The Hopeful Wanderer – Bloodred Blight

Blood, slick and swift, dribbled like drops of rain from the needle tips of a tall, old pine. Red gathered around the base of the trunk, staining scrub, dirt, and stones alike. Lessening along the height of the pine, but climbing ever upward, spreading down limb and bough. A bloodred pool glistened at the tree’s roots, the stink of copper choking the air. I tasted pennies on the back of my tongue.

My boots squelched as I approached the bloody pine, liquid red filling the indents of my tracks. As I drew near, my skin stretched across my bones, losing moisture at once. Beads of sweat dripping from my brow took on a pink hue, mingling with the red at my feet as they fell.

Joints aching, I knelt among the tree’s roots. Clusters of low twigs reached toward me, grasping, ready to hold me here forever.

I withdrew a pocket knife. The blade gleamed, reflecting bloody silver. “You cannot have me,” I whispered through cracking lips.

Upon each exposed root, I carved a different sigil, all for loosening, for shaking, for falling. Blood welled up from each cut, flowing over my fingertips. Sticky. The pine above groaned and shivered with every slice biting into bark.

At last, I stood back, breathing hard, vision blurry. “May the earth rise against,” I gasped.

A rumble started beneath my feet, sending ripples dancing over the bloody pool. Rocks clattered. I stumbled and fell. A crack split the air, followed by a crash as the pine toppled over, its longest branches just brushing my sleeve. Like the fingertips of a betrayed lover.

When I looked, a network of roots lay exposed to the air, dripping blood slowing. Dirt and rocks clogged the pool of blood, clotted like a scab over an old wound.


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Author Update: 10 Things I Love That You May Not Know About Me

How about a little positivity today? This exercise sprang from a Facebook trend that circulated during my city’s COVID-19 lockdown wherein people would post lists entitled, “10 Things People Love, but You HATE.”

The whole concept was a bummer, in both premise and execution. That was more negativity than folks needed at the time and I don’t think anyone felt better for having written or read any of them. But then a counter movement began from people who felt the same way I did. When we started to write lists of ten things we loved, I learned so much more interesting things about the people in my circle. For example, one of my college English professors enjoys weightlifting! I would never have known.

Here’s my list. I surprised myself with what made the cut for my top ten, so this was a great way even for me to learn more about me. I encourage you to try this, too!

1. Baking. Though I don’t bake often, I have tons of recipes saved to my Pinterest. Sometimes I pluck one of these out when I’m stressed or procrastinating on something I don’t want to do.

2. Coloring. You may know about this one if you follow my Instagram. I have a very basic understanding of the color wheel, but I use crayons to learn shading tricks and to make the usual an unusual color.

3. Exploring. Especially abandoned places, forgotten spaces, and far flung locations.

4. Scavenging. I’m secretly a Corvid in my heart, because I love finding old things I can still use and love. This covers my obsession with thrift stores, used book stores, and garage sales.

5. Exercising. If God hadn’t nerfed me with weak joints, I would exercise way more than I do. Right now I settle for walking, but dream of running and lifting again someday.

6. Organizing. Plans, items, schedules, topics, projects, I’ll organize them all. I get a sense of peace and well being from having things in order.

7. Listening. To music, people, silence. You can learn a lot about others and yourself if you just keep quiet.

8. Creating. Probably more obvious with all the writing, but this also encompasses drawing, building, fashion, and crafts.

9. Philosophizing. Nothing serious. Just making mental connections about the how and why of life.

10. Daydreaming. I have more in mind to write or do or try or be than I could ever manage in one lifetime. I hope I get reincarnated or existence turns out to be a videogame simulation with extra lives so I can experience it all. If not, at least it all still happened in my mind.

Got a list of things you love? Post yours in the comments below. I’d love to read more about you!


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The Hopeful Wanderer – Sea Sparkle

Craggy rocks nipped at the soles of my feet as I clambered from a sparkling sea. Close to shore, blue light limned the water around every stone, brightening and dimming with the ebb and flow of the waves. Blue clung to my skin, outlining my toes, creeping up my legs. Growing heavier and heavier. Should the blue weight drag me down, I would drown in water no deeper than my waist. I pushed forward, avoiding the sandy bottom lest my heavy steps pushed so deep that I could not escape.

