Writing Notebooks Reveal

I have never had much use for writing magazines. When I first began writing, I went to them for instruction, guidance, the revealing of writerly secrets. I didn’t find as much of that as I wanted. Plus, the issues kept piling up in my home, not quite read all the way through, because what is focus? So I canceled my subscriptions and when more offers for magazines arrived in my mailbox, I ignored them.

One of those offers came from Poets & Writers. I had never subscribed to them nor had I submitted to them, so I’m not sure how they got my address and the knowledge that I wrote. But while sick these past couple of weeks, I ordered a digital subscription on a whim. I had long wondered what they had to offer.

Though I still did not find the revelation of secrets to writing stories loved by all, I did find a joyful celebration of writing. A loving lingering over impactful word choice, a delving into the triumphs and heartbreaks of writers, and desperate expressions of the struggles writers face. High emotion for all things writing dripped from the paragraphs, such that I felt validated as a wielder of words for the first time in a long time. Perhaps it’s all just an ego stroke in the end, but one that we writers, toiling away in obscurity and anxiety, could use once in a while.

This issue of Poets & Writers featured as its main article ‘Inside the Notebooks,’ revealing the journals, sketchbooks, and thinking boards from several prominent literary authors. These pages represented the hearts and minds of writers, often scribbled out in big, sprawling letters, on cardboard, and even across walls. Sketches thrown together with no intent to show others, portions blocked off with uneven lines. Sentences that flew up the page toward the top right corner.

The sight of that whole beautiful mess imparted to me a sense of relief. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make pretty bullet journals with straight lines and perfect sketches. I wasn’t the only one who threw word spaghetti at the page just to see what stuck. Who let feelings out in the margins.

Maybe, all along, this was what I needed from writer magazines. A presentation of reality for writers.

So in the spirit of inside the notebooks, I figured I would do my own notebook reveal. The pictures aren’t great, some of the words misspelled, the margin thoughts messy and disjointed. But that’s the whole takeaway, isn’t it?

Not being perfect. Just being brave.

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2021: An Abundance of Caution

The way I see it, no new year has hurt us the way 2020 has hurt us. In past years, I have found myself quietly swept up in the hope of a fresh start on New Year’s Day. New writing goals to pursue, maximum output calculated down to the letter if I can just write X number of words per day… as if I were some machine, chugging away on the tracks to writing success. No room for error, like bad mental days, family emergencies, work stress, or just breaks to have fun. A piston pumping up and down, ceaseless.

Ironically, I didn’t make resolutions for the year of 2020. Not that I thought I, at last, had things figured out. But just because I had come to learn that not only would I not hit my goals for the year (I never do, as they’re always just so lofty), but that plans have a lot of opportunity to change over the course of 365 days.

Boy, was I ever right about both those things.

Nevertheless, I feel burned. Such that I may never again go into another year feeling optimistic about my prospects. Though too many press releases now have used the phrase, I find myself creeping into 2021 with an abundance of caution. Un- optimistic. Prepared for ambush from some fresh horror, some predator stalking in the ceaseless stream of the future. But I am wary prey and I fully plan to see the next attack on my very existence coming.

All this is to say, there will be no goals from me in 2021. No writing goals, no self improvement goals. Not just because 2020 has been the equivalent of an emotional abuser, traumatizing us all daily. But also because the whole experience has brought home to me more than any intellectual exercise that

none. of. that. matters.

Time will come. Perseverance of whatever that thing is that we pursue will see us through. What need have you or I for tracking and numbers and dates? For output? We need only to continue living. To keep going.

We will always keep going.

There will be new things about the blog this year. If only because I want to try some new things I may love and drop others I have not enjoyed so much. Instead of author updates, which were not much in the way of updates really, I have planned a series of short memoir topics, all centered around my journey as a writer. I will likely drop reviewing every book I read and reserve my reviews column for indie authors and publishers who reach out for the exposure. They’re the ones most deserving of the attention anyway.

Who knows what else will come our way in my microscopic corner of the internet? Certainly not me. I have no plans, after all. But I’m glad you’re along for the finding out.

