reading about Frodo’s epic journey that has stayed with me so long. The Tolkien Reader is a collection of Tolkien’s shorter works. The two that impacted me so greatly were his short story “Leaf by Niggle” (which I think every artist/writer/creative person should read) and the essay “On Fairy Stories,” which utterly transformed the way I think about reading, writing, and faith.

(4) The Moorchild, by Eloise McGraw. I still remember being in Walmart with my mom when I saw the paperback of this book on the sale rack for $3.95. “Can I get it?” I pleaded, the question all us kids asked constantly on shopping trips, always expecting the inevitable “NO.” But this time she took a look at the price and said okay. I brought it home and devoured it. What was on that cover that so captivated 9-year-old me? A picture of a girl playing a pipe out on the Scottish moorland, her crazy cloud of hair and slanted violet eyes indicating that she was anything but an ordinary girl. “The Moorchild” is the story of what it’s like to be an outsider, to be a part of two different worlds but to belong fully to neither, to be persecuted for things you cannot control (your appearance, the circumstances of your birth) and some that you can (intelligence, ambition). It’s one of those stories supposedly “written for children,” but that I still enjoy thoroughly as an adult.

(5) Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. It feels a bit like choosing which one out of all my limbs I’d want to keep to have to pick just ONE book by C.S. Lewis for this list. Narnia, That Hideous Strength and its sequels, and the vast library of his nonfiction writings have all shaped so much of who I am as a person. But if I must choose a jewel for the center of this crown, “Till We Have Faces” is the one. It’s a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, but since it’s C.S. Lewis you know it’s going to be more than that. It’s the book that made me realize (with some horror) that I could completely relate to a character so broken and flawed as the protagonist Orual. But as the story unfolded I was able (with some hope) to root for her transformation, all the way up to the paradigm-shifting climactic scene that gives the book its name.

(6) The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. This one’s pretty obvious. Not only did these stories take such vivid hold of my imagination, but they introduced me to the fandom, this “hidden magical community” of creative, talented, smart, funny, warm, welcoming, amazing fellow geeks, so many of whom I’m lucky to count as friends.

(7) Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl. This is a weird one. Not a lot of people know Sylvia Engdahl. I only know this book from finding it at the library, but it quickly became one of my favorites because it manages to be both science fiction and high fantasy at the same time. It’s the story of a team from an advanced galactic civilization that is tasked to keep a ship from a partway-developed planet (one that’s just started space exploration) from interfering with civilizations on an underdeveloped planet (one that’s still in its version of the Dark Ages, where early introduction of such technology as a space craft could be catastrophic). The portions told on the underdeveloped planet read like swords and sorcery stuff, even though the reader knows enough of what’s going on to guess at the advanced technology that would appear as dragons or witchcraft to the natives. In addition to the cool genre meld, it’s also just a good story – there’s a forbidden love arc between a girl from the advanced society and a boy from the underdeveloped planet. There’s the theme throughout of the importance of understanding things from other perspectives, of acknowledging mindsets different from our own. It’s a particularly timely book for our day and age since it raises questions about technology and progress, and whether you can truly consider these things successful if they are not tempered with restraint and wisdom.

(8) Gnomes, by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet. I found this book at the library when I was 8 or 9. It’s beautifully illustrated, and written in the same style as many guides to birds or other wildlife, with drawings and diagrams and information about the gnome species and their habitats, diet, appearance, behavior, etc. As a kid, I read it and completely believed it was real, that there actually were gnomes that lived in the woods (and may even be living in my own backyard!). Even now that I’m older, I still catch myself staring into the forest sometimes, fully expecting to catch a flash of a red cap in among the trees.

(9) The Gifts of the Child Christ, by George MacDonald. The title is misleading. This isn’t a bunch of sermons, or some preachy moral lesson trussed up as a story for children. It’s actually a collection of fairy tales. George MacDonald was a Scottish minister who wrote dozens of books, most of them realistic fiction, romances, or, yes, books of sermons, but he also wrote fairy stories, and these were the stories that set him apart. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle all claim him as an influence on their work. You may know some of his longer fantasy works (“The Princess and the Goblin” or “At the Back of the North Wind”), but this book is a collection of his shorter, weirder stories. My two favorites are “The Golden Key” (which features flying feathered fish and rainbow stairways and a beautiful parallel with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”) and “Photogen and Nycteris” (about a boy who was raised only ever seeing daylight, and a girl who was raised only ever seeing night, and what happens when the witch who looked after them accidentally lets up her guard one night and the two children escape).

(10) Lost and Found, by Shaun Tan. This is a far newer book, one I only encountered in the last couple years, but it’s incredible. It’s three shorter tales in one book, told through both text and visuals. Shaun Tan’s artwork is weird, beautiful, disturbing, and exhilarating and acts as a perfect complement to his words. This is a book I know will stay with me for a long time, especially because of “The Red Leaf.” Reading that story was the first time I ever found anything that truly expressed how depression makes you feel – not some clinical explanation, or self-help-guide “solution,” but something far more visceral and real. I liked it because at the same time that it doesn’t shy away from the darkness, it still ends with a believable sort of hope. Anything by Shaun Tan is amazing, but this one in particular – just, WOW.


After I made this list, of course I thought of a million others I could have included. I noticed this book leans heavily toward fantasy/sci-fi and children's titles. But whatever, so do my reading inclinations, so I suppose that makes sense.

Here are a couple more I should have put down. "Honorable Mentions" if you will. I won't spend nearly as much time describing them as I did the others though.

(11) Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. 

(12) All the Brian Jacques Redwall books.

(13) Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

(14) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

(15) Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

(16) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

(17) Holes by Louis Sachar

(18) Howliday Inn by James Howe

(19) Short stories by Edgar Allan Poe

(20) The Boggart by Susan Cooper

I mean, I kept kicking myself that I didn't include them on the list! And honestly, I could go on... I guess that's the problem. There are too many good books in the world.

A good problem to have.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I will go into this in more detail in a later post, but right now I'll just say this.

I just launched my first Kickstarter campaign this morning.

I'm terrified.

I'm going off 4 hours of sleep after having spent the day yesterday traveling home from San Antonio where I was visiting Rebekah and her family. I'm starving because I forgot to eat this morning. I have that lack-of-sleep headache which means I really need to get home soon and just recover.

I need to tell people about the project, but if I try to now it'll come out all wrong.

I am panicking. No one's backed it and it's been live for hours now, but of course that's because no one knows, because I've been at work and haven't told them.

No one tells you how naked this makes you feel.

Sticking your art out there and going, "Love me! Love me!"

Worried that they'll laugh at you. But what's worse than laughing at you?

That they won't even care at all.