As I pulled myself out of the water onto a stony outcrop, a large shape moved in the dark. Just visible in the bioluminescent glow. A humanoid creature crouched in the shallows between me and safety. Blue light played across smooth, sharklike skin, revealing a long muzzle and a golden eye staring at me. The mouth parted to reveal rows of razor teeth.

The creature came nosing toward me. I froze, unable to step off the stone, heavy enough now that the blue would pull me under. My knees buckled under the added weight and I sank into a sit.

Blue glowed from within the creature’s gullet as it opened its mouth wide. Webbed hands groped at my safe rock and I scrabbled back as far as I could go. A long tongue slithered out and scooped up the blue sparkles clinging to the hem of my pants.

At once my leg felt lighter.

The glow outlining me dimmed as the creature cleared away every last glimmer. When I could stand, I did so slowly. Eyeing my retreat to the shore, the creature backed away to crouch in the shallows. With a snap, it resumed its meal of the blue glow, spreading darkness ever outward around it once more.


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Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Introduction

Throughout Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Galaxy Stern fights to balance her background as a drug abuser and teen runaway, her lifelong gift (curse) of the ability to see ghosts, known as Grays, and her job working for a secret cultish organization entrenched within the high society of Yale University.

Together with her distant work partner, Pamela Dawes, who resents Alex for losing their boss, Darlington, to an unknown portal, and Detective Abel Turner, who resents Alex for interfering in his murder investigation, Alex must survive where all her worlds clash to do her job and put her own ghosts to rest. But she has more to do with the dangerous events happening around her than she realizes.

Plot

For Alex, the opportunity to study at Yale leads to her wholehearted attempt at change. From the drug abuse, from the hurt she caused her mother, from the abuse of the Grays themselves. But in exchange, she must use her gifts in service to the House of Lethe to guard dog the other Societies of the Veil from taking their magic dealings too far, sacrificing the lives of the citizens of surrounding New Haven in the pursuit of whatever they want.

Yet Alex soon learns that if she continues to keep her head down and try to fit in, she will fail the main directive of her House: we are the shepherds. Everyone expects her to let the murder of Tara Hutchins go, but where good girl Alex can get nowhere, the sharp, hardened Alex who has survived worse than anyone at Yale could imagine coils up to strike back. She may not fit into this world, but that lends her the element of surprise.

Characters

In her role as Dante of Lethe House, Alex meets Occulus Pamela Dawes and their Virgil, Daniel Arlington, who begins mentoring Alex to take over his role once he graduates Yale. Darlington, well-loved by all as the gentleman of Lethe, struggles to deal with Alex’s presence, as she was chosen as his apprentice for him rather than by him. But with his mysterious disappearance soon after they begin getting along, Alex finds herself on her own doing a job she has not enough guidance to do well.

She and Pamela must team up to uphold Lethe House’s creed when the very dean of the school leaves them high and dry with no help. Detective Abel Turner, recruited from New Haven’s police force as Lethe House’s Centurion, would rather have nothing to do with magic and monsters. But as Alex calls upon the two again and again, they become embroiled in helping her get to the bottom of Tara Hutchins’s murder, whether they like it or not.

Review

I loved so many moments in Ninth House. When Dawes stands up to Dean Sandow for Alex, calling him out on his blaming her for being attacked; when Alex first begins letting her true colors as a sharp-edged, deadly person to deal with show through in order to continue the investigation without the dean’s approval; when Alex gets petty revenge on another student who hurts her roommate; when Alex calls out the main villain for attempting to turn a string of murders into a feminist manifesto. And all the soft moments when Alex gets to, for one or two minutes, enjoy the wonders of magic and of a found purpose.