As always, dear reader, I leave you with my exhortation for the coming year.

Keep going in 2021.

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October Donation Request

Happy Spooktober to everyone who followed the #GrimList2020 drabbles and the spooky Hopeful Wanderer short stories this month. It was great fun to write these for you and I appreciate all the likes, comments, and follows they received!

If you enjoyed these or the book review or writing advice from October, please consider leaving a one-time donation to support my continued writing efforts. Thank you and see you again in November!

Author Update: My Favorite Ways to Write

Many a writer takes to Twitter to ask other writers their favorite mediums for writing. We writers all resonate with different methods – typing, handwriting, chiseling, hieroglyphs, whatever. What works for one writer may not work for another, so we love to compare our methods with each other’s.

The choices I make depend on the whims of the muse. Does it want the texture of a pen or of keyboard keys? Are my thoughts coming fast or slow? Did I start this project in Word or on real dead tree paper? All these choices to make the muse happy.


There for a long time, when I first got serious about writing, I often wrote myself into corners when typing, because I could type out garbage sentence after garbage sentence before my brain could muster any intention for the story. I soon realized I had to slow down. In an interview with Tim Ferris, Neil Gaiman talked about much the same thing. That typing allows writers to just put in everything, not forcing them to be choosy about their words the way handwriting does. Writing by hand forces me to slow down, think through what I’m writing as I’m writing it. I choose this method when I’m feeling my way forward on a story. When I don’t know where I’m going just yet, but I’m ready to start getting there.

Pilot G-2 BOLD pens do it for me. I love the way the ink slides glistening onto the paper, with broad, thick strokes. This makes for easier future reading of my spiky handwriting. But I can also wield this kind of pen in a more cavalier fashion than the delicate needs of a fountain pen. This probably has not helped my carpal tunnel.

College ruled notebooks forever. These have narrower lines than wide ruled, as the name implies. I learned in school to bring my letters all the way to the top of the line, so when I must write in wide ruled, a fraction of my ambition dies with every reach for the top of that extra distant line. I hear great things about this whole bullet journal fad, but I struggle to keep my letters on the same row without guiding lines. So, college ruled. My favorite brand: Mead. The pages have an almost extra broad feel to them than your standard 8.5 x 11. It’s roomy, and I like to spread out.

All this is to say, you now know what to buy me for Christmas. Unlike those myths you hear about writers with stacks of unused notebooks and pens, I use mine right up. Thanksssssssss.

Microsoft Word.

I started out with Microsoft Word because that’s what we had on the family computer. Though a true struggle when it comes to more than basic formatting, this program has seen me through over a decade of writing. I dislike the default settings (because all my college papers and all manuscripts are required to be submitted a different way), so when I start a new document, my brain knows it’s time to get down to business when I make the format setting changes. So when I need a kick of familiarity, I take to Microsoft Word.

I also distrust cloud sharing. Like some old fogey. So I keep backups of my files on Word in 3 different computers. Longer projects also live here.

Google Docs.

Ah, Google Docs. How I hate its file sorting system but love the ability to edit my documents on any device. I took to using Google Docs because of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I was writing. I kept getting ideas on the go – while sitting in doctor’s offices, standing in line, sitting at the laundromat. I had little extra time at home for writing, so I would take out my phone and type new ideas straight into the master file. Now I write short projects on Google Docs, again so I can do so from any device, but also because Google Sites does not allow mobile editing.

Which brings me to my next point!

Google Sites.

I found Google Sites when I needed a place to post a homebrew Dungeons & Dragons campaign where my players could access the details, all in the same location. Google Sites was both free and simple, preventing me from getting bogged down in the small details of setup (because I will). Downside: I could not make edits on mobile. So oftentimes I would type up descriptions and details on Google Docs and then port them over to the site when I reached a PC.

Now I make a new, private site for collecting all the details of a project into one place. Kind of like Scrivener, but more user friendly. I dig having links to pages specified for each character where I can collect details, backgrounds, pictures, and research links all together. On another page, story outline. On another, notes. Plus, I can upload whatever I’ve written to get the same rush of satisfaction as uploading fanfiction to the internet, privately. Having all the details on one site makes it easy for me to flip around to get the information I need while I write.

What methods do you like to use for writing? Got a program or a trick you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

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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!

Thanks for reading!

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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?


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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Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award

Thank you to Rachel Rahmdan for nominating me for the Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award. You are too kind for including me in your list of nominees. Everyone should go check out her work; the aim of her blog is to touch lives and inspire you to become the best version of yourself despite your circumstances. Feel free to check out and follow her pages on Instagram (@rachel_ramdhan) and Facebook (@rachramdhan).


  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to his/her blog.
  2. Answer their questions.
  3. Nominate up to 9 other bloggers and ask them 5 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees through their blog by visiting and commenting on their blog.
  5. List the rules and display the “Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award” logo.
  6. Provide the link of the award creator of Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award as Rising Star from https://idealinspiration.blog/

Questions Asked of Me

Rachel Rahmdan gave me new questions to answer below:

Who or what was your inspiration for blogging?

Though I wrote a post about this titled How and Why I Started Blogging, I suspect the answer to this question comes down to the writing and life advice I read as a young person on two writer websites: brentweeks.com and maggiestiefvater.com. They had wisdom to pass on. Back then, I thought I might have wisdom to pass on, too. I did not, because I was small and chewy, but I started anyway. It took a long time to find my way from there to the true beginning of blogging, which began somewhere in the middle, just like everything else. Perhaps, in the end, my friends inspired me to blog, because they loved the words I wrote about them, and I wanted to share those words about my friends with the world.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Small Summer, your sense of inadequacy stems from your conclusion that everyone knows better than you. However, when action, execution, or technique differs from yours, that does not make your way wrong, just different. Very little is diamond-cut black and white. Seek only relevant input; otherwise, make your decisions. Anyone who has a problem with your choices can just deal.

What is your dream vacation spot?

A cabin or cottage far away from everything. Some body of water nearby. Lots of big, green trees. A place with foggy early mornings and rainy afternoons. A place to write and rest and think.

What is the title of your favorite novel, if any?

Favorite? This may sound clichéd or pretentious, but I could never choose a favorite. Although, I did just publish a post about My Top 10 Favorite Books Written by or About Women, wherein I narrowed down the parameters of this exact question. You can check out my answer there. (They’re excellent books. You should read them.)

What advice would you give to a new blogger?

Put heart into your posts; but more than that, imbue them with thought. Splattering words on the page will get you nowhere in terms of audience. And we all know you blog to gain audience, or else you would simply journal for your own eyes. Don’t write a post just to write. Say something meaningful for you and your readers.

My Dear Nominees

I frequent these blogs the most and these blogs also frequent mine the most. Check them out; each has uniquely wonderful content to offer.

The Drabble – shortness of breadth

Words on Key – a blog for word nerds

Worlds Unlike Our Own – a place to share my bookish thoughts with the world

DirtySciFiBuddha – musings and books from a grunty overthinker

unbolt me – the literary asylum

Lucy’s Works – a little writing workshop of horrors

lemanshots – fine pictures and digital art

GiftedAndChilling – sharing my writing and creative exercises that can hopefully inspire you to do writing of your own

My Questions

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

  1. What do you get from blogging? In what way does blogging satisfy you?
  2. If you could be doing anything at all right now, what would you be doing?
  3. From the field of your blog’s niche, whose work would you most love to promote?
  4. What project lays dormant in your heart right now, waiting to come out when you’re ready?
  5. What do you tell people scares you the most when you cannot tell the truth?

That’s That

If you only just arrived, remember to subscribe to Word Nerd Scribbles for free flash fiction, book reviews, sketchy writing advice, and author updates from me. Or get updates from the Word Nerd Scribbles pages on your favorite social media platform:

Thanks for reading!

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My Top 10 Favorite Books Written by or About Women

You know readers. We can never pick just one favorite book. For my part, I can’t even pick my favorite series. So many amazing books await out in the world, more than I could ever read before I die. To keep this post short, I had to narrow down the parameters to my top ten favorite books written by or about women.