Leigh Bardugo pulls no punches, so the narrative contains harsh elements and examinations of cruelty and unfairness, considering how trauma can shape a person into the sort who would seek justice at any cost so others won’t have to suffer like her. Everyone who loves magic, hope, kickass women in droves, honorable detectives, underdogs, and petty revenge should read Ninth House.

Conclusion

Since purchasing Ninth House in October 2019, I have read this book twice and loved every second of both readings. I enjoy the high stakes action, the contrast between Yale high society and Alex’s poor, mixed background, her toughness and unwillingness to let injustice pass, and the high energy, witty interactions between the characters.

This fantasy murder mystery examines individual responsibility to protect the weak and seek justice for wrongdoing, but in a low, shifty, clever manner. Not every tale of wrongdoing brought to judgement need be noble and lofty. When the nobility will not take responsibility for the actions of its own, the lowest must rise to take up the mantle. For, after all, we are the shepherds.

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads rating: 4.07


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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Garden of Lights

Twilight lit up with colorful sparkles carpeting the ground around the silhouette of a nearby tree. Colors clustered together like starbursts, clumps of sapphire and aqua scattered around those of tangerine and ruby, alongside honey and violet drops. Where I stood at the limit of their glow, these small orbs twinkled up at me from the ground at my feet, illuminating dead and dying grass all around. I had not noticed in the dark.

Not too far away, the shadow of a person stood up from a crouch, holding an electric cord that led away into the lights. This they dropped on the ground with a faint thump. Rainbow light touched their legs but not their face, making them impossible to make out. I wondered if I looked the same to them.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Turning to me, the person’s bearing shifted to something like a smile. “A garden,” they said, looking over to view their work.

“Don’t you think flowers would be more useful?” I said. “Lights don’t make oxygen or cleanse carbon monoxide from the air.”

“True,” they said. Their voice dropped a key to sadness. “But it’s too late for conservation efforts in this place. Flowers no longer grow here.”

That sadness crept down my spine and lodged at the base. Remembering the deadened grass, I surveyed the area. By the fading sunlight, I noted lots of dwellings, plentiful sidewalks, few trees. Almost no patches of earth where grass could grow. I wondered what had poisoned this ground so that flowers could not bloom here anymore.

“Besides,” the stranger added, “you can’t see flowers at night. Not like this.” A hitch crept into their voice, as if they fought back tears. “So this is alright. Yeah, it’ll have to do.”


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Sketchy Writing Advice – The Time and Place for Passive Voice

Disclaimer: the following writing advice is base on the author’s personal experience of writing and does not represent any hard or fast rules. Your mileage may vary.

The Passive Voice Narrative

How to talk about passive voice as a useful thing? An okay thing? An allowed thing? So many of us as writers have received the advice that we need to change the passive voice in our work to active voice. This is good and important advice. You should do that. I even explain how to change passive voice to active voice in another post, because I live in the camp of advocates for active writing. Especially after having just read a book with the most passive writing I have ever witnessed in traditional publishing. An actual slog to get through.

Reading too much passive voice is unpleasant and boring. But, contrary to what short, insightful, and thought provoking nuggets of wisdom like write in active voice would have you think, passive voice has a place in your prose. Albeit, a sparing one.

A quick note.

First and foremost, always consider ways to change the passive phrase you think you need to use into an active one. You may not need that passive phrase as much as you think. But after you have exhausted your options in active voice and found no alternatives, you may use passive voice. That’s how you break the rules like an artist.

What’s the big deal?

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, let us recap the definitions and differences between what makes passive and active voice.

Being verbs: A ThoughtCo.com article states that “a verb that does not show action instead indicates a state of being. …[I]n English most being verbs are forms of to be (am, are, is, was, were, will be, being, been, etc.).”

Adverbs: Any word that ends in -ly (quickly, oily, chilly, moodily, etc.).

Action verbs: Any verb not one of the two above (run, slam, kiss, hold, breathe, help, etc.).

Being verbs and adverbs make up passive voice, while the leftover action verbs make up active voice.

When to Use Passive Voice

Everyone told you to get rid of your being verbs and your -ly adverbs, but… hey, that published writer used several being verbs in that paragraph! And some adverbs over there! Why do they get to use passive voice and I don’t?!