While I spend my life trying to read the most moving, the most truthful, and the most meaningful novels out there, a few have drawn me back into their welcoming pages over and over. I have reread every one of the books below and keep most of them on my (limited) bookshelves. (Only Sabriel still lives at my local library, but I will own a copy someday.)

Nothing makes me happy quite like when I meet someone who has read one of these, or who decides to read them at my suggestion. Please check them out. They’re arranged in no particular order. If you’ve read any of these, I would love to hear what you thought!

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Though I loved The Raven Boys, the first installment in the Raven Cycle, I fell deeply into Stiefvater’s writing in The Dream Thieves, which released just after I finished the first book. Imagine characters you know so well as to be your friends. Imagine they stumbled upon magic, the dangerous kind, and upon each other, dangerous people. Want so big and impossible as to swallow up existence. All set against the backdrop of Virginia’s mysterious Shenandoah Valley.

Her writing hooks itself like thorny vines into my veins. The narrative driven by these characters makes me breathless for flashed smiles, daring choices, and the strength of unbreakable friendship.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, look. Another book by Maggie Stiefvater. (Spoiler alert: there is not a single one of her stories I have not enjoyed.)

I first bought The Scorpio Races for my mom’s birthday, even though I had never read it. While sitting within the massive shadow of a Gander Mountain sign, hoping to sell a litter of puppies to passersby, I read the first several chapters aloud to my mom.

I may or may not have later asked several times if she was done with the book yet so I could read it.

Every year in October or November, I reread The Scorpio Races. Nothing else I have read evokes the magic of fall and deadly horses the way this book does.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’m not even sure how I wound up reading Six of Crows. My friend had convinced me to read Leigh Bardugo’s previous series, the Grisha Trilogy. I recall standing in a Barnes & Noble with her as she gushed over the book’s beautiful, black-edged pages. Maybe she handed it to me one day in that Read this! way some readers will do.

I had never loved heist stories before reading Six of Crows. As a fantasy heist, The Lies of Lock Lamora could not begin to compare to Six of Crows and its sequel for sheer brilliance of maneuvering, tactics, risk, and stakes. And beyond that, each and every character breathes with life, cleverness, and desperation for a better life.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

In Tamora Pierce’s lengthy, multi-installment series about the country of Tortall, the Trickster’s Choice duology comes at the very last. I own every one of her books, but for me, none compare to this one.

Two words: fantasy spies. The daughter of a rogue and a knight who becomes embroiled in the espionage of a foreign country as she works to prove herself a capable spymaster. She’s fun-loving and sly, surrounded by clever and brave characters who grow dangerous enough to stage a coup.

I have ever loved the rogue and spy tropes. Perhaps this book is why.

Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

You want a fantasy, underground (literally) reimagining of World War II and the Holocaust, mixed with giant flying bats, kickass princesses, and prophecies? The Underland Chronicles have exactly that and more. I love this entire series, more even than Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. But the fifth and last grips me the most.

Lines have been drawn, alliances made and severed. The main character has experienced loss, betrayal, and growth as a young man and warrior into a deadly fighting machine. Gregor and the Code of Claw puts Gregor through the wringer of all-out war. I love tracing his journey to this point, from kid to adventurer to soldier, training to become deadly enough to protect the mysterious world he loves.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Anxious? Just want to be left alone to do your thing? Have only a specialized skill set at which you are very, very good? Don’t know what you want out of life? Sarcastic and cynical?

If so, you will love Murderbot. I identify so hard with the protagonist of All Systems Red by Martha Wells, a SecUnit designed for security and nothing else, that hacked its own governor module in order to… keep pretending to work just so it could watch media serials. Where ‘pretend’ means do a top notch job while worrying about the quality of the work performed. Y’know, like we all do.

Eight chapters of thrilling action, touching moments, wonderful characters, and seething intrapersonal conflict makes up this first installment in a quartet of novellas, all set within a seamless science fiction interstellar society.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Whenever I talk about good books about necromancy, I always laud Sabriel by Garth Nix as the best. Beyond a wonderful story about a strong and thoughtful young woman adventuring in a land full of monsters and finding a boy to love and protect along the way, the narrative covers all the delectable little necromancy things I love. From a representation of the River Styx to the death knell of a bandolier of small bells to a lineage of necromancers who, instead of raising the dead, send them back down the river where they belong.