I understand your frustration.

Some exceptions to this rule exist, but it takes getting good at writing in active voice to begin noticing them. I cannot stress enough that you should understand and execute active voice in your writing before you start toying with these exceptions. You must use your own judgement on when your unique words merit some passive voice, but below, I have put together a list of when I have noticed that passive voice works.

When writing a rough draft

While I recommend learning to write in active voice in the first place to train those brain muscles, writing your rough draft in passive voice is not the shameful act some feedback would have you think. Using being verbs and -ly adverbs helps you get your thoughts down on the page. Those first thoughts act as a road map to tell later you, editor you, what you meant by this. Just make sure you edit out your passive voice before you take new pieces to your next writing group meeting or post them up on your blog.

When an object is at rest

Rarely does this exception occur, but it has a lot to do with an object’s potential for movement. Some examples:

Active voice: He stood next to the door.
Passive voice: He was standing next to the door.

The first example in active voice implies your character just now stood next to the door. He moved there, stopped there, or got to his feet there, and thus, he stood. The second example in passive voice implies your character may have stood next to the door for some length of time. Less an action and more a continuation of a previous act. So you have the option to portray how long your character has done or has been doing something through your choice of active or passive voice.

Another example:

Active voice: A comet flew across the sky.
Passive voice: A comet was flying across the sky.

In the first example, the use of the active verb flew indicates the comet performed this action before any description to follow took place. Zzzip, gone! A mighty quick comet. The second example using the passive phrase was flying indicates that the comet continues to fly across the sky as the descriptions that follow take place. This object’s action becomes a backdrop to whatever else happens until the writer describes that said passive action has ceased or the scene has ended.

When a character’s thoughts shift to the theoretical

In my observations of when a character’s thoughts occur in passive voice, I have noticed that this works best not in the paragraph’s first line or its last, but somewhere in the middle. An active first line draws readers into the paragraph, where they feel more willing to read some passive thinking sorts of sentences. Then, an active last couple of lines draws the reader back out of that state of passivity and keeps them interested in reading the next paragraph.

Example, with active in bold and passive in italics:

I struck out across the river, struggling to swim against the current. Trying not to think scary water thoughts. How deep was the water? Were there alligators here? Fear chased me across the river. I almost cried when my fingers touched the muddy bank on the other side.

This example of passive voice could still function better as active voice. But I would stick to passive voice here if I wanted to get these thoughts across while not lingering over them too much. Plus, passive voice in the middle of a paragraph can allow your readers a small brain break before getting them back to the action.

When indicating emphatic truth

Using passive voice sparingly lends power to your occasional use of being verbs. As such, you can use them to make true statements that carry much more weight when you pull them out.

Examples:

Too much passive voice: She was a straight A student and she had never even been in trouble! They were accusing her of murder, but she was no killer.
Just enough passive voice: She crushed her grades every year and kept herself out of trouble. They had accused her of murder, but she was no killer.

Compare all the being verbs in the first example to the number of these in the second. So many claims of truth in the first stole the impact of the final claim. But in the second example, one moment of passive voice surrounded by so many active verbs made that statement stand out and shine. Every active verb indicates an action that took place once, so that the one passive verb indicates a state of true and continuous being as not a killer.

When replacements for adverbs make the prose too wordy

I am guilty of this myself. Complete aversion to the use of passive voice can cause you to stuff in more words than necessary just to avoid adverbs. Yet sometimes I relax a little. Above, I used an adverb in the sentence that begins, “Using passive voice sparingly…” I allowed myself this bit of passivity because the alternative for that adverb sparingly would have come out as: “Using passive voice once in a while…” That adds a solid four words and would not get the point across as well as the adverb did.

Use your judgement here.

My personal guiding principle on adverbs decrees that I can use one adverb in a paragraph at most, so I must make it count. That means I cannot waste the adverb on a gerund + adverb [-ing verb + –ly adverb] phrase such as “walking quickly.” I also should not waste it on the next step up in passive voice, qualitative adverbs, such as necessarily, only, eventually, occasionally, or especially. Use your adverbs where they will have the most impact and will weaken your prose the least, if you must use them at all.

Takeaways

  1. Passive voice includes any ‘being verbs’ (be, was, been, is, were, am, are) and –ly adverbs
  2. Active verbs are any other verbs besides being verbs and adverbs
  3. While not very often, passive voice has its place
    • When writing a rough draft
    • When an object is at rest
    • When a character’s thoughts shift to the theoretical
    • When indicating emphatic truth
    • When replacements for adverbs make the prose too wordy
  4. You should learn to write in active voice a majority of the time
  5. You must use your judgement on when passive voice will have the most impact

How I learned this skill.

Long ago, I resolved to write just in active voice and avoid all being verbs and adverbs. This forced me to learn how to change passive voice into active voice. But as I developed a standard for writing within certain word count limits or for tightening up my prose by X percentage, I found that, at times, an adverb would serve better than a bunch of other words. Or a being verb would make a point pop better. I did make sure to set myself some guidelines, as above, to avoid overusing passive voice to the point of lazy writing.

My journey to a certain, qualitative acceptance of passive voice began during a conversation with my high school writing mentor, Jennifer Archer. I had mentioned my revelations about the importance of active voice during a school project and how a session with a local writing group had put into words the lessons learned in that project. Active voice. Voíla. It had a name.

Jenny then told me that her editor had once changed an instance of active voice in her prose into passive voice. Indeed, the very example used above in, “He was standing next to the door.” That one conversation led me to wonder, when else can I use passive voice?

Got any questions about using passive voice? Let me know in the comments below. If you have any stories about how YOU learned tricks for writing in passive voice, I want to hear them!


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The Hopeful Wanderer – Visible at Sunset

An apparition. As the second sun fell behind a rocky horizon, the conical tail of a long-falling star appeared against the backdrop of deep blue night. Blazing with light, it outshone surrounding clutches of stars. Pointing down toward the disappearing sun like an arrow shot into the heavens, as if someone had taken issue with their sole source for life.

“Disaster…” The whispered word repeated over and over, taken up like a chant among several voices around me. We sat upon the spine of the world, one of many such spiny mountain ranges, and the word seemed to fall away down into the deep, rocky trenches, vanishing into the night.

Still gazing up at the wonder above, I asked, “Disaster for what?”

Eyes and teeth flashed in the dark as faces turned toward me. I had not started this mountain trek with this group, but we’d had the same destination in mind, so I had joined them somewhere between flat ground and here. A thoughtful hum rose from their ranks as they considered my question.

“The oceans may continue to rise,” one of them postulated.

“Bigger earthquakes,” said another.

“Restlessness of spirits.”

“Species extinction.”

“You know,” the last said, “disaster. The apparition is an ominous portent.”

“You forgot acid rain and deforestation,” I said. “All those things happened last year. And the year before. Our planet is dying. But this-” I waved my hand toward the distant comet, “has nothing to do with that.” My hand dropped back into my lap, heavy with the futility of it all. “The only ominous portents are us.”

The apparition, the mere comet, wandered along its journey around the suns. At such a great distance, cold and heedless of our tragedies. No wisdom to impart as it passed.


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Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you to Words on Key for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. You are too kind for including me in your list of nominees. Everyone should go check out their work; the aim of their blog is to write and share their work with other word nerds (like me and you!). Feel free to check out and follow their page on Pinterest @ikwords K.

Rules I Received

• Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them.
• Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
• Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
• Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
• List the rules and display a Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or your blog site.

Questions Asked of Me

Why do you blog?

I love entertaining an audience. Even outside of blogging, I post on Facebook funny stories about my life and observations. If I didn’t blog, I would create Twitter threads or write a whole lot more fanfiction. Maybe I would practice telling stories at gatherings more. Who knows? But blogging allows me my fill of positive responses. Here, I get tangible proof that my stories, my voice, my jokes entertain others. Not always very many, but then, there’s always next week’s post to try again.