This story brought me in to the presentation of trained wizards living in a modern age (that being a World War I era fantasy world), mixing ancient magic and rune-inscribed swords with modern inventions like firearms and flying machines. I practically vibrated with happiness through the whole read and couldn’t get enough of some of the beautiful and haunting diction. In my opinion, Sabriel is the best necromancy story.

Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

I have spent many a moment admiring the cover art of Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. In this sequel to Eon, in which Eona pretended to be a boy in a desperate bid for power and status, Eona must now face her identity as a woman. I loved following her struggle to grasp for power in a man’s world by attempting to erase herself, only to discover that doing so lost her the most important aspect of her life, her connection to the queen of the dragons that controlled the land.

This story inspired me so much when Eona discovered she could find strength in her truth instead of viewing womanhood as weakness. The journey across two books to find her way is filled with splendid characters, a variety of perspectives, and incredible power plays and counter plays, all set against the beautiful backdrop of fantasy China.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Remember from before when I mentioned I love rogues? And tough women? Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett has both, as well as playful, fun banter, deadly peril, clandestine operations, and underdog struggles to save everyone in the awful city of Tevanne from several individuals, each with ambitions to be become a god.

I love how the unfolding of the narrative brings the four main characters together: a rogue, a paladin, and two artificers, to use some tropey language. Oh, and a talking key. Though the characters all begin at odds with each other, they soon find that their goals align as they uncover secrets about the magical method of scriving, secrets that upend everything they know about their world.

Also, there’s a fabulous LGBTQIA+ element, but I won’t spoil. Wink.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

In The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Myfanwy wakes up in a park with amnesia, surrounded by dead bodies. The rest of the story follows her discovery that she, pre-amnesia, knew this would happen and left clues and helpful notes to herself to be able to resume her life and find out who would do this to her.

As an office worker firmly planted in the corporate world myself, I appreciate the descriptions of Myfanwy’s experience starting over with a blank slate to discover the person she always could have been as she navigates her high stakes job and office politics. The office life interwoven with supernatural bureaucracy cracks me up. The intricate mystery of finding herself and uncovering her attempted murderer keeps me turning the pages on every read.

If you’ve read any of these novels, I would love to hear what you thought! If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?!

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Word Nerd Scribbles: How and Why I Started Blogging

Way back when WordPress was barely WordPress but just after the (not so great) app had arrived, I started blogging primarily to remind the world that I was alive. Being in college forces you to think and make mental connections so much more than day-to-day life does, so at the time, I was filled with Thoughts and Feelings that I wanted to get out. But college also takes up far more of your time than does your average post-graduation life, so while I managed to type up a handful of blog posts about my Thoughts and Feelings, they soon languished in the wake of a stack of books half as tall as me for my English degree.

Maybe not half as tall, but these were for one semester. Yike.

Actually, I started blogging in high school. The now defunct Nerd Girl Scribbles, located at blogger.com at the time. But I was small-ish and had nothing to say, so rebranding happened sometime after.

Because of some nebulous cultural expectation and perhaps as a lingering habit from my days of writing argumentative papers about literature, I began feeling the uneasy need to review the books I read. After graduation, I had lost the classroom environment that encouraged discussion about assigned reading. I wanted to talk about the little narrative things I had noticed. You might say, well why didn’t you join a book club? I did, in fact. But they read books I didn’t enjoy so I ghosted. Instead, I began writing book reviews after closing the pages of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I loved it so much, had such a many things to say about it, and wanted the world to know about this book. (The world already knew about this book. I was late to the game.) After that, I kept up the book reviews and readers started following me for my thoughts about the random things I read. Wild.

The Friday before I was to take a one-week vacation, I was using my phone at work when I wasn’t supposed to, scrolling through Facebook. I came across the original post shown above, which asks the reader to describe them the way an author would in a book. As I went to repost, I knew no one would go along with the request, because effort. But people love to hear about themselves and I like to observe others, so. The offer to write character descriptions about the people who commented was born.

I wrote _thirty_ character descriptions. And surprise, surprise, people wrote some about me in return. I spent my whole vacation on this and it was a wonderful exercise in metaphor, finding my voice, and learning to tell a story in a few paragraphs. I also realized later, after hearing from my friends and family on why they decided not to participate, that I may have by accident revealed a little more about people than is usual. Shrug. Sometimes you just know a person. Sometimes you don’t know what’s a secret.

I wanted to keep all the character descriptions, not lose them to the vagaries of Facebook timelines. And hey, I already had a blog. One dedicated to a love of words. So each description got copied over and I had about half a year’s worth of content scheduled out.

Those were the good old days.

When those posts began to run out, I knew I wanted to keep posting weekly stories to keep my writing in front of the eyes of readers. My favorite show of all time is Mushishi, a serial story about a man who can see strange organisms not visible to everyone, phenomena closer to the source of life than anything else, and he makes his living by traveling across the country to help people troubled by these creatures. He’s gentle, patient, and kind, more willing to find a way around killing. I also at some point had started a (second or third or fifth) Deviantart profile. When I worked at Barnes & Noble, Mumford & Sons songs played on the overhead far more often than I would have liked, but one line always stuck out to me. “I’m a hopeless wanderer.” I tried to use that phrase, hopeless wanderer, as my username. It was, of course, already taken. So I twisted it into hopeful wanderer. Because as Brave Saint Saturn said, the bravest thing of all is always hope.

Those of you who follow my blog probably know where this went. I wanted to write a story about a person who never settled down, who was kind in their encounters with strange things, and I wanted very much to write about encounters with strange things. I had at the time begun toying with the idea of a neutral reader experience, that a lack of details about a main character viewed through first person could remove the lens of the author between the reader and the experience. Allow them to fall into the story themselves.

I suffer from depression. Or maybe I struggle with depression, because I fight the void every time it comes creeping back up. When one day I got my head above the briny waves of a depressive episode yet again, all these elements came together to create the first Hopeful Wanderer flash fic, A Barren Heart, which is about surviving depression again and again. For the last two years, I have written a Hopeful Wanderer tale (almost) every week. At the time of writing this article, we are ten episodes away from a total of one hundred!

Beyond the work of getting my words connected to readers – of newsletters and likes and follower counts and asking for patrons – the best part has always been the continued creation of this character and this world, of never knowing week to week what the Wanderer may see or do or learn. Sometimes, whatever life thing I’m grappling with slips into the subtext. Sometimes that thing gets noticed by readers, who find resonance with that subtext in themselves. The best part has been the connection. Of knowing that I am indeed alive, and that other people know that fact, too.

Thanks for reading!

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Word Nerd Scribbles Joins #Spooktober 2019

Fall began a week ago, but now. Now. Finally and at last. Today. October has arrived. The season of spooks, monsters, and creeps. It’s here! The best time of the year.

With the arrival of October begins #Spooktober, a time of Halloween-flavored media in movies, fiction, art, gifs, and more. Whether you prefer gory horror or light-hearted creepiness, #Spooktober has it all.

Word Nerd Scribbles will be joining in on #Spooktober 2019 with four spooky, creepy, and scary Hopeful Wanderer tales. Departing somewhat from the usual serene mood of the Wanderer’s adventures, because everyone experiences frightening things. Tune in each week to find out what goes wrong when the Wanderer makes mistakes.

Since October has five Thursdays this year, and the last one falls on Halloween (!), Word Nerd Scribbles will continue last year’s trend of presenting a Halloween Special. An original spooky short-story all on its own. Be on the lookout!

For my part, I don’t get enough time to watch all the scary movies, read all the creepy books, or attend all the spooky parties I want in October. So this year, I’ve picked Annihilation to watch, starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac. I haven’t seen it before, but some of you said it’s really good!

What are your October plans this year? Throwing a party? Making a costume? Let me know in the comments! For now and the rest of the month, my fellow spooks:

Thanks for reading!

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