What makes a book good?

A rich examination of the human condition. Not everyone will agree, though, and I understand. But for a home schooled, introverted kid like me, stories which delved into questions of humanity, of relationships with others, and of conscience were my version of growing up on the playground. I gained wisdom and a form of experience from these stories that I would otherwise have missed, so that when I showed up to public school for the last two years of my education, I at least was not an emotionally shriveled shut-in.

Whatever your blog is about, when and why did you get interested in that topic?

Fiction: I have ever relished the mindful, thoughtful, peaceful stories I have consumed in books and on television. Those full of magic, nature, kindness, and strangeness, the ones not scary, but a little creepy. I never found many of these out in the wild. So at some point, I began to incorporate these aspects into my own writing, just so I could read them later. Over time, this congealed into my stories about The Hopeful Wanderer, the weekly fiction installment of my blog. I keep writing these stories because I can put into them everything my heart loves to read. But given the blog’s current following, it turns out other readers were looking for the exact same thing.

Book reviews: Who am I to think I have an opinion worth giving about a book? An egotist, that’s who. One confident enough in my own deep and thoughtful perspective to have the audacity to write my insights down for others to read. Probably, this came from studying for an English degree, where every class is an exercise in forcing students to give their thoughts and opinions in agonized mumbles. I love to be right and to answer questions correctly, so I got good at forming opinions of what I read. You never know when someone will call on you for your thoughts on the reading.

Writing advice: Every writer gives writing advice. Because of this cliché, I resisted doling out advice for a long time. (I didn’t know much myself anyway; what could I even pass on?) But I, of course, have received advice myself from good writers, both in person and through advice posts online. I put much of it into practice as I wrote and got feedback, wrote more and got more feedback, discarding some and keeping others. Recently, I joined a fantasy writing group on Facebook, a wonderful group full of seasoned writers willing to help newbies with all their questions and requests for feedback. I found myself among those willing to help. But I also caught myself repeating to one writer the same advice given to another. This made me realize two things: 1) I am a seasoned enough writer now that I do, in fact, have wisdom to pass on; and 2) writing up the tips and tricks I have learned from hard-earned experience gives new writers a chance to find the answers they seek, all in one place.

Tell me your favorite poem and quote the lines you found beautiful.

From Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater:

He does not bite so much as nibble, my friend Death

Wearing me down to the size of a child

Soon I am small enough to nestle in his hand

Gone in one swallow, behind his gentle smile.

I appreciate the final line the most. How sinister. How beautiful. Death poetry speaks to my heart, because aren’t we all always dying?

What “genre(s)” of your niche do you like best? For example, for a cooking blog — desserts, meat, soups, etc. or for a writing blog (this one’s kind of obvious) — fantasy, short stories, horror, poetry, etc.

My writing interests lie somewhere within the intersection of fantasy, soft-apocalypse, and soft-horror. The magical, the encroaching disaster, and the creepy. I enjoy the soft and the strange, the reprogramming of the mind’s capacity for acceptance when the unnatural happens to be not that far off from the natural. I find I work better with short-stories. I have always struggled with getting my stories to the end, so I have less practice writing endings than beginnings. (Yes, I know, “write the end first.” Yet here I am.) But writing short stories and flash fiction forces me to the end almost at once, so that I get the chance to experiment with conclusions. Though I have worked on several novels, I may always be a writer of anthologies and novellas, and that’s fine with me.

Where do you get inspiration for your hobbies/interests/talents?

Spite.

Others say, “Don’t do X in your writing.” I think, I believe I will do X thing.

Or I look at what someone has done and think, I could do better.

Then I go write something.

Besides whatever your blog is about, what is your hobby/interest/talent?

I love to play Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. Acting out an imaginary scene with my friends activates the creativity in me and allows me to explore the reaches of story in a collaborative setting. One of my writing weaknesses has been creating characters too similar to each other, but playing with other people who dream up wildly different goals, attachments, and personalities for their characters has taught me a thing or two about building in diversity. I also homebrewed (meaning: made up my own) and ran a mini-campaign myself, which forced me to face and overcome my weaknesses in building interesting plot and conflict for my players to experience.

Which of your posts has been the most popular? Reflect on this… why, do you think? Do you agree, or are you annoyed by it? Is it really your best work or is it just what seems like would appeal to readers (in your opinion)?

My most popular post was a fluke. It happened on October 21, 2017, when I posted my review of Maggie Stiefvater’s newest book All the Crooked Saints. Somehow, my tweet about the review got to her and she retweeted, saying she liked the review because it had turned out less of a review of the book and more of a review of her views. (I found out later I had gotten the main reason for the book wrong, but I still stand by my perceived insights of the time.) Because she retweeted the review and said she liked it, over 600 of her followers viewed my post. I will never again receive that many views, so that date will stick out on my insights stats. Forever.

What motivates you in life? (This is a broad question – answer however you interpret it)

Once again, spite. Anything I do, I want to do it better. Do it best. Especially better than my last effort. I’m very competitive toward myself. I also suffer from depression. When life grows dark and I feel no motivation, I keep dragging myself forward, because I despise depression and the effect it has on my life. So I’m out every day to prove that pit of negative feelings wrong.

Is this the first time you’ve gotten one of these awards?

I have received two blogger awards before this one. Although I will admit, I did not feel my, at the time, lackluster blog merited the first award, so I did nothing with it.

Do you ever feel nervous before publishing a blog post?

Sometimes I think, well this is a dud. But I don’t have time to make adjustments. Or my brain feels so devoid of ideas that this story was all I could extract from those wrinkles. Or the depression has me looking at the world through a dull and dirty lens. So I know I have given my best and I post it anyway. Oftentimes, it turns out my audience didn’t feel the same way I did, which is nice.

Mostly, I feel excited. More than doing the work, I love having work done.

My Dear Nominees

Featuring beautiful blogs about books and words. Check them out; each has uniquely wonderful content to offer.

  1. McGee Travel Tales Exploring the Places No One is Talking About
  2. the dark netizenshort stories – mostly dark ones!
  3. Elaine Howlin to inspire creativity, expression and exploration
  4. Sirius Editorial a writing service and online literary journal 
  5. Casey Carlisle musings, anecdotes, and excerpts…
  6. Ephemeral Elegies the poetry of emotion
  7. To the Salt of the Sea fragments of my days or little pieces of fiction
  8. Leigh Hecking Writer. Blogger. Reader. Dreamer.
  9. One Round Cornerwhere my fairy tales, poems, and images collect
  10. fantasynovel1fiction, fantasy, supernatural, random
  11. Ashaa cat, a book, and a cup of tea

My Questions

For you, my dear nominees, are these questions to answer on your own blog.

  1. What quote inspires you the most?
  2. What story has most impacted your life?
  3. How has your blogging fared during the effects of the pandemic?
  4. When did you become interested in the topic(s) of your blog?
  5. What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
  6. Who do you get most excited to imagine reading your work?
  7. What to you daydream about over and over?
  8. Where was the best place you have ever visited?
  9. Why do you keep blogging?
  10. How do you envision the content of your blog looking in the future?
  11. What do you lie about when you cannot tell the truth?

You may pick and choose the rules you wish to follow. Eleven questions took ages to answer, so five might be better.

That’s That

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Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells

Introduction

Following the events of the first four Murderbot Diaries novellas, Network Effect by Martha Wells delivers a long-form adventure for our favorite anxious SecUnit. When its human clients get kidnapped by a familiar research transport and unfamiliar humanoids, Murderbot must fight to keep all the humans alive while trying to figure out a way out of a hostile situation. Featuring members of Murderbot’s previous crew, the fierce child of Murderbot’s favorite fierce human, and a certain research transport with a charming acronym, the story follows Murderbot’s battle to evolve as fast as the situation changes.

Plot

The narrative of Network Effect covers the importance of humanity and artificial intelligences working together to achieve the impossible: freedom for those enslaved, whether humanoid or robotic. Taking place in a chunk of space abandoned twice by the corporations responsible for terraforming planetary hopefuls, the story picks up after Murderbot and ART parted ways, with them leading their customary lives of security detail for the leader of a free planet and transporting around anti-establishment academics who forge documentation to free indentured humans from bondage, respectively.

But the research vessel gets itself in trouble when the planet its academics hope to free turns out to have an alien remnant hellbent on escaping its planetary prison to infect the universe. Dragged out into this forgotten sector erased from map coordinates, Murderbot finds itself with no chance of rescue. It must solve these overwhelming problems on its own.

Characters

Though Murderbot gets the gift of starting the story alongside some of its friends, such as Pin Lee and Ravi, it now has to contend with Dr. Mensah’s brother-in-law, Thiago, who does not trust the ungoverned SecUnit, and Mensah’s stubborn and intelligent daughter, Amana. Murderbot has grown enough to admit that it has friends and likes helping and protecting them, but starting over with new humans who did not come along for that journey makes gaining their trust a struggle all over again. Especially when Murderbot would rather be allowed to watch media or just get on with its job without human interference. Or, worse, shows of affection.

Yet with the re-entrance of an old acquaintance, Murderbot gets to revisit little pockets of peace through sharing media. The narrative covers the autonomy of constructs, but more than that, the ways respect for personhood and botdom can lead to friendship.

Review

My favorite part of Network Effect was all of Network Effect. I would happily live in that world and Murderbot’s mind full of scathing criticisms of incompetence, admissions of inability, and growth as it continues to learn how to be a person. I couldn’t get enough of the HelpMe.file snippets showing Murderbot’s normal life and inner conflicts in between the action. Though a good-sized book, the snappy pace of Wells’s writing led to me to devour the story almost in one sitting (alas, I have a day job).

As always, I appreciated the anxious desire to do a perfect job, the acceptance of Murderbot from others with the occasional gentle reprimand, and the catharsis of letting the savagery out when lines get crossed. Anyone who loved the first four books will love this healthy dose of everything that makes Murderbot’s life relatable.

Conclusion

In addition to the narrative’s human drama and space opera hijinks, Murderbot’s inner voice and its obvious attempts at “unreliable narrator” crack me up. When I read most of the book, I spent my whole evening snorting in amusement, along with the occasional cackle of glee. I also cried at one point, I think. Network Effect reaches out and grips your heart, but makes the experience fun the whole way. I recommend this book to anyone whose hands I can push it into saying read it read it read it. (Spoiler alert: I have already done this once. Expect many more.)

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads rating: 4.47 stars


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The Hopeful Wanderer – The Taste of Copper

The white glow of a small ornate lantern pushed back the darkness surrounding us like a tiny star. My guide crouched on a rock beside a still pool, holding a common stick with the ring of the lantern hooked on the end. Below, the reflection of the light glowed just as bright, a twin star. But neither my guide’s nor my reflection appeared in the water.

Covering the bottom of the pool, thousands of copper coins of all shapes and sizes glinted like dull eyes staring back at us. Waiting on our move.

Before we could cross the river, my guide had insisted we visit this place to gain passage. I eyed the slow, lazy river passing us by, wondering what danger could lurk within such a quiet channel.

“Can I take one?” I asked him.

“You can try.”

I slid my hand beneath the cool water, cooler than I expected. My fingertips brushed against flat coins, sensing their round edges, bumping along embossed words and images. Coins from all over the world. Meaningless currencies, some no longer even in existence.

At random, I selected an old coin, one enduring a slow takeover of blue-green malachite. This one, I figured, would see me across to safety.

The moment I drew the coin from the water, my mouth flooded with the taste of copper. Surprised, I dropped the coin back into the still water with a minute plunk. Working my mouth, I spat out a glob of blood. It, too, hit the water. I watched as the glob sank.

By the time it came to rest among the piles of treasures, my blood had itself changed into a copper coin. Shiny, new, winking at me in the lantern light.

My guide nodded once. “The river accepts you. Now you may cross.”


Thanks for reading!

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